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Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Is Mike Pearl an Annointed Preacher?

Now, even asking that question will probably turn off some of my readers, but it's just a title, okay? The real purpose of this post is to critique Michael Pearl's approach to exegesis, which is sadly flawed. This isn't the first time I've addressed this question, but perhaps it will be my last.

Now that what was once known as the Cane Creek Community Bible Baptist Church has gone defunct, Mike directs his preaching energies into the video camera set up at "The Door," his small storefront studio in Lobelville, Tennessee. I'll confine my commentary to the opening minutes of his first video, where he begins to expound on Romans 1:1-17.

Mike starts out his Door series by promising, "You're going to learn things about the Bible you never imagined were in it." Alas, we just saw one of the red flags warning us of a cult: Special Revelation.

And Mike does not disappoint, either: Only three minutes into his sermon, he informs us that the Apostle Paul must have been the son of a Roman, "maybe even a Roman soldier."

And this, less than a minute after saying, "The Authorized Version is what we will be studying. We're not going to correct it or change it, We're going to believe every word that's in it, just like it's written."

But what does the Authorized Version say about Paul's father?

"But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question."  --Acts 23:6

Paul's father was no Roman soldier; he was a Pharisee from Jerusalem. We read in the same chapter of Acts that Paul's sister's family lived in Jerusalem. Whatever Paul's father was doing in Tarsus when Paul was born, we don't know; but we do know him to be a Jew, specifically a Benjamite. 

Now, how could Michael Pearl possibly make such a blatant mistake?  I don't want to say, but I will say this: he's not a Bible Teacher worth following.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Zodhiates and Miller Sentences

Okay, here's the straight scoop; there will be a lot of details provided later. First of all, Philip Zodhiates won't be going to prison quite yet. By filing an appeal, he was able to bail out for the duration of the appeal process, however long that may be. The specific sentence he's appealing is 36 months for conspiracy to commit international parental kidnapping, with enhancements for coordinating and obstructing, and 36 months for accessory, to be served concurrently, and 1 year supervised release on both charges, to be served concurrently. He was also assigned the minimum fine of $100 for each charge. This was the minimum sentence.

 Timo has been fined $100 and released for time served to 1 year parole in Pennsylvania, where his family will be living until that is over. This was actually below the minimum sentence, both the government and the court having taken into account his 6 weeks of 'hard time' served in Nicaragua.

Timo, freshly changed out of shackles and prison orange, with his family outside the federal courthouse in Buffalo. Refusing to leave his wife's side for their youngest son's birth was the impetus of his 10 months imprisonment. Photo provided.
By the way, all of Timo's financial needs have been supplied, and he has two jobs to pick from waiting for him.

I will start with Timo's sentencing, since that was the shortest--but I won't be able to resist making some mention of the previous hearing along the way.

It's been noted that the Mennonite community has come out in force for these Miller Kidnapping Trial proceedings--with the glaring exception of those related to Philip Zodhiates. It makes one wonder, if Lisa Miller ever comes to trial, whether any Mennonites will see fit to show up--or maybe they will, if at the time she's caught she is still living as a Mennonite. Well, at any rate, about 100 Mennonite men, women, and children (mostly men) showed up this time, barely fitting into the gallery of the courtroom.

I suppose we should start with the Status Conference held last August 27 before Hon. Richard J. Arcara in Buffalo. The Prosecution informed the court that it considered defendants Timothy Miller and Lisa Miller to be fugitives who would not appear. This despite the fact that Timo's lawyer, Jeffrey Conrad, had been in constant contact with the court regarding Timo's willingness to appear if needed, but desiring to have Mr. Conrad represent him in the mean time so he didn't have to keep flying back and forth from Managua for every last hearing. This is quite common; even some of the lawyers involved in this case, spread out as they are across four states, have often appeared by telephone. But once the government declared Timo a fugitive, his name started appearing on wanted lists--Interpol, for instance--which has an office in Managua.When local authorities in Nicaragua came looking for Timo, they were assured that he was quite willing to come with them, if they just contacted him personally.

But they had a strange way of doing that.  Two weeks later, Timo was dragged off his bicycle on a city street and hauled off to Managua's notorious Chipote Prison. When friends arrived to visit him, they were told he wasn't there. This run-around was to continue for the next five days, until his wife was finally allowed in to see him.


Saturday, 11 March 2017

Whatever Happened to Flight 370? And what can be done about it?

