01 October 2009

Go up thou bald head: 1001 Cruelties in the Bible

Repost in honor of the SAB's 1001st cruelty in the Bible.

I've been revising the SAB as I blog God's killings, adding cruelties (and other stuff) that I'd previously missed as I go along. When I first wrote this post nearly two years ago, 907 cruel passages were highlighted in the SAB. Now there are 1001. I suspect that before I'm get to God's 90th killing, there will be several hundred more.

After posting this challenge to believers, I received a response from GotQuestions.org. They told me that they were writing responses to the SAB's short list of cruelties and asked if I would be willing to link to them. I happily agreed and added links as they wrote their responses.

Some time later, however, they removed them all. I was never told why, but all of the links that I had created suddenly died.

If any other believers would like to respond to the SAB's list of cruelties, I will add links at the SAB. I'd even consider adding their responses as guest posts on this blog.


For several years now, I've encouraged believers to respond to the highlighted verses at the SAB. And quite a few have done so. I've provided links at the bottom of the appropriate SAB pages to all of the responses that I've found on the web.

Nearly all of the responses have one thing in common: they focus on the Bible's contradictions. Of course there are a lot of them (more than 400 are listed at the SAB), and I understand why they concern Bible believers. But contradictions are the least of the Bible's problems.

That's why believers like to focus on them. I've never seen a contradiction that a believer can't explain. They can always talk their way around it by saying, "That's what the Bible says, but that's not what it means" or "It could have been this way or it could have been that." And since the Bible is often hard to understand, it's hard to argue with them.

But as Mark Twain said, "It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand."

I think that's true for most people -- or it would be, if they had read the Bible, which most people have not.

That's why I created the SAB. To highlight the things I understand well enough to be bothered by. And I'm not bothered much by the contradictions; I'm bothered by the Bible's cruelty.

So far I've marked 907 passages in the Bible that I consider cruel. Acts that were performed, commanded, or inspired by a supposedly kind and loving God.

Now it's true that some on the list are minor, and some might not seem cruel to everyone. Some passages are on the list for excessive violence, even when God may not have been directly involved. So let's focus on those that will seem cruel to nearly everyone.

To help with that, I've created a short list of 237 cruel passages from the Bible. In most cases the cruelty will be clear just from reading the passage. When not, I've tried to add a note to clarify it's meaning. But I think most people who read these passages will be bothered by them, though most believers will try hard not to admit it, even to themselves.

Here's one to get started with. (To be fair, I'll try to include some later from the Quran and Book of Mormon, too.) Here it is.

And he [Elisha] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them. 2 Kings 2:23-24

Are there any Bible believers that are not bothered by this story? If so, I'd like to hear from them.


119 comments:

Dave said...

Steve, thanks for making this post. When I think back at my deconversion from Christianity, this is the story that started it all. At the time it was first brought to my attention I was a Christian with two small children, and it literally brought tears to my eyes.

There are many hideous immoral stories in the Bible, but this one is perhaps the least explainable by Christians. If you want to entertain yourself, look up some of the Christian explanations for this story on the internet. This is my favorite from Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary:

“Here is a curse on the youths of Bethel, enough to destroy them; it was not a curse causeless, for it was Elisha's character, as God's prophet, that they abused. They bade him go up, reflecting on the taking up of Elijah into heaven. The prophet acted by Divine impulse. If the Holy Spirit had not directed Elisha's solemn curse, the providence of God would not have followed it with judgment. The Lord must be glorified as a righteous God who hates sin, and will reckon for it. Let young persons be afraid of speaking wicked words, for God notices what they say. Let them not mock at any for defects in mind or body; especially it is at their peril, if they scoff at any for well doing. Let parents that would have comfort in their children, train them up well, and do their utmost betimes to drive out the foolishness that is bound up in their hearts. And what will be the anguish of those parents, at the day of judgment, who witness the everlasting condemnation of their offspring, occasioned by their own bad example, carelessness, or wicked teaching!”

Yes, children, this is your loving creator.

Jason said...

FYI: "The words na`ar ketannim not only signify little children but young men; for katon signifies not only little, but young, in opposition to old; and na`ar signifies not only a child, but a young man grown to years of maturity: thus Isaac is called na`ar when twenty-eight years old, Joseph when thirty-nine, and Rehoboam when forty. These idolatrous young men, having heard of the ascension of Elijah, without believing it, blasphemously bade Elisha to follow him. The venerable prophet, from a Divine impulse, pronounced a curse ""in the name of the LORD,"" which was immediately followed by the most terrible judgment; thus evincing the Source from which it flowed. Job 19:18; Job 30:1,8-31; Pro 20:11; Pro 22:6,15; Ecc 11:10; Isa 1:4; Isa 3:5; Jer 7:18" - Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Dave said...

My concordance has “little children” as: qatan na’ar and defines the 2 words thusly:

Qatan or qaton {kaw-tone'}; from 'quwt' (6962); abbreviated, i.e. diminutive, literally (in quantity, size or number) or figuratively (in age or importance):--least, less(-er), little (one), small(-est, one, quantity, thing), young(-er, -est).

from na`ar (5287); (concretely) a boy (as active), from the age of infancy to adolescence; by implication, a servant; also (by interch. of sex), a girl (of similar latitude in age):--babe, boy, child, damsel (from the margin), lad, servant, young (man).

The two words together strongly defines them as small children. I love how Christians explain this by trying to make the children older. Like that would make much difference. Is it more acceptable to you that God would tear apart 42 young men than 42 children? That makes it okay? And no where does the verse say “idolatrous” young men. Where does that come from? Because a loving god would never tear to pieces 42 “young men” unless they were idolatrous? No where does it say anything about the punishment being “most terrible” either. The passage is shocking in its triviality of the whole bloody scene.

And a bloody scene it would be. “Tare” is from ‘baqa` a primitive root; to cleave; generally, to rend, break, rip or open:--make a breach, break forth (into, out, in pieces, through, up), be ready to burst, cleave (asunder), cut out, divide, hatch, rend (asunder), rip up, tear, win.

So the she-bears (not male bears mind you!) didn’t just kill the little bastards, they were literally torn to pieces. Praise God! And after all this mayhem, Elisha simply walked away. Smug, no doubt, in his holy righteousness.

Jason said...

I love how atheists try and explain this to make the children younger, as you obviously assume they were given your story. Nonetheless, the words can be translated either way so people might as well imagine the youths as being in their 20s or 30s if others are going to imagine them being in ther pre-teens.

Adam Clarke's commentary on this account is certainly worth reading.

What definitely isn't recorded is Elisha being "smug". I love how atheists get those little words in there to really stir the pot. ;)

Andrew said...

Steve, thanks for the great post. It is nice to have a well compiled list of the moral atrocities committed by God in the Bible. It seems too many people ignore the reality of how cruel and morally abhorrent the biblical God is.
It is more unnerving though, when in efforts to prove God's morality, Christians simply pick out parts of the Bible they accept to be true, and deny or ignore other parts of the Bible that don't agree with their perspective.
There is no rational or empirical basis for which Christians can deny one part of the Bible, yet affirm another.

sattvicwarrior said...

you are WONDERFUL!!!! i LOVE your BLOG!!!!!!!!!!!. nothing like replaceing TRUTH over fables. and im NOT an atheist:)
thanks for your logic and insight!!!!!!!!

Arthur_Vandelay said...

I love how atheists try and explain this to make the children younger, as you obviously assume they were given your story. Nonetheless, the words can be translated either way so people might as well imagine the youths as being in their 20s or 30s if others are going to imagine them being in ther pre-teens.

Yes: you atheists don't seem to realise that once you "translate" the ages of the youths upward, being torn apart by she-bears as punishment for telling an old man to "go up" is perfectly reasonable :)

Jason said...

Agreed.

Dave said...

Serious question for you Jason: What Bible version do Christadelphians use and how does it interpret this verse? I could not find a single commonly used version of the bible that interprets qatan na’ar as anything but, well, children.

Here’s a short list:

Interpetation Version
young lads The New American Standard Bible
small boys English Standard Version
youths The New King James Version
little children The King James Version (Authorized)
small boys The Holman Christian Standard Bible
little children Third Millennium Bible
youths New International Version
boys The New Living Translation
small boys The New Revised Standard Version
small boys The Revised Standard Version
boys The Good News Translation
little boys The Douay-Rheims Bible
little kids The Message
boys The Complete Jewish Bible
boys New Century Version
boys God's Word
young lads Hebrew Names Version of World English Bible
young lads World English Bible
little boys The Bible in Basic English
little youths Young's Literal Translation
boys Today's New International Version
young fellows New International Reader's Version
little boys The Darby Translation
little children Webster's Bible Translation

You claim it is an athiest tactic to lower the age of these victims, yet it is clear from the biblical context that it is you doing the modification. Like others and I have pointed out, however, murdering young adults is not much more palatable, to us anyway, than murdering children.

James said...

I can add the New World Translation to this list (which I happen to have sitting right here).

It renders the word as "small boys".

Jason said...

Dave,

This isn't a "Christadelphian" issue so don't make it one.

Looking at the Hebrew words for "small boys" we know that the same words are used for Isaac (twenty-eight years old), Joseph (thirty-nine), and Rehoboam (forty). Who's doing the modification again...?

Dave said...

Who's doing the modification? Every english bible translation we've seen so far!

You are a Christadelphian, so it is an issue. Your interpretation is different than seemingly everyone else participating here, and likely different than that of your own denomination. I believe it is a relevant question, but if you do not want to answer it, I understand.

Dave said...

Jason, you mention other older characters that are referred to by these same Hebrew words. I challenge you to produce those verses. Remember, to be interpreted the same way, the two Hebrew words must appear sequentially (“qatan na’ar”), as they do in 2 Kings 2:23, where “qatan” clarifies “na’ar” to signify “young children”. Unless my research is wrong, there are only 4 other places where this occurs:

Isaiah 11:6
1 Kings 11:17
2 Kings 5:14
1 Sam 20:35

I believe in every case it is very clear that the verse is referring to young children. 2 Kings 2:23 is no different.

Arthur_Vandelay said...

AV said...

Yes: you atheists don't seem to realise that once you "translate" the ages of the youths upward, being torn apart by she-bears as punishment for telling an old man to "go up" is perfectly reasonable :)

Jason said...

Agreed.


Jason: after you've boned up on the definitions for "sarcasm " and "irony," come back and explain why being torn apart by she-bears is reasonable punishment for telling an old man to "go up," regardless of who the old man is, and regardless of whether you might think the age of the perps should be upwardly estimated to 25, 36, or 57.

Thanks.

Jason said...

The Hebrew words don't at all need to appear sequentially since they're not used sequentially in verse 24.

• qatan is used in Genesis 19:11 (small) and na’a is used in verse 4 (young), talking about the same group of people (young in comparison to old).

• yeled, which is used in verse 24, means "child, son, boy, offspring, youth". It's used in 2 Kings 12:8 to describe the 'young men' who grew up with the king.

Young men, whatever their exact age, were taunting a prophet of God, a sin punishable by death. And really that's the point. The age of accountability in the NT was around 19 years old, so if God was going to condemn someone for a sinful act, they would have to be at least this age (this is why there's no Biblical record of pre-teens being killed because of a specific sin - they weren't accountable).

taliesin said...

jason, you appear to have a rather uncommon definition of reasonable

Dave said...

Jason, none of the examples you stated have the 2 words sequentially, let alone in the same verse, so your argument is weak at best. The 2 words in combination, viewed in context, strongly suggest young children here. You didn’t even mention the verses I listed, which DO have the two words sequentially and are obviously referring to young children.

And since you avoided my other question, I’ll answer it for you. The “Christadelphian Bible Postal Course” says ”The Bible quotations which you will find in this Course are taken from the English Authorized Version (KJV) of the Bible. There are also very good modern versions like the Revised Standard Version (RSV) and the New International Version (NIV)”, These versions list the meanings of the sequential words as little children, small boys, and boys respectively.

"...there's no Biblical record of pre-teens being killed because of a specific sin - they weren't accountable"

Yes there is. 2 Kings 2:23. To you, however, a verse that clearly states that God killed children can’t be true because, well, it just can’t be true.

What about all the other child slaughtering in the bible where even you can’t argue they were at least 19?

Jason said...

The words aren’t required to be used sequentially since they’re not used sequentially in verse 24.

The reference in Gen 9 also uses the same two words to describe the same group of people but there’s nothing suggesting these young men are actually pre-teen children.

I happily agree that the references you provided refer to young children. But that doesn’t change the fact that the word used in verse 24 can still easily refer to “young men”. It also doesn’t change “young men” into “children” in Gen 9.

The “Christadelphian Bible Postal Course” says..."

Relevance?

"...there's no Biblical record of pre-teens being killed because of a specific sin - they weren't accountable" Yes there is. 2 Kings 2:23. To you, however, a verse that clearly states that God killed children can’t be true because, well, it just can’t be true.

The only thing this verse clearly states is that a group of individuals mocked a prophet of God. Since there’s no reference anywhere that children are held accountable for sins (spend some time going through the laws given to the Israelites), there’s no basis for assuming this is the lone exception.

“What about all the other child slaughtering in the bible where even you can’t argue they were at least 19?”

Show me an instance where children are specifically slaughtered because of a sin they committed.

Dave said...

Are saying it's okay for god to slaughter children for a sin someone else committed?

Jason said...

Irrelevant. These individuals were punished for a sin they committed, not a sin someone else committed. Find an instance where children are specifically killed, by God, because of a sin they themselves committed.

Dave said...

Why is it irrelevant? Steve’s subject is god’s cruelty. Steve’s post wasn’t concerned with whom committed the sin. You are the one that brought that up. We’ve established that everyone except you thinks these were children and we’ve established, as in every case where you get involved, that you bring a, well, unique viewpoint. So, time to agree to disagree and move on. How about a compromise: they were adult midgets that committed the sin and were slaughtered by god, okay? Praise the lord!

Anyway, there are many clear instances where god kills plenty o’ children in the bible. See Steve’s latest post. But, you know what, you are right. Other than 2 Kings 2:23 the children did not commit a sin and the offenders were usually someone else, typically their fathers. I’ll ask the question again, irrelevant or not: Are you saying it's okay for god to slaughter children for a sin someone else committed?

Jason said...

It's irrelevant because the topic is Elisha and the bears. In this account, a group of individuals sinned and the same group of individuals was punished. You think under-aged children were punished and I've explained why you're incorrect.

Moving on.

Are you saying it's okay for god to slaughter children for a sin someone else committed?

The killing of infants in bible times is a favourite 'weakness' played upon by aetheists & agnostics. All I can offer in return is that it was a generally accepted principle that the head of the family took all the responsiblity, and the wife, children, cattle, etc. were his possessions. Look at Achan. He messed up and his whole family was punished, cattle included! Sorry - just the way it was in the bronze age.

jake3988 said...

Um, why the heck are you pandering over their ages?

I don't care if they were 4 years old or 70. If you think calling someone 'bald' is a act punishable by death you have SERIOUS issues.

My old youth pastor tried his darnest to support this passage after another member brought it up. This was 3 years ago. I never went back.

Jason said...

God thought it was punishable by death so it's safe to say there was a little more going on then just making fun of someone's hair.

Dave said...

Sorry - just the way it was in the bronze age.

Wow. I will take that as a yes. You try to minimize baby killing as some kind of atheist ploy and byproduct of an ancient society, yet it is the precise documented behavior of the god you worship! I am literally incapable of worshiping such a god. I am barely able to tolerate Christians that are ignorant (I was one after all) but Christians such as yourself that do their homework and can actually acknowledge that they worship a baby murderer is very hard to stomach.

Jason said...

Ok.

semafu said...

Does it need an apology?

Maybe that's just what God is like.

God appointed this guy as his prophet on earth.

A bunch of teenages reject him and mock him.

God kills them.

The End.

Doesn't the bible say that those who reject Jesus will go to hell?

All seems consistent to me!

Paul said...

What I find strange, is that it seems fashionable now for athiests to pronounce moral judgements on Bible events. Strange because these debates predominate in cultures which have been built on the Judeo Christian ethic in the first place. In other words, the origin of the morals used to judge the Bible came from the Bible in the first place.

As a christian - am I concerned about the 42 "children" ripped apart by bears and seemingly justified by God? Well, put it this way - as my tiny nation (NZ) rapidly departs from its biblical belief system 18 thousand tiny, defenceless children were ripped apart in their mothers' wombs last year (up from 11,000 in 1990). Which do you think I'd be more concerned about? 42 dead "children" justified by God or 18,000 justified by athiests?

You tell me - as my country rids itself of the shackles of what you think is such a barbaric book, shouldn't it become less barbaric? Believe me - all the statistics (including violence against and murder of children) are running the other way. How do you explain that? Look at countries that ban(ned) the Bible... notice an increase in justice and equity as they did? No. Actually the opposite is true. Two or three from last century come to mind.

If you gut the Bible of its major theme, yes, many incidents appear barbaric and make for great blog reading for those who don't want to digest the actual book. But doesn't any book deserve to be read in its context?

The Bible reveals a titanic struggle between good and evil for the stupendously precious souls of men and women. From the Bible's viewpoint the eternal destiny of every soul, loved by God, hangs in the balance.

The Bible contains many warnings (Matt 10:28). How loving would God be if He wrote a book which demonstrated no consequences for disobedience or wilful choice to defy Him, when such disobedience and defiance, if not turned from, would result in the eternal destruction of the soul?

Arthur_Vandelay said...

What I find strange, is that it seems fashionable now for athiests to pronounce moral judgements on Bible events. Strange because these debates predominate in cultures which have been built on the Judeo Christian ethic in the first place. In other words, the origin of the morals used to judge the Bible came from the Bible in the first place.

No, they don't. Unless you're trying to convince me--and have reliable evidence to support your claim--that non-Judeo-Christian cultures do not have prescriptions against (say) murder, theft, lying, etc, and that pre-Judeo-Christian cultures similarly lacked such prescriptions.

It may sound odd to a fundamentalist's ear, but for many people the moral judgements they make are based on reason and evidence, rather than the mindless and infantile observance of religious dogma (for no other reason than "My sky-daddy said so").

In any case, the point that you're missing is this. Many Christians, particularly fundamentalists, present the Bible as not merely inerrant on moral questions, but exemplary. And yet, as the tale of Elisha and the she-bears demonstrates, the Bible is full of cruelty and barbarism that even fundamentalists would find objectionable. These latter thus find themselves in the unenviable position of trying to accommodate such barbarism within the notion that the Bible is--as they say--a "Good Book"; hence all the hand-waving about "context." It's called cognitive dissonance.

As a christian - am I concerned about the 42 "children" ripped apart by bears and seemingly justified by God? Well, put it this way - as my tiny nation (NZ) rapidly departs from its biblical belief system 18 thousand tiny, defenceless children were ripped apart in their mothers' wombs last year (up from 11,000 in 1990). Which do you think I'd be more concerned about? 42 dead "children" justified by God or 18,000 justified by athiests?

While we both can agree that the 42 victims of the God-ordained she-bear attack were people, fetuses are not people, and they are certainly not children.

In any case: shouldn't you be equally concerned by both? That you appear to be unconcerned by the slaughter of 42 people for telling an old man to "go up" speaks volumes about why the belief system you're pushing has no place in civilised societies.

By the way, not all atheists support abortion, and not all Christians oppose it. I'm sorry to have to shatter your strawman with a dose of reality, but there it is.

Believe me - all the statistics (including violence against and murder of children) are running the other way. How do you explain that?

Not by your post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

Look at countries that ban(ned) the Bible... notice an increase in justice and equity as they did? No. Actually the opposite is true. Two or three from last century come to mind.

Yet another strawman. Given that your belief system takes a dim view of bearing false witness, you really ought to consider an alternative argumentative strategy.

The countries that banned the Bible did so for religious reasons--the "religion" in this case happened to be the prevailing variant of Communism. No atheist or freethinker in the Western world that I am aware of is calling for the banning of the Bible or any other book. In Western societies, it's fundies like yourself who ban books (and sometimes burn them), not non-theists.

If you gut the Bible of its major theme, yes, many incidents appear barbaric and make for great blog reading for those who don't want to digest the actual book. But doesn't any book deserve to be read in its context?

Are you claiming that there is a context in which it is justifiable that 42 children are ripped apart by she-bears on behalf of God simply for telling an old man to "go up?"

The Bible contains many warnings (Matt 10:28). How loving would God be if He wrote a book which demonstrated no consequences for disobedience or wilful choice to defy Him, when such disobedience and defiance, if not turned from, would result in the eternal destruction of the soul?

So God creates a situation in which it is possible for the soul (what's a soul?) to be destoyed eternally (how it is possible to destroy something eternally, as opposed to just the one time, I leave to the religious fantasists and others who enjoy thinking six impossible things before breakfast), then decides that the punishment for those who disobey his orders will be the "eternal destruction" he himself invented. This deity of yours sounds like a spoilt and capricious eight-year old. Where do I sign up?

Dave said...

Excellent post Arthur!

Not much to add, but I’d like to ask Paul a question: You imply that NZ crime rate is increasing due to its abandoning the bible. A common tactic for Christians is to claim that crime rates increase as Christianity wanes. Even if true, the causal relationship is precarious at best. It reminds me of the Pastafarian claim that global warming is a result of a decrease in pirates. And they have the statistical data to prove it! The thing is, violent crimes rates, at least in the U.S., are actually decreasing and are at the lowest rate in nearly 40 years. A quick look at NZ statistics shows a similar trend. I would ask that you show verifiable statistics for New Zealand that show two things: First, “rapid departure” from it’s biblical belief system, and second, an increase in NZ violent crime rate. Then, and only then, can a causal relationship be debated. By the way, we are talking legally defined violent crime here. Abortion, at least in many situations, is legal in NZ and should not be a part of your statistics.

tony vanelli said...

the bible does not numerate how many of the children were actually teasing elisha. it would not be unreasonable to suspect some children did not partake in mocking elisha.

Jason, you're displaying a fundamental act and discourse known as "losing the audience" - it's how you lose a debate without being wrong. you lose the debate simply because you pick a position and/or choose a method of argumentation that will not appeal to people. where you messed it up is trying to retain such a narrow field (personal sin) under the guise of a very weak logic. in truth, i think, and anyone else here does, that the idea of children, or any other 'youth' being punished for indirect sins would be far worse a situation. i think, logically, we should discus those examples, and i think we should do so whether you like it or not, and that you should remove yourself from the conversation if you do not feel equipped to participate in that discussion.

moving forward;

verse 23 uses the two words in connection and establishes, grammatically speaking (historical and modern grammar) what the meaning of a shorter title would be (i.e. verse 24) so, get off the verse 24 boat, verse 23 set the youth of the age that further shorthand of the subject would follow (until end of topic/paragraph)

moving on about this 'christian morals' gambit. i hope this wasn't a serious idea that christianity was the fundamental forbearer of all modern morals, or even any of them at all. christianity takes massive amounts of its morals from a number of sources.

Buddhism is particularly important to note, as it was very well represented in ancient greece, as well as within palestine before and during the time of christ. It is debated where the morals came from (greece or buddhism) but it is well known that morals within christianity predate it through religions and philosophical movements that were present (or influential to those present) at the time of christanity's formulation.

Most ancient and modern christian scholars acknowledge the influence of greek, sramana and gymnosophist influence on christianity. it would bode well to be in agreement with 2,000 years of tradition.

Berend de Boer said...

See here: http://berenddeboer.net/sab/2kg/2.html#v23

Berend de Boer said...

And let us not forget that the same people who object have no qualms killing million of innocents in the womb.

And they happily advocate slaughtering the elderly and handicapped.

Dave said...

Berend said ”And let us not forget that the same people who object have no qualms killing million of innocents in the womb.”

