To GK , who writes:


An example of a actual use of a abortifacient in the Bible, occurs in the story of the pregnant wife and her jealous husband.

After analyzing your piece on "Bible Abortifacients", I am not at all surprised that you state without the slightest basis in fact or scholarship, that the woman in this passage was pregnant. There is not the slightest hint anywhere that this is the case. Any of your later points about the 'fetus' or 'aborting' just don't apply to the passage in question.

The story has the husband dragging the wife to the temple for a trial by ordeal. The priest "...shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water...And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man hast lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse: But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee besides thine husband...: Then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing...the Lord doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell; and the water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot...And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water...And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot...And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed."(Numbers 5:11-28).

(If you don't like to use the more modern translations (e.g. NIV, NAS) that incorporate linguistic scholarship gains of the past century or so, just do your own translation--it might make more sense than the old KJ-type...for what its worth...)

What's going on in the above passage? Well, first of all, we need to decode the passage. And we can do that by re-translating some of the more obscure and deceptive word selections.

"deceptive"? Obscure, maybe. But deceptive has an implied accusation of wrongdoing. Is that your intent in the word choice, or were you being imprecise? If you were making the subtle accusation, then on what grounds? What's your evidence that the text/author is being deceitful with us? If you were simply being imprecise, then you should be more careful--your readers may read into your words, things you don't mean to say.

The word 'thigh' is translated from the Hebrew 'yarek', a euphemism for 'sex organs' and 'generative parts'.

This is not really close to the mark at all. YRK is used 34 times, the bulk of which cannot refer to sex organs. It is used to describe the 'sides' of the tabernacle ground layout, and even where swords were strapped onto soldiers' bodies (Jdgs 3.16,21)--hopefully not their sex organs(ouch!). It is used for the exterior thigh, as opposed to the next word you discuss.

The word 'belly' is translated from the Hebrew 'beten', which carries the meaning of 'internal parts' and 'womb'. The word 'rot' is translated from the Hebrew word 'naphal', which carries the meaning to 'die', to 'perish', and to 'slay'.

Totally correct on all points. Except you probably should point out that the conjunction of "womb" and "rot" did denote 'miscarrying womb' or 'barrenness' or 'childlessness'--this was the actual result of the test and practice.

The word 'bitter' is from the Hebrew 'marah' meaning 'bile' and 'diarrhea'.

I don't know where you heard this, but I wouldn't listen there anymore. Marah occurs 41 times and never, ever refers to bile/ always refers to bitterness (29x), anguish (6x), fierceness etc.--emotional states. Your facts are mistaken, but they also don't really apply to your argument, either.

The related Arab word 'marra' means 'abortion' and 'miscarry'.

This is irrelevant to the point at hand. Cognates can have value when we DON'T know the precise meaning of the Hebrew word--in this case we do. (I didn't check the accuracy of your statement about the meaning of the Arab word, since it is oblique to the point, at best.--[Tanknote Dec2013: I received an email from a professor at an Arab seminary in Beirut: "Just to let you know that no form of the Arabic root mrr means abortion or miscarriage. I donít know where your correspondent in the passage about trial by ordeal for wives suspected of unfaithfulness got this information.")

So we seem to have here a pregnant woman;

The unfounded, ungrounded assertion again--nothing in the text about pregnancy, remember.

she drinks the potion and if unfaithful, she will abort.

Whoa! Two major problems: (1) if no mention of pregnancy, you cannot assume that the sbh/btn phrase means abort--there may have not been anything to abort; (2) the sbh/btn phrase is not typically understood as punctilliar action (such as an abortion event), but rather as an on-going state of affairs--i.e. a life of barrenness. Indeed, verse 28 points very specifically to that: "she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children." Your assertion of 'she will abort' just cannot stand on this passage.

If faithful, she will continue in her pregnancy, and give normal birth. The great risk is shared by the woman and fetus alike. The fetus will die if the curse takes effect,

Just to point it out again, since pregnancy is not mentioned in the passage, all such statements as the above is pure and ungrounded speculation.

and of course the mother will also then be executed for the sin of adultery.

Actually, this last piece is apparently not true either. Although adulterers were generally executed by stoning WHEN CAUGHT IN THE ACT, any guilty party in THIS TEST lived on--albeit in barrenness, a huge punishment for women of the ancient near east. Verse 27 points this out "and she will be accursed among her people"--no execution here it seems.

