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Monday, 27 July 2009

The TNIV and the world's largest building

Just when I thought my study of the TNIV was finished, I came across something in Ezekiel that I really thought I should comment on--because in this case, I believe the TNIV deserves at least some credit for excellence in translation. I'm sorry I can't supply a link to the passage at; the old site appears to have been taken off-line by

First of all, let me acknowledge that the Masoretic text in Ezekiel 40-47 appears to have some problems. In 40:44, for example, a room by the East Gate faces North. Funny, because it's in opposition to a room by the North Gate that faces South. I'm forced to go with the Septuagint on this one, which has a South room opening to the North, across from the North room that opens toward the South. The NIV/TNIV, as it turns out, came to the same conclusion. Pretty much the same problem occurs again in 42:4-13, with identical resolution.

Of the textual changes made by the CBT in this passage, I'm comfortable saying at first glance that they were for the better. The defects in the Masoretic Text are obvious, as are the CBT's solutions--that is, until we get to the dimensions of the Temple in 42:16-20.

I'll give the passage in several different versions, to show the difficulty:

MT (as translated by Young):
He hath measured the east side with the measuring-reed, 500 reeds, with the measuring-reed round about.
He hath measured the north side, 500 reeds, with the measuring reed round about.
The south side he hath measured, 500 reeds, with the measuring-reed.
He hath turned round unto the west side, he hath measured 500 reeds with the measuring-reed.
At the four sides he hath measured it, a wall to it all round about, the length 500, and the breadth 500, to separate between the holy and the profane place.

He measured the east side with the measuring reed, five hundred reeds, with the measuring reed round about.
He measured the north side, five hundred reeds, with the measuring reed round about.
He measured the south side, five hundred reeds, with the measuring reed.
He turned about to the west side, and measured five hundred reeds with the measuring reed.
He measured it by the four sides: it had a wall round about, five hundred reeds long, and five hundred broad, to make a separation between the sanctuary and the profane place.
[KJV footnote has “Heb.: wind” for ‘side’ in v. 16, but it’s actually the same in all five verses.]

Septuagint (as translated by Brenton)
And he stood behind the gate looking eastward, and measured 500 with the measuring reed.
And he turned to the north and measured in front of the north, 500 with the measuring reed.
And he turned to the sea, and measured in front of the sea, 500 with the measuring reed.
And he turned to the south, and measured in front of the south side, 500 with the measuring reed.
The four sides to the same reed, and he marked out the house and the circumference of the parts round about, 500 eastward, and a breadth of 500 cubits, to make a division between the sanctuary and the outer wall, to the design of the house.

He measured the east side with the measuring rod; it was five hundred cubits [Footnote: Septuagint; Hebrew rods].
He measured the north side; it was five hundred cubits [Footnote: Septuagint; Hebrew rods] by the measuring rod.
He measured the south side; it was five hundred cubits [Footnote: Septuagint; Hebrew rods] by the measuring rod.
Then he turned to the west side and measured; it was five hundred cubits [Footnote: Septuagint; Hebrew rods] by the measuring rod.
So he measured the area on all four sides. It had a wall around it, five hundred cubits long and five hundred cubits wide, to separate the holy from the common.
[Footnote: Five hundred cubits equal about 850 feet or about 260 meters]

To begin with, there are a couple of problems with the TNIV figures. Five Hundred Cubits, as defined in the note at 40:5, comes out to about 875 feet, not 850. The conversion factor apparently being used in chapter 42 is 20.4 rather than 21 inches. The note at 40:5 yields a 20-inch cubit as calculated for the length of the rod, yet claims to be using a figure of 21 inches! The standard of precision waffles around a bit too much for comfort.

Secondly, there’s a huge difference in the area of the temple court between the Hebrew and Greek texts; the figures differ by a factor of thirty-six. Is it 500 cubits (875 feet) or 500 reeds (almost a mile) square? The latter seems incredible (almost three times the size of the entire city of Old Jerusalem), the former quite reasonable (about half the size of the current Temple Mount). The answer lies in resolving the textual problem, but it wasn’t handled very well by the TNIV notes.

