TF: Identification hallmarks

TF: Identification hallmarks May 23, 2011

Tribulation Force, pp. 388-391

We readers — along with Buck, Rayford, Nicolae and apparently the entire world — are watching Rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah present the findings of his three-year, Israeli-government sponsored research project on the Messiah.

Rabbi Ben-Judah said he and his team spent almost the entire first year of their project confirming the accuracy of the late Alfred Edersheim, a teacher of languages and Grinfield Lecturer on the Septuagint. Edersheim had postulated that there were 456 messianic passages in Scripture, supported by more than 558 references from the most ancient rabbinical writings.

Here’s where alarm bells would sound, Ben-Judah’s microphone would be cut off and the broadcast would end as the rabbi was bustled off to have to explain his behavior. Alfred Edersheim was a Jewish convert to Christianity.

There’d be no reason for Tsion and his research assistants to begin with Edersheim unless they were determined to end up where Edersheim did — as converts. For him to begin his broadcast by announcing that he began his research here is as clear a signal as there could be of the conclusions he was seeking. The authors want Ben-Judah’s final declaration — that Jesus is the Messiah — to be a secret surprise ending to the broadcast, but Tsion has already let the cat out of the bag. He may as well be speaking in front of a giant “Jews for Jesus” banner at this point.

This curious choice of how to spend the first year of his project also undermines the author’s claims that Ben-Judah was simply a disinterested scholar, following the texts to their inevitable conclusion. That conclusion was apparently his starting point. He chose to begin not with the Hebrew scriptures, but with the writings of a Christian whose expertise was in the Greek translation of those scriptures. That’s two steps removed from the primary sources he was commissioned to study, and a very curious two steps at that.

Please note that I’m not disparaging Edersheim — I’m sure he deserves better than the abuse and misuse of having his name invoked this way here in Tribulation Force. I’m simply pointing out that spending a year studying a Christian scholar of Greek is a very strange choice for the first step in this project.

“Now,” the rabbi said, “I promise to not bore you with statistics …”

And then, as warned, he proceeds to bore his viewers with statistics.

“… but let me just say that many of those prophetic passages are repetitive and some are obscure. But based on our careful study, we believe that there are at least 109 separate and distinct prophecies Messiah must fulfill. …”

Here he departs from Edersheim in two ways. First by taking Edersheim’s category of “passages … applied to the Messiah or to Messianic times” and reformulating that into “distinct prophecies.” The former description is much broader than the narrowly predictive, fortune-teller notion of “prophecy” to which Ben-Judah (and Tim LaHaye) subscribes. It tends to apply to the question of “How ought we to live?” as opposed to the less pressing question of “What is it that we’re someday in the future expecting to happen?”

The second departure is the interesting step of reducing that list of 456 passages down to only 109. This is only partly to eliminate repetition. It’s also a convenient way of dismissing all those passages and rabbinic writings that can’t be made to point in the direction Ben-Judah and LaHaye want them to point. (You can read Edersheim’s list here, if you’re interested.)

“We consulted a mathematician and asked him to calculate the probability of even 20 of the 109 prophecies being fulfilled in one man. He came up with odds of one in one quadrillion, one hundred and twenty-five trillion!”

You may recognize this trick from Ken Hamm and other young-earth creationists. There’s probably a formal name for it, but I think of it as the Buckaroo Banzai Fallacy (“wherever you go, there you are”). It’s a bit of misdirection in which one hand showily displays a Very Large Number, expressed as odds, while the other hand begs the question. Ben-Judah inadvertently follows up with an illustration of why his quadrillion-to-1 odds is actually meaningless.

Dr. Ben-Judah gave what Rayford considered a brilliant example of how to easily identify someone with just a few marks. “Despite the billions of people who still populate this planet, you can put a postcard in the mail with just a few distinctions on it, and I will be the only person to receive it. You eliminate much of the world when you send it to Israel. You narrow it more when it comes to Jerusalem. You cut the potential recipients to a tiny fraction when it goes to a certain street, a certain number, a certain apartment. And then, with my first and last name on it, you have singled me out of billions. That, I believe, is what these prophecies of Messiah do. They eliminate, eliminate, eliminate, until only one person could ever fulfill them.”