There doesn't seem to be any similar trial by ordeal to test husbands suspected of adultery.

Of course not, in a patriarchal society (with its tendency to treat women inappropriately) the men didn't need protecting! God gave this law to protect the woman from physical and economic abuse from a capricious and petty husband. In most of the cultures of that day, men had absolute dictatorial rights over their wives. If they suspected adultery, they were allowed to kill the woman without any appeal on her part. There was not a process of justice, or process where they BOTH had to appear before a higher authority. In fact, in the Code of Hammurabi (c. 1720 BC.), CH 132, women who were suspected of this type of infidelity were required to throw themselves into the Euphrates river--if they drown, they were guilty; if not, they were innocent! (Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 171). God would instead provide a public vindication process, before His leaders, his people, and the couple. If the woman was vindicated, the man would bear the stigma of unfounded and paranoid jealousy, and slanderous accusation before his friends/family. Her rights were protected by this very ceremony. This was a very, very advanced pro-women procedure for those times (there are others, of course, but this is the one under discussion now).

Who says the Bible ain't a GREAT book!!!!!!!!

I personally have found it to be an awesome book, esp. when studied carefully, honestly, and with a minimal amount of polemical intent and hidden agenda.
GK writes:

G. Miller-Bible E.P.T. ! To: Glenn Miller, LiveWire

Thanks for your latest 'analysis' of my posting 'BIBLE E.P.T'. It's always useful to maintain a dialogue no matter how far separated the respective positions.

But Glenn, it looks like you're gonna' continue arguing "from ignorance", just as you did on the topic of 'Bible Abortifacients'. (I hope you've had a chance to come up to speed by obtaining some of the materials I referenced on that topic). Otherwise Glenn, your premise continues to be something along the lines that 'if one don't know about it, it just ain't so!'.

Case in point, you claim there is no "...basis in fact or scholarship, that the woman was pregnant.". Totally wrong! For convenience, I'll use the respected scholarly journal "Vetus Testamentum". Vol.34, 1984, has both H.W. Robinson and G.R. Driver agreeing that the woman is pregnant and that the term 'wenapela' means 'abortion', the term 'nepel' refers to abortion, the 'foetus' falls out, the term 'wesabeta bitnah' refers to impending sterilization. On page 20, Frymer-Kensky agrees that "...a swelling belly, moreover, seems to be a description of pregnancy...". In Vol.30, 1980, W. Mckane concludes "...we have here indeed a reference to an abortion...". These articles provide lots of sources for additional reading on the subject.

I cannot believe you wrote this. I have seen you misrepresent the bible's teachings, misrepresent the words/posts of others (including mine), misrepresent your own postings, but I am totally SHOCKED that you would misrepresent a scholarly journal! (The only alternatives are that you didn't understand it, were taught incorrectly about it, or only superficially read it--and I am not which option would be the best to believe about you.)

Frymer-Kensky REJECTS Mckane's argument, not supports it! The operative word in your quote was 'seems'. Let me quote at length and from different sections, to show that the article argues that neither pregnancy nor abortion are in view in the passage-counter to your entire position!

"There is no reason to suppose that the woman was pregnant at the time of the time...pregnancy is not mentioned and nzrch zrc is a term for conception rather than delivery" (p18)

"The result of the guilt also involves fertility" (p19--MY position)

"Since, moreover, there is no reason to suppose that the woman was pregnant as the time of the trial, it is unlikely that the 'thigh falling' refers to abortion." (p19, fn. 15)

"even if the anticipated result was abortion (WHICH DOES NOT SEEM LIKELY)..." (p21-emphasis mine)

And the conclusion: "In this procedure a woman who has been accused of adultery by her own husband drinks a sacred potion while she accepts an adjuration that the potion will cause grievous injury to her reproductive system if she drinks it while guilty. The procedure ends with the drinking of the potion. After the woman drinks, she presumably returns to her home and husband on the assumption that she would not have dared to drink the potion if she had been guilty, but would rather have confessed instead. Final proof of the woman's innocence would be pregnancy; final proof of her guilt would be the 'belly swelling and thigh falling' which possibly describes the prolapsed uterus" (p24)
[Subsequent literature on the subject in VT took issue not with her conclusion, but with the literary relationship of verse 21 to the rest of the passage--no argument with her conclusion.]