The TNIV correctly notes that in vv. 16, 17, 18, and 19 that the Hebrew text reads ‘rods’ (except that the word is actually 'reeds'). However, its claim that the Greek version reads ‘cubits’ in those verses appears to be false. Furthermore, there is no explicit textual support in either language for reading either 'reeds' or 'cubits' twice in v. 20. The Septuagint only mentions ‘cubits’ one time, for the last measurement in v. 20. The other five uses are contextually supplied on that sole basis. Furthermore, in one of my editions of the Masoretic Text, even the Hebrew reads ‘cubits’. I’ll have to investigate that further, but it should have been mentioned if the textual support in the Hebrew was at least as explicit as that in the Greek.*

In the matter of directions and measurements, I tend to agree with the TNIV translation for this passage, but the way it is defended in the notes only leads to confusion.

*UPDATE to add: Apparently it's a marginal reading in the MT v. 16. "Kethib" reads 'five cubits reeds' and "Qere" reads 'five hundred reeds'. There is no reading of 'five hundred cubits' in printed editions of either language, margin or text, for v. 17-19. Therefore the textual decision had to be made on the basis of internal rather than external evidence. And despite its claims to conservatism, the TNIV changes the meaning of the Masoretic Text, even without adequate support from the Septuagint, in a way that is characteristic of rationalism--not faith. The KJV speaks of the World's Largest Building; in the TNIV, it has been shrunk down to a size, we suspect, commensurate with the faith of the translators.

You want WHOM???

I've seen black olives and green olives, but never an olive this color.

The FBI's Most Wanted Suspect is listed on their website as follows:

Aliases: Usama Bin Muhammad Bin Ladin, Shaykh Usama Bin Ladin, The Prince, The Emir, Abu Abdallah, Mujahid Shaykh, Hajj, The Director

Date of Birth Used: 1957
Hair: Brown
Place of Birth: Saudi Arabia
Eyes: Brown
Height: 6'4" to 6'6"
Sex: Male
Weight: Approximately 160 pounds
Complexion: Olive
Build: Thin
Citizenship: Saudi Arabian
Language: Arabic (probably Pashtu)
Scars and Marks: None known
Remarks: Bin Laden is left-handed and walks with a cane.

Usama Bin Laden is wanted in connection with the August 7, 1998, bombings of the United States Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. These attacks killed over 200 people. In addition, Bin Laden is a suspect in other terrorist attacks throughout the world.



First of all, there's the matter of race. Like it or not, law enforcement in the USA is fixated on it. Call 911 to report seeing a suspicious-looking man with an olive complexion, and the dispatcher will want to know if he's White, Black, or Hispanic. Nobody but the FBI, it appears, is concerned with anything referred to as "Skin Complexion."

Secondly, let's look at a few of these "aliases." "Prince" is nothing more than an English translation of "Emir." "Hajj" is used to refer to any man who's been to Mecca, of whom there must be getting on towards a hundred million by now. "The Director" is not a name, it's a title--try calling the FBI's 1-800 number to excitedly report hearing someone called "The Director" and see how much money you get. The other two aliases might actually be used of Osama more than of anyone else in the news these days--but wait, what did I call him?

His name is Usama, according to the FBI. But to everyone else in the English speaking world other than the FBI, this man is commonly known by a different sounding name. Searching on this character string Osama bin Ladin results in 6,740,000 hits--fewer than the official name, naturally, but way more than for the first two aliases listed above, which result in the following:

Usama Bin Muhammad Bin Ladin: 1,600,000
Shaykh Usama Bin Ladin: 457,000

It even results in more hits than the string Osama bin Laden, which comes in a close second, but also isn't listed as an alias by the FBI. But either one of these is the way he is listed at just about any biographical website one can find.

