Category Archives: Bible and Theology

#421: Did Moses Write the Torah?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #421, on the subject of Did Moses Write the Torah?.

This is a continuation of a response to the article Ten Reasons Why the Bible’s Story of the Exodus Is Not True, requested by a Facebook contact.

  1. The introductory article was #415:  Can the Exodus Story Be True?
  2. It was followed by an answer to the first objection, #416:  Does Archaeological Silence Disprove the Exodus?
  3. Turning to the second objection about whether such a departure could be organized, we offered #417:  Is the Beginning of the Exodus Account Implausible?
  4. The third objection was that given the number of escaping Israelites the line this would have created would have been too long to outrun Pharaoh’s chariots, to which we offered #418:  Are There Too Many People Escaping in Exodus?
  5. The fourth objection was summarized and answered in #419:  When Escaping in Exodus, Did the Israelites Have Too Much Luggage?
  6. In response to the fifth objection we wrote #420: Were the Hygiene Requirements in Exodus Impossible to Observe?

The article’s sixth objection is “Moses did not write any of the Torah”.

That sounds dramatic, but the questions really are, is that true, and is that relevant?

To approach this statement, one needs to get a bit of a history of theology lesson.  In the nineteenth century a major movement began on the principle (which we have already mentioned) that miracles never happened, and therefore any accounts which report them having happened are false, and have to be explained somehow.  People fumbled around trying to explain how the five books we call the Books of Moses, also the Torah or the Pentateuch, came to be.  Then near the end of that century a couple scholars named Graf and Welhausen proposed what they called the Documentary Hypothesis.  It is rather complicated, but in essence they divided the entire corpus into four documents which they asserted were written at different times by different authors and pieced together to create what we have.  The evidence for this was that there were differences in writing style and content that one could not only identify but also demonstrate were more primitive or more advanced, that is, that one document was clearly the oldest, another clearly the newest, and the remaining two fairly clearly positioned in sequence between them.

They named these the “Jahwist” or “Yahwist”, characterized by the use of the Tetragrammaton, the “Elohist”, using “Elohim” or “Lord” predominantly for the name of God, the “Priestly”, primarily concerned with rules and functions for priests and sacrifices, and the “Deuteronomist”, who invented all the regulations needed for running the society.  The “J” document, they asserted, was the oldest, possibly dating from the time of the judges, possibly from one of the tribes, while the “E” document came later, perhaps when the kings of Israel came to be, in the time of Samuel.  The “P” document was probably connected to Solomon and the building of the temple, and the “D” document was the last, probably the “lost book of the law” discovered according to II Kings 22 during the time of Hilkiah, which some suggest Jeremiah had a hand in composing.  The proof of the theory was supposedly that it was self-evident that these documents created by carefully dividing the text were from different periods of history, in the order JEPD.

This was a complicated process.  There were places in which the duo removed one or two words from what they said was an elohist section of the text which they claimed was an addition from the hand of the deuteronomist, and similar adjustments.  Yet the theory was rapidly embraced, because it provided an explanation for the existence of the Torah that meant none of it was true, none of it was ancient, and none of the miracles ever happened.

Of course, it became the foundation for discussion, as other scholars wanted to participate in understanding this notion.  Some suggested that the elohist was more primitive than the yahwist, others that the deuteronomist predated the priestly, and over the course of time scholars put the four documents in every one of the twenty-four possible sequences chronologically.

In case you missed the problem, though, the proof that these actually were a valid four original documents redacted to create the Torah was that one was quite obviously the oldest and most primitive and the others clearly fell into place as the religion matured.  Yet if scholars can’t agree as to which is the most primitive, the basis for asserting that these documents have any validity at all collapses.

Still, the Graf-Welhausen Documentary Hypothesis in one form or another is the explanation for the books embraced by nearly all liberal scholars, because the alternative is to believe that Moses was responsible for writing them and that they are true, miracles and all.

The article, though, gives several quibbling reasons to support the assertion that Moses didn’t write it–that it sometimes refers to him in the third person, it never claims to be written by him, he could not be humble and write that he was, it reports details of his death, it speaks of a time before there were kings suggesting that it was written after there were kings, some people are identified by different names in different places, and there are geographical anachronisms.  The last of those is the next objection, so we will defer it.