This lack of scholarly understanding (or worse, misrepresentation) sounds a lot like your phrase 'lame and deceptive' don't you think? As much as I enjoy interacting with your strange posts, I am rapidly lowering my estimate of your work. I have taught in two colleges and three universities in my lifetime, and many of your posts look like the work of an arrogant upperclassman who parades a cosmetically-pure brand of superficiality around as 'scholarship'--not the balanced, considered, and honest work of a professor.

This whole issue of your use of sources makes every reference you cite suspect. I have found numerous problems in many of the works and authors you cite--and these will show up as I post my various responses to your posts.

You suggest the word 'yarek' is not a euphemism for 'genitals'. More ignorance on your part Glenn. The same article states "...'yarek' is well attested as a term for the male genitalia...".

You misrepresent me, again, GK. I disagreed with your categorical statement that it was always so used--when the data shows a much wider range of meaning that just that. In this case, the article confirms my view that it was 'thigh'--see the above quotes.

The important Hebrew words on this issue, 'yarek', 'qb', 'kp', 'btn', 'yad', 'basar', are treated in V.T. Vol 40 (pp464-471), Vol 31 (pp269-281), and even better in the "THEOLOGICAL DICTIONARY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT" as follows: 'yarek'--Vol 4, pp441-444: 'yad'----Vol 5, pp398-403: 'beteb'----Vol 2, pp94-99: 'basar' and 'kesel----Vol 3, pp318-319: 'zara'----Vol 4, pp144- 148; and 'raglayim' in V.T. Vol 36, pp447-461 and Vol 38, pp347-348. In all cases, the sexual application is explained. So be prepared for some real shocks!

Again, don't misrepresent me, GK. I already know about the sexual semantic field in OT studies--your litany of 'page numbers' may be calculated to impress your readers, but they are simply redundant in my case.

You desperately need to learn 'something' ('anything'!) about the overwhelming sexual content of your holy Bible. A good beginning would be "BOWDLERIZING IN THE OLD TESTAMENT" by H.N. Bream, R.D. Heim, and C.A. Moore. Do us both a favor Glenn, and begin doing some reading on the matter!

Another problem with sources--there is no such book! I have searched the on-line catalogs of Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton, University of Minn. (!), Stanford, and the entire UC school system for this book-it simply doesn't exist...But, you may have an out...these three gentlemen (judging from their other works, all serious lovers of God and His word, I might add) did jointly publish a book entitled "A Light unto my Path: Old Testament Studies in honor of Jacob M. Myers" (Temple University Press, 1974)...perhaps there is an essay in it with that title...(I will get it by interlibrary loan and check this, to be sure).

Glenn, when I state the 'deception' of the Bible editors and translators, I'm dealing with a matter well known in religious scholastic circles (except perhaps for the fundamentalist Bible colleges). One of my favorite quotes is from the respected Bible scholar Wurthwein in his 'turn of the century' study "THE TEXT OF THE OLD TESTAMENT" where he points out "There is clear evidence that no qualms were felt in altering the text when there appeared to be adequate doctrinal reasons." (pp18). Since then, there's been an explosion in uncovering the 'deception', 'redacting', 'slanting', and so on uncovered within your holy Bible. Where have you been to fail to detect the movement and momentum along those lines Glenn?

Couple of points here, GK:
  1. I am in considerable agreement with you that throughout biblical history, textual emendations were made on a regular basis (in my graduate textual criticism classes, we divided these into intentional and unintentional). Indeed, the changes were made for reasons of pedagogy, as well as dogmatics. (I have actually documented one or two of the more obvious and perhaps, insidious, ones in a series of posts to this conference back in June.)
  2. Fortunately, the abnormally high number of textual remains (both OT and NT) allow us to detect and weed-out these distortions. I personally think this was providentially one of God's way of protecting His word from us!
  3. On the other hand, I would caution you to not read into Wurthwein's statement that people did emendations for what they considered 'inadequate doctrinal reasons' or even personal reasons. The 'sacred' and public character of these texts precluded wholesale changes to significant passages and teachings.
  4. I don't have Wurthwein in my library--I have very few 'turn of the century' works. I mostly have the recent works, incorporating modern scholarship. (Wurthwein is not even cited in recent bibliographies in the area of textual criticism. He is, of course, cited often in his work on Amos. I will visit the local Berkeley theological library to verify your quote and its appropriate use. I hope you have cited him fairly.)
Even V.T. Vol 36, pp275-283 gives a good illustration of how the word 'fart' was translated right out of the English language Bible for reasons of delicacy among others. Vol 41, pp1-11 gives a good illustration of how 'prsdn' ('human excretion') was translated right out of the English versions of the Bible. Footnote 22 mentions "...misleading and inaccurate..." translations. And V.T. 1971, pp232-236 explains how Ham's castration, or sodomizing, or incest, with his father Noah was " harmonize....", and thereby translated right out of your holy Bible.

