May 4, 2014

Consider the trout lilies of the peninsula...



... they neither Google nor blog. But sometimes the conversation takes a turn that requires a BibleGateway search, and I said, "I'm going to sit down on this rock until I attain enlightenment"...



Look at the birds of Lake Mendota. They neither sow nor reap. They can barely keep awake.



But "lilies" was not the word I needed to sit down and search for out there on Picnic Point. It is the word I searched for the quote I tormented above.

The word I searched for out there arose from a discussion of that post from 2 days ago, "What Was the Last Piece of Music that Gave You the Chills?" In the comments, Meade had cited "O Holy Night" as played by The Gourds, and listening to that, I had noticed a word in a 5-word phrase in the song that I think I had always misheard.

Hearing it straight got me thinking the song was presenting Christianity as a self-esteem program. The word I'd been mishearing all my life is the 4th word in the 5-word phrase, and the word I wanted to look up was the 2nd word in the phrase, which we were talking about, and I wanted to know if Jesus used it, and if so, how.

What was the 5-word phrase? What was the misheard word and why did hearing it right lead to a conversation about self-esteem? What was the word Althouse looked up while sitting on the rock? How did Jesus use it and what light does knowing the answer shed on the subject of Christianity and self-esteem and the real intent of the lyrics to "O Holy Night"?

(I'm referring to the John Sullivan Dwight version of the lyrics, not the literal translation from the French, which is different in many ways. The literal translation lacks the self-esteem concept, and has something that the John Sullivan Dwight version lacks: the wrath of God.)

67 comments:

sean said...

The soul felt its worth.

Ann Althouse said...

You are correct, Sean.

sean said...

How did you mishear it?

Ann Althouse said...

"How did you mishear it?"

First, keep in mind that I'd never spent any time contemplating that particular line in any depth. There are much more distracting lines, notably the command "Fall on your knees!" And there are the extremely agitating high notes near the end.

But I'd always assumed I was hearing "The soul felt his worth," referring to Jesus. Something about the phrasing in The Gourds' version made me notice that "the soul" was, because Christ was born, able to feel its own worth.

We had a long conversation about that, with me saying Jesus's ability to cause souls to feel their worth (presumably a high worth!) was like the idea of inspiring greater self-esteem.

This led to a discussion of whether it was right to equate "self" with "soul," and I wanted to see how Jesus used the word and found 3 distinctive uses of the word by Jesus. Also Mary uses the word very conspicuously.

At home on the laptop, I see a 4th use of "soul" by Jesus. So I think there are 4.

Freeman Hunt said...

The soul felt its worth. And darn, I see it's already been figured. You misheard it as "His."

Freeman Hunt said...

Oh sheesh, now I read farther and see you already said that.

I knew because that's what I always assumed it said until I saw the words printed one day.

Freeman Hunt said...

I don't like that line because I don't think it is accurate. I think its sloppy. There are lots of theologically sloppy lines in hymns.

Ann Althouse said...

"There are lots of theologically sloppy lines in hymns."

I know!

You'd think these things would be gone over more carefully, since people memorize them and sing them with a great deal of commitment, trying to influence other people with extremely sincerely expressed sentiments.

It's weirdly like a love song… maybe "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You."

Kieth Nissen said...

The melody is so beautiful that I probably never tried to understand the lyrics but, if I did, what I likely heard was "his soul fell to earth"… which is kind of nice. Way too contemporary.

YoungHegelian said...

From the Wikipedia article: To celebrate the event, the parish priest asked Cappeau, native from this town, to write a Christmas poem. Cappeau did it, although being a professed anticlerical and atheist.

I gotta say that, for an atheist, Cappeau seemed to have listened well as a boy in catechism class. The first verse is as well done an encapsulation of the doctrine of the Atonement as one could hope for.

