Friday, July 3, 2015

CFI event: God, Religion, and The Bible - Sat 19th Sept. Conway Hall WC1R

Old Bible With Sword
Join Professors Francesca Stavrakopoulou, Dr Keith Ward and Dr Stephen Law in debate and discussion of God and the Bible.

10.30 Registration

11.00-12.10: Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou: The real religions of the Bible

Francesca Stavrakopoulou is Professor of the Hebrew Bible and Ancient religion at Exeter's Department of Theology and Religion. She presented the BBC TV series The Bible's Buried Secrets and also contributed to Channel 4's The Bible: A History. Prof Stavrakopoulou is an atheist. Her books include Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judea.

12.10 - 1.10 Break for lunch

1.10 - 2.40 Keith Ward and Stephen Law: Does God exist?

A conversation (with extended audience Q&A) between theologian and priest Keith Ward and humanist philosopher Stephen Law, looking at evidence for and against the existence of God. Keith Ward is one of the world's leading philosopher theologians, and also author of many popular books on God, including his recent  The Evidence for God. Stephen Law is Provost of CFI UK and author of a number of introductions to philosophy including The Philosophy Gym.

2.50-3.30 Plenary Session

Q&A with Francesca Stavrakopoulou, Keith Ward, and Stephen Law. 3.30 END.

September 19th, 2015 10:30 AM   through   3:00 PM
Conway Hall
25 Red Lion Square
Holborn, WC1R 4RL
United Kingdom


michael fugate said...

Keith Ward the God definition "God is a non-physical being of consciousness and intelligence or wisdom, who creates the universe for the sake of distinctive values that the universe generates."

Circular? He certainly uses a plethora of ifs in his writing.

Phil Greenwood said...

As I had a dream a few months ago that I met Stephen(who in the dream was living in my area of east Kent)I think it`s about time I see him in person,and I loved his debate with William Lane Craig. That was my favourite one amongst Craig`s debates on that reasonable faith tour of his.

Anonymous said...

Stephen Law, what do you think of this argument:

1. Our minds are the only means through which we experience the universe

2. Physical matter is part of this 'mind experienced' image of the universe

3. Mind cannot be derived from something which is itself an image formed by mind.

4. Therefore the claim that mind is an emergent property of matter is flawed.

Is it circular?

Stephen Law said...

If premise 2 means physical matter is mental (like Berkeley's Idealism), then highly questionable. If it means only that we experience it, then the argument does not go through surely?

Anonymous said...

I don't have all the answers, but here are a few questions that have occurred to me over the years:

1)Why did Jesus never hurt, harm or kill anyone during his ministry, when the Old Testament (OT) God did so all the time? Instead, Jesus comforted, healed, and brought the dead back to life.

2)Why are there two creation accounts in Genesis? In the first one, the Creator is called Elohim ('God' or 'Gods'). In the second one that begins at Genesis 2:4, the Creator's name is Yahweh Elohim ('the god Yahweh'). Only the second account mentions that Adam was created 'from the dust of the ground'. The Fall occurs after this second creation, which Genesis describes as taking place in present day Iraq about 7,000 years ago (according to the biblical chronology). Coincidentally, Sumerian records, from the same region and period, describe a race of alien visitors who genetically modified pre-existing hominids to be their slaves (

3) How could 'God' lose a wrestling match to Jacob, and 'cheat' by dislocating Jacob's hip (Gen 32:22-30)?

4) Why did 'God' appear to Ezekiel (Ez 1:4-28) in a flying contraption with wings and wheels on it? See for a proposed re-construction of that vehicle by a NASA engineer. Such flying machines have also been described in Indian mythology as the vehicles ('vimanas') of 'gods' ( Why would a god need a vehicle anyway?

5) Why did David have to communicate with his 'God' through a man-carried device called an 'ephod' which functions like a radio (1 Sam 23:9-10, 30:7-8)?

Anonymous said...

6) Isa 7:14 and Mat 1:23 states that the Messiah that was to be born of 'a young woman' (Mary) is to be called by the name Emmanuel (which means 'El with us'). Why was he never called that elsewhere in the New Testament, and is rarely called that in churches to this day (even though they recognize it as one of his names)? Instead, he is usually called Jesus or Yeshua, which means 'Yahweh delivers' (see question 2 above). All three archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, are called by names that end in 'El'. Why should the Son of El be the exception? Why would he need another name if he already has one?

7) Why did Emmanuel (Jesus) say, "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?" (Matt 7:9 -10). Surely, he must have known that this invites an unflattering comparison with the OT God, who sent snakes among the Israelites when they asked for better food in the Wilderness (Nus 21:5-6)?

8) Why would a spiritual God create a universe of dead matter, that behaves more like a machine than the creation of an endlessly creative mind? Do your own imaginings behave like solid matter or obey 'natural laws' (Did Jesus always obey 'natural laws')? Why would an omnipotent and omniscient Creator employ a trial-and-error process that takes billions of years, full of dead ends, ad hoc solutions, death and suffering, and still end up with a less-than-ideal outcome?

