We’re going to continue our look here. Unfortunately, it’s late and I do have company coming tomorrow morning. (Mormons are dropping by. Pray for us that we may speak as we ought.) When we last left, we were looking at the accusation that the people in the biblical world were superstitious.
The next issue given is King Saul’s going to see the witch of Endor. This was a tempting practice for the people and for all we know, there could have been something to it. In what sense? In the sense of other supernatural powers at work as I do not believe demons were bound until Christ died on the cross. (I am open to some limited activity of demons today though.)
Either way, the biblical stance is clear. The activity is condemned. This is the kind of thing we see all throughout the Bible. The sins of the people are admitted just as much as the things they did right. (Actually, there’s more things they did wrong than right. A recent speaker at our church spoke of only two things he found that the disciples did right. They were getting the colt for Jesus and the confession of faith. I can think of a few more now, but they’re hardly noted for their ability to quickly do what was right.)
So what are we to make of the next several paragraphs detailing the sins of Judah and Israel and their rulers in chasing after other gods? Let’s see….Maybe we should say that they happened? Yeah. And God condemned them. If Loftus wishes to condemn “superstitious” beliefs, he’s not alone. The Bible wishes to condemn them also.
The source of Robin Lane Fox who wrote “The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible” is given next. Fox says that the realistic response would have been to accept that the God of the Jews was less strong than its neighbors. Instead, the Jews blamed themselves.
Well, not really….
In fact, they took quite a different approach. Jeremiah tells us of how the people in Egypt started offering up sacrifices to the Queen of Heaven again because they obviously hadn’t offered up enough since they were defeated! As for those left behind, nationalistic vigor took over and they did all they could to thwart the Babylonians.
The accounts that give the commentary of what happened are largely found in Kings and Chronicles. Kings is telling why they went into exile. Chronicles is written to give hope for those who are coming out of exile. Both writers do agree though that it is the sins of the people.
Loftus wonders how they could so quickly reject their history. Let’s see. Could it be because contrary to most notions today, miracles weren’t really commonplace and popping up everywhere and maybe some people when told great stories of the past just didn’t believe them? (Ironically, maybe they were skeptics just as much.)
We can see especially today how a culture can forget its history. If you live in America, the older generation can tell of things they see going on today that they never would have dreamed of seeing several years ago. In the past, most would think abortion is wrong, but today, there is a strong debate and that’s just been in one generation.
As for the idea of the progression from polytheism to monotheism, this is a worn out theory from the Welhausen school. The theory though is unsubstantiated. Monotheism has been argued to be the oldest kind of belief that there is. Terms like “God of gods” in Psalms is the Hebrew way of making a superlative.
Loftus also wishes to say the Medieval society remained stagnant if we want to show an example of a society that didn’t change. It would have been nice if we had seen a reference to this, but none is given. A look at a work such as “The Victory of Reason” by Rodney Stark would indicate otherwise.
As for dream readers, the pagan nations did believe God revealed himself in dreams. Thus, if God wishes to speak to king Nebuchadnezzar, why not use a dream? I believe he could use a dream today if he wanted to speak to us, but it is not the norm. Daniel was placed in charge of these people, but Daniel always made it clear the interpretation came from God. It was not by the arts of the others.
Genesis 30 and the goats of Laban are an example. Notice though that Genesis 31 tells how God had intervened. Jacob’s plan did not work because he set up the sticks. It worked because God was intervening. As for the passage in 1 Samuel 7:6, I have no idea how this is seen as “sympathetic magic.”
Well, that’s enough for tonight. More on this chapter tomorrow.