3D graphic stating, "The Skeptical Review Online"



The Jehu Debate
Part One

between
 Farrell Till and Robert Turkel aka
James Patrick Holding

Till We Meet Again
(see first addendum, below)



[Editor's Note: In August 1998, I began a series of replies to Robert Turkel's attempt to show that there was no inconsistency in 2 Kings 10:30-31, which praised Jehu for his massacre of the Israelite royal house at Jezreel, and Hosea 1:4, which declared that the house of Jehu would soon be punished for the "blood of Jezreel." Altogether I posted on the Errancy list and the now defunct alt.bible.errancy forum 28 replies, which addressed point by point the spins that Turkel put on these two texts to try to make them harmonious. Except for minor revisions, which consisted mainly of corrections of grammatical mistakes and typographical errors that escaped my earlier proofreading, the text below is a faithful reproduction of the original 28 posts, which I have compiled into three parts instead of the 28 separate ones. Doing this usually caused the dropping of final paragraphs in the original posts, which simply informed readers of what would be addressed in the next post.

I would have linked readers to Turkel's original article, as I customarily do in the titles of my articles, but a thorough search of his website, using keywords quoted in my original replies, was unable to locate his first article, which was entitled "Till We Meet Again: Jostling Through the Jehu Jam-U." I found "Jehu: Black Hat or White Hat?" and a second part with the same title, which appear to be efforts to dress up his original article with a coat of whitewash and to respond to some of the points in my 28-part reply, but his original article seems to have been removed from his website. I certainly don't blame him for that, because the colossal blunders that he made were surely embarrassing to the image of first-rate apologist that he tries to project on his website. He has a habit of removing materials that over time prove to tarnish his apologetic image, but since I use a point-by-point method in replying to would-be apologists, readers can find his original article, blunders and all, imbedded in my replies below.

[Addendum: After this article was posted, a reader told me where I could locate Turkel's original article in the internet archives. I have since retrieved it and posted it on this site, as linked to in the title.]

In compiling our original exchanges into the format below, I inserted in red print several comments to call reader attention to Turkel's evasions of primary arguments that he evidently could not answer when he put together the two articles linked to above. Some of these insertions point out major failures in his attempts to answer the rebuttals in my 28-part reply and when applicable reply to new materials that he put into his "reworked" articles. All of these inserted comments and replies to Turkel's new materials will be labeled [Addendum July 2005] so that they will not be confused with the original material.

Readers will notice that throughout this debate Turkel accused me of sloppy scholarship while praising himself as an expert in biblical customs and languages, who was basing his interpretation on "commentators of all stripes," liberal, moderate, and conservative, so after the debate, I took the time to obtain through interlibrary loan the "sources" he had cited and found that (1) only two of the seven agreed with his claim that Hosea did not condemn Jehu's actions at Jezreel, (2) most of Turkel's references were secondary "sources," which were imbedded as citations in just two books that he had evidently used, and (3) his "commentators of all stripes" were actually evangelicals, who had been published by fundamentalist companies in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Waco, Texas. I reported this information in more detail in a companion article entitled "Commentators of All Stripes." Those who take the time to read it will understand why Turkel removed his original article from his website.]


James Patrick Holding is the pseudonym used by a would-be apologist whose real name is Robert Turkel. Perhaps I should say that Holding has said that his real name is Robert Turkel, but I have no way to confirm this. Holding-Turkel has a web site on which he posts responses to the articles of various skeptics. I first became aware of him when he sent me an article that he had written in reply to one of mine (even though he now says that I am not worthy of a reply). I learned that the name he used (James Patrick Holding) was not his real name, so I informed him that I would respond to him only if he would agree to publish under his real name. I even offered him space in The Skeptical Review but only if he would drop his pseudonym and use his actual name. He declined on the grounds that he believed that revealing his real identity would pose a threat to him and his grandmother, whose last name was the same as his. The justification that he gave for this fear was that he was employed at a penal institution and felt that if he published defenses of the Bible under his real name, some of the inmates upon release might seek to harm him or his family.

This was about as lame an excuse as I had ever heard for anonymity. If the situation had been reversed and Turkel were publishing materials of the type that I specialize in, I could have agreed that the use of his real name could possibly jeopardize his safety. Having been employed for many years by a college that provided educational services for a local prison, I could not remember any staff members associated with the prison program who had ever felt a need to conceal their identities. Although I had not taught at the prison, I did have the responsibility of grading writing tests of the inmates to determine whether they could enroll in freshman composition, and I had always used my real name in attaching notes to their papers. Furthermore, I have many inmate subscribers to The Skeptical Review who are incarcerated in various prisons across the country, and personal mail from them indicates that even in prison, they cannot escape from the born-again Christians who seek to evangelize.

In a word, I could not accept Turkel's excuse for his demand for anonymity, and so I refused to respond to his materials. After all, whoever heard of a Christian in this country posing a threat to his safety by writing pro-Biblical articles? Several months ago, I learned from him (in a moment of anger at me, I suspect) that his real name is presumably Robert Turkel. Upon learning this, I have since engaged in responding to his material about me. His most recent posting was an 89K file, which I will be responding to in divided postings to keep the replies reasonably short. The following is his introduction, which I have already posted. I will reply to it first and then later to his counterarguments (such as they were). A full and complete response to Turkel, which I intend to do over time, may take as many as 20 postings like this one. I have a dozen of them completed and will plan to post one of them per day until I have sent those that I have already finished. Meanwhile, I will be working to complete the series and will eventually get around to posting a full response to what he has posted on his website about me.

I apologize to all of those who asked me several months ago to respond to Turkel's article, but the delay was unavoidable. Because of various other obligations, I had to work on these responses as time permitted. I will reply to him point by point and use the headers Turkel and Till to assist readers in following who has said what.


Turkel:
Till We Meet Again: Jostling Through the Jehu Jam-U

In the past month, in counteraction to our AJINOD Chapter 1 posted in December of last year [1996], this author has received a series of replies and reactions from the author of The Jury, Chapter 1, Farrell Till, regarding AJINOD Chapter 1. The objective of this treatise, and a shorter one that accompanies it, is to reply to these reactions. The reactions from Till were received via e-mail as cc's from his own "errancy" discussion list, and are not (to my knowledge) publicly posted anywhere in association with the Secular Web.

Till:
Turkel is correct. My replies to his response were posted only on Errancy and another internet list. Jeff Lowder wanted to post them on the Secular Web but would do so only if I would allow him to edit out Turkel's name in order to respect his request for anonymity. I refused to allow this, because I will not cater to his excuse for secrecy. It smacks of phoniness, and so my opinion remains the same. If he doesn't have the courage to come out into the open and use his real name and show a willingness to face whatever embarrassment his materials result in, I will not assist him in his secrecy.

