Metaphors, Genesis, and Adam & Eve

If someone starts giving me a hard time over Adam and Eve in the ministry, I tell them its okay to treat it as a metaphor, and on that basis, see what can they draw from it. I am even proactive on the point, suggesting metaphor before they can get around to objecting to it.

A certain type of person almost takes that as a compliment—that you are not rubbing their nose in ‘Adam & Eve’ but you are deeming them smart enough that to figure out a metaphor. I even briefly won over my return visit Bernard Strawman on this point.

I used to call such people ones who suffer from “We are wise and learned adults, far too clever to be sold Adam and Eve. What’s next—Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?” syndrome. But now I drop the derisiveness, for it doesn’t do any good, and I just invite them to treat it as a metaphor. After all, science is pretty universal that Adam & Eve is for dumbbells, and we are all taught that science is the be-all and end-all. Training like that doesn’t turn around on a dime.

Sometimes when people see how well the metaphor works out they forget all about “science” and they put their “cognitive dissonance” on the shelf as something to work out later. You don’t have to know everything. It’s the antithesis of humility to think that you do—or can. Is not the phrase “cognitive dissonance” largely an appeal to pride that overall dumbs us down? It is an idea worthy of a pamphlet, probably, but not the volumes dedicated to it.

People cannot simultaneously hold two conflicting ideas at the same time? Of course they can. A little humility solves the problem. Put one or both on the shelf pending more information, which may or may not come, but in the meantime, you can’t rush it. You can’t just check yourself at the door because of a few facts that don’t line up. In the field of mathematics proofs will commence with assuming this or that point is true, and then seeing where that assumption leads. If it leads to a dead-end, the point is disproved. But sometimes it doesn’t lead to a dead-end. You don’t just stop dead in your tracks because you spot an obstacle up ahead. You see where this or that idea leads.

When I first came across Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was astounded that here were people who actually believed in Adam and Eve. They didn’t look stupid, or if so in no greater proportion than anyone else, yet all my life I had heard that only the reddest of the rednecks believed in Adam and Eve.  I couldn’t figure it out. I decided to shelve it for future resolution. I still don’t know how certain things will align. But the answer to the ‘problem of evil,’—why a loving God would permit it, the answer to the reason for and origin of death, the coherent answer to the question of how Christ’s death could benefit us—all these things were so overwhelming, that I decided to give “science” the back seat, not the front seat it usually demands. Without Jesus as the “first Adam,” a perfect man who, by holding the course, repurchased us from that first perfect man who sinned and sold us out, the question of ‘Why Jesus died for us’ devolves into a mushy and intellectually unsatisfying “because he loved us.”

To be sure, the head is not everything, but neither is it nothing. There is some sort of reasoning regarding mitochondrial DNA and the number of generations can be counted. It is from this they determine that all people on earth are related through one woman. Maybe that represents the reconciliation of timelines that otherwise don’t reconcile. It is roundly shouted down by majority scientists today. But we ought to know by now that being shouted down by the majority means nothing. Anything can be spun any way, by people who may or not be disingenuous. The majority team gets the ball and then tilts the field so steeply as to tumble the minority team right off it.

For myself, I am content that the Witness organization in 2010 defined the “days” of creation as “epochs,” their sum total plus all the time before as “aeons.” “It’s about time,” their science critics might cry? As late as 1987, the US Supreme Court took up the question of teaching “evolutionary science” and “creation science,” ruling that if you taught the first in public school, it didn’t mean you had to teach the second. So it takes the Witness organization 23 years to weigh in on an area not their specialty or mission. Is that too long? The world of science has yet to weigh in with any accuracy on the spiritual concerns that Witnesses make their domain.

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Notes from Ancient Egypt: Weighing in on Joseph and the Exodus Account: Part 1

Sitting in on Bob Brier’s Egyptology lecture series for Great Courses, you learn that nations don’t war on their neighbors. They don’t conquer them. They “beat up on them.” If he said it once, he said it a hundred times. List the accomplishments of any pharaoh: he built the temples, he built the tombs, he beat up on the Syrians (or whoever).

“Beating up” is especially emphasized in Egypt, for with them, there was no place like home. Egyptians warred with their neighbors constantly—“peace was not a virtue in Egypt,” Bob says—but they never established garrisons in those conquered lands. Why—were you to die thousands of miles from home, how could you be properly mummified? And if you weren’t that, what would happen to your chances at the afterlife?

So they didn’t stay. They “beat up” their neighbors, left demands for yearly tribute, but after a while, people forget. You have to go and “beat them up again,” to remind them they had better pay—carting off “everything that wasn’t nailed down” while you were at it.

What is it with this guy? Is he from the Bronx? In fact, he is. And even though he’s a professor steeped in Egyptian honors at Long Island University, he still lives in the Bronx. (as of 1999, when he recorded these lectures). Of the supports used to raise a body so mummy wrappings could be wound beneath him—“it’s like jacking up a car,” he adds helpfully, possibly while gazing through his window at a muffler being attached to a jacked-up car). 

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(Photo by Sam LaRussa)

What would he do when he comes to Bible accounts? I wondered. He will blow them away, of course, but will he do it with respect or ridicule? He seems like a nice guy. But sometimes people with brains lose it when it comes to spiritual things.

To my surprise, he does not blow them away. He treats them with great respect and allows that they are probably true in essence. To be sure, the “external evidence” that is archeology is scant. Archaeology corroborates the Bible in many things, says Bob, but it says next to nothing about the Israelites in Egypt. However, what he calls the “internal evidence” is strong, and as an Egyptologist, he has learned how the two must be combined.

After the Old Kingdom period, during which the pyramids were built, there arose the “Hyksos,” kings who ruled from the north, the delta region. The word means “rulers of foreign lands.” Could Joseph’s family have been the Hyksos? Not much is known of the Hyksos, Brier says, they “didn’t integrate well,” Some have said they were the family of Joseph. Josephus says so. Therefore, I say so, too. I mean, someone has to correspond to Joseph and his brothers. The north is a  damp and marshy region, where archeological finds are meagre, inferior, and badly damaged. It is the dry climate to the south that preserves papyri for thousands of years.

At this point Bob Brier assigns his listeners homework. They are to read Genesis 37-50. Then he narrates the story—just who was Joseph and what was his involvement with Egypt, highlighting what these “guys” are doing and what those “guys” are doing.