In eight years of Catholic primary & middle school, I sang all these Christmas carols to death, in multiple languages. Matter of fact, it was my French mother who taught the classes how to sing the original French version of Angels we have heard on high. As I age now into old white fartdom, I have decided that the classic Christmas carols are so much nicer in the original languages. Often for the reason Prof Althouse highlights: the original texts are often of a more "muscular" theological nature than the translations.

Ron said...

Trying to obtain enlightenment with a Heisenberg hat? Hmmm...

Crunchy Frog said...

You're missing the subject of the sentence, which comes from the line before - "Long lay the world..." - and is what the "it" refers to.

It's a John 3:16 reference.

m stone said...

The soul felt its worth.

The soul is commonly understood to be our personality. It is what makes us (wo)man. We also have a spirit given to us by God, and of course, a body. There is a verse, 5:23 in 1 Thessalonians that mentions the three entities.

I see no reason why our soul can feel its worth, especially in the light of God's presence or touch.

Freeman Hunt said...

"I think its sloppy."

Just like typing in blog comments. Ha!

Yes, every time I encounter a sloppy line in church, I immediately stop singing, look at my husband to see if he noticed the same thing, and start reading more closely.

Mountain Maven said...

I don't know the history of this great hymn. A lot of lyrics of old songs are misunderstood because the meanings of words and phrases change over time.

As a great preacher once said: "We don't need self-esteem, we need 'God-esteem.'"

Lydia said...

John Sullivan Dwight was a Boston-bred Unitarian minister and transcendentalist.

The French version with its “stain of original sin” and “wrath of His Father” must have given him the heebie-jeebies.

And “the soul felt its worth” is right in line with Ralph Waldo Emerson and his idea of a Divine Soul which inspires and fills each and every one of us.

Illuninati said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

@Crunchy Frog You're contending that Jesus caused souls to feel the worth of the world?

That's awful grammatically, since "world" is so far from "its." The normal assumption would be that "its" refers to soul.

But both "soul" and "world" are troublesome. Both would seem to refer to the human beings who exist in the world, who are supposed to have "worth" even as they are getting referred to collectively.

I like the idea that Christianity furthers the perception of human beings as worthy individually.

Illuninati said...

Illuminati said:

"Long lay the world in sin and error pining,'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn."

I would argue that the theology here is profound and completely accurate. One of the most important contributions Jesus made to the World was to elevate the value of each individual human. Life was cheap in the Pagan Roman empire where babies were regularly thrown out on the trash dump to die (similar to partial birth abortions). Slaves were individuals who had no civil rights and were valued only to the extent that they were useful to other people. If the master wished he could torture the slave or kill the slave without any consequences.

Modern materialism has also devalued human life since a life is only matter in motion and nothing else. Collectivists such as the Fascists, Nazis, and Communists (including modern leftists)strip humans of moral freedom and whose only value is as part of a political group. Since collectivists have stripped humans of their moral freedom they believe that it is their right to manipulate and program humans just as one would manipulate and program a computer. This is why the collectivist utopias are always hell on earth for the individuals who are forced to live under the system while it is indeed paradise to the psychopaths who rule over the system.

Jesus is the one who combined material humanity with spiritual divinity and by his death he elevated each individual to a priceless treasure. Each person has value in himself as an individual regardless of what group he may or may not belong to. That individual human value even for people of a different race who had been degraded by slavery was the moral motivation for the abolition movement.

The value of each human soul leads naturally to the following phrase close to the end of the song:
“Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease. “

DKWalser said...

Without Christ's birth (and His subsequent great redemptive work), our souls would all belong to the Adversary and would have been consigned to Hell, having no worth. It is only through Him that our souls do have worth; thanks to Him they are of great worth.

Bill R said...

Is that a camo granny dress?

Very impressive.

Big Mike said...

@Althouse, the Wiki article you linked to says John Sullivan Dwight was a Unitarian, so he was only technically a Christian. Dwight's Unitarian leanings may be why the wrath of God is lacking in Dwight's version and a grace note towards self-esteem is there instead.

Big Mike said...

Interesting skirt -- sort of like a camo pattern.

