I think that I’ve made this argument numerous times, or at least demonstrated it in my interactions with various arguments, that most arguments against the Bible, in regards to contradictions, or social conventions, are simply absurd arguments that fall apart when the presuppositions of the person making the argument are considered (This post deals with three, really bad arguments that absolutely need to stop being used). So, this post is probably going to be retreading some ground that long-time followers of the blog will see some familiar barbs and jabs thrown that really have no grounds to be made.
Somewhere is my cruising of the dark spaces of the internet, I stumbled across this jewel of a bad argument that was posing as a good one,
The passage that is cited is from Exodus 21:20 and 21,
When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.
Given the history of slavery in this country ( the United States), those who are simplistic in their thinking (read atheists) do what the author of the image does and jump to a wild conclusion. Those who have been trained to think rationally and logically and, more importantly, to read in context, more than likely have read what came before this passage. And just what came before this? Why, the Ten Commandments came before it.
Just as a momentary sidebar:
In the book that I am writing, I make a distinction between morality, which is what people do, and ethical principle, which defines what is or is not moral. The fact that the redactor, the person or persons responsible for the assembly and final form of the Book of Exodus, placed the Decalogue at the head of these laws would seem to indicate that the ethical principles that it outlines are to be the foundation that the law rests on, and the law that follows it will express the principles defining the behavior that is is being either prohibited or limited. To that end, the ethical principles set out in the Decalogue in general, or in the Sixth Commandment specifically in this instance, is the only basis upon which one is to determine whether or not a law is or is not moral. Any argument that begins with any other presumption than that is simply begging the question.
Now, I’ve written a relatively exhaustive post on the passage in question so I’ll refer you to it in regards to a more specific response on the text itself, so I’ll just poke at the argument that the image puts forward, namely,
This is one of the many reasons why your religion is disqualified from giving any advice on MORALITY.
Well, my religion, in that I am a Baptist, has nothing to do with whether or not I am qualified or not, so that’s one category error. Two, this is a historical text reporting the outworking of a specific ethical principle in a specific social context, so that’s another category error. Given that I found this on an atheist’s Instagram page, and given the necessary presuppositions of atheists (something I’ve discussed here, here, and here, as well as here), the question that is begged is: upon what grounds is the atheist making this claim? That is the reason that the only logical response that one could possibly come up with is this:
I find the image strangely appropriate, given the assumptions.
One other thing, given just how short my memory is, after all I had forgotten that I had responded to the verse in question 2 years ago(!), I was doing some preparation and I was curious as to how the Septuagint (LXX) translators, the Jewish scholars who translated what we Christians call the Old Testament some 100 to 150 years before the birth of Christ, had translated the text. Since translation is part interpretation, that is the translator has to think about what the text means as it’s being translated so that the persons who will read the translation will understand the text in their context and language, I wondered how they (the LXX translators) rendered the text.
Greek has several words for “slave” or “servant” as it is often translated in the New Testament: the noun δοῦλοσ (doulos) (see Colossians 3:22 and 4:1 as an example of this usage). There’s another term, διάκονος (diakonos), from which the English word “deacon” is derived, that is translated “servant” or “slave” depending upon the translation (see Mark 9:35 for an example of this usage). Then there’s παῖς (pais), which is used in Matthew 8:6 to describe the Centurion’s servant. In its usage, παῖς can be translated as “servant” or “slave“, depending upon the context, but its primary usage is in Greek is in reference to children, which is why some scholars think that John is giving a parallel account of this in his gospel, where the official at Capernaum asks Jesus to heal his son. Why is this language lesson important? Well, the LXX, at Exodus 21:20, uses a form of παῖς, which means that the passage could have broader implications than we could ever assume. It’s something to think about when looking at the passage and trying to make judgements about it.
So…this will probably be my only post this week, so let me leave you with something to consider, like this lecture that I gave on issues of transmission and translation,
and this one one making interpretation and application
so that you can see where I am coming from and maybe answer some additional questions.