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Thursday, 30 May 2013

Where in the Middle East was the Red Sea?

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I've been online a bit of late researching the fairly recent (as Bible scholarship goes) theory that the Israelites, upon escaping from Israel, crossed that part of the Red Sea now known as the Gulf of Aqaba (in Israel, the Gulf of Eilat). Even Snopes has tried to debunk the theory, and the best they can come up with after five years is "Undetermined."

I'm not happy with the slipshod manner in which this theory has been investigated on the ground, but I will say one thing: It's clear that "the Red Sea" (when doubly capitalised in the KJV, it's always a translation of yam suf) does, in at least a handful of places in the Torah, refer to the shoreline of Edom on an arm of the Indian Ocean (interestingly, both 'Edom' and 'Indian' can carry the connotation of the colour red).

Thus it has to be at least a possibility, from a biblical perspective, that the Israelites walked across the Gulf of Aqaba on dry ground. Moreover, even Eusebius in his Encyclopedia located it there. However, apparently out of respect for Constantine's mother, who had located Mt Sinai in what is now (because of her) known as the Sinai Peninsula, he failed to explicitly locate Mt. Sinai in Midian (where it must have been, if the Gulf of Aqaba was crossed in the Exodus).

The problem is, it doesn't appear to be a physical possibility. The Gulf is at least 800 meters deep at the center of its portion of the Great Rift Valley. I have yet to see a sea chart of any stretch of the Gulf that would allow for passage by foot should the water level drop--unless it were to freeze over, and that goes against the statement that the Israelites crossed over "on dry ground."

The Gulf-of-Eilat theory requires that the Israelites covered about 200 miles in what appears from Exodus to be a three-day period. Usually proponents of this route are semantically able to stretch that out to about a week, but still--could an entire nation really cover 30 miles a day, even if that day were prolonged by a massive nightlight overhead?

I found documentation to show that this is basically impossible by natural means--of course if God wanted to, he could have made all the toddlers run 10 miles an hour around the clock, but were that the case, they could have made the trip in only one day!

The Spanish Road was a 16th-century supply line linking the Hapsburg Empire's domains in the Low Countries and Italy. Although sea travel around the Iberian peninsula was faster, the Road was preferred because it ran entirely through territory friendly to the Hapsburgs. Marching soldiers could average 12-15 miles a day along its 1000-km length. And it wasn't darkness that limited them to that--it was the sapping heat of summer, when the days were longest. The fastest trek on record, during the dark month of February, averaged 23 miles a day.

If an army at forced march couldn't top 23 miles a day, even 30 miles a day for an entire nation on the move is supernaturally fast. Fifty to sixty miles in three days over level land, however, is entirely within the realm of possibility. Thus we are forced to accept a Red Sea Passage over the Gulf of Suez.


Missing in Action: The NIV's Young Men in 1 Peter 5:5

Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. --KJV (Cambridge)

Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” --NKJV 1982, 1990

 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
-- NIV 1973-1984

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble and oppressed." TNIV, NNIV

   Back before the NIV had even gone to press--when we were both children--my elder sister, when wanting to get her way, used to remind me of the biblical exhortation to "obey your elders." Obviously she held to an egalitarian interpretation of this verse, one actually encouraged by the KJV as it was.

  The NIV, however, in search of accuracy, turned that notion on its head. Not quite all the way--though; they identified the gender of those submitting, but not those being submitted to! This, despite the fact that the entire preceding portion of this chapter of First Peter is talking about 'elders' who 'feed the flock' and 'take oversight,' not merely 'older people.' 

  Well, the gender police fixed that. Since 2001, the NIV brand has not only applied the command across the board to all young people, but it even calls those to whom they should submit 'elders.' But what about the rest of the verse? In the KJV family of versions, the elders have to turn back around and submit to everyone else--something the CBT was quite in favour of when translating Ephesians 5:21, but instead, here they are advocating nothing more than an all-around equanimous dose of humility. This turns out to be the result of them using a 'superior' Greek text, which lacks the second occurrence of the word for 'submit.'  But is it really? As I read the Greek, the missing word is still understood by the context--so they must have some other reason for omitting it.

What it is, I have no idea.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Secular Government brooks no religious competition--not even from Jews in Brooklyn

Counter The government of New York City is suing to ban stores in Brookly from posting their Hasidic version of the common but unconstitutional sign, "No shirt, no shoes, no service." “These stores are public accommodations, and they are prohibited from posting any kind of advertisement specifying a preference for one type of customer or another, or expressing discrimination against one type or another,” said Clifford Mulqueen, deputy commissioner and general counsel to the human rights commission.

Public accommodation is a legal term meaning entities like stores, public or private, that are used by the public. The signs are “pretty specific to women,” Mulqueen said. “It seems pretty clear that it’s geared toward women dressing modestly if they choose to come into the store, and that would be discrimination.”