Crunchy Frog said...

I like the idea that Christianity furthers the perception of human beings as worthy individually.

Well, God certainly considers us worth saving, so I will defer to his better judgment.

As far as "the soul felt its worth" goes, I do believe the world is the "it", and that the line describes how the collective consciousness is impacted by the knowledge of just how big of a sacrifice was made on our behalf.

Granted, it is up for interpretation. It's awful hard to sausage important theological concepts into a pre-existing melody (or even one on the fly). Songwriting is hard work, you see.

rhhardin said...

Little Zooks, of whom no one was fond,
They shot towards the roof and beyond,
The infant’s trajectory passed him over the rectory
And into the lily-chocked pond.

sean said...

I suspect that Lydia has it right: Dwight, being a Unitarian, found the original lyrics troubling and toned them down. In contrast, if Cappeau was an atheist, these were matters of complete indifference to him, and he had no problem producing a work of theological orthodoxy.

In the same way, it would be easy for me to write an essay in a classical Marxist mode, but very difficult for (say) Michael Harrington. (I have to mention someone from Prof. Althouse's and my youth, since I don't think there are any sincere humanist Marxists still living, although maybe there are some among Prof. Althouse's university colleagues.)

Freeman Hunt said...

Dwight's version also leaves out this idea:

O mighty ones of today, proud of your greatness,
It is to your pride that God preaches.
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!


Now I am going to be extra annoyed whenever I hear this hymn, knowing how much better a literal translation would be.

traditionalguy said...

Your puzzle had to be about that worth line...but 4th of the 5 words is "its" instead of "worth." Then Freeman saw it. "its worth" instead of "His worth."

That is the key point between Paul's version of Christianity that says Jesus' s sacrifice of his life and the Father's resurrection of The Lamb of God is a finished, final and total justification of the born again souls. Thus Paul eliminated works based religion that left man with something else to do or fail at doing for himself.

The soul's self worth comes from believing the Apostle Paul's gospel that Jesus finished our soul's atonement once and for all. Without that good news, the Christian is left in uncertainty weighing and his life's sins and good works in a never ending balance...which is what Mohammed does and also what creates a golden flow for Priest's in churches that sell the sacraments and penances game.

That rediscovery of Paul and St. Augustine's Christianity in translated scripture began the sola fides and sola scriptura Reformation schism from 1378 to to 1688.

Freeman Hunt said...

Illuninati, right, but Jesus was born a Jew, and life was not cheap among the Jews.

And even if you accept that Dwight meant the soul of a non-Jew, the statement seems to reject natural theology which I think would imply that the soul knows its worth and that that knowledge is only obfuscated by sin.

Unknown said...

Yes. God participates with man by sending his Son. It would be wrong to not value ourselves in light of this Sacrifice.

And 'self-esteem' might be a loaded term, but this is such a significant problem in modern life. When we taught classes for engaged couples one of the points we taught was that to be a full partner in marriage each partner must accept themselves first. Many destructive patterns in marriage is because a partner is still seeking his or her 'worth' because the hurts of life have taken this away. A partner at a deep level does not accept that their partner loves and regards them will not find the true joy of their relationship.

Bill Crawford said...

Decided to skip church this morning.

Our church "live streams" the service (of which we have three) and I saw one of the associates was preaching. Our lead pastor is an Air Force Reserve chaplain gone for his monthly service.

This discussion was more edifying than what I would have heard at church.

Thanks you all.

Illuninati said...

Freeman Hunt said...
"Illuninati, right, but Jesus was born a Jew, and life was not cheap among the Jews."

I agree, Jesus was born a Jew and he was a Jew when he died. Jesus was also a devout keeper of the Torah. His apostles and early church leaders were Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah who had confirmed the covenant with Israel. Early Christians had no intention to break with Judaism. That is why we can still talk about the Judeo-Christian culture.

Unknown said...

---but Jesus was born a Jew, and life was not cheap among the Jews.

