Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mel Gibson, My Inspiration (seriously)

Way back in 2004, my wife and I got in a debate over whether or not to see “The Passion of the Christ”. I am not one to shy away from a controversial movie, so it would seem strange that I was on the side of not seeing it. My reason for not wanting to see it was I felt there was very little for me to learn by watching someone get brutally tortured and killed for a few hours.

There are some atheists who do not believe in a historical Jesus. I am not one of them. For me to believe that there was man named Jesus, that he lived in the first century, that he was a Jew, that he had a following, and that he agitated the already worked up Jewish population to a point where he was crucified doesn’t seem like much of a stretch. From what I know about history, the proceeding sentence seems credible to me. The issue I have is whether this man was the Son of God and redeemer of our sins to which I say, “Rubbish!”

Regardless of who I feel Jesus is, Mel wanted to make a biblically accurate movie of his last hours. That’s my inspiration. I would love to see movie that started with the Book of Exodus and tell the literal story as found in the Bible. Sure, everyone knows about Moses being raised by the Pharaoh and righteously fighting for a Hebrew slave. We’ve all seen “The Ten Commandments”. How many people know about how God allegedly rained manna from heaven? How many people know why the Israelites started worshiping a golden calf? Does the laymen know that God ordered the slaughter of 3,000 Jews (Exodus 32)? The genocide of the Moabites (Numbers 31)? That God punished Moses for using his staff to produce water from a rock instead of speaking to the rock even though he had used his staff in the past? All of the really truly awful, horrible things God says and does along the way?

The problem a director would have is how to maintain a consistent tone throughout the movie. Mel made “The Passion” somber and dramatic. What would we do when Moses leaves the Israelites to talk to God for 40 frickin’ days as God spells out in agonizing detail how to build the Arc? For me, it would go from somber to silly – like the scene in “Monty Python’s Holy Grail” with the Knights Who Say Ni. Just imagine Moses sitting there desperately trying to stay awake as the LORD dictates little gems like Exodus 27 (http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/kjv/exo027.htm):

1 And thou shalt make an altar of shittim wood, five cubits long, and five cubits broad; the altar shall be foursquare: and the height thereof shall be three cubits.
2 And thou shalt make the horns of it upon the four corners thereof: his horns shall be of the same: and thou shalt overlay it with brass.
3 And thou shalt make his pans to receive his ashes, and his shovels, and his basons, and his fleshhooks, and his firepans: all the vessels thereof thou shalt make of brass.
4 And thou shalt make for it a grate of network of brass; and upon the net shalt thou make four brasen rings in the four corners thereof.
5 And thou shalt put it under the compass of the altar beneath, that the net may be even to the midst of the altar.
6 And thou shalt make staves for the altar, staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with brass.
7 And the staves shall be put into the rings, and the staves shall be upon the two sides of the altar, to bear it.
8 Hollow with boards shalt thou make it: as it was shewed thee in the mount, so shall they make it.
9 And thou shalt make the court of the tabernacle: for the south side southward there shall be hangings for the court of fine twined linen of an hundred cubits long for one side:
10 And the twenty pillars thereof and their twenty sockets shall be of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver.
11 And likewise for the north side in length there shall be hangings of an hundred cubits long, and his twenty pillars and their twenty sockets of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver.
12 And for the breadth of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits: their pillars ten, and their sockets ten.

The above quote is just a small sample of a section of Exodus that rambles on and on for three entire chapters. Meanwhile, while Moses is scribbling notes away like crazy in his notepad, the rest of the congregation is scared without Moe to lead them. They think he’s dead and God has left them and that’s why they start worshipping the golden calf. If the average person saw a literal interpretation of the Bible on the big screen, I believe there would be a lot more atheists.

32 comments:

brenden said...

Wasn't it Noah who did the Ark thing?

Miracle said...

@wager
yeh you got your sunday school stories crossed there wager. Freudian slip :).

I also wanted to ask your thoughts about Jesus. Do you think Jesus was a good man with inspiring and beyond his age teachings or was he a 1st century con artist? What I'm asking is would you say you'd follow him?

Miracle said...

This question I wanted to leave open to everyone. It is actually why I came on tonight to the blog.

