Archive for the ‘The World’ Category

Modern Jewish Scholars on the Embodied, Multipersonal Old Testament God

May 29, 20

Several quotes by Jewish scholars who affirm that the Old Testament teaches, and pre-modern Judaism adherents believed, in an embodied and multipersonal YHWH.

The purpose of this is not to uphold what ancient or modern Jews think as some sort of infallible authority. Rather, it is to point out that:

1) The Old Testament is far from indisputably clearly portraying a unitarian God;
2) What modern Judaism teaches is not what previous eras of Jews believed (and hence tying back in to point 1);
3) The concept of a multipersonal, embodied God is not conjured up out of paganism by polytheists-in-disguise Christians (which ties in to points 1 & 2).
4) Why don’t the NT writers seem to spend any time explaining or arguing how one God can be many (multiplural), or be embodied? The Unitarian would of course argue that it’s because the NT doesn’t actually teach the Trinity or God in human form. But what if the reason is simply because it wasn’t an issue for Second Temple Jews because they already accepted such a concept? So arguing for God being embodied and multiplural would be like arguing to the Jews that God created the universe – unnecessary preaching to the choir. The only ‘innovation’ was to declare that the one who was the embodied multiplural YHWH was Jesus of Nazareth.


It became clear that “two powers in heaven” was a very early category of heresy, earlier than Jesus, if Philo is a trustworthy witness, and one of the basic categories by which the rabbis perceived the new phenomenon of Christianity. – Alan F Segal, Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports About Christianity and Gnosticism

Although official rabbinic theology sought to suppress all talk of the Memra or Logos by naming it the heresy of “Two Powers in Heaven” (b. Hag. 15a), before the rabbis, contemporaneously with them, and even among them, there were many Jews in both Palestine and the Diaspora who held on to a version of monotheistic theology that could accommodate this divine figure linking heaven and earth. Whereas Maimonides and his followers until today understood the Memra, along with the Shekhinah (“Presence”), as a means of avoiding anthropomorphisms in speaking of God, historical investigation suggests that in the first two centuries CE, the Memra was not a mere name, but an actual divine entity functioning as a mediator. – Daniel Boyarin, Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity

Philo, writing in first-century CE Alexandria for an audience of Jews devoted to the Bible, uses the idea of the Logos as if it were a commonplace. His writings make apparent that at least for some pre-Christian Judaism, there was nothing strange about a doctrine of a manifestation of God, even as a “second God”; the Logos did not conflict with Philo’s idea of monotheism… Other versions of Logos theology, namely notions of the second god as personified Word or Wisdom of God, were present among Aramaic-, Hebrew-, and Syriac-speaking Jews as well. Hints of this idea appear in Jewish texts that are part of the Bible such as Proverbs 8.22–31, Job 28.12–28 – Daniel Boyarin, LOGOS, A Jewish Word: John’s Prologue as Midrash

No Jew sensitive to Judaism’s own classical sources, however, can fault the theological model Christianity employs when it avows belief in a God who has an earthly body as well as a Holy Spirit and heavenly manifestation, for that model, we have seen, is a perfectly Jewish one. A religion whose scripture contains the fluidity traditions, whose teachings emphasize the multiplicity of the shekhinah, and whose thinkers speak of the sephirot does not differ in its theological essentials from a religion that adores a triune God. Note that the Christian beliefs that Judaism rejects are not specifically theological in nature. The only significant theological difference between Judaism and Christianity lies not in the trinity or in the incarnation but in Christianity’s revival of the notion of a dying and rising God, a category ancient Israel clearly rejects. – Benjamin D Sommer, The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel

There can be little doubt however that early Jewish theologoumena related to such a [hypostatic, supernal] son existed, as the books dealing with Enoch – in particular the Ethiopian one – and Philo’s views… concerning the Logos as Son or firstborn convincingly demonstrate, and likewise there can be little doubt that they informed the main developments in a great variety of the nascent Christologies. In the course of time, due to the ascent in Christianity of both the centrality and cruciality of son ship understood in diverse forms of incarnation, it seems that Jewish authors belonging to rabbinic circles attenuated and in some cases even obliterated the role of sons as cosmic mediators. Nevertheless, some of these earlier traditions apparently survived in traditional Jewish writings that were subsequently transmitted by rabbinic Judaism… An explanation of a verse from Exod. 23:21, and its adoption in the Talmudic passage… served as one of the anchors for the return of older material dealing with the Great Angel as son of God, into the Judaism of the Middle Ages. – Moshe Idel, Ben: Sonship and Jewish Mysticism