Turkel:
Let it first be said that Till's reply is no surprise. This seasoned skeptic, as predictable as the sunset, is widely known to be of such self-aggrandizing nature that he could by no means allow any criticism of himself or his work to remain unanswered.

Till:
This comment is a classic example of the pot calling the kettle black. I have had a lot of experience debating biblical inerrantists, but I have yet to see one whose pedantry and egotism even come close to equaling Turkel's. As a debater, I enjoy a bit of bantering sarcasm myself and personally believe that a debate gets to be a little dull without at least some of it; however, Turkel's most striking debating characteristic is constant sarcasm and insults. He seems to labor under the impression (as readers will notice as I post his materials prior to my responses) that poor logic and weak arguments can be hidden by continual barbs and slurs directed at his opponent. He apparently thinks that if he says that Till's scholarship is "superficial," his mindset "immature," and his "strategy rather diluted" and that Till desires to be "the biggest fish in his own pond," and so on ad infinitum, someone might actually mistake this for argumentation and believe that Turkel is shellacking his opponent.

As I said, I enjoy a bit of sarcastic bantering myself when I debate, but after this initial response, I will try to direct my replies to Turkel's arguments rather than to him personally. Therefore, I will hurl my final insult at him by simply saying that whenever I read something that Turkel writes, I'm always reminded of a saying that was used when I was growing up, which kids would say about those who seemed to have inflated opinions of themselves: "I'd like to buy him for what he's worth and sell him for what he thinks he's worth." With that said, I'll now try to ignore his insults and ad hominem comments as I work my way through Turkel's material and confine my remarks to his arguments.

Turkel:
To affront Till by even implying that he might somehow be erroneous on some point is tantamount to desecrating the Arc D'Triomphe or the pyramids of Egypt with spray paint. It was therefore only a matter of time before the sleeping god awoke from slumber; and well indeed has he made his displeasure known.

Till:
All I need do here is point the readers back to my pot-calling-the-kettle-black comment above. Well, there is one other thing I will say that readers should keep in mind as they go through my replies. "Arc de Triomphe" is the correct spelling of the French monument. Articles and prepositions are contracted in French only when they precede words that begin with vowels or the unaspirated "h," as in "l'ange," "l'anglais," "l'homme," "d'entre," etc. "Triomphe" obviously begins with a consonant, so the preposition "de" does not contract. I point this out, because readers are going to notice that Turkel fancies himself as a linguist and especially an expert in Hebrew. His writing, however, shows that he certainly is not a linguist and has much to learn even about his own language, especially punctuation. Whenever I encounter an apologist who tries to argue that I would understand this or that so much better if I only knew Hebrew or Greek, I can't help wondering about his qualifications in dead languages when he shows a decided lack of understanding of his own language.

[Addendum: July 2005: In looking through Turkel's "Jehu: Black Hat or White Hat?" which he presented as "reworked in format" with "no change in content," I could find nothing that Turkel said in "reply" to the rebuttals that I have presented so far. I had hoped, in particular, that he would give us his comments on how someone who lays claim to linguistic expertise, as he does, would not know how to spell Arc de Triomphe and why we should think that he has any special insights into Hebrew "nuances," when he can't even spell the name of a famous French monument, whose French spelling has appeared over and over again in English articles and books.]

Turkel:
Replying to Till, however, presents something of a conundrum. On the one hand, to reply would be to insinuate that his work is somehow worthy of reply, which we have implied previously is not the case;

Till
I can only wonder why Turkel ever bothered to write his first reply to the writings of someone whom he did not even consider worthy of reply. I suspect that anyone who can see through cellophane will recognize this as an example of what I pointed out above. Turkel seems to believe that if he says often enough that I am "superficial," "immature in my mindset," or in this case not "worthy of reply," someone might actually believe him. The truth is that Turkel has taken the time to reply to me, because he considers me someone who should be responded to. I will give him more credit than he is willing to give me. I consider him worthy of reply, because I have seen on the internet that he has a lot of Christians convinced that he is a top-rate apologist, and so someone who knows better needs to show the deluded ones that he is just someone who knows how to quote Bible commentaries, locate concordance entries and other quotations (probably through web searches or computer software), cut and paste everything together, and call that apologetics. As I will show, however, when I get to his actual arguments, his logic is quite weak. I wouldn't even call it "superficial," because even this term would imply a depth that goes beyond the actual shallowness that pervades his writing from beginning to end. But there I go, reneging already on my resolution to keep the debate a cut above his level. It's just that he makes such a tempting target.

[Addendum, July 2005: Turkel said at the time of this debate, in 1998, that I wasn't worth the time to reply to, but anyone who checks his website will see that over the past seven years he has probably written more articles about me than any other person. I take this as a compliment and can only conclude that he has since decided that my articles exposing biblical errancy are very much worth his time to "reply" to.]

Turkel:
we are thus hesitant to dignify his material with a response.

Till:
Of course, he is. That's why he wrote his first response to me several months ago when he tried to reply to an article in The Skeptical Review, at which time I had personally had no contacts with him.

Turkel:
On the other hand, to ignore him is to allow for him the presumption of "victory" and to have accusations levelled that we reply not, because we can not [sic], because Till is right.

Till;
Cannot should be spelled as one word. That's just a basic fact of spelling. I point this out only to remind readers to look for the recurrent indications from Turkel that he considers himself a biblical linguist, so he is a biblical linguist who seems to have trouble writing even his own native language.

Turkel:
Neither of these options is satisfactory, so we therefore pursue that which shall benefit our readership most: We will write a rebuttal as part of our new series of Skeptical Profiles, with the point of proving that there is really no depth to Farrell Till's scholarship, and thus no warrant to offer his work further attentions. As is typically the case, Till considers it sufficient argument to offer his own "plain reading" of a given text, using a minimum of sources (consisting in the main of various translations of the Bible) and standing mostly upon his own authority as only Farrell Till, Shouter-Down of the Unwashed.

Till
What I try to do is avoid the fallacy of the appeal to authority, which is probably the chief logical flaw in Turkel's debating approach. He seems to believe that if he quotes several Bible commentaries and other references that agree with his position, he has proven his case. However, anyone who has even a smattering of religious knowledge knows that no belief is too irrational that one cannot find books to quote that agree with it. I seek to keep this to a minimum in my debating and to present arguments of my own construction. We will see that Turkel obviously doesn't. He would be lost without the crutches of biblical reference books to quote. As we go through his "arguments," I hope readers will ask themselves where Turkel would be if he could not constantly say, "McCominsky put it like this," or, "Provan thinks thus and so...." This approach to persuasion is a sign of one's inability to formulate his own arguments, and those who resort to it reveal only that they have nothing substantial to offer, and so they can only regurgitate what others have said. On the errancy list, we have most recently seen this approach used by David Conklin, but the beating that he took from those who constantly reminded him that one can find support for just about any religious view, especially an inerrantist opinion, in the myriads of apologetic books that have been published, showed that he was fooling no one but himself. Rather than a "scholarly" approach to apologetics, it is an amateurish, Josh-McDowellian method that will convince only the very gullible. Admittedly, Turkel will have no difficulty finding those who are religiously gullible.