9) Why are there 'myths' pre-dating Christianity and spanning several cultures, describing flawed but powerful beings called Archons (also 'the Demiurge') who lack a spirit and think in a machine-like way, who created the appearance of a material universe (apart from the earth, moon and sun), and who are masters of deception? According to these 'myths', the Archons created our (apparently) material bodies, but our spirits are eternal and uncreated, part of a divine consciousness which is the Highest Good? Why are quantum physicists questioning the traditional separation of mind and matter?

10) What did Jesus mean when he said, "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 'God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.'" (Jn 4:23-24)? why did Jesus never explicitly identify his Father as the OT God?

Anonymous said...

Further to the 10 questions I posed above, here's a thought-provoking video that explores some of these issues. It is interesting that in the ancient 'myths', the Archons are described as spirit-less, 'inorganic', and as having an unoriginal mimetic may of thinking, much like computers:

Anonymous said...

Talking about Old Testament prophets, here's an interpretation of the vision in Zechariah 5 that is a little too uncanny for comfort:

Notes: 'breadth' = circumference. To find the diameter, divide by 3.14. As the video states, 'woman' is probably a mistranslation of 'fire offering'. Both words are identical in Hebrew, apart from vowel marks which were not in the original texts. The objects described fit the dimensions of submarine-launched or medium-range missiles rather than ICBMs.

Anonymous said...

The ancient description of the Archons as 'inorganic' ties in with a description of Satan ('the King of Tyre') in the Bible that had always puzzled scholars:

'You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared.' (Ezekiel 28:13)

The words translated 'settings' and 'engravings' have been variously translated as 'sockets', 'mountings', 'pipes' and 'tabrets' (a drum-like musical instrument, but that's unlikely to be the meaning here). The key point is that whatever these were, they were IN Satan. Organic beings don't have gold 'settings', 'engravings', 'sockets', 'mountings' and 'pipes'. But machines do. Gold is an excellent conductor of electricity and is used in the wiring of satellites (and expensive hi-fi cables).

Anonymous said...

The King James version makes this a little clearer:

"... the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared IN THEE in the day that thou wast created."

The translators in 1611 had absolutely no idea what this entailed, they just translated the words literally. Same with these other translations:

"... the workmanship of thy settings and of thy sockets was in thee" (JPS Tanakh, 1917)

"... the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was in thee (American Standard Version & English Revised Version)

Anonymous said...

Further to the Zechariah 5 'nuclear war' prophecy above, the following passage from Ezekiel describes the aftermath of the prophesied 'war of Gog and Magog' in which Israel defeats her enemies:

"People will be continually employed in cleansing the land. They will spread out across the land and, along with others, they will bury any bodies that are lying on the ground. After the seven months they will carry out a more detailed search. As they go through the land, anyone who sees a human bone will leave a marker beside it until the gravediggers bury it in the Valley of Hamon Gog." (Ezekiel 39: 14-15).

It has been pointed out that this is standard practice when nuclear, biological or chemical weapons are used in war. A special WMD unit in protective clothing will look for bodies and plant a marker next to any they find, primarily to warn civilians to stay away until the bodies are buried. Hence the 'detailed search', to ensure that all bodies are buried, so the area can be declared safe.

Anonymous said...

In one of my comments above (Aug 30, 2015), I mentioned that according to Isa 7:14 and Mat 1:23, the son that was born to Mary was to be called Emmanuel, yet he was not called that elsewhere in the New Testament, and is rarely called that in churches. The reason might have to do with the desire of early Church Fathers to identify the Messiah with Yahweh, a specific Middle Eastern deity, by changing the Messiah's name to Yeshua ('Yahweh saves') rather than the more generic Emmanuel ('God with us') which by definition, as it were, refers to the Most High.

There is some circumstantial evidence for this view, but first, here are the passages from Isa 7:14 and Mat 1:23:

Isaiah 7:14 - Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Matthew 1:23 - The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means "God with us").

Only two verses down from 1:23, we read this:

Matthew 1:25 - But he [Joseph] did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

And two verses up from 1:23, we read this:

Matthew 1:20 to 22 - But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying ...

And the next verse is 1:23, which on the face of it, contradicts the previous verse.

In the context of the surrounding verses, 1:23 stands out like a sore thumb. This is a very abrupt shift, from the specific instruction in Mat 1:23 to name the child Emmanuel - which would have truly fulfilled the Isaiah prophecy cited in 1:22 - to Joseph's inexplicable decision in 1:25 to give it another name, and the odd statement in 1:22 that calling the child Jesus was done to fulfill the Isaiah prophecy. One explanation is that all references to 'Emmanuel' were changed to 'Jesus' in early manuscripts, but they couldn't change the name in 1:23 because it was a quote from Isaiah, and the Old Testament scribes included Jews, who would have refused to make the corresponding change to Isaiah 7:14.