That, in short, seems to have been Ben-Judah’s approach to the study of these “prophecies” — eliminate, eliminate, eliminate whatever doesn’t address the one person he’s looking to identify.

If we were to employ the same mathematician Ben-Judah hired, we could prove how astonishingly unlikely it is that I could be sitting here, at this computer, writing this post. There are billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars. The odds against me being right here, of all places, are already literally astronomical before we even “eliminate” all the non-earth locations in which I might have been instead. Then we come to this particular ball of rock, with its 7 billion inhabitants, nearly 200 countries, 50 states in this country, 67 counties in this state, dozens of towns in this county, dozens of streets in this town, dozens of homes on this street.

Multiply that all together and you can come up with a staggeringly huge figure that we could cite either to prove that I couldn’t possibly really be sitting here or else that my sitting here is a remarkable, miraculous, super special event.

The vastly implausible odds we could invoke might even sound impressive enough to make one forget that the starting point for all those calculations was a given — that we were, all along, working backwards from the conclusion and begging the question.

Rayford Steele finds this argument dazzling:

Dr. Ben-Judah was so engaging that everyone on the plane had stopped talking, moving, even shifting in their seats. Even Nicolae Carpathia … barely moved.

Rayford realizes that they are scheduled to land before the end of the broadcast, but he doesn’t want to miss the ending and he wants to make sure the others don’t miss it either, so he ducks back into the cockpit, briefly, to instruct his first officer (the guy actually flying the plane while Rayford watches TV):

“I want this plane to not touch the ground before five minutes after the hour. … Make whatever adjustments you have to make.”

… Rayford gave him the thumbs-up and hurried back to the television.

After reading Rayford’s gushing praise for Ben-Judah’s broadcast, readers may be wondering if Buck Williams is also awestruck. Jerry Jenkins flashes back to the GIRAT to assure us that, yes, he is. Everyone is awestruck by the rabbi:

Buck prayed as he watched. Other staffers had gathered around monitors. There was none of the usual behind-the-scenes banter. People were glued to the broadcast. …

Ben-Judah’s broadcast, apparently, is almost as absorbing and fascinating as someone listing the countries of the world alphabetically in nine languages.

“Messiah is not limited to just a few identifying marks,” Ben-Judah said. “We Jews have been looking for him, praying for him, longing for him for centuries, and yet we have stopped studying the many identification hallmarks in our Scriptures. …

And here we realize that it wouldn’t have mattered if Ben-Judah had begun his study with the actual scriptures rather than with the writings of a Christian expert on their Greek translation. Not when this is Ben-Judah’s notion of what all that scripture says about the Messiah boils down to: “identification hallmarks.”

His next statement suggests a glimmer of some larger idea:

“And yet the prophecies themselves tell us what Messiah will do. Let us examine just a few of them in the remaining time.”

But he never follows through on this promise. None of the “prophecies” that he cites have anything to say about “what Messiah will do.” They’re all, instead, about “identification hallmarks” — proper lineage, birthplace, etc. And those hallmarks really do seem to constitute the whole of Ben-Judah’s understanding of Messiah.

What will Messiah do? What is Messiah for? Ben-Judah doesn’t know how to answer that question. He doesn’t seem to know how to even ask that question. Pressed for an answer, he would say something like, “The Messiah will come in order to fulfill the 109 messianic prophecies by meeting all of the prophesied identification hallmarks.”

For Ben-Judah, all that matters about the Messiah is his c.v. and whether it contains all 109 of those “hallmarks.” This is not how any of the prophets spoke of the Messiah or the messianic age. Their concern, above all else, was what the Messiah will do. There was thus one and only one hallmark that really mattered to them when it came to identifying the Messiah: the Messiah is the one who acts as the Messiah.

Tsion Ben-Judah doesn’t seem to have any idea of what that would mean.

Ben-Judah’s long study seeking the hallmarks of the Messiah parallels Tim LaHaye’s even longer study seeking the identification hallmarks of the Antichrist. Each of them in their respective quests has gotten sidetracked by peripheral questions, with each constructing long check lists by which they can evaluate and eliminate prospective candidates. Each getting so obsessed with the listing of such criteria that they completely lose sight of whatever it was that this Christ or Antichrist was supposed to be about in the first place.

