Archaeologists decipher text from burned scroll 1,500 years old

6th century fragment of Leviticus 1
6th century fragment of Leviticus 1

It’s a fragment of Leviticus!

Live Science reports: (H/T ECM)

A burned 1,500-year-old Hebrew scroll found on the shore of the Dead Sea was recently deciphered, 45 years after archaeologists discovered it, researchers in Israel have announced.

“The deciphering of the scroll, which was a puzzle for us for 45 years, is very exciting,” Sefi Porath, the archaeologist who discovered the scroll in 1970 in Ein Gedi, Israel, said in a statement from The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

The Ein Gedi parchment scroll is the oldest scroll discovered from the Hebrew Bible since the Dead Sea Scrolls, which date to the end of the Second Temple period, about 2,000 years ago.

The parchment scroll was so charred that it was illegible to the naked eye. Only with advanced technology did the scroll reveal the opening verses of the book of Leviticus, the third book of the Hebrew Bible.

So, this is the second oldest fragment of the Old Testament, with the Dead Sea Scrolls being earlier, and containing far more material than this fragment. The deciphering was done using micro-CT scanners.

And what’s the text on it?

On the newly deciphered scroll, the text (from the beginning of the book of Leviticus), translated from the original Hebrew, reads as follows:

“The Lord summoned Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying: Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When any of you bring an offering of livestock to the Lord, you shall bring your offering from the herd or from the flock. If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you shall offer a male without blemish; you shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, for acceptance in your behalf before the Lord. You shall lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be acceptable in your behalf as atonement for you. The bull shall be slaughtered before the Lord; and Aaron’s sons the priests shall offer the blood, dashing the blood against all sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. The burnt offering shall be flayed and cut up into its parts. The sons of the priest Aaron shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the parts, with the head and the suet, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar.” (Leviticus 1:1-8).

The biblical text marks the first time a Torah scroll was found inside a synagogue in any archaeological excavation, according to the IAA.

The Live Science story notes that other fragments are still being analyzed, so we may get more stories like this sooner, rather than later.

Third video of Planned Parenthood doctors discussing organ harvesting

WARNING: The video linked below contains images of unborn baby body parts.

Here’s the third video released by The Center for Medical Progress:

And here’s the story from Anika Smith, writing at The Stream.

Excerpt:

The latest video exposing Planned Parenthood isn’t just an undercover lunch conversation; it’s a first-person interview with a clinic worker who knows exactly what she’s doing as she explains Planned Parenthood’s sale of aborted fetal body parts.

[…]It opens with Holly O’Donnell, a licensed phlebotomist who took a job as a “procurement technician” with the now-infamous fetal tissue company and biotech start-up StemExpress in late 2012. (As their website says, start with the source.)

O’Donnell explains what her job was:

“We’re asked to procure certain tissues like brain, liver, thymus, pancreas, heart, lungs, skin, pretty much anything on the fetus. It’s basically the trafficking of fetal tissues.”

And why was this happening? Well, for the money, of course:

For six months, O’Donnell’s job was to identify pregnant women at Planned Parenthood who met criteria for fetal tissue orders and to harvest the fetal body parts after their abortions. What O’Donnell has to say about Planned Parenthood’s profit motives decisively contradicts every defense Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards has come up with in denying these charges for the past two weeks. O’Donnell explains:

For whatever we could procure, they would get a certain percentage. The main nurse was always trying to make sure we got our specimens. No one else really cared, but the main nurse did because she knew that Planned Parenthood was getting compensated.

And a bit later, this statement from Planned Parenthood’s Dr. Savita Ginde:

Standing in the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic pathology laboratory, where the bodies of aborted fetuses are brought, Ginde coolly calculates how payment per organ removed from a fetus will be the most beneficial to Planned Parenthood:

I think a per-item thing works a little better, just because we can see how much we can get out of it.

The Daily Signal is reporting that the Senate Republicans intend to introduce a bill to defund Planned Parenthood. The problem is that a stand-alone bill is less likely to pass than than if the defunding of Planned Parenthood was attached to a “mandatory” bill.

Republican Sens. Rand Paul, Ky.; James Lankford, Okla.; and Joni Ernst, Iowa, are working on legislation that would block federal funds from Planned Parenthood. The group receives more than $500 million annually in government grants. The money cannot be used for abortions except in specific cases involving rape and incest.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Democrats would defeat the effort.