Couple of points here too, GK:
  1. Your first reference VT/36, I cannot find ANYTHING to do with your point. The article on pages 274-288 has to do with the ten instances of the phrase 'mi ydea'--"Who knows" a good student and check your references, GK.
  2. The second reference (VT/41) is at least a correct citation, but your using it to support an argument of how people 'translated it right out the bible' is absurd. The word in question 'hprsdn' is a hapax legomena--a word that occurs only once in all of extant literature. In other words, we can barely GUESS at what it means. Even the author of the article merely proposes 'excrement' as a translation, based on Akkadian cognates. To accuse former translators of knowing what the word meant(!) and deliberately hiding it from us poor unsuspecting readers, is great conspiracy-paranoia, but bad scholarship.
  3. The third reference VT/21 (1971) is also cited correctly but your 'summary of it' is totally WRONG--witness the very abstract of the article, written by Bassett himself (the author):
    "The idiom of Gen. 9:22, "saw the nakedness of his father," is well attested in Lev. 18:7, 8, 14, 16 and 20:11, 20, 21 as meaning heterosexual intercourse. Therefore Ham had intercourse with his father's wife and the fruit of this incestuous relationship must be Canaan, for it explains Noah's curse upon Ham's son."
Sodomy? Castration? Incest with Noah? Not in this article, GK...Now, I personally know of other articles and sources that take that position, but NOT THE ONE YOU TRY TO USE! You might try more appropriate support for your positions in the future.

Get smart Glenn, arguing "from ignorance" or from "apologetics" lacks conviction outside the narrow fundamentalist circles.

I am smart, GK--by the world's standards, and I don't argue from ignorance...and I don't move in 'narrow fundamentalist' circles. But I wonder about you and the circles you move in...are they so narrow that they dogmatically believe the teaching you give them? Do they critically interact with you and your methods as I try to? Do they 'question your authority'?

Thanks again for your willingness to continue this dialogue. GK

Two points here, GK:
  1. If you don't get a little more serious and honest in your references, data, and arguments, I will not continue the dialogue with you.
  2. To me, truth is not a game and these issues are serious ones. If we were discussing the economy or politics or science I would not be concerned (and probably wouldn't be involved). But we are talking here about long-term issues, GK. If the position I hold is true, you are running out of time. If the position you hold is true, I am only wasting time. (Sounds too much like Pascal's Wager, doesn't it?).
I don't even mean to imply that you don't take these issues seriously. It is clear from your passion and vituperation and pathos about this subject that you DO consider this an ultimate issue. I truly admire this in you. So many others play with these issues like a kitten with a ball of string. You do not. You are passionately committed to try to help the world escape what you consider to be the extortionary and inhuman demands of 'religion'--at least you are fighting for what you believe in. MY CONCERN is not with that, but simply with how you deal with contrary data. There is an old saying in philosophy that you do not understand your position well enough, until you can argue your opponent's position--to his satisfaction. I KNOW I can argue your position convincingly to you--can you argue mine? Do you know the strongest (or 'least lame') supports for the resurrection of Jesus? of messianic fulfillments? of textual transmission? of historical reliability of the NT? I hope so, but I suspect would show up in a less dogmatic tone.

I, like many others on the net, pray for you, is not that we consider ourselves better (or even models to emulate!), but 'somehow' we got over into this perspective where it all 'sorta makes sense'--without abandoning any harsh and unwavering commitment to honesty. I am the first to admit that there are passages in the bible that I do not understand, some that I find almost bizarre, and some that I wrestle with until I pass out!...but I have learned that with an honest heart and with serious study, I can get an answer to many of these--often not one that makes me 'happy' but at least one that satisfies (typically not the same ones given in a book in my library!)

I really would like to welcome you as a fellow brother in Christ someday, think of the peace and release it would give you...and how your heart would soar and how so many structures of life and logic would 'snap together'...I know enough 'theology' to know that it won't happen by my 'lame and deceptive' arguments...but I still hope for your happiness...glenn

(I realize this post has a more personal tone to it, but I've found out that most of the people on the net do not read our stuff anyway because it's too long--so, I've coined a new phrase "privacy through verbosity"!)
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