[Addendum, July 2005: Despite what he said in 1998, time has shown that Turkel has obviously decided that my work does "warrant further attentions"; if not, then why has he since spent so much time replying to my work?]

Turkel:
We see no reason to dignify Till's machinations by devoting further significant time and server space to refuting him. It is no sport to continue the attack upon an enemy too impenetrable to realize that he has been beaten. It will be enough to here [sic] show in one instance the insufficiency of his work, so that our readers may know that Till offers no threat whatsoever to the facts of the Christian faith--and that he may be safely ignored in future works from his keyboard as one who has little or no comprehension of the ground he treads.

Till:
So what Turkel is doing here is preparing his readers in the event that he takes a good pounding in the replies that I will be posting. If it happens, he can always say, "Well, I told everyone that I have whipped Till, and so I see no need to respond further to him." It's a familiar tactic that biblicists use. Those who have been on the Errancy list for any time at all will be able to remember various inerrantists, who came onto the list, took their licks, and then withdrew amidst unilateral declarations of victory.

[Addendum, July 2005: The "one instance" that Turkel said he was going to invest in me has since turned into dozens of "instances," as anyone can see by browsing his website, so I consider the attention that Turkel has invested in me to be a tacit admission that he knows that my work needs to be answered.]

Turkel:
Therefore, know this: Should Till deign to reply to what we offer here, we will not offer another counter - unless Till demonstrates sufficient understanding and scholarship to make such reply worthwhile. If we remain silent after this, it will only be because we do not consider what Till says to be worth the effort.

Till:
Sure, I understand, but in case others don't understand, I will translate the statement for them.

Translation: I expect to take a beating when Till responds, so I am preparing for it now by pretending that he is not worth any additional comments from me.

[Addendum, July 2005: Turkel has not only replied to me again; he replied to this very debate that I am now editing for posting on TSR Online. It wasn't much of a reply, because it quoted me very selectively and hopped, skipped, and jumped over most of my rebuttal arguments. In "Farris McTill Wears Horizontal Stripes," he made an attempt to answer my article "Commentators of All Stripes," which I wrote in reply to his claim that his position on Hosea 1:4 was shared by "commentators of all Stripes." ("The Zigzagging Stripes of Bobby Turkel" is my reply to his "Farris McTill" attempt at humor.) Furthermore, the "reworking" of his original article about Jehu to remove from it the places where he had shoved both feet into his mouth is, along with the others just mentioned, one more example of how Turkel has obviously abandoned his claim that I am not worth any more time than what he spent "answering" my articles about Jehu. If I continued to list all of the articles that he has written about me, the list would be longer than the trail of ignorance he has left on his website, so I thank him for finally admitting that my articles need to be answered.]

Turkel:
Our material shall follow to a greater degree an outline set forth by Glenn Miller in his own exposition on this subject. Let us recall that the basic argument is that Jehu exceeded the commands of the Lord and that this, if anything, is the reason for Hosea's condemnation. Miller offered a listing of eight actions taken by Jehu. Some of these were within the parameters of Jehu's commission; others were not. In those others, Jehu exceeded the command to destroy only the house of Ahab.

Till:
As I showed in my other responses to Turkel, Jehu was commissioned to do to the house of Ahab what had been done to the houses of Jeroboam and Baasha (2 Kings 9:7-10). The Bible claims that the destruction of these "houses" was so extensive and so complete that the instructions to Jehu would have allowed him to kill almost anyone without "exceeding" his commission. I have clearly demonstrated this, but Turkel continues to quibble his way around this problem in his "explanation." Although my arguments were detailed and inclusive of enough evidence to convince any open-minded reader, I will expand them when I address Turkel's quibbles point by point in making my way through his rebuttal by personal tirade.

At this point, I will note that Turkel's and Miller's claim (which is really only an inerrantist claim that they are parroting) that Jehu exceeded "the command to destroy only the house of Ahab" is a claim that they should but cannot sustain. In the first place, they cannot find the word "only" in the command that was given to Jehu in 2 Kings 9:7-10. As I will show again,, the instructions were sufficiently inclusive to include almost anyone who had been even remotely connected to Ahab, Jezebel, and Joram, but I will have more to say about this as I respond to Turkel's quibbles and point out details in my arguments that he conveniently left unanswered. In other words, I will show that his silence about my arguments that he didn't address is very suggestive of a recognition that they cannot be rebutted.

Certain textual facts are insurmountable obstacles in Turkel's path. The writer of 2 Kings clearly praised Jehu for (1) having done well in executing that which was right in Yahweh's eyes and (2) having done to the house of Ahab all that was in Yahweh's heart [10:30]. The writer made this statement immediately after having detailed the acts (atrocities) that Jehu had committed at Jezreel. For someone to argue that this kind of commendation would have been given to Jehu when the writer knew that he had "exceeded" his instructions and thereby angered Yahweh so much that one day Yahweh would exterminate the house of Jehu for the offense places too much strain on common sense. This is doubly true, since the writer twice stated (verses 29 and 31) that Jehu didn't depart from the sin of Jeroboam and allowed the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan to continue. In other words, the praise of Jehu in doing all that was right in Yahweh's sight in the matter of the house of Ahab was sandwiched between two statements that Jehu had done wrong by not abolishing the worship of the golden calves. If Yahweh had considered that Jehu had "exceeded" his command to exterminate the house of Ahab and that this offense was so bad that the house of Jehu would have to be exterminated too, who can believe that the writer of this text would not have taken notice of it? So what Turkel and Miller are arguing is that the writer of 2 Kings praised Jehu and in so doing took notice of an offense that wasn't bad enough for Yahweh to wipe out his lineage [allowing worship of the golden calves to continue] but did not take notice of an offense that was bad enough for his lineage to be exterminated [exceeding Yahweh's orders to exterminate the house of Ahab]. Who can believe such nonsense?

Turkel's "explanation" is also inconsistent with the pettiness of Yahweh (documented numerous times in the Old Testament) that brought swift and immediate punishment to people for rather trivial offenses. After all, we are talking about a god who struck Uzzah dead on the spot for touching the ark when Uzzah's intention was only to prevent a sacred relic from falling off a cart and sustaining probable damage (2 Sam. 6:7). We are talking about a god who sent fire out to consume Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, who had made the horrible mistake of using "strange fire" in their censers (Lev. 10:1-2). We are talking about a god who caused the earth to open up and swallow Korah and his followers for presuming to question the leadership of Moses (Num. 16:31-33). We are talking about a god who sent instant plagues to consume the people for having complained of hunger (Num. 11:33-34). We are talking about a god who... but there is no need to continue this. The point has been made. The Old Testament is filled with tales of immediate vengeance that this deity Yahweh extracted for the pettiest of offenses, yet Turkel and Miller expect us to believe that Jehu's conduct at Jezreel was offensive enough that Yahweh had to exterminate his lineage but didn't even mention it in the divine record of Jehu and then waited four generations to execute the punishment. Again I will ask, "Who can believe it?"

