bookmark_borderPodcast #6: Evaluation of the Christian Answer to Worldview Question #1

I fell off the wagon, and have not produced a podcast since 2017.  I got back on the wagon this year, and have finally produced Podcast #6 in my series “Thinking Critically About: Is Christianity True?”
I have analyzed the Christian worldview in relation to four basic worldview questions:
Q1. What are the most important problems of human life?
Q2. What is the root cause(s) of the most important problems of human life?
Q3. What is the solution(s) to the root cause problem(s) of the most important problems of human life?
Q4. What is the best way to implement the solution(s) to the root cause problem(s) of the most important problems of human life?
In Podcast #6, I discuss the evaluation of the Christian worldview’s answer to basic worldview question 1.  You can also download the PowerPoint (in a PDF) upon which this podcast is based.
Here is a page from the PowerPoint for Podcast #6:

bookmark_borderReply to William Lane Craig on Evangelical Support for Trump

I’ve published an article on my political blog, Data-Driven Politics, which should be of great interest to many Secular Outpost readers:
William Lane Craig on Evangelical Christian Support for Donald Trump
On a related note, I’ve also published on that site my Presidential Effectiveness Dashboard, which is a work in progress, and likely also to be of interest. Link to latest version:
Presidential Effectiveness Dashboard (Trump): Economic Metrics Added
 

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 9: More Historical Errors

WHERE WE ARE
In the previous post, Part 8 of this series, I supported my fourth reason for doubting the view that we should condemn homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus:

4. Leviticus is NOT an historically reliable account of actual events.

God, if God exists, is all-knowing and perfectly good, so any book inspired by God would NOT contain false historical information, and clearly no book inspired by God would provide historical accounts of alleged events that never happened or highly unreliable accounts of historical events.
In this present post I will provide more specific examples of historically false and dubious claims and assumption in the book of Leviticus.  False or dubious historical claims in Leviticus give us two reasons to reject the view that commandments or rules in Leviticus should be accepted as having some sort of divine authority:  (1) if Leviticus contains a number of historical errors, then it is an UNRELIABLE source of the words of Moses and Jehovah, and (2) if Leviticus contains a number of historical errors, then the content of Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.
 
CONTRADICTIONS BETWEEN LEVITICUS AND OTHER BOOKS IN THE TORAH
Dr. Steven DiMattei has identified and explained 74 different contradictions between passages in Leviticus and other passages in the Bible.  Of those 74 contradictions, 66 contradictions are between passages in Leviticus and passages in other books in the Torah (i.e. Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), books that are traditionally ascribed to Moses.  In nearly every case, these contradictions cast doubt on an historical claim or assumption made by the book of Leviticus.  Thus, Dr. DiMattei gives us dozens of good reasons to doubt the historical reliability of the book of Leviticus, and also to doubt the divine inspiration of Leviticus.
In many cases, the contradiction is between laws or regulations put forward by God or Jehovah.  God, if God exists, is all-knowing and perfectly good, so God would NOT put forward contradictory or conflicting commandments or laws or regulations.  Because according to the Bible Jehovah is supposed to be the creator of heaven and earth, Christians who believe in the divine inspiration and authority of the Bible must infer that Jehovah is God, because God, if God exists, is the one and only creator of the universe.
So, any time Leviticus claims that “Jehovah commanded that we do X”  and some other book in the Torah claims that “Jehovah commanded that we do Y”, and the command to do X contradicts the command to do Y, then Christians must infer that at least ONE of those commands did NOT come from Jehovah, and thus that at least ONE of those two biblical passages asserts an historical claim that is FALSE.  (As a skeptic, I take such contradictions as evidence that there was no Jehovah at all, and no communication from Jehovah to Moses, and that the contradictions arise because the “history” in Leviticus and the other books of the Torah is actually legend and fiction, stories that were made up centuries after the alleged events.)
However, I am not going to go through all 66 of the contradictions between Leviticus and passages in other books of the Torah.  I am going to focus on just a few examples, and will attempt to focus on examples that are more directly about alleged ordinary historical events.  What Jehovah said or did not say on a given occasion is not a matter of ordinary observation involving vision, hearing, touch, taste, or smell.  I will focus primarily on contradictions between Leviticus and other books in the Torah that relate to ordinary historical claims or assumptions.
Is the mount of revelation Horeb OR Sinai? (Ex 3:1, 17:6; Deut 1:6, 4:10, etc. vs Ex 19:11, 19:18, etc.; Lev 7:38, 26:46, etc.)
According to Leviticus, God’s revelation to Moses happened on Mount Sinai:

37 This is the ritual of the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering, the offering of ordination, and the sacrifice of well-being, 38 which the Lord commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, when he commanded the people of Israel to bring their offerings to the Lord, in the wilderness of Sinai. (Leviticus 7:37-38)

46 These are the statutes and ordinances and laws that the Lord established between himself and the people of Israel on Mount Sinai through Moses.  (Leviticus 26:46)

According to Deuteronomy God’s revelation to Moses happened on the mountain of Horeb:

3 In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the Israelites just as the Lord had commanded him to speak to them. … 5 Beyond the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to expound this law as follows:

6 The Lord our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain.   (Deuteronomy 1:3-6)

9 But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children— 10 how you once stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when the Lord said to me, “Assemble the people for me, and I will let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me as long as they live on the earth, and may teach their children so”; 11 you approached and stood at the foot of the mountain while the mountain was blazing up to the very heavens, shrouded in dark clouds. 12 Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. 13 He declared to you his covenant, which he charged you to observe, that is, the ten commandments; and he wrote them on two stone tablets. 14 And the Lord charged me at that time to teach you statutes and ordinances for you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy.  (Deuteronomy 4:9-14)

Both stories are fictional in my view, but at the very least, the contradiction between Leviticus and Deuteronomy casts doubt on the historical claims made in chapters 7 and 26 of Leviticus.
Does the Action From Exodus 40 to Numbers 7 Take Place on One Day or Not?  (Ex 40:2-33; Lev 8; Num 7:1 vs Lev 9; Num 1:1)
And it was in the 1st month, in the 2nd year, on the 1st of the month, the Tabernacle was set up. (Ex 40:17)
This is the Priestly writer’s chronology: the cultic institution, around which its whole theology is based, is erected on the New Year’s day of the second year from the Exodus (see also #109-110). Yet, even within the Priestly source there seems to be some discrepancies concerning what happens on this day.
On this day, at least as depicted in Exodus 40, the Tabernacle and all of its components are anointed, that is rendered holy, consecrated unto Yahweh. Next, in Leviticus 8, Aaron and his sons are anointed, made holy, and consecrated unto Yahweh, and they perform the first sacrifices. Leviticus 1-7 originally stood as a separate document written solely by and for the Aaronid priesthood; it describes in detail how to preform the various sacrificial offerings to Yahweh. It was later inserted between what is now Exodus 40 and Leviticus 8.
The anointing of Aaron demands that he remain, in his holy state, in the Tent of Meeting for 7 days (Lev 8:37).  Yet Numbers 7 depicts an event, the dedication ceremony to Yahweh, which also supposedly happens on this very day: “and it was on the day that Moses finished setting up the Tabernacle and he anointed it” (Num 7:1). And to top it off, this is a ceremony that lasts 12 days, a day per tribe, wherein Aaron supposedly officiates over each tribes sacrifices (see #155), but how can he since according to Leviticus 8-9 he is ensconced in the Tent of Meeting, and furthermore the whole Tabernacle facility is deemed holy for those 7 days.
Did the Israelites have meat to eat in the wilderness OR not? (Ex 12:38, 17:3, Lev 8-9; Num 32:1 vs Ex 16:2-3; Num 11:4-6)
Based on both the numerous commands to sacrifice animals and the reports of such sacrifices in Leviticus, it appears that the Israelites had plenty of domesticated animals to eat while they were in the wilderness:

14 He [Moses] led forward the bull of sin offering; and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the bull of sin offering, 15 and it was slaughtered.    (Leviticus 8:14-15)

18 Then he [Moses] brought forward the ram of burnt offering. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram, 19 and it was slaughtered.    (Leviticus 8:18-19)

22 Then he [Moses] brought forward the second ram, the ram of ordination. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram, 23 and it was slaughtered. Moses took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.     (Leviticus 8:22-23)

1 On the eighth day Moses summoned Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel. 2 He said to Aaron, “Take a bull calf for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, without blemish, and offer them before the Lord. 3 And say to the people of Israel, ‘Take a male goat for a sin offering; a calf and a lamb, yearlings without blemish, for a burnt offering; 4 and an ox and a ram for an offering of well-being to sacrifice before the Lord; and a grain offering mixed with oil. For today the Lord will appear to you.’”  (Leviticus 9:1-4)

But according to the book of Numbers, the Israelites had to go without eating meat in the wilderness:

4 The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; 6 but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”   (Numbers 11:4-6)

One might be tempted to explain away this apparent inconsistency by saying that the Israelites were exaggerating in their complaining: they did have some domesticated animals, but the quantity of animals was low and so they did not have many animals to spare.  However, it does appear that the circumstances portrayed in Leviticus in terms of domesticated animals are anachronistic:

One thing is certain, these are not the customs of the time in the desert, but rather, an entire code of conduct for priests and Levites who serve at the temple in Jerusalem. The sacrifices and offerings demanded for great feast days can only come from a farming people. The very size and types of sacrifices and festivals mentioned presuppose a large population raising many herds and crops in the promised land. (Reading the Old Testament by Lawrence Boadt, p.188)

So, even if the Israelites did have some domesticated animals with them in the wilderness and were able to eat some meat in the wilderness, they probably did not have enough domesticated animals with them to support all of the sacrifices that are described and required in the book of Leviticus.  This supports the view of most OT scholars that the book of Leviticus was written long after the time of Moses, when the Israelites had become established in the promised land.

