Moral Dilemma and Christian Morality

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Recently I have been commuting to work for my new job. During my total driving time of two hours, I have been listening to a variety of different Catholic podcasts. One of the apologists that I enjoy listening to is part of Catholic Answers, Trent Horn. What makes Mr. Horn’s apologies appealing to me is his very firm background in logic rooted in the Classics. During the radio show, Mr. Horn often opens up the forum to take calls of those who are either confused by Catholicism or firmly object to them. However, I would make a critique of the show, although he is very understanding of other viewpoints he and the other host often force every caller into answering leading closed questions rather than having an actual discussion. After the person either agrees with Mr. Horn, or sometimes hangs up, the show always cuts to commercial break thus ending with that final point.

One of the topics of Mr. Horn’s show that aired two days ago was Catholic Morality. Mr. Horn asked callers to call in and explain what and why they objected to Catholic Morality. Of course, many of the topics discussed were on the subject of life, the value of it, and the dignity of every human being. One caller, who admitted he was an Atheist, called in and asserted that religion offers nothing new to the table—an assertion I’ve heard made by many atheists. Mr. Horn and the gentleman eventually deduced the separation in their beliefs based on that Mr. Horn believes that what God reveals to be moral, such as how to worship, is not something that can be discovered by biological instincts as claimed by the caller.

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The discussion then either developed or regressed—I’m still trying to decide between the two—into general philosophical examples of moral dilemmas. One of the dilemma’s that stuck out to me was one that for some reason that I had thought of a couple of days prior to the radio show. The name of the dilemma is often referred to as the “Trolley Problem,” and as I have seen employed often to catch Christians in a “gotcha” moment to claim that Christians would naturally by moral instinct either save the most life. The problem often with Moral Dilemmas is they are most likely always logical fallacies for they often exclude the middle, another option, or what is also known as “tertium non datur: ”

The Trolley Problem is often framed as this scenario: A speeding train is heading toward a railroad car carrying five people. You can save these five people by hitting the train switch, which will change the direction of the train. However, the train will then turn towards one person on the tracks killing that person, or you can simply do nothing letting the five people die. The answer to the scenario is indeed complicated, however, it concludes that your action has only two possible results based on your logical reasoning. It forces one of Christian moral principle to choose to allow someone to die. One of the fundamental problems with is that the moral dilemma attempting to measure the general psychology of temporal perception forcefully and fallaciously negates the proper Christian response. A Christian, who has ultimately chosen to no longer live his own life, but that of Christ, as St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians (2:20) would seek to offer up his own life to save the entirety of the group. Of course, the gotcha crowd will attempt to either assert that only two outcomes are possible, but in the course of the actual event: A. No one would know it. B. No, in fact, the psychologist or philosopher doesn’t either.  In fact, it’s a complete failure to understand Christian philosophy to attempt to eliminate hope with forced probability of outcomes.

Mr. Horn used another dilemma example, a War Chief would either get to rape a woman or he would murder a village of 1000 residents. After Mr. Horn explained to the caller that he would not let the War Chief rape the woman as an exchange, the caller was flabbergasted. “You would let him KILL 1000 people!” Mr. Horn reminded the caller that the Christian open to the grace of God cannot be complicit in intrinsically evil actions because we start to justify one evil as greater than another then ultimately the cost is too high. Finally, Mr. Horn ended with this scenario: A man breaks into his house and says, “I will kill your wife and let your family live, or I will kill you all.” Mr. Horn to the stunned callers silence said, “I will not choose to kill anyone, I would simply say may God have mercy on all of our souls.”

What the world, the philosopher, and the psychologist have forgotten is that the seeds of Christian moral philosophy are the seeds of martyrdom. All Christians value life as a gift; however, we must all pray for the Grace of God to give us the understanding of our call to truly love our neighbors.

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Eschatological Tradition Pt. 2

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I welcome those who have either caught the first part of the two-part series or those who visiting for the first time. The Eschatological traditions of the Catholic faith can seem overwhelming at first glance; however, a fantastic place to begin to understand what Catholics believe is found in an explanation of the faith by Michael Pennock in his book This is Our Faith. Pennock goes over every single element of the end times and explains it in a manner that can be understood by the laity.