Anonymous said...

That conclusion is supported by another piece of circumstantial evidence, the Testament of Solomon, an apocryphal text dated to between 100 and 500 AD, which includes the following references to Emmanuel:

29. I [Solomon] said to him [a demon called Ephippas]: “Tell me by what angel thou art frustrated.” And he answered: “By the holy and precious name of the Almighty God, called by the Hebrews by a row of numbers, of which the sum is 644, and among the Greeks it is Emmanuel.”

52. So I [Solomon] said to him [another demon]: “I adjure thee in the name of the God Sabaoth, to tell me by what name thou art frustrated along with thy host.” And the spirit answered me: “The ‘great among men,’ who is to suffer many things at the hands of men, whose name is the figure 644, which is Emmanuel; he it is who has bound us, and who will then come and plunge us from the steep under water [This probably refers to the event at Gadara, where 'Jesus' sent demons into swine, which then plunged down the steep and drowned in the sea (Mt 8:32)]. He is noised abroad in the three letters which bring him down.”

65. “... And then we [demons] shall go forth in great power hither and thither, and be disseminated all over the world. And we shall lead astray the inhabited world for a long season, until the Son of God is stretched upon the cross. For never before doth arise a king like unto him, one frustrating us all, whose mother shall not have contact with man. Who else can receive such authority over spirits, except he, whom the first devil will seek to tempt, but will not prevail over? The number of his name is 644, which is Emmanuel. Wherefore, O King Solomon, thy time is evil, and thy years short and evil, and to thy servant shall thy kingdom be given.”

Verse 29 states that 'among the Greeks [i.e. the Gentiles or non-Jews] it is Emmanuel.' This indicates that the relevant passages are from the New Testament era, and that 'Jesus' was, at the time of writing, known to non-Jews (probably Christians) as Emmanuel.

To the best of my knowledge, 'Jesus' never explicitly identified his Father as Yahweh, sometimes referred to as the 'Old Testament God' (the Old Testament contains references to both El and Yahweh, but the latter predominates). All the archangels have names that end with 'el', and no one in the angelic hierarchy is named after Yahweh. That bears thinking about anytime someone decides to accuse 'the Christian God' of doing various objectionable things, in the Bible or outside it. Just who is 'the Christian God'? Did He suffer and die on the cross to save us from Himself, or from someone else, someone who is constantly demanding blood sacrifices and enjoys the "sweet savor" of burning flesh (Nus 28:27, 29:2, Exo 29:18)?

Some may object that the question is beside the point. If El is the Most High, isn't He responsible for all evil anyway? The word 'responsible' implies culpability, but if El is truly good, then the idea that He would be culpable in evil is simply a logical absurdity (if we assume the ordinary sense of 'good'). The problem of evil may offer a reason for someone not to believe in God if he hasn't made up his mind on God's goodness, and/or is open to the possibility that there isn't a God. For someone who believes in a good God, the problem of evil is a mystery and the experience of evil is emotionally challenging, but the idea that it somehow makes God culpable for evil would be a non-starter. However, the idea that Jesus is also Yahweh raises a different challenge than the problem of evil, and arguable a more serious one, given the vast difference between the two in their teachings and actions.

Anonymous said...

"[Emmanuel] who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time." (1 Tim 2:6)

Ransom: money that is paid in order to free someone who has been captured or kidnapped. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Anonymous said...

"And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world/age has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ [Emmanuel], who is the image of God." (2 Cor 3-4)

Who is 'the god of this world/age'? Who is worshiped by all kinds of people around the world?

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Stephen,

Haven't visited you for a while, but I thought you may be interested in this. It's about teaching philosophy in schools in Australia.

Hope you can access it.

Regards, Paul.

Anonymous said...

Further to my comments above on the difference between 'Yahweh' (the name of a specific Middle Eastern deity) and 'Elohim' or 'El' (the generic Hebrew word for 'God'), it is noteworthy that 'Yahweh' is translated in popular English bibles as 'The Lord'. You can check this for yourself here:
Various English Bibles:
The original Hebrew:

However, 'Yahweh' is not the Hebrew word for 'lord' (there are several Hebrew words for 'lord', including 'Adonay'). Yahweh is a proper name, as explained below:

For the significance of this, I refer you to my comments above.

Anonymous said...

Some bible commentators have attempted to identify Emmanuel ('Jesus') with Yahweh by citing Luke 4:17-20, where Emmanuel announces that he has fulfilled Isaiah 61:1:

Luke 4:17 "And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: "The Spirit of Yahweh [is] upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to [the] poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to [the] captives And recovery of sight to [the] blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of Yahweh." Then He closed the book, and gave [it] back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.""

However, there is one problem with using this passage to 'prove' that Emmanuel was sent by Yahweh. The problem is as follows:

"... especially from the 3rd century BC on, Jews ceased to use the name Yahweh for two reasons. As Judaism became a universal religion through its proselytizing in the Greco-Roman world, the more common noun elohim, meaning "god," tended to replace Yahweh to demonstrate the universal sovereignty of Israel's God over all others. At the same time, the divine name was increasingly regarded as too sacred to be uttered; it was thus replaced vocally in the synagogue ritual by the Hebrew word Adonai ("My Lord")" Reference:

To reiterate, long before Emmanuel was born, Jews had forbade the utterance of the 'sacred name' Yahweh in synagogue services, replacing it with Adonai ("My Lord"). So when Emmanuel read out loud from the scroll of Isaiah, what He actually said was as follows:

"The Spirit of My Lord [is] upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to [the] poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to [the] captives And recovery of sight to [the] blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of My Lord."

Who was Emmanuel's Lord? Matt 27:46 tells us that Emmanuel's last words on the cross were as follows:

Matt 27:46 "About three in the afternoon [Emmanuel] cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)."

If His Father was Yahweh, presumably Emmanuel would have uttered the 'sacred name' rather than 'Eli'. BTW, there is some debate on whether Emmanuel actually said 'why have you forsaken me'? Commentators assumed He was quoting King David's lament in Psalm 22:1. However, Emmanuel spoke Aramaic, not Hebrew. The Hebrew word for 'have you forsaken' in Psalm 22:1 is 'azabtani', as shown here:

'Shabakthani' is the Aramaic word for 'kept me'. So what Emmanuel could possibly have said was "My God, My God, why have you kept me?"

Anonymous said...

BTW, the name Yahweh in the original Hebrew had no vowel marks, so was written as YHWH. The vowel marks were added much later, based on oral tradition. Trying saying 'YHWH' out loud without the vowels. Sounds familiar?

Anonymous said...

Acts 4:1-3 "The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in [Emmanuel] the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day."

Acts 4:16-17 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone IN THIS NAME.”

Act 13.163 of the Acts of Thomas (200-225 CE) "And Misdaus said [to Judas-Thomas]: “What is his [your master’s] name?” Judas said: “Thou canst not hear HIS TRUE NAME at this time... but the name which was bestowed upon him for a season is Jesus, the Christ.”"

Gospel of Philip, 10-11 (150-300 CE) "Names given to the worldly are very deceptive, for they divert our thoughts from what is correct to what is incorrect… One single name is not uttered in the world, the name which the father gave to the son; it is the name above all things: the name of the father. For the son would not become father unless he wore the name of the father. Those who have this name know it, but they DO NOT SPEAK IT. But those who do not have it do not know it."

Anonymous said...

BTW, a brief note for anyone researching this - the King James Bible helpfully distinguishes Elohim from Yahweh by the use of a code:

Elohim is rendered as God (Genesis 1:1).

The rest all refer to Yahweh:

Yahweh is rendered as LORD — all in capital letters (Genesis 4:1).
Adonai is rendered as Lord — a capital L followed by lower case letters (Genesis 18:27).
Adonai Yahweh is rendered as Lord GOD (Genesis 15:2).
Yahweh Elohim is rendered as LORD God (Genesis 2:4).
- See more at:

Anonymous said...

When the abovementioned King James Version code is applied, the Bible makes interesting reading:

Exo 3:13-15 And Moses said unto [Elohim], Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The [Elohim] of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And [Elohim] said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And [Elohim] said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, [Yahweh] of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.

Here we appear to have, as in Matthew 1:20-25, two verses that seem to contradict each other, indicating a possible interpolation:

Exo 3:14 And [Elohim] said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Exo 3:15 And [Elohim] said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, [Yahweh] of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you.

Nowhere in the Bible does Elohim reveal His name ('Elohim' is simply the generic Hebrew word for 'God' or 'gods'). When pressed by Moses for a name, Elohim simply says 'I am'. Emmanuel ('Jesus') said the same thing in Jn 8:58, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am [sic]." This makes sense. Names are attached to either concepts or spatio-temporal objects, and a transcendental God is neither. The phrase 'I am' also suggests an identification with consciousness itself, which is fittingly neither a concept nor a spatio-temporal object.

Yahweh, on the other hand, insists on being called by his name, thereby revealing that he is not a transcendental being. This isn't surprising, since David had to contact him through a device called an 'ephod' which functions like a walkie-talkie, (1 Sam 23:9-10, 30:7-8). David's 'ephod' is not to be confused with the priest's linen garment called by the same name. They are two different things, as explained here:

Here are the Bible verses where David uses the ephod:

1 Sam 23:9-10 When David learned that Saul was plotting against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod.” David said, “Lord, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? Lord, God of Israel, tell your servant.” And the Lord said, “He will.” Again David asked, “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?” And the Lord said, “They will.”

