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Pathological Literalism


Skeptic X Finally Rides His Scooter Into Jer. 7:22

James Patrick Holding


As we finally get to Skeptic X addressing what we said years ago about Jer. 7:22, it has become patently obvious -- based on these exchanges, and despite 30 years of teaching college English -- that Skeptic X suffers from some sort of thinking disorder that makes him unable to process figurative language. It is clear that something of this order is amiss with Skeptic X's thinking processes, as is evidenced by this recent exchange. I said:

Skeptic X's initial response takes up 5 printed pages, and 7 of these are taken up with wasted blather...

Skeptic X's response should have all of his neighbors reaching for their baseball bats if they see Skeptic X coming with that Raid can:

Come again? My article took up 5 printed pages, and seven of those were taken up with wasted blather? [Holding]'s math is a bad as his logic. I will recommend to him again that he concentrate less on quantity and more on quality. A little time spent proofreading and editing may cut down on the quantity of his production, but it just might improve the quality. If anyone could use improvement in quality, that would be [Holding].

I suspect 99.99999% of the people in this world would read and "get" the point of my statement above, but not Skeptic X the Fundaliteralist. In fact I want to hear from you if you are of that .00001%, because I can get you and Skeptic X discounts for treatment of your comprehension disorder. Skeptic X actually thinks, yes, that I was being literal in saying he used more pages to make blather than were actually printed. He actually thinks it's a case of bad math or editing. He doesn't get it. Skeptic X recommends math or editing? I recommend he get a life, and a psychological screening to go with it. Skeptic X has repeatedly shown a marked inability to comprehend figures of speech like these properly. Any sensible reader would get the point that by saying that Skeptic X uses more pages for blather than were actually printed, I am hyperbolically stressing that Skeptic X writes an excess of blather into his presentations. In other words, he uses a lot of blather. Skeptic X misses this point and actually takes this as an error in either mathematics, proofreading, or logic! Such a reading is symptomatic of what I have called a "fundaliteralism" or a "pedantic literalism" but I will go even farther now and call what Skeptic X is infected with a pathological literalism. To read such statements as these -- and it isn't the first time Skeptic X has done this -- with blind literalism, shows a way of thinking that borders on the pathological, if not crossing outright into the pathological and planting a flag in the ground.

It is with this in mind that we now proceed to Skeptic X's treatment of Jer. 7:22. I brought this up eons ago in response to Jury Chapter 1 and brought it up again recently with reference to preterism and the use of symbolic language in the Olivet Discourse. Skeptic X's latest is part of a reply on this latter issue, so those coming here from JPH_JER722 should keep that in mind. To begin, though, we get to some housecleaning in context, and a little quote from me that Skeptic X has been obsessing over for years, even as he has never figured out that it says exactly the opposite of what he thinks it does.


Skeptic X begins with a summary that is part lie, maybe (of his usual "spin doctoring" take) and mostly deluded fantasy either way. Skeptic X proposes to show that I "will not accept scholarly opinion when it doesn't agree with [me]" (he's part right; I will certainly not accept it when I have contrary data in hand!) and proposes to do so by "quot[ing] part of an exchange between [Holding] and me that took place when we were both members of an internet list for a brief time. I say 'brief time,' because as soon as [Holding] learned that I was on the list, he left it." That's the lie part, if Skeptic X here refers to a list called CCBE; I remained part of the list until it folded, and speaking of lies, if this is a ref to CCBE, Skeptic X now here apparently admits that he joined this list -- which had been intended for internal use by Christians only -- under false pretenses. If CCBE is not intended here then Skeptic X is fantasizing again, for I have never been part of a list he was a member of otherwise. At any rate, Skeptic X starts by quoting something from the Jehu-2 Kings debate which he said:

His ([Holding]'s) approach also relied on frequent references to what Jones, McComiskey, Hobbs, Provan, and an array of other "scholars" think about this problem, as if their opinions are authoritative enough to settle anything. As I have pointed out repeatedly in my series of responses, finding books and articles that agree with one's religious position is simple to do, so in this respect [Holding] has done nothing that a Mormon couldn't do in defense of the Book of Mormon or that a Catholic couldn't do in defense of papal infallibility or that a Seventh-Day Adventist couldn't do in defense of his position on observance of the sabbath, etc., etc., etc. [Holding] may think that this is "scholarship," but an examination of his article will show that he rarely used logical argumentation to support the claims made by his sources. He simply cited them, frequently in very fragmented quotations, and went on to something else, as if the mere citation of the reference was sufficient to make his case.

Skeptic X says more we will relate, and repeats himself the usual 4,873,849 times (not literally, for the impaired reader), but we'll stop him at this point and note that we have been around this bend many times with Skeptic X before, and it's always the same thing. First, Skeptic X insults Jones, et al. by placing "scholars" in quotes. These writers ARE (or were, if deceased) scholars and deserve the title. Skeptic X doesn't and he has no right to put the word in quotes as though it were undeserved or figurative. Second, and in the bigger picture, this is nothing but Skeptic X's excuse for being lazy and not doing any legwork himself until he is cornered. As we have repeatedly said, if Skeptic X thinks that this is something "anyone" can do and it's just a matter of finding someone to say A to my non-A, in a way that directly addresses non-A, then he needs to get his arduously straining self out and find someone who says A. Demanding "logical argumentation" is a smokescreen (How can one "logically argue" for an asserted piece of data; i.e., "The Maori live in New Zealand"?) for the fact that Skeptic X doesn't have the intellectual goods to deal with the actual arguments, is too lazy to go digging, and knows he will be in over his head just as he was trying to refute a scholar like Rohrbaugh -- and that would be the case whether his ultimate position was right or not. Skeptic X has spent years running his mouth and trying to bamboozle readers into thinking that vaguely demanding "logical argumentation" or yelling "Prove it!" or claiming sources are biased or "published in Grand Rapids" is all he needs to do to achieve a victory in argument, and while that will work with the 500 or so gullible Skeptics he has collected in his lifetime, it doesn't work at all beyond that limited banana republic he is Dictator over.

With this in mind, we move now to where Skeptic X proposes to show my "colossal hypocrisy" and this time does clearly refers to CCBE. Pointing to a discussion of "how the magicians of Egypt could have done 'in like manner with their enchantments' after that Moses and Aaron had changed ALL of the water throughout ALL the land of Egypt into blood," Skeptic X notes how he quoted the comments of Philo that "every particle of water in all Egypt" was turned to blood. Then Skeptic X quotes me as saying:

That's nice, but Philo is simply reading into the text what is not there. So if I find a Jewish commentator of equal worth that says the opposite, is it a draw? If I find two, do I win? Remember that Philo is trying to promote Moses and Aaron here and would maximize their feat to the greatest extent possible.

Skeptic X has apparently saved this comment for several years now, and for all I know, he may sleep with printouts of it, and lovingly caress it, take it for walks, and teach it to sit and beg. He also repeats it at least 8,948,839 times in his latest set of responses. The problem hereafter, though, is multi-fold, in terms of what Skeptic X offers:

First, it's rather ironic that [Holding] would accuse Philo of reading into the text what is not there, when [Holding] is reading into the text that the magicians dug for water along the banks of the river, when clearly there is nothing in the text that even implies that this happened.

There isn't? What about that the Egyptians themselves dug along the banks for fresh water? Were the magicians not Egyptians? I also prefer to note that either the river kept flowing, so that there was fresh water for the magics to play with within a few hours; or else that the passage only means that the magics "did" it in the sense that it was in their normal repertoire of tricks, so that when Moses pulled his schtick, Pharaoh yawned and said, "My guys do that all the time. What else can you do?" At any rate Skeptic X's main subject for delusional fantasy is not this but the second part of my statement, of which he says, first:

[Holding] wondered if he could tie or win by finding one or two Jewish commentators of "equal worth" who took the opposite opinion of Philo's. Well, first of all, let him find other Jewish commentators of equal worth to Philo who expressed an opposite view, and then we can talk about it.

Pause and insert laughter. Note that this is exactly what I have challenged Skeptic X to do time and again, in essence, and he almost never does it; when he does do it (as below) he doesn't necessarily bother about actually finding answering scholars, just disagreeing ones whose arguments do not even address the point I give, but represent the point of view my argument refutes. But next is the big boofo from Skeptic X:

The primary thing in this statement, however, is [Holding]'s own recognition that what writers think doesn't settle anything. If this is true of Philo, then why wouldn't it be true of Provan, McComiskey, Jones, et al whom [Holding] has quoted throughout his article? If I can find an equal number of writers who disagree with their position, does the discussion about the blood of Jezreel turn into a draw? If I can find more writers who disagree with [Holding]'s sources, do I win? I predict that [Holding] will regret the day that he ever made this statement, because he has chopped off at the knees one of his primary methods of "argumentation," i.e., the citation of writers who agree with him. It is a very amateurish method of argumentation, but now [Holding] doesn't even have that.

I am glad Skeptic X agrees that it is amateurish, because the big secret is in two guffaws. First, there is a world of difference between citing someone like Philo -- an intelligent man, to be sure, but one with much less access to the level of data we have in terms of literary, social, and other aspects of Biblical study -- and a modern scholar equipped with all of those tools. That leads to the second point, which I note in the paragraph above. Skeptic X in his ribald ignorance thinks it is simply a matter of quoting scholars back and forth. It isn't, and it's not at all like quoting Philo. Put it this way: I am not merely citing writers who agree with me; I am citing experienced and qualified writers who make arguments based on data and these arguments offer answers to positions that Skeptic X needs to deal with. If Skeptic X says A, and I have a writer who takes position B in response to A, and position B is claimed to be grounded in firm contextual data and is reasonably responsible (i.e., not, "because aliens did this" but for example, "because this word better means X as shown by these examples"), Skeptic X's responsibility then is to find a writer who says "No, B is wrong (and maybe, 'A is actually right'), because C," or else try to argue it himself (which he will do below, and fall on his face in the process, because he can't find a writer that does provide C). If he goes out and finds 100,000 people who say A, that makes not a whit of difference if they don't address B. If he just sits in his easy chair and burps that he could find people who say non-B, he does no more than burp and doesn't answer B at all. If he throws smokescreens demanding that we "prove B" or use "logical argumentation" he also does not answer B. It's nothing but a cheap debate game by Skeptic X, who is trying to shimmy his way out of the embarrassment that when it comes to addressing B, his most intelligent response would be to turn and run like a wet game hen.

As Skeptic X would read it, it's a matter of him saying, "the sky is red," and me merely saying in reply, "the sky is green," as though we had equitable statements that can only bang their heads against one another. On the contrary, he is saying, "the sky is red," and I am saying, "no, the sky is green, because this observation confirms it," and then Skeptic X merely belching in return. As we will see below Skeptic X has little choice but to do this because when it actually comes down to such critical comparison of arguments, he is helpless and in a corner, and he knows it. He certainly can't "tie" us scholar for scholar -- we'll see that what he does amounts to answering my B to his A by merely repeating back A over and over again, either avoiding B or else flubbing in trying to answer it himself by calling it an "excuse" or a "how it could have been" or a product of "bias" or "trying to explain away the clear meaning" of the text. These are not answers, but saccharin substitutes for answers from Hayseed and Juice Harp Central.