When it is said that Moses wrote the five books attributed to him, it does not mean that he necessarily composed every word of it himself.  For example, the structure of Genesis strongly suggests that records had been kept by the eldest sons descended from Seth through Jacob and stored in the libraries of Egypt–both Joseph and Moses had connections to the royal house of Egypt and so could access those libraries–and thus that Moses primarily redacted those earlier writings, putting them into a format that could be taken with him on their departure.  It is also entirely likely that he dictated portions of the text and similarly directed others concerning what to record–it might reasonably be that the specific design of the tabernacle was described by Moses to those responsible for its construction, and recorded by scribes as it was accomplished.  Those scribes would have recorded some events that Moses performed, and completed the record with his death and burial.

As to the names, it was common for ancient persons to be known by different names, often because of their involvement with different cultures and languages.  Even as late as the New Testament we have several persons who are identified as being known by two or even three different names for various reasons.  Saul of Tarsus was eventually more famously known as Paul.  It is a mistake to think that Jesus changed his name–there is no record of Jesus calling him that in their brief encounter–and it is far more likely that the boy born in a devout Jewish household in a Roman city was given both a good solid Jewish name and a secular name for doing business with the world around them.

The reference to the kings connects closely to the anachronisms, which is the next objection to be addressed.

It might be argued that Moses himself did not actually write a word of the entire Bible.  Yet it is clearly true that Jesus did not actually write a single word of the entire Bible, either.  What matters is that their words were accurately recorded and, in the case of Moses, that he was responsible for the creation of the books later attributed to him.  Thus whether or not he put pen to paper (or stylus to tablet) is irrelevant to the question of whether the events reported about him are true.

#420: Were the Hygiene Requirements in Exodus Impossible to Observe?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #420, on the subject of Were the Hygiene Requirements in Exodus Impossible to Observe?.

This is a continuation of a response to the article Ten Reasons Why the Bible’s Story of the Exodus Is Not True, requested by a Facebook contact.

  1. The introductory article was #415:  Can the Exodus Story Be True?
  2. It was followed by an answer to the first objection, #416:  Does Archaeological Silence Disprove the Exodus?
  3. Turning to the second objection about whether such a departure could be organized, we offered #417:  Is the Beginning of the Exodus Account Implausible?
  4. The third objection was that given the number of escaping Israelites the line this would have created would have been too long to outrun Pharaoh’s chariots, to which we offered #418:  Are There Too Many People Escaping in Exodus?
  5. The fourth objection was summarized and answered in #419:  When Escaping in Exodus, Did the Israelites Have Too Much Luggage?

The fifth objection reads “Unrealistic hygiene requirements,” and after citing the requirement that excrement be buried outside the camp the writer asserts that those in the center of the camp would have to walk miles to get outside the bounds, given the number of persons.

To illustrate the problem, the article provides an image of a modern refugee camp.  It is a plausible image, but not necessarily an accurate one.

We know, up front, that the Israelites were already divided into thirteen separate groups, the twelve tribes plus the Levites.  We are clearly told that when they camped, three tribes camped north of the tabernacle, three to the west, three to the south, and three to the east, with the Levites in the center.  The gut reaction is to envision a square–but that “three on each side with one in the middle” design only allows nine groups.  That means in order to have the design suggested, we have to push outward, which creates space between the camps of the tribes.  Someone who walked to the space between the Levites and, say, the tribe of Reuben, would be “outside the camp” in every meaningful way.

Certainly the tribes at this point are city-sized populations; but again, we know that they are divided into families, and there is no reason to suppose that given the vast area of the wilderness in which they were traveling that they crowded together like a refugee camp.  If there was space between the families within the tribes, there would be room “outside the camps” of the individual families that was within the tribal area.

In my own experience camping in the wilderness, groups of several dozen campers would be clustered together, but there would be space (in my experience usually wooded) between those clusters, and it was typical to walk out of the campground into the space between with a shovel and a roll of paper.  This would be adequate to keep the requirement cited.

So the objection requires specific and unsupported assumptions regarding how the camps were organized and what the command actually requires.  No one would have to walk even the length of a football field to comply.

#419: When Escaping in Exodus, Did the Israelites Have Too Much Luggage?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #419, on the subject of When Escaping in Exodus, Did the Israelites Have Too Much Luggage?.

This is a continuation of a response to the article Ten Reasons Why the Bible’s Story of the Exodus Is Not True, requested by a Facebook contact.

  1. The introductory article was #415:  Can the Exodus Story Be True?
  2. It was followed by an answer to the first objection, #416:  Does Archaeological Silence Disprove the Exodus?
  3. Turning to the second objection about whether such a departure could be organized, we offered #417:  Is the Beginning of the Exodus Account Implausible?
  4. The third objection was that given the number of escaping Israelites the line this would have created would have been too long to outrun Pharaoh’s chariots, to which we offered #418:  Are There Too Many People Escaping in Exodus?

Turning to the fourth objection, we read “A load beyond measure,” followed by an accounting of that which the Israelites were reported to have with them over the months and years which followed.  This, we are told, is more than they could have brought with them.

Certainly this is problematic if we take literally the statement that they only took food wrapped in their shoulder sleeves and some treasure they obtained from the Egyptians, but our article doesn’t cite where we are told these and they probably should be taken as metaphoric indications of how much they left behind.  We also might see it as peculiar that slaves who lived in houses also owned tents, and there are some odd objects which were effectively scrounged by and from among the people in the days ahead.  Yet this objection seems to amount to saying that we don’t know all the circumstances of their departure or how much they actually managed to pack to take with them.  Nor do we know the circumstances of their enslavement–but we do know that it was very different from slavery in recent centuries.

First, the Israelites did not come to Egypt as slaves.  They came as members of the already wealthy family of one of the most powerful lords of the land.  They were given their own territory, and still lived there centuries later.  At some point after they were no longer a significant part of the Egyptian government, they were pressed into servitude–but they already owned homes and land and much more.  They were propertied people, living in their own homes, not housed in slave quarters.

Second, they came to Egypt as shepherds, bringing large flocks, and they left Egypt with many of them still shepherds with their own flocks.  Goshen is a fairly large region, and shepherding is a nomadic trade as sheep are moved from place to place for food and water.  At some times of the year they are kept on the fields at night.  It is not at all unlikely that shepherds who lived in houses would also own comfortable tents for those times when they were spending their days outdoors.

It appears that they had one day to pack, but that’s not entirely accurate.  Moses had been telling them for weeks at least that they would be leaving, and some at least would have begun preparing for the move.

As to the amount of firewood they brought, these people cooked their food and heated their homes with wood.  Bringing as much firewood as you can is a no-brainer.

O.K., some of the objects they had seem improbable.  So, what’s the probability that someone would have brought a large wooden beam?  One in a hundred?  In a thousand?  In a hundred thousand?  What if it’s a tent ridgepole?  And how many people left Egypt in the Exodus?  Improbable objects will have been brought.

As an aside, the article incidentally and unnecessarily takes a swipe at the belief that God’s home was above a solid floor in the sky which held back the rain and snow.&nbsp The Bible doesn’t actually teach this cosmology; it only uses the terminology to express aspects of reality in ways the people of the time would have understood.  Obviously something keeps the rain and snow from falling, and I dare say most people in the modern world don’t fully understand what that is any better than that there’s a firmament of some sort.

Two million people will have brought a lot with them, particularly as they knew they were leaving their homes with no plan to return.

#418: Are There Too Many People Escaping in Exodus?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #418, on the subject of Are There Too Many People Escaping in Exodus?.

This is a continuation of a response to the article Ten Reasons Why the Bible’s Story of the Exodus Is Not True, requested by a Facebook contact.

  1. The introductory article was #415:  Can the Exodus Story Be True?
  2. It was followed by an answer to the first objection, #416:  Does Archaeological Silence Disprove the Exodus?
  3. Turning to the second objection about whether such a departure could be organized, we offered #417:  Is the Beginning of the Exodus Account Implausible?

The third objection in simple form reads “A really long line,” which is expanded, “Two and a half million people would have created a line well over 200 miles long (at eight abreast with only three feet between each row) along with their animals, of which the Bible says they had many.”

I notice that the number of people just increased by twenty-five percent, from an estimated two million to two and a half million; but it’s an estimate, so we’ll let it slide.  The issue seems to be that a column that long could not outrun Pharaoh’s charioteers.

However, we have a couple of assumptions here.

First, there’s no reason to assume that these people are walking in parade formation.  The author gets this outrageous length of the line by making it very narrow.  I think eight abreast would be roughly twenty feet wide, but we’ll call it twenty-five.  Twenty-five feet by two hundred miles creates a total area of less than one square mile–and there’s no reason to think these people were trying to follow a road or stay between the lines.  We have a mob.  If it formed a circle, it would have a diameter of about two thirds of a mile.

Obviously it’s going to cover a lot of area, and obviously it’s not going to do so efficiently, but the two hundred mile line is an artificial construct that is extremely implausible, created to make it seem absurd.

Of course, we are talking about hikers outrunning charioteers, but whether that can happen really depends on their head start.  We are not given that information.  We are told that when the Israelites departed Pharaoh was glad to see the back of them, but before they reached the water he changed his mind and pursued them.  We don’t know how long it took for them to reach the crossing; we are told that they camped along the way, but also that they traveled by day and night, so they were apparently eager to keep moving.  So given the lack of information on those details, it is not at all implausible that Israel could reach the crossing before Pharaoh caught them.

#417: Is the Beginning of the Exodus Account Implausible?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #417, on the subject of Is the Beginning of the Exodus Account Implausible?.

This is a continuation of a response to the article Ten Reasons Why the Bible’s Story of the Exodus Is Not True, requested by a Facebook contact.  The introductory article was #415:  Can the Exodus Story Be True?, and it was followed by an answer to the first objection, #416:  Does Archaeological Silence Disprove the Exodus?

The second objection in simple form reads “An implausible start”.  That is expanded to “In one day, over two million people, in Egypt, a very large country with no telephones or radios, were all contacted and instructed….”  The article considers this implausible.

Vintage engraving of Ancient Egyptians building a Pyramid

First, let’s be clear that the number “two million” is an estimate.  It is not necessarily an inaccurate estimate, but it is based on the statement that there were six hundred thousand men, extrapolating women and children from there.  However, to reach the estimated one-point-four million women and children one need only reach the male heads of their households.

Second, the perceived problem is largely based on our modern lives, overlaying twenty-first century concepts over a very different ancient world.  Were we to be faced with such a communications problem, we would of course solve it through mass media and modern communications.  Without those, we would not know what to do.  However, despite the size of Egypt, the account tells us that all the Israelites, and only the Israelites, lived in a section of Egypt called Goshen.  Town cryers were in use for millennia prior to newspapers.  Beyond that, because we do not have them today we do not understand the kinds of social networks that existed before the modern communications age.  Israel was divided into tribes, and the tribes into families.  The tribes had tribal elders, the families had family heads.

In the mid-twentieth century many local organizations had what were called telephone trees.  In essence, when the organization had to get a message to its members in a hurry, the person at the top called perhaps two to four people, who had lists of two to four people that each had two to four people, in an expanding chain which ultimately reached everyone.  It would have taken a bit longer, but not really that long for a message delivered to the tribal elders to be passed to the family heads and down the line to everyone in the tribe.  Further, as they were apparently employed Egyptian workers (we call them slaves) they undoubtedly had systems in place for delivering such messages so they would know what they had to do.

Certainly getting a message to six hundred thousand men within a few hours would be challenging, but they knew how to do it, because it was the way their society operated.

#416: Does Archaeological Silence Disprove the Exodus?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #416, on the subject of Does Archaeological Silence Disprove the Exodus?.

This is a continuation of a response to the article Ten Reasons Why the Bible’s Story of the Exodus Is Not True, requested by a Facebook contact.  The introductory article was #415:  Can the Exodus Story Be True?

After stating that no scholars believe the event happened (having conveniently eliminated from consideration any that do), the article offers as its first reason that there is “No evidence in history or in the ground,” that is, neither any historical accounts nor any archaeological evidence supporting the event.

Of course, the statement that there are no historical accounts begins by excluding the Bible itself from consideration.  That’s not entirely unfair.  After all, the question is whether the Biblical account is corroborated elsewhere.  We might, however, wonder where else it might have been corroborated.

We are told that the Egyptians themselves did not record the departure of millions of slaves and the embarrassing destruction of their army and death of their pharaoh in pursuit.  While this may seem a problem, the Exodus account gives us events that were embarrassing on many levels.  According to Exodus, before God delivered Israel from Egypt He made a point of upstaging the entire Egyptian pantheon.  To us those plagues seem like somewhat random disasters, but in that time and place they were demonstrations that God’s power exceeded the power of any of the separate gods of Egypt.  For the simplest example, darkness over the entire land meant that God’s power exceeded the power of Ra, the Sun God.  For this story to be recounted in detail, they would be publishing the fact that the gods they worshipped, and indeed the gods whose recognition gave authority to the priests and to the Pharaoh himself, were inferior to the God of Israel.  There is every reason to believe that Egypt took steps, what we would today call public relations damage control.

Beyond that, as Israel entered the land they claimed as their own, they destroyed the civilizations that existed there.  They didn’t destroy all of them, but then Assyria and Babylon came through and finished the job.  By the time of Nebuchadnezzar, there were no countries in the region with historic records to compare.  Israel was the only “little” nation to survive.

We also do have what can reasonably be thought to be cross confirmation.  Assuming that the Book of Joshua was written independently of Exodus, in Joshua 2:10 Rahab of Jericho states that the people of that city were terrified of the Jews because they had heard about God drying up the Red Sea so they could cross.  That means that whether or not God parted the Red Sea, forty years later the people in the Middle East believed it had happened.  That Israel destroyed those civilizations utterly does not invalidate their own report that that knowledge existed.

As to the lack of archaeological evidence, the argument from silence is always dangerous, and the more so when used in archaeology.  The fact that we have not found evidence of some event or site is not proof of anything.  As one archaeologist put it, the sites that will have survived at all preserve less than 5% of everything that once was; those which we have identified are fewer than 5% of that, those which we have begun to investigate are fewer than 5% of that, and the amount of each of those which we have actually uncovered is less than 5% of the total.  For those not good at math, 5% of 5% of 5% of 5% is roughly six in a million.

Of course, that doesn’t prove that the biblical accounts are true, only that they can’t be falsified by this argument.

The famed pioneering middle eastern archaeologist William F. Albright began his career with the belief that nothing in the historical records of the Bible was true.  Over the course of his career he discovered so many things that confirmed not only that reported sites, such as King Solomon’s stables, existed, but that they were exactly where and when the Bible stated they were.  By the end of his career, the early historical books of the Bible were references he used to help locate dig sites.

Of course, the Exodus account is considerably older than that–which is a factor in why archaeology supporting it is so rare.  So, too, is the fact that our Israelites were reported to be nomads, constantly on the move, living in tents, creating no permanent buildings.  There was very little that would have lasted long enough to become archaeological evidence.  About the only thing that might have survived would be the bones of the dead, by now buried so deeply under so much insignificant coverage that no one would know where to look, or what they found if they did.  Even so, there have been finds that possibly corroborate the events, such as ancient Egyptian chariot wheels in the Gulf of Aqaba, one of the suspected sites for the crossing of the Red Sea.  Liberal scholars will generally say that since the miracles never happened, there is another explanation for those discoveries; but if you argue that there is no evidence and ignore such evidence as might be relevant, that’s a losing argument.

So the argument from silence, it seems to me, is essentially saying that if no one else knows the secret it must not be true.  History is filled with secrets and coverups, many of which are true.

#415: Can the Exodus Story Be True?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #415, on the subject of Can the Exodus Story Be True?.

A Facebook contact sent me a link to an article, Ten Reasons Why the Bible’s Story of the Exodus Is Not True, and asked for my comments on it.  After some consideration, I determined that the only effective way to tackle such a massive undertaking was to create another web log miniseries.  Here it is.

The first point that must be considered is the early statement “…most experts and scholars dismiss the story as mythology.”  Although the article does mention that there are what it calls “literalists” who believe that the events happened, it cites none of them in its presentation, and this reflects a very particular form of bias among liberal scholarship.  We might call it a litmus test.

I heard Reverend David Redding talk about his own journey to faith, in which he ultimately confronted the question of whether the miracles reported in the Gospels actually occurred.  He noted that C. S. Lewis believed in miracles, which was interesting.  Lewis was Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at both Cambridge and Oxford Universities, and a respected writer in the field of myth and legend.  However, liberal Bible scholars insisted that he was no scholar precisely because he believed in miracles.  (He wrote an excellent book on the subject, Miracles:  A Preliminary Study.)  Therein lay the problem:  no credible scholars believed in miracles because a belief in miracles automatically disqualified you from being a credible scholar.

Thus in citing scholars for the article, the author sticks to “credible” liberal scholars and ignores anyone who believes that the miraculous might have happened, dismissing them perfunctorily.  I note, for example, that a professor from Hebrew Union is cited.  Hebrew Union is liberal enough, as Jewish institutions go, that they conferred a degree on Dr. Marvin Wilson, as such authorizing him to teach at any synagogue.  Dr. Wilson is no liberal, but he is an Evangelical Episcopalian who was chairman of the Biblical Studies department at the Evangelical school Gordon College.  Conservative Jews are not comfortable with his rabbinic ordination.  He, incidentally, believes that the Exodus did occur.

Liberal scholars begin with the belief that miracles cannot happen and therefore never did happen, and that because of this any claimed historic accounts which contain them must be false.  It then becomes the task of the “scholar” to explain not how these things happened but how these documents which make impossible claims about supposed historic events came into existence.  You have a problem of presuppositions:  since these books contain records of impossible events requiring divine intervention to have occurred, they must be false, and we have to find another way to explain them.  The article begins from the assumption that the account is false, and looks for ways to demonstrate it, rather than approaching the evidence in an open and fair way.

In fairness, the article raises what must be called “practical” issues, and this series will attempt to address them in the articles ahead.

As a final caveat, I am not an Old Testament scholar.  My studies are very much focused on the New Testament; my Hebrew is limited to a few words which I cannot even spell because I do not know the Hebrew alphabet.  I studied these questions half a century ago, have lost all my books, and am working predominantly from memory.  I will recommend the work of Josh McDowell; his More Evidence That Demands A Verdict provided excellent insights into several of these issues and got Jeff Zurheide and me through a very grueling Old Testament Origins course (OT337) with Dr. G. Lloyd Carr back then.  He has written more since then, but I have not had the privilege of reading it.

#414: The Song “You Should Have Thanked Me”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #414, on the subject of The Song “You Should Have Thanked Me”.

I am not entirely certain when I wrote this.  My inclination is that it was the late 70s or early 80s, largely because I wrote it on a piano and in the key of C with a lot of major seventh chords–but later than a lot of other songs that fit that description.  It was written with three backup vocals, but has never been so performed or recorded.  This recording is of a live performance at the Silverlake Community Church in Upper Deerfield, New Jersey, where I would frequently visit on Sunday mornings and usually be invited to sing something.  It was recorded in June of 2011.  It’s a WMA format, so it might take a moment to download.

I like a lot about the song, the concept, the message, the way it’s constructed musically and lyrically, and I ranked it number 21.  The performance held it back–partly because it’s a solo performance so it doesn’t have the backup vocals.  I ranked that 30th.  But it’s a solid performance with only a couple of minor mistakes.  I’m also quite pleased with the improvised introduction (although the volume difference between my talking and my singing is rather large).  On the downside, that sound throughout that resembles spilled groceries tumbling down a staircase is the contribution of a dear brother named Rich who apparently decided that the song he had never heard would be enhanced if he used the opportunity to teach himself to play drums on the trap set on the other side of the sanctuary.  I think that I was unaware of this at the time.  Tristan did not list the song, which put it at number 29.

You Should Have Thanked Me.

So here are the lyrics.

You should have thanked me (For loving you}.
You should have praised me (For all I do).
I came through for you
In ev’rything I put you through.
You should have thanked me (For loving you}.
You should have praised me (For all I do).
You should have thanked me.

When skies are overcast
You think that you can’t last.
Oh, don’t you know I’ll bring you through?
When things are lookin’ bad
Why do you look so sad?
Oh, don’t you know what I can do?

Consider it all joy, each trial has been given in love.
I’m making you ready for your place in heaven above.

I’m your Father.
You know I’ll take care of you.
‘Though it looks bad you know that I’m perfecting you.

You should have thanked me (For loving you}.
You should have praised me (For all I do).
You should have thanked me (For loving you}.
You should have praised me (For all I do).
You should have thanked me.

I can only hope you benefit from the song in some way.  I will continue with additional songs in the future.

*****

Previous web log song posts:

#301:  The Song “Holocaust” | #307:  The Song “Time Bomb” | #311:  The Song “Passing Through the Portal” | #314:  The Song “Walkin’ In the Woods” | #317:  The Song “That’s When I’ll Believe” | #320:  The Song “Free” | #322:  The Song “Voices” | #326:  The Song “Mountain, Mountain” | #328:  The Song “Still Small Voice” | #334:  The Song “Convinced” | #337:  The Song “Selfish Love” | #340:  The Song “A Man Like Paul” | #341:  The Song “Joined Together” | #346:  The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them” | #349: The Song “I Can’t Resist You’re Love” | #353:  The Song “I Use to Think” | #356:  The Song “God Said It Is Good” | #362:  My Life to You | #366:  The Song “Sometimes” | #372:  The Song “Heavenly Kingdom” | #378:  The Song “A Song of Joy” | #382:  The Song “Not Going to Notice” | #387:  The Song “Our God Is Good” | #393:  The Song “Why” | #399:  The Song “Look Around You” | #404:  The Song “Love’s the Only Command” | #408:  The Song “Given You My Name” | #412:  The Song “When I Think”

#413: The Abomination of Desolation

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #413, on the subject of The Abomination of Desolation.

I received a question by private message.  I prefer to answer questions publicly, partly so that more can benefit and partly so I don’t have to answer them again, so I am copying it here:

Have another biblical question for you.  What is the desolating sacrilege?  I have always been puzzled by this verse in Mark.  Is it in fact referring to the destruction of the Temple and the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans?

It should be said that there are interpreters who believe that it in fact refers to events still in the future, and that is not impossible.  However, there are at least three reasons to believe that it is about the destruction of the city in the first century.

The reference appears in Mark 13:14, and is paralleled rather closely in Matthew 24:15, and particularly the words my questioner cites as “desolating sacrilege” which is usually referenced as “the abomination of desolation”.  Looking at the context, in Mark 13:1 the disciples comment on the grandeur of the temple, and in the next verse Jesus declares that the entire structure is going to be totally demolished.  Two verses later the disciples ask when that is going to happen, and Jesus launches into a teaching which we think is about the end of the world but which if it is answering the question that was asked and not the question that the disciples thought they were asking is actually about the destruction of the temple.  The same sequence happens in Matthew 24:1ff.  Thus when we get to the abomination of desolation, it logically is still about that destruction.  Titus and the Roman Legions wrought that kind of devastation in 70 A.D., and so the prediction is consistent with that event.

We have the same circumstance launching the same question and the same teaching in Luke 21:5ff, and that gives us our second reason.  Following all three accounts, they go through the same pattern up to the statement that the one who endures will be saved, in Mark 13:13, Matthew 24:13, and Luke 21:19, and in Matthew and Mark the next verse is the one in question here.  However, in Luke 21:20 the following text translates (my translation) to “Yet when you see encircling Jerusalem by armies, then know that her devastation is impending”, and the next verses in all three accounts tell us to flee to the mountains.  It thus seems that Luke has replaced “abomination of desolation” with “Jerusalem besieged”–but Luke fairly commonly replaces phrases that would have particular meaning to a Jewish audience with words expressing the same concept to those in the greater Greco-Roman world.  Thus if we honor Luke’s understanding, what Mark and Matthew called “the abomination of desolation” was understood to refer to the siege of Jerusalem, which again fits the events of A.D. 70.  Some will say no, Luke is talking about something else, but since in the next verse he is back on track with the others either we have to say that Luke’s Gospel is in error here, or Luke has provided us with the correct meaning of that phrase.

What might be most telling, though, is that next part, where all three Gospels tell us to flee from Jerusalem.  The problem is that once the city is surrounded, it’s too late to escape.  However, history tells us that Titus brought his legions to Jerusalem and surrounded it, but then was called to withdraw due to a different problem, leaving the city for a brief period, then returning and finishing the job.  It was probably the case that devout but unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem believed that the withdrawal of Titus was the hand of God saving them, but Christians had this prophecy and so would have known to leave.

It might be suggested that a similar siege will occur in the future, but warfare has changed since then and such a siege is unlikely as a military strategy in the modern world.  The circumstances seem to be very particular to that event, and thus we should probably understand Jesus as predicting the first century destruction of Jerusalem.

As a footnote, we don’t have much in the way of historic confirmation of the fact that the Christians did leave Jerusalem at that time, and the suggestion has been made from that that Luke interpreted the statement after the fact to make it fit the events.  However, C. S. Lewis has somewhere noted that this is irrelevant.  By the end of the century the book was certainly in circulation, so either Christians did exit the city or they had to explain why having been warned in advance they had failed to do so, and on a naturalist viewpoint Luke would have been very foolish to include a prophetic command that had not been followed.  Therefore Luke is either providing the warning in advance or explaining after the fact why it was that Christians knew to flee the city at that time.  Either way, the pre-existence of the prediction (before the event) is confirmed.

I hope that helps.

#412: The Song “When I Think”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #412, on the subject of The Song “When I Think”.

I have long had a sort of love/hate relationship with this song.

