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Perhaps I should have taked about a situation with more detail. Ok, then, say an 18 y/o man stands at a crossroads in his life. He's always seen himself going to university but his dream, as he sees it, is to travel and see the world. In order to do that he needs money, and so he decideds to take a full time job in... I don't know... a call centre? to pay for it.
So after a few years he realises he doesn't like travelling as much as he thought he would. He looks at his friends who went to uni and is jealous of the jobs they have been getting. He's hating his own work in the call centre which doesn't ever seem to change.
So, is he regretting taking the job to follow his dream, or is he regretting not going to university?
To be honest, though, I think the "dream" thing is over-rated. It seems that everyone these days is almost forced into thinking they have to have one to be normal. Frankly I see it as nonsense and potentially damaging.
@vaft: to be fair, doesn't your whole country suffer from chronic depression?
But seriously, all intelligent people have their 'blue period'. Please don't think because you are depressed there is something wrong with you. 1 in 5 people on the planet right now are chronically depressed RIGHT NOW, if the psychology textbooks are accurate.
I think I spent half my time between age 17 and 25 being either chronically depressed or setting new personal records in cynicism. I'm 34 now and don't get depressed anymore because I have learned not to let my brain wander down that path, because I know from experience it results in no good. I understand you seem to suffer from it more profoundly. But I think you can learn to eventually master it, in most cases.
@Octavious: I agree with your comments and add that regrets are a dumb thing to indulge in. Learn form your mistakes yes, but to obsess about might have been is even more foolish than building castles in the air.
fiedler, it's rather common in the parts of Sweden where I come from, I grew up right on the polar circle, where you get at most two hours of sunlight in December. It kind of has an effect ;)
Thanks for the kind words, but actually, in my case, there IS something wrong with me. We have depression in my family. My brain eats serotonin and shits nightmares. There's medicine, but we're nowhere close to understanding the brain, so it's all hit and miss. The first week on my current medication, it upped my anxiety attacks by 1000, I spent a week in a closed psychiatric clinic thinking "Ok, THIS one is probably the real heart attack that will kill me" about a hundred times. I'm not keen on experimenting with new ones...
@vaft: damn that sucks. Yes yours make my depressions look rather quaint in comparison. Dumb question (im curious) - have you tried living in a more 'normal' environment? Even for just a holiday? Say the mediterranean?
First, why does he want the jobs his friends have? I feel like that's fairly central to the issue. I apologize if this line of questioning seems pedantic or quibbling, but understanding precisely our subject's motivations is critical to this line of thought.
The change of mind regarding traveling is an important point. I know those who talk of "following your dream" tend with startling uniformity to say "dream," as though there must be one idea one pursues for one's whole life. I would disagree with this, for the simple reason that it's often the case that there isn't one idea for a person for his or her whole life. Your goal is to find something that you love and do it. Note the present tense - love, and do - they're important, because you can only act on your understanding in the present moment. That understanding obviously changes with experience, and it should be expected that one's loves might change with experience, and subsequently what they do might change as well. I absolutely don't believe in picking one thing and saying fuck all let's stick with it forever. I don't even know if everyone has one thing they CAN stick with for a lifetime. (And I don't mean to imply I do... if I have it, I haven't found it for sure yet. I like to think my present path is it, but I won't know that 'til my dying breath, will I?) So no, I wouldn't say everyone or even most people should have this one thing picked out forever and just know it and do it.
I understand that the notion of a "dream" tends to paint big, idealistic pictures of doing great things for the world, but I don't mean it to be exclusive. A goal, a pursuit in life, a dream, all the words mean the same, and they're not limited to the superhuman. If your dream is to humbly serve God in a rural village raising children and cleaning house, that's absolutely fine. I could never do that and would never find meaning or purpose in such an existence, but that doesn't mean other people can't or that their choice to do so is somehow "worse" because it's beyond my comprehension.
I'm confused as to how having a purpose to pursue in life is nonsense or damaging. Au contraire, mon frere, I would say not having a purpose to pursue in life is damaging, and the rejection of such pursuit nonsense.
"I agree with your comments and add that regrets are a dumb thing to indulge in. Learn form your mistakes yes, but to obsess about might have been is even more foolish than building castles in the air."
Well yeah. No one's saying that obsessing about what might have been is a good thing or advisable. Did I say that anywhere...?
My point is that compared to things I did that I wish I didn't, I at least conclude decisively that I more regret things I didn't that I wish I did.
fiedler, if I've tried other climates? It's pretty hard for me to save up money to go traveling. But yeah, going to more southern climates in winter makes me feel better. Not a lot better, but some. It's only one of many factors. Also, moving away from Sweden is not easy. I was actually homeless for a while, but the state helped pick me up and get me on my feet. It covers my bills, I spent a month in a psychiatric clinic and it cost me $10. I suspect that in America, I would have been either homeless or dead right now.
@semck, glad to see you join us! Always fun to match wits with you. =)
"If its orbit -- not a concept that was really in play at the time"
Right, so if that concept isn't in play at the time, then we know something about how the author /didn't/ intend the verses to be interpreted. In fact, we likely know how he /did/ mean them. This is reinforced by a couple thousand years of doctrine being built on them stating the universe is geocentric and the earth flat.
"Since they didn't realize there was a globe, why would we insist that their word "earth" meant the globe"
Exactly, semck. Why would we force a meaning (globe) onto their word that means something else? I'll come back to this at the end of my post.
"it's obvious what edges in Job 38:13 might mean."
No, it isn't obvious that land and water are being contrasted here. The Tetragrammaton is telling Job that he has never commanded the morning or set the dawn in place so that it might seize the Earth by its edges and shake the wicked out. While I grant you that the image of commanding the morning a la Bugs Bunny conducting the opera or setting the dawn in place are (possibly) figurative (although I have good evidence to believe there's a tinge of literal mixed in that I'd be happy to discuss with you in PM), taking the Earth by its edges is a very clear image with a very clear meaning. You know how we were given this story of Christopher Columbus sailing off into yonder sunset, and when he disappeared from view, the people watching thought he had fallen of the edge of the Earth? That's the concept here. The Earth has a literal edge.
"all of Job 38 is _extremely_ poetic. ... You need a certain sensitivity to the passage, imho."
I now return to my earlier question about assigning meaning where the author intends something else. Why do Christians insist on forcing scripture interpretation to conform to popular science, but when there is science that they disagree with (i.e. genetic basis of homosexuality, evolution, big bang, lack of evidence for a global flood at /any/ time in the history of the earth), the science needs to conform to the scripture? Why is it so hateful to accept that the psalmist and Job were believers in the flat earth and geocentric universe? That's what they wrote, even the ecclesiastical writer who, by tradition, is Solomon.
So first of all, I'd better back up here. You say:
"In fact, we likely know how he /did/ mean them. This is reinforced by a couple thousand years of doctrine being built on them stating the universe is geocentric and the earth flat."
So, it's simply not true that the Christian church EVER believed the earth was flat. Geocentrism, yes. Flat earth, no. I know this is a common misconception, but it's simply false. People have known the earth was round since before Christ, and the church never questioned it. (See e.g.: http://blogs.nature.com/soapbox_science/2011/05/18/science-owes-much-to-both-christianity-and-the-middle-ages?WT.mc_id=FBK_NPG or http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/01/christianity_and_the_round_pla.html ).
Now, I don't really know what the Hebrews thought about the shape of the earth, and I was prepared to bow to your superior expertise and assume they thought the earth was flat, which seems credible. But now that I don't actually think you have superior expertise on this point, I'm going back to being completely agnostic on this point and allowing nothing.
Anyway, back to your other points (though with this newly rescinded allowance). You say, "No, it isn't obvious that land and water are being contrasted here." I agree, which is why the part of my sentence you did NOT quote said, "If it is," and I had earlier acknowledged not having the requisite expertise to address this question well.
"That's the concept here. The Earth has a literal edge."
Well again, your history is completely wrong (Columbus etc.), but that aside, I'll go back to interpretation. The question is not what the individual writing the text may have happened to believe about the shape of the earth (something I don't know, and you probably don't either). The question is what he intended to assert in the passage in question. The answer is -- he no more intended to assert anything about the shape of the earth than he did a few verses later when he talked about snow being kept in storehouses. He was rather asserting something about God's control over the earth, and using very poetic language to do it.
We, today, sometimes speak of being "gathered here from the four corners of the earth." (A phrase that originated from the Bible, I might note, but that's orthogonal to my point). We would certainly be distressed if somebody in later times were so ham-handed as to infer from this that we thought the earth was a square! Clearly what's intended is not ANY claim about the shape of the earth, but rather, a claim about a group of people (or such), using a hypothetical shape of the earth to make it.
So it is in Job, and I assert that that's just a fair reading of the text. (See Job 26:7 or Isaiah 40:22 for other language that would be more explicitly consonant with our modern understanding, by the way).
Now, you ask why we don't treat Genesis the same way? Well, Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." The passage goes on, of course. You can read it. People certainly disagree about a lot of things in interpreting this passage, but one thing that's pretty crystal clear is that this claim in Gen 1 IS being asserted for its absolutely explicit truth value. God isn't figurative, nor is His mastery over the earth. Again, this is just good interpretation.
Why does this matter? Because I actually do claim that, rightly interpreted, all of Scripture IS true. And by "rightly interpreted," I don't mean you get to do a bunch of tricks. I just mean you have to be fair to each passage, and I don't think you are being so to Job at all, nor to the parallel analysis of Job and Genesis. Some things in the Bible are figurative. Others really mean to make direct claims about history or the world. You just have to figure out which any given instance is doing, and I don't think Job is a close case: it's pretty clearly poetic language, imho.