Finally of course Skeptic X repeats his standard canard of bias -- well, if he wishes to do so, easily enough is his own work refuted: "Those who think that X was just a stone-cold, objective biblical commentator should take the time to read some of his works. They will find otherwise. Hence, by [Holding]'s own standard X's opinion doesn't prove anything because he had an agenda to promote." That's the end of Skeptic X, then, isn't it? He would not think so. By his word everyone else is too biased to see the truth, even if, like Caird or Speiser, they aren't as "dedicated" as others. Shall we reverse the tables? "They [errantists like Skeptic X] have a desire for the Bible to be wrong, so whenever they can find someone proposing plausible explanations for Bible discrepancies, they will often times try to defend against proofs of inerrancy." By his word Samuel Driver isn't doing historical detective work; he is making excuses. And guess what! They're also trying to make money: "Furthermore, those who write Bible commentaries have a commercial audience to keep in mind. If they are too thorough in recognizing discrepancies in the Bible, that will surely have an undesirable effect on the marketing of their books." Not that Skeptic X made any study of comparative sales for such books (which aren't actually marketed on a popular level anyway!), and not that he knows any publishing executives personally and knows they are greedy scum; and we may as well have a word about his desire for fame and attention (he's too bad at what he does to even try to make money). No, this is nothing but ribald slander, for which the publishing execs ought to have Skeptic X's head on a pike. It's a ridiculous game of slander without basis; if I said that execs at Prometheus Books were hiding things to line their pockets, would the Secular Web listen? Neither does Skeptic X's whining, crybaby approach to the matter deserve any attention. If we wish to play Psychologist, it is well to note that those who pad their responses with such slanderous accusations backed up with no actual data are those who tend to be insecure in what follows. Two can play at that game as well as Skeptic X.

Skeptic X doesn't like being labeled a provincialist. Well, that is indeed what he is, and we have proven it; despite a lack of training in any relevant field beyond Bam Bam Bible College, where the exegesis was as provincial as he is in the grand CoC tradition, Skeptic X acts and writes as though he knows better than any scholar who disagrees with him, and ignorantly assumes (as he did recently re guilt in the ancient world) that all people everywhere thought and acted alike, and if they didn't, they should have. As with that recent example, though, more often than not Skeptic X is on the business end of the bow and arrow when it comes to confronting actual data in hand. And here, the data, we will see, points overwhelmingly to Jer. 7:22 (and the language of Olivet) being a case of a figure of speech -- we show that Skeptic X is hyperliteralist by data. He fails to return the label of "hyperfigurativist" in his failure to deal with the data.


As a means of self-justification for ignoring our JPH_JER722 article for so long, Skeptic X hauls up his standard excuse of saying that he "saw no need to reply to something that [Holding] was never going to let his readers see. Keep in mind that until just recently, [Holding] would not link his readers to my articles." Keep in mind that this is a man who didn't have the sense to do a simple search for an item by title, and that this is not a computer skill, but a common-sense skill that elementary school children learn in their library. Was Skeptic X sick all those days? Did he know how to use a card catalog at Bam Bam Bible College? No, this is just an excuse Skeptic X uses to explain why he ran with his tail between his legs, and he merely assumes that you are as incompetent as he is. He also pulls this hypocritical shebang:

By the way, wagging Jeremiah 7:22 into this debate is another example of [Holding]'s way of setting up straw men to beat on when he is unable to answer his opponent's rebuttals. What Jeremiah said about sacrifices when the Israelites came out of Egypt has nothing to do with preterism, but when [Holding] can't answer an argument, he will try to divert the subject to something else.

Keep in mind that this little toot comes from a man who "wags" so many diversions into debates that he has been awarded the title of Honorary Dog. Not that this is a diversion at all -- I use this as an example of the sort of pathological literalism Skeptic X continually falls into, and it thereby illustrates his same flaw on Olivet. In contrast, Skeptic X's diversions are only marginally related to the topics at hand and never have any conceptual ties to the issue being discussed (i.e., if I quote Jeremiah on subject A, he'll want to discuss Jerry on subjects B-H). He inserts them just to score points and is now irritated that we have called him down for it -- and now wants to try to turn the tables. Sorry, Skeptic X, wrong number; but he will be sure and repeat this notion at least another 6,393,938 times to be sure we all heard it.

To the end, at any rate, of boring and dazzling his gullible Skeptical readers, Skeptic X re-inserts his full material on Jer. 7:22 from the original article. He hints that the state of my quotes from him is "fragmented"; translated from Skeptic Xese, this means I removed all the repetitive fluff, blather, and explanation that Skeptic X thinks constitutes argument and gave his case in 50 words rather than the 500,000 he seemed to think was necessary. We'll ignore this attempt to put the reader to sleep with such a waste of time; it isn't going to serve any purpose other than bedazzling the gullible who think if you repeat something often enough, that constitutes an argument, and will keep readers from noticing you have no informed answer for what the opposition says.


So we get to where Skeptic X actually starts addressing arguments, and as in other places, our original material is bold and italic; Skeptic X's response is italics only.

[The purpose of this phrase (Jer. 7:22) is to show the relative importance of sacrifices, etc. in terms of inward attitudes.] Indeed, were this not so, we would be constrained to ask how such an obvious "condemnation" of the sacrifices survived the so-called "cutting," since the very priests that X accuses of creating the sacrificial law for their own benefit were the ones who made the "cuttings" in the first place!

[Holding] may as well ask how so many other biblical inconsistencies survived the "cutting." The fact that an inconsistency survived the "cutting" is hardly an explanation for it. He is resorting to a familiar inerrantist argument. If such and such were really a discrepancy, inerrantists will ask, then why wasn't it noticed back then?

The reason we ask this question is because it is a good one, and Skeptic X's own ignorance and blitheness notwithstanding, it is a question that Skeptic X will only answer with an apple popover. Here are the two plops he thinks erase this major boffo for his position:

  • "Past failures to notice a discrepancy does not mean that no discrepancy exists, for Bible believers today will read right over flagrant discrepancies and not notice them." Maybe that's how Skeptic X thinks because he was this out of touch and continues to be, but Skeptic X is talking about alleged differences between books while we are talking about differences between a statement by Jeremiah and recorded historical circumstances concerning the origins of Judaism which concerned all Jewish people and especially the unknown and undated priests that he supposes did the editing and would have been responsible for copying, managing, and administering the very texts in question. One can readily see an ignoramus like Skeptic X, or a modern lazy Christian or Skeptic, failing to notice that 1 Kings says 4000 stalls while 1 Chronicles says 40,000, especially if they are read weeks or months apart, or never at all. On the other hand, Skeptic X has hypothesized unnamed priests at some unspecified date and place who had their own interests at heart, and were just smart enough to bamboozle everyone into accepting these texts as genuine but also too stupid to notice that whoops, they left some stuff in that was the opposite of what they wanted, and failed to notice this over an extended period. If there was some great rivalry afoot between "Moses" and "No-Moses" parties then it is ridiculous to suggest that each party was so radically unfamiliar with the other party's texts and arguments so as not to be cautious in adopting and editing them. Indeed it is ridiculous to assert that they would adopt the opposition's text at all rather than either dumping them, or writing new texts for themselves, as was the pattern in the second through fourth century heretical church. Skeptic X's thesis is a thesis of convenience in which he dulls Ockham's Razor at pleasure and posits a simple-minded, one-dimensional scenario that doesn't answer any of the questions because it is too one-dimensional to think to ask them. At the same time, Skeptic X doesn't distinguish between people not noticing the differences on one hand, and on the other hand noticing them but not worrying about them, for whatever reason. Score another zero for Skeptic X's analogical skills.
  • "There is no way to know whether the discrepancy was noticed. The scarcity of records left in biblical times would hardly give us a clear picture of what may or may not have been points of religious controversy back then." Did I not say, a thesis of convenience that bucks data out of silence? Skeptic X backs himself into a corner as above when he uses as an excuse, "The winners in the religious controversies in ancient Israel wrote the 'histories' of those times, so they would have written from their perspectives." Funny how these people wrote histories and fooled everyone (supposedly) but were too stupid to edit properly. In short Skeptic X posits intelligence in just the right places and stupidity in just the right places, and lost or destroyed documents (maybe he should hook up with Acharya S), just as is needed for convenience. Once again it's that same scenario:

    X: I went to the dentist today and had a tooth pulled.

    MCKINSEY: I don't believe it. I think you had that tooth knocked out in a fight.

    X: WHAT! Where do you get off with that?

    M: I think you're just covering up something and don't want to admit you got bested in a fight.

    X: Baloney! Do you see any other bruises on me? How could I have been in a fight?

    M: You probably lost after one punch, ya wimp!

    X: OH YEAH! Well, here's a card from my dentist showing I had an appointment today, plus the lollipop he gave me for being good. So what do you say to that?

    M: Big deal. You can get a lolly from any candy store and say it came from a dentist. And you could swipe a card from his desk and write your own appointment in it.

    X: Well, this is his handwriting! I can prove it! Here's a letter from him with the same handwriting.

    M: You probably paid him off to make that stuff, to get out of the embarrassment of being bested in a fight. Or maybe you're a good forger. Or you hired one. Heck, you probably even paid your dentist to say you were there today. You'll do anything to get out of jams like this, just like you did with Ezion-geber.

    X: &%$#*#!

    Skeptic X just hooks or crooks any answer he can pull out of a hat to keep his thralls in giggles for the next few weeks until his next round of being embarrassed. Maybe if he learned about delayed gratification it would help.

    But history knows of no such opposition to the sacrificial system in Israel; while the temple machinery was often corrupt (as in the time of Annas), there is no indication at all that the actual sacrificial practice was disdained.

    There isn't? What about Jeremiah 7:22 and the other passages that I quoted above? They hardly indicate that there was no disdain for "sacrificial practice."

    Skeptic X has still failed to learn his lesson that since such passages are the very ones at issue, they are excluded from consideration as proof in this discussion. It is telling enough that he has to resort to chasing his own tail around to find the baloney sandwich. Now this, and it is a preview of the obnoxious lecturing stance Skeptic X will take for the next few eons as he begs for his apple:

    For the, the text must be read "plainly" and to them, "plainly" this means Jeremiah was indisposed to the Pentateuch.

    No, a text should be read "plainly" unless there are compelling reasons to apply figurative or secondary meanings to the language of a text.