Back in 2009 when I started writing on air disasters, even a plane flying into the middle of the ocean could expect to be found within days, its black box recovered even from the bottom of the abyss. Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 has changed all that; three years after it disappeared from radar, no crash scene has ever been identified, nor will it probably ever be found using currently available technology. When whoever was at the controls of MH370 made its final turn into the Indian Ocean, it was with the intention that the plane never be seen again.

I have written on this air disaster before, both five days and nine months after it was first reported. I haven't had anything further to report, until now. While I stay with my original theory that MH370 was hijacked, I've let go of my secondary theory, that the USA was behind its disappearance; I've now run across a much more likely theory.

There is no question, now, that some sinister person was at the controls of MH370 at the time the transponder was turned off just after clearing Malaysian traffic control; the only question has been, who? The general consensus seems to focus on the pilot, based mainly on three lines of evidence:

1. The plane had to have been taken over by someone aboard. Since Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah was the last voice heard just before the plane went dark, under this scenario he took control of the plane, dismissed the copilot, locked the cockpit door (another unintended consequence of post-9/11 regulation is that a member of the flight crew can now hijack his own flight unimpeded), turned off all communication devices, flew the plane into radar dead zones along international borders, and turned left to fly southward across the Indian ocean until the plane's fuel was exhausted. Prime evidence for this scenario is that Zaharie had cleared his social calendar following the flight.

2. The Inmarsat satellite system picked up ACARS signals that, as interpreted, indicated that MH370 continued on a southern track until 8:19 am.

3. A piece of a Boeing 777 wing floated ashore Reunion Island in July 2015. A part number inside the piece was traced back to the airplane lost on March 8, 2014. Another identified piece of the aircraft was found on Pemba Island in June 2016.

Now, taken together, these three lines of evidence are extremely damning. There is now only one other scenario that fits the evidence, and it hugely fails Occam's Razor. It was proposed in a book I read recently by Jeff Wise. Its scenario is that the two Ukrainian nationals aboard MH370 were Russian agents disguised as scuba divers, who used their carry-on oxygen tanks to stay alive while commandeering the plane via its. The agent inside the electronics control center turned off oxygen to the cockpit and decompressed the plane, resulting in the deaths of the flight crew. He then not only reprogrammed the autopilot, but tampered with the ACARS signal in such a way as to send a false signal that the plane was headed south, when in fact it was headed northeast, toward the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan--which it reached after several hours, at the end of its fuel endurance, having evaded the military radars of several more countries along the way. To compound the difficulty of this scenario, the Russians would then have had to dispose of all the crew and passengers' bodies, and part out the plane so they could then dump pieces of it at an appropriate location in the Southern Indian Ocean--where submarines would have had to broadcast phony pings from the plane's black boxes. Jeff Wise didn't have a convincing reason why Russia would go to all this work, and all evidence that has come to light since his book came out has made his scenario less and less likely.

I'm going to go with the pilot-suicide theory, and note that the overwhelming majority of deaths attributed to pilot suicide--not even including the 9/11 flights--resulted from Muslim pilots flying their planes into the ocean. Now that it's so easy for a pilot to fly his plane into the sea, this is what I would recommend: Putting a device outside the cockpit by which cabin crew can communicate directly with authorities, and rolling back regulations that make the airline cockpit such an impenetrable fortress, so that non-suicidal crew members can not only report the attempted murder-suicide, but actually do something to thwart it. In the meantime, you may want to avoid flying with certain flag carriers.

Friday, 10 March 2017

The sad tale of a potential paeodophile child psychologist who practiced at Wheaton College

In this modern world's news cycle, we are continually deluged with stories about people who got caught doing something bad. We don't always take the time to think of what this may be telling us.

Today I found a website dedicated to reporting on some of the hundreds of teachers who have been arrested for sex crimes: specifically, college professors who used their computers to download and/or sell child pornography. It's quite an extensive list, with lots of pediatricians, child psychologists,  and early childhood educators, but of the dozens of names the one the jumped out to me was Donald Ratcliffe, child psychology professor at Wheaton College. Run a search on his name and college, and you will find this video, on "children are important."

He actually thought that viewing hard-core child pornography--vicariously enjoying the pleasure of torturing children--would keep him from becoming a full-blown paedophile. Meanwhile, he was teaching the importance of meeting the spiritual needs of children through his books and lectures.