It may be said that the Jewish mystics recovered the mythical dimension of a biblical motif regarding the appearance of God in the guise of the highest of angels, called ‘angel of the Lord’ (mal’akh YHWH), ‘angel of God’… or ‘angel of the Presence’ (mal’akh ha-panim) which sometimes appeared in the form of a man. Evidence for the continuity of the exegetical tradition of an exalted angel that is in effect the manifestation of God is to be found in a wide variety of later sources. – Elliot R Wolfson, Through a Speculum That Shines: Vision and Imagination in Medieval Jewish Mysticism

In the passage from Nahmanides’ Commentary to the Torah discussed by Pines, Nahmanides explicitly takes issue with Maimonides (and with the tenth-century sage Sac adia Ga’on by inference), and seeks to characterize the fundamental difference between his tradition and Maimonides’ Aristotelian world view. The difference centers around the inclusion or exclusion of the divine manifestation within the godhead. Nahmanides posits an organic or continuous relationship between God’s being and that of the angel – that is, they are both immanent in the same divine substance. – Daniel Abrams, The Boundaries of Divine Ontology: The Inclusion and Exclusion of Metatron in the Godhead, Harvard Theological Review (Volum 87, Issue 3, 1994)

From several texts it is clear that the demarcation between God and his angel is often blurred. – Nahum M. Sarna, Genesis, JPS Torah Commentary


Also, here is Daniel Boyarin from 5:00 and especially 7:00 to 9:18 stating that it’s Maimonides and his fellow medieval rabbis who overturned Tanakh, Talmud and Mishna up to that point and gave modern Judaism its non-embodied God.

And from 1:36:00 for about a minute he outright states that Maimonides’ main influence was the surrounding Islamic thinkers.

[Note too that the Islamically-influenced Maimonides also replaced echad (compound one) in the Shema with yachid (absolute one).]

General Patton’s Speech & the Gospel Accounts

May 29, 20

General Patton is famous for giving a very well-received, inspirational speech to the soldiers. Here’s one rendition of it from the 1970 film Patton:

However in reality, this ‘speech’ was not one speech but a series of them that Patton gave to multiple audiences. What is taken to be his famous speech is actually a conglomerated, edited, harmonized combination fron the notes and memories of several listeners:

Compare this to the sermons and lessons given by Jesus in the Gospel accounts. It is possible that His disciples summarized or combined phrases and key points from multiple teachings on similar topics – resulting in what we have recorded in the New Testament.

The point of this being, there is nothing wrong or deceptive about things like telescoping by a Gospel author, or our harmonizing between Gospel accounts – people do this all the time in everyday life.

What Does the Ancient City of Petra Have to Do With Prayer Direction?

September 27, 17

What is all this information? What does it mean? Is it accurate or true?

Comment below and educate me!

From around 22 minutes to 31 minutes of this well produced documentary is the most stunning, impressive and devastating section…

Where we are taken on a visit to 11 ancient mosques, as far flung as China (!) and Iraq and Jerusalem… None of which point to either Jerusalem, or to Mecca in the deserts of southern Arabia (when supposedly according to Islamic sources, the direction of prayer changed from Jerusalem to Mecca in 624 AD).

From The Qibla Question, partial summary of the above:

And correspondingly from The Search for Mecca, regarding ancient mosques before 700s AD all aligned to Petra, not to the desert Mecca:

And why do Western territory mosques face neither Mecca or Jerusalem, but also not Petra?

For example, using Google Maps it is easily checkable and seen that Qasr Al-Mshatta (built around 730-750AD):


Clearly points to Petra, not Jerusalem:


And not Mecca:


Jerusalem to the left, Petra to the downleft, Mecca waaaay off to the downright. And Qasr Al-Mshatta very obviously points to the Petra direction. Clear and distinct that no mere ‘simple inaccuracy in aiming the layout’ could be the explanation.