But in His day, the Jews were ruled by Rome, they certainly had little control of the value of life under that iron rule. See Herod killing each child near Bethlehem based on the Magi's prediction. Crucifixion itself was Roman justice.

Archilochus said...

1 Corinthians 6:20 "For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body."

Ann Althouse said...

Here are the instances of Jesus using the word "soul" — that is, what I was reading on the rock and discussing with Meade. Note the distinctly different contexts. (And I'm not doing repetitions of the statements in different gospels.)

1. "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

2. "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”"

3. (Asked by the Pharisees "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”): “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Note the implication of 3 aspects of a person: heart, soul, and mind.)

4. At Gethsem′ane, to 3 disciples: “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” (This is right before the prayer: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”)

5. The Parable of the Rich Fool: "The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

The word "soul" is also important in the New Testament in Mary's Song of Praise: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior..."

There is also a repetition of the Old Testament prophesy: "Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will any one hear his voice in the streets; he will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick, till he brings justice to victory; and in his name will the Gentiles hope."

Given all of that, you can help me answer the question about "O Holy Night" about knowing the worth of the "soul" (assuming you're accepting my interpretation that "its" refers to "soul" and not "world").

Quaestor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CStanley said...

I think illuminati has it right, and Freeman is getting I to the weeds a bit with this:

"And even if you accept that Dwight meant the soul of a non-Jew, the statement seems to reject natural theology which I think would imply that the soul knows its worth and that that knowledge is only obfuscated by sin."

This is where the preceding line helps with the interpretation: "Long lay the world in sin and error pining" pretty much says that the knowledge was obscured by sin, no?

Anyway, I find this hymn chill-giving when sung well. And the command to fall to my knees has nearly compelled me at times.

Quaestor said...

Original post deleted for bad grammar undetected by my first proofreading. Here it is again with corrections.

Consider the trout lilies of the peninsula how they grow: they Google not, neither do they blog, yet Crack MC in all his rages gathers not the traffic as one of these.

If you're going Biblical you can't do better than Tyndale.

Christianity has always had this self-esteem problem. The Roman underclass and slaves who were the first converts in Italy were probably attracted to the faith because they perceived it gave them the stature of valuable individuals which the imperial system denied them.

This "self-esteem" tendency rears up into borish smugness with monotonous regularity, hence the many antidotes that have been applied through the ages: monasticism, flagellant orders, the nazarenos, "Sinners in the hands of an angry God," the list goes on...

One current example of this trend is the absurd rejection of modern science in some quarters of American Protestantism. A little humility, an acknowledgement that the Bible doesn't contain all the answers and doesn't equip its devotees with worthwhile information about the real universe... a vain hope, really. This generation of Christians doesn't have it Jonathan Edwards yet.

There, passive voice and subject-verb agreement issue purged.

Illuninati said...

Althouse said:
"Given all of that, you can help me answer the question about "O Holy Night" about knowing the worth of the "soul" (assuming you're accepting my interpretation that "its" refers to "soul" and not "world")."

To try to go from the song to the Bible can be difficult. Our New Testament appears to have been written in Greek. There may have been an Aramaic version of Matthew which the Ebionites used but the version of Mathew we use was apparently always a Greek book.

In Greek one needs to distinguish between the words "spirit" and "soul". The spirit is probably equivalent to the breath of life that God breathed into Adam's nostrils and is what returns to God at death. The spirit is that portion of man which transcends the first death. The soul is generally a reference to the entire living person although it varies somewhat in meaning. We are probably straining here. I doubt that John Sullivan Dwight intended to get into the theology to that extent.

Ann Althouse said...

"In Greek one needs to distinguish between the words "spirit" and "soul". The spirit is probably equivalent to the breath of life that God breathed into Adam's nostrils and is what returns to God at death. The spirit is that portion of man which transcends the first death. The soul is generally a reference to the entire living person although it varies somewhat in meaning. We are probably straining here. I doubt that John Sullivan Dwight intended to get into the theology to that extent."