The Resurrection of the Body

Pennock explains, “At death our souls will separate from our bodies which will decay.” (p.155) Our souls will meet God, but when Christ returns on a cloud, God will “grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls.” (CCC 997) Pennock writes, “Our Christian belief in the resurrection of the body contrasts sharply with many other religions that teach some type of nebulous spiritual form of existence in the afterlife. Christians belief gold that the whole person—body and soul—will survive death.” (p. 155) Pennock reminds Catholics that the Resurrection of the Body doctrine is core to Christian belief of respecting the human body, especially the defenseless (like unborn babies). (Ibid)

Of course, a natural question is what will be the state of our bodies? Will some be children? Will some be old? Pennock reminds us that “The most important quality of the resurrected body is immortality; we will never die again…We will never feel pain. Our bodies will shine brightly, reflecting the glory of the beatific vision, that is, “seeing God.”—like Moses.

St. Paul allows the best insight on the topic in his first letter to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 15:35-37, 42-44.

35 But some one will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain…

 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.

The Second Coming

In the first paragraph of Pennock’s description of the Second Coming, he highlights the second to last verse in the Bible, Revelation 22:20, which reads “Come Lord Jesus.” (p.153) It’s plea that many Christians have forgotten in their prayers in this modern temporal world. As humans, we look at the hostility of war, politics, famine, etc., and believe that somehow if we just put aside our differences we can make a paradise here on earth. However, only Christ can do so, and before he comes, our world will only decay further into ruin. Christ will come again at the Parousia, a day that Christians do not fear, and a day that only the Father knows the hour. The second coming of Christ, explained by Pennock, “will mark the time when God’s reign will be fully established on earth.” (p. 154) As the Apostle’s Creed confesses that during Christ’s seconding “from Thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

St. Paul gives a description of the event of the Second Coming and the Resurrection of Body in his letter to the Thessalonians; 1 Thes. 4:16-17 RSV:

16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; 17 then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. 

The Second Coming of Christ is intrinsically connected to both the Last Judgment and the Resurrection of the Body. In the CCC 1040 it declares, “The Last Judgment will come when Christ returns in glory. Only the Father knows the day and the hour; only he determines the moment of its coming. Then through his Son Jesus Christ he will pronounce the final word on all history.”

The Judgment

Our Judgment is broken into two judgments, the first being a particular judgment and the second being the general judgment, or also known as The Last Judgment. The Particular Judgment occurs immediately after our earthly death when we will appear before God. (p.152) During this judgment, God will decide whether we worthy of entering into Heaven. Pennock explains, “At death, our time of trial is over. The Particular Judgment will reveal us for what we are…either loving lives of service or lives of self-centeredness.” (Ibid) As noted by Pennock, If choose a life of love and service, this judgment is nothing fear, as there will be no surprise during the outcome of this judgment for we truly know in our hearts whether we have done God’s will or not. (p. 153)

The general judgment or the Final Judgment takes place during the end of time. God’s saving plan will be revealed to everyone who has every lived in the world. The Gospel of Matthew Chapter 25 gives a vivid account of this judgment where the Son of Man will separate the sheep from the goats. Pennock articulates that “The basis of this last or general judgment is simple: the love of God with our entire beings and our neighbor as ourselves.” (p, 153)

Mt. 25: 31-46 RSV

The Judgment of the Nations

31 “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Eschatological Traditions of the Catholic Faith Pt. 1

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The Eschatological traditions of the Catholic faith can seem overwhelming at first glance; however, a fantastic place to begin to understand what Catholics believe is found in an explanation of the faith by Michael Pennock in his book This is Our Faith. Pennock goes over every single element of the end times and explains it in a manner that can be understood by the laity.

Heaven

Heaven, as described by Pennock, is the reward of “eternal life spent in union with God and all those who share in God’s life. (p.156) Those who die in God’s friendship, grace, and purified will share in this eternal life. Pennock explains that “Heaven is the name for this superabundant life in communion with the loving Triune God, the Blessed Mother, the angels, and saints. It is the community of all who fully incorporated into Christ.” As Pennock illustrates it is best described by the book of Revelation 21:4 RSV:

4 he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”

In Heaven, Christians will have the opportunity to experience what is known in Christian theology as beatific vision, a vision that will allow us to view God finally face-to-face. (p.157) Christians are reminded of this opportunity by Moses’ relationship with God in Exodus 34:29-35:

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tables of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 And when Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 And afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; 34 but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone; and Moses would put the veil upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Hell

The common belief of fire and brimstone of Hell is a false description of the actual place. However, it does describe the pain of what is truly Hell. Hell is the eternal separation from God, a reward for one who chooses themselves and rejects God’s love. A result that God allows not because he a malevolent dictator as New Atheism would like to portray him, but instead because he “respects human freedom, a freedom that can pridefully refuse God’s grace, love, and mercy…a person is free to reject that invitation through living a selfish, heartless, and unloving life. God respects that choice.” (p.159) In the parable of Lazarus is a very telling explanation of those who have chosen to reject God’s love, Lk 16:29-31 RSV

29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.’”