More at ApoLogika: Why Did the First Muslims Pray Towards Petra?.

Some elaboration via Uncomfortable Questions for the Qur’an:

B2i. Qibla

Qibla was canonized (finalized) in the Qur’an in 624 towards Mecca (S.2:144, 149-150) Yet, Mosques uncovered between 650-705 do not have Qiblas facing Mecca.

Wasit in Iraq. Qibla points North instead of s.w.
Baladhuri stated that the Qibla in the first Kufan mosque (Iraq) faced West.
Fustat in Egypt. The Qibla points North-East towards Jerusalem instead of s.e.
Jacob of Odessa (Christian bishop) in 705 said Egyptian Muslims (Haggarenes) prayed towards Jerusalem, like Christians.
(Cook) Earliest evidence for direction of prayer (thus their sanctuary) points much further north than Mecca. In fact no mosques have been found from this period which face towards Mecca. Some Jordanian mosques also face north, while there are certain North African mosques (from much later) which face south.
“They didn’t know the direction.” Yet these were desert traders, caravaneers!

Muslims say: “Mecca was the center of the trading routes.”

Yet, Mecca was not on the trading route. It’s in a valley, no water, not like Taif, 100 miles away (cheaper to ship 1,250 miles than go by camel 50 miles).

And more from The Qur’an’s Archeological Evidence:

Consider the archaeological evidence which has been and is continuing to be uncovered from the first mosques built in the seventh century:

According to archaeological research carried out by Creswell and Fehervari on ancient mosques in the Middle East, two floor-plans from two Umayyad mosques in Iraq, one built at the beginning of the 8th century by the governor Hajjaj in Wasit (noted by Creswell as, “the oldest mosque in Islam of which remains have come down to us” – Creswell 1989:41), and the other attributed to roughly the same period near Baghdad, have Qiblas (the direction which these mosques are facing) which do not face Mecca, but are oriented too far north. The Wasit mosque is off by 33 degrees, and the Baghdad mosque is off by 30 degrees.

This agrees with Baladhuri’s testimony (called the Futuh) that the Qibla of the first mosque in Kufa, Iraq, supposedly constructed in 670 A.D., also lay to the west, when it should have pointed almost directly south.

The original ground-plan of the mosque of Amr b. al As, located in Fustat, the garrison town outside Cairo, Egypt shows that the Qibla again pointed too far north and had to be corrected later under the governorship of Qurra b. Sharik. Interestingly this agrees with the later Islamic tradition compiled by Ahmad b. al-Maqrizi that Amr prayed facing slightly south of east, and not towards the south.

If you take a map you will find where it is that these mosques were pointing. All four of the above instances position the Qibla not towards Mecca, but much further north, in fact closer possibly to the vicinity of Jerusalem. If, as some Muslims now say, one should not take these findings too seriously as many mosques even today have misdirected Qiblas, then one must wonder why, if the Muslims back then were so incapable of ascertaining directions, they should all happen to be pointing to a singular location; to an area in northern Arabia, and possibly Jerusalem?

We find further corroboration for this direction of prayer by the Christian writer and traveller Jacob of Edessa, who, writing as late as 705 A.D. was a contemporary eye-witness in Egypt. He maintained that the Mahgraye’ (Greek name for Arabs) in Egypt prayed facing east which was towards their Ka’ba. His letter (which can be found in the British Museum) is indeed revealing. Therefore, as late as 705 A.D. the direction of prayer towards Mecca had not yet been canonized.

According to Dr. Hawting, who teaches on the sources of Islam at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, a part of the University of London), new archaeological discoveries of mosques in Egypt from the early 700s also show that up till that time the Muslims (or Haggarenes) were indeed praying, not towards Mecca, but towards the north, and possibly Jerusalem. In fact, Dr. Hawting maintains, no mosques have been found from this period (the seventh century) which face towards Mecca (noted from his class lectures in 1995). Hawting cautions, however, that not all of the Qiblas face towards Jerusalem. Some Jordanian mosques have been uncovered which face north, while there are certain North African mosques which face south, implying that there was some confusion as to where the early sanctuary was placed. Yet, the Qur’an tells us (in sura 2) that the direction of the Qibla was fixed towards Mecca by approximately two years after the Hijra, or around 624 A.D., and has remained in that direction until the present!

