Misunderstanding of both DNA-related science and the nature of the Book of Mormon led to premature rejoicing in some circles over the alleged refutation of that key scriptural text for Latter-day Saints, as previously discussed here and on my LDSFAQ essay on DNA and the Book of Mormon. DNA data is only a problem for the Book of Mormon is one makes unjustified and extreme assumptions about what the text requires.
The religious bias and serious misunderstanding shown in some coverage of that story is also illustrated in recent media coverage on the allegedly embarrassing discovery in DNA data that the ancient Canaanites were not wiped out but have descendants alive and well in Palestine. On Dec. 31, Evolution News ran the story, “#2 of Our Top Stories of 2017: Clueless Reporters and Canaanite DNA.” There is some terrific irony in the very unintelligent designs of the popular media when it comes to reporting on religion and science. Here is an excerpt from the story:
The science story itself is fascinating and to all appearances solid. Human remains dating to some 3,700 year ago from ancient Canaanites yielded DNA revealing a startling overlap with modern-day Lebanese. The latter thus appear to harbor descendants of the long-ago population (“Continuity and Admixture in the Last Five Millennia of Levantine History from Ancient Canaanite and Present-Day Lebanese Genome Sequences,” American Journal of Human Genetics).
Wow, that is interesting. How will they spin it? The headlines tell the tale:
- “Study disproves the Bible’s suggestion that the ancient Canaanites were wiped out” (The Telegraph)
- “Bible says Canaanites were wiped out by Israelites but scientists just found their descendants living in Lebanon” (The Independent)
- “Bronze Age DNA disproves the Bible’s claim that the Canaanites were wiped out: Study says their genes live on in modern-day Lebanese people” (Daily Mail)
- “Scientists Find Evidence That Ancient Canaanites Survive Today: Was The Bible Wrong?” (Tech Times)
- “New DNA study casts doubt on Bible claim” (Mother Nature Network)
- “The Bible was WRONG: Civilisation God ordered to be KILLED still live and kicking” (Express)
- “Genetic evidence suggests the Canaanites weren’t destroyed after all” (Ars Technica)
- “Canaanites Weren’t Annihilated by Ancient Israelites After All” (Newser)
- “Study disproves the Bible’s claim that the ancient Canaanites were wiped out” (Click Lancashire)
- “Canaanites survived Biblical ‘slaughter’, ancient DNA shows”(ABC Online)
- “DNA vs the Bible: Israelites did not wipe out the Canaanites” (Cosmos)
- “The Bible got it wrong: Ancient Canaanites survived and their DNA lives in modern-day Lebanese” (Pulse Headlines)
The only problem with this reporting? The Bible is detailed and unambiguous in relating that the Canaanites survived Joshua’s invasion. So it’s no wonder they have living descendants. I’m not here to pass judgment on ancient Canaanites or ancient Israelites, on the Bible, Joshua, or anyone else. But come on, reporters, where’s your elementary cultural literacy, of which knowing a thing or two about the Bible is a key element?
The author points out that Judges 1 lists all the places where the Canaanites continued living. Interestingly, one of those cities was Sidon (Judges 1:31) where the ancient DNA was found with genes that have persisted to this day in Lebanon. Yet these stories insist that the Bible has been refuted because the Canaanites were not completely wiped out.
Even the reputable journal Science, in a reporting article, had to backtrack with an editor’s correction, blandly styled as an “update”:
This story and its headline have been updated to reflect that in the Bible, God ordered the destruction of the Canaanites, but that some cities and people may have survived.
Not “may have survived.” In the Bible’s account, they definitely survived, in large numbers. The original headline? “Ancient DNA counters biblical account of the mysterious Canaanites.” It should be, “Ancient DNA confirms biblical account…”
No doubt about it, the war against the Canaanites is among the most politically incorrect narrative elements in the whole of Scripture. That it was incompletely carried out is attested to by the Bible, and now demonstrated by modern genetic analysis. That’s news, whether your interest is religion or science. Who will tell the reporters?
Such irony. DNA data from Lebanon is consistent with or even confirms one aspect of the biblical record, and yet through ignorance it is gleefully painted as yet another embarrassment refuting the Bible. While there are obvious problems in some aspects of that record and in the story of the conquest of the Promised Land, the fact that Canaanites survived and have living descendants today is clearly not one of the challenges Bible believers need to struggle with. Properly understood, the DNA data for the Canaanites considered in light of the Old Testament is what we should expect, actually. What we should expect from the media, though, seems to be very little when it comes to accuracy in reporting religious topics.
30 thoughts on “DNA Science vs. Scripture: The Book of Mormon is Not the Only Target for Confused Attacks”
I've noticed a recurring theme in your apologist posts as of late. Remember that just because someone else is wrong, doesn't mean you are right. By the same token, the more wrong they are doesn't make you more right.
Hey good post, Belated Happy New Year.
@Anon I don't see anywhere where Jeff tries to say what you are saying is the case. Pointing out that faulty logic and reasoning was used to misrepresent the data is merely that, pointing out that the attacks are based on faulty reasoning and logic that is not supported by the data.
It shows that the arguments isn't by any stretch settled and that there still room to support the idea that the BoM is a historical record and not a fraud. So while it may not make us "more right". It most certainly does make us less wrong, thus leaving room for discovery that we will end up being "more right".
A few years ago, CBS News had a reporter doing a story arrogantly criticizing Israeli archeologists for excavating the ancient City of David adjacent to the temple mount. She was totally ignorant of the centuries in which ancient Israel built up the City of Jerusalem, and the temple. She seems to have totally missed all the biblical epics about David and Solomon and Ruth, and about Jesus, that took pkace there a milennium before Muhammad.
Jeff, I agree with you here. This sort of biblical illiteracy bugs me no end, especially in cases like this one where it subserves an ideological end.
When it comes to what "the Bible says," the idea that the Israelites completely wiped out the Canaanites is as wrong as the idea that the Sodom and Gomorrah story is a condemnation of homosexuality, or that Isaiah prophesied a virgin birth*, or that "traditional marriage" is between one man and one woman.
It's not just that these ideas aren't really biblical, it's that people falsely attribute them to the Bible out of prejudice of one kind or another. It's very annoying, but inevitable, I suppose, that people will try to anchor their religious or political beliefs in a source of cultural authority like the Bible. But still, it would be nice to have everyone trying to understand the Bible for what it really is and really says.
* This one's a bit complicated. The Book of Isaiah does not in fact prophesy a virgin birth, but early Christians believed it did and inserted that false belief into the New Testament. So I guess it's more accurate to say "The idea that Isaiah prophesied a virgin birth is not in the Hebrew Bible."
Thanks, OK — and thanks for not trying to work in a few (off-topic) jabs against the Church's policies on morality — or did I miss something in my cursory read? 🙂 But really, I often appreciate your perspectives and the challenges you throw out though I am sad you dislike the Church so much. But someday let's do lunch (I'll buy) and talk about our common perspectives as well as differences, if you wish, because I think you'd be a highly person to chat with in person.
Anon at the top, first, thanks for reading and noticing what I write here. I knew there must be someone out there! But yes, I'm sorry to confess that you've uncovered my secret agenda: once I have proven everyone else to be wrong, Mormons win by default. Now on to my next target.
And thanks, Zera BP! Appreciate your regular kindness and thoughts.
Raymond, that's an intriguing story. If you ever run into it again, I'd love to read or watch the fun. Thanks for reading!
OK, say what you will about Isaiah prophesies, they leave themselves open to interpretation but the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality, if not through the Sodom and Gomorrah story the apostle Paul leaves no doubt.
Anon 8:31 writes, the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality, if not through the Sodom and Gomorrah story the apostle Paul leaves no doubt.
Alright then, let's assume that Paul "unequivocally" condemns homosexuality but the Sodom and Gomorrah story does not. Do you see what an immense difference that makes?
For one thing, it knocks the legs out from under all those imbecile preachers who claim that this country's acceptance of homosexuality will bring fire and brimstone down upon it. If, like Ezekiel, they believed that the "sin of Sodom" was that "she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy," then maybe they'd be out there bashing Donald Trump instead of Ellen Degeneres. Their biblical illiteracy has consequences.
But hey, if you want to go along with Paul, be my guest. In Romans 1, at least as the anti-gay crowd reads it, Paul suggests that Johnny Mathis and Rock Hudson are "without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator…. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions…."
Oh, so that's what made them gay! Mystery solved!
Jeff, Anon 8:31 — do you truly believe that Paul has accurately explained the causes of homosexuality?
Do you truly believe Paul is fairly describing the character of homosexuals?
P. S. Lunch would be wonderful, Jeff.
I do not believe the real sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was a hospitality as the Huffington Post suggests, Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed because of grave, ongoing sin. Genesis 18:20 says, "And the Lord said, 'The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave.'" Indeed, not even ten righteous people could be found in the city.
In 2 Peter 2:6 says God condemned and destroyed the cities as "an example to those who would live ungodly thereafter."
The sin described by Jude and Peter as "gross immorality" and going after "strange flesh." Peter wrote that Lot was "oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men," and "by what he saw and heard…felt his righteous soul tormented day after day with their lawless deeds." The people were "those who indulged the flesh in its corrupt desires and despised authority" (2 Peter 2:7-10).
In Romans Paul describes a three step process to every self-justifed sinful lifestyle:
1: human beings exchange God for what God has made; we prefer the creature to the Creator.
“They exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man . . .” (verse 23).
2: God hands us over to what we prefer.
“Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (verse 24).
3: we act out externally and bodily in our sexual relations a dramatization of the internal, spiritual condition of the fallen human soul, namely, the horrendous exchange of God for man and the images of our power.
“. . . so that their bodies would be dishonored among them” (end of verse 24).
Anon 12:58 writes, Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed because of grave, ongoing sin. Genesis 18:20 says, "And the Lord said, 'The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave.'"
Yes, but so what? The question is whether that "grave, ongoing sin" was homosexuality. And the Bible itself says it was not. I get this not from the Huffington Post* but from Ezekiel, from Jeremiah**—and of course from the Sodom and Gomorrah story itself.
I sometimes think that contemporary readers of that story are so hung up on gay sex that they are blinded to genuine sins like rape. How else can one explain the way they read a description of gang rape and think to themselves "Ooh, ick, homosexuality"? The blindness is amazing.
And how do people miss the rather obvious fact that the story's threat of gang rape is a symbol of Sodom's extreme inhospitality, just as Lot's offer of his two virgin daughters symbolizes his total commitment to the ancient moral ideal of hospitality?
Think about it. If we read these elements of the story literally, how can Lot possibly be the "good guy"? How can he possibly be considered as (if I may quote 2 Peter) "a righteous man greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the lawless"?
The sexual elements of the story are not the theme; they're symbols that serve to highlight the theme, which is hospitality (or mistreatment of the powerless by the powerful, whatever).
The Sodom and Gomorrah story is no more about homosexuality than Matthew 16:5-12 is about bread. Just as the disciples hear Jesus say "Beware the leaven of the Pharisees" and think he is speaking literally about food, so you are reading the sexual elements of Genesis 19 and thinking they are about sex.
Is it possible to interpret the Bible as if it condemned what we now term "homosexuality" (that is, sexual desire between members of the same sex)? Well, yes, one can do this if one really wants to. But why would one really want to? Because the Bible requires it? No, because, as I hope to have shown, the Bible does not at all require it.
It's a bit like the way anti-mormons can read 2 Nephi 5:21 etc. as saying God is a racist. Mormon apologists say No, it does not have to be read that way; it can more plausibly be read other ways; you're only reading it that way because you already hate Mormons and are looking for excuses for your hate.
You can see where I'm going with this, right? Let me close by gently suggesting that you are reading the Bible the way you do because you are looking for excuses for your preexisting disapproval of homosexuality. Get rid of the disapproval, and you'll read the Bible differently.
* Why would you drag in HuffPo here? Are you trying to deprecate my reading my reading of Genesis 39 by associating it with an internet gossip site? In any event it's not just my reading; it goes back centuries in the Jewish commentary and is shared by many, many contemporary scholars of the Bible as well.
** In Jeremiah 23:14, when the prophet compares the sins of Jerusalem to those of Sodom, he somehow fails to mention homosexuality but does specify that the Jerusalemites "commit adultery and walk in lies." So perhaps the true "sodomites" are adulterers like Newt Gingrich and liars like Donald Trump? Think what a difference it would make if we could use the same kind of blisteringly negative terminology to describe these kinds of people as we use to describe gay people.
"Yes, but so what? The question is whether that "grave, ongoing sin" was homosexuality"
I was never making the case that homosexuality was the point of Sodom and Gomorrah in the first place, only pointing out that it was grave, ongoing sin, and not just a lack of hospitality.
My point was that even though homosexuality is not the point of the Sodom and Gomorrah story it is still considered sin (whether current society likes it, believes it or rejects it or not) elsewhere in the Bible.
I'm not saying homosexuality greater than any other sin, I'm not saying that Christians are sinless, I'm not saying that we should stop loving each other or that we should excommunicate anyone struggling with sin (Jesus hung out, associated and loved sinful people). But the fact remains that Romans 1 speaks very clearly that the homosexual lifestyle (along with envy, murder, strife, liars, malice, gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boasting) is sin.
I'm thankful God, my friends and family still love me despite my sin, I know I struggle and fail daily. It would be easier if I just said my lying, envy and gossiping, arrogance and boasting is not sin, but according to the Bible (whether I like it or not) says it is.
You don't have to believe it or accept it, but it's there.
* Why would you drag in HuffPo here? Funny I was wondering the same thing with your constant mentioning of Trump in responding to me 🙂
Anon 2:21 writes, I was never making the case that homosexuality was the point of Sodom and Gomorrah in the first place, only pointing out that it was grave, ongoing sin, and not just a lack of hospitality.
Well, the story itself focuses on homosexuality, though subsequent biblical commenters adduce other sins as well. (Maybe, in doing so, they were speaking as men rather than prophets?) In any event I was never making the case that you were making that case that…. But rather than going down that endless regress, I will only add here that "lack of hospitality" was itself considered a grave sin — "thou shalt not oppress a stranger," etc.
I'm thankful God, my friends and family still love me despite my sin, I know I struggle and fail daily. It would be easier if I just said my lying, envy and gossiping, arrogance and boasting is not sin, but according to the Bible (whether I like it or not) says it is. You don't have to believe it or accept it, but it's there.
Please tell me you're not saying that, when it comes to the societal disapproval and legal disabilities involved, homosexuality is in the same category as gossiping. You cannot possibly believe that. I don't know that there have ever been any churches out there trying to outlaw marriage between gossipers.
If the question is Why, of all the many biblical proscriptions, are those against gay people enforced with such exceptional vigor, the answer cannot be The proscription is in the Bible.
The extremity of the opprobium reserved for gay people simply cannot be justified by the Bible alone. It's 1 percent Bible (if even that) and 99 percent social prejudice. And excuse my bluntness, but in the face of the long-running, exceptionally prejudicial, and often violent treatment of homosexuals, your comments about your own "struggles," which involve very little social cost, and absolutely no legal cost to you, come across as pure sanctimony.
Jeff, thanks for the thanks, and for your willingness to accept dissent on your blog.
I am speaking to what the Bible says, nothing else. I'm not at all talking about societal disapproval, legal disabilities, extremity of the opprobrium or social prejudice. I don't answer for or make excuses for anyone or any religious establishment.
What anyone else does is between them and God. The point is Romans1 has a list of sins. Homosexuality is there and so is gossiping. It doesn't say which are greater than the other. We can believe it or not. That's not the point. Humans do all kinds of evil in the name of God and the Bible. I don't personally believe gay marriage should be outlawed, but that's not the point. is it still sin? According to the Bible it is. So is gossiping. The bible stands on its own. We believe it or we don't. Cultures change. the Bible does not. I'm trying to live what Jesus said are the two greatest commandments, love God and each other. I don't worry about anything else
Cultures change. The Bible does not.
This might come as a surprise, I know, but I disagee. Yes, most of us are used to thinking of the "biblical text" as being an objective entity (a fixed, unchanging arrangement of ink on paper), but it's much more sensible to think of the biblical text (of any text) as the meaning that is produced through the interaction of text and reader. As cultures change, readers change, and thus texts change as well.
I know this sounds wonky and overly theoretical and more than a little fishy to most people, but it's actually a very sensible way to think about texts—including, perhaps especially, important texts like the Bible, the U. S. Constitution, etc. And it does not mean what most people tend to assume it means when they are first introduced to this notion of text. It does not mean that "anything goes" in the interpretation of texts, or that the text can mean "anything the reader wants it to mean." The production of meaning is not a unilateral act of the reader; meaning is a co-production of text-and-reader together, and it is always, to a greater or lesser degree, constrained by the words on the page, just as it is constrained by the knowledge, dispositions, assumptions, etc. of the reader. And the knowledge, dispositions, and assumptions that readers bring to their reading of texts are all rooted in, and constrained by, their ever-changing culture.
If one brings a certain set of assumptions to bear on one's reading of the Bible (assumptions shared by many liberal Christians), it will turn out that no, the Bible does not condemn homosexuality as a sin. The condemnation that you see as fundamentally fixed in the text is actually a consequence of the assumptions you're bringing to your reading of the text.
All this stuff has been hashed out pretty thoroughly in scholarly discussions about constitutional interpretation and literary theory, though much less thoroughly in religious studies. It makes sense both on the theoretical level and the empirical level, helping us understand why so many different meanings have been so sincerely attributed to the same book over time. The claim that "the Bible does not change" is not supportable, neither philosophically nor empirically.
Ditto of course for "the Book of Mormon does not change." If we are to believe certain LDS apologists, white and delightsome used to have a racial meaning; now it has only a spiritual meaning. The Book of Mormon used to be a historical record of Native Americans generally; now it is the historical record of a small group of people who merged into a larger, preexisting native population. So what are we to say about this? If "the Book of Mormon does not change," then we must say that Joseph Smith was reading it ignorantly, or insincerely, or mendaciously, or that today's apologetical scholars are reading it ignorantly or insincerely or mendaciously. If we consider the text to be unchangeable, someone's character is going to suffer. Someone's got to be thrown under the bus. But not so if we yoke our notion of "the text itself" to the assumptions that people bring to it when they read it.
Anyway, I'm happy to hear you don't believe gay marriage should be outlawed. I consider myself equally magnanimous: I don't believe marriages between Christians should be outlawed.
Wow, I never thought I'd see the day, but you, OK are now using the very tactic you so often accuse the LDS of doing.
…God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity….to shameful lusts…men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men.
You're right, how did I ever think this was a condemnation? There go my assumptions again!.
"I know this sounds wonky and overly theoretical and more than a little fishy to most people" You can say that again.
OK, please don't ever accuse the Mormans of mental contortions to make something mean what it clearly does not
This discussion is obviously over
"If one brings a certain set of assumptions to bear on one's reading of the Bible (assumptions shared by many liberal Christians), it will turn out that no, the Bible does not condemn homosexuality as a sin. The condemnation that you see as fundamentally fixed in the text is actually a consequence of the assumptions you're bringing to your reading of the text"
The redefining of sin:
Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.
Anon 10:08 points us to this: God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity, etc.
So, how should this be understood? Is this a historical record of God telling us what God thinks about homosexuality?
Or is it a letter written by a flawed human being named Paul, in which Paul is telling us what Paul believes God thinks about homosexuality—perhaps even Paul mistaking his own thoughts for God's thoughts?
Could go either way, depending on the assumptions one brings to the text—exactly as I said in a comment above.
Sure, either way it's a condemnation; the question is whether that condemnation is divine (and thus right) or human (and thus perhaps wrong). Is the condemnation truly from God? Or is it more like Brigham Young's condemnation of interracial marriage, the mere opinion of a mere man, mistaking his own prejudices for the law of God? Many Bible-readers quite plausibly think the latter.
So I'm sorry, but the discussion is not over just because you can't see the validity of the readerly assumptions made by those Christians who find gay marriage perfectly compatible with scripture.
Anon 6:43 tosses in Isaiah 5:20: Woe to those who call evil good, etc.
What you're doing here, Anon 6:34, is called "proof-texting," which, as any sensible theologian will tell you, is not a legitimate kind of argument.
Anyway, anyone can plainly see that sin gets redefined all the time.
In Genesis, it's a terrible, horrible, no-good sin for a younger brother to fail to perform the duties of the levir by impregnating his dead older brother's wife.
Do you consider that to be a sin today, Anon 6:34?
Or have you (gasp!) "redefined sin"?
Have you done the sensible thing, and decided that the law of levirate marriage might have made sense in the ancient world of Genesis 38 but does not make sense in the world we live in today? If you have done so, then you are quite obviously a moral relativist, a rank "redefiner of sin," every bit as much as I am!
But don't worry too much about it; if you don't want to live in a Taliban-esque society governed by Levitical law, redefining sin is your only option.
Welcome to reality.
OK, again this discussion is over and I'll tell you why. How do we know what God considers sin in the first place? A. His word (the Bible). Where do we get the Bible? A. From inspired writers (In this case Paul). Once you question the God inspired writers of the Bible (which is what people usually do when the Bible tells us something they don't want to hear) then there is no way of knowing the mind of God concerning sin anyway. Everything is relative, there is no Authority. You have simply declared what was once considered sin no longer sin so there is no reason to further discuss it. As I said before the Bible says what it says and you will believe it or not. You seem to understand that Paul is very clear and what he said and so you choose to no longer believe in what he says, questioning his inspiration.
As far as the Old Testament levitical law, that is another discussion concerning the completion of the law and the work of Christ
As far as the Old Testament levitical law, that is another discussion concerning the completion of the law and the work of Christ….
Thank you, Anon 5:23, for affirming what I said above: that you too are a "redefiner of sin," every bit as much as I am.
All that stuff about the levitical law being "completed" in Christ is just your particular rationale for explaining why you don't believe certain biblical precepts that you want to redefine.
What Leviticus defines as sin, you redefine as not sin, by waving the magical mystical Pauline wand of "completion in Christ."
What Paul defines as sin, I redefine as not sin, by invoking the idea that Paul, like Brigham, was a flawed human who mistook his own prejudices for God's will.
It happened with Brigham in 1850s; why not with Paul in the 50s? One can say that one of them was inspired by God and the other wasn't. But how the heck can anyone know this?
You have your reasons for redefining sin, I have mine. You can argue that your rationale for redefining sin makes more sense than mine, but there's no getting around the obvious fact that we have both redefined sin.
The claim that "my opponent is redefining sin but I am hewing steadfastly to the original Word of God" is just a cheap rhetorical trick.
"What Paul defines as sin, I redefine as not sin"
Oh, well since it's just between "Orbiting Kolob's" opinion and the Apostle Paul, a first century educated Pharisee, affirmed by the original eyewitness disciples of Christ through actual ancient documents, a man who spent the remainder of his life in service to God, imprisoned and martyred for his faith, responsible for a large portion of the new testament Bible, having his words studied, dissected and adhered to by millions of people worldwide for hundreds of years.
I'm gonna go with Paul
So, Anon 11:51, are you also gonna go with Brigham Young and condemn interracial marriage?
After all, Young, like Paul, was an important guy. Brigham was nothing less that the prophet, seer, and revelator of God's restored church! Therefore, he must have been free of prejudices! He could not possibly have ever mistaken his own judgement for God's!
And yet oddly enough, everyone now agrees that in fact Young made that very mistake many times. (That's why LDS apologists distinguish between Young speaking as a man and speaking as a prophet.)
Is it so outlandish to believe that Paul, like Brigham, was a man? That he was flawed? That he was capable of making mistakes? That he was capable of making the very human mistake of confusing his own opinion for God's eternal truth, just like Brigham did?
I honestly don't understand why you need to think of Paul as some sort of infallible mouthpiece for God. For all his greatness, he was just a man. Yes, he was a very effective organizer of the early church. Yes, he wrote a bunch of letters. None of this makes him or his letters infallible.
To me, it makes sense to assume that Paul's letters express Paul's beliefs. Is that really so unreasonable? Is it so self-evidently ridiculous that you feel you can dismiss it as cavalierly as you do?
For whatever reason, you assume that Paul's letters express the pure truth of things, unadulterated by Paul's own beliefs. In light of what you and I both know about human nature, not to mention the history of religion, your position strikes me as unreasonable.
"are you also gonna go with Brigham Young and condemn interracial marriage?"
this has nothing to do with Young, but if you must know, Brigham Young does not have the credentials of the Apostle Paul, preached a different gospel than that of Jesus and is therefore an untrustworthy false prophet.
"TO ME, it makes sense to assume that Paul's letters express Paul's beliefs"
Again you're presenting a choice of YOUR opinion vs. the Apostle Paul. From what I know of Paul (as I wrote earlier) and what I know of you, in the matters of God and sin, your opinion just does not carry much weight.
And until you can show with any scrap of evidence why I should believe in your definition of sin over Paul's, I'm standing with the bible.
Setting aside the assertion (at least for now) that Brigham Young supposedly "preached a different gospel than that of Jesus…"
are you also gonna go with Brigham Young and condemn interracial marriage?
Brigham Young never condemned interracial marriage.
If you read the entire discourse that the commonly-repeated soundbite was snipped from, you can see that, yes, Brigham does still have some racist viewpoints (by today's standards), but he makes it clear that they are his own viewpoints, not those of God's.
And anyway, no one else at the time was claiming that interracial marriage should be allowed, so why would Brigham feel the need to condemn it? Context (both historical and within the discourse) shows Brigham Young was talking about people who were sexually abusing (i.e. raping) their female slaves. Obviously, that's not okay, and THIS is what Brigham Young was condemning.
Ramer states: "he makes it clear that they are his own viewpoints, not those of God's," then helpfully provides a link to this from Brother Brigham which clearly shows he was speaking as a man and not expressing the will of God
"Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so."
I'm not sure how people get so confused on this matter. Brigham was clearly speaking as a man and clearly has no issue with interracial relationships.
Exactly so, Anon 6:57. You beat me to it.
Just to elaborate a bit re Ramer's comment above, there's nothing in the "entire discourse" of Young's remarks, and nothing in their "context (both historical and within the discourse)" that indicates Young meant anything other than what those remarks so plainly appear to mean.
There's nothing whatsoever indicating that, when Young said Shall I tell you the law of God? he actually meant Shall I give you my own viewpoints as a man?
Neither is there anything in that context indicating that this statement was meant to condemn the rape of black slaves by their white owners. Ramer's comments seem to be based on some of the apologetic nonsense out there that tries to buff up Young's image. (See, for example, this choice bit of sophistry by one W. John Walsh.)
What's wrong with Walsh's comments? Is there any reason OK labels it "apologetic nonsense" and "sophistry" other than it not agreeing with how OK wants to view Young?
By the way, check out the epilogue on that page.
"If the Government of the United States, in Congress assembled, had the right to pass an anti-polygamy bill, they had also the right to pass a law that slaves should not be abused as they have been; they had also a right to make a law that negroes should be used like human beings, and not worse than dumb brutes. For their abuse of that race, the whites will be cursed, unless they repent."
This indicates that Brigham Young is indeed talking about the abuse of blacks by whites. Rape is abuse, and of course would be condemned by God.
"I am neither an abolitionist nor a pro-slavery man. If I could have been influenced by private injury to choose one side in preference to the other, I should certainly be against the pro-slavery side of the question…"
That certainly sounds like a personal opinion to me.
Ramer: That certainly sounds like a personal opinion to me.
Well, gosh, you've got me there. I freely concede that, in addition to presenting opinions of his own as the laws of God, Brigham Young also presented some opinions as simply his own opinions. Sometimes he left God out of it.
I have no doubt that, in addition to saying things like Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? Young also said things like I do believe these are the best mashed potatoes I've ever tasted.
But so what? Mark Hoffman, in addition to selling forged documents, also sold authentic documents. Does that mean he was not a forger?
Heck, what if one could prove that there were some victims that Jeffrey Dahmer killed but did not nibble on? Would that mean Dahmer was not a cannibal?
This apologetical logic is fun.
Ramer: This indicates that Brigham Young is indeed talking about the abuse of blacks by whites. Rape is abuse, and of course would be condemned by God.
Yes, rape is one form of abuse. But again, so what? Remember that Young purports to be giving us the law of God in regard to the African race. If that law is against rape in particular, don't you think it would have made sense for God/Young to speak of rape specifically rather than miscegenation generally? Miscegenation generally includes interracial sex between married couples, no? What kind of God would outlaw the bad by outlawing a larger class of actions that include the good? It's as if God were to outlaw the sale of forged documents by proclaiming Thou shalt not sell documents.
What's wrong with Walsh's comments?
…in addition to presenting opinions of his own as the laws of God…
This is an assumption based on an antagonistic perspective.
I have no doubt that, in addition to saying things like 'Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race?' Young also said things like 'I do believe these are the best mashed potatoes I've ever tasted.'
What the heck are you talking about, and how is it relevant to this discussion?
This apologetical logic is fun.
That's not apologetical logic, it's a strawman. It doesn't make much sense, anyway.
If that law is against rape in particular, don't you think it would have made sense for God/Young to speak of rape specifically rather than miscegenation generally?
Sure, if he was talking to a 21st-century audience. However, basically no one in the 1860s was suggesting that white men could or should marry black women, so people of Young's time understood him to be talking about rape.
Miscegenation generally includes interracial sex between married couples, no?
Nowadays, yes. Not back then, though.
Wow, this conversation is really relevant to DNA studies and scripture.