This irrelevant argument that atheists are pro-abortion has been brought up before, so lets see if it has merit. Berend, please give us some statistics for your straw man, would you? Give us links to verifiable data that demonstrates that non-Christians are significantly more pro-abortion than Christians.

A link may exist, but my limited experience does not bear it out (no pun intended). Personally, I object to a biblical god slaughtering children AND abortion. Every woman I know that has had an abortion claims to be a Christian, but then, I am surrounded by them. Berend, show us the data that shows abortion rates (legal and otherwise) are lower for Christians.

And again, just to reiterate, what the hell does abortion have to do with this subject? The children in 2 Kings were not zygotes or fetuses. And WTF is up claiming that “they” (atheists I assume) advocate the slaughtering of elderly and handicapped??? And “happily” yet! Yet another irrelevant straw man, but what the heck… prove it anyway. Who? Where? When?

And your analysis of 2 Kings 2:23 in your link: “Parents don't let little children out on the street. Not now, not then.”. Brilliant! Thanks to your insight Berend, I will certainly keep my daughters inside at all times, lest they piss off god and be ripped to pieces.

Berend de Boer said...

Dave, I'm glad your daughters will be eternally young children.

On who is for abortion: why don't you name all the supposed churches that are for abortion? Or all the Christians who favored no restriction abortion laws? Bit trouble finding them?

Dave said...

You returned! Gosh, thanks! You ignored every request for data. Bit of trouble finding any? And your new questions are meaningless. Of course the churches are against abortions! But it’s not the churches that gets them, it’s their female members. And they do it by the millions. I’ll say it again: Every woman I know that has had an abortion claims to be a Christian. If asked, they would parrot the church position, keeping what they have done a secret and claiming to be pro life. And to reiterate… this has nothing to do with 2 Kings whatsoever. Well, I suppose it could have one thing to do with it…. Perhaps these women are thinking that an abortion isn’t really all that bad because the biblical god slaughters babies effortlessly… perhaps, they think, they are simply placing their unborn child into the arms of Jesus a little sooner.

It’s ironic that you claim to be so pro-life, yet worship a ruthless baby murderer. The very reason I refuse to worship that god is because I value life so highly, regardless of whether that life is unborn, a small child, an adult, or the elderly.

Tim said...

Okay, let's look at it like this. The Christian approach seems to be to (A) interpret the age of the youths as being 20-40 and to (B) suggest that the phrase 'go up' is more offensive than it seems at first glance.

As far as I can see, there's no serious support for A.

B, on the other hand seems more reasonable. In light of Elijah's reported ascension into heaven, and the fact that Elisha is (as far as I can recall) the only witness to said ascension, there's grounds to believe that 'go up' is either an accusation of falsehood, or maybe the equivalent of saying 'drop dead'.

To put this is in a modern context, my age falls within the suggested range (25, if you must know). If I was to approach George W Bush and say "There's no WMDs in Iraq and there never were. You're a liar. Drop dead, big ears*." what do you think would be an appropriate punishment?

I'll tell you this. If you answer 'eaten by bears', you are, in my opinion, fucking insane.

Oh, and just as an aside, the correct legal answer (assuming I was in the USA at the time) is 'none'. Remember the First Amendment, with that pesky free speech bit? Remember that next time someone suggests that your country is 'founded on Christian values'.

*Thus combining both interpretations of 'go up', along with a minor insult to his appearance.

Thomas said...

I’d like to add that walking around and calling people "bald head" is cleary childish behaviour, indicating that they were, in fact, kids.

NLDThomas said...

Jesus reveals answers to many mysteries in the Bible and shortcomings even in God's prophets. The man we are talking about here doing these killings is Elisha, not GOD.

Elisha was picked by Elijah as his heir while plowing a field. Yet he had to say goodbye to his parents and throw a feast before leaving. This was allowed him. Yet Jesus says that no one who looks back is worthy of the kingdom of heaven.

Elijah, after picking Elisha tells him to stay three times at places and not to go with him and is three times disobeyed. Disobedience is not approved ever in the Bible.

Yet both Elijah and Elisha had been given the power to call down death from the heavens and earth upon those who disrespected GOD or His prophets. GOD presumably did this so that they would have credibility. It would seem that Elisha, in a fit of temper misused this power on this group of young men. We could speculate that these were not good kids playing stick ball and playing a joke, but were a gang of delinquents that liked to lurk somewhere out of town and ambush steal beat and rape. Keep in mind that most child armies are known for terrible atrocities (Angola etc).

More importantly, we know that Jesus rebuked his followers for asking him to call down death from heaven. I come to bring life he said, not death. Luke 9:54-62

Jesus makes two criticisms of Elijah and Elisha. He says "you do not know what mannter of siprit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destry mens's lives, but to save them."

In the very next verses there is a specific criticim of Elisha. When Elija found Elisha plowing in the field and chose him by throwing his mantel over him, Elisha first was allowed to say goodbye to his parents and throw a feast. Yet Jesus says to a prospective follower whe asks to say goodbye to those at his house, No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back is fit for the kingdom of heaven. Gods prophets failed God repeatedly.

Only Jesus was fully tempted and was without sin. Prophets are sinful disobedient men. Jonas is another good example of that.

I cannot speak with the mind of God, but it would seem that this is the act of a man, not of God. Man is of course sinful, prone to temper tantrums, pride, anger. God is all light, and it is said that he tires of our flaws and will not struggle with us forever. (Genesis 6:3, 6:5-6,6:11-12)

taliesin said...

it is said that he tires of our flaws

So, your omnipotent sky-fairy gets tired?

Oh, and if we did have any flaws, the aforesaid omnipotent mythical being, who allegedly created everything, must also have created those very flaws, no?

btw, ..temper tantrums, pride, anger.. Have you actually read your foul holy book? You describe the one you worship quite accurately..

NLDThomas said...

And God did not create us to sin. Sin entered after as a work of the evil one that seeks our destruction. Our flaw lies in our unquenchable sex drive, our desire for dominance, power, jealousy rage, revenge, need I go on?

taliesin said...

rofl

the evil one

Isn't that supposed to be in caps?

So, whence came the 'Evil One'?

And your god did not create us to sin, huh? So your omnipotent delusion lacked ability and foresight. Or perhaps was just too weary that day, and wasn't paying enough attention to those pesky details

dominance, power, jealousy, rage, revenge

Can you say 'irony'?

Paul said...

the aforesaid omnipotent mythical being, who allegedly created everything, must also have created those very flaws, no?

Maybe you should think that logic through a little deeper. A "flaw" is defined as a fault or "imperfection". This presupposes that perfection exists.

If God created man with a choice to live in His perfection or go his own way, we would expect that man, choosing to reject God's way, would live in a state of "less than perfection".

Darkness is merely the absence of light - the thing that God created. God did allow them to be separated (Gen 1:4) - how else would we be able to distinguish or appreciate light? In the same way, hate is the absence of love, pride is the absence of humility etc.

btw Dave and Arthur - thanks for your (much) earlier responses, have thought about them a lot - I really owe you a reply. Hopefully soon.

taliesin said...

No. Maybe you should think your logic through a little deeper.

Your god, by your definition, is omnipotent, which means responsible for all creation. Your god is also omniscient, which means knowlege of all things, past, present and future. We won't bother with the third impossibility.

If your god created all things, by implication that means creating all that exists, does it not?

You are the one presupposing perfection exists, and placing it in artificial opposition to alleged imperfection, yet still clinging to your ridiculous delusion a supremely perfect being created everything.

You are either:
1. claiming man alone is responsible for imperfection, and that your god lacked prior knowledge, and is therefore not responsible for the totality of creation, and is thus rendered less than omnipotent. Is your god Thor, perhaps?
or
2. you claim that god, the perfect being, with full prior knowledge of their ultimate fate, created flawed beings destined to burn in unending torment forever.

Your god is either impotent or malevolent

Incidentally, you are also presuming such a thing as choice not only exists, but that it was granted by your mythical being to his admittedly flawed creation.

If such a thing as choice exists, why did god not create beings who would choose to, as you say, live in his perfection? Why is it that, 'we would expect that man, choosing to reject God's way, would live in a state of "less than perfection".' Does that mean your god deliberately chose to create flawed beings predisposed to make the wrong choice? An omnipotent being certainly would be capable of creating beings capable of choosing othewise, would it not?

We won't bother discussing the horror and torment of 'natural' disasters, childhood disease, starvation etc, since these are apparently outside your god's influence.

Tim said...

NLDThomas:"The man we are talking about here doing these killings is Elisha, not GOD."
Elisha asked for bears. Yahweh sent them. Both are culpable.

"a gang of delinquents that liked to lurk somewhere out of town and ambush steal beat and rape"
You got all that from "go up, baldhead?"

"most child armies are known for terrible atrocities"
Child army? "there came forth little children out of the city" Where does this 'child army' concept come from?

"Man is of course sinful, prone to temper tantrums, pride, anger."
Funny, I'd use those exact words to describe Yahweh...

"And God did not create us to sin. Sin entered after as a work of the evil one..."
Right, Yahweh didn't make us to sin, but he made the evil one to make us sin. Makes perfect sense.

"desire for dominance, power, jealousy rage, revenge, need I go on?"
Again, a perfect description of Yahweh. Although in his case, yes, you need to go on. And on. And on. You're nowhere near listing all his failings yet.

Paul: "This presupposes that perfection exists."
At most, it presupposes that the concept of perfection exists. So does the concept of perpetual motion, but I doubt you're going to find it.

"If God created man with a choice to live in His perfection..."
His perfection including aforesaid temper tantrums, pride, anger, desire for dominance & power, jealousy, rage, revenge, a narcissistic streak beyond my comprehension and the maturity of a two-year old? That's a little short of what I'd call perfection.

"we would expect that man, choosing to reject God's way, would live in a state of "less than perfection"."
Or that man, living in a state of less than perfection, would wonder what a 'perfect being' was like, attempt to describe one, and instead come up with mister temper tantrum. And men, being imperfect, would be gullible enough to believe not only that this is what a 'perfect being' would be like, but that this 'perfect being' actually existed as described.

"In the same way, hate is the absence of love"
Bollocks to that. I do not love over 99% of the world's population. Don't hate them either. Don't know a damn thing about them, never met them. A few, I do hate. I can think of one in particular that, if I saw her get hit by a bus, I'd tip the driver. If I'm in ever in the same room as her, I have to keep my hands in my pockets to resist the urge to slap her, and bite my tongue to avoid saying anything I'll later regret.

That is not the absence of love. That is an active desire to see harm come to her, restrained primarily by the fact that we have friends in common, whom I do love and wouldn't want to see upset (that and a little thing called morality, which many Christians have told me I can't have because I reject their god).

This is not the absence of love, this is the presence of its opposite. Apathy is the closest term I can think of to the absence of love.

"pride is the absence of humility"
Actually, I think most people see that last one as working the other way around.

Paul said...

If such a thing as choice exists, why did god not create beings who would choose to, as you say, live in his perfection?

Um... maybe because if there is no alternative to choose - that doesn't really count as choice. You really do need to think that through!

Does that mean your god deliberately chose to create flawed beings predisposed to make the wrong choice? An omnipotent being certainly would be capable of creating beings capable of choosing othewise, would it not?

Yes! Countless millions, despite living in a world "fallen" from perfection, have chosen through Jesus Christ to reenter the relationship with God that was broken in Eden.

You are ... claiming man alone is responsible for imperfection, and that your god lacked prior knowledge, and is therefore not responsible for the totality of creation, and is thus rendered less than omnipotent.

Partly true, in one sense. Let me explain:

Yes, God is omnipotent, analagous to the omnipotence a king has in a true kingdom. A king may choose however, for a time or a task, to delegate his power to representatives, lords, emmissaries, ambassadors etc to act on his behalf. Some will do so faithfully, others unfaithfully, and others rebelliously. Is the king less than omnipotent in doing this? Well the choice of delegation was entirely the king's and at some point the king will hold his servants to account.

In the same way, the Bible says clearly that Adam and Eve were given dominion or authority over the earth. They had the power to multiply (ie have children). And evidently they had dominion over their own souls to obey or disobey God.