“Good luck with that,” Reid said. “We’re dealing with the health of American women, and they’re dealing with some right-wing crazy.”

The GOP will need 60 votes to defund the group, and there are 54 Republicans in the Senate.

[…]President Obama said he would veto any attempts to defund the group.

The House has a different bill which bans the government from entering into contracts with companies that donate directly to Planned Parenthood. That one is more likely to pass the House than the Senate bill is likely to pass the Senate.

Matt Dillahunty debates David Robertson on atheism, morality and evil

Two Rams butting heads: may the best ram win!
Two Rams butting heads: may the best ram win!

OK. So I think it’s safe to say that of all the Christian apologists out there, David Robertson is the person I can stand the least. Why? Many reasons, but mostly because he does not bring in evidence, especially scientific evidence. And he seems to make these flippant quips like G. K. Chesterton, that are non-cognitive and therefore useless. I just consider David Robertson to not be a serious scholar, but merely a witty pastor.

Well, Dina asked me to listen to this debate between David Robertson and agnostic Matt Dillahunty (he’s not an atheist, he’s just an agnostic) and I went in absolutely convinced that Robertson was going to have his ass handed to him by Matt Dillahunty. And I could not have been more wrong.

Here’s the debate posted on YouTube (audio only):

It’s hard not to be snarky in this summary, but I will try, so that I can be snarkier in my post-summary comments. This summary is just a paraphrase from certain parts of the debate, it is not designed for accuracy, but for fun – to make you listen to the debate. Listen to the debate to get the exact words in context.

Summary:

  • Matt Dillahunty: he’s an agnostic who calls himself an atheist
  • David Robertson: he’s from Scotland, could we not get someone better?
  • Robertson opening statement is incredibly weak, as you might expect, he only had two arguments embedded in a long list of nonsense: 1) origin and design of the universe 2) reality of evil requires objective morality

1) Creation/Design:

Robertson: The fact is that matter exists. There are 3 views that could account for this fact: 1) created, 2) eternal, 3) self-generated out of nothing. 3) is self-contradictory, 1) requires a Creator, and 2) is falsified by the Big Bang cosmology. So what’s your view?

Dillahunty: You’re trying to get me to say what my view is, but I can just say “I don’t know” and get out of having to take any position on how matter got here.  I can say “I don’t know” to all the scientific evidence for the Big Bang cosmology, too!

2) Evil requires objective morality, requires a moral lawgiver:

Robertson: evil exists, e.g. – the Holocaust. If atheism is true, objective morality is impossible. Richard Dawkins agrees. Therefore, theism is the best explanation for the existence of evil.

Dillahunty: In my opinion, morality means doing what helps people have well-being. And I think that the Holocaust is obviously bad, because it hurts the well-being of the victims.

Robertson: The problem is that people decide what well-being is.If you were raised in the Social Darwinism of the Nazi regime, you would believe that the Holocaust was the best for the well-being of the society as a whole.

Dillahunty: Isn’t it obvious that killing people is bad for their well-being?

Robertson: Is it bad for the well-being of unborn children to kill them?

Dillahunty: Yes

Robertson: So you’re against abortion, then?

Dillahunty: No

Robertson: So you think that killing the child in the womb is against the well-being of the child, but you’re for that?

Dillahunty: I don’t know! I don’t know!

Then Dillahunty tried to claim Hitler was a Christian:

Dillahunty: here is a quote by Hitler saying that secular schools are bad, and religious schools are good – see, he’s a Christian!

Robertson: when was that said and to whom?

Dillahunty: I don’t know, I don’t know!

Robertson: It was said in 1933, during an election campaign, to Catholic authorities – he was a politician, looking for votes from Catholics so he could become Chancellor.

Good and evil on atheism:

Dillahunty: good actions results in states with more well-being, and evil actions result in states with less well-being.

Brierley: but when the Nazis slaughtered all those people, they believed they were increasing well-being

Dillahunty: But you could demonstrate to them that their action is not going to increase well-being. Survival of the fittest is descriptive of what happens, but it’s not prescriptive.

Robertson: Whose well-being will human beings think about most, if not their own? Do you really think that you can stop people like Charles Manson from being evil by sitting down and trying to prove to them that they are not helping their victim’s well-being?

(A BIT LATER)

Robertson (to Dillahunty): Is it a fact that Dachau (a concentration camp) was morally wrong?