There is no external evidence for Joseph, but what is the internal evidence? Does the story “hang together?” It does, he thinks. He recounts the Bible story, which ends in a tearful tale of forgiveness—Joseph sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, his quick rise in Potipher’s house, his reversal and hard times, his meteoric rise to fame upon deciphering the dream that had perplexed Pharaoh, and how those same brothers approach and bow before him decades later—he, the one now in charge of alleviating famine.

In a dream that nobody can figure out for Pharaoh until someone remembers that Joseph in prison had a knack for that sort of thing, he is brought to interpret the dream. Seven lean cows are preceded by seven fat cows. The lean ones eat up the fat ones! They are years of famine following years of plenty. During the years of plenty, preparation can be made for the years of famine. “Based upon Joseph’s interpretation of dreams, the economy of Egypt is planned for the next 14 years.”

Joseph shows what a “sharp businessman” he is during the famine period, is how Bob Brier puts it (perhaps as he is buying a used car from a sharp businessman on the corner lot). People get destitute enough that they eventually sell him their land in return for food. He makes Pharaoh very wealthy, and Pharaoh rewards him.

The ring that Pharaoh gives to Joseph—that also is how they would do it in Egypt, a ring to the “right hand man.” A signet ring. A sign of authority. When the Bible says, everybody cried out Abrek after Joseph—that’s “real Egyptian.” Somebody knew what he was talking about. He deciphers the phrase as roughly meeting ‘Let God be with you.’ (Genesis 41: 42-43)

For a long time, Bob had a problem with Egyptian priests admitting defeat in interpreting Pharaoh’s dream. They never admitted defeat in anything. But later finds cleared it up for him. There is a papyrus in the British Museum which is a book for interpreting dreams.

All dreams meant something, the Egyptians believed. They were all prophetic. The trick was in interpreting them. When you had a dream, you went to the priest to see what it meant. Everything was written down in a book. The priests didn’t “just wing it.” They looked it up in a book. “If it’s not in the book, you’re stuck,” Bob says. So Joseph‘s account has the ring of truth to it, he says. When they said to Pharaoh, We don’t know, about his dream, it just meant that nothing about fat cows or lean cows was in the book—it didn’t go there. So it wasn’t the fault of the priests, who never would have admitted a fault—it wasn’t in the book. (Genesis 41)

There’s a Egyptian inscription on Sahel Island of seven years when the Nile did not rise, resulting in famine. Another inscription shows skeletal figures of people who were not slaves. Potipher is an Egyption name. Goshen is where the brothers of Joseph settled—a real Egyptian place in the delta region. Two cities are cited with names they had at the time, and not names they would be given later. Joseph (and Jacob) are embalmed by the Egyptians and mourned for the proper period. The Joseph story is written by someone who knew Egypt, Brier states. Testifying that Hebrews did indeed come to settle in Egypt is the excavation of a classic Israelite four-room house, with its unique floor plan. A full-sized model of one can be seen at Semitic Museum at Harvard University.

“Internally, we get a feeling for the Joseph story that it fits. It’s not archaeological evidence, but the story fits.” Embalming for 40 days, mourning for 70. For a long time that was not understood, but it turns out that is how Egyptian‘s did it. (Genesis 50:3)

The Hyksos did not control all of Egypt. Instead, they coexisted with the Sixteenth and the Seventeenth Dynasty, which were based in Thebes, 500 miles to the south. Warfare between they and the pharaohs of the late Seventeenth Dynasty eventually ran the Hyksos out of Egypt. (and Bob approves of this, because the Hyksos are not “his guys”—they are not real Egyptian) Later leaders of them would be portrayed as oppressive and warlike.

A papyrus of the time, sent by the last Hyksos king to the Prince of Thebes, reads: “The hippopotami in your pool are keeping me awake at night. They have to be silenced.” What exactly does that mean? Dunno, but it’s not friendly. Inflammatory for sure, Bob says. The Prince sends an army in retaliation. How does it turn out? No idea. The papyrus breaks off. The first and the last portions of an ancient papyrus roll is often no good. The inside end is wrapped so tightly that it breaks. the outside end is on the outside where it gets knocked around a lot, torn and scuffed up over time.

See Part II, Evidence of the Exodus

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Shishak Beats Up Rehoboam—From Egypt’s Point of View. And Why did Indiana Jones Search for the Ark in Tanis?

For 200 years Egypt was ruled by Libyans. That’s not a long period of time but its nearly as long as the history of the United States.

Head north on the Nile and turn left, Bob* gives the directions, and you will hit Libya. But you will have to traverse 200 miles of desert to get there, so we should not imagine an invading Libyan army riding that far to conquer. No, Prof Brier is sure that the Libyans that ruled were already in Egypt, in fact full Egyptians in all but ethnicity. They had been assimilated previously.

They were probably descendants of captives taken during the reign of Ramses III, Egypts last great pharaoh, Bob calls him. “One of the things he was proudest of is that he pushed back the Egyptians. The Egyptians were getting a little too populous. It seems that the Egyptians always minded when foreigners become too numerous. It was okay to have a few, but when they became a large body to be reckoned with they didn’t like that. As for example, remember the Exodus?”

Exodus 1:9-10 reads: “In time there arose over Egypt a new king who did not know Joseph.  And he proceeded to say to his people: “Look! The people of the sons of Israel are more numerous and mightier than we are.  Come on! Let us deal shrewdly with them, for fear they may multiply, and it must turn out that, in case war should befall us, then they certainly will also be added to those who hate us and will fight against us and go up out of the country.”

The captured Libyans assimilated and, in time, some turned to the military. Sheshonq I was the first of them to assume the throne after a dwindling series of impotent kings bearing the Ramses name. He married the right woman—a sure way to rise in Egypt—the daughter of Ramses XI.

Fighting is what he knew. After consolidating and appointing his sons in key positions, he look northward. Was not Judah ripe for picking? Solomon had just died, and his son Rehoboam didn’t know what he was doing. Sheshonq is the same as Shishak of 1 Kings 14:25-26. He came to conquer but Rehoboam “bought him off.”

“And it came about in the fifth year of King Rehoboam that Shishak the king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem.  And he got to take the treasures of the house of Jehovah and the treasures of the house of the king; and everything he took. And he went on to take all the gold shields that Solomon had made.”

