March 9th, 2008

Bast

It Ain't Necessarily So

I just recently finished reading The Bible As History, by Ian Wilson. This book describes the historical context of the material in the Bible, provides information on archaeological discoveries pertaining to the book, and suggests possible historical explanations for some of the odder stories. The introduction mentions the maximalist and minimalist schools of thought on the Bible, with the former thinking it's basically (although generally not totally) true, and the latter dismissing much of it as fiction. I was actually thinking about this before reading the book, and I think there are actually several more levels involved. If you take, say, the Sodom and Gomorrah story, you have some people who think it's literally true, and others who think it's fiction designed to promote a moral (which is apparently the approach taken by a History Channel special that bethje saw). But there are a few other positions in between those two, including the possibility that they were actual places destroyed by a volcano or an earthquake rather than the wrath of God (a suggestion made in the book), or even that the story is very loosely based on fact but with most of the details changed (for instance, there could have been some cities that were actually totally destroyed, but they weren't called Sodom and Gomorrah, and might not have even been located in the Canaan region). [1] Wilson, a Catholic, admits that he's often more on the maximilist side, but he's certainly no fundamentalist. He admits when the evidence for a particular figure or event is scant (like it is for Moses) or non-existent outside the Bible itself (as for Abraham). There apparently is archaeological evidence for a chieftain named Jacob who lived in Canaan and Egypt, however, which I found interesting. As might be expected, the author's approach becomes closer to regarding the Bible as literal truth once he gets into the New Testament. In the final chapter, he takes more of an opinionated and preachy tone, but I get the impression that inserting some personal thoughts into the end of a largely factual book isn't uncommon. I get the impression that I don't quite agree with Wilson politically, considering his mention that "Bible education is being replaced in our schools with ever-more liberal sex education" [2], but that doesn't diminish my appreciation for the book in general.

And now to turn our attention to someone who makes maximalists look like minimalists, here's the newest Chick Tract. Like "The Execution", it's a really strained attempt at allegory, which fails because: 1) the scenario is too ridiculous to ever happen in real life, and 2) some of the elements don't really match up. If Chick is always repeating that no human could ever have the same kind of love that Christ does for mankind, why does he keep coming up with these metaphorical human stand-ins for Jesus? I do find it interesting that, in light of Jack's opinions on psychology and science, he seems to be largely in favor of medicine. Doctors are often the Good Guys in his comics. Maybe it's because he realizes the debt he owes to medical science for living as long as he has (assuming he IS still alive), but it's not like Chick has never taken a hypocritical position before.

And for any of you who care, I have written some stuff about my Disney World honeymoon. Beth has said she wants to add some stuff to it, though, and I don't think she's had the chance yet. I have five entries planned (one for each day), and they should be up soon.

[1] A while back, I came across a web page that argued that Sodom was destroyed in a nuclear war. I'm not sure whether or not this was a joke, but considering some of the stuff I've read about space aliens building the pyramids and egg-laying hermaphrodites inhabiting the lost continent of Lemuria, I wouldn't be too surprised if someone actually believes it.
[2] I have to wonder what schools are teaching the kind of sex education that conservatives are so afraid of. In seventeen years of public education, we mostly just identified the vas deferens and uterus on diagrams, and even that required our parents' permission. We did learn how to put on a condom, but they never gave us any free ones. Maybe they would have if we had asked, but as I had as much use for them as a frost dragon does for an ice machine, so I never bothered to find out. But the point is, we were never ENCOURAGED to have sex, any more than we were forced by science teachers to swear an oath of allegiance to Charles Darwin.