    Hold it right there! Anywhere but in Skeptic X World ("Be sure and ride the Skeptic Coaster!"), the historical testimony of the Pentateuch WOULD constitute a "compelling reason" by itself to apply a figurative or secondary meaning to the passages in question, but don't expect fair treatment when it comes to Skeptic X trying to justify his apostasy. Skeptic X whines that the mere discrepancy such a "plain" (i.e., ignorant, anachronistic, and unqualified) reading would cause is not sufficient and only relies on emotion, and supposes a Mormon, Zoroastrian, etc. could do the same thing. Not that he gives specific examples from each (as if he knew enough about any of the Scriptures of other religions to do more than use them to blow his nose!), or investigates the cultural and literary background of any of these works as we have (see below, which includes many more "compelling reasons" he will just excuse away); more importantly, he doesn't do this for any sort of secular example, which is what he needs to do; as it stands he is playing off the harpstrings of his gullible Skeptical readers who are bigoted against religious belief. In other words, it's that same hurled elephant and panic-button polemic.

    Let's posit a hypothetical secular example like Jer. 7:22 and we'll use it as needed as we progress. We will posit a situation in which a father, Llerraf Jonos, catches his son Joseph in some shameful or criminal act like stealing pom poms from the girls' cheerleading squad. Disgusted, he disowns his son. When people ask how "his son Joseph" is doing, he immediately replies, "Joseph? He's not my son."

    Now factually this is obviously incorrect, for biologically and in reality, nothing changed. If we take it literally, Jonos is saying that Joseph isn't his son and we can accuse him of lying. The figurative meaning is that Jonos no longer treats his son as his son because of the disgrace. We have a compelling reason to understand this as figurative: Previous records and evidence show that Joseph is Jonos' son. But, we'll play the part of Hyper the Literalist, and claim it is literal and that Jonos is a liar. Now let's see Skeptic X comes up with excuses to prove that this is figurative, and we'll send him right back to his own lines of reasoning.


    We get now to where I addressed matters with respect to the use of oral tradition. Skeptic X "wags in" (to use his own words) material from the Land Promise debate on Josh. 21:43-45 which I have already responded to and which he has yet to address in his turtle-rate progress, so we will leave that matter to be addressed in that context. Skeptic X bungles:

    So after having argued in the land-promise debate that reliance on oral transmission in ancient Hebrew somehow changed a flagrantly erroneous statement into a correct statement, it now appears that [Holding] will be arguing that idiomatic intentions could make X and not X (P and ~P) be consistent statements.

    All right, let's change that with Jonos and Joseph above:

    So after having argued in the Jonos-Joseph debate that strong emotion in a family situation somehow changed a flagrantly erroneous statement into a correct statement, it now appears that Skeptic X will be arguing that idiomatic intentions could make X and not X (P and ~P) be consistent statements.

    So much for that bigoted comment. Then:

    [Holding] forgets a primary rule of literary interpretation: the language of a written text is to be interpreted literally unless there are compelling reasons to assign figurative meaning. To think that Ahab could have routed the Syrians with the horns that Zedekiah was using to dramatize his prophecy of victory is too absurd to believe that this was what he meant, and so that becomes a compelling reason to assign figurative meaning to the statement. I do wish I had had [Holding] in one of my literature classes. Maybe he wouldn't be so literarily ignorant today.

    If I had been in one of Skeptic X's classes, I probably would have done the same thing I did to all my other disagreeable professors: Drove them nuts. It wouldn't have been too hard, since Skeptic X is already halfway to that destination. As noted, we have "compelling reasons" for a fig meaning in Jer. 7:22; Skeptic X just either doesn't like them and prefers a complex and cockeyed conspiracy theme that creates history to explain away history, or else can't deal with them. But then again, why don't we ask some questions worthy of Hyper the Literalist? Why couldn't this have been a case of Zedekiah trying to pawn off some "magic horns" on Ahab in an effort to get rid of him? Maybe Zedekiah was actually a secret enemy of Ahab and was trying to get him killed in battle. And Skeptic X has already told us that ancient people were stupid and believed in magical talismans. So maybe Zedekiah was giving Ahab a new "secret weapon" with those horns. Do I have any proof of this? As much proof as Skeptic X has of his secret coteries of text-cutting priests that wear evangelist hairspray and drive Rolls Royces. Let Professor Skeptic X stick that worm in his apple and smoke it. I would have had him climbing the walls of his classroom within 10 minutes.

    But recall what I said about Skeptic X having comprehension problems? Here's another:

    Likewise, Ezekiel lying on his side to symbolize Jewish punishment, and Jesus' "cleansing" of the temple.

    If [Holding] has any compelling reasons why we should not understand that Ezekiel lay on his side in Ezekiel 4:1ff or that Jesus did not "cleanse" the temple as described in the New Testament, he should state those compelling reasons. Otherwise, there is no reason not to believe that the writers didn't mean what they said.

    Skeptic X sure doesn't get it, does he? I'm not arguing that Zeke didn't lay on his side, etc; I am arguing that they performed highly symbolic and excessive actions that are analogically as startling and as radical as Jerry's "NOT!" in 7:22. When will Skeptic X take his next Laubach lesson? He also needs a lesson in cross-cultural study:

    Actions and verbiage that we would consider excessive, overly demonstrative, and unnecessary for transmitting a message were essential and/or expected for ANE communication processes.

    No more essential than in our own culture. A mother wishing to emphasize her point to an unruly child might say, "I have told you a million times not to do that."

    No, these actions and verbiage were far more essential in an ancient and in a non-literate culture than they would be today, and since Skeptic X has already shown his ignorance about other cultures in a previous venue we'll just put that whistle back in the tank until he gets himself educated. Citing one example used in speaking to children does not make the case for "essential" use in a society in a larger context, as is the case for the ANE. Now for more Skeptic X confusion contusions:

    Today this is preserved in the extensive use of gesticulations in some Eastern cultures, and even a few Western ones (the Italian culture for example).

    So if an Italian used extensive gesticulations to say, "God did not speak to or command the Israelites concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices when they left Egypt," would the extensive "gesticulations" make his statement mean that God DID speak to the Israelites concerning burnt offerings when they left Egypt?

    Not exactly; Skeptic X is barking up another strawman. It's more like this: If an Italian used extensive gesticulations to say, "God did not speak to or command the Israelites concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices when they left Egypt," the extensive "gesticulations" would signify that his statement meant that God puts a lesser emphasis on the acts of the burnt offerings He spoke of than on their inner attitude." Skeptic X is confused and thinking we are saying that A = non-A, when with Jer. 7:22 it is a case of non-A being used not to mean A, but B. Now for even more anachronistic bigotry:

    (This was for several reasons - among them that these tactics encouraged memorization of the message in a social situation where few had the resources or the knowledge to just pull out a scroll and read the material again, and where there were no video cameras to record something that might need to be preserved for later.)

    Well, the scroll would preserve the message for later reference.

    Skeptic X then repeats the Josh. 21 reference for the 7,645th time after this, but he blew right by the issue, which is that few had the resources (scrolls and ink were expensive: as Gamble notes, in the NT period alone, a roll of papyrus of typical quality cost the equivalent of one or two days' wages, and it could run as high as what the labourer would earn in five or six days -- would Skeptic X have been willing to spend two days worth of his wages for a scroll?) or the knowledge (95-99% illiteracy in the ancient world; see W. V. Harris' classic study on ancient literacy, which Skeptic X will go "huh" at) to use the scrolls, hence "later reference" didn't do the vast majority of the population any good -- as much good as a hearing aid at a pantomime show, or a Skeptic X lecture at a community college.

    Skeptic X's ignorance, however, extends to the limits on these issues. Thus for example:

    Jeremiah 7:4 Do not trust in these lying words, saying, 'The temple of Yahweh, the temple of Yahweh, the temple of Yahweh are these.'

    I noted that the triple-cry was a memory-enhancing technique. Skeptic X the bigot burps from his easy chair:

    Does [Holding] seriously believe that Jeremiah used this "triple cry" as a "memory-enhancing" technique, as if it would be so hard for people to remember two words [in Hebrew] "the temple of Yahweh"? That is going a long way to find a quibble.

    "Long way" meaning, "it's too hard for me to understand". Keep in mind first of all that we are talking about memory of the whole oracle, not just these two words. Overall, however, Skeptic X is obviously vastly unfamiliar with the literature on preservation of oral tradition, and the use of aural cues (triads like this one; alliteration, etc.) to enhance memory. One of the most obvious memory techniques is repetition. We're quite sure that Skeptic X has heard of repeating things to himself to enhance his memory ("Put on your pants first. Put on your pants first."), or of the technique of association (i.e., remembering a man named "Chuck" by thinking of him as holding a chuck roast). The triple cry primes the memory (as well as serving the purpose of getting one's attention) and the techniques used by the ancients to preserve their memories are the same that we pay large amounts of money to learn today in memory-enhancement seminars. And if Skeptic X doubts it, let him get off his duff and find contrary data.

    After whining for the gullible that 1 Sam. 15:22 is no match for Jer. 7:22 because the latter "flatly" speaks of its subject (which is the very point at issue, hence Skeptic X is chasing himself in a circle yet again), we get to where I compared to Jesus' parables:

    [Holding]'s problem is still his inability to understand a primary rule of literary interpretation: the language of a written text should be interpreted in its literal sense unless there are compelling reasons to assign figurative meaning. Since any moron would know that a person could not have a "beam" in his eye and could not swallow a camel, the reader has compelling reasons to assign figurative meaning to the texts. Hence, the reader will understand that Jesus was saying that people who have major flaws in their lives are being hypocritical when they criticize those who have minor flaws in theirs.

    Oh, really? Let's play that game:

    Skeptic X's problem is still his inability to understand a primary rule of literary interpretation: the language of a written text should be interpreted in its literal sense unless there are compelling reasons to assign figurative meaning. Since any moron would know that the Pentateuch clearly states that Yahweh instituted sacrifices, the reader has compelling reasons to assign figurative meaning to the texts. Hence, the reader will understand that Jeremiah was saying that the sacrifices are not as important as inner attitude.

    Skeptic X likes the first and doesn't like the second, and that's the only difference. Skeptic X a man of "honest doubts"? No, more along the lines of a purveyor of manipulative malarkey.

    hence, similar language in Rabbinic works of the period; hence, the Exclusive and Hyperbolic Language in the Bible and so on, throughout the literature of the ANE. These were powerful tools of communication for the Semites - and no less so for their neighbors, their contemporaries, and for other pre-literate societies from the Hutu in Africa to the Maori of New Zealand.

    I checked this [sic] site and found only [Holding] trying to present himself as an expert on ANE literature, but I saw no serious efforts to defend his various assertions. I wonder what source [Holding] used to plagiarize his comment about "pre-literate [sic] societies from the Hutu in Africa to Maori of New Zealand." Sounds impressive, doesn't it? But does he seriously expect anyone with a lick of common sense to think that someone who has difficulties with his own native language knows anything about Hutu and Maori languages?