The erection of the tabernacle and the Sacred vessels, as in Exodus 40:17–19; from the 1728 Figures de la Bible

Are sacrifices to Yahweh permitted on any altar OR only the altar before the Tabernacle? (Ex 20:24 vs Lev 1-9, 17)
Strictly speaking, this is a contradiction concerning what Jehovah said or did not say to Moses.  Such events are not ordinary historical events, since even if we had a videotape of Moses during the time he was “communicating” with Jehovah, the fact that there is no other person near Moses and that we hear no voice speaking to Moses would NOT prove that it is FALSE that Jehovah was communicating with Moses, since Jehovah is an invisible spirit and can presumably communicate telepathically to Moses.
However, these alleged communications from Jehovah to Moses presumably impacted the actions of Moses, and impacted what Moses would allow the Israelites to do in terms of the worship of Jehovah.  The actions of Moses, if Moses existed, and the actions of the Israelites in worshiping Jehovah would have been ordinary and observable historical events (if they actually occurred).  So, commands and laws communicated from Jehovah to Moses, would presumably have a direct impact on the actions of Moses and what Moses would tolerate in terms of the actions of the Israelites in their worship activities, which would be observable events.
According to Leviticus, animal sacrifices were only to be conducted at the tabernacle of the Lord and the priests (Aaron and his sons) must be involved in presenting the sacrifices:

1The Lord spoke to Moses:
2 Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the people of Israel and say to them: This is what the Lord has commanded. 3 If anyone of the house of Israel slaughters an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or slaughters it outside the camp, 4 and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, to present it as an offering to the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord, he shall be held guilty of bloodshed; he has shed blood, and he shall be cut off from the people. 5 This is in order that the people of Israel may bring their sacrifices that they offer in the open field, that they may bring them to the Lord, to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and offer them as sacrifices of well-being to the Lord. 6 The priest shall dash the blood against the altar of the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and turn the fat into smoke as a pleasing odor to the Lord, 7 so that they may no longer offer their sacrifices for goat-demons, to whom they prostitute  themselves. This shall be a statute forever to them throughout their generations.
8 And say to them further: Anyone of the house of Israel or of the aliens who reside among them who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice, 9 and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, to sacrifice it to the Lord, shall be cut off from the people.   (Leviticus 17:1-9)

According to a passage in Exodus, animal sacrifices did NOT need to be conducted at the tabernacle of the Lord, nor presented by official priests (i.e. Aaron and his sons):

22 The Lord said to Moses: Thus you shall say to the Israelites: “You have seen for yourselves that I spoke with you from heaven. 23 You shall not make gods of silver alongside me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. 24 You need make for me only an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your offerings of well-being, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.   (Exodus 20:22-24)

Strictly speaking, the contradiction here is between what Leviticus claims Jehovah said, and what Exodus claims Jehovah said.  The two statements attributed to Jehovah are inconsistent with each other.  As a skeptic, I view this as evidence that there was no Jehovah, and that both accounts are fictional stories.  But setting that aside, assuming that the stories are not entirely fictional, there is also the implication of two different practices in the worship of Jehovah.
Assuming that Moses actually existed, either Moses insisted that animal sacrifices be conducted at the tabernacle by official priests, or he did not.  The passage from Leviticus implies that he did, and the passage from Exodus implies that he did not. Those are contradictions about ordinary and observable historical events, assuming there was an actual Moses.  Thus, this contradiction between Leviticus and Exodus casts doubt on the historical accuracy and reliability of Leviticus.  
From the point of view of OT scholarship, the practice of animal sacrifice apart from a specific tabernacle or temple and apart from an official priesthood was the historical norm at the time of Moses, and the establishment of the more restrictive concept of worship described in Leviticus comes from an historical period centuries after the time of Moses.  The Exodus passage above is thus is closer to historical truth than the above passage from Leviticus.
Does Yahweh choose only the Aaronids as priests OR all the Levites? (Ex 28:1, 28:41, 29:1-9, 40:12-16; Lev 1-8; Num 3:1-9, 25:10-12 vs Deut 18:1-8)
Dr. DiMattei provides some helpful background for understanding this contradiction:

The redacted text of the Pentateuch as it now stands bears witness to an internecine rivalry that existed within the tribe of Levi, that is within the priesthood itself. At least two priestly groups that we know of wrote texts aimed at legitimating their right as sole officiating high priests and mediators to Yahweh. These two priestly schools and the texts they wrote have come to be identified as the pro-Aaronid Priestly source, whose main religious and cultic ideology is found in the books of Leviticus and Numbers, and the (rest of the) Levites whose religious views are found in the book of Deuteronomy, as well as a couple of passages from the Elohist source.

These two priestly schools—the Aaronids and the Levites—had vastly different and competing views on religion, the role of the cult and its priesthood, Yahweh, ethics, how sin was to be expiated, and Yahweh’s covenants… . More surprisingly however, is that both of these priestly schools wrote texts whose purpose was to legitimate their position and beliefs through the creation of archaized narratives that retrojected into the past their religious views and divine right to rule as high priests, expressed through the mouthpiece of their god Yahweh. These narrative creations served to legitimate and justify each guild’s claims.

[…]

It is difficult to know with certainty the history of the Levites since the literature produced by this guild has its own agenda. Nevertheless, 1 Kings 2:26-27 recounts how Solomon banished the Levites from Jerusalem. Additionally, the rest of the Deuteronomic history from Solomon to Hezekiah makes no mention of Levites as priests in Jerusalem. Yet with the Levite led Deuteronomistic reform under Josiah, a Levitical priesthood emerged or reemerged in Jerusalem. What we know is that the 7th century BC Deuteronomic literature presents the Levites as sole officiating priests at the centralized altar in Jerusalem. Deuteronomy 10:8-9 and 18:1-5 present Yahweh as choosing the Levites to serve him and to officiate his cult. This was also the case in the Golden Calf narrative penned by the Elohist.

Yet other texts now contained in the same Sinai material, namely those written from the opposing camp, the Aaronids, present Yahweh claiming just the opposite: only the Aaronids are priests (Ex 28:1, 28:41, 29:1-9, 40:12-16; Lev 1-8; Num 3:1-9, 25:10-12). And, more shockingly, the Levites are demoted to the role of mere ministers of the officiating Aaronid priesthood (Num 3:5-10, 16:8-11, 16:17, 18:1-7).

All of these passages from Numbers are written by the Aaronids, and not surprisingly present Yahweh declaring as an eternal covenant (25:19) that only Aaronid descendants may serve as priests and serve Yahweh at his altar. The Levites, on the other hand, are appointed to serve the Aaronid priests! But they cannot officiate over the cult, perform sacrifices, expiate sins, nor enter the Holy of Holies.