[Addendum July 2005: I have looked through the articles that Turkel has written about this debate since it began in 1998, but I have not found any attempt that he has ever made to explain why Yahweh, who usually punished instantly, on the spot, as in the examples cited above, would have waited for four generations to punish his "house" for Jehu's having "exceeded his mandate." I suspect that if Turkel were put on the spot about this in a public debate, where he couldn't ignore the point without his evasion being noticed, he would scream one of his favorite epithets, "Till's problem is that God didn't kiss his butt!" That, however, is not an answer. To think that Jehu's "excesses" at Jezreel were so offensive that Yahweh would destroy his family lineage but waited four generations to do it is nothing more than the grasping of a straw to keep from admitting inconsistency in the Bible. Turkel's choir members might be impressed with an answer like that, but rational readers won't be. Such a position as this would be to say that Yahweh considered the use of "strange fire" in a censer to be worse than massacring human beings.]

Furthermore, I haven't even discussed what the Old Testament presents as Yahweh's attitude toward idolatry as opposed to his attitude toward the killing of a few people. This god Yahweh simply would not tolerate idolatry. He issued a stern injunction against it in his famous "ten commandments" and warned that he was a jealous god, who would visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children even until the third and fourth generations (Ex. 20:4-6). When the Israelites worshiped idols while Moses was on Sinai (before this commandment was even made known to them), Yahweh was so angry that he threatened to "consume" the entire nation (Ex. 32:10) but didn't because the more cool-headed Moses was able to talk him out of it (if anyone can believe such fanciful yarns as this). Yahweh eventually settled for the killing of three thousand for their idolatrous offense (Ex. 32:28). Yahweh was so angered by idolatry that he commanded that the people should kill even friends and relatives who were guilty of it (Dt. 13:6-11; 17:2-7). On the other hand, Yahweh seemed not to have any scruples at all against killing people even by the thousands. The first 11 chapters of Joshua drip with the blood of the Canaanites who were killed in compliance with Yahweh's command that the Israelites leave alive nothing to breathe (Deut 20:16; Josh. 10:40; 11:11, 15, 20) in their conquest of the "promised land."

This is the god whose cause Turkel and Miller have taken up, and they expect us to believe that such a god as this would be so inconsistent that he would overlook Jehu's refusal to stamp out the worship of the golden calves but was so angered at Jehu's excesses in eradicating the house of Ahab that Yahweh later exterminated Jehu's lineage. I'm sorry, fellows, but this is a bit too much for reasonable people to believe. Since when did Yahweh object to killing anyone who was even remotely connected to those who had rubbed him the wrong way? You're desperately looking for some way to deny that inconsistencies are in the Bible, and this is apparently the best you have been able to come up with. Desperate people will grasp for desperate solutions.

Turkel:
Till does not deal with Miller's point #5 (the piling of the heads of the princes of the house of Ahab outside the gates of Jezreel), apparently not finding it relevant; we would disagree, for it is clearly an action of bloodshed that went beyond what God had explicitly ordered, done solely for Jehu's own political purposes. But we will not press the issue here, for the remaining citations (2, 6, 7) are more than sufficient for consideration.

Till:
I have to wonder if Turkel has even read what the Bible says about the so-called commission that Jehu received to destroy the house of Ahab. Here again, for Turkel's benefit, is that commission:

2 Kings 9:6 So Jehu got up and went inside; the young man [the son of the prophets sent to anoint Jehu king of Israel] poured the oil on his head, saying to him, "Thus says Yahweh the God of Israel: I anoint you king over he people of Yahweh, over Israel. 7 You shall strike down the house of your master Ahab, so that I may avenge on Jezebel the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of Yahweh. 8 For the whole house of Ahab shall perish; I will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. 9 I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah.

This was merely a repetition of the original curse or condemnation of the house of Ahab that the prophet Elijah spoke directly to Ahab.

1 Kings 21:20 Ahab said to Elijah, "Have you found me, O my enemy?" He answered, "I have found you. Because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of Yahweh, 21 I will bring disaster on you; I will consume you, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel; 22 and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin.

The "commission" was to "cut off" [a biblical expression that meant "to kill"] from Ahab every male. That being so, how can Turkel and Miller quibble that in killing Ahab's grandsons Jehu exceeded his orders when his orders were to cut off every male from the house of Ahab? The fact is that if Jehu had left Joram's sons alive, this would have constituted, in biblical terms, an act of disobedience. To show this, we have only to look at the case of Saul, the first king of Israel, who lost his kingdom because he did not kill every last Amalekite when Yahweh had commanded him to go and "utterly destroy" the Amalekites and spare them not but to kill both male and female, infant and suckling (1 Sam. 15:3). The story relates that Saul "utterly destroyed" the Amalekites with the sword except for Agag their king (vs. 8-9). For this, Yahweh sent Samuel to tell Saul that the kingdom would be taken from him because of his disobedience and given to another (vs. 17-23). Samuel then called for the Amalekite king to be brought before him, after which Samuel hacked him to pieces with a sword "before Yahweh in Gilgal" (v:33). The moral of this story obviously appeared to be that when Yahweh gave orders to kill everyone, he meant for everyone to be killed. That being true, how can Turkel and Miller argue that in killing Ahab's grandsons Jehu exceeded his orders when his orders were to "cut off every male, bond and free, from the house of Ahab"? Leaving 70 grandsons of Ahab alive would, in the biblical way of evaluating events, have been a flagrant violation of a clear command.

Furthermore, the passages quoted above show that Jehu was commissioned to "make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah." I have already discussed the thoroughness with which the house of Jeroboam and the house of Baasha were exterminated. These massacres were related in 1 Kings 15:25-30 (the house of Jeroboam) and in 1 Kings 16:6-14 (the house of Baasha). I have already shown that the extermination of the house of Baasha, which occurred after Baasha's death, included the massacre of his son Elah and "all the house of Baasha." Zemri, the executor, "left him [Baasha] not a single man-child, neither of his kinfolks, nor of his friends" (v:11), and the passage claims that all this was done "according to the word of Yahweh, when he spoke against Baasha by Jehu the prophet" [a different Jehu from the subsequent king of Israel]. All that Turkel has been able to say in response to this is to quibble that the word translated "friends" in this passage was a different Hebrew word from the one translated "friends" in reference to the "familiar friends" of Joram whom Jehu massacred in 2 Kings 10:11. That would be somewhat like a person's arguing that a newspaper report in English that said John Doe and his "friends" were killed would not be comparable to a report that said Joe Smith and his "companions" or "pals" were killed. This quibble will be addressed later when I come to that part of Turkel's response, but at this point, I want to emphasize that Jehu was ordered to "cut off from Ahab every male, bond and free," and to make the house of Ahab "like the house of Jeroboam... and like the house of Baasha" (2 Kings 9:8-9). So Turkel and Miller have to explain how Jehu could have cut off from Ahab every male if Jehu had left Ahab's 70 grandsons alive. Turkel has to explain how if every male was killed in the houses of Jeroboam and Baasha, Jehu could have made the house of Ahab like the houses of Jeroboam and Baasha if he had left Ahab's 70 grandsons alive.