    Oh, that's a great sign of Skeptic X's frustration, isn't it? Yes, it is impressive, especially to the ignorant who are incompetent and unaware of it. I picked the Hutu and Maori as peoples on antipodes; in reality the general rules are the same for any oral culture, as Skeptic X would know if he would get off his lazy duff and actually consult people who knew what they were talking about. In years past when I worked on this issue I read the works of oral tradition specialists such as Jan Vansina and Albert Lord; if Skeptic X thinks he has the mental cajones to take them or me on with respect to this subject, I'll be glad to kick him out of his La-Z-Boy and send him spinning into the TV set. As for that latter barb, it's a strawman of excess, as of course it is quite possible and not logically impossible in any sense to be knowledgeable in one area and not another (and what Skeptic X means here, I don't know, but "pre-literate" is a perfectly good word, thank you). Skeptic X just likes to play this manipulation game of "if he doesn't know X, he must not know Y," so we'll play it back and say that anyone who misreads what I wrote here:

    I pay for this site, so correspondent with the 90% fluff ratio I demand that X pay for 90% of the costs of hosting any item he submits -- whether he meets challenge #1 above or not. Obviously the amount would have to be determined based on going rates for server space and the length of the article written. I also want payment for 8 years in advance (about the time I have the tektonics.org name reserved). Based on X's behavior I am not so sure he'll be around that long before giving himself a coronary, and I think the security is a good idea.

    ...as a request to pay for 90% of my entire website (not just for the items submitted) is obviously such a pathetic reader that we can't trust him to understand the Bible, beat scholars, or tie his own shoes. Now how's that for a flaming strawman?

    More than that, I wonder how idioms in Hutu and Maori societies, far removed from ancient Israel, in any way prove that Jeremiah--when he said that Yahweh had not spoken to the Israelites about burnt offerings and sacrifices when the brought them out of Egypt--did not mean that Yahweh had not spoken to the Israelites about burnt offerings and sacrifices when he brought them out of Egypt.

    Skeptic X wonders this in ignorance of cross-cultural study and its applications. If oral cultures worldwide use such excessive language, this offers corollary evidence that the same excesses can be found in culture A as in culture B. This then reaches into a specific application for making a case for Jer. 7:22 as an example of such language. Skeptic X doesn't know this, because he thinks in only one dimension, but he does know how to repeat his argument 75,939,930 times to make sure his gullible Skeptical readers don't defect or stop paying attention -- the sort of readers who are so dumb that they need to ask for help to find articles on this website and don't know how to use a search engine to find something by title. Hmm, maybe Skeptic X has a good reason for all that repetitive blather after all...


    Still riding that CCBE pony, by the way, Skeptic X blerps:

    At any rate, what [Holding] may have said in one of his own website articles about ANE idioms would hardly constitute any kind of convincing evidence. After all, [Holding] has a position he is trying to "promote," and according to his own standard, quoted above, that renders his opinions suspect.

    So it is, and Skeptic X has an opinion to promote, making him suspect. Six of one, half dozen of the other. But BY THE WAY, he also misses the actual point of my Philo comment. Philo was writing a laudatory biography of Moses, and because he would not have the knowledge to look further, would be expected to give Moses the "benefit of the doubt" and read the text in its most positive interpretation. This does not make his reading "suspect" at all as Skeptic X thinks I am arguing -- it merely means that it is just one piece of data and that we need to look at more than just Philo, a process of studious discipline that Skeptic X doesn't pursue.

    This understood, X's many remarks on Semitic context (it "amounts to nothing more than another biblicist trying to tell us that the Bible doesn't really mean what it plainly says") are nothing again but chauvinistic nonsense.

    Well, since [Holding] said this, it must be so. After all, he is the expert on ancient Near Eastern languages and cultures. He is only 34 years old, and until last year worked as a prison librarian, but we are supposed to believe that he has somehow found the time to do research and studies that make him expert on ANE idioms and customs.

    And since Skeptic X has no answer other than veiled ad hominem and strawmen, it remains so. An expert? No, I consult the experts, and I know more of their work than Skeptic X, who is still working on things like The Great Big Pop Up Book of Oral Cultures and Their Idioms. As for time, I have it in plenty and have always had it, because I don't waste my life in front of a TV set like 90% of the nation. I think even Skeptic X could "get on" with that wagon.


    Of course it "does not mean" what it "says"-- any more than saying "I have ants in my pants" means that our dungarees are infested with Formicida. We use the idiom stated in order to more colorfully express a concept: In this case, "I am nervous/unsettled."

    If one said, "I do not have ants in my pants," would this idiomatically mean that he is "nervous/unsettled"?

    An irrelevancy in context, since ants and pants is not a negation idiom like Jer. 7:22. It is nevertheless a case of someone not "meaning" what they say. But Skeptic X is in a corner, and it shows:

    When a person speaks ironically [sarcastically] he can mean the opposite of what he literally said. Is this what Jeremiah was doing? If so, [Holding] must show from an analysis of the text that this was his intention. He can't just assert that Jeremiah meant the opposite of what he said and expect us to believe it on his mere word.

    We gave reams of evidence that Jeremiah was being ironic -- indeed Jeremiah as a whole was a prophet given to irony, which makes this a prima facie cause to think he was being ironic in 7:22 -- and Skeptic X merely excuses the evidence away by any hook or crook he can imagine, which is why he is forced into reductionist mode and claiming it's just on my say so.

    (Of course, following X's logic, one cannot blame a person who, hearing the idiom in question, tackles the speaker and sprays Raid down their trousers - after all, they "plainly said" that they had ants in their pants!)

    His comment above is a glaring false analogy. Having lived in an English-speaking country for 65 of my almost 70 years and having taught college English for 30 years, I am familiar with English idioms. I therefore know what is meant by, "He has ants in his pants."

    Thank you. In contrast, how many years has Skeptic X spent in a Middle Eastern culture -- especially an ancient one? None? Thank you. How many years has he spent studying such cultures? None, other than through English and French Bibles? Thank you. Case closed. He is too ignorant to know if Jer. 7:22 is an idiom or not. Correct? Thank you. Skeptic X thinks I know no more than what I take from books that "agree with" my point of view (once again, as if he actually went out and found refuting material, and as if citing point of view made any more difference than if I dismissed him merely because he was editor of a Skeptical publication -- sauce for the goose, as they say), but hello, where did Skeptic X learn his trade in English and lit? Did he not read books? Was he not taught by others? Thank you. Let the bogus strawman who stands for Skeptic X's incompetence and inability to answer, burn. Skeptic X makes this reckless demand:

    In order to know that this was an idiom, he would have to find the same statement used over and over in contexts that clearly indicate that this was an idiom that meant the opposite of what it actually said.

    Not the opposite, actually, as noted above; Skeptic X is still confused. But what's this goofy requirement of "over and over"? Does Skeptic X mean he needed 58,984 instances to know that "ants in your pants" was figurative? If not, how many? 786,932? 45? 32? Well, OK, if he's that dumb, we'll take what we can get from him. Beyond that one wonders why other examples of idiomatic expression don't rub off -- and we'll see that we do have multiple uses of this negation idiom, and Skeptic X can only burp at them.

    Our own idioms are relatively colorless and trite in comparison to those used in ANE and other oral cultures,

    Of course, we are supposed to believe that [Holding] is expert enough in ancient Near Eastern culture to know that this is a fact. He saw some "scholar" make this statement in a book in which the author probably had an inspired-word-of-God view to promote, and so he tried to show that some biblical statement didn't really mean what it said.

    For the 174,437th time Skeptic X in exerted frustration hauls up the same old canards that he uses when he has no actual answers. Let's see: "Of course, we are supposed to believe that Skeptic X is expert enough in ancient Near Eastern culture to know that what he asserts is a fact. He saw some 'scholar' make this statement in a book in which the author probably had an uninspired-not-word-of-God view to promote, and so he tried to show that some biblical statement did have a problematic meaning." There, whew. Skeptic X was just buried, can we go home now?

    Now [Holding] is parroting it as if he has the competence in ancient Near Eastern languages to speak with authority on this subject. Did the source from which he plagiarized this claim give any examples of "colorful" ANE idioms? Probably not, but if it did, the least [Holding] could have done was give us a few examples so that we would have a basis for evaluating the claim.

    Wow, so if I read in a book that Albany was the capital of New York, then it's plagiarism if I don't report my source for this common knowledge every time I say so? Not that Skeptic X would so much as move a book off a shelf to read it, much less cite it or plagiarize it, when it means he might learn something contrary to what he holds to be true. He only does that when the frustration builds to an extreme. And like Skeptic X would actually care for examples, or actually needs them? What? He denies that there were colorful ANE idioms? He has evidence that there weren't any? He actually would soil his hands evaluating beyond his easy chair and can of Pringles? No, he's just trying to raise a nonsense objection to score brownie points with his gullible Skeptical readers who think that it would be impressive if he answered a question about rabbinic oral tradition memory devices by going into an elevator and letting out gas repeatedly.

    Maybe in the next round of his replies, [Holding] will list for us his credentials in ancient Near Eastern cultures and languages so that we can know he is qualified to speak with authority on this subject. He cannot expect us to believe that English idioms are "colorless" compared to those in ANE cultures unless he gives us some examples to use for comparison.

    Maybe when Skeptic X is old enough to stop using training wheels, he'll drop the strawman of my own professed expertise and actually answer arguments. Funny -- if I say it myself, I'm claiming to be an expert, all the way. If I use a source, I am either plagiarizing or else using a biased source, which even if liberal is thinking like an inerrantist. It seems the only source I may be permitted to use is back issues of The Skeptical Refuse. But Skeptic X wants examples? He thinks he can pop in trite garbage phrases like "you hit the nail on the head" and "I got it straight from the horse's mouth" and claim that English gots plenty of color (barring profanity, which is a loser's way of being idiomatic)? Sorry, but all of that is black and white compared to a Middle Easterner who greets you by saying, "You have extremely honored me by coming into my abode. I am not worthy of it. This house is yours; you may burn it if you wish. My children are also at your disposal; I would sacrifice them all for your pleasure." To see how Skeptic X excuses away that example, go here. And it's sure not our place to cover all of his ignorance.


    We're not all through covering that part of Skeptic X's ignorance we need to, it seems:

    Now to the hard data concerning this verse. Bright [Brig. Jer, 57] speaks for the overwhelming majority of commentators (conservatives, moderates, and liberals alike) when he writes of Jer. 7:22--

    Who is Bright? [Holding] didn't say, so how do we know what his credentials are to speak with authority on this subject?

    Bright? Why he's a community college professor of English, of course. Obviously qualified to speak on this subject. No, actually, Bright wrote the Anchor commentary on Jeremiah ("We're liberal and right unless Farrell X disagrees with us! Pass the dough!") and this was stated quite clearly in the original article's bibliography, which Skeptic X would know had he not run away hiding behind the curtains and licking his wounds. Not our fault Skeptic X went for the easy way out and now is lost. Skeptic X applies some of his usual McSpin by whining that "those who have had experience in biblical research know that this is the kind of bracketed abbreviations that are commonplace in commentaries and other biblical reference works" and assumes that I went through "some source probably without even knowing himself what the bracketed information meant or even who 'Bright' was." No, Skeptic X actually lives in ignorance because he ran from the field with his tuckus aflame. "It may look impressive to [Holding]'s gullible admirers," he gulps, "who gasp in amazement that he is quoting 'Bright,'" (while Skeptic X quotes "himself") "but to those knowledgeable in biblical research," (who's that, Skeptic X?) "it signals nothing except that [Holding] can cut and paste quotations from biblical reference works." Nice try, Skeptic X, but Bright was in hand while you were still looking for Waldo. The bracketed references were my own system of reference, which I no longer use. Be sure and wipe your feet before sticking them in your mouth talking about those non-existent "reference works" that are in the same place as those non-existent priests you keep fantasizing about. Bright, anyways, said:

    It is unlikely, however, that it is to be taken either as a categorical rejection of the sacrificial system as such, or as a statement that there was no sacrifice in the wilderness.

    And Skeptic X blows from the corncob pipe:

    I assume everyone noticed that [Holding] quoted no supporting arguments that "Bright" used to defend his claim that Jeremiah 7:22 was not a "categorical rejection of the sacrificial system." No, [Holding] rarely bothers with details like that. He simply asserts and goes on or quotes an author who asserts without giving supporting details.

    Translate from Skeptic Xese: "I don't have any arguments against this scholar of Hebrew language and culture to offer, and I'm not an expert enough in Hebrew culture to do any better, so I will just label it an 'assertion' and pretend I can find someone who contradicts it." Skeptic X can't, actually, and doesn't. What he does so is find a commentator named Hyatt -- a "professor at the School of Religion at Vanderbilt University" (or as Skeptic X puts it, a "scholar" in quotes) who does no more than repeat Skeptic X own's words and provide no answer or reference to the idea that Jer. 7:22 is a negation idiom or to what Bright says:

    Jeremiah plainly says that in the time of Moses God did not lay down any requirements of sacrifice but only of moral obedience; he perhaps had in mind specifically the ethical decalogue. This verse should not be used (as by Graf, et al.) to prove that the priestly code was not in existence in Jeremiah's time. Certainly many sacrifices were offered in his day, and Jeremiah may well have known the original Deuteronomy and historical narratives (J, E) which told of sacrifices being offered in the Mosaic period (e. g., Exodus 24:1-8). He deliberately sets himself against the prevalent view that Moses commanded sacrifice (cf. Amos 5:25). Modern research has shown that much of the sacrificial system was of Canaanite origin, but a few sacrifices may have been offered in time (Ibid., pp. 875-876, emphasis added).

    The Interpreter's Bible but gives no bibliographic data; Hopper, however, wrote much of his work in the 50s and 60s, and cites a source (Micklem) from 1926, so he could hardly have been aware of later research I cite. Hopper IS aware of a much earlier and simpler expression of the idiomatic argument, and this makes Skeptic X practically drool all over himself as he proudly cites Hopper as supporting the "A" view he holds:

    Certain it is that Jeremiah sets the unmediated voice of God, together with the practice of justice, righteousness, and mercy, over against the systems of sacrifice and the semi-magical contrivances of the priesthood. One must say quite simply, with Nathaniel Micklem, that "there is no escape from Jeremiah vi.20, vii.22. It is here emphatically and explicitly stated that ceremony and sacrifice have nothing to do with the religion of Moses and the true worship of Israel."8

    Certain, is it? Hopper's implication seems to be, as Hyatt's, that the sacrificial system was regarded as drawn from pagan/magical roots, but funny how Jeremiah doesn't say anything about that. It would seem useful for him to have done as other prophets did and speak of imitating, syncretizing, or even practicing the rites of Baal, Asherah, Jim Jones, etc. No, this explanation is a fixer-upper like Skeptic X's magical disappearing priestly editors. At any rate, Skeptic X proudly barks next that Hopper "anticipates [Holding]'s 'idiomatic' quibble...and shows that it is without foundation." Does he? No, actually, Hopper "anticipates" it and excuses it away with a fallacious argument. He begins (according to Skeptic X) thusly:

    With regard to the first it is often claimed that Jeremiah did not intend that his words should be interpreted in any such thorough-going manner: that his declaration was either heightened by the polemical stress of the occasion (Welch), or that the structure of Jeremiah's statement is based upon a familiar idiom in which the first portion of the sentence containing the denial is not intended as a negation, but is supposed to be subsumed within the affirmation in the second clause...

    Hopper then notes the example of Hos. 6:6 and 1 Sam. 15:22 as examples of the latter. He continues:

    To collate the several passages which bear upon this problem, however, merely serves to strengthen the impression that the prophetic protest against the priestly compromise is growing steadily, and that, in Jeremiah, in a time (i. e., a kairos) when every claim is being pushed upon the absolute conditions, this rising consciousness bursts through with the unmistakable clarity that breaks the bonds of compromise. Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, and certain of the Psalms (notably 50:13-14; 51:16-17) all witness to the clarity of the prophetic insight. Nothing could be stronger, for example, than Amos' statement in 5:21-24. Hosea's emphasis upon "steadfast love and not sacrifice," upon "knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings" (Hos. 6:16), may be less severe and possibly less absolute, but its intentional juxtaposition of what it approves as over against the people's practice is sufficient to subordinate the latter to the level of the disapproved. (Compare carefully the following passages: Mic. 6:6-8; Isa. 1:11-17; Pss. 40:6,8; 50:10-14; 51:16-17).

    What this explanation amounts to, in the end, is no more than Skeptic X's very own pathological literalism repeated in Hopper to a lesser scale. Hopper offers no study at all -- from this quote at least -- of Hebrew idiom and expression, as I have in brief and as one of my sources (later than Hopper) did in detail. He merely reads the expression through the eyes of a modern, Western literalist and anachronistically assumes a Hegelian dialectic. This is not an answer to my argument; it is only a "Nah, couldn't be" that re-affirms the original position by repetition! And what is the basis of Hopper's reasoning? Ultimately, no more, as he admits, than an "impression" he gets by reading the passages out of their contexts and in succession! Clue in, Skeptic X: It's not just quoting scholars, but putting their arguments together, and Skeptic X lacks the discipline to do either one properly. We however, will do this at the end where Skeptic X would not.

    Hopper's explanation continues by viewing the matter in terms of how Jeremiah sees the importance of "right relationship" -- a point with which we agree -- and addressing a claim by an earlier commentator that 7:22 is an interpolation, which obviously has nothing to do with what we have to say here. In sum, however, Hopper's comments are as anachronistic as Skeptic X's, and no more serve to refute the data; the only difference between Skeptic X's position and Hopper's is that Hopper is less of a fanatic and more of a scholar in explaining it.

    For this view, see also Alle.Jer, 64-5; Clem.Jer, 46-7; Huey.JerLam, 109; Thomp.Jer, 287-8.

    Where can we look to "see" these sources? Again, it is obvious that [Holding] is simply cutting and pasting abbreviated references from a volume. The entire volume would no doubt have an abbreviation guide that would identify these sources, but without that guide [Holding]'s references are as meaningless as if I had put "see Hy.Jer. 875-76; Wel. Jer, 142-43; Mick.Prof.Esch, 200."

    It's obvious that poor Skeptic X forgot what these abbreviations were because he tucked tail and ran several years ago. When Skeptic X gets his foot out of his mouth again -- you would think after this fiasco he would learn not to assume what people are doing -- he can look up these sources once he pays the fines for those overdue Where's Waldo? books:

  • Alle. JerDan Allen, Clifton, ed. Jeremiah-Daniel. Nashville: Broadman, 1971.
  • Clem.Jer Clements, R. E. Jeremiah. Atlanta: John Knox, 1988.
  • Huey.JerLam Huey, F. B. Jeremiah-Lamentations. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1993.
  • Laym.IntB Laymon, Charles E. The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 1971.
  • Thomp.Jer Thompson, J. A. The Book of Jeremiah. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980.

    One and perhaps two of these are "conservative" sources; three at least are moderate or liberal. All of them post-date Hyatt and Hopper, and Laymon supersedes Hyatt and Hopper in the Interpreter's Bible series. The earth shifted under Skeptic X's feet and he didn't even know it.


    We now move to where I provided the results of Whitney's study showing that "not" (lo) was used in the OT in an idiomatic sense. This is strong textual data for our position, and we will see Skeptic X doing little more than blowing hayseed at it.

    The negation idiom emerges from the Hebrew word lo, which transliterates as "not." On this matter, the principal study has been done by Whitney [Whit.Jer 7:22, 152],

    Oh, did Whitney say this? Where did Whitney say this? Well, it really doesn't matter, because Hyatt, Hopper, Graf, Micklem, and Welch disagree with him.

    Hyatt, Hopper, et al. can hardly "disagree" with Whitney, who wrote his article for the Spring 1986 Westminster Theological Journal and therefore post-dated each of these other commentators by at least 25 years. As usual Skeptic X asks the Stupid Skeptic Question wondering why earlier commentators don't change their minds when faced with data presented decades later, the inevitable result of shooting your mouth off without checking sources, as Skeptic X should have done 5-7 years ago instead of scuttling to the safe confines of his errancy list and away from the public and searchable forum of Internet debate.

    who describes the usage of lo in Jer. 7:22 as "a form hyperbolic verbal irony intended to intensify the contrast between what is present in the mind of the audience and what ought to be present."

    Yes, I have heard this quibble before. Stanley Brice Frost presented the same "explanation" in his commentary on Jeremiah, which is included in The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible, but like "Whitney," he just presented it as an assertion. He gave no support for it. Hyatt and Hopper (above) didn't just assert their view of the verse; they presented explications to support them.

    Whitney provided substantive "explication" (note that Skeptic X can't say "sufficient justification") for his position, and I doubt if Frost did not either (interesting how Skeptic X won't recite Frost's qualifications here as he did Hopper's, Hyatt's, etc. -- hmmm?), but Skeptic X will do no more than spit hayseed at what Whitney has to say. Thus:

    Whitney shows this idiomatic usage of lo elsewhere in the OT: Gen. 45:7-8,

    Well, you know me; I like to look at the "proof texts" that inerrantists cite without quoting and explicating them.

    In other words, Skeptic X likes to put a spin on such cites in order to give his gullible readers the idea that something is being hidden thereby -- not that he condemned Hopper or spun him out for doing the same thing even just above. Ask Hopper if citing the examples takes time and cuts down on the amount of hackwork he can do, or if he made that list because he didn't want his readers to see the actual quotes, or if he did it just to sound impressive.

    Genesis 45:3-8 Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph; does my father still live?" But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. 4And Joseph said to his brothers, "Please come near to me." So they came near. Then he said: "I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. 5But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

    Skeptic X recites each of Whitney's cites in turn, and then follows each with some walleyed and hackneyed burp like the following:

    I think that readers will immediately understand why [Holding] cites without quoting, because even a moron can see that this text is not at all parallel to Jeremiah 7:22. Joseph was obviously saying that his brother's conspiracy to sell him into Egypt was providentially guided so that he would be put into a position where he would be able to help his family in a time of dire need.

    Skeptic X has let the cat out of the bag, for he obviously only consulted morons in order to ascertain that there was not a parallel. Since this hayseed, time-buying spit will be all Skeptic X will offer each time he regards a cite by Whitney, we'll eliminate those and provide the deeper "explication" so that Skeptic X can go Xmas shopping for a bigger barrel of hayseed. Let's start with Gen. 45:3-8. The key verse is 8, "So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt." If Skeptic X were a funny man he could cite this as contradictory to Genesis 37. After all, Joseph's brothers did send him to Egypt via the slave trade. Isn't this "plainly" and "clearly" contradicting Gen. 37? No - the "not" here is ironic, just as it is in Jer. 7:22. It emphasizes that God, not the brothers, was the sovereign power behind what happened to Joseph - indeed, their acts were providentially guided, as Skeptic X puts it even as he misses the obvious parallel.

    Ex. 16:8 Also Moses said, "This shall be seen when Yahweh gives you meat to eat in the evening, and in the morning bread to the full; for Yahweh hears your complaints which you make against Him. And what are we? Your complaints are not against us but against Yahweh."

    Reach back to v. 2 here, "And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness…" This "plainly" contradicts v. 8, for the complaints "clearly" are made "against" Moses and Aaron. Skeptic X sees no parallel? It's there - another ironic "not" stressing that the people's complaints have God as their ultimate target.

    1 Sam 8:7 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." So Samuel prayed to Yahweh. 7And Yahweh said to Samuel, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them."

    Similar scenario: Samuel was the leader of Israel at this time, and the people are "clearly" rejecting him and his leadership. Hence the "not" is ironic - pointing to the ultimate nature of the people's rejection.

    1 Samuel 20:14-15 14And you shall not only show me the kindness of Yahweh while I still live, that I may not die; 15but you shall not cut off your kindness from my house forever, no, not when Yahweh has cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth."

    Guess what on this one? The "only" is not in the Hebrew text - it actually says, "..you shall not show me…" That's why Skeptic X can't see that the "not" here is used to stress the secondary importance for Jonathan of kindness in his own lifetime, versus kindness to his descendants.

    Job 2:10 But he [Job] said to her [Job's wife], "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

    The "not" here does not mean merely "not"; it means "not also" - not a plain not, but a decorated one.

    Jer. 16:14-15 "Therefore behold, the days are coming," says Yahweh, "that it shall no more be said, 'Yahweh lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,' 15but, 'Yahweh lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.' For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers."

    Taken literally, this would imply that Israel will entirely forget about the release from Egypt, but it is actually stressing that the release from captivity in Babylon will be of more immediate recognition. The "not" here again stresses the importance of the secondary elements.

    Ezek. 16:47 Yet hast thou not walked after their ways, nor done after their abominations: but, as if that were a very little thing, thou wast corrupted more than they in all thy ways.

    A note here: Skeptic X quotes some version that looks nothing like this, so here is the KJV - and the clearly ironic "not" inasmuch as the people had indeed walked after the ways specified, indeed surpassed them. The "not" here means "not only."

    Hosea 6:6. For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

    Thus it is that we come to this verse, and Jer. 7:22, which by the examples above may be clearly understood to be using "not" ironically or to stress the importance of a secondary element in context. Now that Skeptic X has this education, he may freely blow his nose on it.


    We pick back up with Skeptic X, post-Whitney:

    His conclusion agrees with that of Feinberg [Fein. CommJer, 75]:

    ...The negative in Hebrew often supplies the lack of the comparative - i.e., without excluding the thing denied, the statement implies only the prior importance of the things set in contrast to it.

    If it "often" implied this, then "Feinberg," whoever he was, should have been able to give some examples where this structure was clearly used. "Whitney's" examples all backfired on him, so maybe that is why "Feinberg" gave none.

    Skeptic X is wearing that ring of carbon monoxide right now, but as for examples, I expect a scholar like Feinberg to have as much patience with Skeptic X's chihuahua-bark demands as he would for a student who implied he was lying and demanded examples when he stated that it was a rule of American punctuation that the period goes inside the quote mark. Skeptic X pulls the same shebang on Laymon, and the answer, again, is not for Skeptic X to whine about lack of examples, but pull out resources that say and/or show that in Hebrew, idiomatic usage did NOT allow the denial of one thing in order to assert another. Since he can't actually do that, and has nothing to say to people like Laymon and Feinberg who have actually got their hooks into the language and present an argument based on it, all he can do is sit in his corner and whine.

    Socio-linguistic--did everyone catch that? It sounds really impressive, doesn't it?

    So it should, to a barbarian of Skeptic X's magnitude with no recourse but to play manipulative debate games.

    We're supposed to believe that [Holding] is expert enough in ancient Near Eastern languages to know diddly squat about the social customs and linguistic idioms of the time? I'll bet some of his admirers read this and said, "Whoa, [Holding] is talking about socio-linguistics, so he must be really whipping a**." [Holding] has all kinds of problems with the English language--and especially the punctuation system used in America--but we are supposed to believe that he knows all about socio-linguistic matters in ancient Near Eastern cultures?

    Fair enough. Skeptic X has problems with basic reading ("pay for 90% of my website") and putting his foot in his mouth ("B Greek is a mistake a first year student in Greek would not make") so that means he can't possibly be authoritative in reading and understanding any text, including the Bible. Fair enough? It is fair enough. One of Skeptic X's favorite manipulation tactics is to find a single mistake of an adversary, then turn it into a 15,446-foot straw mountain to set aflame. We may as well say that if Skeptic X burned his toast in the morning when he was age 21, there is no way he could ever cook a chicken cordon bleu properly at age 70. The above is symptomatic of Skeptic X's paranoid fear of the unknown. I, an expert? No, but Laymon, et al are, and being that Skeptic X merely responds to them with the hayseed spit, we have a clear-cut and sorrowful example of Skeptic X as an obscuratanist with his head in the sand, and unaware of his own incompetence, and spreading his peacock tail unaware that all the feathers have been plucked and he is only showing his naked tuckus to the world. As long as he has 150 or so admirers willing to speak of the finery of the Emperor's New Clothes, however, he doesn't mind one bit.

    There is another incongruity if we take X's side: In synagogue services, Jeremiah 7:22 was read at the conclusion of the reading of Lev. 6-8. [Fein.CommJer, 75]

    Skeptic X also pulls the same shebang on Feinberg as he did on Laymon, yelling "Prove it!" as though he had thereby proven that Jer. 7:22 was not used in synagogue services. A "nuh uh" does not constitute negative evidence, of course, except in Skeptic X's childlike mind; and throwing Hopper and Hyatt's explanation at it is not an answer either. Skeptic X theorizes idiotically, however, on his own:

    As Hyatt and Hopper noticed in their detailed expositions of Jeremiah 7:22 (above), a "prophetic protest" against the priestly system was emerging as early as the time of Jeremiah. Eventually, the Levitical sacrifices were dispensed with altogether, and they have not been practiced for centuries. In such a milieu, I could certainly see why Jeremiah 7:22 would be read in synagogues. It offered a "scriptural" reason for the failure to include sacrifices in the services.

    What Skeptic X forgot to do, however, was find a time and place when the conditions he describes adhered. The Levitical sacrifices were NEVER dispensed with as long as there was a Temple standing, and the lack of a Temple (at the time of the Babylonian captivity, and post-70 AD) was the patent and obvious reason why there were no more Levitical sacrifices. Jer. 7:22 didn't have anything to do with it. Skeptic X simply threw this out without any analysis or justification, or any study or recounting or when the sacrifices were done, and with no comments from any source other than his own big mouth. And he has the nerve to demand that scholars with years of experience provide him "examples" to salve his own ignorance? Just in case, Skeptic X adds this blurb:

    I just completed a debate on Errancy-II with an orthodox Jew who is studying to become a rabbi. He offered all kinds of rationalizations for why Jews today disregard completely the sacrificial ceremonies of the Levitical law. I never asked him, but I suspect that Jeremiah 7:22 would be a passage that appeals to him.

    He suspects! That's it, just put words in a man's mouth to use him as support. That's more Skeptic X manipulation gaming in progress, and we'd bet that the orthodox Jew kicked his rump roast as badly as we have, and that Skeptic X's brain is like that of the ancient brontosaur that couldn't tell it's tail had been kicked because it took so long for the tail to send nerve signals to the brain. And it shows further in this surd Skeptic X pops in uncritically:

    If we defer to the way that Jews interpret the law, then we would have to say that they are right in rejecting the sacrificial system, because they no longer offer sacrifices. Furthermore, if [Holding] would do a bit of research, he would find that not all Jewish commentators accept his--er, Brights's--idiomatic quibble. At the Jewish.Community website, the 12th-century AD Jewish commentator Maimonides was quoted to justify the discontinuance of sacrifices in Jewish religious rituals.

    Maimonides! Yes, that 12th century Jewish commentator certainly had access to all of modern scholarship about ancient Hebrew idiom and history; so likewise the other 12th century commentators Skeptic X notes. I realize he grew up playing stickball with these guys, but citing someone from this date as an authority is a sign of serious cognitive dissonance and of a childish mindset that Skeptic X engages in which he thinks, as above, all he has to do to refute A is cite back someone who says non-A yet again.

    X responds by asserting our passage and similar ones as proof (which we have seen, they are not), and then remarks, "I think that this is called the argument from silence."

    It would be nice if [Holding] could write a coherent sentence. What is he even referring to here? Is he saying that in the Jeremiah part of my rebuttal of Josh McDowell's claim that the Bible is unique, I said that I think that this [what?] is called the argument from silence? I've checked the article, which I wrote several years ago, and I cannot find any place in the article where I made this statement.

    Maybe if he had repeated it to himself three times he would have remembered better. The statement was made in Skeptic X's initial response to my Jury Ch. 1 rebuttal. Skeptic X says I write like a college freshman (too bad - I paid my dues and got my A grades in writing classes all through college); I say he remembers like an elephant -- a dead one. Which is why he also misremembered and thinks I changed my position during the Land Promise debate (see here).

    After wagging in his latest fallacious bark on silence in the Gospels -- we've answered all of that in our study of ge in the preterism debate -- we get to my comparison of what such an interpretation of Jer. 7:22 requires:

    X's interpretation would require something tantamount to a Congressman standing on the steps of the Capitol, in full hearing of his peers, saying that the Founders did not write the Constitution; and then, his words being incorporated into the Federalist Papers as authoritative!

    Skeptic X plays dumb and evades:

    X's interpretation of what? Since [Holding]'s sloppy writing gives no indication of when I said, "I think that this is called the argument from silence," he gives me nothing to compare his analogy to. Hence, there is nothing here for me to reply to.

    Skeptic X is so lost that he can't even figure out simple things like this. In the analogy, the Congressman is Jeremiah; the Founders represent Moses, the Constitution, the Torah, and the Federalist Papers, the rest of the OT. Skeptic X's interpretation amounts to the same thing, and as seen above, he has no answer other than positing conspiracies of mysteriously unknown priests who were smart and stupid at just the right times for his thesis. All of this is much less complex than a simple and verified contention that Jeremiah's "not" is a Hebrew idiom representing scale of importance. Skeptic X would rather take a ride over the dirt road full of potholes than use the interstate, but what else can you expect from a backwoods CoC fundaliteralist preacher with a degree in Shouting from the Pulpit from Bam Bam Bible College? Skeptic X continues to play dumb as I note that the "sort of rejection X suggests would have resulted in an enormous split in Judaism that would have left reverberations even unto this day," then chases himself in a circle at my request for "significant textual-polemical or archaeological evidence" by re-repeating the very cites at issue. (He also issues a challenge to debate archaeology -- well, we have posted for a topic the historicity of David, and he can take that up in about 43 years when he finishes getting knocked out in the current rings. If he dares.)


    We closed our article on Jer. 7:22 with respect to Skeptic X with observations about his inherent bigotry in demanding that the Bible's text conform to his own specifications and understanding. Skeptic X continues to confirm his status as Grand Dragon, repeating his usual slurs against the Jewish people and playing the role of the hayseed. Skeptic X asks if I know what chuavinism means, and I do: it is what he is doing, even as he describes it: "The word has since been used to denote those who are belligerently or fanatically patriotic or unreasonably devoted to lost causes..." Precisely. Skeptic X shows belligerence to any cultural understanding other than his own (hence his bigoted attitude when confronted with the realities of an honor-shame culture, for example) and a fanatic patriotism to the lost cause of his own interpretations. He asks if it is "unreasonable then to think that if Jeremiah had really meant what [Holding] is claiming, the inspiration of an omni-max deity should have enabled him to communicate that idea in clear language?" The language IS clear; Skeptic X is simply too lazy and too bigoted to take a few seconds to come to the text on any but his own terms. Skeptic X burns the strawman of excess next: "Yes, I completely forgot that in his 34 years, [Holding] somehow managed to become an expert in ancient Near Eastern cultures and languages while he was working as a prison librarian. How stupid of me! I should have remembered that in matters of anthropology and sociology, he is the cat's meow." As it stands I am certainly meowing louder than Skeptic X's bark, as is shown by his embarrassing attempt to circumvent anthropological scholarship on the matter of David feeling "guilty" as he proposed. And oddly enough, Skeptic X admits of my point about other ANE languages having similar features, that:

    There is no doubt a kernel of truth in what he is saying. Language families share similarities in vocabulary, morphology, syntax, semantics, and grammatical features, but [Holding] is either missing the point or else sees it and is pretending that he doesn't.

    In other words, Skeptic X essentially admits I could be right, and that he is too ignorant to say otherwise, and then changes the subject:

    Those who see the Bible as "the word of God"--and [Holding] would be in that group--believe that God had a "plan." That plan entailed selecting a "chosen people" through whom Yahweh could eventually send a Messiah to redeem the world from "sin" (as if God couldn't have selected a "Mary" from just any tribe of people at any time and sent his "son" into the world through her or just simply declared that he had forgiven mankind). The Bible was presumably "inspired" of God to give the world an account of the unfolding of his redemptive plan, so that all nations, all over the world, could read and learn of God's love for humanity. People like [Holding] ask us to believe this, yet we are simultaneously told that we need to know the "Semitic mind" and Hebrew "nuances" in order to understand God's "inspired word." A person born in, say, 20th-century AD China will read this "inspired word" and not fully understand it, because he/she isn't familiar with the "Semitic mind" and Hebrew "nuances" and idioms. [Holding] would say that the failure to understand is the modern person's fault for not speaking a language that is "colorful" in its idioms.

    Skeptic X's analysis is bunkum start to finish. To begin, it is doubtful that God's plan also including letting us sit on our arrogant behinds chomping Pringles. God's plan also includes discipleship; discipleship includes study, and study is not hard at all unless one wishes to sit on one's rear watching Seinfeld reruns. Attitudes like Skeptic X's come not of a desire to learn or know, but of a desire to excuse away laziness and ineptitude, and never be proven wrong (hence Skeptic X's refusal to admit outright error, and apologize, in the B Greek issue linked above, and doing what he can to hide his error on the guilt of David issue, and running tail first away from debates years ago with an excuse about what other readers could see). The text of the Bible, like any text, can be understood on multiple levels; one need not understand Hebrew idiom or Semitic mindset to "get" the basic message needed for salvation. Many choose to remain at this level of understanding throughout their Christian life; some of these, like Skeptic X, become apostates because they can't handle the cognitive dissonance that inevitably comes with greater research and don't have the patience to reserve judgment. The person in China will understand enough to be saved. Beyond that it is logically impossible to compose a text that is both maximally effective with a given culture AND easily understood in every single culture worldwide and throughout time. If Skeptic X thinks otherwise, it is a case of him yet again being a simple-minded and uneducated bigot.

    Skeptic X is no different than C. Dennis McKinsey in his methods. Skeptic X owes McKinsey an apology on the Ezion-geber issue, for when it comes to applying methods, McKinsey is more consistent than Skeptic X. Thus when Skeptic X says:

    The point that I keep hammering home to [Holding] is that such claims as this are completely incompatible with the claim that the Bible was "inspired" by an omniscient, omnipotent deity, for if such a deity had really inspired those who wrote the Bible, this deity, in its omniscience and omnipotence, could have guided the writers to communicate the ideas in the Bible with a clarity that could be understood by people born in China, India, Japan, Russia, Iceland, etc., etc., etc., as well as those who were born in Semitic cultures. If [Holding] is correct in his claim that the Bible was written in a sort of secret code that cannot be understood unless one spends years of his life researching ancient Semitic languages and cultures, then the omnibenevolence of this omniscient, omnipotent deity has to be doubted.

    Why not say also, as from McKinsey's mouth:

    The point that I keep hammering home to Skeptic X is that such claims as this are completely incompatible with the claim that the Bible was "inspired" by an omniscient, omnipotent deity, for if such a deity had really inspired those who wrote the Bible, this deity, in its omniscience and omnipotence, could have guided the writers to communicate the geography in the Bible with a clarity that could be understood by people born in China, India, Japan, Russia, Iceland, etc., etc., etc., as well as those who were born in Semitic cultures. If Skeptic X is correct in his claim that the Bible was written in a sort of secret code that cannot be understood unless one spends years of his life researching ancient geography, then the omnibenevolence of this omniscient, omnipotent deity has to be doubted.

    It neither takes years, and nor is it a secret code; it is also understandable on a variety of levels, and if you are spending any time watching television you have time to do the study as well. Skeptic X calls my work "shoveling bullsh*t in hope that his readers will be gullible enough to think he knows what he is talking about" -- imitating, as is his wont, the backwoods native who tells an airline pilot that he is "shoveling bullsh*t" when he explains to him the principles of flight dynamics. None of the data I have presented on Hebrew idiom is hard to understand. Skeptic X's frustrated bigotry and laziness is not an answer. When I say:

    Furthermore, generally speaking, negation idioms have a rich history in oral cultures around the world.

    ...it is a sign of Skeptic X's uneducated frustration when he replies:

    And [Holding], of course, is expert enough in "oral cultures around the world" to speak with authority in this matter. Folks, you have just had another shovel of bullsh*t pitched your way.

    Really? Then Skeptic X has enough authority to deny that there were such idioms in oral cultures around the world? He doesn't, and he has to end up admitting that he doesn't doubt that such idioms using irony and sarcasm are "a widespread linguistic feature." In short, Skeptic X calls it a shovel of bullsh*t, then hoists his own shovel and picks up a tottering spoonful of the same. Consistency? Don't count on it.

    Now all that [Holding] has to do is prove that Jeremiah was speaking ironically. Something that [Holding] apparently doesn't know is that there is a huge difference in recognizing irony in conversation and in recognizing it in written text. If it is pouring down rain, and someone I am talking to says, "This is really nice weather we are having," I would know from the circumstances I was in and the tone in the speaker's voice that he was speaking sarcastically.

    We did prove Jeremiah spoke ironically, and Skeptic X could only spit hayseed. Now then, Skeptic X says he knows from circumstances and tone that the speaker was being sarcastic. He barks back that written language is a different ballgame. Is it? If this speaker only wrote him a note, then, would he still not be able to figure out that sarcasm was intended? I doubt if Skeptic X is dumb enough to say even that. Clearly the circumstances tell enough of the story, and by that reckoning, the testimony of the Pentateuch is enough to tell us that Jerry was being ironic. Skeptic X tries to obfuscate by saying, "If [Holding] found a text that had obviously been written years or even months ago, how would he know if the writer was being serious or sarcastic if the text said, 'We are having really nice weather'?" Gosh, that's not hard. If we're interested enough (assuming this is all the person has written, i.e, not referring to a need for an umbrella as well) we look at the date of the note, where the person was, and check back in the records to see what the weather was for that day. We have the weather report for Jerry's age (the Pentateuch), hence we can see easily, by this standard, that he is speaking ironically. Send another batch of grease so Skeptic X can stuff yet another foot in his mouth.

    Skeptic X claims he is not insulting the Hebrews, but he is -- he is accusing them of rampant stupidity; he is accusing them of being "unclear" in their language simply because he can't figure it out (i.e., he is putting the burden on them, not on himself as he ought to); he is assuming his way is superior:

    Let us put it plainly: The Semites were here before we were, and the message was first imputed to THEM.

    What exactly does [Holding] mean? I'm blond-haired and blue-eyed, of obvious Northern European descent. These people date back as far as the Semites, so in that sense, the Semites were not here before "we" were. I know black skeptics and atheists, who are descendants of those who lived in Africa where homo sapiens originated. Were the Semites here before them?

    No, Skeptic X, they were here before YOU. Moreover your "people" spoke in language and idioms that you, in your current knowledge, would never comprehend. So would he blame them for not having clear language? Would he be willing to study their culture and learn more about it for his own reasons? If we are willing to look into our genealogy -- a hobby many have today, that usually has no productive purpose and serves mainly to edify one's own personal knowledge -- can we dare to excuse away a lack of interest in learning about the culture and text of the Bible? Does Skeptic X have any hobbies? Skeptic X evades the point that the message to be imputed had to be most clear to the initial recipients with his usual shazam of accusation: we're "begging the question" that the message was actually imputed" -- since that is not the topic of the debate to begin with, it isn't a begged question in context, and this is merely Skeptic X's way of evading the point that whoever the initial recipients were -- whether they had been Jews, Chinese, or Aztec -- if there was a message, it was critical for them, as the initial recipients, to get the message clearly, and our own arrogant presumption did not require God to wait several hundred years for Western civilization to pop up so that His message could be imputed in more sensible" or "clear" terms. He has no answer for this whatsoever other than repeating his same canard we have just answered above with reference to levels of understanding and burden to do homework. Jesus did not say, "Blessed are those who sit on their duffs munching Pringles."

    Skeptic X excuses this away with more whining:

    A primary rule that effective writers will respect is that they will always write with the background and needs of their audiences in mind. If a writer is an expert on the subject he is writing about, he will use a different approach if he is writing to an informed audience as opposed to an uninformed audience. A physician writing to a medical journal that will be read by other physicians or medical technicians will write with an awareness that his audience probably understands technical terms and the specialized vocabulary used in the medical field, but if he writes for an audience with no background in medicine, he will need to adjust his writing accordingly by "writing down" to the level of those in his reading audience.

    How interesting. Now let's give Skeptic X a personal example. He has just announced he has macular degeneration. I know several people with this condition. Those who didn't simply "give up" educated themselves about this condition. They started with research using basic sources like those "written down" to their level. As they learned more about the specialized terminology, about diseases of the eye and its functions, they "graduated" to the point of being able to read and understand articles written in medical journals that only 1-2 years before they would never have understood. Today a hospital library typically has both educated patients and doctors for customers. Even "uneducated" customers, though, will find more advanced articles, and learn what they mean, or at least, ask for an interpretation from a physician -- getting second or third opinions if needed. Now how hard is that to do? And if we take the Bible seriously, what excuse do we have for not doing the same? Skeptic X is without excuse, then, unless he is at least consistent and tells us he will simply allow his macular degeneration to strike him blind over the next few years. I know of no person with the condition who has taken such a "who cares" attitude (though they undoubtedly exist). Skeptic X's further example of people in Florida who had problems following voting instructions serves him no better. While waiting for my wife to finish her own voting after finishing mine, I witnessed in the span of a few minutes two people who filled out their ballot wildly incorrectly, in spite of clear instructions (with illustrations!) written so that a third-grader could understand them. The problem there is not understanding, but what one writer has called "permissive ignorance" --- a carelessness or unwillingness to be educated or to learn. Skeptic X apparently speaks with the voice of experience when he also complains of this being a problem with computer instruction manuals. I would point out that a man who can't even think to do a simple title search has far greater problems than he realizes when it comes to reading and comprehension, and that perhaps the problem really lies in his own mirror.

    To put it simply, a document that told the "whole story" could never make the "whole story" a readily understandable revelation for all mankind. That is logically impossible, for there is nothing that education and clear verbiage can do that stupidity and ignorance cannot overcome. Nor would it be possible to preserve such a message inerrantly forever -- see here. Skeptic X is not asking legitimate questions; he is whining, complaining, and throwing a temper tantrum over his own ignorance. That's the result of an inflated view of one's own self-importance.


    We will now supplement this article with a survey of views on this verse (Jer. 7:22) and do the sort of critical comparison of arguments that Skeptic X needs to do, but doesn't. Some sources only express the view with no reasons given, but the weight of their scholarship and experience is nevertheless to be reckoned with and cannot be simply brushed off by a neophyte like Skeptic X, but rather must be countered with solid arguments.

    Skeptic X will undoubtedly pan off his usual suggestion that I didn't actually have any of thse sources in hand and just did the old students' trick of compiling from one source, but for those without a conpsiracy theory to promote, the reality is that each of these sources is available at the Reformed Theological Seminary library in Orlando.

    I'll begin with a comparison to another place where I have written of irony in a text, this time in 2 Corinthians. In this article I referred to Holland's paper, "Paul's Use of Irony as a Rhetorical Technique" in The Rhetorical Analysis of Scripture, 1997 (234ff). Holland discerned in 2 Corinthians "multiple layers of irony" which "involves a much more complicated mental transaction on the part of the audience" than a "normal" transaction -- and notes further the risk involved in such a technique, since it is widely open to misunderstanding (as indeed Jer. 7:22 is). Irony is the rhetorical art "of saying one thing while meaning another." This was a technique known and used by Greco-Roman writers. Among known ironic techniques are what Holland, citing Booth, calls the "open proclamation of pure error." An example of this in the NT is where Paul refers to God's "foolishness" (1 Cor. 1:25). It is a blatant error from Paul's perspective to speak of God as foolish; hence Paul must be speaking ironically.

    We argue that Jer. 7:22 fits the model of an "open proclamation of pure error" and is intended as an ironic statement. We will now survey the views found in available Jeremiah commentaries (and one other book) and compare arguments.

    • Nicholson (1973) offers two ways to read the verse. The first is the way that we agree with; the second is that Jer. 7:22 was written during the Babylonian Exile by persons for whom sacrifice had indeed become meaningless. Nicholson finds the first "more probable" and regards the second as a "possibility" that "should remain open." He offers no study of Semitic idiom but clearly has the knowledge to stand on the side of it. His second explanation is of course possible but reaches into recesses of unsubstantiated speculation (i.e., we have no copy of Jeremiah lacking 7:22 which would support such a textual difference; it does not suit the tenor of books like Ezekiel written in Exile that suggest a return to the sacrificial system, and thus posits an otherwise unknown party of Jews).
    • Brown (1907) is the only commentary of the set we consulted that tries to give reasons why the idiomatic reading is untenable. Brown offers no study of Semitic idiom and does not answer any arguments for the position based on linguistic data (which was indeed available to him; see below). We will look at his four reasons, and then answer them in light of the known ironic technique of "open proclamation of pure error" (OPPE).
      1. Brown says, "...in a matter of such importance the prophet would be likely to use a regular, not an unusual method of speech." The questions begged here are enormous! That there is a correlation between "importance" and use of figures of speech (which is based on nothing, apparently, other than Brown's cultural assumption that one would only say important things in a literal way!) and that one can define a method of speech as "regular" or "unusual" on one's own recognizance. Brown made no effort to show that such a form of speech would have been "unusual" or used only for "unimportant" matters in Jeremiah's time and culture. If anything, the data shows the opposite (see Whitney above, and Hommel below). Was the OPPE used only in "unimportant" matters by Greek and Roman rhetoriticians? And how does one define "important"?
      2. "...[T]he relative antithesis is assumed without satisfactory parallels." This is answered by Whitney's parallels above, and Hommel's below.
      3. "The assumed insignificance of the offerings is not consistent with the solemn commands and sanctions of the Pentateuchal legislation." Brown has it wrong; it is not "insignificance" but "relative significance". Moreover he takes no consideration for the differing genre (legal code vs. prophetic oracle) and circumstances (administering of covenant initially vs. historical situation of abuses) of the two places he is comparing which explain the difference in "solemnity". One may as well also compare examples of the OPPE and find equally "solemn" counters.
      4. Brown ends, "an absolute antithesis is more in harmony with the previous verse." It is? "Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Put your burnt offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat flesh." It's just as much in harmony with the idea that this is a relative antithesis telling the people to get off their rear ends and start practicing God's ways (v. 23).

      In short, Brown's objections do not deal with any linguistic data and are overwhelmingly anachronistic and subjective.

    • Laetsch (1965) opts for a view the same as ours, but provides no argumentation about idiomatic usage. He does note that Jeremiah was not nailed by the priests for opposing the temple apparatus, which he should have been had he actually opposed it literally. In context Laetsch for me would be a persuasive authority, but I could not cite him as a "B" to Skeptic X's A.
    • A. H. Herbert (1959), Worship in Ancient Israel, John Knox Press. Herbert takes the view that Jer. 7:22 is an example of hyperbole [48-9]. The passages like this one (and Mic. 6:6-8 and Hos. 6:6) are "not presenting the stark alternatives" but "insisting on the primary importance of righteousness without which ritual is useless or even dangerous." Herbert compares this to Luke 14:26 (see the same point as we make it here) and notes that this verse is an example of something that would mean hating family members in "English idiom" but in "Hebrew idiom it is a vigorous way of expressing a comparison or priority." Skeptic X's response of course to such points is to insult the scholarship of the arguer and claim that it's just an assertion, as if a scholar of Hebrew needed to do more than assert such a thing plainly after years of study in peer-reviewed publications like this one, merely to satisfy a long-winded gasbag like Skeptic X with an ego inflatbale to 1875 psi.
    • Lange (n.d.) opts for our reasoning, but gives no accessory support.
    • Van Orelli (1889) agrees with our view, noting the "form, frequent in Semitic languages, of the absolute for the relative antithesis." He also notes elsewhere that Jeremiah seems to recognize the sacrificial system as valid (17:26, 33:11). No specifics are given of such Semitic idiom, but Van Orelli's knowledge makes him at least a persuasive authority.
    • Stearne (1952) makes no clear statement of interpretation, though he does apparently suggest something along the lines of a separate source, after the JEDP model.
    • Brack (2000) argues from the view that Exodus was written after Jer. 7:22, but adds that since sacrifices were conducted in Jeremiah's day, he also finds the answer the same way we do, in Semitic linguistics, by which this says that regulations about sacrifice do not occupy a central place, but that "God had not commanded sacrifices as the essential fature of covenantal obedience." He gives no specific examples of such idioms.
    • Driver (1906) solves the matter through a matter of differing documents being combined at a later date. He says nothing about linguistic features.
    • Freedman -- this commentary is by a Jewish rabbi who backs up Feinberg about the use of Jer. 7:22 in the synagogues after readings from Leviticus. He opts for the same explanation we have, but does not give examples.
    • Harrison (1973) agrees with our view, but offers no explanation.
    • Holladay -- rejects the idiomatic view, claiming it cannot be put on the text "without violence" and claims that a reading "certainly presses the hearer to the conclusion" that Jeremiah is rejecting the origins of the sacrifices. Holladay does not deal with any linguistic arguments.
    • Kommel (1900) in an article, "A Rhetorical Figure in the OT" (Expository Times, 11, 439), notes paralells in Arabic of a form of speech that involve "a denying of the original sense of a word". From an Arabic poem he offers an example, along with others: "Not he who has died and rests is dead; dead is rather the dead among the living." The meaning of the passage is: "Not (only) he who has died and rests (in the grave) is dead; dead is rather (or, much more, lit. only) the dead among the living." The "not" here is exactly as we figure it to be in Jer. 7:22. Another example: "The strong is not (only) he who strikes down his foe, but the strong is (rather also) he who rules himself."

    This ends the survey, and thus our conclusions. Our reasons for saying that Jer. 7:22 is a statement of verbal irony, rather than literal, are as follows:

    1. There are clear exact parallels in the Arabic language (Kommel) and the OT (Whitney).
    2. There are clear general parallels to the use of such figures of speech and irony in other ancient languages (Caird, Holland).
    3. Jer. 7:22 was paired with Leviticus in synagogue services.
    4. There is no way such a blatant contradiction could have made it through the hands of editors and no historical or other evidence for "anti-Moses" parties. Indeed Jeremiah is not condemned by the priests for this act, even as he is condemned for other offenses.

    In reply, Skeptic X thinks this is enough of a positive reason to read it literally:

    1. The text "clearly says" what it does.

    We'll see if he can do any better.


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