Everyone likes to talk about proof of God, and it has got me thinking. Speaking purely objectively, what kind of evidence would prove/disprove the existence of God? What is the criteria for God's existence?

Atheistwager said...

Gentlemen, the passage I quoted from Exodus speaks directly to the creation of the temple and the Arc of the Covenant - not the Ark that Noah built to escape the flood. I don't believe I've got my stories crossed.

It's hard to say whether or not I'm inspired by Jesus even if he were stripped of the supernatural mumbo-jumbo. He did say some interesting things and had an interesting philosophy, but then again the Golden Rule has been attributed to other philosophers before Jesus.

Jesus the philosopher also engaged in some morally questionable behavior. Jesus seemed to believe that only fellow Jews were worthy of his miracles and therefor didn't want to heal a Canaanite woman (eventually he did, but he acted as if it were beneath him). Not really the kind of values we need in America if we are going to make it as the first truly multicultural society.

As for proof of God. I'd like a good old fashioned miracle. Parting the Red Sea was cool - so I guess parting any major body of water would work. Since I can be selfish, how about parting Lake Washington (it's close by)?

Wil said...

Jesus had a very interesting philosophy. Reading the new testament, I came across things I agreed with and things I didn't, minus the supernatural. Personally I think Jesus was a real man with philosophy ahead of his time, much like Socrates.

I disagree with Wager on criteria for God's existence. I would remain skeptical as just because we cannot explain something like a 'miracle' does not mean it had a supernatural cause. We'd just be going back thousands of years to religion's conception.

For me it'd take revelation of God himself. Just flat out
"Hello, William".
"Hey, God. How's the kid?"
"Oh, you know...after being cruxified he's never really been the same, but we've got an excellent psychologist here in heaven so things are looking bright."
"That's great news, God. I'm really happy for you."

zilch said...

@ wager- I'm sorry to disagree with you, but I happen to like all the details about the Arc of the Covenant, maybe because I'm an instrumentmaker. That must have been one cool box with God in it.

What you said about depicting all of the Bible is right on. As Donald Morgan said, “A thorough reading and understanding of the Bible is the surest path to atheism”. I recently read a review of a new book of Old Testament stories (unfortunately I can't remember what it's called), which had illustrations in children's book style of the slaughter of the Amalekite babies. Horrific.

@ miracle- I would say that it's impossible to either prove or disprove the existence of God. Proofs and disproofs only work in circumscribed systems of formal logic, such as mathematics. Scientific "proofs" are actually not proofs, but descriptions with a certain presumed degree of accuracy or likelihood.

For instance, although I'm fairly certain that the Sun will rise tomorrow morning, I can't "prove" that it will rise. Likewise, I can't "disprove" that the Universe, with its appearance of great age, was created five minutes ago by a mischievous demon. But I can have a fair degree of certainty in my opinions.

Likewise with the existence of God. I'm fairly certain no God exists, but I can't prove it.

As far as Jesus goes, I don't have enough data to make a decision about his historicity. Although it's an interesting question, it's not one that is that important to me. Whether or not Jesus existed, the Bible was written and has had, and continues to have, powerful effects on our societies, for good and ill.

MasterJediDan said...

@ Atheistwager

What if every Christian on this earth disappeared? (I'm referring to the second coming of Christ) Would you believe then?

zilch said...

@ mjd- I hope you don't mind if I answer too.

"What if every Christian on this earth disappeared?"

Well, they do disappear for a couple of hours every Sunday morning...

But I suppose you're talking about the Rapture. Btw, did you know the Rapture is a 19th century invention? It's almost entirely an American phenomenon- none of my European Christian friends have even heard of it.

Anyway, if I see all my Christian friends rising to the skies on March 23, 2008 (that's the date the Lords' Witnesses have discovered in the Bible) I will most definitely reexamine my beliefs.

But I'm not holding my breath. In fact, I offered to bet €1000 with any of the LW's that the Kingdom would not start on that date, but so far none of them have taken me up on my offer. Probably because they won't need the money in Heaven anyway.

MasterJediDan said...

