1. Donationrwingett
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    07 May '07 15:351 edit
    Here we have an account where the Lord commands Joshua to destroy the city of Ai. Joshua follows these commands and slaughters 12,000 inhabitants of Ai:


    Joshua 8:18 And the LORD said unto Joshua, Stretch out the spear that is in thy hand toward Ai; for I will give it into thine hand. And Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city.
    8:19 And the ambush arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand: and they entered into the city, and took it, and hasted and set the city on fire.
    8:20 And when the men of Ai looked behind them, they saw, and, behold, the smoke of the city ascended up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that way: and the people that fled to the wilderness turned back upon the pursuers.
    8:21 And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city, and that the smoke of the city ascended, then they turned again, and slew the men of Ai.
    8:22 And the other issued out of the city against them; so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that side: and they smote them, so that they let none of them remain or escape.
    8:23 And the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him to Joshua.
    8:24 And it came to pass, when Israel had made an end of slaying all the inhabitants of Ai in the field, in the wilderness wherein they chased them, and when they were all fallen on the edge of the sword, until they were consumed, that all the Israelites returned unto Ai, and smote it with the edge of the sword.
    8:25 And so it was, that all that fell that day, both of men and women, were twelve thousand, even all the men of Ai.
    8:26 For Joshua drew not his hand back, wherewith he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.
    8:27 Only the cattle and the spoil of that city Israel took for a prey unto themselves, according unto the word of the LORD which he commanded Joshua.
    8:28 And Joshua burnt Ai, and made it an heap for ever, even a desolation unto this day.



    But then we have an account where Joshua makes an offering to the Lord. He then writes upon the stones the law of Moses and then proceeds to read the entire thing to the assembled people of Israel.


    8:30 Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal,
    8:31 As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings.
    8:32 And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel.
    8:33 And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel.
    8:34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law.
    8:35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.



    Now, the law of Moses is the Torah, or the first five books of the old testament. As I'm sure you're all aware, this includes the ten commandments, including the commandment "You shall not kill."

    Exodus 20:13 You shall not kill.
    Deuteronomy 5:17 You shall not kill.

    So we have Joshua, who has just taken part in the slaughter of 12,000 people of Ai, reminding his own people that "You shall not kill." There is either a glaring contradiction here, or the commandment "You shall not kill" has been greatly misunderstood. I think it is the latter.

    Clearly the Lord has no problem with killing, or with ordering his loyal minions to kill in his name. He does both on numerous occasions throughout the bible.
    Clearly Joshua has no problem with killing 12,000 people of Ai.
    What the commandment means is that 'you shall not kill fellow Israelites.' It's perfectly OK to kill infidels by the score.

    The whole point of this post is to pose a specific question to Christians: How do you reconcile this account with the claim that God and the bible are the source of all morality?
  2. Standard memberNemesio
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    07 May '07 16:14
    Originally posted by rwingett
    The whole point of this post is to pose a specific question to Christians: How do you reconcile this account with the claim that God and the bible are the source of all morality?
    Can I venture an answer?

    Because when God gave the Israelites the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill (anyone),' they 'interpreted'
    this as 'Well, of course God didn't mean 'Thou shalt not kill anyone,' just 'Thou shalt not kill
    each other.'

    That is, rather than adopting the righteous framework of loving all humankind equally as products of
    God's creation, they interpreted the commandment narrowly, assuming that God loved some of His
    creation more than others, and that God would prefer that killing of the inferior parts of creation take
    place rather than reconciliation.

    That is, the Israelites killed in the name of God, but not in accordance with His command, and thus
    erred. And, when they wrote 'God was pleased at the killing,' they were merely projecting their own
    hatreds and prejudices onto God, who I should think found them deplorable (irrespective of what they
    recorded in the Bible).

    Nemesio
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    07 May '07 16:14
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  4. Standard memberSwissGambit
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    07 May '07 16:34
    Originally posted by Nemesio
    Can I venture an answer?

    Because when God gave the Israelites the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill (anyone),' they 'interpreted'
    this as 'Well, of course God didn't mean 'Thou shalt not kill anyone,' just 'Thou shalt not kill
    each other.'

    That is, rather than adopting the righteous framework of loving all humankind equally as products of
    Go ...[text shortened]... ound them deplorable (irrespective of what they
    recorded in the Bible).

    Nemesio
    The Israelites thought that God had commanded them to destroy most of the people of Caanan. This requires more than just a botched interpretation. Either God ordered those killings, or Israel's leaders lied to their people about it.
  5. Standard memberNemesio
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    07 May '07 16:49
    Originally posted by SwissGambit
    ...or Israel's leaders lied to their people about it.
    Fair enough. It wouldn't be the first time religious leaders lied on behalf of a higher authority.

    I would still argue that the killings are inconsistent with both 'God's Character' as it were and with
    the Divine Imperative not to (needlessly?) kill.

    Nemesio
  6. Standard memberSwissGambit
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    07 May '07 17:17
    Originally posted by Nemesio
    Fair enough. It wouldn't be the first time religious leaders lied on behalf of a higher authority.

    I would still argue that the killings are inconsistent with both 'God's Character' as it were and with
    the Divine Imperative not to (needlessly?) kill.

    Nemesio
    Here's the bewildering part. The mass killings continue throughout the Old Testament. Israel's King Saul was allegedly ordered by God to kill off all the Amalekites, and then punished for sparing some of their animals!

    Why did several generations of Israelites miss your point about genocide being incompatible with God's character and the commandment not to kill?
  7. Standard memberNemesio
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    07 May '07 18:12
    Originally posted by SwissGambit
    Why did several generations of Israelites miss your point about genocide being incompatible with God's character and the commandment not to kill?
    Because they were power-grubbing pigs like most leaders of successful political movements?

    Is this a trick question?

    Moses (or someone in his name) had a moment of 'revelation' (for lack of a better word...perhaps
    enlightenment is better) wherein he realized that people who were not Israelites were still 'God's
    People' so to speak. And, in his enlightened state he said 'It is wrong to kill other people.' Jesus
    and a million other people have reiterated this, explicated it, defended it and so forth. But, when
    people get corrupted by power, they conveniently forget these 'Divine Imperatives' because the lure
    of more power or more money overwhelms their sense of right and wrong, and so they err -- often
    and grievously. By wielding their power in such a fashion, they make themselves to be gods, meting
    out their perverse sense of justice rather than reflecting the Divine in themselves and acting compassionately,
    and charitably.

    I think rwingett's point was to try to illustrate that the Bible is filled with events that either demonstrate
    that the Bible is flawed (that is, people erroneously speak in God's name and do sinful things) or that
    the God of the Bible is a pervert (that is, He commands them to do hateful evil things). This is to
    get people who are literalists/inerrantists to reflect upon precisely what such a position entails. I'm
    neither, so I have no problem dismissing obviously evil acts done in the name of God as failures of
    the authors to realize the degree to which they have been corrupted.

    Nemesio
  8. Donationrwingett
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    07 May '07 18:50
    Originally posted by Nemesio
    Because they were power-grubbing pigs like most leaders of successful political movements?

    Is this a trick question?

    Moses (or someone in his name) had a moment of 'revelation' (for lack of a better word...perhaps
    enlightenment is better) wherein he realized that people who were not Israelites were still 'God's
    People' so to speak. And, in his enli ...[text shortened]... of
    the authors to realize the degree to which they have been corrupted.

    Nemesio
    Perhaps. But if you're not a literalist, then how do you decide which parts of the bible are really what god had in mind, and which parts are not? How do you know that Moses had a clearer understanding of the commandment than Joshua did? Did god really urge Joshua to destroy Ai, or did he not? If that part is not to be taken literally, then why should any of it?

    But that's not really my point.

    What I was driving at is whether the bible provides us with an acceptable moral code at all, and whether morality can be said to originate from a being who supposedly endorses that moral code.
  9. Standard memberSwissGambit
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    07 May '07 19:031 edit
    Originally posted by Nemesio
    Because they were power-grubbing pigs like most leaders of successful political movements?

    Is this a trick question?

    Moses (or someone in his name) had a moment of 'revelation' (for lack of a better word...perhaps
    enlightenment is better) wherein he realized that people who were not Israelites were still 'God's
    People' so to speak. And, in his enli of
    the authors to realize the degree to which they have been corrupted.

    Nemesio
    I guess I don't understand what value these stories hold for the non-literalist/non-inerrantist, other than the obvious conclusion that genocide is a bad thing. At least, I wish it were obvious...it seems humanity has not fully learned the lesson.

    Edit: Left out the other 'obvious' point: Be wary of one who would speak for God.
  10. Standard memberNemesio
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    07 May '07 20:17
    Originally posted by SwissGambit
    I guess I don't understand what value these stories hold for the non-literalist/non-inerrantist, other than the obvious conclusion that genocide is a bad thing. At least, I wish it were obvious...it seems humanity has not fully learned the lesson.

    Edit: Left out the other 'obvious' point: Be wary of one who would speak for God.
    The stories like Joshua's sacking at Ai hold value like 'The Odyssey' holds
    value. It is a history lesson told from the vantage point of the winners
    (and, thus, is skewed like all histories).

    That is, it gives us the Jewish take on its own history which is relevant
    for anyone interested in their Judeo-Christian heritage. That it reflects
    an evil part of the history doesn't make it any less valueable, just like
    knowing that America was founded (too) on the 'righteous' genocide of
    a number of native people is also valuable.

    I would imagine that both Christian theist, non-Christian theist and atheist
    alike would be interested in the historical presentations of ancient literate
    peoples.

    Nemesio
  11. Donationrwingett
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    07 May '07 22:14
    Originally posted by Nemesio
    The stories like Joshua's sacking at Ai hold value like 'The Odyssey' holds
    value. It is a history lesson told from the vantage point of the winners
    (and, thus, is skewed like all histories).

    That is, it gives us the Jewish take on its own history which is relevant
    for anyone interested in their Judeo-Christian heritage. That it reflects
    an evil p ...[text shortened]... ld be interested in the historical presentations of ancient literate
    peoples.

    Nemesio
    The difference is that while we may enjoy the Iliad as a piece of literature, we do not hold it up as either an exemplary moral code, or as the source of all morality. The bible, because it makes pretensions on those areas, must be held to a higher standard.
  12. Territories Unknown
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    07 May '07 23:23
    Originally posted by rwingett
    The difference is that while we may enjoy the Iliad as a piece of literature, we do not hold it up as either an exemplary moral code, or as the source of all morality. The bible, because it makes pretensions on those areas, must be held to a higher standard.
    Those who fail to view the Bible in the light of the time in which it was written are the only ones short-sighted enough to lose their way. I suppose one could say the Bible is useless to such folk.
  13. SubscriberAThousandYoung
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    07 May '07 23:27
    Originally posted by jammer
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    Can't understand? Well, we do need some people to dig ditches. Just obey your priest - no need to think for yourself.
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    08 May '07 00:04
    Originally posted by FreakyKBH
    Those who fail to view the Bible in the light of the time in which it was written are the only ones short-sighted enough to lose their way. I suppose one could say the Bible is useless to such folk.
    Which seems to be to be pretty much what he's saying. Or in other words, don't take this stuff literally, because it has a context that's not the same as ours.
  15. Donationrwingett
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    08 May '07 00:10
    Originally posted by FreakyKBH
    Those who fail to view the Bible in the light of the time in which it was written are the only ones short-sighted enough to lose their way. I suppose one could say the Bible is useless to such folk.
    So you're a moral relativist, then, are you?
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