What are the signs of a mind so twisted? Very few of these professors were found out because they were actually caught molesting a child, but many of them had been doing so for years--one man even adopted a baby specifically for the purpose of being able to molest him with regularity. What they all had in common was that they started out by watching porn--due to the capabilities of today's internet technicians, that's as far as some of them got before getting caught. Others were actually in the business of producing hardcore child porn before it finally found them out.

The government officials who investigate these crimes face two major threats: one, that they may end up losing their jobs when they catch someone so high up the chain of command that no one will dare to prosecute him.  We're talking someone above the level of a college president, because there's one of them on the list. Someone so highly placed that anyone who tries to bring him down will at the very least lose his job; more likely his life.

Secondly, they face the risk of becoming drawn into the very pit from which they are endeavoring to pull others. No doubt several of these professors were first exposed to abusive pornography through their studies--Alfred Kenzie certainly felt the need to dabble in it to develop his celebrated human sexuality curriculum at Indiana University. He was under investigation for trafficking in paedophilia at the time of his death in 1956.

Well, child pornography, at least as practiced by those lower on the ladder, enjoys no legal protection in Donald E. Ratcliff's county, state, and country. Wheaton College summarily dismissed him; Brenda, his wife and co-author of his final book on the spirituality of children, divorced him and married a Californian; their three children, whom the book's introduction credits with "overlook[ing] our failures" in parenting, disowned him; and even though he escaped having to go to prison, he will be haunted for the rest of his life by the label of sexual predator, with its onerous attendant restrictions. What he claimed at the time to be harmless-even therapeutic--has ruined his life. But how many more like him are still out there, waiting for an investigator to take the time to find them out?

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Who killed whom when the giant died? An exercise in textual reconstruction

[NOTE: I guest-posted this on Nazaroo's blog back in 2011. Now that his blog is being shut down, I'm moving it here. You can read my other such posts by searching on 'Nazaroo'.]
And there was againe a battell in Gob, with the Philistines, where Elhanan the sonne of Iaare-Oregim a Bethlehemite, slewe the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staffe of whose speare was like a weauers beame. 
So the original KJV at 2 Samuel 21:19. Much ink has been spilt attempting to justify the KJV's interpolation of the brother of in order to keep the text from reading as the Hebrew does, that Elhanan, rather than David, killed Goliath. But what most KJV proponents fail to mention is that the lack of 'brother' is not the only textual problem in this verse. There are only a couple ways to reconcile this verse with 1 Chronicles 20:5--
And there was warre againe with the Philistines, and Elhanan the sonne of Iair, slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, whose spearestaffe was like a weauers beame. 
Disregarding all the spelling variations, the core of both verses reads thus:

Elhanan the son of Jair slew Goliath the Gittite, whose spear staff was like a weaver's beam.
To which Samuel adds "Oregim the Bethlehemite" and Chronicles adds "Lahmi the brother of". 

So the KJV stopped short of interpolating the whole plus from Chronicles into Samuel--Lahmi is not named. Or is he--but as the killer, not the killed? Let's look at the Hebrew.

2 Samuel 21:19b
and-killed Elhanan son-of-Yari weavers house-of-the-bread: Goliath the-Gittite and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

1 Chronicles 20:5b
and-killed Elhanan son-of-Yaur: Bready, brother-of Goliath the-Gittite; and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

In these transcriptions I have added vowels only for the name of Elhanan's father, which is found in two forms (K and Q) in the Masoretic text of Chronicles. The Masoretes themselves obviously recognized a corruption here, but couldn't settle on how to fix it.

Note that the last word in the verse, ARGIM, is an element in the extra of 2 Samuel, where it is tacked on to Jair's name. Note also that the word LXMI, which is an element in the name Bethlehem ("House of Bread"), is given as an extra in 1 Chronicles for the name of Goliah's brother. Furthermore, the name Jair is spelled two (or four) different ways in the two texts, and all cases are Hebrew hapax legomena: Jair is always spelled differently in the Hebrew Bible than either verse has it, whether Q or K.