@ Zilch

Just curious. I checked out the link for the site you gave for the LW. Kind of creepy, with all the predictions. Apparently a terrorist bomb is going to go off in Manhattan in two to three days from this post. Sure, whatever. Somehow I feel that March 23, 2008 is going to be another average day. Wonder what they'll do then? Change their prophecy again? :D

zilch said...

@ mjd- yes, the LW's are a caution. They're a spinoff of the Jehovah's Witnesses, and they've taken the JW's penchant for making failed predictions to a new level.

If you look through their site, you'll see that they, or I suppose their chief honcho Gordon anyway, have put an incredible amount of work into extracting these dates from the Bible. I will definitely be checking in next March to see what they do. I just hope that no lives are ruined.

CJR said...

A friend of mine directed me to this blog about a week ago. It's taken me until now to read all the posts and comments. I like all of AW's posts. The comments have ranged from infuriating to laughable to enlightened. Anyway, overall it's been enjoyable and educational.

@ Miracle - about proof of god.

Me (non-believer) and the fiance' (believer) were discussing this the other day ... kind of. We were talking about the bible and whether it is fiction or non-fiction. We both agree that it's an outdated work of fiction that happens to have SOME not-wholly-unique good messages in it. We agree that Jesus was an alright guy (we disagree on whether he actually existed). And we're curious why so many people (compared to the last 2000 years) in biblical times had such personal and conversational relationships with god. I agree with Wil on this one. If god were to appear on the futon next me, ready to chat, that sure would help alot.

Why was god so chatty back in the day and so tight-lipped the last couple of millenia. This is mostly a rhetorical question - I could answer this question from a Christian point-of-view several different ways. But it still begs the question ... the only 'evidence' of god appears in the bible ... which is fiction ...

One last thing. I hate to rehash a previous topic, but I was wondering about all the prophecies the bible apparently made that came true. Someone asked Bible Student, I think, or it was MJD, for a list of these and I never saw them. I can't really accept prophecies that were made in an early chapter/book and fulfilled in the same or a later chapter/book. That doesn't work.

Atheistwager said...

@CJR
Welcome! I got this web site from a Christian I met at work. Here is what he claimed to be proof of fulfillment of the prophecies:
http://www.100prophecies.org/

For the believers here, what do you think of the site?

Bible student said...

@ CJR

One example of fulfilled prophecy is God’s judgment against Babylon (Isaiah 13:19, 20; 14:22, 23).

If you check today, you won’t find any addresses there.

@ AW

The site seems heavy on fleshly Israel, not the spiritual Israel that the Bible is concerned with.

@ zilch

“Penchant for making failed predictions” huh? In my lifetime, there has been exactly one sentence in a 1969 Awake! that I thought went over the line. Otherwise, the Bible says at Matthew 25:13, “Keep on the watch, because you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Despite living in the end times, we don’t know when.

The Lord’s Witness website says that they have replaced Jehovah’s Witnesses as God’s true religion, not a spinoff.

zilch said...

@ bible student- well, depending on what counts as an "end of the world" prediction, the JW's have predicted, shall we say, noteworthy events (Armageddon, return of the Old Testament saints, collapse of nations) a number of times: for 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925; and they hinted strongly about 1975 and 1989. More recently they seem to have sobered up and taken a hint from the Matthew text you cite.

And of course the LW's don't see themselves as a "spinoff" of the JW's. The LW's are the only true Church of Christ on the planet. Does that sound familiar?

About Biblical prophecies that are fulfilled: the strange thing about these prophecies, like those of Nostradamus and Jeanne Dixon, is that they are never recognized and acted upon before they happen, but only interpreted as having predicted something after it's already happened. Do you see the teeny problem with such prophecies?

For instance, there are people who claim that 9/11 was predicted in the Bible and Nostradamus (I don't know if Jeanne Dixon got this one or not). So why weren't we warned beforehand? Because these prophecies were only "recognized" (that is, cherry-picked out of piles of ambiguous text) after the fact.

This is of course exactly what the Lords' Witnesses are doing, but at least they have the cojones to publish their predictions before they happen. Or rather, don't happen. So they are at least honest about their delusion.

Bible student said...

@ zilch

The trouble with putting a date on Armageddon is the disappointment caused when incorrect.