Note what he does not take, Bob says. He does not take the ark of the covenant, “the box, that held the Ten Commandments. That’s not mentioned.” A helpful footnote from movie lore: “That’s why Indiana Jones goes looking for the ark of the covenant at Tanis, in the delta, in Egypt, thinking maybe Shishak brought it back.”

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While he’s at it, Bob Brier eludidates ark: “It’s called a ark, by the way, because ark means box. That why you get Noah’s ark. It’s really a big box that floated on the water, basically.”

You know, it’s not a big point, and certainly Bob does not extrapolate on it here, but in a way it is. Artwork of Jehovah’s Witnesses invariably portray Noah’s ark as a floating box. Church artwork almost never does. To them, it is a storybook boat with bow and stern. When my wife and I stayed in the Cincinnati Best Western because we’d been hurricaned out from our original destination, that morning in the breakfast bar nearly everyone else, family groups all, were headed to the Ark Encounter across the state border in Kentucky. A huge ark replica—with bow and stern. (and dinosaurs!)

These are not people who think the ark is fairy tale, for the most part. These are people who think the Bible flood account is true. If they are willing to remold such an obvious facet of the ark, who knows what else they are willing to remold?

*Notes from The History of Ancient Egypt: Bob Brier, part 19

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The Personification of God—Part 3

Q: “So I find it difficult to see how that kind of personification [accounts of Jehovah’s anger, jealousy, warfare & so forth] reaches the heart of a Christian.....or any decent human being living today.” (See thread that begins with Part 1)

Well, you can always say it’s Genesis—it is the writing of people immersed in life thousands of years ago. You can compare it with other writings of the time. What should stick is the descriptions of God’s love for his people—even when they are giving Him a run for His money (and he has it all—“if I were hungry, I would not tell it to you,” he says at Ps 50:12). Remember, the particular sin that gets his dander up here is pretty severe—that of so quickly worshipping the golden calf that they have made themselves—so quickly forgetting his commandments on idolatry and all that he has done for them. I think the many expressions of his love is what should remain, all the more so because I see it no where else in those times.

Are there any other ancient religious systems that incorporate love? Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, any of the ancient philosophies and myths. Often there is emphasis on ethics and doing what is right, but on love? Not that I am aware of. Not too long ago I finished a Great Courses lecture series on Greek mythology. The gods of mythology don’t love humans—they are indifferent to them, the professor pointed out, notwithstanding that now and again some god gets the hots for a particular bombshell of a woman, and they do tend to be fond of whatever halflings they have conceived with them, but love for humans in general? No. They “find them useful,” the professor kept saying. They like the sacrifices offered, but there is no love in return. As near as I can tell, love (not lust) is uniquely a trait of Jehovah, even if it is a (blisteringly) “tough love” at times.

Maybe the way in which human traits and even emotions are attributed to God as presented in the Bible for our edification, even though whe all know he doesn’t have the physical appendages of humans, and presumably, the emotional ones—Maybe it can be likened to one of those campaign messages: “My name is God, and I approve this message.” That way the message stands as from God even though it reflects the limitations of the writers. Jehovah is “running for office” of sorts. He is running for the office of our approval—that we will choose him over that scoundrel who is running on the Satan ticket. Of course, he doesn’t have to run for office. He doesn’t have to condescend to have any interaction with humans at all. But he does—he indicated immediately after Adam’s transgression that he would—going so far as to give his son a ransom for our buyback.

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A Watchtower Study to Battle the “False Doctrine” of Evolution

The way it works with humans is we invite people over for a cookout and they all end up sitting on their hands because the gas grill ran out of propane and someone has to go to Home Depot to get some more.

That was my comment on the first portion of last week’s Watchtower Study that had to do with the earth’s built-in recycling. As much as we breathe in oxygen, it doesn’t run out because plants emit it, recycling our carbon dioxide at the same time. Then there is also the water cycle:

All the streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is not full. To the place from which the streams flow, there they return so as to flow again.” (Ecclesiastes 1:7) That’s not bad insight for writing 3000 years old.

Not to mention how my daughter the next day told of of her friend who started raising rabbits and, almost as an afterthought, began collecting their poop for the garden and now the garden is exploding with produce. As for the heavens, they belong to Jehovah, But the earth he has given to the sons of men”—the earth that is so good as recycling—says Psalm 115:6

The study article was on three gifts of God, and how one does well to appreciate them as gifts: “Jehovah has given us “a place to live, he has granted us the ability to think and communicate, and he has answered the most important questions we could ask.”

A secondary goal of the material was that “we will also be better equipped to help those who have been misled by the false doctrine of evolution” which is not how it is usually described—as a “doctrine,” let alone a “false” one. I like how the article did not take the form of “if an evolutionist says this, you can say that,” a form that, in effect, allows them to frame the argument. I like also [not stated in the article] that we are not the people who put dinosaurs on the Kentucky ark. Instead, we are the ones who have acknowledged the days of creation as “epochs” and the total time since Genesis 1:1 as “aeons.”

You don’t let evolutionists frame the argument, as though on the defensive. You frame it yourself. A belief in creation is the default condition. It is the condition that will automatically come up after a reboot. It is evident from Romans 1:20:

For his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship...” You don’t have to prove it to people. They perceive it. It is the default condition.

Some things are perceived by anyone of good heart. Ones too smart for their own pants will muddy the waters, but anyone of good heart will unmuddy them. Those not will muddy them all the more. To be sure, it is well to have some material specifically to deal with this, as the Witness organization does, but it ought to be supplemental material for an “as needed” basis, and not universal.

It’s a little bit like how the atheists present the analogy of an intelligent puddle of water that naturally thinks the pothole it occupies was specifically designed for it—that analogy concocted to advance the argument that if the earth was anything but perfectly suited, we wouldn’t be around to talk about it. “Whoa! What a brilliant analogy!” I said. “All that is needed to make it complete is to find an intelligent puddle of water!” Just how hard (and why?) is one going to work at the goal of denying God?

I could barely believe it, when I first came across Jehovah’s Witnesses, that I had actually stumbled across people who believed in Adam and Eve! They didn’t look stupid—or at least no more so than anyone else in aggregate—and yet all my life I had accepted that only the reddest of the rednecks believed in Adam and Eve! It didn’t clear up for some time. Instead, I put it on the shelf, for what caught my interest more was that which formed the third point of yesterday’s Watchtower: “By means of the Bible, Jehovah answers the most important questions we could ask, such as: Where did we come from? What is the purpose of life? And what does the future hold?” It is all a matter of priority. Answers to spiritual questions that scientists cannot even touch supersede thoughts about evolution—put the latter on the shelf and come back to it later.