I chose the Revised Standard Version for my search, and "soul" does not come up in the Old Testament until Genesis 34:3: "And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob; he loved the maiden and spoke tenderly to her."

Ann Althouse said...

I think the example of Jesus using heart, soul, and mind should strongly affect how Christians use the word "soul." It cannot mean the whole person. It's an aspect of the person. And the first quote from Jesus — "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." — suggests that soul is the eternal part of the human being.

Unknown said...

---A little humility, an acknowledgement that the Bible doesn't contain all the answers and doesn't equip its devotees with worthwhile information about the real universe…

Nice little put down of Christians. Well done! Carries the uplifting nature of this thread just perfectly!

He counteth the number of the stars; He calleth them all by their names.

Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.

Quaestor said...

"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." — suggests that soul is the eternal part of the human being.

From the quote you cite I infer the exact opposite. How do you reconcile the concept of an eternal, or immortal, soul with the verb destroy? An eternal soul should be indestructible, correct?

Illuninati said...

Althouse said:
"And the first quote from Jesus — "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." — suggests that soul is the eternal part of the human being."

I hope I haven't confused the issue here. The two words in Greek which are of interest are pneumatos which refers to breath and refers to the breath of life and psuchees which is often translated soul in our Bible. Here is an example:
Heb 4:12-13

12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
NIV
Here the English translator has been forced to differentiate between the Greek words soul psuchee and spirit pneumatos.

Here is another instance in which the word pneumatos is used:
John 4:24
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
KJV

The word pneumatos is usually applied to God whereas the word psuchee is often used in discussing a mortal being.

There is a great deal more which could be said about those words, but I hope this will straighten out the confusion I have caused.

Lydia said...

I think the example of Jesus using heart, soul, and mind should strongly affect how Christians use the word "soul." It cannot mean the whole person. It's an aspect of the person.

Catholic theology sees a unity of body and soul -- here's what the Catechism says:

"Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.

The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the ‘form’ of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature."

Illuninati said...

Unknown said...
"Nice little put down of Christians. Well done! Carries the uplifting nature of this thread just perfectly!"

One mantra of anti-Christians is that Christianity is opposed to science. In light of that claim, it is interesting to note that modern science originated in Western Europe largely in universities which were founded by the Roman Catholic church. Also interesting is that many of the scientists up to and including Sir. Isaac Newton were clergymen. Newton was a fervent believer who was convinced that his physics was evidence of God's existence.



Quaestor said...

He counteth the number of the stars; He calleth them all by their names... Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.

And yet he has done little to impart even a smidgen of his infinite understanding to his creatures through the medium of his inspired word. One would think the almighty creator could get a few details right. In fact he's done much to confuse us with stuff that turned out to be completely at odds with truths we have discovered for ourselves, like the value of pi, for example, which according the Word is three. Even the contemporaries of the Bible knew that important ratio was greater than three. These are real problems that deserve better than an incurious appeal to faith. Or do you doubt the heliocentric model, the germ theory of disease, newtonian mechanics, the atomic theory...? I needn't broach the subject of evolution to illustrate my thesis.

Nice little put down of Christians....
Petulance. Seems to me the Abrahamic faiths have their work cut out for them whether or not I bother to tweak their collective nose by pointing out the obvious.

If I were God I think I'd drop a few clues along the way to challenge the intellect of my sentient creations. Nothing too complex, no need to be technical, just a merest hint that would serve to confirm my wisdom to future generations who might be inclined to doubt. Something like "Behold the mountains, Abraham. Verily I tell thee, they are almost entirely made of nothing." That would have them scratching their heads for millennia, but would finally ring gloriously true.

Illuninati said...

Getting back to the spirit pneumatos vs soul psuchee discussion, here is an example of where soul psuchee is used to refer to the whole person.
Rom 13:1
13 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
KJV

The word psuchee is often translated life, for example
Matt 6:25 translates it life twice.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
KJV


traditionalguy said...