[Addendum July 2005: Turkel has dropped this rebuttal argument like a hot potato. I have searched through his "reworking" of his original article and the others that he later wrote in response to little ol' me, who, when this all started, was worth no more of his attention, but I could find no attempt at all to explain why the killing of Jehoram's grandsons exceeded Jehu's "mandate" if his mandate was to kill every male bond and free in the house of Ahab. Grandsons would certainly have been a part of Ahab's house, and Turkel knows it. He knows too that the orders to include bond and free in Jehu's "mandate" shows that the writer considered the "house of Ahab" to include more than just his relatives, because a descendant of a king of Ahab's stature would certainly not have been a bonded servant. Turkel dealt with all this by simply ignoring it. That may impress his choir members, but I am sure that discriminating readers have taken notice of this evasion.]

Turkel:
Before continuing, however, a word of clarification. Till makes much over our allusion to his Jury Ch. 1 essay's lack of mention of the slaughter of the priests of Baal. Till took our reply to be an indication that the Baal-bashing-fest ought to be awarded #9 status on Miller's list, and then proceeded to fill a great deal of space replying to this idea. The effort was an indulgence: No such argument was advanced by this writer at all.

What was our point in mentioning the Baal-bash, then? Let us first look at the verses under consideration:

2 Kings 10:29-31 However, (Jehu) did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit--the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan. The LORD said to Jehu, "Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation." Yet Jehu was not careful to keep the law of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit.

And now the original context of our remark:

From 2 Kings, verses 10:1-17 are those that report the Jezreel massacre. Verses 10:18-29, which Till reports not a peep about, tell the story of how Jehu trapped and killed a number of priests of Baal. Then comes verses 30-3, where God gives Jehu the promise.

To this, Till replies:

To Miller's list, I will add Jehu's massacre of the Baal worshippers.... I will now examine these 9 points to show that they do nothing to alter the obvious inconsistency in the two views of Jehu's massacre at Jezreel.

However, let it be pointed out that it was not argued in AJINOD Ch. 1 that the Baal-bash should become a ninth point in Miller's list. The argument we wished to bring across is that within the literary context of 2 Kings, verses 10:29-31, the "done well" comment applies to the actions taken by Jehu regarding the Baal-bash, whereas the "in accordance" refers only to what was done to the house of Ahab--with no direct comment on what was done extracurricularly. Although he eventually posits that it does refer to the deeds done to the house of Ahab, Mullen [Mull.DynJehu, 198-9] notes that "the stylized nature of the phrase makes it difficult to define `what is right' in specific terms...." We suggest, then, along with Provan [Prov.12K, 216] that another interpretive option is available.

Till:
I'll inject a quick comment here and then come back later to respond to the general thrust of Turkel's quibble. For now, I just want everyone to notice how he seems to think that quoting what Mullen and Provan think about this is somehow sufficient to prove that his position is correct. If, however, I should quote scholars who see this as a case of undeniable Yahwistic approval of Jehu's actions, I'm sure that wouldn't carry much weight with Turkel. He seems to labor under the impression that the opinions of his scholars should be considered definitive but that all others should be viewed with suspicion.

Turkel:
Verses 30-1 operate as a fully independent literary unit in context; they act as a summary of what has gone on before. The "done well" response has nothing to do with Jehu's political actions whatsoever. The literary form of the passage, as well as the literary separation of the actions relative to the house of Ahab, indicates that the "done well" praise is in reference only to Jehu's Baal-bashing coterie, for this is a significant event in the preceding material that had nothing to do with the house of Ahab. Our point, then, was that in failing to mention this extensively-recounted incident, Till left the impression that the "done well" phrase followed immediately behind the accountings of Jehu's political executions. But this is not the case, and the literary form here makes all the difference. Jehu is not praised for having "done well" because of his actions related to the house of Ahab. He is praised for having "done well" in regards to the Baal-bash.

Till:
I have kept this rather lengthy section intact with just the one short interjection of my comments, because if we look at this section as a whole, I think that readers can better see the quibbling that Turkel resorted to in order to make a dubious point about "the literary form of the passage." If Turkel wants to discuss literary form, I think I will find myself very much at home in such an exchange, having taught college literature for 30 years before I retired. Let's look at verse 30 as it was rendered in the American Standard Version. The italics used in this version will be represented by printing the italicized word in bold letters and enclosing it in brackets:

And Jehovah said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, [and] hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, thy sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.

Let's notice that the conjunction and, which connects what Turkel argues were two separate actions, is not in the Hebrew text. Hence, if Turkel wants to talk about the "literary form" of the passage, he should consider that the absence of the conjunction in this verse is a very strong indication that the second statement was intended as an appositive of the first. Appositives are linguistic equivalents of that which was said before them. If I should say, "John Smith, the superintendent of schools, is my brother-in-law," the expression "the superintendent of schools" would be in apposition to John Smith. In other words, John Smith is the superintendent of schools, and the superintendent of schools is John Smith. The two are the same. Appositives can at times be more complex than this simple example and can even take the form of separate clauses. If someone should ask a friend what she bought at the mall yesterday, the friend might say, "I didn't buy anything, didn't spend a dime." In such a scenario, who would think that the friend was relating two separate actions? Anyone with common sense would know that the last statement was in apposition to the first. The friend didn't buy anything; the friend didn't spend a dime.

So it is in the verse above where Turkel apparently tried to put all of his eggs into one basket of "literary form," and it has blown up in his face. The literary form of this verse makes it far more likely that the two statements were intended as one and the same thing, and I'm surprised that someone who prides himself so much on his apologetic talents as Turkel does would not be aware of how much parallelisms (a type of apposition) are a part of the Hebrew literary form. I will be talking more about parallelisms in Hebrew as I continue my response to Turkel, but for now I want to concentrate on the probability that verse 30 in this passage meant what is best reflected by the following rendition that omits the conjunction "and" as the original Hebrew text did.

And Jehovah said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, thy sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.

The probable sense of the passage would be accurately represented if it read like this: "And Jehovah said unto Jehu, 'Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes by doing unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, thy sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel."