Jesus cousin John was commissioned a prophet, not of the exact date of the messiah, but of his imminent arrival. Even given the information of how to identify him. The Jews of their day could read Daniel’s time prophecy, but couldn’t agree on who should come, some preferred a worldly conqueror.

Daniel also recorded a time prophecy of when the end times begin. Likened to labor pains before birth, when they end, is not said.

I’m surprised that the LW’s don’t act as “sober” as the JW’s unless you consider that a church runs on money. Adding a date for to a prophecy, draws more paying customers.

We will see how they do this weekend with the “dirty bombing” of the UN prophecy.

zilch said...

bible student- the LW's won't do anything when New York goes unnuked again, except make a new prophecy. That's my prophecy. I've gone over to their forum and pointed out that my non-Biblical predictions about the nonnuking of New York have been 100% right so far, and their Biblical predictions of the nuking of New York have been 100% wrong, but they are set in their ways. Why they don't drop everything and worship me is a mystery.

CJR said...

That 100prophecies.org site is indeed a little heavy on Israel. More than half of the 100 are saying the same thing (Israel, Jerusalem, Jews, etc). Then you've got the prophecies fulfilled by Jesus, and those don't count.

I'm curious though. I'm trying to find some info on the actual age of the OT. I keep seeing that the first parts of it were written around 1000 BC and the writing continued for the next several centuries. What is the oldest known OT artifact? Is there a stone tablet somewhere dating back to 1000 BC with passages from the OT books on it?

@ zilch

From the LW site - "This is our 40th nuclear prediction date. In fact this whole series of nuclear prediction blunders has been the most ghastly thing that the LWs have done." But alas, they are commanded to keep on keeping on.

Bible student said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bible student said...

@ CJR

According to my study material, Moses recorded Genesis in 1513 B.C.E., the same year the Israelites left Egypt. The next year Exodus and Leviticus were written. Forty years later in 1473 B.C.E., in the last year of his life Moses is credited with writing both Deuteronomy and the book of Job.

By the year 1000 most of the Psalms and Proverbs had been written, as were Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. Solomon died in 998 B.C.E.. The last recorded book in the canon of my Bible is Malachi, about 443 B.C.E..

The Jews were prolific copyists. The local synagogue system, probably begun 600 years before Christ, each needed their own to read. During Josiah’s reign (about 640 B.C.E.), while cleaning the temple, “Hilkiah the priest found the book of Jehovah’s law by the hand of Moses.” (2 Chronicles 34:14)

Though they don’t count to you, Bible prophecy has been faith strengthening to me. Though some Bible critics are sure that they were written afterward, consider the alternative.

Were you able to look up that prophecy about Babylon. Fine copies of the Bible online can be found at
Study Light or Watchtower.

zilch said...

@ cjr- the oldest known manuscripts of the Old Testament are the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 1947, which date from around the time of Christ. The King James Bible, the Luther Bible, and all the other pre-1947 Bible translations were based on manuscripts from no earlier than 900 A.D.

The earliest know Septuagint (New Testament) is from around 350 A.D.

This of course says nothing about when they were first written down, which is unlikely (barring the unlikely discovery of much earlier manuscripts) to ever be settled satisfactorily.

Miracle said...

@Bible Student

How do you figure your dates for Moses? There is no evidence at all of a Jewish Exodus from Egypt. Let alone a date to place Moses. If we can't date Moses, how do you pinpoint dates for authorship of books? Moses authored Job? First time I've ever heard that.

I really recommend you go pick up a commentary and read a perspective based on understanding the origins compared to creating theological argumentations. There are many out there who are conservative in approach (I prefer New Interpreter's Bible Commentary as it is easy to read and moderate in theology).

Bible student said...

@ Miracle

I guess it depends on if you read the Bible. It records the birth and death of Moses, his predecessors and ancestors. Events recorded in each individual book (i.e. Exodus, Leviticus etc.) tell the years (months) covered in each.

If other books cloud the issue, burn them!

Who do you say wrote Job?

zilch said...

"If other books cloud the issue, burn them!"

... a philosophy taken to heart by Christians through the centuries, for instance in their nearly total destruction of Aztec (heathen!) manuscripts.