Purgatory

Church Doctrine teaches of the existence of Purgatory, which is the final purification and cleansing of our sins so that we can enter Heaven. Pennock explains, “We pass through the fire of God’s love which enables us to embrace completely the all-holy God with open hearts. Purgatory is necessary because, as the book of Revelation teaches, only a clean person can enter heaven.” (p. 157) The process of purification, or purgatory, is a process that is painful; however, the pain is rooted in a pain of letting go of our selfish attachments when passing into Heaven. (p.158) Furthermore, as explained by Pennock, it may be explained that “persons ‘burn’ with remorse because they are not yet one with God who is infinite goodness and love. This temporary separation from God due to our own actions on earth does bring suffering.” (p. 158)

The best scriptural evidence for purgatory is found in 2 Maccabees 12:41-45, a passage that encourages the living to pray for the dead, so they can be released from their sin. 2 Maccabees is a book that was ripped from the Canon of the Bible by the Protestant reformers due to its evidence of purgatory. In 1st century Judea, all books that were part of the deuterocanonical would have been considered canonical, even by Christ and the Apostles, as those during the era would use the Septuagint, which included the text.

41 So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous Judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; 42 and they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. 43 He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. 44 For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. 45 But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.

The Infancy Narrative of Moses: Part 2

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Part Two: The Infancy Narrative of Moses and Origins.

Taking a look at the Moses narrative, secular scholars have attempted to shut the case of Moses very quickly by dismissing the infancy narrative. In an account written on Cuneiform texts discovered in the same library as the epic of Gilgamesh give a stirring account that is very similar to that of the infancy narrative of Moses.[1] Werner Keller in his book The Bible as History gives this account of  Sargon:

“I am Sargon, the powerful king, the king of Akkad. My mother was an Enitu priestess and bore me in secret. She put me in a little bod made of reeds, sealing its lid with pitch. She put me in the river… The river carried me away and brought me to Akki the drawer of water. Akki the drawer of water adopted me and brought me up as his son.”[2]

 At this point, the secular scholar will assert it’s the same story, it’s not likely to occurred to two different people (even though it would two people in a span of one thousand years), and it predates Moses, so Moses must be fictional. Egyptologist K.A. Kitchen asserts that “People have usually dimissed both tales as legendary, and therefore sometimes Moses likewise. But the latter does not follow; legendary infancy or not, Sargon of Akkad, of great renown was a real king, and inscriptions are known from his reign both in the originals and in Old Babylonian copies. So a “birth legend” (even a popular kind) does not automatiicaly confer mythical status.”[3] However, the earliest text of the Sargon infancy narrative date to the Neo-Assyrian period or later, which would date the text to the 8th century B.C.[4] The Exodus sources of Jahwist and Elohist are dated to the 10th and 8th centuries, and would make the Exodus sources early than any recorded source in support of the Sargon infancy narrative.[5] It may appear true that the Exodus infancy narrative is similar in regards to the basket and river, however, as Professor James Hoffemier concludes that because the Exodus sources are earlier it “diminishes the case for the Sargon legend influencing Exodus.”[6]

Furthermore, in the context of the two narratives there are fundamental differences. A full comparison of the Sargon infancy narrative with the Moses Infancy narrative must be analyzed for a proper critique. The Exodus narrative reads:

2 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took to wife a daughter of Levi.The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. And when she could hide him no longer she took for him a basket made of bulrushes, and daubed it with bitumen and pitch; and she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds at the river’s brink. And his sister stood at a distance, to know what would be done to him. Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, and her maidens walked beside the river; she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to fetch it. When she opened it she saw the child; and lo, the babe was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away, and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10 And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son; and she named him Moses,[a] for she said, “Because I drew him out[b] of the water.”[7]

 Egyptologist Donald Redford has collected and studied all the known stories of what is called the “exposed child” motif in the ancient Near East.[8] Redford had concluded in the thirty-two examples that all of the stories fit into three categories:

  1. The Child exposed due to shameful circumstances
  2. A Powerful political leader is attempting to kill the child.
  3. A Massacre threatens the life of the child.[9]

 

After examining the two narratives what appears to be the correct categorization as Redford concludes is that the Sargon Infancy Narrative fits into the first category, whereas the Moses Infancy Narrative fits into the third category.[10] At first glance at examining the two narratives side by side there appears to be similarities, but the differences make it far too likely they influenced each other. For example, in the Sargon story his mother bore him in secrecy, which was the reason she decided to place him in the basket to send down river. Hoffmeier explains that “Sargon claims that his mother was a priestess, but his father was unkown, perhaps because she was to remain sexually chase in her role as a priestess, she sought to cover up this birth by placing the baby in the reed basket.”[11] Moses’ mother saw that he was good and this was the cause for her actions. She did place him in the basket but hid him among the reeds, there’s no indication that he traveled down stream. Redford claims that according to the motif the two narratives “are not true parrells.”[12] Even if one is not convinced that these are differences enough between the two narratives, Werner explains, “The basket-story is a very old Semitic folk-tale. It was handed down by word of mouth for many centuries. The Sargon legend of the third millennium B.C. is found on Neo-Babylonian cuneiform tablets of the first millennium B.C. It is nothing more than the frills with which posterity has always loved to adorn the lives of great men.”[13] Werner’s analysis indicates that both stories are probably fictional to both men as the basket-story was merely added for dramatic flare. If there were similarities, they would have no bearing on whether Moses is real or not because the story is probably not real for Sargon either.

The Exodus infancy narrative also gives an explanation to the naming of Moses. Werner confirms that his “name can be connected with a Semitic root meaning ‘bring or take out, remove extract, but can also be interpreted as Egyptian. ‘Moses’ means simply ‘boy, son’. A number of Pharaohs are called Ahmose, Amasis, Thutmose.” The idea of Moses being truly an Egyptian was explored by Sigmund Freud for novel purposes. The idea, furthermore, has been hijacked, in my opinion, by academics looking to further the ideas of multiculturalism and diversity. Barbara Johnson, former Professor Emerita of English and Comparative Literature and the Frederic Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society at Harvard University, examines Freud’s research on the topic of Moses and the monotheistic religion of Akhenaten in her essay “Moses, the Egyptian.”[14] Johnson, in her essay, explains that “The opposition between history and memory seems especially useful in the cases of Moses and Egypt. no amount of historical accuracy will counteract the impact of a strong tradition. The mythic memory of Egypt still has a hold on us today, in spite of the facts that contradict it.”[15] It’s important to understand the layers of Johnson’s comments here. Again, The Book of Exodus and the Bible are not suppose to be read as entirely a historical account. It’s an account of the revelation of God to man. Furthermore, the writing reflects the ideas and culture of those who composed the text, therefore, this is a danger to input postmodern ideas and fascination with racial tensions like Barbara Johnson. Egyptologist K.A. Kitchen explains, “The name of Moses is most likely not Egyptian in the first place! The sibilants do not match as they should, and this cannot be explained away. Overwhelmingly, Egyptian s appears (samekh) in Hebrew and West Semitic, while Hebrew and West Semitic (samekh) appears as tj in Egyptian…It is better to admit that the child named by his own mother, in a form originally vocalized Mashu, ‘one drawn out.’”[16]

Hoffmeier asserts that it has been shown by J. Gwyn Griffiths that “Egyptians personal names with the Egyptian “s” that are transliterated into Semitic languages…Some cases of Egyptian names with “s” appear as “s” in Semetic texts…the ‘rule’ that the Egyptian “s” should always appear in Semitic as (samekh) is not consistent.”[17] Hoffmeier believes Griffiths argument to be more convincing than Kitchen’s due to the literary analysis that it appears that Pharaoh’s daughter pulls Moses from the river.[18]

After examining the accounts of both the Sargon Infancy Narrative and the Moses Infancy Narrative, as well as the naming of Moses, it must be admitted that it doesn’t give any other proof towards the existence of a historical Moses. However, one must conclude that the Sargon account does not dismiss the historicity of the Moses account.

[1] Joan Goodnick Westenholz, January 1984. “Review of The Sargon Legend: A Study of the Akkadian Text and the Tale of the Hero Who Was Exposed at Birth by Brian Lewis”. Journal of Near Eastern Studies 43.

[2] Werner Keller The Bible as History (New York: First William Morrow, 2015), 115.

[3] Kitchen, 296.

[4] James K. Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 137.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ex. 2:1-10 RSV

[8] Hoffmeier, 136.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Werner, 115.

[14] Barbara Johnson,  and B. Rietveld. Moses and Multiculturalism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), 47.

[15] Ibid,

[16] Kitchen, 297.

[17] Hoffmeier, 141.

[18] Ibid, 142.

The Historicity of Moses: Part 1

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Part One: The Importance of Moses and the Exodus.

I am beginning preliminary research on the subject for my thesis on the topic of a historical Moses. I began to be interested in the topic after conversations with several Atheists who make the claim that Moses isn’t real. In fact, these gentlemen would make the claim that the historical consensus has dictated that Moses is a myth.[1] In this regard, they would be correct; the historical consensus would indicate that the Exodus account didn’t take place. However, when presented with contrary evidence, the atheist scholar indicates that they will only accept ‘unbiased’ work, which means they will only accept a historical thesis by a none Abrahamic believer. The truth of the matter though is that all people have biases when it comes to forming the narrative and conclusions on historical events, a historian learns this in Historiography 101. It’s natural that the secular scholar will not actively search for a result that contradicts their beliefs, but expects scholars of faith to do so.

Where’s the evidence? Now, this isn’t a philosophical discussion that relies on the metaphysical like the discussion whether there is a supreme being or not. The thesis being discussed is whether Moses was a living breathing actor in the temporal world. The secular assertion is mostly based on the lack of archaeological evidence, notwithstanding, I personally, as one who has operated in the field of history, do not believe that archaeology has the final say on all events—especially ones where archaeological evidence would be hard pressed to find—in deserts spanning over three thousand years. This debate is as important, if not more, than the metaphysical debate about the existence of God. The ramifications, of course, are that those who wish to discredit the historicity of Moses expand their assertion to the understanding that if Moses is fictional, then Christianity is fiction, due largely to the Transfiguration of Christ, among other events. It’s important for our ability to make fishers of men refute such secular biased scholarship. Egyptologist K.A. Kitchen writes, “Throughout the Hebrew Bible, there is no single event (or theme, if the status of ‘event’ be denied) to which its various writers hark back so pervasively as the tradition of the ancestral Israelites being liberated from servitude in Egypt, then forming a community under their deliverer deity YHWH.”[2]

Scholars to fully consider whether Moses is truly a historical actor must understand that it’s certainly okay as scholars, and furthermore as the faithful, to disregard the consensus, especially if one is seeking to argue against it. There are other modern scholars who have argued for the case for a historical Moses and are basing their findings on archaeological evidence. One of them by the name of Gerard Gertoux, who is a Ph.D. candidate in France, who based on his biography at Academic.edu has been black balled by French academia, not by his dissertation on Moses and Exodus, but because he is a Jehovah Witness. Gertoux has published another essay on the topic writing:

“Some atheists refuse to take into account the Bible because that book states clearly the existence of God as well as miracles. However, in my opinion, searching the truth must be the fundamental purpose of any honest historian.“What is truth” Pilate said to Jesus (Jn 18:38). For honest and scientific historians, “truth” is based on two main pillars: 1) an accurate chronology anchored on absolute dates(Herodotus’ principle) and 2) reliable documents coming from critical editions(Thucydides’ principle)”[3]

 Again, as one who has worked in the field of history, I thoroughly support Gertoux on the above statement. After explaining what Gertoux considers truth he runs through a list of scholarly experts making claims that the Exodus story and Moses are fiction.

Here is an example:

Modern archaeology has shown that the concept of archives kept in Jerusalem with writings of the tenth century, is an absurdity based on a biblical witness and not on factual evidence. Bible stories would rank therefore among national mythologies, and would have no more historical foundation than the Homeric saga of Ulysses, or that of Aeneas, founder of Rome, sung by Virgil –Israel Finkelstein, Israeli archaeologist[4]
Gertoux makes a clear distinction in his essay by stating, “An objective reader should note that most reasons put forward by these prestigious scholars are ideological, not based on any verifiable factual data”[5]

Now it’s important to note that I am not necessarily endorsing Gertoux’s thesis if this were the case I wouldn’t be interested in researching the topic myself. However, I do agree with is introductory comments on the topic. Here is his thesis:

According to Egyptian accounts the last king of the XV the dynasty, named Apopi, “very pretty” in Hebrew that is Moses’ birth name (Ex 2:2), reigned 40 years in Egypt from 1613 to 1573 BCE, then 40 years later hemet Seqenenre Taa the last pharaoh of the XVII the dynasty and gave him an unspecified disturbing message.”[6]

However, there are two particulars of the debate that I would like to discuss, and one of them is the term myth. The modern understanding of this word often renders that anything labeled as a myth is fiction; however, this is an incomplete definition of the word. Most ancient oral traditions that would be considered myths effectively conveyed truth to folks who continued to tell the events–a method that was vital before the advent of writing.  The Book of Exodus and the Bible is not suppose to be read as a historical account per say. It’s merely an account, albeit a cultural one that is a reflection of those who wrote it, of the revelation of God to man. Thus, it is the empiricists who have difficulty understanding that with those who continue to look to this collection of books that appear to reject empirical evidence for valuable information. Empiricists will do their best to dismiss the entirety of the Bible as a credible source, but they negate the fact that it was written by authors who would have recorded events from oral histories that predate the invention of modern historical research and writing. The second part, perhaps broken into subparts, is that does Christianity—due to the Transfiguration—require Moses to be truly historic, and how much of the account of Exodus has to be factual due to oral traditions? (An important point throughout the entire Exodus narrative)

[1] William G. Dever ‘What Remains of the House That Albright Built?,’ in George Ernest Wright, Frank Moore Cross, Edward Fay Campbell, Floyd Vivian Filson (eds.) The Biblical Archaeologist, American Schools of Oriental Research, Scholars Press, Vol. 56, No 1, 2 March 1993 pp.25-35, p.33:’the overwhelming scholarly consensus today is that Moses is a mythical figure.’

[2] K.A. Kitchen On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2003), 241.

[3] Gertoux, Gerard. “Moses and the Exodus: What Evidence?” Moses and the Exodus: What Evidence? Accessed March 24, 2016. https://www.academia.edu/13001480/Moses_and_the_Exodus_what_evidence.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

Historicism of Christians and Muslims of the Crusades Pt. 2

PetertheHermit

Please visit my previous post, part 1, if you have not read it.

What drives the opinions of President Obama and writer Adam Gopnik is the effect of the Enlightenment, Madden writes, “In a post-Enlightenment world, the concept of religious warfare is odious, largely because most people no longer believe one’s religious beliefs are relevant to one’s view of the world,”[1]—see, President Obama and Adam Gopnik. Madden goes on to explain that only after the event of 9/11  Westerners received a rude awakening that yes, in fact, “religion remains a reason to wage deadly war.”[2] However, Madden asserts that the reasons we wage war have changed very little since the Crusades, the secularist states have only replaced religion as a reason for war with loyalty to the state or political ideology.[3] Madden’s analysis is something that people like Adam Gopnik can never understand due to their bias loyalty to their political ideology. I would certainly surmise that Gopnik is even fanatical enough that it isn’t possible for him to understand that the Crusaders reasons for war and his reason for writing this piece are both rooted in the same metaphysics.

So unlike Gopnik, Madden reviews the bare bone facts of Christianity, the Crusades, and Islam.  Madden asserts, “Unlike Islam, Christianity had no well-defined concept of holy war before the Middle Ages. Christ had no armies at his disposal, nor did his early followers. Only in AD 312, after the conversion to Christianity [of the Roman Empire], did the religion come into direct contact with statecraft and warfare.”[4] Christopher Tyerman gives a more in-depth description of the development of Christian Just War writing, “When Christianity became adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire in the early fourth century, Graeco-Roman just war confronted the Judaic traditions of war fought for faith and not merely temporal but divinely ordained rights…prompted the emergence of a set of limited principles of Christian just war.”[5]

Adam Gopnik’s interpretation of the ‘facts’ appears to be missing a vital understanding that folks in the past do not think in the same manner as people today. So to balance the ‘facts’ laid out by these two scholars are Christ was lowborn, most of his disciples were low born, and they had no access to warfare. Christianity developed a philosophy of just war when the Roman Empire incorporated Christianity officially into its empire. During this period, St. Augustine of Hippo developed the doctrine of Just War incorporating the practicality of time, Pax Romana, and Christian moral goodness.[6] In this manner, the foundation of Christianity is very different from Islam.

In 7th century A.D., Christianity finds its first true competitor when the Prophet Mohammad founded Islam. Madden explains that “the Prophet was both a political and religious leader, Islam was at once a faith and a means of government. Commerce, justice, diplomacy, and war were built into the bedrock of the religion…Mohammad waged war first against other Arab towns and then against Mecca itself.”[7] Traditional Islam is divided into two different concepts for the world, the Dar al-Islam (Abode of Islam) and the Dar al-Harb (Abode of War). Madden explains that the Abode of War does include the Christian world where Muslims “were enjoined to wage jihad against unbelievers.”[8] Tyerman explains that with the Abode of Islam, People of the Book (Christians, Jews, and others) “living in Muslim lands…religious tolerance was guaranteed by early Islamic texts (see, Sura 109)…the People of the Book had to recognize their subordinate status and pay a tax, the jizya. Despite the reaction of some modern sentimentalist, there was little generosity…by contrast…in the Dar al-harb…individuals were open to attack.”[9]
After the Prophet died in 632 A.D., the Muslim faith expanded greatly within a century by military conquest of Persia, Egypt, and Syria. As explained by Madden, around the same period, Muslim conquerors “swept through all of Christian North Africa also crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and established their rule in Spain.”[10] During the 8th century, Muslim forces were marching across the Pyrenees, into Gaul (what is now France), and wouldn’t be sent back to Spain until the Battle of Tour by Charles Martel. Although defeated, Muslims continued to harass Christians living in southern Gaul throughout the 8th century.[11] By the time of Pope Urban II’s declaration in 1095, ¾ of originally Christian lands had been conquered by Muslim caliphates. Madden’s thesis articulates that after 300 years and demands from the Byzantine Empire for aid, the Pope was called to launch a defense of Christendom.

It’s natural to ask, what was the motivation for Muslims to pursue this type of conquest and Christians to wage a counter attack? Tyerman attempts to articulate a ‘balanced’ history by not stressing that the idea of imperialism, but dismissing the religious motivation of  a religious pilgrimage that is the basis of Madden’s thesis. In regards to Islam, “Thus on the Muslim community  was enjoined jihad…this took two forms, the internal spiritual struggle, and the less, the military struggle against infidels…In theory, fighting was incumbent on all Muslims until the whole world had been subdued.”[12] Tyerman differs from Madden by articulating the drive for Christianity was “the opportunity they afforded for a revival of religious enthusiasm, devotion and piety, essentially concerns internal to the church and Christian society.”[13]

Madden’s thesis rest on a social and cultural history from a bottom-up perspective. He explains that an average crusader’s understanding of Pope Urban II’s call was not a call for a Holy War per say, but rather what was known to them as a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulcher. Madden stresses the point that “The distinction between holy war and pilgrimage was real. Crusaders usually referred to themselves as ‘pilgrims’ or ‘cross bearers, and “they took vows of fasting or abstention from sex or by special devotions to be performed during the course of the pilgrimage.”[14]

All in All, there is no disagreement with Adam Gopnik that the Crusades are complex; however, it’s appearing that modern scholarship is disagreeing with the tired old rhetoric that these wars were waged in the name of Christianity for the purpose of spreading imperialistic atrocities. It is certainly true as Tyerman and Madden both agree that Christians are guilty of committing atrocities throughout the period, but these actions are more due to the period than any foundation of Christian faith by looking at the facts with proper historicism. It must be stressed that these wars, a thought made popular by historians like Sir Steven Runciman, were not imperialistic in nature, but rather were due to religious motivations, as these people were intrinsically religious. Whether those motivations are more pious or Machiavellian in nature is still up for debate.

[1] Madden,  1.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 2.

[5] Tyerman, 33.

[6] Ibid, 34.

[7] Madden, 2

[8] Ibid, 3.

[9] Tyerman, 52.

[10] Madden, 5.

[11] Tyerman, 52.

[12] Ibid, 53.

[13] Ibid, 54.

[14] Madden, 9.

Historicism of the Christians and Muslims of the Crusades Pt. 1

procession_of_crusa

During a Prayer Breakfast in 2015, Barack Obama, the President of the United States made the following comment, “During the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”[1] The source I chose to use to cite this comment is the “New Yorker,” a politically left leaning publication. The author of the piece, Adam Gopnik, goes on to comment, “You can immunize any ideology, no matter how vile, if you insist that no one is responsible for what it actually creates…The job of the good historian is to balance understanding with indictment; it’s the polemicist who tries to use history only to plead innocent. The acts of the Crusades, like the facts of slavery, happened.”[2] After studying Gopnik’s biography for a bit to see how he could articulate such rhetoric of understanding on what historians do, I don’t necessarily disagree with his assertion, but if you read the link to the source that I provided I believe it would be difficult for one to assert that his piece is anything more than a polemic.

Gopnik challenging the historian to be balanced in their analysis of the Crusade is as about futile as asking him and the New Yorker to be balanced in their writings. When a historian first begins their academic venture, in most programs he or she will have to take a variation of a class called Historiography 101—mine was called Historian’s Craft. The class basically teaches that every person carries their own bias, or baggage, into everything that they write; therefore, it is a metaphysical interpretation of the facts. Of course, I would certainly assert as I tell students in history classes that I teach this doesn’t mean, in the words of Henry Ford, that “history is bunk.” The second most important part of the historiography class is that the prospective historian is taught how to analyze every document he or she reads to be able to pull out what are the biases of the writer, who is their intended audience, thesis, what is cause and effect for their analysis, and data of evidence.

Another lesson taught in Historiography 101, which would certainly help a balanced writing, is understanding the context of the actors of any particular age within their own era—historicism. Modern historians too often create revisionist pieces attempting to create a Neo-Marxian dialectic of elites manipulating the masses for economic purposes rather than inspired for religion purposes. The trouble with this formula has been the manipulation of the modern historian being too influenced by historical schools and methods of the 19th century. It’s important to understand that those in the Middle Ages would have no concept of these terms or school; not the lower classes and not the elites. In this manner, the common theory of second sons being motived to rape and pillage Muslim lands–quasi-imperialism– is a modern invention, not one that is based on facts. Historian Thomas F. Madden noted the researched conducted by historian Johnathan Riley-Smith, who used computer databases “to analyze large number of documents relating to the men and women who participated in the Crusades…150,000 people across Europe responded to Urban II’s summons…During the course of the First Crusade, approximately 40,000 men marched to the East…Only a minority of that total were Knights…What is clearest in the documentary record is that the great majority of these Knightly crusaders were not spare sons but instead the lords of their estates.”[3]

Another key to gaining the proper historicism of the time is understanding how we read scripture and how those during the Crusades read scripture is completely different. Christopher Tyerman, Lecturer in Medieval History at Hertford College and New College at the University of Oxford, writes, “What may appear today to many Christians and perhaps most non-Christians as an irreconcilable paradox between holy war and the doctrines of peace and forgiveness proclaimed in the Lord’s Prayer, the Sermon on the Mount and many other Gospel passages has not always been so obvious or recognized…by the beginning of its second millennium in western Christendom, Christianity was only indirectly a scriptural faith. The foundation texts…were mediated even to the educated through the prism of commentaries by the so-called Church Fathers.”[4] Furthermore, there is a perception that the Crusades have generated this long resentment against the West by Muslims in the Middle East. Thomas F. Madden, Professor of History and director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at St. Louis University, who is also Catholic (let’s admit the bias), declares, “This is false. The simple fact is that the crusades were virtually unknown in the Muslim world even a century ago. The term for the crusades, harb al-salib, was only introduced into the Arab language in the mid-nineteenth century. The first Arabic history of the crusades was not written until 1899.”[5]

By this particular formula by paragraph three of Gopnik’s piece, I have already determined that he’s more or less an Obama apologist writing nothing more than a apologist piece, take a look at the quote: “Well, half crazy is not so hard to find in America, and Obama’s statement became a source of outrage among the predictable parties, with a lot of frantic Googling to find evidence that our record, though it may look bad, is nowhere near as bad as theirs.” 

 Of course, there must be some reason that I take issue with President Obama and Adam Gopnik’s assessment of the history of the Crusades; partly it’s because of my own bias being a Roman Catholic—let’s at least admit our biases.  The other part I object to is those who have a platform to mold the perception of the general public are doing so without the latest research. However, It’s not the President’s fault he’s been indoctrinated into this perception of the Crusades. Madden indicates that this perception was forged in 19th-century propaganda for rallying nationalistic fervor.[6] He writes, “the use of crusade imagery in propaganda for modern wars began to extract religion from crusading in the popular mind. The word ‘crusade’ increasingly came to denote a grand and glorious campaign for a morally just goal, yet one that was secular rather than religious.”[7] Madden further articulates that with the rise of Bolsheviks and the school of Marxist dialectic historians were persuaded into the belief of a quasi-imperialism being the cause for the Crusades.[8]

The fact that there are reputable scholars who study the Crusades and the Middle Ages, even if some of them Catholic, which take a proper historicism position, which Gopnik mocks as half crazy to hide his apology under the guise of the events are “too complicated” is absurd. Let’s not misconstrue my meaning; the Crusades are complex, however, It’s absurd because Adam Gopnik after asserting the need to be a balanced writer attempts to articulate to his left-leaning readers that opinions contrary to the President’s are difficult to find when they can be found in readily available books.

[1] http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/obama-crusaders

[2] Ibid.

[3] Thomas F. Madden, The Concise History of the Crusades (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), 11.

[4] Christopher Tyerman, God’s War: A New History of the Crusades (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006), 29.

[5] Madden, 201.

[6] Ibid, 199.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.