In Leviticus chapters 1 through 8, Jehovah specifically designates Aaron and his sons to be his official priests.  Here are a few passages from Leviticus:

If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you shall offer a male without blemish; you shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, for acceptance in your behalf before the LordYou shall lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be acceptable in your behalf as atonement for you. The bull shall be slaughtered before the Lord; and Aaron’s sons the priests shall offer the blood, dashing the blood against all sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. The burnt offering shall be flayed and cut up into its parts. The sons of the priest Aaron shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. (Leviticus 1:3-7)

10 If your gift for a burnt offering is from the flock, from the sheep or goats, your offering shall be a male without blemish. 11 It shall be slaughtered on the north side of the altar before the Lord, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall dash its blood against all sides of the altar. 12 It shall be cut up into its parts, with its head and its suet, and the priest shall arrange them on the wood that is on the fire on the altar;  (Leviticus 1:10-12)

 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Command Aaron and his sons, saying: This is the ritual of the burnt offering. The burnt offering itself shall remain on the hearth upon the altar all night until the morning, while the fire on the altar shall be kept burning. 10 The priest shall put on his linen vestments after putting on his linen undergarments next to his body; and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire has reduced the burnt offering on the altar, and place them beside the altar.  (Leviticus 6:8-10)

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take Aaron and his sons with him, the vestments, the anointing oil, the bull of sin offering, the two rams, and the basket of unleavened bread; and assemble the whole congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And Moses did as the Lord commanded him. When the congregation was assembled at the entrance of the tent of meeting, Moses said to the congregation, “This is what the Lord has commanded to be done.”  Then Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward, and washed them with water. He put the tunic on him, fastened the sash around him, clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod on him. He then put the decorated band of the ephod around him, tying the ephod to him with it. He placed the breastpiece on him, and in the breastpiece he put the Urim and the Thummim. And he set the turban on his head, and on the turban, in front, he set the golden ornament, the holy crown, as the Lord commanded Moses.  10 Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, and consecrated them. 11 He sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times, and anointed the altar and all its utensils, and the basin and its base, to consecrate them. 12 He poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him, to consecrate him. 13 And Moses brought forward Aaron’s sons, and clothed them with tunics, and fastened sashes around them, and tied headdresses on them, as the Lord commanded Moses.  (Leviticus 8:1-10)

But in Deuteronomy chapters 10 and 18, Jehovah designates the entire tribe of Levites to be his priests:

1 The levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no allotment or inheritance within Israel. They may eat the sacrifices that are the Lord’s portion 2 but they shall have no inheritance among the other members of the community; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them.
3 This shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those offering a sacrifice, whether an ox or a sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder, the two jowls, and the stomach. 4 The first fruits of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the first of the fleece of your sheep, you shall give him. 5 For the Lord your God has chosen Levi out of all your tribes, to stand and minister in the name of the Lord, him and his sons for all time.
6 If a Levite leaves any of your towns, from wherever he has been residing in Israel, and comes to the place that the Lord will choose (and he may come whenever he wishes), 7 then he may minister in the name of the Lord his God, like all his fellow-Levites who stand to minister there before the Lord. 8 They shall have equal portions to eat, even though they have income from the sale of family possessions.  (Deuteronomy 18:1-8)

 
CONCLUSION
There are dozens of contradictions between Leviticus and the other books in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament).  Nearly all of these contradictions cast doubt on the historical reliability of the book of Leviticus and also cast doubt on the historicity of the books of the Torah in general.
If the book of Leviticus is historically UNRELIABLE or if it contains a number of false or dubious historical claims and assumptions, then we can draw two conclusions: (1) we cannot rely on Leviticus to present accurate information about what Jehovah communicated to Moses (even if Jehovah actually existed and if Moses was an actual person), and (2) Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.  Both conclusions are good reasons to reject using the content of Leviticus as a basis for moral condemnation of homosexual sex.

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 8: False Historical Claims

WHERE WE ARE
In this present post I will support my fourth reason for doubting the view that we should condemn homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus:

4. Leviticus is NOT an historically reliable account of actual events.

God, if God exists, is all-knowing and perfectly good, so any book inspired by God would not contain false historical information, and clearly no book inspired by God would provide historical accounts of alleged events that never happened or highly unreliable accounts of historical events.
 
FOUR GENERAL OBJECTIONS TO THE RELIABILITY OF LEVITICUS
In this current post, I will present four general objections against the historical reliability of the book of Leviticus.  In the next post, I will present several more specific problems with historical claims made by Leviticus.
1. Moses is probably a legendary figure; there probably was no historical Moses (see Part 7 of this series). So, the 80 verses that refer to Moses in Leviticus are probably all fictional, not historical, and thus present false historical information.
But God, if God exists, is all-knowing and is perfectly good, so God would know that there was no historical Moses, and thus God would not communicate false historical information about a fictional character as if that character were an actual historical person. Thus, if Moses is fictional, then the book of Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.
2. There are 32 verses in Leviticus that contain the phrase “the LORD spoke to Moses” (in the New Revised Standard Version) and 3 verses that contain the phrase “the LORD said to Moses”.  Because many of these messages are false, evil, or morally wrong, they clearly did NOT come from God.
“LORD” is how the translators of the NRSV translate the name of God (i.e. Jehovah or Yahweh).  According to Exodus, Jehovah is the creator of the world:

…for in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore Jehovah blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.  (Exodus 20:11, American Standard Version)

Since Christians believe that Jehovah “made heaven and earth”, Jehovah must be God, from a Christian point of view. There is only ONE creator of the universe and that is God, so if Jehovah “made heaven and earth”, then to be logically consistent Christians must infer that Jehovah is God.
So, whenever Leviticus states that “Jehovah spoke to Moses” Christians take this to mean that “God spoke to Moses”. But it is clearly FALSE that God said the things that Leviticus claims “Jehovah spoke to Moses” because many of those thing are FALSE or EVIL or MORALLY WRONG (as we shall see in this post and in future posts). God is perfectly good and God is all-knowing, so God would not say things to Moses that were FALSE or EVIL or MORALLY WRONG.
If according to a passage in Leviticus Jehovah said something that was FALSE or EVIL or MORALLY WRONG to Moses, then either (a) that passage is itself FALSE, because it is not the case that Jehovah said that something to Moses, or else (b) that passage is TRUE, because Jehovah did in fact say that something to Moses. But if Jehovah did in fact say something FALSE or EVIL or MORALLY WRONG to Moses, then Jehovah must not be God. If Jehovah is NOT God, then Moses is a false prophet who did not receive messages from God, and we can ignore the book of Leviticus as being just another book containing messages from an ordinary human being who was NOT communicating messages from God.
On the other hand, if the passage from Leviticus that claims Jehovah said something to Moses is making a FALSE claim, because it is not the case that Jehovah said that something to Moses, then the book of Leviticus is providing false historical information about Moses and about messages allegedly received by Moses from Jehovah. In that case, we have good reason to doubt the historical reliability of Leviticus, especially concerning messages that Moses allegedly received from Jehovah.
The more such FALSE claims that Leviticus makes about messages that Moses allegedly received from Jehovah, the stronger our reason to conclude that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God (because God is all-knowing and perfectly good and so would not inspire a book full of false historical claims, especially concerning religious and moral issues), and that even if God had communicated important messages to Moses, Leviticus is an UNRELIABLE source to use to determine the content of those messages.
3. There are at least 11 verses in Leviticus that refer back to the Exodus out of Egypt: 11:45, 18:3, 19:34, 19:36, 22:33, 23:43, 25:38, 25:42, 25:55, 26:13, 26:45. But there probably was no Exodus out of Egypt (see Part 7 of this series), so these 11 verses are all probably making false historical claims.
Since these claims are all, or nearly all, statements made by Jehovah (according to Leviticus), that means that Jehovah is making false historical statements, according to Leviticus. So, either it is the case that Jehovah made these historical claims or it is not the case. If Jehovah made these claims, and the claims are false, then we must conclude that Jehovah is NOT God, because God is all-knowing and perfectly good, so God would not repeatedly make false historical claims. But if Jehovah is not God, then we must conclude that Moses was a false prophet and that we should ignore the commandments and teachings found in Leviticus.
On the other hand, if Jehovah did NOT make these historical claims, then the author of Leviticus has repeatedly put false claims into the mouth of Jehovah, claims that Jehovah never made, and this means that the book of Leviticus is highly UNRELIABLE, and we cannot trust that what this book claims to be messages from Jehovah were in fact messages from Jehovah.
In either case, it would be unreasonable to rely on Leviticus as a source of divine messages or divine commands.
4. Old Testament scholars generally agree that the practices of sacrifices made by priests that are spelled out in Leviticus are anachronistic, that they were NOT from the historical period of the time of Moses, but were from a later historical period. In that case, the book of Leviticus is entirely or almost entirely fictional.
The practices of sacrifices described in Leviticus do NOT fit with the circumstances of a nomadic tribe that was wandering in the desert:

One thing is certain, these are not the customs of the time in the desert, but rather, an entire code of conduct for priests and Levites who serve at the temple in Jerusalem. The sacrifices and offerings demanded for great feast days can only come from a farming people. The very size and types of sacrifices and festivals mentioned presuppose a large population raising many herds and crops in the promised land. (Reading the Old Testament by Lawrence Boadt, p.188)