This is the case, because Turkel's "literary-form" quibble demands that the two clauses be separated by a coordination junction. Since there is no coordinate conjunction in the original, it is more probable that the writer intended for the last clause to be a restatement of the first in order to emphasize the extent of Yahweh's approval of what Jehu had done.

In other words, Jehu's having done well in executing that which was right in Yahweh's eyes was the same as his having done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in Yahweh's heart, and having done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in Yahweh's heart was the same as having done well in executing that which was right in Yahweh's eyes. The latter expression was an appositive to the first one. It's an example of parallelism that was widely characteristic of the Hebrew "literary form."

Is this just Farrell Till, atheist and Bible skeptic, talking? Well let's look at what some other translations think.

We see more and more in Turkel's "apologetic" works that his defense of the Bible depends on unlikely, strained interpretations of passages that are rather plain in their meaning, and in appeals to the authority of those like Mullen and Provan, who go out of their way to find some way to reconcile the Bible with their desire to believe that it is divine in its origin. Such apologetic efforts as these make the god of Christian apologists look as dumb as a dodo, because in defending their view of the Bible, they have to paint a picture of a god who was too linguistically ignorant to say exactly what he meant in language that could be understood only as Turkel is now straining to make it mean:

And Yahweh said to Jehu, you have done well in executing against the worshipers of Baal that which is right in my eyes, and because you have also done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.

See how simple it would have been. Turkel's apologetic efforts create a god who wasn't nearly as linguistically adept as that mean old atheist Farrell Till, who isn't worth the time it would take Turkel to reply to his arguments.

[Addendum July 2005: Although I am not worth the time it would take Turkel to reply to my arguments, he has since spent considerable time replying to my arguments. He has written at least three more lengthy articles that selectively "replied" to my Jehu rebuttals. I thank him for the compliment.]

Turkel has strained to make a point about "literary form," so I want to make one more observation about his quibble. The probable meaning of a statement can best be determined by examining it in context. When Yahweh's praise of Jehu's actions at Jezreel are considered in context, it is easy to see that the meaning that Turkel strains to give to it is unlikely. Let's look at 2 Kings 10 from the point of Jehu's massacre of the Baal worshipers through the praise that he received for doing that which was right in Yahweh's heart.

2 Kings 10:18 Then Jehu assembled all the people and said to them, "Ahab offered Baal small service; but Jehu will offer much more. 19 Now therefore summon to me all the prophets of Baal, all his worshipers, and all his priests; let none be missing, for I have a great sacrifice to offer to Baal; whoever is missing shall not live." But Jehu was acting with cunning in order to destroy the worshipers of Baal. 20 Jehu decreed, "Sanctify a solemn assembly for Baal." So they proclaimed it. 21 Jehu sent word throughout all Israel; all the worshipers of Baal came, so that there was no one left who did not come. They entered the temple of Baal, until the temple of Baal was filled from wall to wall. 22 He said to the keeper of the wardrobe, "Bring out the vestments for all the worshipers of Baal." So he brought out the vestments for them. 23 Then Jehu entered the temple of Baal with Jehonadab son of Rechab; he said to the worshipers of Baal, "Search and see that there is no worshiper of Yahweh here among you, but only worshipers of Baal." 24 Then they proceeded to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings. Now Jehu had stationed eighty men outside, saying, "Whoever allows any of those to escape whom I deliver into your hands shall forfeit his life." 25 As soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, Jehu said to the guards and to the officers, "Come in and kill them; let no one escape." So they put them to the sword. The guards and the officers threw them out, and then went into the citadel of the temple of Baal. 26 They brought out the pillar that was in the temple of Baal, and burned it. 27 Then they demolished the pillar of Baal, and destroyed the temple of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day. 28 Thus Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel. 29 But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he caused Israel to commit--the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan.

Notice that after Jehu's massacre of the Baal worshipers is related, the writer appended a "but" statement to the story. Jehu wiped out Baal worship in Israel, but he did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam, who had set up golden calves in Bethel and Dan for the people to worship.

30 Yahweh said to Jehu, "Because you have done well in carrying out what I consider right, and in accordance with all that was in my heart have dealt with the house of Ahab, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel."

Was this statement intended in the sense that Turkel claims? Did the writer mean for readers to understand that Jehu's having "done well in carrying out what [Yahweh] consider[ed] right" was a reference to the massacre of the Baal worshippers? Well, we have already seen that the "literary form" of the passage favors the interpretation that the second statement was in apposition to the first. In other words, the absence of the conjunction and in the Hebrew text is an indication that the two statements were the same. As I showed before, that is very evident in Young's Literal Translation:

And Jehovah said unto Jehu, "Because that thou has done well, to do that which is right in Mine eyes--according to all that is in My heart thou has done to the house of Ahab--the sons of the fourth generation do sit for thee on the throne of Israel."

Let's just suppose, however, that the absence of the conjunction and doesn't mean anything and that Young's rendition is wrong and Turkel is right: the first statement referred to the massacre of the Baal worshipers and the second statement referred to Jehu's destruction of the house of Ahab. That would mean the writer meant for readers to understand that Yahweh had actually said the following to Jehu.

So now with that concession, what has Turkel gained? The passage is still stating that what Jehu did to the house of Ahab was according to all that was in Yahweh's heart. In other words, the writer of 2 Kings was still praising Jehu for massacring the house of Ahab. So Turkel has gone to extreme lengths in his quibbling over "literary form" to gain exactly nothing. He could be right, and those who see 2 Kings 10:30 as a statement inconsistent with Hosea 1:4 will have lost nothing.

[Addendum July 2005: I have looked through Turkel's "reworked" article and all the others that he wrote in "response" to little ol' me, who wasn't worth any more of his time, but I have not found any attempt to explain this rebuttal. Turkel said that the first clause, telling Jehu that he had done well, referred to his "Baal-bashing," but the second clause clearly said that Jehu had done "to the house of Ahab all that was in Yahweh's heart," so Turkel has yet to explain why this would not have been a statement approving of what Jehu had done in obliterating the house of Ahab. Turkel's spin on this part of the verse would have the author of 2 Kings praising Jehu for having exceeded his "mandate." If not, why not?]

So now let's look at the immediate context in which the praise of Jehu appeared.

29 But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he caused Israel to commit--the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan. 30 Yahweh said to Jehu, "Because you have done well in carrying out what I consider right, and in accordance with all that was in my heart have dealt with the house of Ahab, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel." 31 But Jehu was not careful to follow the law of Yahweh the God of Israel with all his heart; he did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he caused Israel to commit.

I have made this point before and will have to address it again in responding to the next section of Turkel's article, but apparently he needs to hear it again and again in order for it to sink in. The statement of praise is sandwiched between two verses that expressed the same negative criticism of Jehu's reign: He did not turn aside from the sin of Jeroboam, who had caused the Israelites to worship the golden calves at Bethel and Dan. Under the law, idolatry was an offense punishable by death (Dt. 13:6-11; 17:2-7), yet Yahweh apparently did nothing to Jehu for allowing to continue an idolatrous practice that was begun by Jeroboam. Nevertheless, Turkel et al expect us to believe that Jehu's actions in purging the house of Ahab went so far beyond what he had been commanded to do that Yahweh thought it necessary to destroy the house of Jehu too, yet his inspired writer made no mention at all of the seriousness of Jehu's excesses! In other words, we are asked to believe that Yahweh thought that Jehu's approval of the golden calves warranted condemnation twice within the space of three verses but that an excessive massacre that would result eventually in Yahweh's destruction of the house of Jehu wasn't worth even hinting at.

Such are the extremes that biblicists are driven to when they undertake to defend that colossal joke called biblical inerrancy. The most likely meaning of 2 Kings 10:30 remains that the writer of this passage thought that Jehu had pleased Yahweh in all that Jehu had done at Jezreel, and Turkel has said nothing to show that this is not the probable meaning of the passage.

Such as it is, we an now turn to Turkel's attempt to resolve the Jehu/Hosea inconsistency.

Turkel:
At this point, another objection by Till may be seen to kick in, to wit:

Obviously, the writer was upset with Jehu's failure to stamp out the worship of false gods completely. How reasonable is it, then, to believe that this writer in a context in which he expressed disapproval of some of Jehu's actions would not have mentioned at all an offense so grievous that Yahweh would someday destroy the house of Jehu for it.

Till:
I just went over this point, so my position should be clear on it. By the time I finish this part, readers should see that Turkel's quibbles do nothing to remove this as a legitimate objection to his apparent belief that the writer of 2 Kings objected to Jehu's conduct but just didn't mention it.

Turkel:
By the same logic, we may ask why Hosea, if he was indeed displeased with Jehu's actions, was not more clear and detailed about it himself! (See below.)

Till:
What was so unclear about Hosea's condemnation of Jehu's actions? "(A)nd the LORD instructed him, 'Name him Jezreel; for I will soon punish the House of Jehu for the bloody deeds at Jezreel and put an end to the monarchy of the House of Israel' (Hosea 1:4, version of the Jewish Publication Society). This statement pronounces judgment on the "house of Jehu" and gives "the bloody deeds at Jezreel" as the reason for the condemnation. Obviously, the writer of this statement did not think that Jehu had done all that was right in the heart and mind of Yahweh in the matter of Jezreel.

Turkel:
Even so, the answer is found in the style of the Kings' writer. Our writer is of a dry and disconnected nature--he reports atrocities and beneficences with equally flat sentiment. "The writer of 2 Kings was not concerned to pass judgments of a political or sociological nature on the events he is describing." [Hobb.2K, 119] It is not his nature to comment, except for the monotonous, summary repetition of whether a king did good or evil in the eyes of the Lord which was applied to all of the kings evaluated, and he generally lets the data speak for itself without need for further explanation.

Till:
Turkel calls himself an apologist? He would do well to do a little literary analysis of the biblical text himself before swallowing everything he reads in Bible commentaries that fits the mold that he wants to force the Bible into. To say that the writer of 2 Kings was not "concerned to pass judgments" and that it was "not his nature to comment, except for the monotonous, summary repetition of whether a king did good or evil in the eyes of the Lord" is to show an incredible ignorance of this book. Let's look at what this writer said about the reign of king Manasseh of Judah.

21:1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign; he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hephzibah. 2 He did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh, following the abominable practices of the nations that Yahweh drove out before the people of Israel.

[Addendum July 2005: Turkel did make an attempt to reply to this in Part Two of his "Jehu: Black Hat or White Hat?" I can't provide a direct link to the place where he hopped, skipped, and jumped over most of my rebuttal information in this matter, but using disconnected as a keyword will take readers to where he danced around most of the material that I quoted from 2 Kings to show that this writer was very specific at times in denouncing those who "did evil in the sight of Yahweh." Just to say that so-and-so did evil in the sight of Yahwew is itself a statement of judgment, because what is "evil" to one person wouldn't be evil to another. When the writer of 2 Kings used words like abominations, evil, and wicked, he was obviously making judgment calls, and when he said that so-and-so "did evil in the sight of Yahweh" and then followed that statement with a specific listing of what this person had done, as he did in the case of Manasseh, he was certainly going beyond the "dry, disconnected" reporting that Turkel claims was his stock-in-trade.

After jumping over most of the examples that I cited, Turkel did quote part of the offenses of Manasseh, and then pooh-poohed the list as nothing more than "dry, disconnected itemization".

Skeptic X apparently feels here that this itemization somehow overcomes the objection that the Kings writer is of a dry, disconnected nature. This is rather a surprising assertion from someone who professes to know literature. A bare listing of anything is usually of a monotonous and summary nature, and even this list of Manasseh's sins above is a list without extended commentary, one that leaves it to the reader to realize, "Yep, this was pretty wicked stuff" rather than making any effort to point it out especially. In other words, this is right in line with the methods of the Kings writer, just as I have argued: It just so happens that Manasseh's grocery list was longer than that of most of the other kings. But as far as being dry and disconnected, it is exactly that. It is a listing that is allowed to speak for itself: No one had to be told over and again that consulting wizards and building pagan altars was bad news.

Before this, Turkel had quoted where Hobbs had said that "(t)he writer of 2 Kings was not concerned to pass judgments of a political or sociological nature on the events he is describing," but he gave no evidence at all to support this claim; hence, it is nothing more than an argument by assertion and will remain such until we see evidence to support it. As logically challenged as he is, Turkel may not see that, but others will.

Basically, Turkel's "reply" to my rebuttal argument was an insistence that just because the writer catalogued sins doesn't mean that he passed judgment on them, but I just have to wonder how anybody can say that the part of 21:1 emphasized in bold print above would not be a statement of judgment. When the writer described Manasseh's deeds as "abominable practices," that was clearly a statement of judgment. A truly "dry, disconnected" style of writing would simply have said that Manasseh followed the idolatrous practices of the nations that Yahweh had cast out, but the moment that he said that Manasseh had done "evil," he was passing judgment on him, and when he went on to say that the idolatry of Manasseh was "abominable," he was again making a judgment statement. A cardinal principle of effective writing is that abstractions should be clarified with specific examples, and the Kings writer repeatedly did that in reporting the reigns of kings other than Manasseh. When this writer said that Jehoram had done that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh (2 Kings 3:2), that was an unclarified abstraction, but when he went on to say in the next verse that Jehoram had "clung to the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat," this was a specific example that clarified the abstraction to let readers, who would have been familiar with Jeroboam's altars that had enticed Israel to worship the golden calves (1 Kings 12:25-30), know exactly what "evil" Jehoram had done. Likewise, when this author said that "the children of Israel did secretly things that were not right against Jehovah their God" (2 Kings 17:9) that was an abstract judgment of the people, but when he went on to say in the following verses that they "built high places in all their cities" and "burned incense in all the high places" and "served idols," he was clarifying his abstract judgment call with specific examples.