So why the disparity? Well, it's all about transcribing Arabic letters into English. The Arabic alphabet doesn't distinguish between O and U; thus the Osama vs Usama element. Furthermore, vowels aren't typically written out in Arabic, leaving some leeway between Ladin and Laden. I've tried to find this person's name fully written out, vowels and all, but enough information still eludes me to tell for absolute sure whether the last vowel in his name is an i or an e. But I would highly doubt that 'e' is correct. The FBI should know, as they have at their disposal a team of Arabic translators with top clearances getting paid upwards of $60 an hour.

If the FBI is really serious about capturing this fellow, I would expect them to at least acknowledge one of the two main forms of the name by which he is known to the entire English-reading world.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Muslim Population Growth: A Ticking Time Bomb?

In an earlier post, I wrote about the escalating effects of Muslim population growth on a nation's civil liberties. But in this study, it doesn't appear that Muslim population growth is nearly such a threat as it is usually made out to be. Apparently much of the misinformation has been based on the way population growth numbers are generated. I will look at some of them here.

1) Muslim population growth numbers are often based on country-of-origin statistics, and then extrapolated into country-of-destination figures. But this is not reasonable. Studies have consistently shown that moving to a rich, industrialized country causes a tremendous drop in birth rates for transplanted communities. Since religion is not tabulated in census figures in America, all estimates of Muslim population, and its growth, are little better than wild guesses.

2) In countries of origin, it is often very difficult to change one's religious categorization. For example, second- and third- generation Christians in India are still being tabulated as Hindus, because their ancestors were Hindus. The same is true in many Muslim countries, where it is legally impossible to change one's religion from Muslim to anything else. Thus even many children being labeled as Muslim in census and birth records are in fact of some other religion altogether.

3) It is very difficult to keep up high birth rates in an industrialized country. There are some exceptions, and these are the very countries in Europe where up to half of all births are to Muslim women. These countries, such as France and the Netherlands, actually pay women to have children, pay them to raise them, even pay to put them in daycare so they can go back and have another one. Thus the incentive to have lots of children is even stronger than it was in the old country, and guess what: Muslim women are having lots of children. The Muslims are taking over Holland and France, and the Dutch and French are paying them to do it. And they have to; without the rising work force of immigrant labour, there will be no one to pay the retirement benefits for the increasingly barren Hollanders and Frenchmen.

But this is not the case in most Western countries, where a number of factors serve to hold down the number of children per family:

a) Child labour laws. Whereas in the country of origin a child can be earning his own keep by the age of six, not so here. By the time he is finally allowed to legally earn enough to support himself, the typical American child has set his parents back several hundred thousand dollars--money they will never see again, except for indirectly, through his payroll taxes, when they retire on Social Security.

b) Car seat laws. Whereas back in the old country the entire family could crowd into a compact car, or pile on the back of a motorcycle, here they will need, at the very least, a minivan. Once they have over five children, they'll be forced to step up again, to a much more expensive full-sized van. These are many times more expensive to purchase, operate, and maintain than the old 'family car'. These laws alone are a strong incentive to limit family size to four children or less.

c) Zoning laws. In many places it's not possible for a large family to rent an apartment. Houses are designed for six people or less; motel rooms for a maximum of five. Especially difficult is finding accommodations for the typical three-generation family of the third world that is so crucial to meeting the needs of a large number of children.

d) College expenses. Even after twelve years of virtually free public education, parents of a large number of children will likely find that a college degree for every one of their many children to be beyond their reach. College typically costs more than what a student can earn working even 30 hours a week, so there's no way a typical breadwinner is going to be able to support two or three students at a time for the decades that it takes to put all his children through college.

e) Last but not least, medical insurance that covers contraceptive drugs and surgically induced barrenness. Where birth control is not readily available, families tend to be larger by default. But when free birth control becomes a perk for working full-time, it becomes very advantageous for a woman to make use of it. Being a SAHM in a secular environment is neither a doctrine nor a duty of the Islamic woman, and many Muslim women do work outside the home. These will not be available to continue the 8-children-per-woman tradition of the old country, especially without Grandma available to help raise those children.