Based on this view, the book of Leviticus is entirely, or almost entirely fictional.  This view is not limited to Lawrence Boadt, but is a widely held view among Old Testament scholars:

Thus a widespread scholarly view holds that the sacrifices detailed in Leviticus 1-16 were introduced only after the [Babylonian] exile, and that the stress in Leviticus on purity and atonement reflects the mood of the post-exilic community in Judah.  (The Old Testament World, 2nd edition, by Philip Davies and John Rogerson, p.152)

The Babylonian exile began 597 BCE, and “in 539 BCE exiled Judeans were permitted to return to Judah.”  ( “Babylonian captivity”  in Wikepedia).  Reasons for this view, according to Davies and Rogerson include:

  • “there is hardly any evidence in the Old Testament outside of passages such as Leviticus 1-16 that the sacrifices as prescribed were ever offered.” (The Old Testament World, p. 151)
  • “there is no reference to them [the regulations for sacrifices found in Leviticus] in other parts of the Old Testament.”  (The Old Testament World, p. 151)
  • “the very existence of the Tent of Meeting [where the initial sacrifices allegedly took place in Moses’ time] is problematical.”   (The Old Testament World, p. 151)
  • According to the Old Testament, Manoah, Saul, David, Solomon, and Elija “all offered sacrifices, whereas none of them was a priest.”   (The Old Testament World, p. 152)
  • These non-priestly sacrifices were “primarily burnt offerings” and there is no mention of “sin offerings” in those stories.   (The Old Testament World, p. 152)

In the textbook A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament (2nd edition), four OT scholars agree that

Scholars commonly conclude that these texts [the Priestly (P) tradition which was used by the author of Leviticus] reflect an exilic or post-exilic situation, though recent attempts at an earlier dating have been made.  Generally, these texts may reflect understandings and practices built up over the time of the first temple (957-587 BCE), but they were given decisive shape during the exile…with subsequent redactions likely. (A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament, 2nd edition, p. 131)

King Solomon dedicates the Temple at Jerusalem by James Tissot (or follower) c. 1896–1902

The “earlier dating” that they refer to was proposed by Jacob Milgrom. Although Milgrom argues for a pre-exile date for P, he agrees that Chapters 17-26 of Leviticus were based on the “Holiness Source” or H, and that H came from a priestly school that developed “at the end of the eighth century BCE.” (Leviticus: A Book of Ritual and Ethics, p.175).  So, Milgrom’s view is that Leviticus was composed sometime after 700 BCE, at least five centuries after the time of Moses.
Thus, based on the consensus of OT scholars, Leviticus was composed long after the time of Moses, and therefore is entirely or almost entirely fictional.  Therefore, the historical information in Leviticus is entirely or almost entirely FALSE, and it is thus an UNRELIABLE source of historical information.

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 7: Not Written by Moses

WHERE WE ARE
Should we view homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus?  In Part 1 of this series I outlined a dozen reasons to doubt this viewpoint.  Here is the first reason:

1. God does NOT exist, so no prophet and no book contains truth or wisdom from God. 

In Part 2 of this series I explained my reason for skepticism in general (i.e. CYNICISM), and I explained my reasons for skepticism about supernatural claims.  In this Part 3 of this series I explained my reasons for skepticism about religion.  In Part 4  and Part 5 of this series I presented my reasons for skepticism about the existence of God.
Here is my second reason for doubting the idea that we should view homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus:

2. Leviticus is NOT the inspired Word of God.  (Leviticus is just another book written by ignorant and imperfect human beings).

Since most of my dozen reasons provide support for this second reason,  I did not attempt to make a comprehensive case against the divine inspiration of the book of Leviticus in Part 6 of this series, but did provide some reasons to doubt that Leviticus contains a message from God.
In this present post I will support my third reason for doubting the view that we should condemn homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus:

3. Leviticus was NOT written or authored by Moses.

 
A. MOSES PROBABLY DID NOT EXIST
There probably was no such person as Moses, in which case NO BOOK has ever been written by Moses, including the book of Leviticus:

The modern scholarly consensus is that the figure of Moses is a mythical figure, and while, as William G. Dever writes, “a Moses-like figure may have existed somewhere in the southern Transjordan in the mid-late 13th century B.C.”, archaeology cannot confirm his existence. Certainly no Egyptian sources mention Moses or the events of Exodus–Deuteronomy, nor has any archaeological evidence been discovered in Egypt or the Sinai wilderness to support the story in which he is the central figure. …

Despite the imposing fame associated with Moses, no source mentions him until he emerges in texts associated with the Babylonian exile. [i.e. around 600 BCE]   (from the article “Moses” in Wikipedia)

One important reason for doubt about the existence of Moses is doubt about the historicity of two key events that are closely related to the life of Moses: the Exodus from Egypt and the Conquest of Canaan.

Moses with the Ten Commandments, by Rembrandt (1659)

According to the Old Testament, Moses led a rebellion of Hebrew slaves in Egypt. The Hebrew slaves left Egypt and headed for the “promised land” (Palestine) under the leadership of Moses (the Exodus from Egypt). When they finally arrived (four decades later) on the outskirts of the “promised land,” Moses passed his leadership role on to his protege Joshua, and Joshua then led the descendants of the Hebrew slaves to conquer (i.e. mercilessly slaughter) the peoples who had previously settled in the “promised land” (the Conquest of Canaan).
The problem here is that the historical and archaeological evidence does NOT support the story of the Exodus from Egypt, nor the story of the Conquest of Canaan.  Thus, two key historical events tied to Moses by the  Old Testament appear to be legends, to be fictional events:

The consensus of modern scholars is that the Bible does not give an accurate account of the origins of the Israelites, who appear instead to have formed as an entity in the central highlands of Canaan in the late second millennium BCE from the indigenous Canaanite culture.  Most modern scholars believe that the story of the Exodus has some historical basis, but that any such basis has little resemblance to the story told in the Bible.  (from the article “The Exodus” in Wikipedia)

The prevailing scholarly view is that Joshua [the OT book that describes the Conquest of Canaan] is not a factual account of historical events. The apparent setting of Joshua is the 13th century BCE which was a time of widespread city-destruction, but with a few exceptions…the destroyed cities are not the ones the Bible associates with Joshua, and the ones it does associate with him show little or no sign of even being occupied at the time.
[…]
There is a consensus that the Joshua traditions in the Pentateuch are secondary additions. The spy story of Numbers 13–14; Deut. 1:34–7, in an earlier form only mentioned Caleb. E. Meyer and G. Hoelscher deny Joshua’s existence as a historical reality and conclude that he is the legendary hero of a Josephite clan.
[…]
According to archaeologist Ann E. Killebrew, “Most scholars today accept that the majority of the conquest narratives in the book of Joshua are devoid of historical reality”.    (from the article “Book of Joshua” in Wikipedia)

Because both of these key events are closely connected to the life of Moses by the Old Testament, this gives us a good reason to believe that the life of Moses is also a legend, that the story of Moses is a fictional story, and that Moses did not exist.  If Moses did not exist, then, clearly, Moses did NOT write the book of Leviticus.
 
B. LEVITICUS WAS PROBABLY WRITTEN LONG AFTER MOSES 
Old Testament scholars agree that one of the sources of the Torah (the five books traditionally ascribed to Moses) is the “Priestly source”:

The Priestly source (or simply P) is perhaps the most widely recognized source underlying the Torah. It is both stylistically and theologically distinct from other material in the Torah, and includes a set of claims that are contradicted by non-Priestly passages and therefore uniquely characteristic: no sacrifice before the institution is ordained by Yahweh (God) at Sinai, the exalted status of Aaron and the priesthood, and the use of the divine title El Shaddai before God reveals his name to Moses, to name a few. In general, the Priestly work is concerned with priestly matters – ritual law, the origins of shrines and rituals, and genealogies – all expressed in a formal, repetitive style.  (from the article “Priestly source” in Wikipedia) 

Old Testament scholars agree that Leviticus was based on a source that they call “P” for “Priestly source”:

The entire composition of the book of Leviticus is Priestly literature. Most scholars see chapters 1–16 (the Priestly code) and chapters 17–26 (the Holiness code) as the work of two related schools, but while the Holiness material employs the same technical terms as the Priestly code, it broadens their meaning from pure ritual to the theological and moral, turning the ritual of the Priestly code into a model for the relationship of Israel to God… The ritual instructions in the Priestly code apparently grew from priests giving instruction and answering questions about ritual matters; the Holiness code (or H) used to be a separate document, later becoming part of Leviticus, but it seems better to think of the Holiness authors as editors who worked with the Priestly code and actually produced Leviticus as we now have it.   (from the article “Book of Leviticus” in Wikipedia)