On the second gift—our brain, and the ability to think—I liked the emphasis on how we can choose how to use it. Make it your aim to screen out negative thoughts and hone in on ones of gratitude, since “researchers have found that people who are grateful are more likely to be happy.”

We will relate to the generation to come the praiseworthy deeds of Jehovah and his strength, the wonderful things he has done,” says Psalm 78:4

“We also do well to imitate Jehovah regarding the things he chooses to forget,” said the article, and verses such as the following were cited:

Do not remember the sins of my youth and my transgressions...O Jehovah.” (Psalm 25:7) If he doesn’t, why should we?

If errors were what you watch, then who, O Jehovah, could stand?” (Psalm 130: 3-4) If he doesn’t why should we?

And: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; whereas if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Mathew 6:14-15) In that event, one had better be forgiving.

And as to retraining ourselves, the article stated: “Among all the creatures on earth, only humans have the ability to learn moral lessons by remembering and analyzing past events,” as it gave some verses as to how we can tune our conscience that way. I thought of the contrast of Sam Harris the atheist, describing his worst case scenario of how the AI creation of humans will someday wipe us all out!—not with malice, but as a logical consequence of having inadvertently gotten in its way somehow and thus being squished by like an ant. It’s a great world that he has chosen for himself. He’s welcome to it.

The Watchtower article mentioned how William Boyce used his skills of communication to uncover the grammatical rules of the Xhosa language for the purpose of Bible translation—is all that work ever done for any other reason?—and in so doing he laid the basis for many African-language translations. Xhosa is among the “klic klic” languages that doesn’t even have words. After the meeting, Kim said how she used to go to a hair salon in Buffalo where they speak it. “Does it sound like birds?” I asked, and she said it did not—it was more like a musical instrument, pleasing to listen to.

I checked to find that Boyce, a Wesleyan clergyman, had never before been mentioned in Watchtower publications—they are not much for honoring humans in that quarter. Rummaging over that, I eventually thought of the contrast in Morris Kline’s book, Mathematics and the Search for Knowledge, where he seems miffed about his colleagues back in the day not getting the credit.

“Indeed, the work of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and most eighteenth-century mathematicians was, as we shall soon see more clearly, a religious quest. The search for the mathematical laws of nature was an act of devotion that would reveal the glory and grandeur of His handiwork,” he writes, presently advancing the seeming complaint that, “each discovery of a law of nature was hailed as evidence of God’s brilliance rather than that of the investigator.”

I could be wrong, but I suspect that clergyman Boyce, who lived with the people in Africa that spoke the unwritten language, would not huff about not receiving credit. He would be content to be perceived as bringing his gift to the altar. It certainly is true of Geoffrey Jackson, now of the Witness Governing Body, who saw during his missionary life among the Polynesian peoples, that they had no written dictionary—and so he wrote one himself.

But as for Kline, he writes a brilliant book and then takes the wrong side of it. He harkens back to the preceding Greeks, who “dared to tackle the universe, and they refused any help from gods, spirits, ghosts, devils, and angels, or other agents unacceptable to a rational mind.” That’s the world he prefers. Is it any wonder that some shrink from the Christian message? “How can you believe, when you are accepting glory from one another and you are not seeking the glory that is from the only God?” Jesus says at John 5:44. What is it with Kline and his Greeks—aren’t they the original pedophiles?

 

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Sympathy for ‘Sympathy for the Devil’

“Sympathy for the Devil? No. I don’t like that fellow. He makes a lot of trouble. I’m not listening to no song that has sympathy for the devil.“

That was my sentiment for 50 years. It will still be my sentiment, but not so much, until my grave—which maybe will not arrive anytime soon, and if I play my cards right and the ducks line up, maybe not at all. Funny how you can live life as though the system may end tomorrow, and also as though it may not end before your natural death. Yikes! Cognitive dissonance! I hate that stuff!

Nah—cognitive dissonance is a topic worthy of a pamphlet, perhaps, but no more. It is what used to be called, ‘Coming to grips with the fact that you don’t know everything.’ People used to be able to do that without their heads shorting out—before ‘critical thinking’ became all the rage.

“You will still dislike the song, but ‘not so much’ Tom?” You going warm and fuzzy on the Devil these days? No. I still don’t like him. But somewhere along the road I came to recognize that ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ the Rolling Stones song, is not really about sympathy for the Devil. It is about exposure of him.

For years I refused to listen to the song. For years I slapped it down if it reared up on the radio, and later skipped it over if Pandora served it up. I still will, of course, at least if in anyone’s hearing. “Wow, brothers—great song! Sympathy for the Devil! I love it! Let’s give it a listen—right here at the congregation picnic!”—can I picture myself saying that? No. There is stuff that you tuck out of sight when the respectable people come calling. I always did that with the Keith Richards/Mick Jagger song. It’s a little too bad, because if you like rock music, you really can’t do better than The Rolling Stones. On the other hand, there’s a lot of music—you don’t have to chug down everything that comes down the pipe;

The song exposes the works of the Devil nearly as well as the Bible itself—in fact, better—if we are going for specifics and exclusive focus—that is, not being diluted by anything else. The obscenities of history—the Devil’s behind them all. He’s pulling the strings.

A fellow with the handle “Apollyon911” says of the song, that Satan is “implicating humanity for the evil they have committed” and “expresses glee for the crucifixion and other atrocities that he helped orchestrate”—Hitler’s reign, murder of the czar, murder of the Kennedy’s. “He is a ‘man of wealth and taste’...just as the SS had impeccable manners, listened to Wagner and drank fine wine, there is a powerful desire to be impressive...to be admired (or, more to the point, worshipped).”

What is the polar opposite circumstance that triggered for me memories of this song? It was this verse from Isaiah and a subsequent video included in the mid-week JW meetings during June 2020–a video on highlighting God’s name in the countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. “I am Jehovah. That is my name,” says Isaiah 42:8 (NWT). But the King James Version, and the majority of translations, say, “I am the LORD. That is my name.” How can translators be so dense? “The LORD” is a name? What’s with the all-caps?