Thus, according to Crone and Cook and Hawting, the combination of the archaeological evidence from Iraq along with the literary evidence from Egypt points unambiguously to a sanctuary [and thus direction of prayer] not in the south, but somewhere in north-west Arabia (or even further north) at least till the end of the seventh century .

What is happening here? Why are the Qiblas of these early mosques not facing towards Mecca? Why the discrepancy between the Qur’an and that which archaeology as well as documents reveal as late as 705 A.D.?

Both the above are from master list at Pfander – Historical Critique.

Download a PDF summary with photos here. Or a few pages long PDF file here, that summarizes Dan Gibson’s research into the Petra/Mecca puzzle – starting with all the features of the holy city described by Islamic sources that Mecca doesn’t fulfill, and summarizing the timeline on pages 13-15; via The Mecca Question. Or read a webpage summary here.

Links related to the other arguments presented in the documentary:

Petra Proofs – Interactive map of Petra, with each feature linked to an Islamic quote about ‘Mecca’

The Qibla Question – Index page

And a well presented talk by Jay Smith on the historical, geographical, archaeological, manuscript – you name it! – evidence heavily related to all the above:

And more:

As summarized:

1) What the historical record is telling us who Muhammad actually was, including where he lived, and when?
2) Why his earliest biographies (Sira) and his sayings (Hadith) don’t appear for over 200 years after his death?
3) Why Mecca, where Muhammad lived, doesn’t appear until 741 AD, over 100 years after Muhammad’s death?
4) Why all the earliest mosques for the first 100 years are pointed (i.e. the Qibla) 600 miles too far north, towards Petra instead of Mecca?
5) Why all the earliest Qur’anic manuscripts don’t begin to appear until the 8th century, some 50-60 years after Muhammad; all with variants, and with corrections continuing well into the 9th century, a full 200 years after it was supposedly compiled complete and unchanged?

Feel free to comment below with your views or rebuttals to these arguments.

Why Stimulus Fails to Achieve What Its Proponents Promise, As Explained by Two Nobel Prize Winners’ Economic Theories

May 14, 15

Firstly, because not all people are stupid, short-sighted suckers.

Milton Friedman, winner of the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, proposed the Permanent Income Hypothesis that basically says: People won’t spend more just because they get a one-off, one-time boost (e.g. Stimulus), but only if they foresee a long-term increment (e.g. permanent tax cuts).

Secondly, because not all people are stupid, short-sighted suckers (wow, is that a trend or something?).

Thomas Sargent, one of the two winners of the 2011 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, proposed the Rational Expectations Theory that basically says: Don’t expect people to react to your attempted (economic) manipulation like robots with no free will or personalities. Especially if you are trying the same old tricks yet again! Fool me once…

Hence, when politicians and their pet economists (or is it the other way around?) assume they can just open the fiscal spigot and the teeming masses will fall in line with perfect obedience to their hubristic theories, it doesn’t turn out the way they expected. Stimulus does not automatically equate to an improved economy.

And reality bears the above out, to the massive detriment of Americans for 7 years running.

Christians Should Be Libertarians – Supporting Passages & Arguments

November 21, 14

A flip side argument from my long ago post A Short Pondering: Should a Christian Leader Impose Laws Based on Christian Standards?, as I’ve become more Libertarian in outlook.

Yes, Christians have a duty to warn those headed towards eternal doom off their wrong path (and in fact, it is a responsibility to do so, whereby a Christian’s neglect is a punishable offence in God’s eyes).

But should Christians in politics or power enact laws to enforce ‘moral’ behaviour? Apart from the fact that forcing behaviour on people automatically excludes moral actions out of their own free will, I feel that Christians should support a minimum of individual, group and government interference into the lives of people (that do not negatively affect other people).

Here’s a few reasons why:


What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? – Matthew 16:26

Quick question: Would any of us condone coercing or tricking unbelievers into converting to Christianity? You know, like what the Islamic State thugs are doing in the Levant – ‘convert to Islam or die’?

Of course not, as apart from the fact that we believe only true repentance and conversion of one’s own free will count before God’s eyes, we simply don’t do that sort of thing (anymore, a polemic would be quick to add).

So if we won’t force the unsaved to believe in Jesus in order to save their very souls, then why force them to save their health or wealth or anything else on this mortal plane? After all, as Jesus says in the passage above, what is more valuable and precious than one’s soul? It is eternal and immutable, whereas earthly possessions will be left on earth, and the body will fade away into dust.

If we consider it immoral to coerce people into ‘saving’ their own eternal souls by law or threat, then what justification do we have for coercing them to avoid sweet or fatty food for the sake of their brief-by-comparison health? (If you answered ‘So they don’t burden the national healthcare system with their eventual health problems’ then that’s just another good argument against socialized healthcare.)

(Some caveats apply of course, e.g. preventing people from carrying out decisions made under non-neutral circumstances like suicide when in depression, driving when drunk, signing binding agreements without full information & understanding, etc.)


“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. – 1st Corinthian 6:12

This passage basically summarizes the Christian approach to ‘religious law’. Namely, we do not have long lists of detailed and binding legal minutiae accompanied by specific punishments like some other religions. (Caveat again, there are a few instances in the New Testament of proscribed behaviour and recommendations for action.)

Rather than specific letters of the law, we are given general guidelines in the spirit of the law – love God, love thy neighbor, seek righteousness on a personal and public basis. Non-adherence to these precepts brings about divine retribution rather than human punishment. (Caveat yet again – this is of course not including earthly punishments as prescribed by the laws set by human governments.)

What each of us does therefore should be with an eye on whether or not doing it is of benefit and in accordance with the precepts given by God.

ROMANS 13:10

Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Nuff said!

College Liberal Meme – Fave Picks Pt 4

November 23, 13

Due the large number, the images are split between 4 posts.

#001 – #250 and the intro are here.

#251 – #500 are here.

#501 – #750 are here.

#751 – #900+ are below.


College Liberal Meme – Fave Picks Pt 3

November 23, 13

Due the large number, the images are split between 4 posts.

#001 – #250 and the intro are here.

#251 – #500 are here.

#501 – #750 are below.

#751 – #900+ are here.


College Liberal Meme – Fave Picks Pt 2

November 23, 13

Due the large number, the images are split between 4 posts.

#001 – #250 and the intro are here.

#251 – #500 are below.

#501 – #750 are here.

#751 – #900+ are here.


College Liberal Meme – Fave Picks

November 23, 13

Via Know Your Meme, Quickmeme and Meme Generator.

See also collected other memes:
Super Strict Success Asian Mom and Dad Meme Lols
RPG Motivational Posters
Demotivators – Depressing Anti-Motivational Posters

Or heck, just straight to My Obsessive-Compulsive List of My Obsessive-Compulsive Lists.

Due the large number, the images are split between 4 posts.

#001 – #250 are below.

#251 – #500 are here.

#501 – #750 are here.

#751 – #900+ are here.

Be warned, 200+ images below the break! (All are jpg expect the 2nd and 4th ones.)

See also collected other memes: Super Strict Success Asian Mom and Dad Meme Lols


3 Minutes to Prove Yourself Smarter (or at Least More Hardworking and Duly Diligent) Than Matt Yglesias

August 1, 13

Via AoSHQ, Twitchy revealed Matt Yglesias @mattyglesias saying that tax rates do not affect pricing.

His logic goes thusly:

No. Taxes are paid on profits not sales. It’s irrelevant to pricing. – @mattyglesias

I had to stop and think it over. With pen and paper and a calculator.

It took all of 3 minutes to compare the following:


Joe and Jane both sell the same widgets.

Widget cost is $1 a piece.

For inexplicable political reasons, Joe is taxed 15% (on nett profits, not sales as Matt Yglesias correctly states) while poor Jane is taxed 20%.

If Jane sells each widget at $3 a piece, she will have after-tax take-home money of (3.00 – 1.00) x (100% – 20%) = $1.60 a piece.

Whereas Joe can undercut her by selling widgets at $2.90 a piece, and he will have after-tax take-home money of (2.90 – 1.00) x (100% – 15%) = $1.615 a piece… More than Jane gets even though he sells cheaper!


Three minutes to prove that different tax rates can incentivize different pricing.

So which is it, is Matt Yglesias too lazy or too blinkered to do one measly page of basic high school maths?



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