Elisha received delegated authority to act as a mouthpiece of God, and also had free choice. How did he use this authority? Rather badly in the case of the children, I think.

you claim that god, the perfect being, with full prior knowledge of their ultimate fate, created flawed beings destined to burn in unending torment forever.

No. I claim that man has a choice. Unending torment is the destination for those who have chosen to reject God, despite His appeals to them. On the contrary, as the Bible says "eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for those that love Him". Better to investigate that option, in my opinion.

btw: using statements like "clinging to your ridiculous delusion" is not really becoming of your argument. Better to just stump up with the evidence you have gathered that clearly establishes that there is no God. (Good luck with that!) If you're running low on proof that there is no God, why not just be humble and keep an open mind, rather than resorting to insults.

taliesin said...

Impotent, incompetent AND malevolent.

Kinda like a trinity! LOL!

On the whole, I think I'll stick with Thor, thanks

unsubbing

Dave said...

Paul said, “Unending torment is the destination for those who have chosen to reject God, despite His appeals to them.” – emphasis mine.

I became a Christian as a teenager, and 7 years ago at age 46 I became an ex-Christian. I no longer pretend to know whom God is, but I can tell you this: The strongest spiritual and emotional memory from my de-conversion is that God appealed to me to reject the bible as His word.

Paul, rejecting Christianity is completely different than rejecting God.

In my case rejecting Christianity was the last thing I wanted to do. As a result, however, I am more at peace with God, whomever or whatever God may be, than I ever was as a Christian. Worshipping a baby murderer is very hard on your soul.

Paul said...

"I no longer pretend to know whom God is, but I can tell you this: ... that God appealed to me to reject the bible as His word."

Dave, I respect your choice to reject Christianity, but I have a question for you:

If you don't "know who God is", how could you be certain that it was God who "appealed to" you to reject the bible as his word.

Your statement immediately brought to mind a key passage from Genesis: the first recorded action of satan was a statement (Gen3:1): "Did God really say...?" The deceiver "appealed to" Eve to reject the word of God. The fact she was taken in shows that he had at least some credibility in her eyes. Can you be certain that you were not simply deceived? As Paul said: "... for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light."

By constrast, Jesus often quoted the bible, often shattering conventional human understanding of the Word but never for a second calling its authority or inspiration into question ("the scripture cannot be broken").

If I had to side with one - I'm going with Jesus. You make your choice.

"Worshipping a baby murderer is very hard on your soul."

Here's some things I find really strange:
1. That it is precisely the ones who worship this "baby murderer" who fight the hardest and strongest for the rights of a baby in its mother's womb. By contrast, it's generally those who have rejected the bible as God's Word who argue for the rights of the mother over that of the innocent child.

2. A cursory study of infanticide will show its widespread practice (past and present) in precisely those areas of the world where the Bible has had least penetration.

What does this tell me? Well, that "baby murdering" is not the central message of the bible. In fact, the opposite is true. Surprise anyone? In fact, so far is it from the central message of the bible that those who live by its authority are in my experience the least likely to perpetrate this crime. I know you personally know "christian" women who have had abortions. I know you're fond of statistics, perhaps you could provide some. But I find it unbelievable and outside my 25 year experience of bible-believing christians. I have known plenty who had abortions before being converted, however.

Are you sure Dave you haven't lost your perspective a little?

Dave said...

Paul, I appreciate you taking the time to respond.

First and quickly, the abortion thing. You attempted to derail a discussion of god’s cruelty by bringing a side-issue of abortion into this forum with all kinds of unsupported claims. I questioned those claims, related my personal experience, and asked for verifiable statistical data that supports your claim that violent crime rates are increasing where the bible is waning, and that there is a relationship between abortion rates and Christianity. You have not provided any data. You made the initial claims, you provide the evidence.

Now the second subject, leaving Christianity. You propose that my personal experience was not from God, but rather influenced from Satan. Congratulations, Paul, you have just demonstrated one of the primary methods that cultists use to control their membership: If a member questions the cult’s authority, accuse them of being under the influence of Satan!

Just for argument’s sake, Paul, since you believe in the power of Satan’s influence, let’s assume he exists. The bible has convinced you to not only embrace god as a child murderer, but to come here and defend it. So here’s a serious question for you: How do you know that the bible is not one of Satan’s tools?

Dave said...

Hey Paul, check this out:

https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=23315188&postID=114200950726693538

This blog is for responses to a research paper from The Center for Reason titled “The Landscape of Abortion”. They claim they have verifiable public data that happens to support my position. You may want to bring you abortion discussion there.

Paul said...

Dave said "How do you know that the bible is not one of Satan’s tools?"

Good question Dave. Jesus gave a method for evaluation: "by their fruit you shall know them" which I think is a good way of judging this. So what fruit can we identify when the whole bible is believed and lived genuinely? Individually, corporately, and institutionally. And what is the fruit when the bible is rejected, individually, corporately and institutionally? Is there a difference in the fruit from these different standpoints? If so which would you attribute to Satan and which to God?

On an individual level, I've known hundreds of people who've genuinely adopted christianity. Without exception, the result has been: more peace, more joy, more purpose. In many cases, love of others, rejection of a violent lifestyle, freedom from drug and alcohol addiction, restoration of family, and physical healing. Hardly seems like the work of Satan, does it? I've seen some of these people for various reasons subsequently reject the authority of the bible in their lives. In every case, there has been some loss (if not total) in the above listed fruit, in my observation. Maybe Dave - you can be the first exception I've observed! If so, I'm happy for you.

If I look at the effect of genuine belief in the bible as God's word on a population or culture, the exact pattern is repeated. You can look at the effect of adoption of true christianity by the Maori in this country. You can look at the rejection of the bible's authority as has occurred in the culture here in the last few decades. The exact pattern repeats: less peace, less joy, less purpose. In many cases, hatred, increasing violence (particularly in the young), increased drug and alcohol addiction, family breakdown. No, I won't quote statistics - I'm talking about a cultural shift - not what box people tick at the census. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone in this country who wouldn't confirm these two movements for you (ie away from bible belief, worsening social trends). Post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy Arthur? Maybe. It's just that noone has proposed, to my satisfaction, other sensible causal factors. It makes sense to me that a trend I see in individuals would be reflected across a culture.

What happens if a government or nation absolutely rejects or bans christianity or the bible?If the bible is Satan's tool - you would expect him to be upset about this. The results, however, as we know, are startling in their savagery.

Belief in the whole bible: God's tool or satan's? I think the answer is rather obvious.

Dave said...

Thanks Paul. You know I don’t really believe the bible is Satan’s tool. Your choices are that it is either God’s or Satan’s. I think there is a third possibility: It is simply written by man. All by himself. And like you, to me the answer is rather obvious.

I don’t deny that Christianity has been beneficial in many peoples lives. So has Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Wicca, and for that matter, Santa Claus. Improving one’s life does not make it The Truth.

You see Christianity from your perspective and I think you give it much more causal credit than it deserves. I have very limited visibility to the “cultural shift” in your country so cannot judge, but gosh, if this degradation is so prevalent you think you could come up with at least some statistics. I believe most Americans would say that our society is going down the tubes too, but my limited observations and the statistics simply don’t back that up. For example, violent crimes in America have been decreasing for decades as have the number of abortions. Yet the percentage of Americans that claim they are Christian is decreasing. Paul, how do you explain that? And yes, I can provide the statistics to back up my claims.

Paul said...

Dave said "I think there is a third possibility: It (the Bible) is simply written by man. All by himself."

Dave - I think I might have agreed with you before I began to study the Bible for myself... but doing so brought death to the possibility in my mind that man wrote the Bible all by himself.

Was Daniel writing "all by himself" when he gave the EXACT timetable for the coming of the messiah (Jesus) hundreds of years before (Dan 9)? Was David writing "all by himself" when he detailed the messiah's suffering and death (remember: the messiah was supposed to be Israel's conquering king)? Was Isaiah writing "all by himself" when he predicted Israel's rebirth "in one day" (1948. And THAT looked likely, right?)? Was Moses writing "all by himself" when he detailed the offering at Eden, Abraham's offering of Isaac, the prophetic Passover ceremony, the Tabernacle in the wilderness, the High Priest's offering, the brazen serpent, the sin offering, etc etc etc all intricately, prophetically, detailing the coming sacrifice of The Lamb, Jesus Christ.

You should know I'm only scratching the surface. If you care to look at these things in depth, with an open mind, the idea grows rapidly that to suggest human minds conceived and coordinated these bizarre, detailed, highly counterintuitive ideas and predictions, that were exactly fulfilled hundreds of years later (as verified by countless eyewitnesses many of whom we know were tortured and killed for the privilege) is preposterous.

Dave I understand from reading many of your posts that your main objection to the Bible is a moral one, or at least that apparent moral "contradictions" in the Bible mean that it should be rejected intellectually. I understand that.

However your approach is not failsafe, to my way of thinking. If (please humour me!) God (the author of justice) inspired every word of the Bible and I as a human (a person that has ideas about justice) reject the Bible on the basis that its God is "unjust" - my rejection is based on my limited understanding rather than the actual nature of God. (And of course my understanding of God will always be limited!)

Don't get me wrong - I believe the justice of God as recorded in the Bible can hold up to solid, deep scrutiny - but I will never pretend to fully comprehend it. If I rejected the God of the Bible on moral grounds I could never tell whether my rejection was based on truth, or my own imperfect understanding.

Dave said...

Thanks Paul.

So to really put things in their basic form, you worship a baby murderer because the book that contains the details of these murders also contains many prophesies that you believe have been fulfilled, and only God could do this. You are not smart enough to understand the character of god, so you accept the baby murdering stuff because god’s perfect nature is, well, not able to be fully understood.

Hey, whatever works for you.

I use to accept the prophecies as proof too, but once I started really looking into them I found excellent arguments that all the prophecies except one are too vague, circular, or self-fulfilling to be significant. No point going into them here, as there are many excellent discussions about prophecies on both sides of the issue.

The one exception for me is the prophecy spelled out in by far the clearest terms you’ll ever find in the bible... the one where Jesus states he will return within the lifetimes of his followers. I’m sure you have grappled with this one and have many responses prepared for this unfulfilled prophecy, so again no need to go into it. I have heard them all.

So, it basically comes down to personal choice. I have made that choice and will never go back. I don’t think my morals have gone downhill since my de-conversion, in fact I’d argue they have improved. I value my fragile life on this planet more than ever, and since my earthbound life may be it for me, I strive to be the best husband and father I can be. Heck, take yesterday for example. Instead of going to church and ramming religious dogma down their impressionable throats, I spent the day with my daughters designing, making, and flying kites, a project from their high school geometry class. It was grand.

Sorry, Paul, but I am one of your exceptions to your “life is improved by accepting Jesus” rule. I think there are a lot more of us than you think and our numbers are growing.

PS Again, you have ignored any and all requests and presented absolutely no statistics or verifiable data whatsoever to back up any of your previous claims about bible rejection and the demise of society.

jonny said...

hey

God can do whatever he wants to just leave him alone

assholes

Dave said...

Well, I dropped in to see if Paul responded to my post, just to find Jonny the Troll’s inane remark. OK Jonny, I’ll bite. First off, Jonny, I am not an asshole. I am a 53 year old father, husband, and seeker of the truth. What are you, Jonny? A Christian incapable of defending your beliefs? Or are you just a dim-witted polluter of the internet, dropping stupid juvenile remarks just to rile people up? Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution? Are you willing and capable to engage in an intelligent conversation?

Paul said...

Dave, I've been thinking about your 25 Feb post a lot, sorry about delay in replying... before I do though I have to 100% agree with your post today!

jonny said...

hey sorry about that comment i made a few months ago. Even as a Christian I feel your site is actually pretty good because I learn a lot of the parts of the Bible that people tend to avoid.

although most of your stuff is from the old testament. Do you have enough evidence to back your opinions with the A.D. God we have now or the God before Jesus came around?

Great stuff though

Indrifan said...