Warren said...

@BS

Perhaps what you consider clouding Miracle considers clarifying. Again I will state, as I have may times before, you are not the be all end all Bible authority.

I find it strange that you just dismiss Miracle's attempts to help you further your knowledge about the book you hold so dear. You do know that there is no harm in reading something that "clouds the issue" don't you?

Bible student said...

@ Warren

Not my authority, but the Bible’s, is what I recommend. I won’t show deference to any book that conflicts with Bible truth. If Miracle can’t (won’t?) follow the scriptures, he might stay in the dark.

Cragar said...

wager--I just found your blog, very nice, I will have to backread some old posts. I like how people who want to argue with you didn't even know you were talking the arc instead of the ark. LOL.

@bible student--I am assuming you are a JW. Quit being blinded by the pamphlets from the Watchtower and do some research on your own. Hebrew scholars pretty much agree that the first four books of the Bible were not written by one person. Most likely four, with a 5th "editor" putting the first five books together.


And just so you can research and have a little doubt: If Moses wrote the Exodus through Deuteronomy by 1467 BCE then how did the Isrealites build Raamses (Ex 1:11)? Raamses wasn't built until at least 1279 BCE. Raamses I didn't even rule until 1320. Raamses II (whom the city was built for) reigned from 1279-1213 BCE.

Bible student said...

@ Cragar

I just found your blog on the day that the one I’ve enjoyed these past months is ending. I hope I am welcome there.

Thank you for the invitation to further research God’s people. What I found is quite helpful. Whenever I read something like “scholars pretty much agree,” I find out what the most knowledgeable Hebrew scholar had to say.

To emphasize a point with his detractors, Jesus asks at the first part of John 7:19, “Moses gave you the Law, did he not?” None of his lettered audience corrected His take on who wrote the Pentateuch.

Far from those “blinding pamphlets” an article by Cameron Moore nicely sums up what I have found, (google is wonderful) and concludes, an early date as a strong possibility.

When faced with these choices, I’ll stick with the Bible account.

Cragar said...

@bible student--you are more than welcome over there. I try to make my blog mostly about my marriage to a JW (with an atheist POV obviously). Assuming you either are or were a JW the debates could get lively.

There was a good debate about the Exodus on Aa's site last week where other theists brought up even more "solutions" for the Exodus.

It just seems to me that anytime evidence is uncovered a believer will bend it to make it fit their agenda and vice versa I suppose, but there doesn't seem to be nearly as much bending on the cynical side. In the article you linked, we now have to change Raamses to Ramases. Don't you think if God wanted the Bible to be his word he would have made sure Moses (which I already have pointed out didn't write the first 5 chapters) put the right Egyptian name in there?

Cragar said...

To emphasize a point with his detractors, Jesus asks at the first part of John 7:19, “Moses gave you the Law, did he not?” None of his lettered audience corrected His take on who wrote the Pentateuch.

This has always been one of my problems. Using the Bible to back up the Bible doesn't make it a fact!

Bible student said...

@ Cragar

Raamses or Ramases? Speaking of the land that Israel and his family settled when they were invited to Egypt, Genesis 47:11 says, “Thus Joseph had his father and his brothers dwell and he gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the very best of the land, in the land of Rameses, just as Pharaoh had commanded.”

In the same Bible version Exodus 1:11 reports, “So they set over them chiefs of forced labor for the purpose of oppressing them in their burden-bearing; and they went building cities as storage places for Pharaoh, namely, Pithom and Raamses.”

Two different spellings, two different places. Since at least one spelling preceded Ramesses II (Wikipedia’s preference), I’m curious where you learned to spell it Raamses?

Googled each spelling yields:

Raamses 15

Ramses 30,200

Ramesses 301,000

Ramses 3,410,000

I’ve wondered if spelling counts?

Evidence is helpful in forming a persuasion, but as stated in Aa’s site, witnessing miracles didn’t save the Jews who left Egypt. Faith is what makes the difference.

Jesus Christ is the most prominent teacher of the Hebrew scriptures, rivaled in history only by the apostle Paul.

Believe them, doubt them, doubt they existed, it’s your choice. One man’s dead fish is another man’s sushi.

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