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  • eyelessgame

    geez.

    Is this how you blockquote? I hate disqus.

  • eyelessgame

    Joe of Aaargh shows up in all four Gospels — even John — doing much the same mundane stuff. He asks Pilate for the body, wraps it in linen, uses his superpowers to block the tomb with a huge rock by himself — but only in Matthew is he explicitly identified as the owner of the tomb; to all the other gospels it’s “a new tomb” in which no one has yet been buried.

  • Bificommander

     I checked up on Pascal’s wager on wikipedia, and apparently Pascal had some other work in which he concluded that Christianity was the only religion that made sense. Too bad for him that work is a lot less famous, so I have no idea how convincing that work was.

    The part that irks me the most is that believing is supposed to be a choice. Oh, I can sit in any house of worship that I want and observe their rituals (well, okay, some of the strict churches with a long list of ‘thou shall not’-s may have demands that I lack the willpower to live up to every single day, but you get the point), but that doesn’t make me actually believe what the guy behind the altar is saying. Believing something to be true is not something that can be switched on or off. I can’t ‘surrender myself to God’s mercy’ or ‘let Jesus into my life’ because I can’t see or feel either.

    Pascal apparently had a sollution to that, which was to just go and observe the rituals anyway, play along and eventually you’ll start believing it. I think Fred actually once posted a support of this attitude (he called it ‘Fake it untill you make it’) but I call BS on this. I don’t think this is so easy. And of course, it removes another pillar from under the wager. Part of the assumption is that you don’t actually lose anything by believing, but it might have a big payoff if you’re right, while not believing has no payoff if you’re right. But subjecting myself to a religion I do not believe in, follow rules I disagree with, and pretending to be something I’m not is NOT fun. That’s pretty certain, I’d say. There is now a guaranteed price to believing (how high it is depends on how fundie the church is. I suppose joining Fred’s church wouldn’t be as bad as, say, LaHaye’s) and the big payoff at the end is still, in my opinion, highly unlikely. It is a real wager now, with a stake I have to put in up front in exchange for a possible payoff. And I don’t think the chance at the payoff is big enough to justify paying the stake.

    And, well, there is indeed the Terry Prachet argument: After the Discworld’s expy of Pascal died, he found his spirit surrounded by the Gods holding pokers and saying “We’ll show you what we do with smartasses around here.”

  • Anonymous

    Now see, Divine was certainly an intriguing individual, but in no way do I believe he inspired the Bible.  That’s just ignorant.  I’d like to read one that was, though.  A Divinyls-inspired Bible would also be acceptable.

  • Anonymous

    The littoral Messiah? That’d be a beach of a calculation

  • Dahne

    The New Mexico Whiptail reproduces by parthenogenesis, recombining genetics through meiosis instead of by using a male’s genetic material. So the odds of the Messiah having a virgin birth are quite acceptable, as long as he is also a lizard. 

  • Anonymous

    I completely agree with you about the notion of choosing to believe.  In addition…  

    But subjecting myself to a religion I do not believe in, follow rules I disagree with, and pretending to be something I’m not is NOT fun. That’s pretty certain, I’d say. There is now a guaranteed price to believing (how high it is depends on how fundie the church is. I suppose joining Fred’s church wouldn’t be as bad as, say, LaHaye’s) and the big payoff at the end is still, in my opinion, highly unlikely.

    If you follow the religion but don’t actually believe in it, then even if the religion (in this case Evangelical Christianity) is true, it’s likely you won’t even get the big payoff after all if the deity demands sincere followers.  L&J point this out many times throughout the series — beginning with the case of Bruce Barnes.  So going through the motions would be a huge lose-lose scenario.  You pay the price and you don’t get the payoff.

  • Anonymous

    I remember reading through the whole sequence to Glorious Appearing a few years back, and by “reading” I mean “skimming so I could laugh over the bumbling incompetence of Leon Fortunado and Nicolae”.

    I’ve got the e-book of Nicolae on loan from my library. I think I’ll give it a read, and see if I find it even more hilarious than last time.*

    * Of course, to truly find it hilarious, I’d have to read it only after getting thoroughly buzzed on alcohol.