Sorry, I didn't have the patience to read through all of the comments carefully, but I just read a plausible gloss on this at a slate
blog - to recap, Elisha recently got his magic prophet powers by picking up Elijah's mantle, and didn't realize the power his curses had. There is a similar moral to one of my favorite Medieval tales, "The Cursed Dancers of Colbek" by Robert Mannyng of Brunne. In this story a priest curses some youths (including his daughter) for dancing in the churchyard on Christmas Eve while he is trying to write his sermon. Lots of bad things ensue.

FWIW, I am a secular humanist. But I think Jonny above has a legitimate theological point, if somewhat crudely put: God does what he wants. This namby-pamby love stuff is so New Testament: worship God (and respect His prophets) because otherwise you'll get your face torn off by a bear. I'm not saying I agree, just that it is a consistent theological stance.

Indrifan said...

Just read a few more comments, and I see that nldthomas sort of suggested the same thing I just did.

Tim, if you said to W "drop dead, big ears", there's a good chance that you would be eating asphalt under a pile of Secret Service agents. I guess that still ranks as better than being eaten by bears. For one thing the Secret Service would probably keep you alive longer. Maybe long enough to sort out any first amendment issues.

Bully said...

Hello Steve

Interesting site. Though with all due respect, you unbelievers are like 2D creatures trying to make sense of a 3D object as it passes through your world. The Bible, like Jesus' parables, was written to be wrestled with. If you believe, the Spirit will guide you to make sense of it. If you don't, it will confuse you. It is a sword that divides the sheep from the goats.

There is a lot more going in this passage than is immediately apparent. Those who are offended by the events it records seem to ignore the context. This is not a game of totem tennis. It's part of a cricket test match.

Firstly, it takes place within the Covenant. Israel was a nation of priests mediating before God for the rest of humanity. Depending on their obedience, this would bring great blessings or great curses (read Deut 28 and Lev 26). Judgment begins at the house of God. God's people are MORE accountable to Him, and when they rebel, their sin is high-handed because they have more to rebel against.

Secondly, after the showdown between Ahab and Jezebel's Baalism, and Elijah, Ahab still did not repent. Elijah became a new Moses. He did not run away as many suppose, but walked straight to the same mountain, the same cave, where Moses saw the glory of God. Elijah became the Moses of a new interim covenant with a remnant of believers (Paul and Revelation refer to this 7000 remnant as the pattern repeats itself in the first century). That is why, in the passage in question, there are two 'water crossings'. Covenant makings always follow a seven point pattern, which not only corresponds to the seven days of the Creation week, but also the annual feasts as recorded in Leviticus 23. You also see the 'head and body' of the sacrifice ritual from Leviticus 1:

EXODUS FROM THE NORTHERN KINGDOM

Sabbath - God's word comes as initiator
The prophets are told that Elijah will ascend

Passover - Elisha follows Elijah into the wilderness. Elijah parts the Jordan with his cloak, and the two parts of the “sacrifice” are washed (Leviticus 1)

Firstfruits - Elijah, who is the flaming chariot, ascends to heaven as the head of the “sacrifice”

Pentecost - Elisha receives Elijah’s robe (the skin of the sacrifice given to the priest), and a “double mouthful” of the Spirit

Trumpets - Elisha’s house is established when Elijah cannot be found

Atonement - Elisha tips a bowl of salt water into the bitter spring of Jericho and lifts the curse of barrenness from the Land. False prophet interns (or children) threaten Elisha and are eaten by beasts (bears) as the 'scapegoat' sent to destruction

Booths - Elisha returns 'home' as a new Joshua (Booths)

So, you can see the entire Exodus, wilderness, Jordan, promised Land pattern here. The pattern is also the deep structure of the entire New Testament, where Jesus as Moses and Elijah ascends to God (as head of the church - the Adam captain) and sends the Spirit upon the church (Elisha - the body - the Eve army). In this case, Jericho was the corrupted religion of Herod's temple, and Jesus came in judgment in AD70, vindicating His predictions. This explains a lot of the symbols used in Revelation, which predicted these events.

Regarding the insult, perhaps this had to do with the ascension of Elijah as the 'head.'

Regarding the bears, being torn in two by scavenging birds and wild beasts was a curse of the Covenant that is often repeated throughout the Bible, beginning with the raven sent out by Noah, that fed on the floating bodies until the waters went down. Tearing one's robes symbolised this also. If you remember, Jezebel was eaten by dogs, Saul's sons were hung high but one of their mothers chased the birds away. Abraham chased the birds away from the divided animals that purified the Land, etc. There are many more examples.

The Lord's throne is often described as coming from the north (Ezek. 1). In the stars, His throne is polar north, and there are two bears guarding it (I would also mention that the woman and the dragon of Rev 12 are also in the stars, and that the order of the tribes around the Tabernacle followed the 12 constellations, the ones that bowed to Joseph). Elisha is simply extending the dominion of God's throne over the Covenant breakers. In AD70, 6000 women and children died when cloisters collapsed at the end of the Roman seige. Like the Amorites in Canaan, Jezebel's time was up. The curses of the Old Covenant fell for the last time.

There is a spiritual war going on. One thing you must understand is that committing one sin brings the death penalty. God is within His rights to destroy us instantly - and He does this a few times in the Bible to remind us. The miracle is that He doesn't. Our problem is that we use His mercy and patience to compound our sin.

So these children or youths are the "children of Jezebel", and the point is that the idolatrous/adulterous woman will have no children (read Numbers 5), but the faithful woman will have many. God applied this test to Israel when they worshipped the golden calf. The generations of the wicked will be cut off. Israel's time had run out, and the attack by the bears simply prefigured God's use of the Assyrians invaders and later the Babylonians to 'flood in' and wipe out the unfaithful 'sons of God' (Gen 6) who should have been faithful priests.

I hope that helps. If we use peace-time morality to judge war-time measures (ie. sticking a knife in someone is bad unless you are cutting out cancer) we will misinterpret the Scriptures.

We are free to reject the Scriptures, but I think we ought to do our homework first.

Dave said...

Bully said ” Though with all due respect, you unbelievers are like 2D creatures trying to make sense of a 3D object as it passes through your world.” Yup, Bully, start off with an insult and established yourself as arrogant and self-righteous.

Then you say ”The Bible, like Jesus' parables, was written to be wrestled with. If you believe, the Spirit will guide you to make sense of it. If you don't, it will confuse you. It is a sword that divides the sheep from the goats.” With all due respect Bully, what a load of crap. You are basically saying that the bible doesn’t make sense, so first you have to buy into it, then and only then it will make sense to you because the spirit screws with your sense of morality.

I plowed through the rest of your explanation, and I can summarize it thusly ”blah blah blah other examples of animals eating people in the bible blah blah blah god can do what he wants and we’re lucky its not worse blah blah blah.”

You and Jason have been reduced to cognitive dissonant parrots that have lost your humanity. Interesting how the non-believers here are the only ones arguing against cruelty to mankind.

Your final statement ” We are free to reject the Scriptures, but I think we ought to do our homework first.” is backwards. The scriptures should be rejected upfront, then accepted only after that homework is done.

This reminds me of a pastor I heard talking on the radio about the importance of indoctrinating children into Christianity. He said that once non-believers reach adulthood, the conversion rate drops dramatically. Gosh, I wonder why. I became one at age 12, as I had a older brother that was evangelical. It wasn’t until I was in my forties, when a chain of events occurred that allowed me to take a fresh look at my life, including religion, did I realize what an immoral charade Christianity really is.

say moi said...

Why is it whenever something bad happens, everyone automatically blames the Almighty? You never hear of someone saying "Gee, that freak tornado came out of nowhere and smashed into the bar over there. We've never had a tornado here before. What a great example of global warming/climate change/ bad luck!" Of course not, some holy joe jumps up on a soapbox about how God was upset with the activities in the bar and stretched out his hand and wiped it from the face of the earth yada yada yada. Knowing that this is human nature, isn't it possible that Elisha happened upon the aftermath of a bear attack, and, being human, spun it to make himself look good? "These kids were disrespectful to me, and as a representative of God, they were disrespectful to him as well, so I cursed them, and now they are dead. Let this be a lesson to you- respect the prophet! Respect my authority!!"
Sad fact of the mater- if you look hard enough, you'll find someone willing to believe or disbelieve anything, and it all comes down to a personal choice. While I find comfort in the writings of the Bible, I also find insight in the writings of Budda, the instructional parables of Aaesop, the wisdom of Confucious and the poems of Robert Frost. I have friends who think that the answer to everything can be found in tea leaves, astrology, numerology and even (sorry, this one makes me giggle) phrenology. What do they all have in common? They recognize that what works for them does not work for everyone else, and rather than waste time defending their belief/non-belief or attacking someone else's comfort, they strive to be the best person they can be, and just get along. Christianity, Judeo-Christians, Mormons- believers overall seem to have a hard time doing the same.

Mike Bull said...

"Yup, Bully, start off with an insult and established yourself as arrogant and self-righteous."

Yes, you are right. The non-Christians on this site refrain from insults, ridicule, and are wonderful examples of charity. My point stands. You totally failed to deal with this passage in its "3D" context. Totally.

The critics of this passage fail to interpret it in context, whatever they think of its 'morality'. Israel said 'I do' to both the blessings and the curses of the covenant. If you won't deal with literature (or history) in context, your opinions are one-eyed. You can't isolate this passage from previous Scripture to support your unbelief.

In context, this judgment was just. God has a long fuse, but He has a fuse nonetheless. Elisha's act made a new covenant with the faithful remnant of the northern kingdom, and the rest would be wiped out by Assyrian "bears." Deal with that, AND the Babylonian captivity, during which many children died.

If these prophets were 'false prophets' or their sons from Bethel, site of one of Jeroboam's golden calves, God was quite just in wiping them out within the context of the covenant.

Also, if there is a God, and He is just in punishing sin, ie. He will deal with liars and murderers, why would we not see this in Scripture, in both type and antitype?

If true worship is crucial, false worship will be judged. You have to presuppose atheism to find this judgment on false worship unjust.

Israel was elevated as a mediatorial nation, to be kept pure until the Messiah. As a result, they were made an example of in many ways when they failed, but not before God sent his prophets to warn them. And when His judgments did finally fall, it was actually 100s of years later than what His own Law demanded. God has a long fuse, but He has a fuse nonetheless.

If you are going to pontificate on God's judgments, at least read the fine print written in LARGE LETTERS, which included the deaths of their children. Do some homework.

Apologies if you were insulted. But my point stands. Context is everything.

BlackFrostCherry said...

This God we are debating also created a beautiful world and personally died for us to have eternal happiness. I can trust such a Person to do what is just. Such a person does not tear apart children for no reason, so we must assume there's something we're missing here. We can't really make judgements because we are not God and we don't know the peope involved. If we knew everything, there would be no faith, a great expression of love.

Dave said...

Mike, thanks for coming back and posting! First, I want to make something clear. I am a kind and loving person. I was to meet you I would shake your hand, and probably give you a hug. My ranting and hyperbole is a reflection of my frustration with Christianity and should not be taken personally. I live in a family filled with Christians, and I love every one of them. I was one for over 40 years after all.

My journey away from Christianity has evolved into more of a general frustration than one related to specific inconsistencies or immoral stories in the bible. This is hard to explain, and is one reason I keep posting on these blogs is that I am trying to find a way to express my feelings.

Your posts, and the one by BlackFrostCherry exemplify my frustration. BFC said “God… does not tear apart children for no reason.” Your posts about David’s son are along the same line… you build a case for a good reason for your god to murder David’s son. You and BFC have actually justified in your minds the killing of innocent children. I don’t know whether this makes me want to cry, get angry, or just write Christians off as brainwashed lunatics. You have lost your God-given humanity, and He weeps.

Let me put it a different way. Assume for a moment, you are God, and have decided to create a universe. You are perfect, omniscient, omnipotent, and loving. Would you create a world where You choose to murder children as punishment for someone else?

Really?