I don't disagree with you on all cases, by the way. Christians do just as much injustice to the text sometimes as I think you are here. For example, I have no idea what the Biblical basis is supposed to be for the basis of homosexuality being either genetic or non-genetic. Similarly for various other extravgent claims one sometimes hears made.
"Why is it so hateful to accept that the psalmist and Job were believers in the flat earth and geocentric universe?
Well, I don't know what they believed. My point is that the literal truth of their (inspired) words is in any case not impacted, when one interprets the words to see what is the proposition that they are asserting.
Well, semck, I suppose I believed the old wive's tale about the flat earth. How about that, eh?
Anyway, we do have a real ontological problem presented to us. At what point did the phrase "the four corners of the earth" originate? Or more aptly, /how/ did it originate? It seems to me a flat earther probably thought of that rather than a poetic globalist who was looking at his sea charts and said, "Ah ha! Four corners! Yes, yes, that'll do nicely!"
Now, I know this may be a turn off, but the citations are dense and good, so I appeal to wikipedia's article on flat earth (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Earth#Ancient_Near_East) that says the Egyptians and Mesopotamians believed in a flat earth and that, since the Hebrew texts agree with descriptions in Egyptian/ Mesopotamian mythology, the Hebrews probably did too. Moreover, contemporaries in the Greek world (c. 8th century BC) believed in a flat earth, so I am inclined to think the Jobist and probably psalmist subscribed to this cosmology.
Fair enough that I ignored the "if it is." I'll try to mind my p's and q's a little better. Sorry about that. =)
I'm not sure what you mean by my history being completely wrong. I know the Europeans did /not/ believe in a flat earth by that point in history, but I recall being taught in elementary school that the Europeans thought the earth was flat and that Columbus fell off. I was trying to evoke that memory of education, but you seem to have had a better teacher than me. =P Oh well. Bad example.
Honestly, I'm not sure the language was intended to be figurative so much as, that was the best language he had to describe things. Let me explain my doubts. Even into the Ottoman empire, there was a very conservative thought that God(s) literally lived above the earth and a star was literally a god (which is why horoscopes are so important, whether a god is in your sign or not, yeah?). The Muslims destroyed the greatest observatory in the world around 1300(?) after a devastating naval defeat (the Lepanto, of all things =), because they believed they had sinned by "looking into the mind of God." Anyway, this idea is very old and in the Iliad, characters are always shouting towards the heavens to get the attention of a god because heaven is just within earshot, if you're loud enough. Similar actions can be seen in Gilgamesh, the OT, etc. So I take it for granted that the old belief was, heaven is literally right above us. Etymologically, the Old English word and modern German words for sky also mean heaven (I can provide citations or more languages that equate these ideas, if you like).
Okay, so! If they believed that the Tetragrammaton literally lived just within earshot if you were loud enough, then what else did they believe? I'm inclined to think that the storehouses for snow was just the best language to describe what they thought God was doing, if that makes sense. I'm willing to hash this out with you further, if you agree with my logic to this point.
Now, I don't disagree with your "rightly interpreted" unifying the scripture and creating a cohesive whole (although, I certainly do play devil's advocate enough, don't I?). What I'm trying to get at about this flat earth, geocentric, etc is, the authors of the texts understood the world differently than we do and should be read in that context. But they should also be understood as wrong. The psalmist and Jobist and Ecclesiast are wrong to assert the flat earth, geocentric, and other demonstrably false ideas. So rather than read them with an "interpretation" that says "divine inspiration made the author write these words so we could understand them with what science really says is true," I think we should read such passages with the understanding that these authors believed the world a certain way.
Let's take Ecclesiastes as an example. Most beautiful book ever written in my opinion. The author likely believed, theologically speaking, like a Sadducee, and it reads kinda like that: no angels and demons, no resurrection of the dead, no afterlife (except Sheol). When read in this context, it makes a helluva lot of sense. But most Christians seem to read it as a downer of a book that doesn't make sense because there /is/ an afterlife, Jesus promised! And that's incredibly unfair (as you said in your penultimate paragraph).
I've lost my train of thought, I imagine it's the vigil I went to and the after party with the blood and chocolate of Jesus ;), so I'll end here. I hope I was coherent enough.
Thank you for another response. We disagree on several things. I'll start responding a little haphazardly and try to increase my organization as I go!
OK, so first -- sure, we don't know where the phrase originated. Quite possibly it originated with somebody who believed the earth was a square. The point is, we continue to use it, and one can't fairly ascribe anything by it to OUR beliefs about the earth; it's not terribly reasonable to do so to an ancient writer either, therefore -- it might have been around hundreds of years already when he used it. For example, in Isaiah 11:12, Isaiah refers to the "four corners of the earth." On the other hand, in Isaiah 40:22 -- the same book -- he refers to "the circle of the earth." Now I would hope that even the intellectually much-maligned ancient Hebrews would be allowed to realize that a circle does not have corners. I would thus suggest that greater nuance might be in order in inferring things from such language.