1 Sam 30:7-8 Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelek, “Bring me the ephod.” Abiathar brought it to him, 8and David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?” “Pursue them,” he answered. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.”

The Jewish Encyclopedia article helpfully explains that "Even where the phrase "to carry" the ephod occurs, it is evident from the Hebrew "nasa'" that reference is made to something carried in the hand or on the shoulder (comp. I Sam. xxiii. 6)." Needless to say, walkie-talkies are carried in the hand or on the shoulder.

Anonymous said...

In the light of the Elohim/Yahweh distinction, another interesting passage in the Bible is Genesis 4:1:

Gen 4:1 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from [Yahweh].

Cain was, of course, the chap who murdered his brother (Gen 4:8). Now, let's fast-forward to 1 John 3:12:

1 Jn 3:12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother.

So Eve 'got' Cain from Yahweh and Cain 'belonged to the evil one'. Now let's turn to Matthew 13:36-43:

Mat 13:36-43 "Then [Emmanuel] left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the SONS OF THE EVIL ONE, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels."

“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear."

Anonymous said...

BTW, Genesis 4:1 is mistranslated in virtually all popular English Bibles. One exception is the Darby Bible, which translates it accurately as follows:

And Man [Adam] knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bore Cain, and said, I have acquired a man WITH [’eṯ-] Jehovah [Yahweh].

This is the verse in Hebrew:

The word translated 'with' is Strong's Hebrew 854, which defines it as "with (denoting proximity)" e.g. "Enoch walked WITH God ..." (Gen 5:22)

BTW Cain isn't mentioned in Adam's genealogy (Gen 5).

Anonymous said...

Some commentators argue that Immanuel ('Jesus') must have been sent by Yahweh because Immanuel 'upheld' Old Testament Law, which Yahweh introduced to the Israelites through Moses (Exo 19). This point is often trotted out by atheists as an argument against the goodness of the 'Christian God', since the Mosaic Law was extremely harsh in some respects. However, the argument is misleading, as even a cursory reading of the Bible shows. Proponents of the argument usually cite what Immanuel said in Matt 5:17-19:

Matt 5:17-19 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

What 'commandments' was Immanuel referring to? He said this in the Sermon on the Mount, where He contradicted the Mosaic Law:

Matt 5:31-32 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce [Deut 24:1].' But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

Matt 5:38-39 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth [Exo 21:24; Lev 24:20; Deut 19:21].’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also."

So in Matt 5:17-19, when Immanuel was talking about the commandments that 'shall not pass away', was He referring to the Mosaic Law, or was He talking about the commandments He was giving right there and then at the Sermon on the Mount? He couldn't have been referring to the legal code given by Yahweh through Moses, because this is what the Apostle Paul had to say about that:

2 Cor 3:6-9 He [Immanuel] has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant — NOT OF THE LETTER but of the Spirit; for THE LETTER KILLS, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry that BROUGHT DEATH, which was engraved in LETTERS ON STONE [the Mosaic Law], came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that BROUGHT CONDEMNATION was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!

So Paul says that the Mosaic Law 'kills', it 'brings death' and 'condemnation' to those who live by it. He contrasts the 'letter' of the Law with the 'Spirit'. Any lawyer can explain the difference between the 'letter' of the law and the 'spirit' of the law. The letter is what the law literally says, and the spirit is the intention, the broader underlying principles, behind the 'letter'. The spirit of the law is the 'real' law, from which the letter derives its authority. Sometimes, legislation (the 'letter of the law') becomes obsolete, and has to be re-drafted (e.g., by Parliament) to reflect the 'true spirit' of the law. But the spirit of the law, at least ideally, never changes.

Anonymous said...

So if the Old Testament Law was a perfect reflection of the Spirit of the Law, there would have been no need for Immanuel to contradict it in the Sermon on the Mount. As is stated in Hebrews 8:7, "For if there had been nothing wrong with that first [Mosaic] covenant, no place would have been sought for another [the New Covenant through Immanuel]." So there was something wrong with the Old Covenant that Yahweh introduced.

"But in fact the ministry [Immanuel] has received is as SUPERIOR to theirs [the Old Covenant] as the covenant of which he is mediator is SUPERIOR TO THE OLD ONE, since the new covenant is established on BETTER PROMISES. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another." (Heb 8:6-7)

So why didn't Yahweh simply teach the Israelites what Immanuel taught? Why indeed.

Anonymous said...

In case anyone thinks the Elohim/Yahweh distinction is a 'crazy' pet theory of mine, I should mention that this distinction has been recognized in biblical scholarship since at least the 1800s (though perhaps not its theological significance). Here is an excellent introduction to it by Professor Christine Hayes, Professor of Religious Studies at Yale (btw, one of the most attractive Professors of Religious Studies that ever lived):

Anonymous said...

As an interesting aside, some (albeit a small minority) of commentators argue that the later authors/editors of the Old Testament actually changed the location of the Promised Land.