And most Old Testament scholars date P to around the time of the Babylonian Exile:

Good cases have been made for both exilic and post-exilic composition, leading to the conclusion that it has at least two layers, spanning a broad time period of 571–486 BCE.   (from the article “Priestly source” in Wikipedia) 

In the last decades of the 20th century, some Jewish scholars have argued for an earlier date for P:

While most scholars consider P to be one of the latest strata of the Pentateuch, post-dating both J and D, since the 1970s a number of Jewish scholars have challenged this assumption, arguing for an early dating of the Priestly material. Avi Hurvitz, for example, has forcefully argued on linguistic grounds that P represents an earlier form of the Hebrew language than what is found in both Ezekiel and Deuteronomy, and therefore pre-dates both of them. These scholars often claim that the late-dating of P is due in large part to a Protestant bias in biblical studies which assumes that “priestly” and “ritualistic” material must represent a late degeneration of an earlier, “purer” faith. These arguments have not convinced the majority of scholars, however.   (from the article “Priestly source” in Wikipedia, emphasis added)

So, it appears that most protestant OT scholars date P to between 600 BCE and 400 BCE, but some Jewish scholars date P earlier, namely in the 1st Temple period:

The period in which the First Temple presumably, or actually, stood in Jerusalem, is known in academic literature as the First Temple period  (c.1000–586 BCE).  (from the article “Solomon’s Temple” in Wikipedia)

If there actually was an historical Moses, then he probably lived around 1250 BCE, so if the author of Leviticus used P as a source, and if P was written between 600 BCE and 400 BCE, as most OT scholars have concluded, then obviously Moses did NOT write Leviticus.
But what if P was written in the 1st Temple period, like some Jewish scholars argue?  In that case the earliest P could have been written would be about 1000 BCE, but that is still 250 years after the time of Moses.  So, even on the early dating of P, it is clear that Moses did NOT write Leviticus.
Furthermore, the chapters in Leviticus that we are most interested in are considered to be from a specific source within P called “the Holiness code”:

The Holiness Code is a term used in biblical criticism to refer to Leviticus  chapters 17–26, and is so called due to its highly repeated use of the word Holy (Hebrew: קדוש‎ qəḏōš). Critical biblical scholars have regarded it as a distinct unit and have noted that the style is noticeably different from the main body of Leviticus. Unlike the remainder of Leviticus, the many laws of the Holiness Code are expressed very closely packed together, and very  briefly.

According to most versions of the documentary hypothesis, the Holiness Code represents an earlier text that was edited and incorporated into the Priestly source and the Torah as a whole, although some scholars, such as Israel Knohl, believe the Holiness Code to be a later addition to the Priestly source. This source is often abbreviated as “H”.  A generally accepted date is  sometime in the seventh century BC, when it presumably originated among the priests in the Temple in Jerusalem.  (from the article “Holiness code” in Wikipedia, emphasis added)

Again, if the author of Leviticus used H as a source, and if this source did not come into existence until the 7th century BCE, then Moses did NOT write Leviticus.
 
C. OTHER BOOKS IN THE TORAH WERE PROBABLY NOT WRITTEN BY MOSES
The tradition that Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament is wrong concerning the other four books according to the consensus of Old Testament scholars, so the tradition claiming that all five books were written by Moses has no credibility.
The book of Deuteronomy was based on a source called D:

The Deuteronomist source is responsible for the core chapters (12-26) of Book of Deuteronomy, containing the Deuteronomic Code, and its composition is generally dated between the 7th and 5th centuries BCE.  More specifically, most scholars believe that D was composed during the late monarchic period, around the time of King Josiah, although some scholars have argued for a later date, either during the Babylonian captivity (597-539 BC) or during the Persian period (539-332 BC).  (from the article “Composition of the Torah” in Wikipedia)

So, Old Testament scholars agree that D was composed sometime between 640 BCE (the start of King Josiah’s reign) and 332 BCE (the end of the Persian period).  If Moses was an actual historical person, then he lived around 1250 BCE, hundreds of years before D came into existence.  Clearly, Moses did NOT write the book of Deuteronomy, based on the conclusions of OT scholars.
Genesis and Exodus both make use of the P source, and so like the book of Leviticus, they could not have been written before the P source came into existence.  Most protestant OT scholars date P to between 600 BCE and 400 BCE, but some Jewish scholars date P earlier, namely in the 1st Temple period (c.1000–586 BCE), in either case P did not exist until long after the time of Moses, so Moses could NOT have written either Genesis or Exodus.
What about Numbers? Both Exodus and Numbers make use of the Yahwist (J) source:

The Book of Exodus belongs in large part to the Yahwist, although it also contains significant Priestly interpolations.  The Book of Numbers also contains a substantial amount of Yahwist material, starting with Numbers 10–14.  (from the article “Composition of the Torah” in Wikipedia)

Traditionally, scholars viewed J as the earliest of the sources used in composing the Torah. It was believed to have come into existence in the Solomonic period (about 950 BCE).  That would be about 300 years after the time of Moses.  So, on this traditional view, Numbers and Exodus could NOT have been written by Moses.
More recently, some scholars have argued that J is from a later period of history:

Van Seters and Schmid both forcefully argued, to the satisfaction of most scholars, that the Yahwist source could not be dated to the Solomonic period (c. 950 BCE) as posited by the documentary hypothesis.  They instead dated J to the period of the Babylonian captivity (597-539 BCE), or the late monarchic period at the earliest.  (from the article “Composition of the Torah” in Wikipedia)

So, according to Van Seters and Schmid, the earliest date for J would be after about 850 BCE, and was more likely after 600 BCE.  Clearly even their earliest date for J would be 400 years after the time of Moses.
Whether we use the traditional date for J of around 950 BCE or the newer dating of after 600 BCE, it is clear that Moses did NOT write the book of Exodus and did NOT write the book of Numbers.
 
D. OLD TESTAMENT SCHOLARS REJECT MOSAIC AUTHORSHIP OF LEVITICUS 
Old Testament scholars agree that Leviticus was not written by Moses:

The composition of the Torah (or Pentateuch, the first five books of the bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) was a process that involved multiple authors over an extended period of time.  While Jewish tradition holds that all five books were originally written by Moses sometime in the 2nd millennium BCE, by the 17th century leading scholars had rejected Mosaic authorship.  (from the article “Composition of the Torah” in Wikipedia)

Given that Old Testament scholars also agree that Leviticus was not written by Moses, it is likely that Leviticus was NOT written by Moses.
CONCLUSION

  • Moses probably did not exist.  
  • Even if Moses did exist, Leviticus was probably written long after Moses.
  • According to Old Testament scholars, the four other books in the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) were NOT written by Moses.
  • According to Old Testament scholars Leviticus was NOT written by Moses.

Based on these facts, it is probably NOT the case that Moses wrote the book of Leviticus.

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 6: NOT a message from God

WHERE WE ARE
Should we view homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus?  In Part 1 of this series I outlined a dozen reasons to doubt this viewpoint.  Here is the first reason:

1. God does NOT exist, so no prophet and no book contains truth or wisdom from God. 

In Part 2 of this series I explained my reason for skepticism in general (i.e. CYNICISM), and I explained my reasons for skepticism about supernatural claims.  In this Part 3 of this series I explained my reasons for skepticism about religion.
In Part 4  and Part 5 of this series I presented my reasons for skepticism about the existence of God.
Here is my second reason for doubting the idea that we should view homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus:

2. Leviticus is NOT the inspired Word of God. (Leviticus is just another book written by ignorant and imperfect human beings).

Actually, most of my dozen reasons for doubt relate back to this one.  For example, my first reason was that God does not exist (or that we have good reasons to doubt that God exists).  If there is no God, then it follows logically that Leviticus is NOT the inspired Word of God.  If there is no God, then NOTHING is a message from God, because there is no God to send any message in the first place.
Since most of my dozen reasons provide support for this second reason,  I will not attempt to make a comprehensive case against the divine inspiration of the book of Leviticus in this current post.  My case against the inspiration of Leviticus will span several posts, as I continue to explain and defend reasons 3 through 8.  So, in this post I will briefly present a few reasons for doubting that the book of Leviticus was inspired by God.
LEVITICUS WAS NOT INSPIRED BY GOD IF MOSES WAS THE AUTHOR OF LEVITICUS
I don’t believe that Moses was the author of Leviticus, and neither do most Old Testament scholars.  However, conservative Catholics and conservative Evangelicals generally believe that Moses was the author of Leviticus.  So, this first argument is addressed to Christians who believe that Moses was the author of Leviticus:

1. Jehovah is NOT God.

2. Moses is a prophet of Jehovah.

3. Anyone who is a prophet of a someone other than God is a FALSE PROPHET.

THEREFORE:

4. Moses is a FALSE PROPHET.

5. Moses is the author of Leviticus.

6. No book authored by a FALSE PROPHET is the inspired Word of God.

THEREFORE:

7. Leviticus is NOT the inspired Word of God.

The only controversial premise here is premise (1), and I have already argued for this premise in Part 2 of this series:
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/08/18/leviticus-and-homosexuality-part-2-no-messages-from-god/
In short: Jehovah commanded the Israelites to MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTER every man, woman, teenager, child, and baby of the people who were already settled in the “promised land” (i.e. Palestine) in order to steal that land from those people.  Only a morally flawed person would give such an evil command, so Jehovah was a morally flawed person.  But God is a perfectly good person, so Jehovah cannot be God.  Premise (1) is clearly true.  So, if Moses was in fact the author of Leviticus, as stated in premise (5), then we must conclude that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.
 