Yes, what you suggest about the Europeans and Columbus falling off is indeed incorrect. : ) I did learn the same story in elementary school, though -- somebody just corrected me later on.
My next point is a nitpick, so I'll make it now before proceeding: you say that geocentrism is a "demonstrably false idea." I presume you're suggesting that heliocentrism has taken its place. Unfortunately, a little-remarked consequence of Einstein's general relativity is that neither of these systems can coherently be viewed as any more valid than the other, anymore. To talk of either one requires an assumption of absolute space, which GR says doesn't exist, so that you can talk about which one is moving _more_ with respect to said absolute space. But since that space doesn't exist, we're left with a situation where you can choose whichever you like with equal correctness: the earth and sun are both moving on geodesics, and if you choose a coordinate frame where either is stationary, everything works fine (and just the same). So, the Copernican revolution has, in that sense anyway, suffered a setback, and you can't give content to the claim that the earth goes around the sun, and not the other way around.
OK, anyway. Let's turn to the central part of your response -- the paragraph opening, "Honestly, I'm not sure...." (or two paragraphs, whatever). As I read it, you're basically grouping together every old culture under the label "old" and assuming they believe much the same things. You'll probably protest, but just read what you wrote and tell me you're not. You cite the Greeks, Muslims, and Gilgamesh (and then, finally, but without reference, the OT) for evidence of what the Hebrews believed! OK, Gilgamesh has SLIGHT validity, but the others could not be less relevant, and I think the whole procedure has horribly little nuance. So certainly I am not going to follow you on to your next paragraph -- particularly, remember, since the Hebrews had a _notably_ different religion from those around them. They were monotheists who had no idols, in a world of polytheists with idols. Etc., etc.
But let's examine this issue a little more. Did they really think that heaven was right "up there," virtually indistinguishable from the sky? Well, I'll grant you they used the word heaven for God's dwelling place, and indicated it was up, etc. Much like we do. But they also made it clear that He had created the stars and sky itself -- a little problematic, don't you think, for your hypothesis? You say "hey believed that the Tetragrammaton literally lived just within earshot if you were loud enough." Really? How about this instead: "If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there." (Psalm 139) Or what about "And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven."(Deut. 4) Or what of "Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below." (Also Deut. 4). How about "The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you." (I Kings 8:27). I could go on but I won't. Do you start to see that there's some real subtlety to the Hebrew concept of God and His whereabouts, and it's _completely_ illegitimate to just equate it to a bunch of random ancient facts and conclude that they thought He was this guy up in the sky?
Now, let's turn to your conclusion. (Of course I don't even grant your premise, but let's turn there anyway). You say, "I'm inclined to think that the storehouses for snow was just the best language to describe what they thought God was doing, if that makes sense." Now you're talking about Job, remember. I would wonder, then, if you would still be so inclined if you read Job 36, which says, in relevant part:
"“He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams; the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind. "
Wow, this sounds a lot more like somebody who understands that precipitation comes from clouds, huh? You can see this again in the story of Elijah, or even in the opening verses of your favorite book?
"All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again."
So do you see why I think it's a little subtler than I think you're making it? It's apparent that even the writer of Job -- an ancient book, as you point out -- understood enough about clouds that he probably didn't think snow was kept "in a storehouse" somewhere. This was poetic language, not language written by a completely ignorant primitive boob.
"But they should also be understood as wrong. The psalmist and Jobist and Ecclesiast are wrong to assert the flat earth, geocentric, and other demonstrably false ideas."
And again, I say that they were never asserting it in the first place. Even assuming they believed it (which, some of it they quite possibly did). Here's what I mean. Suppose I mistakenly believe (as do all my fellow citizens) that the Mississippi river is as straight as straight can be. Suppose I write,
"dubmdell is honest as the day is long, and straight as the Mississippi."
Now suppose that later, people discover that the Mississippi curves. Would it then be true that my statement, rightly interpreted, was false? No. (Well, maybe. You were a bit of a backstabber that time as Germany.... but I digress). My statement wasn't an assertion about geography, it was an assertion about you, and it's easy to interpret it still, and it's still (presumably) true.
That is essentially my point.
Now, I don't actually think that you've cited an example of as egregiously a mistaken geographic or scientific mistake in the Bible, since the language you've cited has all been very poetic, and even knowing the science I do I might use such language in a poem. But even if you did, it would not go to the truth of the statement made.
Ecclesiastes: I've always really loved that book as well. I agree that some forms of the standard Christian interpretation are dissatisfying, though yours is too (see 3:21, e.g. There is doubt here as to an afterlife, not certainty of none).
Anyway, sorry if my response was scattershot. I think we disagree, but not completely. We both think that one needs to consider context and interpret carefully. But I think you don't do that in several cases, and also that you're simply wrong in saying that various verses you've quoted are wrong. I hope this was mostly on-point. Let me know if not.