Jesus changed the law that said to love God with all of your heart, soul and strength into a law to love God with all of your heart and soul and MIND.

Jesus taught the people as one with authority.

Jesus spent most of his time teaching. His title address was most often Rabbi.

Jesus out classed
the Temple scholars at age 12.

Jesus was an intellectual. I truly believe The Lord Jesus is very interested in great teaching as it is being done done by the few great teachers, such as Professor Althouse.

Kirk Parker said...

Freeman,

"Yes, every time I encounter a sloppy line in church, I immediately stop singing, look at my husband to see if he noticed the same thing, and start reading more closely."

Careful, though.

This can easily lead to a critical spirit (ask me and my wife how we know, as members of the PCUSA, which denomination has an incredibly long list of things to be rightfully critical of...)

Bill Crawford,

"This discussion was more edifying than what I would have heard at church."

You poor fellow! I mean no disrespect to myself or my fellow-commenters; but how sad you don't have some flesh-and-blood comrades who can do the same for you, and more.

CStanley said...

Ann Althouse said...
I think the example of Jesus using heart, soul, and mind should strongly affect how Christians use the word "soul." It cannot mean the whole person. It's an aspect of the person. And the first quote from Jesus — "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." — suggests that soul is the eternal part of the human being.

5/4/14, 8:52 PM

I don't think of those three words as different aspects of a person (certainly not as mutually exclusive aspects) but rather as different means for a person to love God or other persons. The heart, in Catholic theology, generally pertains to will and here would refer to directing one's passions and energies toward love. Loving with one's soul means acknowledging that our entire being comes from God, so that nothing should be withheld. Loving with the whole mind, I think refers to the use of intellect to interact with the world in the ways that best express love and care of others.

I have read just enough Catholic theology to believe that my interpretation here is the Catholic one, but not enough to be certain or to prove that it is so. I do know that Prof. Althouse's interpretation is not consistent with Catholic teaching, because the soul is defined as one's whole being.

Illuninati said...

Quaestor said...

"And yet he has done little to impart even a smidgen of his infinite understanding to his creatures through the medium of his inspired word. One would think the almighty creator could get a few details right. In fact he's done much to confuse us with stuff that turned out to be completely at odds with truths we have discovered for ourselves, like the value of pi, for example, which according the Word is three."

Perhaps Quaestor would be willing to provide the correct number for pi?

Quaestor said...

"Perhaps Quaestor would be willing to provide the correct number for pi?"

Oh, come off it, Illuninati (or is that Illuminati?) You know well my point is not that pi has an exact value. But just in case you don't, I'll restate. Mathematicians of the ancient Near East knew that the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter was greater than three at the very time the god of the Old Testament's spokesmen blithely stated that it was three. My point is that the Bible is full of misinformation, and in some cases the misinformation was known to be wrong at the time the Bible was compiled. If the Bible was truly inspired by an all-knowing creator, then a reasonable person can expect it to contain accurate information.

"Not so fast," says the believer, "the Bible is a book of spiritual and moral guidance, and not science."

Fine, says I. So kindly explain why the Bible bothers to imposes itself into territories where it is not authoritative, such as its assertion that birds appeared on the earth before mammals, that the sun orbits the earth, etc.?

Nichevo said...

Quaestor,

Pi again eh? The Heinlein is strong in this one.

For two things the Bible got right:

1. The earth is round

2. Kosher laws, and generally the laws of cleanliness. Not much greater confirmation of biblical truth than the germ theory of disease. If you want to associate that with Judaism and not Christianity you can go for it.

Quaestor said...

"It is interesting to note that modern science originated in Western Europe..."

Uh, no. Modern science originated in the pagan cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean. Western Europe only began to catch on when Greek classical writers became more widely known in the 13th and 14th centuries.

"Newton was a fervent believer who was convinced that his physics was evidence of God's existence."

