Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Robert Price: Is The Bible Mein Kampf

An interesting lecture from Robert Price. Sometimes fundamentalism can make skeptics angry, but it's important to recognize where any anger should be directed. Is the Bible to blame for the fact that many read it and simply fail to recognize that it's a bronze age document that reflects bronze age ethics? Would we go out and burn books by Plato if some overzealous fans irrationally elevated his works to divine status? Why shouldn't skeptics appreciate and even admire the Bible for what it is: a work that despite it's flaws is still often beautiful and insightful.

During Q&A a question was asked about biblical genocide. Despite the fact that skeptics would think these stories are often made up, it's hard not to simply regard them as a horror even though they aren't reporting the deeds of real people. At least the author thought they were describing historical events and seemed to endorse them. Price had a very interesting thought on this. He says if you look at the peoples slaughtered in some cases, for instance by Joshua, we're told they are utterly destroyed. But then at the end of the book you see directive to conquer various peoples, and it's the same people that were supposedly destroyed. What's happening here?

Price suggests that perhaps the descriptions of genocide weren't even intended to be taken as historical fact when they were written. It could have been a matter of the present writer distinguishing himself from heathen practices of his own ancestors. The biblical authors didn't have ancestors that were actually called out of Egypt. In fact they were simply different factions amongst the Canaanites. As a new belief system emerged the old belief system was being reviled. It was represented by various other tribes (Moabites, Amalekites, etc). The utter destruction of them, including the execution of babes at the breast, is a symbol of the revulsion that the present writer felt towards the evil practices that he wanted to distinguish himself from. The admission at the end of the text that these people still do exist is perhaps a wink that the genocides weren't real, but the attitude towards those that are of these systems is clear.

Is it true? Don't know. But it's interesting to consider and helps us recognize that these things aren't always clearly black and white.

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