Dillahunty: (literally, not a paraphrase) I DON’T KNOW

My thoughts:

When I listened to this debate, the overwhelming conviction that emerges is that Matt Dillahunty is not someone who forms his worldview based on evidence. His rejection of the Big Bang cosmology with “I don’t know” is just atrocious. His comments about slavery in the Bible and Hitler being a Christian show that his investigations of these issues is far below the level of a responsible adult. His dallying with the Jesus-never-existed view just shows him to be fundamentally anti-intellectual, as even Bart Ehrman denies that view. His definition of faith has nothing to do with the Bible, or Christian authorities, or Christian scholars – it’s just something that atheists invent and believe among themselves, with no reference to reality. Why? Because it makes them feel more intelligent to look down on others, even if they have to lie to themselves to do it. When asked to state his positions or respond to specific evidence, his response is very often “I don’t know”. It seems to me that atheism, to him, means not pursuing truth with the aim of grasping it. He wants to keep reality at a safe distance. This is not intellectually responsible – we are supposed to be searching for truth.

On morality, it’s even worse. It’s not surprising to me that he is pro-abortion and has no opinion about concentration camps being objectively evil. Most atheists are pro-abortion, by the way, which tells you a lot of their misappropriation of moral language when it suits them. When it comes to morality, Dillahunty only has his own personal opinions, and they refer to nothing outside his own mind. (His opinion of morality as related to well-being is utilitarianism – a very problematic view – but moreover, it is his view and different people will differ on what constitutes well-being). Without an after-life, there is no reason for anyone to care about the moral point of view when it goes against their self-interest, anyway. Atheists use moral language, but there is nothing substantial there, because their statements are not referring to any objective, prescriptive moral reality. Atheism is materialistic and therefore deterministic – it does not even ground the free will that is needed to make moral choices. Their view is Darwinian survival of the fittest, that’s what emerges from their origins story – and it does not rationally ground morality. The strong kill the weak, if they can. I’ve written before about how difficult it is for atheists to rationally condemn things like slavery, and nothing in Dillahunty’s presentation led me to believe that he had solved that problem.

Anybody can be an intellectually-satisfied atheist with an empty head – it’s knowledge that causes people to conform their beliefs to reality.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

Does the word atheism mean “a lack of belief in God”?

Making sense of the meaning of atheism
Making sense of the meaning of atheism

First, let’s see check with the Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Excerpt:

‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God.

Stanford University is one of the top 5 universities in the United States, so that’s a solid definition. To be an atheist is to be a person who makes the claim that, as a matter of FACT, there is no intelligent agent who created the universe. Atheists think that there is no God, and theists think that there is a God. Both claims are objective claims about the way the world is out there, and so both sides must furnish forth arguments and evidence as to how they are able to know what they are each claiming.

Philosopher William Lane Craig has some thoughts on atheism, atheists and lacking belief in God in this reply to a questioner.

Question:

In my discussions with atheists, they  are using the term that they “lack belief in God”. They claim that this is different from not believing in God or from saying that God does not exist. I’m not sure how to respond to this. It seems to me that its a silly word-play and is logically the same as saying that you do not believe in God.
What would be a good response to this?
Thank you for your time,

Steven

And here is Dr. Craig’s full response:

Your atheist friends are right that there is an important logical difference between believing that there is no God and not believing that there is a God.  Compare my saying, “I believe that there is no gold on Mars” with my saying “I do not believe that there is gold on Mars.”   If I have no opinion on the matter, then I do not believe that there is gold on Mars, and I do not believe that there is no gold on Mars.  There’s a difference between saying, “I do not believe (p)” and “I believe (not-p).”   Logically where you place the negation makes a world of difference.

But where your atheist friends err is in claiming that atheism involves only not believing that there is a God rather than believing that there is no God.

There’s a history behind this.  Certain atheists in the mid-twentieth century were promoting the so-called “presumption of atheism.” At face value, this would appear to be the claim that in the absence of evidence for the existence of God, we should presume that God does not exist.  Atheism is a sort of default position, and the theist bears a special burden of proof with regard to his belief that God exists.

So understood, such an alleged presumption is clearly mistaken.  For the assertion that “There is no God” is just as much a claim to knowledge as is the assertion that “There is a God.”  Therefore, the former assertion requires justification just as the latter does.  It is the agnostic who makes no knowledge claim at all with respect to God’s existence.  He confesses that he doesn’t know whether there is a God or whether there is no God.

But when you look more closely at how protagonists of the presumption of atheism used the term “atheist,” you discover that they were defining the word in a non-standard way, synonymous with “non-theist.”  So understood the term would encompass agnostics and traditional atheists, along with those who think the question meaningless (verificationists).  As Antony Flew confesses,

the word ‘atheist’ has in the present context to be construed in an unusual way.  Nowadays it is normally taken to mean someone who explicitly denies the existence . . . of God . . . But here it has to be understood not positively but negatively, with the originally Greek prefix ‘a-’ being read in this same way in ‘atheist’ as it customarily is in . . . words as ‘amoral’ . . . . In this interpretation an atheist becomes not someone who positively asserts the non-existence of God, but someone who is simply not a theist. (A Companion to Philosophy of Religion, ed. Philip Quinn and Charles Taliaferro [Oxford:  Blackwell, 1997], s.v. “The Presumption of Atheism,” by Antony Flew)

Such a re-definition of the word “atheist” trivializes the claim of the presumption of atheism, for on this definition, atheism ceases to be a view.  It is merely a psychological state which is shared by people who hold various views or no view at all.  On this re-definition, even babies, who hold no opinion at all on the matter, count as atheists!  In fact, our cat Muff counts as an atheist on this definition, since she has (to my knowledge) no belief in God.

One would still require justification in order to know either that God exists or that He does not exist, which is the question we’re really interested in.

So why, you might wonder, would atheists be anxious to so trivialize their position?  Here I agree with you that a deceptive game is being played by many atheists.  If atheism is taken to be a view, namely the view that there is no God, then atheists must shoulder their share of the burden of proof to support this view.  But many atheists admit freely that they cannot sustain such a burden of proof.  So they try to shirk their epistemic responsibility by re-defining atheism so that it is no longer a view but just a psychological condition which as such makes no assertions.  They are really closet agnostics who want to claim the mantle of atheism without shouldering its responsibilities.

This is disingenuous and still leaves us asking, “So is there a God or not?”

So there you have it. We are interested in what both sides know and what reasons and evidence they have to justify their claim to know. We are interested in talking to people who make claims about objective reality, not about themselves, and who then go on to give reasons and evidence to support their claims about objective reality. There are atheists out there that do make an objective claim that God does not exist, and then support that claim with arguments and evidence. Those are good atheists, and we should engage in rational conversations with them. But clearly there are some atheists who are not like that. How should we deal with these “subjective atheists”?

Well, my advice is to avoid them. They are approaching religion non-cognitively. When you engage in serious discussions with people about God’s existence, you only care about what people know and what they can show to be true.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should step down

Mitch McConnell shaking hands with his buddy Obama
Mitch McConnell shaking hands with his buddy Obama

I’ve just had it with this man, he is utterly useless as a Republican, and he is harming the brand with his kowtowing to the left.

The Daily Caller reports:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has never been a favorite of conservatives. Those who see him as a “squishy” compromiser more interested in placating President Barack Obama and K Street lobbyists than the Republican base had more fuel tossed on that fire when he blocked amendments to the Highway Bill Tea Party members wholeheartedly support.

One amendment would defund Planned Parenthood, the nationwide abortion provider which receives more than a half billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies annually. McConnell has previously said he supports defunding Planned Parenthood, which was recently the subject of undercover sting videos in which executives with the organization can be heard discussing the sale of organs from aborted babies. But the leader blocked an amendment to the Highway Bill that would have defunded the organization.

At a time when we have the public behind us on defunding Planned Parenthood, McConnell blinks. What good is he?

As if the social issues were not bad enough, he’s screwed up fiscal issues as well.The Senate revived the Export-Import Bank on Sunday, which is just a nightmare of crony capitalism and corporate welfare. Thankfully, the conservatives in the House of Representatives killed it, and stopped McConnell from screwing the conservative base of the Republican party again.

I hope everyone understands that big corporations are not conservative, and we should not be helping them in any way. If anything, the government should be pushing for more choice and  competition, and lowering barriers to entry for new start-ups.

What do we do about Mitch McConnell?

Next time he is up for election, he should be primaried. If you get a request for donations from anything remotely related to the Senate, send it back with a note that says “not till McConnell steps down as majority leader”.

Frankly, I recommend never donating to the NRSC.

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