Newton was also an alchemist. Care to buy some lead, Illuminati? According to Newton it's really just impure gold.

Quaestor said...

"1. The earth is round"

I suppose you're referring to this:

It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in...
Isaiah 40:22

It seems to me this describes a disk more clearly than a sphere.

"2. Kosher laws..."

The Chinese didn't keep kosher, and they've inherited the earth.

CStanley said...

@quaestor:
http://www.purplemath.com/modules/bibleval.htm

That biblical passage also gave the dimension for thickness of the vessel, and if you assume the diameter was measured to the outer rim of the vessel but the circumference was measured on the interior, the value for pi comes to 3.14.

Quaestor said...

I've looked at the passage, CStanley, and I conclude you're assertion is totally bovine manure. You'll have to show your work very carefully to convince me otherwise.

Illuninati said...

Quaestor said...
"Mathematicians of the ancient Near East knew that the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter was greater than three at the very time the god of the Old Testament's spokesmen blithely stated that it was three."

The fact that you didn't try to give pi shows that you get my point, it is impossible to give an exact number of pi so any answer you or the Bible gives is rounded. Why shouldn't the Bible round to 3?

"Quaestor said...
"It is interesting to note that modern science originated in Western Europe..."

Uh, no. Modern science originated in the pagan cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean. Western Europe only began to catch on when Greek classical writers became more widely known in the 13th and 14th centuries"

There is a great deal to say about the importance of Greek philosophy. Aristotle was indeed very important. Unfortunately after Aristotle progress essentially stopped until the European Christians moved the ball forward. First they embraced philosophy but were able to avoid the traps which caused philosophy to stagnate.

The European Christians made at least two unique contributions which made science possible. Although individual philosophers had their own schools in ancient times, Europe set up universities which were supported by the church with a great deal of academic freedom and the ability to formally measure individual achievements and to reward them accordingly. Also Europe described the scientific method and applied it.

"Newton was also an alchemist. Care to buy some lead, Illuminati? According to Newton it's really just impure gold."

Newton's experiments in alchemy is irrelevant to my point that modern science was founded in Christian institutions with many clergymen among the early scientists. Incidentally, there is a strong possibility that Newton drew from alchemy in devising the mysterious forces which operate over a distance.

Quaestor said...

Aristotle is always interesting, but he has little to do with my point about the origins of Western science. Frankly, Aristotle isn't a scientist. But there were real scientists in the ancient world. Here are some names to conjure with: Theophrastus, Herophilos, Archimedes, Apollonius of Perga, Euclid, Eratosthenes, and Hipparchus.

More than a century before Jesus Hellenistic scientists fashioned computing mechanisms that were not equaled until the 18th century of the common era, not to mention a host of other machines and mechanical principles not rediscovered by the Christian west for nearly two millenia. The earth's circumference was measured and it's mass approximated, as was the distance to the sun.

And what was the Christian response to this ancient scientific learning and accomplishment? Destruction and denial -- scholars murdered and their published works burned or defaced. Humanity would be a least a thousand years in advance of where we are today if Christianity hadn't overtaken the Roman Empire.

Your thesis about Newton and his beliefs is facile and shallow. I invite you to read the Isaac Newton biography by Michael White. You might be surprised by the actual man rather than the characterture.

Ann Althouse said...

"I have read just enough Catholic theology to believe that my interpretation here is the Catholic one, but not enough to be certain or to prove that it is so. I do know that Prof. Althouse's interpretation is not consistent with Catholic teaching, because the soul is defined as one's whole being."

It's weird that you find more wholeness in your word "means" than in my word "aspect"!

Kirk Parker said...

Oh for heaven's sake! 3 is the correct value for Pi, rounded to the nearest 1/2. Who is to say what precision was being used in the Biblical passage? The text surely doesn't say...

Unknown said...