The Israelites were a trading people, and it was common for Middle Eastern trading nations to establish more than one settlement, along their traditional trade routes. Thus the Nabateans had two large settlements, one at Hegra in present-day Northern Saudi Arabia, and another at Petra, in present-day Jordan. More about that here:

The Phoenicians built city-states all over the Mediterranean, including Tyre in present-day Lebanon and Carthage in present-day Tunisia. Here's a list of those city-states:

So it is conceivable that the Israelites had more than one settlement along the Red Sea and Mediterranean. Historically, there were large Jewish populations all along the Arabian Red Sea coast. What is now 'Israel' could have been a northern settlement, with an older, larger settlement further south that was the original Promised Land.

Why would this be a plausible scenario? For one thing, there is no clear archaeological evidence that present-day Israel was anything more than a collection of small settlements during the time of David and Solomon's purported reign. For more on that, read:

Atheists were quick to jump on this to argue that the story of the Promised Land "flowing with milk and honey" (Exo 3:8, 33:3, Deut 31:20) must have been fictional, especially since Israel has always been a pretty arid place (until high-tech irrigation started in the 1950s). But there's an alternative possibility, that the Promised Land was somewhere else in Arabia.

But isn't Arabia all desert (including much of Israel)? It turns out there's a place in Arabia that's been producing milk and honey for thousands of years. Have a look at this, I guarantee you'll be surprised:

Could this be the original Promised Land of David and Solomon? There were ancient Jewish kingdoms in Yemen:

And then there's the matter of the Queen of Sheba and her famous visit to King Solomon of Israel. Sheba is in ... you guessed it, Yemen:

It makes little sense for a queen from the southernmost part of Arabia to visit a king in the northernmost part, a journey of about 1,800 miles. But it would make sense for the queen of a vassal kingdom to pay tribute to the king of a more powerful nation right next door.

Anonymous said...

Further to my comments above on the original Promised Land possibly being in Yemen, here's a little tid-bit I just found. It's a tour agency's itinerary for the island of Socotra off the coast of Yemen. Take a look at the place names listed at the top under 'Destinations'. Anything caught your eye?

Yup, one of the destinations is 'Ras Israel', at the Eastern tip of the island. “Ras” is the Arabic for a “head,” hence a cape, promontory or headland; and a common word in Arabic place names.

So in English, the place name is 'Cape of Israel'. Of course, the Yemenite Jews might have named it that in honor of their 'homeland' in present-day Israel. But why such a literal name as 'Cape of Israel' if they knew the real thing was 1,800 miles away?

Anonymous said...

BTW, here's a description of Yemen that shows why it is literally a land "flowing with milk and honey" (Exo 3:8, 33:3, Deut 31:20):

“Those who think Arabia is a sandy desert with a few nomad tents and camels and ostriches scattered over it, have never seen Yemen. Yemen is the most fertile and most beautiful of all the provinces of Arabia. It means the right hand, and this name was given it as one of good omen by the early Arabs. It was called by the Romans Arabia Felix, or Happy Arabia, to distinguish it from Arabia Petrea (Stony Arabia) and Arabia Deserta (Desert Arabia) ... Corn never grew more luxuriantly in Kansas or Iowa than in some of the valleys of Yemen. If the country had a good government ... it would be one of the happiest in the world; a country where the orange, lemon, quince, grape, mango, plum, apricot, peach and apple yield their fruit in their season; where you can also get pomegranates, figs, dates, plantains and mulberries; a country where wheat, barley and coffee are staple products, and where there is a glorious profusion of wild flowers—although the camel drivers call it grass. Here one can see the nest of the oriole hanging from the acacia tree, and wild doves chasing each other from the clefts of the rocks, while farther up in the highlands, wild monkeys sport among the foliage of the trees.” (“Zigzag Journeys in the Camel Country: Arabia in Picture and Story” by, S. M. and A. E. Zwemer, pp. 25–26 accessed 10/12/2013 at

Yemen is also a major producer of honey, considered among the world's best. Yemeni honey is produced in the dryer regions of the country, where the bees feed on the Jujube tree:

Anonymous said...

The 'Promised Land in Yemen' theory begs the question, where was Mount Sinai? It turns out there were two names for the same mountain in the Bible, Sinai and Horeb. The name "Sinai" is only used in the Torah by the Jahwist and Priestly source (perhaps to justify an 'out of Egypt' narrative that placed the Promised Land in present-day Israel) whereas Horeb is only used by the Elohist and Deuteronomist.

The mountain was probably a volcano, since the Israelites were guided to it by "a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exo 13:21), which is how an erupting volcano looks like over the horizon. Another point to note is that there were no vowel marks in early Hebrew, so hrb for Horeb, and that there is a process known as metathesis where occasionally translations from one language to another involve changing the order of the letters say to rbh, or brh etc.