And Mike, I have done my homework. I have heard all of the excuses that Christians come up with to justify the immoral actions of their god. I have used them in the past. The more that time passes, the more disgusted I am with myself that I ever believed in it. I was brainwashed, plain and simple.

The only analogy I can think of right now is Hitler. Does it matter if we study his actions “in context”? Is it “one-eyed” to assume he was evil simply because he murdered 6 million Jews? Should we study the biblical rationale behind his actions, study the history of his rise to power, and study the good things that he accomplished before passing judgment on him? Go ahead if you want. I don’t have the time or inclination, and the fact that he murdered 6 million Jews is good enough for me: The man was evil.

And if the god you worship murdered even ONE innocent child, that is good enough for me: The god is evil. Yet you believe that your god murdered millions of innocent children, including his own son. And you justify it! What does that make YOU?

Dave said...

Mike, I see you pulled your Katoomba High blog. How come?

Jacob said...

Why does everyone here seem to be operating under the assumption that the OT God is always just and/or that God is perfect? Nearly every argument here is 100% binary (ironic considering that Christianity is Piercian/triatic and that those arguing in opposition to the said Biblical passages are supposed to be open-minded). Is it so hard to acknowledge that God makes mistakes? And is this idea totally out of reach for Christians and non-Christians alike?

If the Bible is read as the developing growth of God (and I'm certain I'll get a response that the very notion is flawed by Biblical standards), it reads like a coming of age story of a diety. If so, 2 Kings goes way back into God's adolescence (raging hormones, Korn, Limp Bizket and black eye-liner), and the decision to allow man to fall prey to sin goes into his infancy (taking in an obscene amount of new info, the inability to make decisions properly or care for one's basic needs). If man was created in the image of God, then is it so hard to assume that God matures as well? If so, God allowing himself to experience life as a human seems to be the turning point in the Bible, and the crucifixion the climax. As a result of God's experiences as Christ, we see a transition from a punitive and juvenile God to a God who finally understands man and is thus more graceful and welcoming of his (now) fellow man. (As far as maturity goes, maybe around the Synoptic Gospels God decided it was time to get a mortgage and open up an IRA.)

That considered (as a possibility, people, not the answer), could it be that by our human standards the God of 2 Kings is NOT just, and that God on the whole is, like us, only working toward perfection and has not been eternally perfect?

Just to nip a couple arguments in the bud here, I realize this notion doesn't acknowledge God existing outside of time as we know it (is that idea even Biblical, btw?). Jesus' coming was prophecied, etc, etc. But does this necessarily mean that God knows the future? (And please don't turn this into a fate vs. free will debate, I really am trying to stay on your topic here.) Is making a prophecy and "puppeteering" the future the same thing? If not, what if the Bible is a novel with God as a main character (protagonist, antagonist, tragic hero, whatever) who experiences real change and growth? Plus: This notion also suggests that God is not all-knowing. Well, hold on. Does all-knowing mean that God knows all we know and more, or that God knows everything there is to know ever and is just supremely bored?

I'm not a scholar by any means, so I'm sure any of you can out-verse me at the drop of a hat. But I'm not interested in a Biblical prick-swinging contest where someone's just gonna put God in a box and call it the NIV. Granted, this is a website ABOUT citing passages, but someone please start backing Bible quotes up with something in addition to the quote itself.

Basically:
A) Is God just?
B) Is God perfect?
C) According to whose terms, God's or ours?
D) Does God change/mature?

P.S. If anyone tries to connect this argument to abortion in any way whatsoever, I'm outta here, and may God have mercy on your ability to vote intelligently.

sitbaddoggy said...

If God really is just, perfect, omnipotent and omniscient, then surely he has no need to change or mature. Humans are born, mature then die; God should have no need for all that. If God is really who He is supposed to be, what was once applicable and acceptable 4000 or 2000 years ago should be the same now or at any point in the future.

That's not the case with the God written in all these "holy" books. Humanity has developed further - no more slavery, liberty for all, equality for women - but God has been left behind, precisely because He's stuck in the Bronze Age or Roman times. Isn't it time that we left Him behind and got on with our lives?

TheAmazingChristian said...

There are a few key issues we must understand in regards to this account of the youths cursing Elisha. The text reads, “From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. ‘Go on up, you baldhead!’ they said. ‘Go on up, you baldhead!’ He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.” It seems unbelievable that God would cause two bears to maul a group of children for making fun of a man for being bald.

First, the King James Version has done us a disservice by translated the term as “children.” The Hebrew word can refer to “children,” but rather more specifically means "young men." The NIV, quoted here, uses the word “youths.” Second, the fact that the bears mauled 42 of the youths indicates that there were more than 42 youths involved. This was not a small group of children making fun of a bald man. Rather, it was a large demonstration of young men who assembled for the purpose of mocking a prophet of God. Third, the mocking of “go on up you baldhead,” is more than making fun of baldness. The baldness of Elisha referred to here may be: 1) natural loss of hair; 2) a shaved head denoting his separation to the prophetic office; or more likely, 3) an epithet of scorn and contempt, Elijah not being literally bald. The phrase “go up” likely was a reference to Elijah, Elisha’s mentor, being taken up to Heaven earlier in 2 Kings chapter 2:11-12. These youths were sarcastically taunting and insulting the Lord’s prophet by telling him to repeat Elijah’s translation.

In summary, 2 Kings 2:23-24 is not an account of God mauling young children for making fun of a bald man. Rather, it is a record of an insulting demonstration against God’s prophet by a large group of young men. Because these young people of about 20 years of age or older (the same term is used of Solomon in 1 Kings 3:7) so despised the prophet of the Lord, Elisha called upon the Lord to deal with the rebels as He saw fit. The Lord’s punishment was the mauling of 42 of them by two female bears. The penalty was clearly justified, for to ridicule Elisha was to ridicule the Lord Himself. The seriousness of the crime was indicated by the seriousness of the punishment. The appalling judgment was God’s warning to all who would scorn the prophets of the Lord.

dannydamagichobo said...

I'm not entirely sure whether or not getting invloved in this is wise or not, but to say that god is one who matures and grows, that he himself is not omniscient, omnipotent, or even omnipresent, means that god is simply a human being with supernatural powers, kind of like a Greek god.

In fact, that kind of logic suggests that god was born, and that there are more gods out there, etc.

In any case, a god who is not eternal, not the creator of all things, means that he himself is subject to greater powers...and the cycle goes on and on, whicih logically makes no sense, seeing as there must be something eternal, something that exceeds time itself...something that has no beginning. And if such a thing exists, then one cannot logically understand everything about it.

I know this tactic used by Christians has been (and probably still is) abused repeatedly, but please do not let there mistakes lead you to discredit this kind of reasoning.

Dave said...

"The Amazing Christian" cut and paste verbatim from this site without giving any credit:

http://www.gotquestions.org/Elisha-baldhead.html

Amazing, indeed.

dannydamagichobo said...

this all is based on what one thinks of God

Does God, this creator of all things, HAVE THE RIGHT to kill His creation? If He doesn't, then he is a murderer, and presumably not God. IF HE DOES, however, then he is not a murderer, and is completely justified in what he does without needing explaination. The problem here is how one see's God.

mwaetht said...

I offer that He has no right to kill us. For do we not condemn parents killing their children? Why do we do so? After all, the parents brought the child into being, so they should have the right to take it out of being. The child should be grateful for the life it has already lived- if the parents chose not to bring him into being, it would not have had any life at all! Right? Right?

This is the exact same argument given by someone much earlier (I can't be bothered to find where tha comment is). God created us, so God has the right to destroy us. We should be grateful that we have any life at all. Riiiiiiiight.

kristin said...

Who is God and what exactly are His rights? If He is truly God, who are we to define what He should or should not do?

Dave said...

"who are we to define what He should or should not do?

His children. I will not tolerate child abuse.

LoveGod said...

Yeah, but I gotta wonder what things would look like if the children usurped the father and were trying to run the show, defining what his rights are, and what could/should do.

Oh, oops, that's the world now isn't it?

Dave said...

I don’t see the world as that way at all. Do you have kids? If so, do they run the show at your house? I have 2 teenage children, and they do not usurp my authority at all. If I do something that they do not approve of, however, I will hear about it and respect their opinion. That’s what true love is all about. My kids are strong and intelligent enough that if I were to abuse them in any way, let alone the way the biblical god abuses his children, they would run away from home, contact the authorities, and I would be brought to trial for child abuse. That is if I didn’t kill them first. The Biblical god seems to like to do that.

paulie said...

Hi, nice to hear you again Dave,

I'm afraid you're not the first to use the father/children analogy. Jesus used it in the same context. Difference is the sons had the choice to stay under the father's influence, protection and blessing, or not. One son chose to go his own way, and be independent of the father.

In Jesus' story, the father desperately loved the son, and looked and longed for his return. But the son had made his choice to be removed from the father's protection, and therefore had to suffer himself, the results of his actions.

Amy said...

I find the entire Kings passage inconceivable. Men wrote the bible and are more than capable of fabrication. I don't believe the story of Noah and the flood either. Let's use some common sense.

Xolotl-Tzin said...

Tsk, tsk. Why can't Christians admit that the bible was written by numerous writers at different times with different political bias for their era? I mean surey, they know God didn't write the bible. People did, right?

paulie said...

Yes, people wrote the Bible. I think most Christians should know that. But if you do some research - like reading it with an open mind - you'll find these people wrote things with knowledge that must have come from outside this realm. Daniel prophesied the exact date that the messiah would come, and that he would be killed. Many others prophesied the complex circumstances of his execution, which were fulfilled exactly.

A major theme in Bible prophecy is the centrality of Israel in world affairs, and in upcoming global conflict. This might have looked pretty stupid a hundred years ago as Israel didn't exist. But now?

Another major theme is world empires and government. John (who lived and walked with Jesus, and was eye-witness of His death and resurrection) prophesied a charismatic end-time world leader who would negotiate peace deals, and head a world government with a single economic system. This economic system relies on a system of identifying each individual by etching into (greek: charagma) their arm or forehead a mark, which is also a number. Sound feasible? Maybe not when John wrote it in AD70. But now? You be the judge.

The New Testament writers gave frank eye witness reports of Jesus death and resurrection, at risk of their own lives. Paul wrote much of the new testament. If you have an enquiring mind, you have to ask yourself: what led Paul as a well born, successful, highly respected, highly educated, intelligent member of the in-crowd, to become a follower of Jesus which he knew would lead to his persecution and death? To get the answer, you don't have to speculate or guess. You can read Paul's writings in the Bible.

Al said...

Where does Daniel prophesy these things and how is it precise?

Anette Acker said...

Dear Steve,

I appreciate your honesty. I hope you are also open to letting God show your that He's not as bad as you think.

I am a devout Christian, and I find that story completely atrocious. I have no explanation for it. It doesn't matter to me whether those boys were five or twenty-five--what Elisha did went against the teaching and the spirit of Christ.

But I don't have to defend all the atrocities in the Old Testament. Jesus didn't. When the religious leaders were about to stone the woman caught in the act of adultery (as required by their law), Jesus stopped them by encouraging them to ponder their own sin. He summed the law up into two commandments: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." That was the spirit of Jesus, and He is our most accurate depiction of God, because He is God.

Some day each of us will know the objective truth about God, but I can honestly say that my walk with Him in faith has proven His love and faithfulness beyond the shadow of a doubt in my mind. I realize this is subjective, and I don't expect to persuade any of you. But faith is the subjective work of the Holy Spirit in a person's soul, even though it's based on an objective reality--the cross of Jesus.

What then do I make of the story of Elisha? Only this: If a bunch of kids should mock me about my appearance, the Christian response is probably not to strike them all dead. Beyond that, I don't need to worry about it. "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Galations 5:6) That's all that matters. So if I try to justify what Elisha did, I do violence to the spirit of truth and love within me. All I can say is that I don't understand the story, but I do know God, and I know that He is love.

Anette Acker said...

But I do have a theory as to why Elisha did what he did. He was very Spirit-filled, so he had the power to bless or curse. He chose to curse because he was offended. It was an abuse of power. The Bible doesn't always defend the actions of its heroes. It just describes them.