I find this whole argument over when and where science originated as immaterial. God created the cosmos, the earth, the universe, and He was in the beginning. Jesus was the architect of all this, IN THE BEGINNING. Any science that has been done since the beginning utilizes the brains that were created by our amazingly creative and loving God. When he divided the languages at the Tower of Babel and language groups migrated out around the earth, they carried with them the truth of God. That truth got cluttered up in various ways within each people group, but you can still find it embedded in the language, particularly the pictorial languages. For example, the ancient Chinese character for righteousness is composed of two parts, the upper and the lower. The upper half means "lamb" and the lower half means "me". Lamb over me - the perfect picture of the righteousness that comes from submitting oneself to the wondrous sacrifice of the Lamb.

CStanley said...

Quaestor: I was linking to someone else's assertion, which is completely explained at the link. The only part that could be considered BS is the assumptions about interior or exterior measurements. Is their assumption fair, and is it what the author meant? I have no idea, nor do I care. I had never even heard of this controversy before you brought it up, and had it just been a rounding issue then I see no problem with it. When I googled and saw that explanation I thought it was cool that it actually did come out to the right ratio.

CStanley said...


It's weird that you find more wholeness in your word "means" than in my word "aspect"!

I don't think there's more whole ness necessarily. That part of my comment was referring to your statement that soul "cannot mean the whole person." That statement definitely contradicts Catholic teaching. I don't necessarily agree that using your "aspect" interpretation leads to your conclusion. The soul can be the whole while the heart and mind are "aspects". It's a little odd to phrase it that way though, which is why my interpretation of the three words describing means instead of aspects makes more sense (two of the means are performed by an aspect of the person, and one of the means is accomplished by the whole being."

Illuninati said...

Quaestor said...
"Frankly, Aristotle isn't a scientist. But there were real scientists in the ancient world. Here are some names to conjure with: Theophrastus, Herophilos, Archimedes, Apollonius of Perga, Euclid, Eratosthenes, and Hipparchus."

This list of men who lived 500-600 years before Constantine became emperor in 324 AD is indeed composed of luminaries. So far, so good. Your next statement is the one which you have not supported:
"And what was the Christian response to this ancient scientific learning and accomplishment? Destruction and denial -- scholars murdered and their published works burned or defaced. Humanity would be a least a thousand years in advance of where we are today if Christianity hadn't overtaken the Roman Empire."

Would you like to provide the evidence to support this assertion? Greek philosophy had been in existence for 500 years and was already ancient by the time Rome become a Christian empire, plenty of time for a full blown scientific revolution if it was coming.

The incorporation of Greek philosophy and Greek knowledge into the Christian religion began even before Jesus through the works of an Egyptian Jew named Philo of Alexandra. Philo brought together Jewish monotheism with Greek philosophy. His works were very influential in the early development of Christian theology including the close connection between Christian theology and Greek philosophy.

Saint Augustine one of the most influential of all Christian theologians converted to Christianity in 387. Augustine who was well trained in philosophy helped place Greek philosophy in a central position in Christian theology. We could go on, but obviously the early Christians in general did not go on a burning and murder spree to rid themselves of Greek philosophy and Greek science.

"Your thesis about Newton and his beliefs is facile and shallow. I invite you to read the Isaac Newton biography by Michael White. You might be surprised by the actual man rather than the characterture."

I am quite knowledgeable about Newton although I do not claim to know everything possible to know about him. I'm still not sure what your point is. Like many other European scientists, Newton was both a scientist and a devout Christian. As far as I can tell you don't deny those facts.

Nichevo said...

Q, I'll let others take up the cudgels on pi, except to note that I think the Hebrews lacked a decimal point.

But as for #2, when Jews faithful to their laws did not suffer from the diseases and epidemics afflicting their neighbors, they were accused of witchcraft. Since this feeds your Christian-bashing agenda I'm surprised you blow it off.

As for the Chinese they are very clean, do not eat dairy at all, and whatever they do with pork, they at least don't eat it raw. The Chinese have other cultural practices which I do not think you would favor emulating, so unless you want to double down, we'll assume you were being flip and move o.