Hey semck, sorry it took so long to respond. Long, long week.
"you say that geocentrism is a "demonstrably false idea." I presume you're suggesting that heliocentrism has taken its place."
Actually, I always said "geocentric universe" and that is demonstrably false because the center of the universe is nothing, as I understand it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the focal point from which everything is moving away an empty space?
"you're basically grouping together every old culture under the label "old" and assuming they believe much the same things."
I cite the 13th/14th century AD Muslims as an example of how a thought has been conserved for centuries. The idea of the gods being in the sky is very ancient and is the crux of the Babel myth. They could be like the gods if they built a tower to the sky, because that is where the gods lived. And I already told you, the horoscopes have meaning because a particular star (read: planet; read: god) is in your astrological sign. This ancient cosmological understanding of "stars (planets) = gods" is so well documented, I don't think sources are necessary, but if you think differently, I can provide some sources.
"They were monotheists who had no idols, in a world of polytheists with idols."
Haha, I love this defense of how different the Hebrews were. Let's pick apart "no idols." Do I need to produce every scripture that says "and the israelites were worshipping idols" or "You wicked generation of israelites! Turn from your idols!" or notably when Josiah the child-king reforms society to dispose of the massive amounts of idols, or my favorite kings Solomon and Hezekiah who actually proliferated the number of idols and sanctuaries to foreign gods? My point is this: while Judaism may be monotheistic, the Hebrew people were not. In fact, they /loved/ foreign cultures, importing their gods, their food, wanting to live with them instead of have a homeland (Exodus anyone? Return from Babylonian captivity?). The Hebrews weren't so different.
"But they also made it clear that He had created the stars and sky itself"
Okay, so the translation from the plurality of gods to just one certainly reshaped cosmology, since the stars are no longer the multitude of gods, they need a creator, our single god. I have seen a lot of interesting ideas batted around about just how the Jews conceived of stars (since a flaming ball of gas billions of miles a way is out of the question), but nothing is wholly convincing. The verses you cite do indicate that the Jews do not assign a single location to where God resides, which is curious to me because Christians today will readily say that God is in heaven (it's in the Lord's prayer for crying out loud!) and Jesus too, and the Holy Spirit resides in the individual. So there's a clear understanding by 1st century AD of where God is. I am going to do further study on this point and see if I cannot develop a convincing thesis for where the Jews conceived of God being, because he did live in a tent in the wilderness, then he supposedly lived in the temple Solomon built, but the verses you cite indicate a very (forgive my boldness) /wrong/ view of God, since God himself said the temple would be his house, his dwelling (2 Samuel 7:5 "thus saith the Lord, shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in?"). Since God himself said "make my dwelling," how could they conceive differently of where he was? Okay, you'll argue semantics about dwelling and leaving the dwelling to go work, yada yada yada. I'm leaving this point alone for now without conceding but also not asserting. I think it requires further research.
"This was poetic language, not language written by a completely ignorant primitive boob."
Nice (correct) usage of the word boob. Although I didn't think I was asserting that he was an ignorant primitive? Anyway, even children understand that rain comes from clouds (and on those days where you get rain and not a cloud in the sky, surely the child asks "Where's the rain coming from since there are no clouds?") but it would be foolish to assert the child understands precipitation cycle. The cycle wasn't even formally (and relatively correctly) stated until the 16th century AD by Bernard Palissy. The notion of something running back to the place from where it came is not assigned only to water: the sun has this same attribute. Which returns us to the original problem: does the sun revolve around the earth in ancient cosmology?
"I say that they were never asserting it in the first place."
//I've written all this out and it seems a shame to delete it, so scratch all this, read and enjoy if you like, but I just don't want to erase my work lol// One's worldview shapes their literature. Consider the Germanic mythology and language. The Germanic languages have no future tense, and indeed, in the mythology, there is no future, for at Ragnarok, the earth will catch on fire, and plant life will die, and animals will die, and humans will die, and even the gods will die. Not a happy ending, no afterlife. And so for the Germanic peoples, when you died, you entered the living past. (this is like sitting out on the front porch on a Sunday afternoon listening to grandma tell about this family member and that family member, how these guys are related, and how you just know this relative is a drunk because he's just like his father and grandfather and great-grandfather. That's the living past.) I'm certainly not learned enough to say whether the mythology arose first or if the tense never developed and needed a mythological understanding, but my point is this: when reading the sagas, like Beowulf, they do not assert anything about the "götterdammerung," but that underlying belief is there. Therefore, we must read the sagas with an understanding of how the viewed the world working.
Another example of out-of-context readings, Virgil. He wrote pastoral poetry before his epic, and there's one where he speaks of a child being born in the east that would rise up to be a great king (eclogue 4). In the Middle Ages, he was considered a herald for Christ, which is obviously absurd. //and this is where I pick up with a real response. End detour. =P //
I just reread your example again, and I think I understand now that you and I are in agreement, but we did not realize. Let me restate your example to see if I got this right.
Generally accepted belief: The Mississippi River is straight. Statement: dub is honest as the Mississippi is straight. Later proven fact: The Mississippi has curves.
At this point, you say "does the fact distort my intended meaning (that dub is honest)?" The answer you posit is no, and that's what I would agree with.
Here's where we disagree, I think. You say "interpret" where I say "read in context." If you believed the MS River was straight, then any comparisons to the straightness of the river would have to be understood from your viewpoint. I call this "reading in context," the context being your worldview. Is this accurate enough?
"But even if you did, it would not go to the truth of the statement made."
Now, in general, I agree with you here too. Back to your example, when reading your statement in the context of belief and in the context of fact produces two opposite meanings (either dub is honest or dub is a liar, respectively). The problem I have with saying "oh well, this is poetry so we understand it one way" or any variant dismissal of the text like that is, 2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness" and the way this verse is used in conjunction with poetry. In one breath the Christian will say "well clearly this doctrine is true because of one verse in poetry" but then dismiss another doctrine that is grounded in three different verses (all poetry, of course!). What's the difference? If Jesus didn't say it, and Paul didn't teach it, how are we to determine one doctrine from poetry is better than another? The example of this that most readily comes to mind is the doctrine of ensoulment that teaches ensoulment occurs at conception (a doctrine I will only debate with you outside the forums). Psalm 51:5 is the poster-child for that doctrine when David says "surely I was sinful from the time my mother conceived me." There are several reasons this verse shouldn't be used for doctrine building. 1) it's poetry, and we dismiss a lot of poetry! 2) the Hebrew literally translates as "from the time my mother was in heat," meaning, before she had intercourse and was just thinking about sex. 3) David is obviously using hyperbole, because he is so distraught over the sin he committed against the Tetragrammaton by inviting Bathsheba for a sleepover. Despite these three excellent reasons, I have yet to convince a single Christian that they are interpreting poetry wrongly, yet they tell me my understanding of the poetry is worse than theirs! Anyway, I'm rambling...
"though yours is too (see 3:21, e.g. There is doubt here as to an afterlife, not certainty of none)."
I spoke too broadly here when I said "no afterlife except Sheol." There were no Jewish notions of a heaven-like place as an afterlife, they did conceive of a holding place like the fields of Asphodel they called Sheol. But the Eccliast is obviously taking an agnostic approach, saying "who can say if there's even a holding place for the soul to go to instead of just sinking into the earth like the body?"
And I just read your last paragraph again and see that you agree we agree on reading in context. -_- it's been a long week, semck. I hope this response pushes our discussion further rather than hinders it.
Hey no problem about the delay. I'm kind of glad it took you awhile, honestly. I was busy too (and am busy). Take your time. :-P
"Actually, I always said "geocentric universe" and that is demonstrably false because the center of the universe is nothing, as I understand it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the focal point from which everything is moving away an empty space?"
There is a preferred frame in cosmology, and it's the frame of expansion, that's true. It's still a convention, though, and (as I understand it anyway) one can't really say in a magisterial way that any point is or is not the center of the universe. Anyway, I'll allow that you were precise and it was a fine point to begin with, and move on.
"I cite the 13th/14th century AD Muslims as an example of how a thought has been conserved for centuries. The idea of the gods being in the sky is very ancient and is the crux of the Babel myth. They could be like the gods if they built a tower to the sky, because that is where the gods lived. And I already told you, the horoscopes have meaning because a particular star (read: planet; read: god) is in your astrological sign. This ancient cosmological understanding of "stars (planets) = gods" is so well documented, I don't think sources are necessary, but if you think differently, I can provide some sources."
What I object to is your horrible treatment of every "old belief" as equivalent, as though you can study what was believed by the ancient Chinese by studying the beliefs of the Incas, or you can study the latter by studying the beliefs of 18th century Peruvian Catholics. Yes, of course SOME ancient cultures worshiped stars, some worshiped idols, some worshiped both, and some worshiped neither. I will continue to view any such equating as absolutely the worst, most irresponsible methodology, and in future posts will dismiss it with a sentence.
"Haha, I love this defense of how different the Hebrews were. Let's pick apart "no idols.""
Touche about Hebrew idolatry. However, it doesn't really go to my point. The Hebrew Scriptures were (typically) written by people pretty steeped in monotheistic Hebrew theology, often decrying the idolatry. The point was that one could not easily assume that something that was true in the _theology_ of the neighboring polytheists would be true in the theology of the extremely different Hebrew monotheistic religion.
A modern day analogy might go like this:
A: "The theology of Saint Thomas Christians likely includes belief in reincarnation. Most of the people around them believe in it."
B: "Well, true, though most of the people around them are Hindus, while they're monotheists. It might not be possible to just transport that. They could have a very different theology."
A: "Please! Saint Thomas Christians are notorious backsliders. They frequently buy Hindu statues to put in their homes."
In brief, your point that the Hebrews did turn to idol worship, while correct, is a red herring in the present conversation.
Let us turn now to your discussion of the location of God. It is real hubris, in my opinion, to go back and, at least early in the interpretive process, conclude that people writing 3000 years ago were wrong about the theology of their own religion, rather than thinking that, oh, I don't know, maybe there's some subtlety going on that I should plumb for. It has been the uniform teaching of both the Jewish and Christian religions that God (at least the Father and Spirit, for Christian theology) cannot be contained in any one place -- He is omnipresent, and everywhere all the time. Any reference to His being in one place at a particular time means that He was present there in a particular additional way in which He was not present at others. In short, there are different modes of God's presence, some of which involve His interacting very specifically and intensely with a particular point in space and time, and others of which are His usual presence everywhere. Both are clearly taught everywhere in Scripture. The presence of the Holy Spirit, for example, in believers is straightforwardly analogous to the presence of God in the temple or tabernacle in the OT (and the NT writers frequently make the analogy). (Jeremiah 23:23-24 is a really nice source for omnipresence that I didn't mention before. Both in the OT and the NT, "heaven" is of course used both to refer to the physical heavens, and to the dwelling place of God specifically (presumably, and certainly as depicted in Revelation or in various of the OT prophets such as Isaiah, God is certainly present in a special way in this latter heaven). Hence, the NT's references to heaven should in no way be taken to negate the OT's descriptions of omnipresence. (See e.g. Ephesians 1:23 for a NT allusion to the doctrine, one of a few NT passages that blur what you try to present as a cut-and-dried theology of God's location).
I see you said "without conceding but also without asserting," so I'll halfway withdraw my hubris remark. Suffice to say, I think it runs roughshod over the OT to assert that the passages I pasted before entail a "very wrong" view of God. They simply entail a subtle view, which is not surprising, given that we're talking about God (what does it mean for the Creator of the universe, who preexists all space and time, to exist inside a tent? Yeah, we're probably never going to be able to give a full account of that one).
"Although I didn't think I was asserting that he was an ignorant primitive?"
Not explicitly, but you treat all the OT writers as though they are.
"Anyway, even children understand that rain comes from clouds (and on those days where you get rain and not a cloud in the sky, surely the child asks "Where's the rain coming from since there are no clouds?") but it would be foolish to assert the child understands precipitation cycle. The cycle wasn't even formally (and relatively correctly) stated until the 16th century AD by Bernard Palissy."
Well, that may all be true, but it seems a very poor refutation of the fact that the book of Job DOES state something very like the precipitation cycle. I don't say that the ancient Hebrews realized that the sun was causing evaporation into clouds, etc., etc., but it does seem clear they realized the clouds arose from the sea, and dumped their water in precipitation, and it then returned to the sea. See also I Kings 18:41 ff. My point is merely that there is every good reason for assuming that the "storehouses of snow" imagery is COMPLETELY figurative language, which you had denied. And when I say every reason, I mean every reason right in the text. I'm not imposing stuff. You, on the other hand, are constantly bringing in extratextual sources and trying to use them to do violence to the reading of the text. (E.g., 11th century Muslims).
"The notion of something running back to the place from where it came is not assigned only to water: the sun has this same attribute. Which returns us to the original problem: does the sun revolve around the earth in ancient cosmology?"
First of all, again, there is no such thing as "ancient cosmology." There is ancient Hebrew cosmology, ancient Greek cosmology, etc., etc.
The Egyptians, for example, believed that the sun was a part of the body of their god Ra. Whether they believed Ra went around the earth, I can't say I have any idea, but needless to say, the Hebrews' idea was pretty different. What I do know is that the description given in the verse you quote is a perfectly accurate description of the sun's motion from the earth's frame, one that we still use today.
I'm not too sure where your Germanic tangent was going, but it was all very interesting. :-) I'll just leave it there.
I'm afraid I don't understand completely your distinction between interpreting and reading in context. Perhaps you can elaborate? In any case, I agree that we should read things in context. (Though I disagree that we should be very sloppy about analyzing that context, which of course you know I think you're doing ;-)).
"The problem I have with saying "oh well, this is poetry so we understand it one way" or any variant dismissal of the text like that ...."
Oh dear! I hope I did not imply we should ever dismiss ANY text in the Bible. Understanding that it's poetry is helpful in interpreting it, but it doesn't at all mean that we should discard it, or that it doesn't have anything substantial to tell us. Just for example, the passage in Job that we've been discussing so much may tell us very little about how snow gets made, but it certainly tells us Who does know, and Who controls it. That, it would be fair to say, is a point that is being forcefully made, albeit in poetry, and I don't at all think you could throw away that point because it's being poetically made.
I also do think that one can even take finer points from some poetic language. It really just depends on interpreting the text. There is no general rule here.
I should probably also comment here that, although I gave the example of the Mississippi river to show how I thought interpretation and assertion should / could work in a context where a technical misstatement was part of the language in the original (and thus, how there was no falsehood involved), that was intended as a nail-in-the-coffin kind of point to your initial claim that there are errors in Scripture because of XYZ. In truth, I don't actually allow that you've so far actually exhibited a passage that even has the defects there laid out.
"In one breath the Christian will say "well clearly this doctrine is true because of one verse in poetry" but then dismiss another doctrine that is grounded in three different verses (all poetry, of course!). What's the difference?"
Well, hopefully, they are doing good exegesis of both passages and taking away the claim that is actually being made or implied as the content of each one.
Examples from modern poetry:
"I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze."
It would be wrong to take from this that Wordsworth could fly, or that he thought he could fly. On the other hand,
"The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea, The ploughman homeward plods his weary way, And leaves the world to darkness and to me."
Here, we probably CAN assume that the poet was in a rural place near evening, and can even further infer that there was some kind of curfew bell or gong wherever he was. (In the event, it was the 8 o'clock curfew bells left from the time of William the Conqueror). This even though he doesn't mean to be talking of curfews, particularly, but to set a mood, using that as an aside.
There's just not a rule -- you have to look at the language and decide.
"The example of this that most readily comes to mind is the doctrine of ensoulment that teaches ensoulment occurs at conception (a doctrine I will only debate with you outside the forums)."
Hahaha. Good call. We can also take this private, if you like, though I'm happy to leave it public too. Anyway, yes. Agreed on that point. But on Psalm 51,
"There are several reasons this verse shouldn't be used for doctrine building." Let us see.
"1) it's poetry, and we dismiss a lot of poetry!"
Well, I certainly do not believe in dismissing poetry, so I reject this reason. (See above: I just believe it has to be interpreted carefully, not dismissed).
"2) the Hebrew literally translates as "from the time my mother was in heat," meaning, before she had intercourse and was just thinking about sex."
You know, it's funny, and kind of lucky from my point of view, that you brought up this psalm. Abge challenged me on exactly this point awhile back, and in particular, told me to find a scholarly article. I looked, and I didn't find one, but I did find the book "Psalm 51: in the Light of Ancient Near Eastern Patternism," by E.R. Dagglish, who was one of the preeminent American Hebrew scholars of the 20th century. It was actually his dissertation at Columbia University. Anyway, I ordered the book on ILL, though I've sadly returned it now. He didn't discuss abortion at all (probably great, from the point of view of this discussion, since that would have raised objectivity issues), but he did do a very exhaustive analysis of the Hebrew text.
The point of all this is that you're wrong -- at least as Dagglish interpreted it, it did mean coition, the beginning of life, and had little or nothing substantive to do with the mother beyond her being the locus of conception.
"3) David is obviously using hyperbole, because he is so distraught over the sin he committed against the Tetragrammaton by inviting Bathsheba for a sleepover."
And that's obviously completely subjective and unsupportable. I can do little but again refer you to the book above, which would disagree, and view the verse as making substantive claims about David's sinfulness to the earliest point of life.
Sorry I can't quote it for you -- I returned it, as I said.
Now, I do think this verse is SOMEWHAT less strong for the abortion point than some would say, simply because there are still two reasonable ways, to my mind, to interpret what he's saying, and only one of them implies the needed point. That said, I also think the usual one is somewhat more natural, and this seems to be agreed on by such as Daiglish, to at least some extent, but anyway. I'm digressing, aren't I? As you can hopefully see, I do think it's completely legitimate to base theology on such verses. You just have to do some work to be careful in interpreting them.
"Despite these three excellent reasons, I have yet to convince a single Christian that they are interpreting poetry wrongly, yet they tell me my understanding of the poetry is worse than theirs!"
Well, I'm afraid I don't find your three reasons compelling, either. Another point worth making is that just because somebody was upset when he wrote something -- that might mean you should take that into account in WHAT HE MEANT, but it won't mean that what he said was false if it made into the Bible. :-)
We largely agree about the passage in Ecc., I'd say.
"And I just read your last paragraph again and see that you agree we agree on reading in context."
I'm glad : )
"it's been a long week, semck. I hope this response pushes our discussion further rather than hinders it. "
And I hope the same. By the way, I hope I don't come off as insulting, or that, if I do, you'll accept this apology. I'm a fairly vigorous arguer (I come from a family of fairly vigorous arguers), and if I think a point is nonsense, I will probably say so. It doesn't mean I think you're stupid, or not saying interesting things, or not worth responding to. If I thought that, I probably wouldn't still be responding.
I'm sure some of you recall the embarrassing moments thread we had a few weeks ago? Well I have searched by google and by rote reading, page by page, and not found it. Neither did abgemacht, the sweetheart that he is, when he went searching. Any help locating it would be appreciated. I do not recall who started the thread.