You don’t translate the tetragrammaton as “The LORD.” The first is clearly a distinctive name—the name God gives himself—a name that makes clear his power to transform: “He causes to become.” The second is no more than a title, gussied up with all-caps, but clearly a title. Sometimes I call people’s attention to Psalm 110:1 to expose this idiocy: “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I place your enemies as a tool for your feet.’” Who is talking to who? Why is one Lord all caps and the other not? There is a Charlton Heston movie—I think it is ‘The Ten Commandments’—in which the Israelites are distressed early on because “We don’t even know our God’s name.” Later on, they are as happy as pigs in mud, for they have learned it: it is ‘The LORD’—how much sense does that make?

Even Mick Jagger knows better. “Pleased to meet you—hope you guess my name,” his devil says—and later in the song he gives his name! It is not ‘The DEVIL.”—it is ‘Lucifer!’ Now, as it turns out, ‘Lucifer’ is not a name either; it is a translation of the Hebrew word “hehlel’ and means “shining one.” But the intent is there—Jagger has his head screwed on straight. He knows that if you say Satan has a name, you don’t tell people it is SATAN. And if God has a name, you don’t say it is The LORD. He has put his name in scripture nearly 7,000 times. You don’t think he might be a little peeved that churchmen paper it over, essentially taking it out? Wouldn’t you—if you wrote the most beautiful letter that people sighed in delight over and praised it for its beauty—after crossing out your name, as though it were a putrid thing?

Richards and Jagger are more on to matters of truth than they know. Sign them up for the Kingdom Hall! Of course, they’ll have to clean up their acts first. They can’t quite carry on the way they do, can they? But having declared a “been there, done that—time to move on,” let them do one of the ‘original songs.’ Why—with their background, let them even do two! Seriously. Prince did this—cleaned up his act—whereupon they let him do an original song. Well—they didn’t, actually, they slapped his hand when he tried to rework their own—but they would have today. I wrote up a nice chapter on Prince. It heads the book ‘Tom Irregardless and Me’ and is even in the free preview section. You don’t think that I would do the same for Mick and Keith if only they would behave a bit more?

These guys are on to something with their ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ even if they don’t nail every little detail. They do better than Apollyon911–he has a little too much ‘churchiness’ in him. The reason I had to quote excerpts from him and not the entirety is that he screws it up in part—whereas the Stone’s song I can let stand untouched. Apollyon says in full:

While Satan is clearly implicating humanity for the evil they have committed, he is not absolving himself. He expresses glee for the crucifixion and other atrocities that he helped orchestrate (not realizing, until it was too late, that Christ’s Crucifixion – and Resurrection, were all part of God’s Plan).

He is a ‘man of wealth and taste’. This does not simply mean he is sophisticated. He does not deny his evil but, just as the SS had impeccable manners, listened to Wagner and drank fine wine, there is a powerful desire to be impressive (and perhaps, in the case of humans, to deny the evil they commit). He wants to be admired (or, more to the point, worshipped).

Satan or, as he prefers to be called, Lucifer, his pre-Fall name, is also warning mankind to treat him with respect or he will destroy us. As Martin Luther (the Reformer) noted: ‘Satan cannot bear to be mocked’.

Satan is not denying he is the author of evil. He is merely implicating mankind and also emphasizing his power.

Satan, the Devil, is the Father of Lies and this is implied when he talks about ‘lay[ing] your soul to waste’. Satan does not have full authority over mankind. Only what is allowed by God (his Creator). But, Satan wants us to believe he has all power.

Well, maybe it’s not so bad. But isn’t it a little too glib on how things like the Holocaust is “part of God’s Plan?” (capitalized, no less, though it includes the Holocaust!) It reminds me of the time I passed the church billboard that read “‘Don’t Worry, I’m in Charge’—God” Two days later planes flew into the twin towers in New York City, and I began to wonder if that stupid sign was still there. I returned to read the modified version: “God Bless America.” Had the priest swapped the letters at 3 AM, hoping no one would see him? Even the new didn’t fit. Would you have carried on about God’s blessing in the big city at the time?

What Apollyon downplays is that Satan, not God, is described as the “ruler of this system of this world.” Satan is the one who is “blinding the minds of the unbelievers.” Satan is the one who is “misleading the entire inhabited earth”—that covers a lot of territory!—so it seems that Apollyon might expound at least a little on how Satan has managed to hijack the world God created. He doesn’t do this because he doesn’t know—all he can do is offer up some muddled alteration: “‘Don’t worry (much), I’m in charge, even if it seems I am sleeping at the switch’—God.” No. It won’t do. Satan is the “ruler of this world,” says the Bible repeatedly. (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Revelation 12:9)

Jagger and Richards nail it, but they don’t go far enough. Jesus has come to “break up the works of the Devil,” 1 John 3:8 says. The first thing you do in breaking up the works of the Devil is to expose them. If they went far enough they would come to the indictment of Babylon the Great, the party identified by Jehovah’s Witnesses as “the world empire of false religion.” “Yes, in her was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.” (Revelation 18:24) Of all those? Yes, for it is not just the acts of commission we speak of, but it is far more for the acts of omission. Had religion trained its members to be peaceable, as Jehovah’s Witnesses do theirs, they would have held their ground when the king tried enlist them in his latest war; they would have “paid Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God”—they would have told Hitler to take a hike, as Jehovah’s Witnesses in Axis lands did. That Babylon the Great has been so negligent is why it can be fingered for the blood of all.

The Daily Text under consideration for Friday, June 26, was John 16:2. “The hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he has offered a sacred service to God.​.” The commentary included: “How ironic that in committing such evil crimes as murder, religious fanatics violate the very laws of the One whom they claim to worship! Clearly, their consciences are treacherous guides! How can we prevent our conscience from becoming ineffective? The laws and principles contained in God’s Word are “beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16) Therefore, by diligently studying the Bible, meditating on what it says, and applying it in our lives, we can train our conscience to be more sensitive to God’s thinking, and it can thus serve as a reliable guide.”