I also wanted to clarify what I meant by doing "violence to the spirit of truth and love within" us. If we know something is wrong, but we try to convince ourselves it's right (or vice versa), we distort our moral compass. This is dangerous even when we do it in the name of God. The Pharisees and Job's friends did that and were severely reprimanded.

But I don't believe in watering down or cutting out parts of God's word either. Sometimes it's better just to reserve judgment. Often it will make sense later.

BTW, it's probably obvious that I haven't read many of the comments (I'm just responding to the original post), so I apologize if the conversation had moved on by the time I commented.

dannydamagichobo said...

Dear Ms. Acker,

I understand that you are saying that the Holy Spirit will ultimately be the one to change Steve's spirit if it ever happens, but then you take the time to comment on his post, even going as far as saying that you don't expect him to change because of your post. Then, why post at all? Are you posting this in order to win OTHER readers, or are you simply pouring out your testimony for no apparent reason other than to simply rave about how good God is? It is obvious to me and everyone else who has rejected God that you don't realize (or admit) that Elisha was considered to be a holy man even during the Bible's conception. The "new" way of thinking for modern - day Christians have been influenced by the work of humanists, philosophers, and ignorant Christians who do not understand their own religion, let alone how it came to be and how it changed. Perhaps you agree with Paul's belief in the inferiority of women in terms of service, as he did not want them to teach, indeed, if he even wrote that book in which that command was written.

For you to go and claim how good God is and claim that was Elisha did was wrong is, in essence, blasphemy and hypocracy. I'm glad that you agree that what happened was atrocious, but DO NOT FORGET that it was God who ultimately caused this to happen, and even looking further back, knew this going to happen, and, being completely in control of ALL circumstances and being omniscient, is totally responsible for all the evil in the world, for all the pain, misery, and sin that has been inflicted upon us unwillingly, and for you to come and try to defend him and say how good He is is not something you want to try with people like us. We do not see the good in an All-powerful and All-knowing God giving us the very sin he is going to punish us for. So, in all, thanks for taking the time to comment, but your testimony doesn't convince us of anything.

Anette Acker said...

I've met a number of honest, open-minded atheists in my life and many who are just angry. If any of you want to have an honest, respectful discussion, I'm up for that. Otherwise, I'm out.

Dave B said...

Annette,

First, I want to congratulate you for being a Christian that does not try to twist a plain and simply story of children being killed by God into something it isn’t. Over at Ray Comfort’s blog for example, Christians can actually justify in their minds that this story demonstrates God’s mercy. Most Christians are simply incapable of reading anything “bad” in the Bible. It is all good, no matter how much cognitive dissonant word-twisting and redefining of the written language they have to do to make it good.

You are on the right track. Careful though, it may lead you to somewhere you don’t want to go.

Only one more comment, and you probably won’t like it. You said “… I can honestly say that my walk with Him in faith has proven His love and faithfulness beyond the shadow of a doubt in my mind.” My comment is that millions of religious people make the exact same claim, whether they are Christians, Hindus, Jews, or Muslims. Religion has a very powerful way of working with the human mind and convincing the mind’s owner that they are completely right. This sort of brainwashing has been the cause of millions of deaths. Think of suicide bombers or the extremists that flew an airplane into the Twin Towers. They were no less convinced of the truth of their convictions than you are and would likely make identical statements.

Finally, you will find many if not most ex-Christians, including myself, angry about Christianity. That doesn’t make us angry people. I am actually much more at peace in general as an ex-Christian.

Anette Acker said...

Dave,

You said, "Only one more comment, and you probably won’t like it."

Actually, I like everything you said, and the way you said it.

You say that my line of reasoning might take me somewhere I don't want to go. I know exactly where it takes me--to Christ. There are a lot of things in the Bible that are hard to understand, and sometimes it's better to leave them alone than to engage in the cognitive dissonance you're describing. But the nature of Jesus is very clear, and He is an exact representation of God. He welcomed sinners, rebuked self-righteous people, alleviated suffering wherever He found it, and even though He had the power to destroy those who crucified Him, He took the wrath of God upon Himself, even asking God to "forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

He is, by any honest standard, the epitome of love and goodness. Ghandi called Jesus "a beautiful example of the perfect man," and encouraged Hindus to study His teachings reverentially. He is the essence of Christianity, and His true followers are like Him.

You're right that people will do hateful things in the name of religion (like the suicide bombers). In fact, Jesus addressed that very problem. Most of the religious leaders of His day were hateful and self-righteous. In fact, their religion blinded them to Jesus's goodness. They accused Him of having an evil spirit. Jesus responded by saying that a sin against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiving them.

What is the sin against the Holy Spirit? It is calling good evil, and evil good, or twisting the truth in our minds. It is nursing hatred or cognitive dissonance, and caring more about defending our position than seeking the truth. And the longer it continues, the more we shut the light out of our souls, leaving no room for repentance.

That's why I said that I would not discuss this subject with atheists who care more about nursing their anger than the truth. And I know you're not all like that (I don't mean to imply that Danny is, either). You may object to the word "truth," but I simply mean the willingness to honestly see things as they are and recognize the ring of truth.

dannydamagichobo said...

Ms. Acker

I apologize for my rather rude and accusing tone, but I must admit that whenever I hear someone who is talking about how good God is in spite of everything else, it makes me feel like I must respond - and it usually isn't a nice response.

As for Jesus, do you believe that Jesus is God? And who do you believe God is? His attributes? His personality?

I ask this because many people claim to "know" God as if they know their mothers, and then when I delve in deeper, it is exposed that they really know nothing about him - only what they've read and been taught. They have no personal experience of their own and would rather be told what o do than to make their own decisions (at least, within the church, however I will not deny that they do make their own decisions as well).

dannydamagichobo said...

P.S.

your second comment was not posted when I wrote mine, it was directed purely at your first comment.

Anette Acker said...

No worries, Danny. :)

Yes, Jesus is God--the second person of the Trinity. So if we have any questions about God's attributes, we'll know for sure what He's like by reading the Gospels. He was compassionate, peaceful, gentle with sinners, strong against hypocrites, and humble enough to live a life of poverty (although He is now glorified). People attribute evil to God, but Jesus spent all His time dealing with the problem of evil, culminating in the cross, which defeated the power of evil.

BTW, the Bible was written by men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit, which means that God worked through them. But according to Martin Luther, some books of the Bible are more inspired than others, meaning that they are closer to the source, God Himself. He said that the Gospels (esp. the Gospel of John) are the most inspired, because they were eyewitness accounts of the incarnate God.

So if there's any contradiction between how different books of the Bible portray God, the Gospels win out.

To answer your other question, I do know God through a personal walk of faith and not just through study. I try to hold my spiritual life to a high level of honest scrutiny, and still there's no question in my mind that it's very real. In fact, the older I get, the more I see the remarkable internal consistency of the Bible (even though there are things I don't understand) and my own experiences.

Brendan said...

Rashi, an 11th century commentator, said that the Hebrew, "וּנְעָרִים" means "people empty [of observance of the commandments]."

Rashi would've found nothing wrong with the passage and had no motive to change the meaning. Therefore, I could care less about this passage. There's 858 others I'd rather dispute.

Steve Wells said...

Hi Brendan, welcome back.

So you and Rashi couldn't care less about this passage. Why is that?

God sends 2 bears to rip apart 42 children and you "could care less." And the reason you give is that Rashi said "וּנְעָרִים" means "people empty [of observance of the commandments]." And that's good enough for you?

What is wrong with you, Brendan?

Markus Arelius said...

If 42 children (teenagers or even 20 year olds) verbally jeered and mocked a Lutheran pastor for his baldness on his way up the steps to the church on Sunday, would he turn around and curse them? Then would God smite them all down with magically appearing Grizzly Bears?

Seriously. I want to pour ice water on all of your heads! Come on! Snap out of it!

Steve, I don't think Christians will understand the point until you post an equally unlikely and inexplicable parable from the Koran or Book of Mormon. Once you do they just might identify with the position that many atheists have about these stories.

Brendan said...

The text that translates to "little children" is וּנְעָרִים

(Did I forget to mention that? Sorry!)

וּנְעָרִים doesn't actually mean "little children". There's a similar issue with the word "abomination", but that's a completely different story.

Rashi's explanation of "וּנְעָרִים" is correct.

Of course, I guess that makes one wonder why 42 men were ripped apart by bears for a "bald joke". That argument hinges on what extent they disobeyed the commandments to.

I like David Plotz's theory, too.

I think my biggest problem right now is the current state of the America, but that's also something totally unrelated.

Steve Wells said...

So I guess you're not willing to take the passage seriously, eh Brendan?

You say you like David Plotz's Spiderman theory -- that Elisha didn't know his new-found power of cursing. So when he cursed the 42 guys (children, teenagers, senior citizens, whatever), God just had to send a couple bears to rip them up.

But God, if there is one, didn't have to do that. He could have sent them to detention, made them wash the dishes, grounded them for a week, made them write 100 times "I will not make fun of bald-headed prophets." He didn't have to send bears to rip them apart. He chose to do that.

I know it's not your problem, Brendan. You're worried about bigger things. But if God did the same thing to a bunch of kids that made fun of your rabbi, would you be OK with God doing a 2 Kings 2:23-24 on them?

I have one more question for you, Brendan. Do you think this stupid story actually happened?

Brendan said...

You say "kids", still...

If someone doesn't observe "the commandments" (as in, the 10) that means they are murderous thieves. I've also heard the explanation that they were among the Baal prophets, although I'm not sure what the source of that allegation is.

What they said to Elisha wasn't "Go up, Baldy", it was "aleh kereach, aleh kereach", which means "Ascend, empty skull, to heaven." (Do a quick google search for "aleh kereach")

Considering Elijah just ascended to heaven a bit earlier, I'd consider that a call for his death.

If 42 murderous thieves started threatening to kill my rabbi, I'd have no problem with G-d sending bears out to stop them.

While I do, to a certain extent, believe this story, Judaism doesn't mandate that you have to believe the entire Bible word-for-word.

I say "to a certain extent" because the scribes recording this had their own biases, their own feelings, and may have added or omitted pieces of information.

Steve Wells said...

I say "kids" still, because that's what the bible calls them.

But even if they were aged, homosexual, adulterous, fortune telling, dwarfs, with crushed testicles, who like to make fun of rabbis, I wouldn't be OK with God sending bears to rip their sorry asses apart. You are a very sick person, Brendan. You should get some help.

Brendan said...

"You are a very sick person, Brendan. You should get some help."

Well, I had a sore throat last week, but I think that passed.

Steve Wells said...

Brendan, you said: "If 42 murderous thieves started threatening to kill my rabbi, I'd have no problem with G-d sending bears out to stop them."

There's nothing in the text that says the boys were murderous thieves, or that they threatened Elisha in any way, or that they intended to kill him. They made fun of him. That's it.

Here's 2 Kings 2:23-24 from the Contemporary English Version. (All versions say essentially the same thing, but feel free to quote another if you like.)

"Elisha left and headed towards Bethel. Along the way some boys started making fun of him by shouting, 'Go away, baldy! Get out of here!'

Elisha turned round and stared at the boys. Then he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Straight away two bears ran out of the woods and ripped to pieces forty-two of the boys."

They weren't murderous thieves. They didn't threaten to kill Elisha. They were boys making fun of Elisha bald head. That's it.

Why do you try to cover up for God, Brendan? God is proud of all of his killings. The point of this killing is this: make fun of a prophet and God will kill you in a painful way. And according to the story that's just what he did. Why do you try to deny it?

Efrique said...

Thanks for SAB, Steve. I have lost count of the number of times I have pointed people to it.

matt311 said...

It's a bit like Peter, eh? The cock shall crow, and all that... ;-)

Personally, I think it's an atrocious story, as well, but the justifications religious people give for that story are just as atrocious.

On that note, hope you had a good Yom Kippur, Brendan! One of my professors is Jewish, so I had one less class on Monday; religion's good for something, I guess... :-D

Amanda said...

