Book Plunge: Pulling Back The Green Curtain Part 5

What else can we find in Jim Hall’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We return again to Hall’s treasury of comedy, for lack of a better word, to see what arguments he has. Getting back into the matters, one of the first is the problem of evil. This is about how 25,000 children are dying everyday in fear, pain, and hunger. We are to remember this when we win some money in a scratch-off lottery ticket and give thanks or on Thanksgiving dinner.

We could just as easily ask Hall what great atheist organizations are doing to help combat the evil. Christians are normally right there on the front lines whenever disaster strikes and we are the ones that run the organizations helping children in need. Not all of it is Christian, but a large portion of it is.

Hall has nothing here on interacting with any scholarship on the problem of evil. Nothing about Clay Jones or Peter Kreeft or Alvin Plantinga or anyone like that. It’s simply the emotional appeal. While one would hope there is genuine concern for children, it looks more often like these children are trotted out to score personal points against theism.

He also says God violently drowned the world because they were too violent. This is supposed to be irony. What’s ironic is I went to Biblehub to do a search of the main passage, Genesis 6:5, and not one of them mentioned violence. Instead, it referred to man having a continual inclination towards evil. That could include violence, but it would not be limited to it.

Furthermore, God is the judge and ower of life and has the right to end the life He created. We do not have such a right. Hall just has a bad case of theistic personalism going on here. He views God as a big man just like the rest of us and under the same moral rules. God is good, but He is not a moral agent since there is nothing that He ought to do.

While I’m not Catholic, I find it amazing to hear him say Catholics practice cannibalism with transubstantiation. Hall is going back to older claims about eating the body and blood of Christ that Christianity’s first opponents used. Some arguments just never die.

He asks about how many pairs of animals Noah brought onto the ark. Was it two or seven? It’s amazing such a weak challenge is taken seriously. The clean animals would be extra for sacrifice and the number refers to how they were to enter the ark.

He quotes Matthew 6 to say Jesus was against public prayer. No. Jesus was against prayer to be seen. Pharisees would let it be known to everyone that they were praying so they could get the honor for it. Jesus Himself prayed in public, such as at the tomb of Lazarus.

He has that a 90 year-old woman gave birth. News flash to Hall, but everyone at the time also knew that this was generally impossible even without knowing why. That’s why it was called a miracle. I still do not understand how it is supposed to disprove a claim to someone that believes miracles are possible to show that a miracle occurred.

He also says one man circumcised 300 of his slaves in a day. As if to say that because the text says Abraham did this, he had to do it all directly. You might as well say that when John 19:1 says Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged, that Pilate did it directly. What is it with fundamentalist atheists and literalism?

He tells us the oldest bit of text we have from the New Testament is P52 and it is about the size of a credit card and dated to about 225 CE. Not sure where he’s getting the date at. Most sources I read say mid-second century. Furthermore, there is really no reason to call the text of the NT into question. We don’t have any original manuscripts of any ancient work and the NT is far and above better with dating and manuscript number than any other ancient work. Hall cites no scholars for his claim. For my position on the NT text, I will.

If the primary purpose of this discipline is to get back to the original text, we may as well admit either defeat or victory, depending on how one chooses to look at it, because we’re not going to get much closer to the original text than we already are.… At this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is. Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: An Evaluation: TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1998, a revision of a paper presented at the Textual Criticism section of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco. http://rosetta.reltech.org/TC/vol03/Ehrman1998.html

In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy. Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481.

“The manuscripts of the New Testament do indeed have large numbers of variations in them: alternative ways of reading a verse in a passage; omissions of words or sentences; additional insertions of words and sentences here and there. But the problem is not of such a scope as to make it impossible to have any idea what these ancient Christian authors wrote. If we had no clue what was originally in the writings of Paul or in the Gospels, this objection might carry more weight. But there is not a textual critic on the planet who thinks this, since not a shred of evidence leads in this direction. And I don’t know even of any mythicist who is willing to make this claim. As a result, in the vast majority of cases, the wording of these authors is not in dispute. And where it is, it rarely has anything at all to do with the question of whether Jesus existed.” -Did Jesus Exist, p. 181

He also says that insects have four legs according to Leviticus. Keep in mind these were people who regularly hate these insects and knew how to count. What’s going on? Simple. The back legs are not counted as regular legs like the others.

He says that God cursed humanity with multiple languages for trying to build a tower to Heaven. Why isn’t NASA judged yet? Because the tower was built after the flood when mankind was supposed to disperse throughout the Earth and instead they were acting in pride to build a tower to keep themselves safe in defiance of the flood in their recent history.

“The gospels were not written by simple, illiterate, Aramaic-speaking fishermen and peasants who knew Jesus, but were written decades later by literate, educated writers who wrote in Greek and were, incidentally, rather hazy about the Jewish landscape” – Kenneth Humphreys

Yep. Ken Humphreys, owner of Jesus Never Existed. We are getting into some first-rate scholarship here, folks. First off, in the ancient world, most works of history were written decades later. Actually, that’s not really accurate. Many times it was at least a century later. Hall and Humphreys obviously hope their audience is as ignorant as they are.

Second, most everyone who could write back then even used a secretary when writing. That the apostles might have still been illiterate is irrelevant. Literate people used secretaries.

As for errors in the Jewish landscape, none are given. I guess Hall just wants us to take it on faith.

Hall lists a variety of seafood that you are forbidden to eat citing Leviticus 11. Well, maybe if you’re observant of Jewish law and kosher practice, but not necessarily if you’re a New Testament Christian who is not under the Law. Again, Hall takes a simplistic approach to a complex topic. It’s alright. We wouldn’t want him to actually work and study a topic.

He shares the story of Jacob working seven years to get Rachel and not noticing that he got Leah instead and how he worked another seven years. What’s the problem here? For one thing, how could he not notice? A number of reasons. One is he could have been likely drunk which would happen at weddings. Another is the woman wore a veil often and he might not have even seen her face until the next day and keep in mind, no lighting really at night unless you used a candle or something of that sort.

There are some accounts in the New Testament that Hall questions how the writer could have known about them. The first is the voice of Heaven at Jesus’s baptism. Yes. It’s a wonder how the author could have access to a public declaration done at the baptism of Jesus. Some such events are conversations with the priests and what they were thinking. Considering Acts 6 says some priests became followers of Jesus, it’s not too hard to figure out how that could have come about. What about Jesus praying alone? The word indicates that Jesus was a short distance away. This could have been easily heard. Pilate and Jesus’s private conversation. Doubtful that when it says they talked together, they were alone. A governor would not be without his aides especially when interviewing someone thought to be a criminal. Another humorous one is Joseph of Arimathea asking for Jesus’s corpse. Well, since Joseph was a follower of Jesus, maybe, and I realize this is stretching, but maybe he told other followers of Jesus what happened.

Could be.

He says that denying a gay customer a wedding cake because of your religious beliefs is the same as a Catholic refusing to sell condoms, a Muslim refusing to sell bacon, someone refusing to sell you cookies because you’re on a diet, someone refusing you a fishing license because they became vegan, and a Jew refusing to sell Christmas cookies.

Again, a simplistic approach to matters. To begin with, I think anyone who has a good or service has a right to refuse that since you do not have a right to anyone else’s goods or services. Second, to supply actual artwork for an event as is often asked is to be forcing someone to endorse that event since their artistic labors are part of their free speech. Would Hall be fine with forcing Jewish bakers to paint a pro-Nazi cake?

He says bats are birds and not mammals. This is going by modern taxonomy. In the Biblical case, the word for bird referred not to a taxonomy class, but a winged creature. Last I checked, bats have wings.

He says Judas refers to a Jew and thus the betrayal of Jesus is obvious fiction since Judah in the Old Testament sold his brother for 20 pieces of silver and Judas in the New Testament sells Jesus for 30. Never mind that Richard Bauckham points out that Judas was the fourth most popular name for Jewish boys in Palestine. Could it be that maybe Judas was the name because that was a common name and not because of some conspiracy theory? We’ll wait to see if Hall takes off his tin foil hat for this one.

We’ll continue another time. Only so much nonsense in a day after all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters