Tag Archives: Apologetics

#445: The Song “How Many Times”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #445, on the subject of The Song “How Many Times”.

I can explain why this song was not on the original “short list” for the Extreme Tour demo:  I wrote it in high school, and I feel like it shows the marks of an immature believer.  Yet I might judge it too harshly for that.

After all, my youngest son Adam (who co-wrote Even You, featured a few months back) likes it a lot, was learning to play the piano part for it.  I could discount that, because I think he likes angsty songs–but he says that “people” like it.  It also has a long history that commends it.

It is probably the song that put my music on the map.  The Last Psalm had been playing very small venues when we were invited to perform at the Luther College Coffeehouse Night, an invitational gathering of the heads of coffeehouses throughout the northeastern New Jersey area early in 1974.  I had Peggy (Lisbona, also contralto vocals) sit at the piano, while I joined Ruthann (Mekita, soprano), Ann (Hughs, alto), and Jeff (Zurheide, baritone, also lead guitar) in a stairwell adjacent to the dais.  The four of us sang the first verse and chorus of the hymn Softly and Tenderly in four parts a capella, and as we finished Peggy started playing the introduction to this song on the piano.  I scampered up the stairs, picked up my guitar, stepped up to the mic, and on the downbeat of the first verse I hit the CM7 chord and began singing.

At that moment, several people who thought all my talk about how to run a musical ensemble was hot air suddenly updated their thinking.  Andy (Andrew Hagan Nilssen) followed me and began playing bass mid-verse, followed by John (Mastick) on the drums, and Jeff came to the stage to play lead frills behind the vocals as the second verse began.  Ruthann and Ann joined us in time to sing the four part vocal ending, and the audience welcomed us to the stage.

We played a carefully-planned twenty-minute slot, and yielded the stage to others, but were invited back on stage at the end of the program to play another maybe half hour.  After that, several local coffeehouses invited us to play their venues.  This song had a lot to do with that, I think.

After The Last Psalm dissolved, I made a monophonic multi-track recording in which I improvised lead guitar frills; I liked them enough that I expanded them to two parts, and recorded that on a regretably lost tape I made in a studio at Gordon College.  I preserved the parts, though, for this vocals-over-midi-instruments recording, made as part of the nostalgic collection of recordings of Last Psalm songs for Jes Oldham entitled When I Was Young.  There is a midi “hiccough” in the second line, but it’s barely noticeable.  Although the lyrics don’t really strike me as great, I do like the inside rhymes.

I don’t perform it because I always feel like it needs the four-part ending vocals; I have a live recording I did at the Silver Lake Community Church one week which to my mind underscores that.  Yet it was an important song in my history, and worth preserving in its own right.

How Many Times.

So here are the lyrics.

How many times can I look down,
Only to find I’m still on the ground?
How many days?  I can’t even count.
How many ways have I tried to get out?

How much more is all I can take?
Before I know I will break?
And if I break, what else will there be?
Is it too late to care about me?

Is there someone, somebody, somewhere,
Or someone’s son who really cares?
Is there a man–there has to be–who would lay down his life,
Do what he can for you and me to save us from strife?

Yes, there is someone:  Jesus loves you.
Yes, there is someone:  Jesus loves you.
Yes, there is someone:  Jesus loves you,
Jesus loves you, Jesus loves you.

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:  The Song “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” | #414:  The Song “You Should Have Thanked Me” | #428:  The Song “To the Victor” | #433:  The Song “From Job” | #436:  The Song “Trust Him Again” | #438:  The Song “Even You” | #441:  The Song “Fork in the Road” | #442:  The Song “Call to Worship” |

#441: The Song “Fork in the Road”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #441, on the subject of The Song “Fork in the Road”.

John David Mastick, drummer from long ago in The Last Psalm (and, incidentally, Jacob’s Well), has been nagging me for this song since he first became aware that I was posting songs.  I hope he’s not too disappointed in this version of it.

The song goes back to my high school days, and is rather blatantly inspired by the Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken; I occasionally recited the poem in introducing the song, but honestly even I can see that the words to the poem are better.  It was an effort to create a Christian rock song in a time when these were few and far between.  It always had vocals except on those rare occasions when I sang it solo, in which case the bottom voice part is the melody.

It was first performed by The Last Psalm, probably as early as early 1973.  The first four verses, presented below as one block, were sung, followed by a lead guitar solo, and then the vocals returned with the second half.  It’s difficult to recall the details of back then, but I think after the last line we shifted into a simple riff with an E9 sliding in from a half step below a half beat before the downbeat and another guitar solo, very much a fast jazz sound.  We would eventually do a live fade, and come back with the original progression into a thrasher ending.  Then that fall John joined the band, and we expanded the arrangement by inserting a drum solo after the first guitar solo.  It was very much the typical late 60s-early 70s drum solo, in which the band moved to the wings and the drummer played as long as he wished; I don’t recall exactly how I would know it was coming to the end, but my return to the stage signaled the others to do the same, and John would give us a pickup back into the second half.

This song landed last on the list of thirty-four songs I put forward for consideration, and I ranked it thirty-fourth for the quality of the song; I had come to think the words very derivative and the music very simple.  I ranked the midi and vocals recording found here thirty-third, and with Tristan not listing it that put it at the bottom.  Yet for some reason in 1975 when The Last Psalm broke up, I felt like this was a song I had to keep for my anticipated looming solo career, and I needed some way to fill that instrumental space.  It had, after all, been the band’s real crowd-pleaser.  I got together with Dave Oldham, who had been the band’s sound engineer that last year (and would later play bass guitar in TerraNova), and wrote an accoustic guitar instrumental section.  It was at the time one of the trickiest and most impressive bits of acoustic guitar work I had done, and I very much liked it.  Thus I included it as the instrumental break here.  We also wrote a shorter multi-chord ending, also used here.

When I put it on the repertoire for Collision, I wanted to restore the extended rock-style instrumental work, but not lose the well-constructed guitar instrumental, so I reconfigured the latter to be played by the band (much as in this recording, but with bass and keyboards playing some of the riffs), then went into a more structured improvisational solo section:  the drums played eight measures of solo, maintaining beat and tempo, then the band returned with an eight-measure lead guitar solo, a keyboard solo of the same length, and then a bass solo of the same length, and then returning to repeat with another drum solo, guitar, keys, bass, and do it again, and finish with another drum solo, playing the harmonics bit again twice, and going back to the second half of the song.  We kept the multi-chord ending.  We had only two vocals, so omitted the top voice.

So it has been through a lot of versions, and this recording is neither the first nor the last, nor the best nor the worst, but gives the sense of the song and most of what I perceived as the good parts other than that I would not presume to create a drum solo given the excellent drummers who have done so before me.

Fork in the Road.

So here are the lyrics.

I came to a fork in the road of life,
And I wondered which road to take.
I knew what one way would try to build,
The other one would try to break.
The one on the left ran fifty feet,
And disappeared around a bend,
While the right one seemed to go quite straight,
But was too long to see the end.
Looking down the left hand road
I wondered what’s around the turn.
It’s true that I might be set free,
But it’s also true that I might burn.
Then I saw the right road was one
Anyone could take in stride.
‘Though it didn’t look like much fun,
Others would walk by my side.

I stood there for a longer time
Than I’ve ever stood anywhere before.
Add all the choices I had made,
And this one meant a thousand times more.
I walked to the turn in the left-hand road,
Knowing I could turn around.
You ought to know another bend
Was all that I had found.
Went back to the fork, and I started out
Along the other road.
In no time I could see the end,
And all it’s glory showed.
I stand at the fork in the road of life,
And I tell people ev’ry day:
Ask Lord Jesus in your life–
The right road is the better way.

I can only hope you benefit from the song in some way.  I will continue with additional songs in the future.  From this point forward, songs posted will be those that did not, for various reasons, make the original shortlist, in no meaningful sequence.

*****

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:  The Song “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” | #414:  The Song “You Should Have Thanked Me” | #428:  The Song “To the Victor” | #433:  The Song “From Job” | #436:  The Song “Trust Him Again” | #438:  The Song “Even You”

Next song:  Call to Worship

#438: The Song “Even You”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #438, on the subject of The Song “Even You”.

It is difficult to know what to write about this song, because I wrote about it before.  Back when it was written, I posted web log post #181:  Anatomy of a Songwriting Collaboration, in which I described how beginning with the memory of something Jack Haberer posted in our high school yearbook I engaged my youngest son Adam in constructing this song.  Here I offer this recording, done in my living room with an acoustic guitar in competition with an air cleaner, not long after a hospitalization so I would have a recorded copy.  There is an earlier recording on another web site somewhere, linked from the previous article, in which Adam is playing the piano.

Tristan did not mention the song on his list; I suspect he had never heard it, as it was fairly new and he was not at our house much.  I placed the song itself at twenty-ninth, and the recording, flawed as it is, at thirty-second, which tied it with the previous song, Trust Him Again, at thirty-second overall.  The progressions were mostly somewhat common, and although I liked the lyrics I admit that there are spots where I’m not at all sure what Adam meant.  But it is a good song, and I’ve performed it at least once or twice live despite the fact that I rarely get to perform live anymore.

Even You.

So here are the lyrics.

If deep in your heart you remember when,
Did you want to be born again again?
The good news is the news is true:
Jesus comes to make all things new,
Even you, even you, even you, even you.

There in your mind when you feel abused,
Don’t you get tired of being used and used?
Darkness falls, then the light breaks through.
Jesus comes to make all things new,
Even you, even you, even you, even you.

You want what you want.
You get the joy, he took the pain.
You get what you get:
Redemption sustains, sin is a stain.

Ask yourself why you want to sin,
Why you lose; you were made to win.  To win
Victory, and to make it through.
Jesus comes to make all things new,
Even you, even you, even you, even you.

Thank God for what He’s done
To set us free.
He gave His only Son
For you and 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:  The Song “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” | #414:  The Song “You Should Have Thanked Me” | #428:  The Song “To the Victor” | #433:  The Song “From Job” | #436:  The Song “Trust Him Again”

Next song:  Fork in the Road

#434: Foolish Wisemen

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #434, on the subject of Foolish Wisemen.

For most Americans, Christmas is over.  Many took down the decorations on Boxing Day, and few will leave them up past New Year.  Yet this isn’t really about Christmas.  After all, we know that the wise men did not actually find Jesus in a manger in a stable; we are told they found him in a house.  Had they arrived and given gifts of significant value, Joseph and Mary would have had to offer a lamb with their two birds as an offering for her cleansing, but we are told that the couple delivered the poor man’s pair of birds.  Unless we think that the gifts were paltry tokens, they had not yet been delivered in that first week, and not before the couple made a trip to the temple.  Some of us celebrate Epiphany, which is a somewhat random number of days after a somewhat randomly assigned date of birth, but makes the point that the wise men didn’t get there that first night.  But that’s not what this is about, either.

Rather, I am recalling Balaam, who in Numbers 24:17 prophesied in the famous words “There shall a star from Jacob come forth”.  The Israelites preserved those words, and recognized within them a messianic prediction.  However, Balaam was not an Israelite; he was from Mesopotamia, the land whose people became the Medes and Persians, east of Israel.

It seems that they, too, preserved those words.  Matthew makes the connection for us, that wise men, scholars who studied the books and the stars, came from the east, which would probably mean Persian astrologers, because of a star–probably the star predicted by their ancestor Balaam.  It didn’t need to be a big, bright, obvious star; it needed to be a configuration of celestial objects that they understood to mean the birth of the ruler predicted by their own ancestor.  Seeing the star, they came to bring gifts to the baby, and to honor him.

Then they left, and we read nothing more about them.

Of course, it would be three decades before Jesus worked the miracle of redemption, and another several years before the faith was pushed out of Jerusalem into the rest of the world.  Whether those scholars still lived we don’t know.  But there is this question:  did these scholars who were aware of the arrival of the Anointed at His birth, who made a great effort to find Him and gave Him valuable gifts, ever do anything else, learn anything more, actually come to faith in Him?

And that question then transfers to the people of our time.  How many celebrated the birth of Christ, one way or another, recently, spending significant amounts of money and time and effort on the holiday, who never returned to see what more He had done?  The deliverer came, and those needing deliverance honored that arrival; but then they left, never to be delivered.

That’s sad.

#431: Mark Joseph Young En Français

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #431, on the subject of Mark Joseph Young En Français.

Over two decades ago, the respected Australian role playing game e-zine Places to Go, People to Be asked if they could translate an article series I had written for them, three parts under the title Law and Enforcement in Imaginary realms, to republish in their then-new French edition.  This was the beginning of a long and continuing relationship during which they continued translating my work into French for release to a wider audience.  Recently I received word that they were releasing the twenty-sixth such article, and I had often realized that I had not been keeping track of what they had published and ought to do that, at least for my own sake, but also for yours.

This is in roughly the sequence in which the articles were originally translated and posted.

  1. La Loi et l’Ordre dans les Mondes Imaginaires – 1re Partie : Les sources de la Loi, written for and still published at the Australian version back in perhaps 1998 and translated shortly thereafter, was entitled Law & Enforcement in Imaginary Realms Part I:  The Source of Law, and dealt with how legal systems develop from primitive tribal structures to modern governmental systems, and how we derive laws from that.
  2. La Loi et l’Ordre dans les Mondes Imaginaires – 2e partie : la procédure judiciaire was the second part, Law & Enforcement in Imaginary Realms:  The Course of Law, presenting the issues of who executes the law and how is it executed, including what rights people might or might not have.
  3. La Loi et l’ordre dans les mondes imaginaires – 3e partie : Les Forces de l’Ordre finishes the series with Law & Enforcement in Imaginary Realms:  The Force of Law, dealing with matters of how and why we punish criminals.
  4. Des pièces de monnaie invisibles was originally a Game Ideas Unlimited article (at Gaming Outpost), more recently republished by the Christian Gamers Guild as RPG-ology #34:  Invisible Coins, about an illusionist technique and referee control of play.
  5. Gauche ou droite ? was again from Game Ideas Unlimited, again republished as RPG-ology #47:  Left or Right?, one of my personal favorites and another illusionist technique.
  6. Dans l’esprit de la radio is an article I wrote for the Winter 2004 edition of the e-zine Daedalus, entitled In the Spirit of Radio, and no longer available in English on the web.  Fortuitously I downloaded that issue, so I have a copy, and although it was not easy to convert PDF into HTML I expect it to post in the RPG-ology series next spring.
  7. La Sagesse dans les jeux de rôles, originally published as Game Ideas Unlimited:  Wisdom about how to play a character said to be wiser than the player, but only partially preserved on the web in English, it is my hope to reconstruct this eventually.
  8. LNS : de la théorie à l’application is a translation of an article originally published at The Forge and still available there as of last look, as Applied Theory, discussing how to apply concepts of gamism, narrativism, and simulationism to game design.
  9. Théorie 101 – 1re partie : le système et l’espace imaginaire commun is a significant piece.  Some years after I had written the Law and Enforcement series for the Australian e-zine, their editors put out a general call for someone to summarize the main features of role playing game theory as it was then being expounded at The Forge.  Being at that time involved in that work, I offered to compose something, and this, Theory 101:  System and the Shared Imagined Space, was the first of three parts.  It explains the concepts system, credibility, authority, and other aspects of how games work “under the hood” as it were that enable the creations of a shared world.  This article was later republished by Gaming Outpost, and the three-article translation was compacted and published in the French print magazine Joie de Role.
  10. Théorie 101 – 2e partie : Le Truc Impossible Avant Le Petit Déj’ is the second of the three parts, Theory 101:  The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast, discussing referee styles and how they resolve the conflict between the statement that the referee controls the story and the fact that the players control all the actions of its main characters.
  11. Théorie 101 – 3e partie : Les propositions créatives is the third part of the series, originally Theory 101:  Creative Agenda, discussing what is popularly called “GNS” or gamism, narrativism, and simulationism, the three primary approaches to player play, and what makes games fun for different people.
  12. Étreintes was originally Game Ideas Unlimited:  Embraces, and is scheduled to be reposted as RPG-ology #48:  Embraces on November 16 (2021); it deals with romance in role playing games.
  13. Valeurs was originally Game Ideas Unlimited:  Value, discussing what makes anything valuable or cheap.  It is on the list to be republished as an RPG-ology piece, but not yet scheduled.
  14. Récompenses was originally Game Ideas Unlimited:  Rewards, dealing with in-game reward systems, no longer available in English but on the list for eventually republication.
  15. Création de perso was originally Game Ideas Unlimited:  Chargen, about different ways of creating characters.  The English version only exists as a partial article, but eventually I hope to reconstruct it from the translation and republish it in RPG-ology.
  16. Du cash was originally Game Ideas Unlimited:  Cash, addressing the development of systems of exchange from barter through the invention of money in various forms to the future of electronic credit.  An English version exists, and will eventually be republished as an RPG-ology piece.
  17. Points négatifs was originally published as Game Ideas Unlimited:  Negative Points, a further discussion of character generation extolling the virtues of stronger and weaker characters.
  18. Maîtriser l’Horreur comes from closer to home, a translation of mark Joseph “young” web log post #132:  Writing Horror, about some of the elements that create a good horror story, whether for a book or for a game session.
  19. Moralité et conséquences : les fondamentaux oubliés. recovers the first article I wrote for someone else’s web site, Morality and Consequences:  Overlooked Roleplay Essentials, originally published among the earliest articles at Gaming Outpost around 1997 and restored as mark Joseph “young” web log post #237:  Morality and Consequences:  Overlooked Roleplay Essentials in 2018.
  20. Les Pactes avec le Diable is a translation of Faith and Gaming:  Deals, from the Christian Gamers Guild, about the Christian value in roleplaying deals with the devil.
  21. Le festin de Javan is again from the Christian Gamers Guild, Faith in Play #3:  Javan’s Feast, about an act of charity that rocked the game and impacted the players at the table.
  22. Histoire des Points de Vie was RPG-ology #3:  History of Hit Points, discussing the origin, development, and value of a fundamental mechanic in many games.
  23. Sentience was another Game Ideas Unlimited article, not spelled differently in English, and dealing with the elements of intelligence as a groundwork for creating alien minds.  It is scheduled for RPG-ology early next year.
  24. Funérailles reproduces another from Game Ideas Unlimited, this one republished recently as RPG-ology #46:  Deceased, asking why we don’t have funerals in our role playing games.
  25. Blessures is translated from Game Ideas Unlimited:  Wounds, addressing how events from adventures should impact character personality thereafter, which eventually should wind up in the RPG-ology series.
  26. Vous avez le droit de garder le silence… was more simply Game Ideas Unlimited:  Silence, about the relatively modern right against self-incrimination and how legal systems were different without it.  It, too, is slated for inclusion in the RPG-ology series.

The original French index on their site is here, for those more facile in French than I.  They expect to continue adding my material to their collection in the future, so I expect there may be a sequel to this article eventually.  My contributions are a drop in the ocean of excellent material they have gathered from a wealth of well-respected writers whom I will not begin to name for fear of omitting someone who ought to be mentioned.

#425: Do Similarities Between the Accounts of Moses Birth and Certain Myths Make Him a Fictional Character?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #425, on the subject of Do Similarities Between the Accounts of Moses Birth and Certain Myths Make Him a Fictional Character?.

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?
  7. The sixth objection asked and answered #421: Did Moses Write the Torah?
  8. For the seventh objection, we addressed the issue of anachronisms, and particularly those related to place names, in #422:  Are There Anachronisms in the Torah that Invalidate It?
  9. The absurdity of the eighth objection is displayed in #423:  What Kind of Infrastructure Did the Wandering Israelites Need?
  10. We looked at the penultimate objection in #424:  Did the Earth Really Stop Turning?

The final objection raised by the article is that there are parallels to earlier known writings, and specifically that the story of the birth and early life of Moses has similarities to the earlier story of the Akkadian emperor Sargon the Great of perhaps a millennium before.  Based on this, the article decides that Moses was a fictional character invented when King Cyrus permitted the Israelites deported by Nebuchadnezzar to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple.

It is certainly true that there are events reported in the Bible that parallel accounts from other countries.  There are several plausible explanations for these.  Liberal scholars (we discussed in the first article of this series) always assert that they demonstrate that the biblical accounts are later derivative versions, but that’s presumptive.  There are many reasons to believe that the Biblical accounts, usually simpler, are the originals from which the others are elaborations, or that both are developed from the same tradition independently.

It also appears that God has mirrored the real historic events of the Bible in the myths of other peoples.  The virgin birth is the reality of the many myths about gods having children through human women.  The resurrection of Jesus is the realization of the imagery of the corn king deities found in many cultures.  It is not impossible that God prefigured some of the early events of the life of Moses in the myth of Sargon, as a sort of prophetic revelation to a people who were not from Israel, pointing to Himself.

At the same time, similarities between Moses and other ancient heroes do not falsify the accounts.  It might be that Moses’ mother got the idea of hiding her son in the rushes from her knowledge of that earlier myth; it might simply be coincidence, that she had that idea which someone else had had earlier.  I’m sure that many of my original ideas have been original ideas previously elsewhere.  There are many differences between the accounts (for example, the inclusion of Moses’ sister Miriam watching him in the rushes), which would mean that if the events as reported about Moses are fictional, they are of a quality of realistic fiction unknown for millennia thereafter.

Further, if you assume that Moses was a fictional character invented as late as Babylon, you have to explain too much about everything else.  To what Law were the psalms referring in so many instances?  At what point do the historic books become actual history, and how did Israel come to exist before that time if not through the events recorded in the earlier books?  The pre-exilic prophets, such as Isaiah and Amos, don’t seem likely to have existed if there was no Torah, or at least something remarkably like it.  And when Ezra and Nehemiah returned from exile to “rebuild” the temple, exactly what were they rebuilding?  Without Moses we have no tabernacle; without the tabernacle we have no original design for the temple.  Pre-exilic Israel simply does not exist in any discoverable form without those documents, and those documents do not exist without Moses.  Or do we want to claim that the entire Old Testament was invented after the last events it records, and foisted on the nation as if it had always existed?  That seems far less likely than the alternative that they are actual historic records.

And if, as is claimed, the events of Exodus were written centuries later to give cohesion to a people leaving from Babylon, why does the story so effectively attack the gods of Egypt rather than the gods of Babylon?

In their last words, the authors of the article reveal that they have an agenda.  They assert that the entire Bible is fiction written for political purposes, and that therefore the Jewish people should abandon any claim they think it gives them to the land it says was given to Abraham.  They are in essence blaming Judaism, and perhaps Christianity, for the conflict in the Middle East, and saying that we should stop thinking that anything in our religions is true so that we can get along with people who disagree with us–as if agreeing with people was either a necessary or a sufficient condition to getting along with them.

I’m sorry.  I’m not a terribly patriotic person, but I do believe that it is true that those we Americans call the Founding Fathers risked and sometimes lost their lives to establish this nation on some Deist/Enlightenment principles about the rights of humans, and that several wars have been fought to preserve the nation they created and protect those rights.  Some things are “true facts”.  Pretending that they are false because you would like history to be different is lying about the past.  Certainly we don’t know everything about the events of the Exodus account, but there’s no absolute reason to disbelieve them in their entirety, or in any particular point raised by the objectors.

And the ultimate problem that liberal scholars have failed ever to answer adquately is, if the Israelites did not escape from slavery in Egypt, travel across the wilderness, and conquer the land then known as Canaan, whence did they come and how did they become a nation?  The most cogent and coherent explanation for their existence is their own carefully recorded and preserved history, and that they did not much matter to the self-important “big” nations surrounding them does not negate that.

#424: Did the Earth Really Stop Turning?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #424, on the subject of Did the Earth Really Stop Turning?.

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?
  7. The sixth objection asked and answered #421: Did Moses Write the Torah?
  8. For the seventh objection, we addressed the issue of anachronisms, and particularly those related to place names, in #422:  Are There Anachronisms in the Torah that Invalidate It?
  9. The absurdity of the eighth objection is displayed in #423:  What Kind of Infrastructure Did the Wandering Israelites Need?

The article’s penultimate objection is “Can the earth ever stop spinning?”  This, of course, references the account of the battle in which we are told that as long as Moses held his hands up, “the sun stood still in the midst of the heavens”.  It is, of course, impossible, which is the point the article makes.

The first objection is that there is no record of such an event anywhere else in the world.  After all, if the earth had stopped turning (the author never considers whether the miracle could have been accomplished some other way) the length of the day would have been increased everywhere, and other cultures would have noticed this.  Yet outside the Bible ancient history is silent on this point.

That’s not exactly true.  In fact, the Chinese, Mayans, Aztecs, and possibly the Egyptians all have mention of an unusually long day in their ancient writings.  The real issue is whether any of these correspond to the date of the biblical battle (or indeed, to each other), which is difficult given our lack of knowledge about placing events on these ancient calendars.  It is certainly peculiar that the Babylonians don’t mention it, but then, they were mostly interested in the night skies, and this reportedly happened during the day in the Middle East.

So maybe there are other records, and maybe not, but records of the past are spotty at best, and we again have the problem of the argument from silence.

From there, the article argues that were the earth abruptly to stop spinning, everything on its surface would have been hurled into the air.  Certainly there is merit to this objection–the rotational velocity of the surface of the earth at the equator is almost a thousand miles per hour.  This, though, is something of a foolish objection.  Let us suppose that indeed God momentarily cancelled all the momentum in the mass of the earth.  What would cause everything to be thrown?  Why, the fact that it, too, has momentum–and if God actually did cancel the momentum of the earth itself, it would have been a terrible oversight for him to have failed to do so for all of those other objects.  Either it was a miracle or it wasn’t, and if it was, it doesn’t need to be limited.

On the other hand, the text does not say that the earth stopped.  It says that the sun stood still–that is, that it appeared to stop moving across the sky–and there are many ways that might happen.

Immanuel Velikovski, early twentieth century scholar, doesn’t get much respect for his theories, but among his interesting proposals is the notion that a near-collision of the earth with another massive object could have pulled us out of our orbit slightly and returned us to it.  Remember, what matters is the visible angle of the sun relative to the ground over the Middle East.  That angle is a function not only of the rotation of the earth but of its revolution around the sun, and the gravitic affect of a significant enough mass at the right angle could have pulled the earth in such a manner that it continued rotating, or possibly slowed slightly, but was drawn away from its orbit such that the angle to the sun was not altered, or was altered more slowly.  Then as the object passed out of range it could have pulled the earth back into orbit and onto its normal course.  It is an incredibly difficult outcome to achieve, but it would be a miracle that does not violate any of the laws of physics as we understand them.

Is that how God did it?  I don’t know.  I only know that it’s a plausible answer.  God being God, it is possible that He froze time for everywhere else in the universe for a few hours so that the battle could be completed in a sort of temporal bubble–we see them all the time in fantasy and science fiction, but certainly the inventor of time could tamper with it if He had reason.  The idea that God “doesn’t break His own rules” has merit, but we don’t know what the rules are or what would constitute “breaking” them, and tampering with the laws of how the universe works–well, it would be like snatching the cue ball off the pool table.  It breaks the rules of the game, but not the rules of reality, and in this case, the rules of reality are outside our knowledge.

So given what we know about God, it is certainly possible that one way or another the sun appeared to hold its position in the sky for an extended period, as the account suggests.  That we don’t know how it was done does not mean it never happened; that we can imagine how it might have been done means that it is not irrational to believe it.

#423: What Kind of Infrastructure Did the Wandering Israelites Need?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #423, on the subject of What Kind of Infrastructure Did the Wandering Israelites Need?.

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?
  7. The sixth objection asked and answered #421: Did Moses Write the Torah?
  8. For the seventh objection, we addressed the issue of anachronisms, and particularly those related to place names, in #422:  Are There Anachronisms in the Torah that Invalidate It?

The article’s eighth objection is “What would it take infrastructure wise for a community of 2,500,000 to function?”.

I don’t want to say that the article is being silly at this point, but–well, I’m going to address a few of their points, not in sequence.

The article states, “Factories and mining facilities were needed as they all had spades, tools, and weapons.”

“Factories” are an invention of the industrial revolution.  The word itself was created in the mid sixteenth century.  Prior to that, objects were made by the people who needed them, or by skilled craftsmen.  The best guess dating for the Exodus (between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries before Christ) puts it in the late bronze age, so metal tools and weapons could be forged in simple fires, as indeed the Native Americans were doing with copper before the arrival of Europeans–if they used metal at all.  Just because they had shovels did not mean they had metal shovels.  Wooden shovels would have been adequate to the job, and I suspect if put to it even I could make a wooden shovel.  They might even have used stone tools for some tasks.

The article acknowledges “Since their food was rained down for them as manna, we can skip that necessity,” but fails to mention (Deuteronomy 29:5) that their clothes and sandals did not wear out.  The author seems to believe that clothes for the children had to be manufactured, but it was the ordinary practice of the time that people made their own clothes.  It speaks of needing hospitals, which were actually invented by Christians millennia later; schools, for a people who raised and taught their own children; medicines, which were herbal; first aid stations–the author exhibits no understanding of pre-modern societies, and less of nomadic ones.

The only question he raises that has any force at all is the need to find water; and the force it has is largely based on the statement that they were wandering in the “desert”.  That word has a very specific meaning in the modern vocabulary, based on the annual level of rainfall.  The ancient word, though, was better understood as “lonesome place”, the place where no one lived, the wilderness.  These people had a heritage of being shepherds.  They were accustomed to moving with the grass and the watering holes.

Was there enough water to hydrate that many people and their animals?  It does sound like it would take a miracle–but we already know that they were being fed by a miracle, the manna that they collected fresh every day.  We don’t have any of it to examine; we can’t guess the moisture content (and many desert creatures get all their hydration from the plants they eat).  Also, although we say they were “wandering” in the desert, they weren’t really–they were following the pillar of fire, the presence of God that told them when and where to move.  Undoubtedly part of that would have been to bring them to fresh water supplies when needed.

And the text addresses the issue of water.  On two occaisions Moses miraculously caused water to spring out of the rocks.  What is more important than that he did this is that God had him do it specifically to communicate to the people that they were not to worry about water.  He guaranteed they would have it.  They did not need plumbing (another terribly modern concept) to receive it.

#422: Are There Anachronisms In the Torah that Invalidate It?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #422, on the subject of Are There Anachronisms in the Torah that Invalidate It?.

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?
  7. The sixth objection asked and answered #421: Did Moses Write the Torah?

The article’s seventh objection is “There are many anachronisms”.

As I mentioned in the introductory article, I am not an Old Testament scholar; I am a New Testament scholar and teacher.  I can’t actually say to what degree there are anachronisms in the Torah–but I can give some principles that might help.

The article specifically targets the phrase “before any kings ruled over the sons of Israel”, claiming that it proves that the books were not written until a time after there were kings.  There are several points to make in response to this, but one is that Moses specifically predicted that Israel would have kings (see Deuteronomy 17:14ff and 28:36), and once that prediction has been made it is not unreasonable for the writer to say that these certain things happened before there were kings.

Further, in this connection and in connection with the statement that there are place names used that did not exist for centuries after the Exodus, two things must be asserted.

First, among those of us who hold to some form of inerrancy, the rule is generally that the Bible was completely correct in its original text.  I know a fair amount about New Testament textual criticism, the effort to establish the original text of those books; I also know that there are problems with applying these techniques to the Old Testament.  Chief among these is that the accepted text in the Jewish community, the Masoretic Text, was preserved over the centuries in a very unusual way.  Each copy was reverently and meticulously made from an older copy, looking at the next letter, writing that letter, checking that letter, then moving to the next, and ultimately when the new copy had been completed the old was reverently destroyed.  Of course, we have versions of the Hebrew text that are outside that tradition, plus early translations to other ancient languages, but the older the document in question the more difficult it is to establish the original text.  It may be that changes have crept into the Torah which we cannot correct.

The second point, though, is that it is not at all improbable that there were changes made in the early centuries.  Particularly with place names, if the original document recorded a city or a mountain or some other landmark by the name it had at the time the document was written, and then over time the name changed, it is not at all unlikely that copyists preserving the text for the next generation would have replaced the original name with that name which would be known by the intended audience.  It is similarly not at all implausible that the comment about events occurring before there were kings in Israel was a later accretion added so as to avert reader confusion.  We see this in the New Testament at times, that there is a short text in most of the earliest copies, and then a clarifying comment appears in a margin, and then copyists mistakenly insert that comment into the text believing it to be an editorial correction.  After all, these accounts were intended in large part to provide for the people an understanding of their past, and the fewer place names they recognized the more the story seems to become a fantasy.  Thus a copyist might well say, oh, that’s not called that anymore, now it’s called this, so we’ll update it.

Of course, the copyist could be wrong, and that would mean that an error crept into the text.  Most of us don’t have a problem with the possibility that the text we have is not absolutely accurately the one produced by Moses; the changes are undoubtedly going to be minor and not significant to our understanding of that which they report.

So ultimately the kinds of anachronisms that are claimed to be in the Torah are not a sort that would invalidate the assertion that the original documents date from the events they claim to report and over centuries minor accretions and corrections have adhered to the text without impacting the integrity of the core events reported.

#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.