It started when I was writing it.  I fought with the second and third verses for quite a while, and when I was finished fighting I was still quite unhappy about it.  I thought that the the second verse should be about Him always being there, and the third about being brought back, but from the first notes I knew this was a deathbed song, and it seemed obvious that the third verse had to establish that to lead into the fourth, and I could not get the words to work that way with the verses in that order.  Meanwhile, the second half of the second verse just always struck me as trite, and the third as a touch awkward, and I couldn’t make them better than that.

Plus, it was a deathbed song, and I was a bit uncomfortable as someone who struggled with suicidal tendencies related to clinical depression singing about dying.

Still, I included it on the program for the last concert of The Last Psalm.  We had the vocalists for it, and I did not know whether I would ever have the right combination for it again.  It was probably the only time the song was ever sung for an audience the way I envisioned it.

Not long after The Last Psalm dissolved, Jeff Zurheide asked me to play in Jacob’s Well.  In the interim I had written a song that I thought was perfect for that band–three vocals, guitar, bass, drums, and a solid upbeat feel with a good message.  (That song comes later on the list.)  He said no.  He wanted to do this song–a song I had not yet decided that I liked, and completely wrong for the band.  Jacob’s Well had no female vocals, no piano.  I didn’t see it–but it wasn’t my choice, so Jacob’s Well did an arrangement that was not at all what I envisioned for the song.  It did not endear the song to me.

I might have sung the song for myself sometimes; I might have done it solo somewhere.  No other band ever did it.  In fact, it could have slipped into oblivion itself had it not been for that request from Jess Oldham that I produce a disk of Last Psalm songs and I was scratching around trying to find songs I could record that had at some point been part of that band’s repertoire.

Even then, it gave me more unhappiness.  It was obvious that the soprano, which soared to an F on the fourth verse, was entirely out of my range, so I had to rearrange vocals so that that became the tenor and the top part was what had been the alto.  Even then, though, it was trouble.  I had written it in the key of F, and as I tried to record what was now the soprano there were so many Cs my voice gave out.  I had to go away and come back, pitch the whole song down to the key of D, and record the vocals with A as the highest note.  So it didn’t sound as bright as the original, and frankly it would be more difficult for any of the instruments to play it in this key.

All that said, there is something about the song that touches something, and ultimately I would pick this song to be played at my funeral.  It says something worth saying.

This recording is four vocals over midi instruments.  I ranked the song twenty-eighth for the music and lyrics, twentieth for the performance and recording quality; it did not make Tristan’s list, putting it twenty-eighth overall.

When I Think.

So here are the lyrics.

When I think of what You’ve given me
I just want to praise Your name.
When I think of what You’ve been for me,
I’m so glad You’ve stayed the same.
All my trials are over now.

When I think of how You’ve brought me back
Ev’ry time I’ve gone astray–
When I thought I’d really blown it bad,
You had something nice to say.
All my trials are over now.

When I think of how You’d be right there
Ev’ry time I’d need a friend.
And You’ve shown me that You always care
Right up to this very end.
All my trials are over now.

Now I know You’re gonna take me home
Now to live with You above,
Holy Father and Your Holy Son,
Holy Spirit, live in love.
All my trials are over now.

In my last words I would like to say
You should do as I have done:
Always follow, trust, love, and obey
Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.
All my trials are over now.
All my trials are over now.

I can only hope you benefit from the song in some way.  I will continue with additional songs in the future.

*****

Previous web log song posts:

#301:  The Song “Holocaust” | #307:  The Song “Time Bomb” | #311:  The Song “Passing Through the Portal” | #314:  The Song “Walkin’ In the Woods” | #317:  The Song “That’s When I’ll Believe” | #320:  The Song “Free” | #322:  The Song “Voices” | #326:  The Song “Mountain, Mountain” | #328:  The Song “Still Small Voice” | #334:  The Song “Convinced” | #337:  The Song “Selfish Love” | #340:  The Song “A Man Like Paul” | #341:  The Song “Joined Together” | #346:  The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them” | #349: The Song “I Can’t Resist You’re Love” | #353:  The Song “I Use to Think” | #356:  The Song “God Said It Is Good” | #362:  My Life to You | #366:  The Song “Sometimes” | #372:  The Song “Heavenly Kingdom” | #378:  The Song “A Song of Joy” | #382:  The Song “Not Going to Notice” | #387:  The Song “Our God Is Good” | #393:  The Song “Why” | #399:  The Song “Look Around You” | #404:  The Song “Love’s the Only Command” | #408:  The Song “Given You My Name”

Next song:  You Should Have Thanked Me