We hear the remark all the time that so and so will be guided by his or her conscience—and it sounds good, it plays well—how can anyone go wrong if he listens to his conscience? But as history demonstrates time and time again, the local king and the prevailing mindset is more than a match for any conscience. That conscience must be trained by God’s thinking—otherwise it will be trained by Satan’s. We ought not be as “children, tossed about as by waves and carried here and there by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in deceptive schemes.” (Ephesians 4:14) It requires training in God’s thinking to stand firm. Had religion not so quickly bent over for the sake of anything claiming to be “science,” it might still be able to draw upon Genesis as a credible source to explain some of the deeper questions that science cannot touch. Had religion held fast to its core, it would not find itself acquiescing, to various degrees,—sometimes only partially, and sometimes completely—to the humanist and Satanic lie that humans are capable of self-rule.

Mick and Keith are on to it—they even nail the too-frequent reversal of roles, with their, “Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints”—but they still haven’t gone far enough. They even nail the “refinement” of those under Satan’s influence, who may very well be men “of wealth and taste”—but they still don’t go far enough. They still deserve an honorable mention, not me burning their record. I’ll burn it anyway, for—let’s face it—‘Sympathy for the Devil’ is not really a kingdom song, is it? But they deserve better. Ah, well—there are greater injustices. There are bigger fish to fry. I’ll stick with the other songs on the Martin Scorsese movie ‘Shine a Light’—which is the Stones in concert—and I’ll reaffirm my favorite scene: that of Buddy Guy standing like a mountain while two of the scrawny Stones buzz around him like gnats, blown away by his fierce guitar work.

 

Please allow me to introduce myself

I'm a man of wealth and taste

I've been around for a long, long year

Stole many a man's soul to waste

And I was 'round when Jesus Christ

Had his moment of doubt and pain

Made damn sure that Pilate

Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guess my name

But what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game

I stuck around St. Petersburg

When I saw it was a time for a change

Killed the czar and his ministers

Anastasia screamed in vain

I rode a tank

Held a general's rank

When the blitzkrieg raged

And the bodies stank

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guess my name, oh yeah

Ah, what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game, oh yeah

I watched with glee

While your kings and queens

Fought for ten decades

For the gods they made

I shouted out

Who killed the Kennedys?

When after all

It was you and me

Let me please introduce myself

I'm a man of wealth and taste

And I laid traps for troubadours

Who get killed before they reached Bombay

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah

But what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah

But what's confusing you

Is just the nature of my game, mm yeah

Just as every cop is a criminal

And all the sinners saints

As heads is tails

Just call me Lucifer

'Cause I'm in need of some restraint

So if you meet me

Have some courtesy

Have some sympathy, and some taste

Use all your well-learned politesse

Or I'll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guessed my name, mm yeah

But what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game, mm mean it, get down

Oh yeah, get on down

Oh yeah

Oh yeah

Tell me baby, what's my name

Tell me honey, can ya guess my name

Tell me baby, what's my name

I tell you one time, you're to blame

Oh, right

What's my name

Tell me, baby, what's my name

Tell me, sweetie, what's my name

 

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One Might as Well Collect Hub Caps

If I would leave the book ‘Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation?’ with the householder, he’d look it over and tell me what he thought of it next week, he told me. I did. When I returned, it was for a pleasant conversation right there on his doorstep—we both listened to each other’s points, and neither of us gave an inch. Toward the end, he asked why it was so important anyway? What difference did it make how we got here?

I answered that if God had really created the earth and the life on it, he just might have some purpose for it. He just might not stand by idly to see it ruined. On the other hand, if life evolved from nothing as simply a natural process, then if there was any hope for the planet, it lay in human efforts—“and they’re not doing so well.” The man’s wife, who hadn’t said a word during the entire exchange, suddenly found her moment. “That’s a good point,” she said. For once, the law that your best lines always occur to you too late did not hold true.

The line was incomplete, though. If you trash the Genesis account of Adam and Eve—the first three chapters of the book—you discard more than a chance to see light at the end of the tunnel. You lose almost everything of consequence. You lose any possibility of understanding why it is that humans die. You lose any possibility of understanding why a “loving” God would permit suffering and evil. You lose any possibility of understanding just how the death of Christ could benefit you or anyone else—all that remains is a vague and syrupy, “Jesus died because he loves us.” It doesn’t quite cut it for logic, does it?

There used to be a permanent diorama at the local museum of natural history and science entitled Cabinets of Curiosities. Long ago the place expanded and replaced it with dinosaurs—dinosaurs are snazzy, but who doesn’t have them? Cabinets was much more modest in scale, but what it lacked in size it made up for in insight. The exhibit was a collection of stuffed birds, insects, mammals, shells, minerals, plants, leaves, rocks, and so forth. Explaining it all was a sign:

“Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, Nature was seen as evidence of God’s work and people believed that studying it would bring them closer to the Creator. Darwin’s evolutionary theory, which replaced God’s role in creating species with natural selection, shook society to it’s foundations.”

So people collected these things. They showed them off. They studied them. They were part of the Book of Nature; they revealed things about God. Prominent scientists of that previous age, Newton, Kepler, Faraday, and Hertz, to name a few, thought of their work in much the same light, as bringing to light how God operated. But people gradually adjusted to Darwinian thinking. Little by little, natural things lost their appeal. One might as well collect hub caps.

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Joseph the Dreamer

When I am captain of the dodge ball team, choosing up players, my first choice will be Joseph. Just look at his stats:

From the time [Potiphar] appointed him over his house and in charge of all that was his, Jehovah kept blessing the house of the Egyptian because of Joseph, and Jehovah’s blessing came to be on all that he had in the house and in the field. He eventually left everything that was his in Joseph’s care, and he gave no thought to anything except the food he was eating. (Genesis 39:5-6)

So the chief officer of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners in the prison, and everything that they were doing there, he was the one having it done. The chief officer of the prison was looking after absolutely nothing that was in Joseph’s care, for Jehovah was with Joseph and Jehovah made whatever he did successful.” (Genesis 39:22-23)

Pharaoh further said to Joseph: “I am Pharaoh, but without your authorization, no man may do a single thing in all the land of Egypt.” ...The people began to cry to Pharaoh for bread. Then Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians: “Go to Joseph, and do whatever he tells you.” ...People of all the earth came to Egypt to buy from Joseph, because the famine had a strong grip on all the earth.” (Genesis 41:44, 55-57)

The bolded words say it all. He was a really good player. Were he on my team, he would soon be doing it all. We wouldn’t have to suffer being smashed with a ball and tagged out—that hurts!—we would voluntarily tag ourselves out and sit on the sidelines drinking Gatorade while he singlehandedly won the game.