Of the two tallest volcanoes in Yemen, one is called Harra of Arhab. 'Harra' is simply the Arabic for a lava field (literally 'burned land'), so 'Arhab' is the name for the volcano. Same consonants (hrb) as Horeb, possibly metathesised as 'Arhab'. Last eruption was 500 years ago, so it was active at the time of Moses.

Stephen Law said...

Very interesting!

Anonymous said...

BTW, the theory that Yemenite Jews are simply Arab converts has been shot down by a recent genetic study, which concluded that the DNA of Yemenite Jews showed "little evidence for large-scale conversion of local Yemeni" (pg 9). The study noted the presence of Eurasian haplogroups in Yemenite Jewish DNA, including strains found in Iraqi Arabs, Ashkenazi Jews (UK), Palestinians, Iraqi Jews and Syrians, which is consistent with migration from the Middle East (pg 8). According to the Bible, Abraham was originally from Chaldea in present-day Iraq (Gen 11:28, 11:31, 15:7).

Interestingly, the study also found that Yemenite Jews and non-Jewish Ethiopians shared a particular haplogroup (pg 8). So it is plausible that Jews got to Yemen via an exodus through Ethiopia (which was then part of the Egyptian empire).

This is consistent with a journey down the Egyptian Red Sea coast and a crossing into Yemen across the 18-mile Bab el-Mandeb Strait from Eritrea.

"The name yam suph in Exodus has traditionally been translated as either “Sea of Reeds” or “Red Sea.” However, it may mean something entirely different: The ESV Study Notes states, “sup is not related to the Egyptian word “papyrus” but rather to a word that means “end” (Hebrew sop). And, thus, the yam sup would literally mean “the sea of the end,” that is, the sea at the end of the land of Egypt (i.e., the Red Sea).” (Exodus 14 ESV Study Notes) One “end of the sea” would describe Eliat, where Solomon built the ships. Yet another “end of the sea” would be at Bab-el-Mandeb, which is the strait between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.",1

Anonymous said...

This is getting spine-chillingly uncanny. Now that we've found what could be Mount Horeb (Mount Sinai) in Yemen, I thought I'd look for the next stop on the Exodus:

"After the Israelites left Horeb, they moved to a place called “Taberah”: “So they departed from the mountain of the Lord on a journey of three days; and the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them for the three days' journey, to search out a resting place for them." (Numbers 10:33)

It took only a few minutes on Google to find a perfect fit for Taberah:

To see where Harra of Arhab ('Mount Horeb') is in relation to At Ta‘birah, simply zoom out on the Google map on that page, until you see 'Sana'a' in big letters on the left. Follow the highway in yellow marked N1, from Sana'a heading North-West, until you reach a fork just above the 'N1' label (where it splits into the A1580 and another road). Harra of Arhab is a little North-West of that fork.

I used an online calculator to measure the distance from Harra of Arhab to At Ta`birah based on the coordinates (Lat. 15.63 Long. 44.08 to Lat. 15.47 Long. 43.70). it's 26 miles in a straight line.

Distance calculator:

According to the Bible, it took the Israelites three days to walk it. Family groups with young children or elderly would average 5 miles a day. The terrain is rough, so add extra time for that. Three days is about right for 26 miles of rough terrain.

Anonymous said...

CORRECTION: That should be "until you see 'Sana'a' in big letters on the RIGHT." I was never good at directions.

Anonymous said...

CORRECTION: the reference to Taberah is in Numbers 11:3. Numbers 10:33 only talks about them leaving Horeb and travelling three days. Taberah was the next place mentioned.

Anonymous said...

The next places mentioned after Taberah are in Numbers 11:35:

Nu 11:35 "From Kibroth Hattaavah the people traveled to Hazeroth and stayed there."

Couldn't find Kibroth Hattaavah, but if you start from At Ta‘birah ('Taberah') and draw a line going south, you very soon hit Haraz Wildlife Sanctuary:

As I mentioned before, the original Hebrew had no vowels, so HZRTH for Hazeroth. Also abovementioned, the process of metathesis, where translations from one language to another can involve changing the order of the letters, say HZRTH to HRZTH.

BTW, here are some pics of the village of Al Hajjarah in the Haraz Mountains. There's a photo of a doorway with a Star of David above it, indicating that Jews used to live there:

Here's a nice video of the same village, where the tour guide mentions that Jews used to live there, but "they all left in 1947 to Israel". He points to the Star of David above the doorway.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't find the next few stops, but then the Israelites got to a place called 'Mount Shepher'

Numbers 33:23 "They left Kehelathah and camped at Mount Shepher."

There's no 'p' consonant in Arabic, so that usually gets substituted with a 'b' sound. The Arabic for 'mount' is 'jebel'. So a direct transliteration of 'Mount Shepher' into Arabic would probably be 'Jebel Sabir'.