LEVITICUS WAS NOT INSPIRED BY GOD BASED ON THE CONTENT OF LEVITICUS
Here is a high-level outline of the book of Leviticus:

I. Laws on sacrifice (1:1–7:38)
II. Institution of the priesthood (8:1–10:20)
III. Uncleanliness and its treatment (11:1–15:33)
IV. Day of Atonement: purification of the tabernacle from the effects of uncleanliness and sin (ch. 16)
V. Prescriptions for practical holiness (the Holiness Code, chs. 17–26)
VI. Redemption of votive gifts (ch. 27)

(from the article “Book of Leviticus” in Wikipedia)
So, clearly four big ideas in Leviticus are:

  • Sacrifices
  • Priesthood
  • Uncleanliness
  • Holiness

SACRIFICES AND PRIESTHOOD (Leviticus Chapters 1-10)
If there is no good reason for animal sacrifices, then there is also no good reason for the priesthood that is established in the book of Leviticus, because the primary job of the priests was to sacrifice animals.  So, my main focus here will be to argue that there was no good reason for the practice of animal sacrifices.
However, I will say a couple of things about the idea of a priesthood.  I was a conservative Evangelical Christian in my younger years, and I was a big fan of the Protestant Reformation, particularly the key theological principles of sola gratia (salvation is by God’s grace alone), sola fide (justification/forgiveness is by faith alone), and sola scriptura (the only authority in matters of faith and religion is the Bible).  I was also a fan of the protestant belief in “the priesthood of all believers”.  So, the idea of priests and bishops is one that STINKS for me, or at least it did when I was an Evangelical Christian.

Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio, c. 1603

Animal sacrifices are part of nearly every ancient religion.  Abraham practiced animal sacrifice long before Moses was born.  Lots of people from various tribes and cultures practiced animal sacrifice long before Moses was born.  Abraham didn’t need any priests to perform his animal sacrifices.  So, there is no reason why the ancient Israelites needed priests to perform animal sacrifices for them.  They could have done this for themselves, if there was some good reason for making animal sacrifices.
Having a priesthood basically removes thousands of able-bodied men from doing practical work that would benefit their people, like growing and harvesting crops, or raising and butchering animals, or baking bread, or making beer, or making useful items, like metal implements or clay pots.  A priesthood is a waste of potential workers who could perform useful practical tasks and help to complete important practical projects for their people.
The practice of having a priesthood teaches BAD THEOLOGY, because this practice implies that humans need to have an intermediary between themselves and God.  But according to Jesus and Christian theology, God is a loving “Father” to all human beings, and thus we ought to pray “Our Father who is in heaven…”.  Having a priesthood teaches people that God is a distant and frightening being whom ordinary humans ought not try to approach.  This is exactly the OPPOSITE of what Jesus taught.  So, the idea of a priesthood is BAD THEOLOGY from a Christian point of view.
The French atheist Denis Diderot (1713–1784) is often mistakenly* quoted as saying this about priesthood: 

Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

The basic idea is probably that religious institutions tend to provide support to powerful rulers and governments, whether those rulers or governments are good and just or are evil and unjust.
But there is also the suspicion that religions, especially religious institutions that include positions of religious authority, often abuse that authority, as for example, the world-wide sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests for the past century (and probably for most of the previous centuries) which was preserved by Catholic bishops who did everything they could to hide this fact from the public and to protect pedophile priests from being brought to justice, but who almost never lifted a finger to protect the children of Catholic believers from these pedophile priests.
Power corrupts, and hierarchies of power (like priests and bishops and popes) are clearly susceptible to unbelievable levels of corruption.  So, this is another reason for NOT establishing and maintaining a priesthood.  Give these men honest work on farms, and in manufacturing, and in business, and have them make actual practical contributions to their societies, instead of sucking off of hard-working fellow believers, or worse, assisting in the abuse and oppression of their fellow believers, as happened so often in the history of the Catholic Church, for example.
The priesthood established in Leviticus primarily performed tasks related to the practice of animal sacrifices.  So, if the practice of animal sacrifices was unnecessary or harmful, then there would be no good reason to establish a priesthood of the sort that Leviticus describes.
 
THE MORAL IMPERATIVE AGAINST ANIMAL SACRIFICES
The practice of animal sacrifices as described in Leviticus involves the deaths and killings of thousands of animals, and over many centuries, millions of animals.  Even if the lives of animals are not given the same value as the lives of humans, it is clearly wrong to kill an animal without having a good reason to do so, especially higher animals like birds and mammals.  The killing of thousands of animals every year is most definitely morally wrong if those animals are birds and mammals, and if there is no good reason for doing this killing.  This might not be equivalent to killing thousands of human beings, but the killing of such animals is still of moral significance and would be wrong apart from having a good reason for doing that much killing.
So, it is morally wrong to institute the practice of animal sacrifices if this will involve the killing of thousands of birds and mammals each year, UNLESS there is a good reason for having and maintaining the practice of animal sacrifices. If there is no good reason for the practice of animal sacrifices, then a perfectly good being would NOT issue commands to institute the practice of animal sacrifices when this would involve the killing of thousands of birds and mammals each year.  I will argue that there is no such good reason, and thus that a perfectly good being would NOT issue commands to institute the practice of animal sacrifice as described in Leviticus, and thus that the book of Leviticus is NOT a message from God.
 
ANIMAL SACRIFICES NOT NECESSARY FOR MAINTENANCE OF A RELIGION
1. The sacrifice of animals is NOT necessary for the maintenance of a religion.  Judaism began after animal sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem ended, and Judaism has persisted for 2,000 years without the need of animal sacrifices, and Christianity has also persisted for 2,000 years without the need of animal sacrifices.
 
THE PRACTICE OF ANIMAL SACRIFICES TEACHES BAD THEOLOGY
2. If Jesus died for the sins of all humankind, including the sins of the ancient Israelites, then the practice of sacrificing of animals teaches BAD THEOLOGY.  This practice implies that the deaths of animals were required in order for God to forgive the sins of the ancient Israelites, which is FALSE.  Only the death of Jesus was required for the forgiveness of sins, according to Christian theology. Also, since the sacrifice of animals was NOT necessary in order for God to forgive the sins of ancient Israelites, the forgiveness of sins is another invalid reason for instituting the practice of animal sacrifices.
3. If salvation is by the GRACE of God ALONE, then the practice of animal sacrifices teaches BAD THEOLOGY.   This practice implies that humans can by meritorious actions obtain God’s favor and forgiveness.  Giving a cherished or valuable animal to God and/or to God’s priests is clearly analogous to giving a present to a king or ruler to curry favor with that king or ruler.  But according to Christian theology, human beings are not capable of meriting God’s forgiveness and salvation.  So,  giving people a way to obtain God’s favor or forgiveness is another INVALID reason for instituting the practice of animal sacrifices.
4. If God is IMPASSIBLE, as Thomists insist, then the practice of animal sacrifices teaches BAD THEOLOGY.   This practice implies that humans can by their actions influence God’s feelings, attitude, or decisions.  But if human actions can influence God’s feelings, attitude, or decisions, then God is subject to the same sort of weaknesses and influences as humans who have feelings and desires. (I disagree with Thomists on this point, but the person who replied to my objections against Leviticus concerning homosexuality appears to be a Thomist).
5. If God is OMNIPOTENT, as nearly all Christians, Jews, and Muslims agree, then the practice of animal sacrifices teaches BAD THEOLOGY.  This practice implies that humans can by their actions influence Jehovah, which implies that humans have power over Jehovah.  If humans can influence Jehovah’s feelings, attitude, or decisions by performing ritual actions, such as the sacrifice of an animal, then Jehovah is subject to human power and influence and cannot be omnipotent, and thus Jehovah would NOT be God, and thus Leviticus would NOT be inspired by God.  Since the actions of humans cannot influence God’s feelings, attitude, or decisions, the desire to please and influence God is another invalid reason for instituting the practice of animal sacrifices.
6. If God is SELF-SUFFICIENT, as nearly all Christians believe, then the practice of animal sacrifices teaches BAD THEOLOGY.  This practice implies that humans can by their actions cause Jehovah to be happy or pleased, or deprive Jehovah of something that would cause Jehovah to be happy or pleased.   If we humans can make Jehovah happy or pleased by performing animal sacrifices, then this implies that Jehovah wants and desires that humans perform such actions, and that by failing to perform such actions we can deprive Jehovah of some potential satisfaction and happiness.  But in that case Jehovah would NOT be self-sufficient, and thus would NOT be God.  Thus, Leviticus would NOT be inspired by God.  Also, since animal sacrifices are not capable of causing God to be happy or pleased, this is another invalid reason for instituting the practice of animal sacrifices.
7. If God is PERFECTLY JUST, as nearly all Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe, then the practice of animal sacrifices teaches BAD THEOLOGY.   This practice implies that Jehovah is willing to inflict the punishment for human sins on an innocent animal who did not chose to sin or to disobey Jehovah.  It is manifestly unjust to kill an animal in order to prevent and eliminate the punishment that a human deserved for some sin or crime.  Thus, if Jehovah inspired the commands concerning the practice of animal sacrifice found in Leviticus, then Jehovah is clearly unjust and thus Jehovah is NOT God, and thus Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.  Since animal sacrifices do not constitute a fair and just way for the ancient Israelites to obtain forgiveness for their sins or crimes, this is another invalid reason for instituting the practice of animal sacrifices.
The term “scapegoat” originates from the book of Leviticus  (click on image below for a clearer view of the definitions):

(These definitions of “scapegoat” are from Dictionary.com.)
Making a person or group bear the blame for others or suffer in their place is clearly UNFAIR and UNJUST.  Doing the same thing to an animal is also clearly morally wrong.  This is NOT something that a perfectly good deity would promote or encourage.
 
CONCLUSION
If, as many conservative Catholics and conservative Evangelicals believe, Moses was the author of Leviticus, then we must conclude that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God, because Moses was a prophet of Jehovah, and Jehovah is clearly NOT God.
However, setting aside the question of the authorship of Leviticus, the CONTENT of Leviticus also gives us a good reason to believe that this book was NOT inspired by God.
I am not aware of any good reason for establishing the practice of animal sacrifices, especially if the practice clearly involved the killing of thousands of birds and mammals each year, potentially for many centuries.
However, there are plenty of good reasons AGAINST the practice of animal sacrifice, at least from a Christian point of view, and there are some good reasons AGAINST the practice of animal sacrifice from a Jewish and Muslim point of view as well.  The practice of animal sacrifices teaches many FALSE ideas about God, from a Christian point of view, and teaches some FALSE ideas about God from a Jewish or Muslim point of view.
Given the moral imperative that the practice of animal sacrifices as described in Leviticus are morally wrong UNLESS there is a good reason for establishing the practice of such animal sacrifices, and given that there appears to be no good reason for establishing this practice, and we have a number of good reason AGAINST the establishment of the practice of animal sacrifices as described in Leviticus, making it even more unlikely that there is good reason for establishing this practice,  it was morally wrong to issue the commands found in Leviticus concerning the practice of animal sacrifices, and thus Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.
Given that there is no good reason to establish the practice of animal sacrifices, there was also no good reason to establish the priesthood as described in Leviticus.  Furthermore, there also appear to be some good reasons AGAINST the establishment of the sort of priesthood described in Leviticus, making it even more unlikely that there is sufficient reason for establishing the sort of priesthood that is described in Leviticus.  Thus, we have another good reason to believe that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.
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*Meslier [the atheist‐​priest Jean Meslier] repudiated the doctrine of passive obedience unequivocally. Throughout the Testament he endorsed violent resistance against tyrannical rulers and their unjust actions. Indeed, in Chapter 2 we find the first formulation of a saying that has commonly been attributed to the French atheist Denis Diderot (1713–1784): “Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” This is not how Meslier worded the sentiment, nor did he take credit for the idea. Rather, Meslier attributed the sentiment to a common Frenchman “who had no culture or education.”  (from: “Smith explains Meslier’s three major objections to Christian morality, as taught by Jesus.” by George H. Smith)
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UPDATE ON 9/9/2020

CLARIFICATION OF THE PHRASE “BAD THEOLOGY”:
One sort of BAD THEOLOGY is logically self-contradictory claims about God.
“God, if God exists, does not know how many hairs there are on my head.” This is BAD THEOLOGY, in that in the ordinary sense of the word “God”, someone is “God” only if that person is omniscient. So, there is a logical self-contradiction in that sentence. Similarly, the sentence “God, if God exists, has a master plan in which billions of human beings will end up being tormented in hell for all eternity” is BAD THEOLOGY, because in the ordinary sense of the word “God”, someone is “God” only if that person is perfectly morally good, but a person who plans for billions of human beings to be tormented in hell for all eternity is clearly NOT a perfectly morally good person.
Another sort of BAD THEOLOGY is claims about God that contradict one’s own basic theological beliefs. Here the “badness” is relative to a point of view (unlike the badness of a logical self-contradiction which is objectively and universally bad). Jesus clearly taught (according to the Gospels) that we should view God as our “heavenly Father”, as a person who loves and cares about the welfare of each and every human being. So to claim that “God is a terrible and wrathful person whom you must only approach through an intermediary, like a priest” is to contradict a basic teaching of Jesus. From a Christian point of view, claims about God that contradict a basic teaching of Jesus constitute BAD THEOLOGY and thus should be rejected.
Of course, what counts as BAD THEOLOGY from a Christian point of view does not necessarily count as BAD THEOLOGY from the point of view of another religion, like Islam or Buddhism. But the argument against homosexual sex based on the book of Leviticus is primarily a Christian argument (although it could also be a Jewish argument). So, when I argue that Leviticus teaches BAD THEOLOGY in relation to a Christian point of view, I am using the beliefs and assumptions of the people who are presenting the argument against homosexual sex based on Leviticus.
Some of my objections in this post present a DILEMMA to Christian believers. For example:
1. Either you accept the basic teachings of Jesus about God (as presented in the Gospels) or not.
2. If you accept the basic teachings of Jesus about God (as presented in the Gospels), then you must reject the practice of animal sacrifices as teaching BAD THEOLOGY.
3. If you reject the practice of animal sacrifices as teaching BAD THEOLOGY, then you must also (to be logically consistent) reject the view that the book of Leviticus was inspired by God.
4. If you do NOT accept the basic teachings of Jesus about God (as presented in the Gospels), then you must also (to be logically consistent) reject the basic Christian beliefs that Jesus was a true prophet and that Jesus was the divine Son of God and savior of mankind.
In short, the DILEMMA is this:
5. You can either remain a Christian believer and reject the inspiration of Leviticus OR you can reject the Christian religion as FALSE.

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 9: Enhanced 2nd Argument for Changing Things

WHERE WE ARE
In his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler presents his general version of a Thomist Cosmological Argument (hereafter: TCA).  The first premise of Geisler’s TCA is this:

1. Finite, changing things exist.  (WSA, p.18)

Geisler provides a very brief argument in support of (1) in WSA.  In Part 4 of this series I showed that Geisler’s brief argument in support of (1) was a stinking philosophical TURD.  It FAILS utterly and completely to support ANY part of premise (1).
In Part 5 of this series I clarified and analyzed a longer and more sophisticated  argument by Geisler in support of just one part of premise (1) of TCA, an argument that is found in his much older book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: PoR).  This longer argument only supports the simple (and obviously true) claim that “Something exists”.  In Part 6 of this series, I argued that this longer argument by Geisler FAILS.
In Part 7 of this series, I analyzed and evaluated Geisler’s first argument in PoR for the following claim:

21. Changing things exist.

I concluded that this first argument in PoR for (21) FAILS.
In Part 8 of this series, I analyzed Geisler’s second argument for claim (21), and then I began to evaluate the argument.  But I repeatedly ran into problems with the argument, problems that could be fixed by making an unstated assumption explicit, or by clarifying the meaning of a premise, or by modifying a premise in order to make an inference in the argument logically valid.  I ended up adding a number of premises, and modifying the statement of each of the original premises.
Because I have revised each of the three premises that Geisler provided in order to clarify them or to make the logical inferences valid, and because I have had to add five different unstated assumptions, also in order to make the logical inferences in this argument valid, it is no longer clear that this is Geisler’s argument.  My thought, effort, and skills have gone into the construction of this argument, and it is significantly different from the argument that we started with.  So, even if this turns out to be a solid deductive argument, that will not show that Geisler’s original argument was a solid deductive argument.
It is clear that Geisler’s second argument as originally stated was NOT a SOUND deductive argument, and that it FAILED as a deductively valid proof of the conclusion.  But the enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument might turn out to be a solid proof, so I will go ahead and evaluate this enhanced 2nd argument in this post.
 
THE ENHANCED 2ND ARGUMENT FOR CHANGING THINGS
Here is the core of the enhanced 2nd argument in PoR:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

33e. IF two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now, THEN changing things exist right now.

THEREFORE:

21a. Changing things exist right now.

Here is the argument in support of premise (A1):

C. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced in the past about myself is real, and myself still exists right now.

D. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced in the past about the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

E. Myself is a thing and the world is a thing.

F. It is NOT the case that the world and myself are the same thing.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

Premises (C) and (D) are supported by an explicit premise:

32b. Total illusion about myself is impossible and total illusion about the world is impossible.

Based on the above analysis, we can show the structure of this argument:
PROBLEMS WITH PRONOUNS
Although I have made a sincere effort to clarify and enhance Geisler’s argument, to take his FAILED argument and try to turn it into a clear and logically valid argument, there are still some serious problems of unclarity,  because of the use of pronouns:  “I” and “myself”.  All by themselves, pronouns don’t have a specific meaning; they don’t specify a particular thing, a particular person, a particular group, or a particular collection of things.
Because pronouns, on their own, don’t have a specific meaning, each pronoun in an argument MUST be interpreted BEFORE one can evaluate the truth of a premise or claim that is stated using a pronoun.  So, no serious philosophical argument should contain any pronouns.  In order to formulate a clear and serious philosophical argument, one must eliminate all pronouns in the statement of the argument by substituting a proper name or a clear description of the thing, person, group, or collection to which the pronoun is referring.
Perhaps “I” refers to the author of the argument, Norman Geisler:

C1. At least ONE change that Norman Geisler seems to have experienced in the past to Norman Geisler’s self is real, and Norman Geisler’s self still exists right now.

D1. At least ONE change that Norman Geisler seems to have experienced in the past to the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

E1. Norman Geisler’s self is a thing and the world is a thing.

F1. It is NOT the case that the world and Norman Geisler’s self are the same thing.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

I just noticed that the argument supporting (C1) and (D1) is incomplete.  There are additional unstated premises that need to be made explicit:

G1. Norman Geisler seems to have experienced many different changes in the past to Norman Geisler’s self.

H1. Norman Geisler’s self still exists right now.

32c. Total illusion about Norman Geisler’s self is impossible and total illusion about the world is impossible.

THEREFORE:

C1. At least ONE change that Norman Geisler seems to have experienced in the past to Norman Geisler’s self is real, and Norman Geisler’s self still exists right now.

I believe that Geisler exists.  I believe that he has had various experiences over many years.  But I’m NOT certain that Norman Geisler exists, nor am I certain that the person who claims to be Norman Geisler is in fact Norman Geisler, nor am I certain that the person who claims to be Norman Geisler has had various experiences over many years (because I cannot get inside of someone else’s mind).  So, although I am inclined to believe that (G1) is true, this claim is NOT self-evident, nor is it certain.  In any case,  premise (G1) is LESS CERTAIN than the ultimate conclusion of this argument:

21a. Changing things exist right now.

So, this argument FAILS.
There is a second problem that I see here with this sub-argument for (C1).  Suppose that one of Geisler’s early experiences of his “self” was accurate.  Perhaps he experienced in himself an antipathy towards solving mathematical word problems.  Suppose this experience was accurate, and that he did in fact have a strong antipathy towards solving mathematical word problems.   Suppose that at a later point in time, Geisler experiences what seems to be a change in himself, namely that he no longer has antipathy towards solving mathematical word problems, or at least has nowhere near the strong antipathy that he used to have.  Suppose further that this seeming experience of a change in his self is a delusion, and that he in fact has just as much antipathy towards solving word problems now as he ever had in the past.  In this case Geisler’s initial perception of himself was accurate and correct, but his later perception of a change in himself was false and incorrect.
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_problem_(mathematics_education)
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In this case we can say that his experience of himself is NOT a “total illusion” because his initial perception of himself was accurate and correct.  However, his seeming experience of a CHANGE in himself was false and incorrect.  No such CHANGE took place.  But now, suppose that EVERY CHANGE that Geisler has experienced concerning himself was similarly false and incorrect.  In that case, his experiences of himself would NOT be a “total illusion” because his initial perceptions of himself would be accurate and correct, but EVERY CHANGE that he has seemed to experience to himself is false and incorrect, and in fact no change that he seems to have experienced actually took place.
What this shows is that the inference from (G1) and (32c) to (C1) is LOGICALLY INVALID, in spite of my efforts to enhance the argument, to make Geisler’s argument logically valid.  Even if “total illusion” is ruled out, there is still the possibility that NO CHANGE experienced by Geisler about himself was an actual event.
So, there are at least two problems with this sub-argument.  First, premise (G1) is neither self-evident nor certain, and is less certain than the ultimate conclusion it is supposed to be supporting.  Second, the inference from (G1) and (32c) to (C1) is logically invalid.  The same objections apply to the parallel sub-argument for premise (D1).  So, we now have four different significant problems with this argument.
Furthermore, premise (E1) is problematic as well:

E1. Norman Geisler’s self is a thing and the world is a thing.

Although I believe that Norman Geisler exists, I am NOT certain that Norman Geisler exists, and I am even less certain that Norman Geisler’s “self” exists.  Furthermore, since I’m not sure what it means for Geisler’s “self” to exist, I am very uncertain that it is appropriate to categorize his “self” as  “a thing”.
Finally, this is an argument based on the thinking of Aquinas, and Aquinas had a very specific idea of what constitutes “a thing”, so it might well be the case that the phrase “a thing” here has a very particular meaning, which Geisler has failed to specify.   For these reasons, I am reluctant to agree with the first half of premise (E1), and I most definitely don’t KNOW (E1) to be true.
The phrase “the world” is not as vague and unclear as “self”, but it is not entirely clear what this means.  I also have the same concerns about the meaning of the phrase “a thing” in the second half of (E1) as with the first half of (E1).
So, without Geisler providing a good deal more in the way of clarifications or definitions, premise (E1) seems rather dubious.  These concerns also apply to premise (F1).
What if the pronouns “I” and “myself” in this argument do NOT refer to Norman Geisler?  Perhaps, they refer to whoever the reader happens to be, like ME:

C2. At least ONE change that Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced in the past to Bradley Bowen’s self is real, and Bradley Bowen’s self still exists right now.

D2. At least ONE change that Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced in the past to the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

E2. Bradley Bowen’s self is a thing and the world is a thing.

F2. It is NOT the case that the world and Bradley Bowen’s self are the same thing.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

This interpretation does help with the degree of certainty I have about a premise in a sub-argument for (C2):

G2. Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced many different changes in the past to Bradley Bowen’s self.

H2. Bradley Bowen’s self still exists right now.

32c. Total illusion about Bradley Bowen’s self is impossible and total illusion about the world is impossible.

THEREFORE:

C2. At least ONE change that Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced in the past to Bradley Bowen’s self is real, and Bradley Bowen’s self still exists right now.

I am more confident and certain about (G2) than I was about the analogous premise about Norman Geisler.  I am more certain that I exist, and that I have had experiences about myself.  But there is a problem with making the argument about me as opposed to about Geisler.
Geisler, so far as I am aware, does not know that I exist.  Even if he does have some small awareness about my existence, he surely is NOT certain that I exist.  So, this argument cannot be what Geisler had in mind, since he either doesn’t know that I exist, or has only a modest and uncertain belief that I exist.  Geisler is in no position to confidently assert premise (G2) to be true and certain.  So, this is NOT a plausible interpretation of Geisler’s argument.
Furthermore, although premise (G2) has the advantage of being more certain to ME than premise (G1), the argument still has all of the other serious problems that I have pointed out above.  Changing the focus from Norman Geisler to Bradley Bowen doesn’t help with any of the other objections that I have raised.
 
CONCLUSION
Geisler’s second argument for (21a) FAILS.
I have made a serious attempt to repair Geisler’s unclear and logically invalid argument, but although I made several significant improvements to his argument, it still has a number of unclear and dubious premises, and some invalid inferences in the sub-arguments for key premises.  Even the significantly enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument for the claim that “Changing things exist right now.” clearly FAILS.