I find it hilarious, look God did some real screwed up stuff. Its true the kids were making fun of Elisha for being bald and God sent effin bears to tear them apart... how fair was that? I mean every time little kids make fun of people should bears eat them? No, certainly not.
Even if it was young adults or full grown men, should God have sent bears to tear them apart for calling some guy bald and telling him to go away? No... There is just no reason for it, Other than to prove God's awesome power over mankind... pffft. So the moral of the story is dont piss off prophets female bears might get you.

Markus Arelius said...

You know, if bears had rights they could sue God, Elisha, the biblical authors and all Christians in a court of law for libel.

Bears want berries, fruits, fish, pine nuts and a warm. dry place to sleep for 9 months. Then repeat.

Bears don't give a damn about blasphemy, Elisha's massive quantities of dyhydrotestosterone, nor the insolence of human children (or teenagers, or adults).

Bears are being used by God and his followers as innocent pawns of gratuitous violence in this passage.

But no, the author infused, of all things, a freaking bear into the scenery, as if the plausibility of it all is heightened by the appearance of a wild animal.

Honestly, what have bears ever done to deserve this?

If you can answer that one, then please explain what species of bear could possibly thrive in a hot, arid climate like that of ancient Palestine less than 6,000 years ago?

Brendan said...

Steve:

Forget any English translation. Take a look at the Hebrew.

What the "children", as you call them, said was:
עֲלֵה קֵרֵחַ עֲלֵה קֵרֵחַ

"aleh kereach, aleh kereach"

(Source: http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt09b02.htm)

Now, putting this into google translator gets you "ice rose ice rose", but that's not quite what it means, now is it?

The meaning of "aleh kereach" is "Ascend, empty skull, to heaven."

Elijah just ascended to heaven a bit earlier. It's a call for his death. A call for someone's death, 2700 years ago, usually ended in that person's death.

As for my "murderous thieves" remark, the commandments prohibit murder and theft. Therefore, if someone doesn't observe the commandments, they are murderous thieves. I admit, it's a bit of a stretch. But even if they were not murderers or thieves, they weren't children, and they weren't exactly hippies. Rashi had no reason to assign random meanings to the passages, and the Talmud, which was around 800 years earlier, defined them as "lacking all religion".

Matt:

I had a wonderful starve-yourself-for-25-hours-day. How was yours?

Markus:

It's unfortunate, but Stephen Colbert appears to be friends with the angel of death.

paulie said...

The Syrian brown bear: Ursus arctos syriacus

Aquaria said...

But Brendan, you still don't have any evidence that these KIDS were murderous thieves?

How?

Just because they were kids making fun of a person? How is that a violation of any commandment? Which commandment? Elisah wasn't the father of any of them, so it's not the Honor they father/mother bullshit.

Now if you want to go the rebellion route, technically, the official punishment for a rebellious child was supposed to be stoning. Seems like both Elisha and God forgot that, doesn't it?

You guys really need to get your act together. You're contradicting yourself all over the place, and making yourself look like bloodthirsty creeps as well.

daniel said...

Oh, am I late?

Well, I just felt like I have to emphasize one thing that somebody said somewhere along the road. Notice that the text says that 42 of the youths were mauled blah blah well then how many were there? If it's worth mentioning that only (ONLY) forty two were mauled, then there had to be a pretty large number of the youths there. Now give me a situation in which a large number of youths (Most likely around fifty to a hundred, if not more) would gather. Now if these youths, however old they may be, decided to pretty much tell this old prophet to die, what would you do? Let them be, and allow these children (or older, whatever floats your boat) to have their way with Elisha, or scare them off? Given that these "children probably knew what they were doing, I don't think anything short of death or serious injury would have scared them off, and I don't think they didn't deserve it, either. It's not the equivalent of telling our president to drop dead. It's the equivalent of maybe a hundred teenagers surrounding him in a relatively secluded spot and telling him to drop dead as he was on his way to a treaty signing. What could you really do then? Tell them it was wrong?

I'm sorry if I'm making assumptions of being biased, I'm prone to that as I've yet to study the Bible in its deeper meaning or take part in debates just in general. However, from a relatively common sense point of view, this passage doesn't bother me at all. The kids had a choice, and they made the wrong one. If they were too young to understand the consequences of their actions, I believe they most likely didn't not "burn in hell," as so many people love to put it.

And that's not even debating the whole hell issue.

Hape said...

Hi well this is an old post; however there was something I noticed (and sorry if I missed someone already mentioning it in the long list of comments). The excerpt doesn't actually say that God sent bears to attack people in response to some guy spewing a curse. It only says that the curse was made, and then the bears showed up and started shredding young hoodlums. Everyone jumps to the conclusion that God responded to the curse (and maybe that is the case); but it doesn't actually SAY that. If one is going to finely comb the words of scripture, one should then of course not willingly jump to assumptions/conclusions only here and there. Doing so, perhaps we really do miss the deeper meaning or intent.


I'd also like to point out the issue regarding the age in terms of the possibility of intentional violence of the men. We are still shocked in the USA when 12-year-old (or even 7-year-old) boys commit rape and murder; however it does happen. Let's take Africa as another example, where that sort of thing grievously cannot be said to be unheard of, or even uncommon. In a completely different place and time in history, how do we know what a mob of young boys might be intending? Maybe this story is telling us that. I've certainly observed young boys engaging in numerous cruel and abusive acts against all sorts of creatures with great enthusiasm, multiples times in my life. If they were/are able to get away with doing it to other people, I've no doubt that many possessed of such a character would do so. Consider that famous study done in the 1970s (as I recall) at a university, where a fake prisoner/prison guard system was set up using student volunteers. If you are not familiar with what happened, I highly suggest reading about it, but then be prepared to stay awake all night freaked out about your fellow man's propensity toward violence with little nudging necessary. Then read about how those participants still justify what they did, so many years later.

I think that many times we just can't handle the realities that the Bible throws in our well-protected, very civilized, insular American faces.

Richard said...

Just a few points on this story.
1)We don't have much of the story here, its in two verses. Thanks to our forefathers, the Bible has been altered here a little and there a little and some parts are misinterpreted. It would be nice to have more of the story.
2) You have to look at death from the Lords perspective which is an eternal one. If someone is wicked and heading for damnation the Lord will be aware of this. If they continue in there wickedness it will ultimately worsen there case for salvation. The Lord Is aware of who is going to repent and who is just going to continue in unrighteousness. By ending someones life it ends there continuing to sin. Any kind of punishment we receive while on Earth will help us when we are being judged in the next life. It is far better to receive punishment in this life then feel the full effects of judgment in the next life even if it means being killed by a bear. Remember, in comparison to the eternities this life is extremely short and so is the pain, better to experience the pain while in this state. The Lord ultimately wants our salvation and this is consistent with that.

Gilbert said...

Lol! Good comments by all. I'm a little late to the party, but here goes.

Who here believes the the bible is true? I think that's the first thing you need to ask.

If you think the story is true ... well awesome. Then you probably should believe in some other parts of the bible too. Like others have said, this is 2 sentences long. Most of the bible is filled with other, more major, themes. Bears is not the central point of the book. But since we're talking about them...

If the story is true, lets just hold off judgment for a second (we can pass it later) and be wowed by the whole of the story. A man says a few words and BOOM, two bears rip up 42! people (kids, young adults, men, whatever).

That is some serious business. Two bears vs 42 people. Think about that. If you were with 41 other people, even if they were children, can you seriously say that it would be normal - even REMOTELY likely that 2 bears could rip all 42. These would have to be super-powered bears, much the size of Godzilla.

Listen, I don't make fun of kids who believe in Santa saying he promotes greed, self-deception, and duplicity. But if Santa did really fly around the world and give millions of presents to every child.... IF I REALLY THOUGHT THAT WAS TRUE .. I might interpret things a little differently. I'd really search things out in a different way, you know.

Now then, I know you have your reasons for going on about it. Great. I vibe with someone said above, God can do what he pleases. If you believe he exists, but is mean and petty, then your screwed either way.

Just so you know, I believe the bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. Cool. Do I believe this story? Mmm.... yeah, I do. How does it make me feel? It make me feel like God means business and that there is something else going on here I don't fully understand. It's not like the bible give you all the story, 100%, all the time. Its fragmentary, pieced together, re-translated and super old.

I think there have been some decent interpretations about why God may have done this, especially within context.

Buts here's the point. Deal with it. You wanna pin an idea of who God is on people who don't think God is like that. You may use the bible as evidence of who you think they should think their God is. Good luck with that. Pretty much all Christians think he's a great dude. Why do they think he is the way they perceive him? That's a great question, mon frere.

An imaginary dude did something that never happened and I hate him for doing so. Other people need to know!

Yep. Sounds fun.

Gilbert said...

Lol! Good comments by all. I'm a little late to the party, but here goes.

Who here believes the the bible is true? I think that's the first thing you need to ask.

If you think the story is true ... well awesome. Then you probably should believe in some other parts of the bible too. Like others have said, this is 2 sentences long. Most of the bible is filled with other, more major, themes. Bears is not the central point of the book. But since we're talking about them...

If the story is true, lets just hold off judgment for a second (we can pass it later) and be wowed by the whole of the story. A man says a few words and BOOM, two bears rip up 42! people (kids, young adults, men, whatever).

That is some serious business. Two bears vs 42 people. Think about that. If you were with 41 other people, even if they were children, can you seriously say that it would be normal - even REMOTELY likely that 2 bears could rip all 42. These would have to be super-powered bears, much the size of Godzilla.

Listen, I don't make fun of kids who believe in Santa saying he promotes greed, self-deception, and duplicity. But if Santa did really fly around the world and give millions of presents to every child.... IF I REALLY THOUGHT THAT WAS TRUE .. I might interpret things a little differently. I'd really search things out in a different way, you know.

Now then, I know you have your reasons for going on about it. Great. I vibe with someone said above, God can do what he pleases. If you believe he exists, but is mean and petty, then your screwed either way.

Just so you know, I believe the bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. Cool. Do I believe this story? Mmm.... yeah, I do. How does it make me feel? It make me feel like God means business and that there is something else going on here I don't fully understand. It's not like the bible give you all the story, 100%, all the time. Its fragmentary, pieced together, re-translated and super old.

I think there have been some decent interpretations about why God may have done this, especially within context.

Buts here's the point. Deal with it. You wanna pin an idea of who God is on people who don't think God is like that. You may use the bible as evidence of who you think they should think their God is. Good luck with that. Pretty much all Christians think he's a great dude. Why do they think he is the way they perceive him? That's a great question, mon frere.

An imaginary dude did something that never happened and I hate him for doing so. Other people need to know!

Yep. Sounds fun.

Gilbert said...

Let me get this straight .... you believe an imaginary dude did something ultra powerful that never happened and you're pissed about it?

Makes perfect sense.

As others have said, there is probably more to the story, and we should be careful to jump to conclusions based on 2 sentences. Thanks for others who have put a contextual look on it.

Now then, do you believe in God or not?

ilookupatstars said...

To be honest with you, there are a lot of little brats that I wish would get mauled by two she bears randomly coming out of nowhere for various reasons lol. and this verse also shows that just because you're a child, it doesn't automatically make you innocent bcuz they were disrespecting and mocking the guy for no reason. not that I'm a Bible thumper or anything, but just saying.

Anthony Basil said...

well, according to atheists, the whole book is a sham anyways, so whats there to worry about? Do you think they couldve let that piece of scipture out of the book? Why is it in there? There must be a reason...

Steve Wells said...

Anthony Basil said, "well, according to atheists, the whole book is a sham anyways, so whats there to worry about?"

It's a sham alright, but there's plenty to worry about as long as 2 billion people pretend to believe in it and to base their lives upon it.

Kim Fraser said...

There is no point debating religious doctrine or the cruelty in the bible with someone of faith. It is the equivalent of arguing with a four year old that their favourite colour is not blue. All we can do is bring the ridiculousness of gods and religion into the mainstream by highlighting things such as this story, and reinforce the conclusion that if god were a man he would have no friends.