Clearly there are three different places where the two verses need to be reconciled, not just one. I propose, therefore, the following possibilities for reconstructing of the source for both verses (the changes could have happened in a different order, especially with the first possibility):

 Possibility #1: Only Samuel is corrupted; Chronicles has the correct reading

and-killed Elhanan son-of-Yaur: Bready brother-of Goliath the-Gittite, and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

1. The last word of the verse was copied into the first half, probably due to skipping to the next line of text, so that both lines now end with the same 7 letters:

2.The  text suffered loss of the word אֲחִי AXI (the brother of), by homoeoteleuton I ... I :

and-killed Elhanan son-of-Yaur Weavers: Bready Goliath the-Gittite, and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

3. A 'helpful' scribe changed the unheard-of name Y3UR to the equally unheard of plural form Y3RI, both of which are cognates of a word that means 'wood' (in the British meaning of 'forest'):

and-killed Elhanan son-of-Woods-of-Weavers: Bready Goliath the-Gittite, and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

4. Another 'helpful' scribe changed ATh-LXMI to BITh-H-LXMI, changing the meaning again: 

and-killed Elhanan son-of-Yariorgim the Bethlehemite Goliath the-Gittite and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

5. A final scribe put the ATh back in where it now belonged, tidying up the grammar to yield the Samuel reading: 

and-killed Elhanan son-of-Yariorgim the Bethlehemite: Goliath the-Gittite, and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

That's a lot of changes to hypothesise! And it doesn't even account for the K-Q variants in the Masoretic text. Let's try for a simpler solution.

Possibility #2: Both verses are equally corrupted forms of the archetype.

Reconstruction A: The original text read:

and-killed Elhanan son-of-Ya'ir the Bethlehemite: the-brother-of Goliath the-Gittite, and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

1a,b. While the Samuel scribe dropped  אֲחִי AXI, the Chronicles scribe dropped אֵת ATh, the Hebrew indicator of a following direct object :

and-killed Elhanan son-of-Ya'ir the Bethlehemite[S:] [C:the-brother-of] Goliath the-Gittite, and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

2a. In Chronicles, a 'helpful' scribe re-inserted ATh in place of BITh H-:

and-killed Elhanan son-of-Ya'ir: Lehmi the-brother-of Goliath the-Gittite, and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

2b. In Samuel, ARGIM got duplicated after YAIR, as explained above:

and-killed Elhanan son-of-Ya'ir Weavers Bethlehemite: Goliath the-Gittite and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

3a,b. Finally, the Chronicles scribe changed the spelling of YAIR to Y3UR, while the Samuel scribe changed the spelling to Y3RI to better fit the corrupted context.

WYK ALXNN BN-Y[S:3RI][C:3UR]  . . . thus yielding the final readings in only three steps each.

Other reconstructions are possible, but this one best passes Occam's Razor: three steps, to account for three differences between the texts, prior to the Masoretes taking over the transmission of the two texts. So what was Goliath's brother's name? Well, according to this reconstruction, we don't know, and we can only guess that Elhanan's father was a man who spelled his name the same way that four other Jairs in the OT did. It's also possible that this was the Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem mentioned in both books, but that would involve a greater level of corruption in the transmission.

These three corruptions, by the way, must have been very early. The Septuagint reads exactly like the Hebrew, even down to a reasonable approximation of the names.

The Targum for Chronicles isn't much help. It reads: "David, the son of Jesse, a pious man, who rose at midnight to sing praises to God, slew Lachmi, the brother of Goliath, the same day on which he slew Goliath the Gittite, whose spear-staff was like a weaver's beam."

The other ancient versions supply the word 'brother' in Samuel, although, as did the KJV, they may well have just moved it in from Chronicles. 

The Syriac also paraphrases somewhat, while translating the invented name in Samuel:
Samuel: Elhanan the son of forest a weaver, a Beth-lehemite, slew a brother of Goliath the Philistine, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.
Chronicles: Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi of the descendants of the giants, who was the brother of Goliath the mighty man of Gath, whose spear staff was like a weaver’s beam. 

The Vulgate also translates Elhanan and Jair/Jaare-Oregim: 
Samuel: God-given the son of Forest Weaver, a Bethlehemite, struck the brother of Goliath the Gittite, whose spear wood was like a weaver's beam.
Chronicles: God-given the son of Forest struck Lehmites the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the wood of whose spear was like a weaver's beam.

Sam Gipp uses one aspect of this textual problem to ridicule "modern" translations that don't have 'brother' in Samuel. But he totally disregards the other aspects, thus avoiding a real solution to the problem. There is a real problem here--one that has a real solution--but the KJV and its devoted advocates don't have it.