There are two problems with this idea: one, no customer has EVER complained about being denied service on the grounds of immodesty--no male, no female, no other. Secondly, just because an unemployed city official could construe something as being unacceptably discriminatory, that doesn't mean it is. No one has grounds to sue against these regulations, because no one has been harmed by them.

Government continues to grow until it becomes so oppressive that the remaining populace resort to violence to throw it off their backs. Or, they could vote the bums out, but that never seems to happen.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

How the Feds bungled the investigation and prosecution of Israel Keyes, serial killer extraordinaire

Counter You may have never heard of Israel Keyes, and if you haven't, it's because he wanted it that way. Right up until the very end, he preferred to operate in secret. And in control.

Israel Keyes, the oldest son of ten children raised in a Mormon household in Utah, knew he was different from other people. When he tortured and killed pets, the shocked looks on his playmates' faces told him not only that he didn't have the same morals most people did, but that he'd better keep that part of his personality a secret, or he would be in big trouble.

So, for the next twenty years Israel lived a double life. He wasn't even out of his teens when he transferred his attention from defenseless animals to defenseless people. By the time he joined the Army--which happened during a time of such relative peace that he never got the opportunity to use his license to kill--he'd already abducted and raped a teenage girl in Washington State, where he lived.

After finishing his army term, he began his killing career in earnest. The consummate serial killer, he traveled thousands of miles to hunt down random people, whom he tortured and killed simply for the thrill it gave him. After a kill, the urge would subside and he'd return to his construction business. When his girlfriend gave birth to a baby girl, he decided that little children, and parents of little children, were off limits; he only killed childless couples and post-pubescent girls. He covered his tracks so well, there was virtually no chance he would ever be caught--or that any of his growing number of murders would be solved.

But in 2012, his career started to unravel. Like all addictions, killing had gone from a sport to a compulsion that he could no longer control--even by killing. When he spontaneously chose his last victim, he broke all his own rules. First of all, he targeted a local--18-year old Samantha Koenig, whom he kidnapped from her job at a coffee kiosk in his own town of Anchorage, Alaska. Secondly, he used the girl's cell phone to text a ransom demand to her parents--although by that time he had already raped and killed her. And finally, he had the ransom money deposited into Samantha's own bank account, using her ATM card to withdraw cash in a spree that took him all the way to the double wedding of his sisters in Wells, Texas, where he nearly broke up the wedding with a defiant proclamation of his atheism. As his family members tearfully urged him to repent, assuring him that God could forgive him no matter what he'd done, state and federal police officers were already closing in on his trail. He left the wedding in disgust, a cigarette between his lips and Samantha Koenig's ATM card in his rental car.

The end came soon after his last rejected chance to repent. A Lufkin police officer identified the rental car from an all-points bulletin based on a surveillance photo of him pulling away from an ATM where he had used Samantha's card. The cop pulled him over for speeding, called for backup, and arrested Israel on what turned out to be federal charges of using someone else's ATM to withdraw over $1000 in one month. The District of Alaska took jurisdiction of the case, since that's where Samantha's bank account was based.

This is where the prosecution really began to bungle the case. Focused on the intricacies of the law that protect accused criminals, the crime investigators couldn't ask him about Samantha's murder. But when he started to open up about "other chapters in this story," they realized they had a serial killer on their hands.

For the next nine months investigators continued to ask him about his previous murders, but he was cagey. Sometimes he'd bargain with them: a cigar for a name and a place. Returning his girlfriend's confiscated property for a description of where he'd disposed of a body. Again and again his demands came back to: a swift and speedy trial, sentencing, and execution. Until he got some idea of how soon the end was, he wouldn't give them all the information they demanded.

The prosecution, looking forward to a big trial--one that would no doubt be dominating the headlines right now had it gone as scheduled--wouldn't cooperate. They kept reminding Israel that he was in jail now, and they held all the cards. The best he could hope for was a life sentence, if he cooperated.

Fools. Israel didn't want a life sentence, and told them so openly. Liars that they were, they could have told him anything he wanted to hear; and in return, he would have given them the information they so desperately needed to close down a dozen cold murder cases. But when they told him he couldn't expect a trial to even start until a year after his arrest, he pulled out the trump card and ended not only the valuable stream of data they'd been teasing out of him, but the whole prosecution: despite being on suicide watch, he killed himself in his cell on Dec 2, 2012. There would be no trial, no sentencing, no execution. The Koenig case was closed without resolution--other than that divers had found her dismembered body in an Alaskan lake, just where he said he'd left it.

Prosecutors who really want to solve a case have to realize that the only person who can say how many victims a serial killer has murdered is the killer himself, and they NEVER hold all the cards until the dealing's done.