Say hello to Jebel Sabir:

This is the view from the top:

It's quite some way south of the Haraz Mountains, but the Israelites did stop at a few places along the way, which I couldn't find.

Anonymous said...

I think we may have found the original Jerusalem. But first some background. Jerusalem wasn't always called Jerusalem.

Psalm 76: 1-2

God is renowned in Judah;
in Israel his name is great.

His tent is in SALEM,
his dwelling place in ZION.

2 Samuel 5:7 "Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of ZION — which is the City of David."

Furthermore, Jerusalem in what is now Israel was often called 'Daughter Zion' in the Bible:

This could mean 'Zion the daughter of God', or it could mean 'Zion the daughter of Mother Zion (i.e. the original Zion)'.

Zion is pronounced Ṣiyyôn, so is often spelled with an 'S' rather than a 'Z'. The capital of Yemen is Sanaa, one of the oldest cities in the world. Sanaa is in the vicinity of the places I've tentatively identified above as stops on the Exodus.

According to popular legend, Sanaa was founded by Shem, the son of Noah:'a#Ancient_period

Many scholars believe that Shem and Melchizedek are the same person:

Many of you are now asking, "Who the heck is Melchizedek?"

Genesis 14:18-20 "And Melchizedek KING OF SALEM brought out bread and wine: and he was [is] the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, 'Blessed be Abram to the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth, And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand'. And he gave him tithe from all."

So if Sanaa was founded by Shem, and Shem is Melchizedek, and Melchizedek was the King of Salem, and Salem is Jerusalem, then Sanaa is ...?

That begs the question, where was Solomon's Temple and his palace that probably stood next to it?

The most likely site is the Ghumdan Palace complex:

"According to Arab geographer and historian, Al-Hamdani (c. 893-945), the foundation stones of Ghumdan Palace were laid by Shem, the son of Noah."

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention another reason for locating Solomon's Temple complex at the Ghumdan Palace site:

"In Sana'a, Jews had initially settled within the enclosed citadel, known as al-Qaṣr, near the ruins of the old tower known as Ghumdan Palace ..." (link below)

Perhaps after Solomon's Temple was destroyed by the Assyrians in 587 BC and most of the population exiled to Assyria, the remaining Jews decided to live close to the Temple site.

BTW, here's some old film footage of the Jews of Sana'a, who pretty much all left for the State of Israel after 1948:

Anonymous said...

Actually, I'm not sure if that last link is stable, so you might want to go with this one:

Anonymous said...

For some reason, it's really hard to get pics of Ghumran Palace, but I did find this Google satellite image.

If you zoom out, you can see that it's actually a large fortress complex, with ramparts, buttresses, etc, and a heck of a lot of vacant land around it. Probably enough room for Solomon's palace complex and the First Temple of Sion (Jerusalem). There's little vacant land in Sana'a apart from cemeteries and parks, so you have to wonder why Ghumran was never developed. Well, if you're building on vacant land, you have to dig foundations. When you dig foundations, you may find stuff that you'd rather not find. Enough said.

There are some external shots of it in this UNESCO PDF, on pgs. 515-516 (or 13-14 on your PDF reader). In the pictures on the left on pg. 515, it's the brown castle-looking thing in the background, not the newer stuff in the foreground. The 'Ghumran Tower' that they talk about might have been a newer addition.

Anonymous said...

Interesting thing about Melchizedek (the fellow I mentioned a few comments up), he was an Elohist, a priest of 'The Most High El' (Gen 14:18). After Melchizedek, the priesthood passed to Aaron, who was a Yahweist, and was chosen by none other than Yahweh himself (Lev 9). Why is this significant? Because of this:

Hebrew 5:9-10 ... and [Immanuel] once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Not 'the order of Aaron', but 'the order of Melchizedek'. Despite the fact that the Aaronic priesthood had been passed down over 3,000 years, God chose to induct Immanuel into the priesthood of Melchizedek. Was it because Melchizedek was the last Elohist High Priest?

There's more. This is from Hebrews in the New Testament:

11-12 "If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood — and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood — why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, NOT IN THE ORDER OF AARON? For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also."

In the Aaronic priesthood, only members of the Levite tribe could be priests. Immanuel was from the tribe of Judah:

Hebrews 7:14 "For it is clear that our Lord [Immanuel] descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests."

However, if Melchizedek was indeed Seth (as rabbinical sources generally claim), then Immanuel is a descendant of Melchizedek. So Yahweh had picked a lineage other than Melchizedek's to be priests, and Elohim by-passed the entire lineage chosen by Yahweh and restored the order of Melchizedek, by making Immanuel High Priest "forever". Ouch.

Anonymous said...

More evidence that the Ghumdan site might be the location of Solomon's palace-temple complex. Arab and Yemenite-Jewish legend claims Solomon built the original Ghumdan:

Anonymous said...

This short video discusses the El/Yahweh distinction with reference to some Bible passages: