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Paul Copan - Preliminary Response to Thom Stark


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#1 Ken Gilmore

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 06:13 AM

I'm slowly posting my reactions to Paul Copan's book "Is God a Moral Monster?" which has prompted no end of discussion on the Christian blogosphere. My reaction to it has been mixed at best. Copan's book has been reviewed less than favourably by Thom Stark, and I've been wondering when Copan would reply. Parchment and Pen blog have recently posted not only Copan's response, but posts from OT scholar Richard Hess and philosopher of religion Matt Flannagan, both of whom have been referred to in Stark's critical review of "Is God a Moral Monster?"

Thom Stark's review is here.
Richard Hess' comment is here.
Matt Flannagan's comment is here.
Paul Copan's reply is here.

I will be watching this discussion with interest.
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

#2 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 08:44 AM

Most interesting, thanks Ken. :newspaper:

Edit: Well, looks like I wasn't the only one to consider the tone of Stark's commentary somewhat inappropriate. I don't think these responses are going to save Copan's book from Stark's well deserved criticism, but I do think it's clear Stark sometimes makes statements without checking all his facts (or informing readers of all relevant facts), and sometimes represents scholarship on a particular point as more settled or closer to consensus than it actually is.

Edited by Fortigurn, 21 June 2011 - 08:58 AM.


#3 Evangelion

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 06:19 PM

I read all three replies and only one of them had any substance. They were all characterised by angry, frustrated rhetoric. Several visitors to P&P commented on this unfavourably, and I agree with them. The whole thing seems very undignified.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#4 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 06:49 PM

I read all three replies and only one of them had any substance. They were all characterised by angry, frustrated rhetoric. Several visitors to P&P commented on this unfavourably, and I agree with them. The whole thing seems very undignified.


I agree with this. I thought Hess did the best job.

#5 Thom Stark

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 08:15 PM

I responded to all three posts this morning on Religion at the Margins.

It's my fault that they responded the way they did. I started it. I just spoke with Paul Copan on the phone and we've made friends.

Fortigurn, I always welcome any corrections to any errors or misrepresentations in my work.

#6 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 08:58 PM

It's my fault that they responded the way they did. I started it. I just spoke with Paul Copan on the phone and we've made friends.


That's very gracious of you Thom.

Fortigurn, I always welcome any corrections to any errors or misrepresentations in my work.


Looking at what you said concerning the golden calf narratives (Aaron and Jeroboam), I found the scholarship wasn't quite as settled or clear cut as you implied; I think your original claim was a synthesis of certain settled matters, into a statement which in its entirety doesn't enjoy scholarly consensus. Some believe the Jeroboam narrative was copied from the Aaron narrative, some believe it's the other way around, some believe neither narrative is historical (given there's no archaeological evidence for Jeroboam or his calves whatsoever).[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] Furthermore, although there's plenty of evidence for bulls as platforms for the worship of a deity, the deity is typically actually mounted on the bull, and there's also clear evidence for bulls worshiped as representations of gods.

Pointing to a bull referred to in a text as an idol of a bull god and saying 'That's not a bull god, that's a platform for a god who is riding the bull; the reason why you can't see the god on the bull is that he's invisible!' (not that you made quite that argument), looks a little like question begging given that there's clear evidence that bull statues with nothing on them were actually worshiped as representations of gods (such as Apis). It's even more questionable to point to a text which talks about people making a bull and worshiping it as a competitor to Yahweh, and claiming 'Well they're not really worshiping it, and it's not really a god, and it's not really competition for Yahweh, it's just a platform on which Yahweh sits while they worship him', without any physical evidence to support these assertions. Source criticism adrift from archaeological evidence isn't very useful.

_______________

[1] Hayes, 'Golden Calf Stories', in Kugel et al., 'The idea of biblical interpretation: essays in honor of James L. Kugel' (2004).

[2] Russell, 'Images of Egypt in early biblical literature: Cisjordan-Israelite , Transjordan-Israelite, and Judahite Portrayals', Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 403 (2009).

[3] Coats, 'The Moses tradition' (1993).

[4] Hjelm, 'Jerusalem's rise to sovereignty: Zion and Gerizim in competition', Library Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies (2004).

[5] Harvey, 'Retelling the Torah: the Deuteronomistic historian's use of Tetrateuchal Narratives', Library Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies (2004).

[6] Aaron, 'Etched in stone: the emergence of the Decalogue', The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies (2006); argues that Jeroboam's calves are to be understood as idols, but that both the Aaron and Jeroboam narratives are completely fictional and that there's no evidence on which to base any belief that Jeroboam even existed ('there is no reason to believe that either story is other than a fictional narrative devised for an ideological and political purpose', p. 230).

#7 Evangelion

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 09:16 PM

I responded to all three posts this morning on Religion at the Margins.

It's my fault that they responded the way they did. I started it. I just spoke with Paul Copan on the phone and we've made friends.

Fortigurn, I always welcome any corrections to any errors or misrepresentations in my work.


Nice one Thom, that's the way to go.

:)
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#8 Thom Stark

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 12:35 AM

Thanks, Fortigurn.

I readily concede that there are other scholarly views on the provenance of Aaron's calf, and it would have been better had I rather said, "There are a number of scholarly views on this, and the majority of them do not take this at face value." And then offered the position I take. I am fully persuaded by Friedman et al on the provenance of the story, but a more qualified statement would have been preferable; you're right.

At any rate, I think that was really a minor point that I made in passing; I didn't expect to persuade Copan or conservatives by making the statement; I just intended to make it clear that Copan's statement was based on uncritical assumptions. I really did intend for it to be a jolt just to raise awareness to the fact that scholars have more to say about this text.

Edited by Thom Stark, 22 June 2011 - 12:37 AM.


#9 Thom Stark

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 12:36 AM

I appreciate that, Evangelion!

Edited by Thom Stark, 22 June 2011 - 12:36 AM.


#10 Evangelion

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 12:55 AM

My pleasure. Always happy to give credit where it's due.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#11 Evangelion

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 12:57 AM

At any rate, I think that was really a minor point that I made in passing; I didn't expect to persuade Copan or conservatives by making the statement; I just intended to make it clear that Copan's statement was based on uncritical assumptions. I really did intend for it to be a jolt just to raise awareness to the fact that scholars have more to say about this text.


In my experience there is no such thing as a "minor point" when talking to American evangelicals. Especially if you disagree with them.

:rotfl:
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#12 Thom Stark

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 01:04 AM

Too right!

#13 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 01:09 AM

Thanks, Fortigurn.

I readily concede that there are other scholarly views on the provenance of Aaron's calf, and it would have been better had I rather said, "There are a number of scholarly views on this, and the majority of them do not take this at face value." And then offered the position I take. I am fully persuaded by Friedman et al on the provenance of the story, but a more qualified statement would have been preferable; you're right.


Thanks, I appreciate that.

At any rate, I think that was really a minor point that I made in passing; I didn't expect to persuade Copan or conservatives by making the statement; I just intended to make it clear that Copan's statement was based on uncritical assumptions. I really did intend for it to be a jolt just to raise awareness to the fact that scholars have more to say about this text.


Oh I certainly agree with that. I don't think it detracted from your overall critique. It's just that if I'm going to cite or quote you to others I'll need to make sure I've checked out what you say as thoroughly as you've checked out Copan. :good:

#14 Ken Gilmore

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 01:12 AM

I responded to all three posts this morning on Religion at the Margins.

It's my fault that they responded the way they did. I started it. I just spoke with Paul Copan on the phone and we've made friends.

Fortigurn, I always welcome any corrections to any errors or misrepresentations in my work.

Hi Thom. Nice to see you here. :)

I've linked to your responses at Religion at the Margins below:

* Thom Stark: response to Richard Hess
* Thom Stark: response to Paul Copan
* Thom Stark: response to Matt Flannagan
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

#15 Thom Stark

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 10:17 AM

Oh I certainly agree with that. I don't think it detracted from your overall critique. It's just that if I'm going to cite or quote you to others I'll need to make sure I've checked out what you say as thoroughly as you've checked out Copan. :good:


Absolutely. As well you should. :)

#16 Thom Stark

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 10:18 AM

Thanks much, Ken.




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