  • Lori

     A Divinyls-inspired Bible would also be acceptable.  

    We have that. 

  • Joe of Aaargh shows up in all four Gospels — even John — doing much the same mundane stuff. He asks Pilate for the body, wraps it in linen, uses his superpowers to block the tomb with a huge rock by himself — but only in Matthew is he explicitly identified as the owner of the tomb; to all the other gospels it’s “a new tomb” in which no one has yet been buried.

    It’s possible that he had bought a new one for his own family’s use, OR, I suppose, that he bought one on Jesus’ death to offer, since when he brought up using the family one, his brother wasn’t so keen on entombing some radical Pharisee preacher who’d been crucified next to Auntie Shifra.

  • Anonymous

    Jerry Jenkins thought he was being clever when he began Nicolae (Book #3) – with …

    It was the worst of times; it was the worst of times.

    And it goes downhill from there.

  • Rikalous

    Wait, Hef doesn’t mainline Viagra? News to me.

  • Rikalous

    Thanks. Now I wish I could read French.

  • Hawker40

    I took Applied Parthenogenesis in College.  I was successful, but the professor flunked me anyway.  I was beside myself.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     So the odds of the Messiah having a virgin birth are quite acceptable, as long as he is also a lizard.

    So, David Icke is right?

  • Anonymous

    The earthquake is in Nicolae? Tremendous.

    I remember that Chloe and Buck’s earthquake sequence included an almost product placement-level advertising for a hummer-equivalent car.

  • Randall M

    I watched Babylon AD.  I was astonished:  how could a movie starring Vin Diesel and Michelle Yeoh and featuring so very, very many explosions be so very, very boring?

  • Justin

    I read a great book called _Irreligion_ that used the following example to shut down the “it must be true because it’s so unlikely” argument: If you take a deck of cards, shuffle them, then lay them down one after another, the probability of you setting them down in whatever that sequence may be was literally one in trillions. But you had the cards, so no matter how equally unlikey each sequence is, one of them had to come up.

    This article reminded me of that with the whole envelope thing.

  • Justin

    I read a great book called _Irreligion_ that used the following example to shut down the “it must be true because it’s so unlikely” argument: If you take a deck of cards, shuffle them, then lay them down one after another, the probability of you setting them down in whatever that sequence may be was literally one in trillions. But you had the cards, so no matter how equally unlikey each sequence is, one of them had to come up.

    This article reminded me of that with the whole envelope thing.

  • Justin

    There was an enthralling chapter on the “Double Post” phenomenon and its relation to quantum mechanics.

  • I watched Babylon AD.  I was astonished:  how could a movie starring Vin Diesel and Michelle Yeoh and featuring so very, very many explosions be so very, very boring?

    Apparently the adaptation, as originally concieved, was much truier to the original material, which tended to focus a lot more of philosophical topics, only having a modest amount of action.  But the studio executives, believing that audiences would only pay to see a film starring Vin Diesel if it was an action blockbuster, recut the whole thing to try and make it into one.  The result is, predictable, not particularly good.  Supposedly the director wanted his name taken off the project when he learned about the recutting. 

  • I like that symbolism you describe, although as with many of Fred’s explanations, I have difficulty believing that the current state of humanity with all it’s flaws was really the best way an omniscient, omnipotent deity could have organized things.

    As nice as the ‘I made you flawed so you would work together to overcome your flaws’ plan of God sounds, it doesn’t match up with fire-and-brimstone seremons. ‘I made you flawed for my own plan and now I will punish you for acting flawed’ is not a nice message.

    That is one of the primary reasons why I am disinclined to believe in intelligent design (lack of the application of actual science aside) is because I refuse to believe that any intelligence advanced enough to engineer life could do so with such crippling flaws. Quality control seems to be concerned only that an organism does not spontaneously self-destruct before it can splice its genes into a partial copy of itself. Actually, that pretty much describes evolution right there, as a (literal!) genetic algorithm (which would be a nice way for creationists to reconcile their beliefs if those beliefs did not involve the assumption that humans were perfect.) In any case, I believe that, as a product of either design or evolution, humans still have a lot of bugs that need to get worked out. Unfortunately, actually patching humanity proves difficult as a lot of those glitching cases refuse to allow themselves to be patched, and there is a whole host of ethical issues involved in forcing such patches.
    Speaking on this subject, and further addressing a lot of the logical difficulties of certain subcultures, as well as a potential religious angel, this xkcd sums up the idea pretty well. I imagine that this is how Fred interacts with the rest of the Evangelical subculture and God.

  • Mau de Katt

    Why, Rayford felt the Holy Spirit welling up inside him while he
    preached to Hattie, so the fact that he only alienated her further must
    be because she’s such a sinfull slut with a hardned heart!
    [….]
    After all, every saved or on-the-brink-of-saved Christian in this book gets a massive boner whenever they hear an RTC preaching….

    So what you’re saying is, it wasn’t the Spirit which was “welling up,” and that certainly wasn’t his heart….

  • To fully formulate Pascal’s Wager, you’d have to take into account every logically consistent conception of the “divine.” Calculating the probabilities involved is an exercise in infinities.

    As far as I can tell, though, the Wager actually tells us that making sure you are wearing green shoes when you die is as viable a strategy for getting into heaven as swearing subservience to a specific monotheistic deity.

  • To fully formulate Pascal’s Wager, you’d have to take into account every logically consistent conception of the “divine.” Calculating the probabilities involved is an exercise in infinities.

    As far as I can tell, though, the Wager actually tells us that making sure you are wearing green shoes when you die is as viable a strategy for getting into heaven as swearing subservience to a specific monotheistic deity.

  • Anonymous

    “irst God eliminated two-thirds of the world’s population by choosing Abraham, who was from the line of Shem, one of Noah’s three sons. Of Abraham’s two sons, God chose only Isaac, eliminating half of Abraham’s progeny. One of the two sons of Isaac, Jacob, received the blessing but passed it on to only one of his twelve sons, Judah. That eliminated millions of other sons in Israel. ”

    You know, that isn’t even true–assuming that any of those men (or their descendants) had children with women who were descended from other lines, which seems overwhelmingly likely. Statistically speaking, and we know David got around, probably  most Jews at the time of Christ were directly descended from David, if not all of them.

    But it’s important to remember that only descent through the male line–the least reliable way of determining descent–counts!

  • Anonymous

    oh man, me too – as i said, the movie was pretty ok, which means the book was probably awesome – and so far as i can tell, it has NOT been translated into English :(

    but the movie, as i said, was ok, and wasn’t “dumbed down” as much as i’d feared it would be, and it kept my interest [which is hard for movies to do], so i feel ok in recommending it :)

  • Anonymous

    i didn’t find it boring. [the explosions, Vin, and Michelle Yeoh WERE all awesome] i liked the general idea of the plot, and wondered why people haven’t tried it already [artificial insemination is *easy* these days… not the rest of the stuff used, just the impregnation of a virgin :) ]

    maybe i’m just weird :)

  • Anonymous

    and isn’t it WEIRD that it’s listed that way, since Judaism is passed thru the mother [oh gods, that sounds like a disease i’m talking about – i mean, one must have a Jewish mother to automatically be Jewish – THEN as well as now]
    and the good and interesting point someone else raised, that Joseph *wasn’t* Jesus’ father, and thus tracing HIS lineage to “prove” Jesus was a “son of David” would be useless…

  • ako

    I’ve been looking up various “PROOF Jesus is the messiah!” prophecy lists, and I can see why so many people like to mention the number of ‘prophecies’ without detailing what they actually are.

    This one has so many extremely general prophecies that it would be incredibly easy to pick out twenty probable ones.  (Anyone here ever been mocked? Despised? Had people shake their heads at you? Rejected by Jews?  Rejected by Gentiles?  Shown compassion for the poor and needy?  Cried out to God?  Felt great sorrow and grief?  Grown up in a poor family?  Used a parable?  Been thirsty?  Been pierced?  Because those are all on the prophecy checklist.)

    This one is interesting, because it links back to the original texts, and shows the incredibly contrived interpretations in trying to turn some of those passages into prophecies.  Somehow, a bit of Daniel that says the Messiah will be arrive seven and sixty-two weeks after a decree that Jerusalem will be rebuilt is ‘fulfilled’ by Jesus being born after a decree demanding a census.  And a historical reference to Jews being called out of Egypt is a ‘prophecy’ saying that baby Jesus will escape to Egypt.  It’s also assumed that all sorts of random bits of Psalms are Messianic prophecies. 

    If you look at the lists, they’re full of incredible generalities, bits that transparently weren’t originally written as prophecies, parts that were ‘fulfilled’ by Jesus or one of his disciples using a Bible quote, and prophecies that get the “We promise these will all be fulfilled in Revelations, really!” treatment.  There is no way anyone reading the the actual material (rather than being dazzled with bad math) and not already convinced of the idea would consider that proof that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah.

  • Rob Brown

    A Divinyls-inspired Bible would also be acceptable.

    If I touched myself while reading it, would that be blasphemy or piety?

  • Anonymous

    Jewish identity is passed through the mother.
    Jewish tribal lineage is passed through the father.

    Someone with a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father is considered a Jew.
    Someone with a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother is considered not a Jew.
    Someone with a Jewish mother and a Jewish father is considered a Jew belonging to the tribe of the father.

  • Anonymous

    Jewish identity is passed through the mother.
    Jewish tribal lineage is passed through the father.

    Someone with a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father is considered a Jew.
    Someone with a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother is considered not a Jew.
    Someone with a Jewish mother and a Jewish father is considered a Jew belonging to the tribe of the father.

  • My public library has:  Babylon babies / Maurice G. Dantec ; translated from the French by Noura Wedell.
    I tried reading it a while back, but for whatever reason, my brain kept wandering off the page.  Will probably try again sometime, since it seemed like it should be interesting.

  • Anonymous

    What I find hilarious is that in Matthew’s enthusiasm to show the prophecy fulfilled, he has Jesus riding the donkey AND ITS COLT at the same time.  That has got to be tricky to do and would probably also look fairly ridiculous.

  • Chrissl

    The counter-argument to that being, of course, that prophecies are not confined to coming true *once*, but can come true again in a different way. (Not saying I buy this, but that’s what I’ve heard as a defense.)

  • Chrissl

    Ah, yes, Camping is using the ever-popular, “Well, it HAPPENED just like I said, it just happened INVISIBLY” defense. I’ve seen this before in — I think it’s the Jehovah’s Witnesses who claim that Jesus really did begin his eternal reign in 1874, it’s just an INVISIBLE reign.

  • Chrissl

    It may or may not be relevant here — and I may be misunderstanding as well — but I’ve heard that Muslims believe that really, everyone on Earth is born Muslim but some of us wander away to be something else. So no one ever really “converts” to Islam; instead they merely “return” to Islam.

  • Anonymous

    Wouldn’t the simplest explanation be that Jesus is physically the son of Mary and Joseph and is just, well, possessed or animated by God? Somehow Godly DNA kind of seems unnecessary.

    Mary was not necessarily a sexual virgin; she was supposed to be specially super-duper purified and sanctified by God’s grace.

  • Rikalous

    Wouldn’t the simplest explanation be that Jesus is physically the son of
    Mary and Joseph and is just, well, possessed or animated by God?

    Oh, definitely. But then we couldn’t have a discussion about hermaphroditic chimeras and Vin Diesel movies.

  • Anonymous

    that’s probably why i can’t find it – list by translator. thank you! now i WILL find it :)

  • Anonymous

    it’s not that i don’t believe you – i do! – but i thought the whole point was that maternity could be proven, and paternity was less sure? if this is the case, why should it matter which parent is  a Jew so long as *one* IS?

    oh well, no one ever said these things had to make sense to ME. thanks for the info!

  • ako

    I could understand if someone wanted to look at the ‘prophecies’ in a…poetic sense?  Like repetitions on a theme?  I’m thinking of the medieval habit of seeing everything as reflections of religious themes, to the point that pelicans were used as symbols of resurrection.

    It only gets really stupid when this is all treated as serious factual evidence.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I could understand if someone wanted to look at the ‘prophecies’ in a…poetic sense?