He had dreams, too. Cool dreams. Not the type of dreams that I have, like how I  am sitting in the stands and suddenly remember that I have the next talk, only I have forgotten to wear my pants this day, and—come to think of it—the talk itself had slipped my mind so I haven’t prepared, but I might possibly be able to ad lib my way through—still, it would have been better had I remembered my pants...

No. Joseph’s dreams were about the rise and fall of peoples. At first, they got him into trouble, but later in life they got him out of trouble and landed him in some hotshot jobs, like being savior of the earth. (41:57) I did at around the turn of the year have a prophetic dream that the end would come prior to January because we had reached the end of our current Bible reading schedule and it would be too inconvenient to make everyone start all over again at Genesis, but it proved unreliable. Joseph gets all the cool dreams and I have all the duds.

He wasn’t full of himself, though. After interpreting Pharoah’s dream about how seven years of plenty will be followed by seven years of want, he says: “So now let Pharaoh look for a man who is discreet and wise and place him over the land of Egypt.” He doesn’t add—after he had just interpreted the dream that no one else could!—“Ahem...and I’m your man.” But it goes that way anyhow because he just interpreted the dream that no one else could. Isn’t there some verse somewhere about how it is better for other people to praise you than it is to jump the gun and do it yourself?

“Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; Others, and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2)

I like too how he customarily showed interest in others. Here he is in a prison hole greeting his mates with: “Why are your faces gloomy today?” (40:7) Turns out that they were gloomy because they’d each had a dream that they couldn’t figure out, and so Joseph did it for them. It ended up springing him from the hoosegow—so it couldn’t have been too much a waste of time for him to show fellow-feeling.

Genesis 41:46 is relevant, too: “Joseph was 30 years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt” [to be granted his new role as administrator]. 30—same as was David when he began to rule and Jesus when he began his ministry.

Now, as it turns out, I was married on my thirtieth birthday. When elders sneak up the way they do trying to make it hot for me with my birthday cake, I always turn the table on them and send them away frustrated by pointing out that it is an anniversary cake. However, this fact of a significant phase of my life starting at 30 like with other worthies—does it mean that I, too, am a hotshot? Does it mean that I, too, should be listened to? Too bad for me if that is so because nobody is.

With all the blogging I have done for 15 years, Maybe I ought to be an in-house theologian by now. Naw—the earthly organization isn’t enthralled with bloggers and maybe this post serves to remind why. Sure, I’m loyal now—but what if I park on the lawn and the elders tell me not to and I point out that I live in America so I can do anything I want and I decide to settle the score on my own blog—well, what then? If a brother goes bad at Bethel, they simply yank him and throw in another, but what will they do when I go bad? No wonder blogging doesn’t do it for them.

.....

It is a light post, but the part about Joseph taking interest in others even in the prison hole is a lesson for the ages. Same with how, even when he suffered serious reversals, Jehovah was always with him, as is stated at 39:2 and 39:21. Life may suck at the moment—it doesn’t mean that Jehovah is not with one, and it doesn’t mean that it can’t turn on a dime.

....

Well well well. A 22lbs produce pack from the USDA. Apparantly all non-profits received a large supply to distribute. I’m very grateful. Elders distributed to the congregation members. But will this become a—gasp!— ‘Go to Donald’ type of thing?

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NOT Omnipresent, NOT Omnisciencient, and NOT Omnipotent

Q: People make assumptions because they are well rooted in the belief also that God is Omnipresent, which is false. With this idea in mind, they conjure up the notion of God being everywhere, so he should have been able to prevent this or that...

A: Yes. Simply quote one of those verses in which God says he is going to go down and check something out so as to see if it is so—such as the complaint made about Sodom.

Then Jehovah said: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is very heavy.  I will go down to see whether they are acting according to the outcry that has reached me. And if not, I can get to know it.” (Genesis 18:20-21) 

He wasn’t there. He didn’t know. I love the personification. So he is not omnipresent. And he is not omniscient. 

The third member of this normal ‘trinity’ is omnipotent. Note how the chart has dropped ‘omnipresent’ to substitute ‘all-loving.’ That way the chartist can harp on anything that isn’t going well and blame it on God—as though God’s role is to bless the doings of a society founded on rebellion against him, or prevent the inevitable bad consequences of such rebellion from occurring. 

Thus, every assumption skeptics make about God is wrong. No wonder their conclusions are so cock-eyed. Now, to be sure, those cock-eyed conclusions might remain even if they had begun with accurate assumptions—the pull away from God is far more rooted in emotion than in reason. The emotional pull is the urge to kick over the traces—to break free from anyone or anything that would tell you what to do. In their insistence upon pursuing the petty freedoms that this world has to offer, chafing at anyone who would seem to restrict them, they end up overlooking the substantial freedoms that spirituality offers.

What can you do with people like that? In the case of those who once believed in God and abandoned it for atheism, you could liken them to the fellow who loses millions in the stock market. Undeterred, he celebrates the $10K that he still has left, reasoning about the rest: “They were just paper gains, anyway.”

M. D. Craven—‘Master Driver’ Craven, he used to tell his employer, Greyhound Bus, for the had the Banger to Boston run for many years, and they would say, “Who gave you that title?” to which he would respond with, “Nobody did—I self-assumed it” (his real first name was Merrill, not Master), whose driving skills fell off precipitously in his older years, and who used to say when his car was on the fritz, “Tom, can I borrow your car?” and whom I just KNEW was going to wrap it around a tree, yet he had been so good to me that had he said: “Tom, can I borrow your car? I want to wrap it around a tree,” I would have felt obliged to hand him the keys—used to love the verse:

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool,” for the appeal from God to reconcile, with the benefit of relieving some heavy matters that might weigh upon one’s conscience. “Come now, and let us reason together,” I can still hear him say, quoting the words from the King James Version of the Bible.

But it is not actually a good rendering of the verse. If you ‘reason’ with God, it will mean that you will take notes. You will not be telling him how to run heaven. It will sort of be like reasoning with Ford about your new Mustang. You will take notes at their owner’s manual that you should run it ‘shiny side up and greasy side down.’ You won’t expect them to be enthralled at how you intend to do it just the reverse.

The New World Translation, which didn’t come upon the scene until the 1960’s, well after M. D. Craven’s hay day, and so he still spoke from the KJV, corrects this faux pas, as do most modern translations. It renders Isaiah 1:18 as: “Let us set matters straight between us.” That’s better. It is the same warm appeal, the same alleviating benefits, but absent any sense that we will be instructing God. He will hear us out, to be sure, but it is not as though he will be benefiting from the pointers we may offer him.

It is like the Zoom prayer the other day to close out a small group meeting, and the one saying it was just a little too obvious in disguising his own narrative to the group and prayer to God. He wove in, as evidence of the stressful times we live in as we try to adapt to Covid, his comment about the lines that stretched from (he named the far-apart streets) as people lined up for free masks. I said to my wife:  “It’s as though he imagines Jehovah saying, “Oh, I didn’t know that.  Backed up that far? Wow. Things are really getting tight down there.”

And the only reason I shoot down ‘omnipotent’ (all-powerful) is because if I don’t, some idiot will be sure to come along, patting himself on the back, with the question, “Can God make a mountain he can’t move?” Sigh...I suppose that he can’t do that.

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Joseph Putting Down His Brothers—Tactfully

I read of how Joseph related his dream to his brothers that they would all bow down to him one day, and that they took offense to it. “It’s too bad that he didn’t say it more tactfully,” I thought.

Then I read the Research Guide. (From WT 8/1/2014): “Joseph tactfully said to his brothers: ‘Please listen to this dream that I had.’”

Oh. He did say it tactfully. I stand corrected—I guess.

Says Genesis 37:5-8: “Later Joseph had a dream and told it to his brothers, and they found further reason to hate him. He said to them: ‘Please listen to this dream that I had. There we were binding sheaves in the middle of the field when my sheaf got up and stood erect and your sheaves encircled and bowed down to my sheaf.’ His brothers said to him: ‘Are you really going to make yourself king over us and dominate us?’ So they found another reason to hate him, because of his dreams and what he said.”

Hmm. They sure got their backs up. Did Joseph really relate his dream tactfully?

I raise the question on account of a dream I had myself the other day. I related it to my wife:

I had a dream in which I woke up a hungry man, and so I said to you, ‘Get out in that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans.’ You cooked all day and served me continually. In every case, I left the dirty dishes wherever I happened to be for you to collect, which you neglected to do because you were too preoccupied hand-scrubbing my laundry in the creek—hand-scrubbing because I had not yet repaired the washing machine that broke down last year. Afterwards I told you to go outside and mow the lawn while I watched golf on TV. After a little while, I became upset that you were making so much noise with that power machine and so I told you to switch to the push mower so I could better hear the game and the commentators.“

I related this dream to my wife, and I did it tactfully. Really, really tactfully—tactfully like no one ever saw. Even so, she dumped my breakfast over my head and poured the hot coffee down my pajama bottoms.

Okay, it is not a big deal, their throwing in the word ‘tactfully’—they’re trying to flesh out the account. I understand that. It doesn’t mean that I do not appreciate spiritual food. I do. I wolf it down by the basketful. After all, there are scribes who have tried to flesh out the Bible itself—adding a nifty new ending to Mark, for example, because the original seemed too abrupt. That’s where the cute little phrase came from to the effect that Christians will carry poisonous snakes in their book bags which will not kill them when they bite. It is also how a verse specifically stating the Trinity was inserted in scripture by a scribe perusing verses and getting madder and madder that his favorite doctrine is nowhere explicitly stated. So for the Watchtower to state—without evidence—that Joseph was tactful is not a big deal in the overall scheme of things. Their evidence is probably that he was a nice guy, so of course he would be tactful—even as a precocious child. Still, I wish they wouldn’t do it.

More likely, it seems to me, is that he stated it in sort of a tone-deaf way that a typical youngster might—oblivious to how it sounds. Maybe not—I mean, if he had the dream, he had the dream—but I think I would be a little more circumspect in telling my brothers about it who already hated my guts. Look, I wasn’t there, so I don’t really know, but our people probably have him obsessing over his dress and grooming all the time, too, whereas his Neanderthal brothers did well to remember to put their pants on.

They didn’t like the little twerp. I can readily picture this because I didn’t like my brother as a child—he was always tormenting me, which he says now was irresistible because I took everything so seriously. Look at the little snot taunting me from atop the slide.

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I never sold him into slavery like Joseph’s brothers did him, but I was tempted. And do you think he gave a hoot about my precious records?

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Even now he harasses me by continually cheating at Scrabble.

So I know how it is with Joseph and his brothers. The verses say it all:

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his other sons because he was the son of his old age, and he had a special robe made for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they began to hate him, and they could not speak peaceably to him.” (Genesis 37:4-5)

So Pop doted on the young kid and the brothers got jealous. Young Joe would get away with some prank and the older brothers would say, “Wow! If we had pulled such a stunt, Pop would have wailed our rear ends!” Got it. I know how that works. But when we are determined to sanitize verse, we don’t go remotely near such speculation, eschewing it for the speculation that Joseph told them “tactfully” how he was better than they, by means of a dream.

It is not at all just us—it is any Bible-believer who tries to bring to life the old characters. I wish they wouldn’t put in things that aren’t there. It is like when someone complained to me about Genesis 34, the chapter in which Dinah is raped. On and on our people go about it, as they should, because she was hanging out with the wrong crowd. But in retribution, her brothers slaughtered a whole tribe of people, after first conning them to get circumcised, then striking when they were yet hurting. “What with that?” the grumbler said—“Isn’t that what occupies almost the whole of Genesis 34? Isn’t that the 800 pound gorilla in the room?” But I set him straight by pointing out that while those men indeed were killed, it was done ‘tactfully’ and so he should quit his bellyaching.

.....

There are a lot of not very nice things in the Bible. I like how one Watchtower publication put it (I wish I could put my finger on it again), that the Bible contains a record of human history—of times when humans followed God’s ways, of times when they didn’t, and of times when they were oblivious to them. It is the record of peoples who strove to serve God, of others who rebelled against Him, and of others still who never knew anything of him.

It is not at all like when the Meathead told Gloria of some horrific Bible account—maybe it was this one with Shechem—and Gloria said, “That’s terrible!”—whereupon Archie corrected her with, “It’s beautiful—it’s in the Bible.” No. Some things are terrible. Just because something is in the Bible, even as a deed of the ‘good guys,’ doesn’t mean that God is a cheerleader. I always keep these ancients at a certain arm’s length. Invariably they have a few skeletons in their closet.

 

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