Although America doesn't keep statistics on the religion of birth mothers, it does keep track of their education levels. And these statistics show that, in general, the higher a woman is educated, the fewer children she will bear. As members of Muslim society attain higher educational levels--or aspire to them for their own children--Muslim fecundity is very likely to approach the national average. It should be noted that having large families is neither a doctrine nor a duty of Islam--it just happens to be presently reflected in the statistics.

Polygamy is one reason why Muslim families had such large numbers of children, back in the old country. But the statistics can be deceiving. While virtually all women under polygamy have children, many of the men don't. And the average number of children per woman under polygamy rarely exceeds four, and is often no higher than three--a rate of growth quite attainable under monogamy.

In closing, I should offer one historical example. In the late 1800's, overpopulation pressures drove millions of Germans to emigrate. World War I decimated the remaining population. When Hitler took over in 1933, his solution was to pay German women to have babies, and pay them well--whether they were married or not. The women of Germany took up the cause, and birthrates soared as Hitler prepared to loose his armies upon Europe. But Hitler was defeated, his doctrine of "lebensraum" annulled, and only two generations later, German women no longer have enough babies to maintain their population--even though the government still covers much of the cost. North Africans and Asiatics are gradually taking their place.

In my genealogical studies, I've come to the conclusion that an average of three grandchild-producing children per female is about typical for a sustainable national growth rate, with four being the highest one can reasonably expect. And the key word here is "sustainable." The Muslim population growth rates being bandied about by fearmongers are clearly not sustainable. Sooner or later, like everything, they will revert to the mean.


It turns out that the mean worldwide birthrate for Muslim women is only just over three, after all.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Aren't there any "Senators" on the Senate Judiciary Committee?

Recently Barbara Boxer, Democrat Senator from California, interrupted a General testifying before her committee to reprimand him for calling her "ma'am." She demanded that he call her by the more respectful term, "Senator."

Today in her hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Sotomayor referred to them all as "men." No one broke in to object.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Children: Cheaper than Chimps

It's not easy to direct a Primate Testing Laboratory these days. Never mind that it's almost impossible to come up with a new anti-viral vaccine (swine flu, anyone?) without primate testing, and that it wasn't until chimps were deliberately infected with it that the Hepatitis C virus could be isolated (before that the disease it caused was just referred to as "non-A, non-B Hepatitis"). And never mind that chimps are far more fecund in well-managed captivity then they are in the wild. There are entire organizations devoted to the promotion of "human rights" for chimpanzees, and they will not rest until every living chimp is released (never say that ideas don't have consequences). And as a result--without even having to join a union--laboratory chimps enjoy incredibly cushy employment benefits. Granted, without valid Social Security numbers, the chimps can't be paid in cash or equivalents--but their employment benefit packages are pretty impressive. Working mother chimps, for example, are now paid to breastfeed their babies for the first six months to a year (wow, what a maternity leave policy). From there, the chimps go to work as guinea pigs, getting injected with diseases that won't hurt them (they don't even get AIDS from the HI virus) so that they can be carefully studied in order to produce treatments for humans.

After 3 or 4 years in the lab, a chimp's life work is done. But alas, chimps live for at least 10 times that long. Time for early retirement! A laboratory chimp now moves to a tropical resort where it can live out its years being provided with free food and water. Well, first of all, a stop by the operating theatre where its ability to procreate is removed; we don't want any population explosions at those resorts now, do we? And this despite the fact that chimps are a Threatened Species in the wild.

Total cost over the lifetime of a laboratory chimp? Half a million dollars, or about $125,000 per year of services rendered. Those chimps are making more than their keepers! And if a chimp manages to escape wars, rebellions, and ecoterrorists, it may well live 50 years, at an average cost of $10,000 per year per chimp.

As someone very well acquainted with childraising, I can attest that children can be easily raised and educated from infancy through adulthood for a little over $2000 per year each. They get a bit more expensive after that, but--unlike chimps--by then they are earning their own way.

So, bring them on--children are way cheaper than chimps! Unless you send your children to public school in New Jersey--that alone adds $20,000 a head that somebody is having to pay for, year after year.