    That’s exactly the interpretation I’ve heard. A few years ago our priest spoke in his homily about the different framings of Jesus’ life in the beginnings of each of the gospels. Frex, Matthew places Jesus in the line of patriachs whereas John goes back to the beginning of time. Getting hung up on a strict geneology misses the point each gospel is trying to make about how this guy fits in the world, and forces you to look ridiculous doing gymnastics making the different accounts match.

  • Anonymous

    It seems that you answered your own question.  Which parent is a Jew matters precisely because maternity can be proven.

    The basis for matrilineal descent comes from the Torah.  See here for a discussion involving Deuteronomy 7:1-5, and comparing Leviticus 24:10 with Ezra 10:2-3.

  • That is really not so different than what many other affiliations of theists believe with regard to athiests.  The idea that God’s presence is self-evident and undeniable, and thus only willfull disbelief out of spite is the only reason anyone claims to not believe in God, and that deep down everyone does believe in God and only needs to accept that. 

  • Not a Muslim, but I’ve studied a bit of Islam. (translation: take what I’m about to say with a big grain of salt).

    As I understand it, according to Islam, Allah makes each and every soul come before him before their respective births into mortal flesh and swear the whole thing of no god but him, etc, and that the souls also swear (willingly) that they will accept damnation if they deny him throughout their life. Thus, those that do not repent and convert to Islam supposedly actually ARE condemning themselves and making “informed consent” to be cast into hell.

    Christians tend to insist on the same theological conclusions, but without the actual metaphysical reasoning to back it up. As far as I can tell, the insistence on the absolute apparency of God is their attempt to reconcile the theological conclusion with their theology and metaphysical construct (even if most of them probably wouldn’t know what a “metaphysical construct” is).

  • As I understand it, according to Islam, Allah makes each and every soul
    come before him before their respective births into mortal flesh and
    swear the whole thing of no god but him, etc, and that the souls also
    swear (willingly) that they will accept damnation if they deny him
    throughout their life. Thus, those that do not repent and convert to
    Islam supposedly actually ARE condemning themselves and making “informed
    consent” to be cast into hell.

    Hmm. Except of course that God the ‘merciful’ then erases that soul’s memory of ever having sworn this or known that God existed. So, not so much informed.

  • Violet

    It seems like this chapter is perfectly set up for Tsion Ben-Judah to reveal to the world that after an years of research and careful rabbinical consideration, his team has been forced to accept one inescapable conclusion: Nicolae Carpathia is the Messiah.

    That, at least, has narrative energy, yeah?

    (And of course, much later, when the cameras have switched off and the world starts to grow dark, perhaps Ben-Judah confesses that when the planes fell from the sky and cities began to burn and when all the children everywhere disappeared, on that day a little thread came loose in a corner of his brain. And though he tried, he couldn’t stop worrying at it, and bit by bit the whole fabric began to come apart. But those days seemed bright, and he tried to push his worries down, even as he knew in his heart that the thing he was exalting to the world was not the Messiah, but entirely something else.)

  • That would have worked so much better.

    Reading about these ‘novels’ is quite disturbing. Then again PTD theology tends to be disturbing – I had several PTD friends at university and they made my head spin (some of my other friends were that rarest of dispensationalist animals post-trib dispensationalists – the arguements were a thing to behold).

    I probably shouldn’t have enjoyed baiting them as much as I did. One of them brought up the old Europe = ten horned beast thing (even though the number of members had passed 10 at this point). So I pointed out that the European flag had a crown of twelve stars on it. *boom went the room.*

    Having said that one of my PTD friends had a really odd theology which would make for a far better novel series. She adhered to the withdrawal of the Holy Spirit at the Rapture theory, but only because if Jesus had had to go back to heaven for the Spirit to come then the Spirit would have to return to heaven (taking the saved with him) for Jesus to return. So in her Rapture the elect didn’t so much meet Jesus in mid-air as pass him.

    Jesus would then hang about on Earth for the whole tribulation, sharing everyone’s suffering and competing with the antichrist for souls and everyone would have to make a choice, but it wouldn’t be easy or obvious who was the real Christ.

    It’s a really heterodox idea, and her attenpts at a justification from scripture were as wonky as any PTD theory, but at least it would make for a good story with some genuine tension unlike the LB one.

    Hum, I ramble. Sorry.

    But reading about this mess made me think of my friend and how i’d actually read a story based on her theology.