The Kings writer was also good at heaping on praise of those who had been pleasing to his tribal god Yahweh.

1 Kings 15:5 Because David did that which was right in the eyes of Yahweh, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.

The writer wasn't satisfied to give just a "dry, disconnected" report of David's life by saying that he "did that which was right," but he went on to say that David had "turned not aside from anything that [Yahweh had] commanded him" and that he had been this upright "all the days of his life." Dry and disconnected? Well, I am sure that Turkel will still insist that he was, because once he commits himself, he won't admit that he is wrong no matter how much compelling evidence to the contrary may be thrown at him.

2 Kings 23:25 And like unto him [Josiah] was there no king before him, that turned to Yahweh with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.

The writer didn't just give a "dry, disconnected" report that Josiah was a good guy or even that he had been obedient to Yahweh. Instead, he heaped praise onto praise by saying that there had been no king like him, before or after, which would have included the righteous David, who, all the days of his life, had "turned not aside from anything that Yahweh had commanded him." No person could say with a straight face that this was just a "dry, disconnected" description of Josiah's character and reign, but take a look now at what the Kings writer said about Solomon.

1 Kings 4:29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore. 30 And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol: and his fame was in all nations round about. 32 And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five. 33 And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes.34 And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom.

A "dry, disconnected" description would simply have said that "God gave Solomon great wisdom and understanding," but the Kings writer wasn't satisfied with that kind of report. He went on to speak in terms just as hyperbolic as most of the language that characterizes the Bible. He was described as having wisdom that exceeded the wisdom "of all the children of the east county and all the wisdom of Egypt." The writer went on to say that Solomon was "wiser than all" and included the names of five wise men to compare him to. I doubt that even Turkel would say that "all of the people" and "all kings of the earth" literally came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, so if the language here was not literal, it had to be hyperbolic, and if it was hyperbolic, it wasn't dry and disconnected.

There is no need to continue this, because even if he were blasted with a million other examples like these, Turkel would never concede that his beloved Hobbs was wrong about the style of the Kings writer, but reasonable people have seen enough to see that Hobbs was indeed wrong. The Kings writer did often write in an accusatory, judgmental style, but he didn't say anything in 2 Kings 10 that even suggested that he thought that the massacre at Jezreel was wrong or that Jehu had exceeded his "mandate." That is a spin that Turkel and his inerrantist cohorts are putting onto the passage but just can't find the contextual evidence to make it stick.

Turkel's assertion that the writer of 2 Kings never specifically condemned Jehu for exceeding his "mandate," because it just wasn't this writer's style to do so, is obviously indefensible. If this author could have been as specific as he was in the examples just stated and in the others previously quoted above and below, there is no reason why he could not have said in specific, concrete terms that Jehu had done evil in the sight of Yahweh and then stated why, i.e., he had killed more than just those who were in the house of Ahab. About all that Turkel has been able to say on this claim of a "dry, disconnected" style in 2 Kings is, "Hobbs said it, I believe it, and that settles it." I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he has a bumpersticker on his car that says this. Those who check the link to Turkel's article that I provided above will see that he brushes aside all the evidence that disputes his "dry, disconnected" claim as if to say, "That's my story, and I'm sticking to it."]

So did the writer of 2 Kings settle just for this "monotonous, summary repetition" of Manasseh's having done that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh? Hardly! He went on to give a pretty thorough catalog of Manasseh's sins.

3 For he rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he erected altars for Baal, made a sacred pole, as King Ahab of Israel had done, worshiped all the host of heaven, and served them. 4 He built altars in the house of Yahweh, of which Yahweh had said, "In Jerusalem I will put my name." 5 He built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of Yahweh. 6 He made his son pass through fire; he practiced soothsaying and augury, and dealt with mediums and with wizards. He did much evil in the sight of Yahweh, provoking him to anger. 7 The carved image of Asherah that he had made he set in the house of which Yahweh said to David and to his son Solomon, "In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever; 8 I will not cause the feet of Israel to wander any more out of the land that I gave to their ancestors, if only they will be careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them."

If we itemize Manasseh's offenses, we see that this writer (whose style Turkel said was to give just monotonous, summary repetitions of whether the king had done good or evil) named 10 specific sins:

These were just the religious offenses of Manasseh of whom the writer went on to say...

9 But they did not listen; Manasseh misled them to do more evil than the nations had done that Yahweh destroyed before the people of Israel.

I would say that this last statement was much more than just "a monotonous, repetition" of whether Manasseh had done evil. It was a ringing indictment of his evil, which this dry, "monotonous" writer said had surpassed the evil of the nations that Yahweh had destroyed in order to give the land to the Israelites. But there is still more.

10 Yahweh said by his servants the prophets, 11 "Because King Manasseh of Judah has committed these abominations, has done things more wicked than all that the Amorites did, who were before him, and has caused Judah also to sin with his idols; 12 therefore thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such evil that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 13 I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line for Samaria, and the plummet for the house of Ahab; I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14 I will cast off the remnant of my heritage, and give them into the hand of their enemies; they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies, 15 because they have done what is evil in my sight and have provoked me to anger, since the day their ancestors came out of Egypt, even to this day."

Turkel could say, of course, that the foregoing passage was merely a repetition of what Yahweh had said about Manasseh through the prophets, but the following statement clearly expresses the view of the writer himself.

16 Moreover Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides the sin that he caused Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh. 17 Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, all that he did, and the sin that he committed, are they not written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah? 18 Manasseh slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the garden of his house, in the garden of Uzza. His son Amon succeeded him.

Saying that a king had shed "much innocent blood, until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another" is certainly more than a "monotonous, summary repetition" of whether the king had done evil. Even though Manasseh was dead and gone before the writer finished this chapter of his book, he wasn't finished with Manasseh. After relating the reign of righteous Josiah (whose righteous acts, by the way were detailed in far more specific terms than just a "monotonous, summary repetition" of whether Josiah had done that which was right), the writer returned to heap more scorn on Manasseh.

23:24 Moreover Josiah put away the mediums, wizards, teraphim, idols, and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, so that he established the words of the law that were written in the book that the priest Hilkiah had found in the house of Yahweh. 25 Before him there was no king like him, who turned to Yahweh with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.

We should notice that in describing Josiah's righteous reign, which I will return to later, the writer listed several of his specific acts of righteousness and went on to say that there had been no king like him, before or after, who turned to Yahweh with all his heart, soul, and might. This is certainly more than a "monotonous, summary repetition" of whether Josiah had been righteous. But the writer then turned immediately to the reign of Manasseh and let him have it again.

26 Still Yahweh did not turn from the fierceness of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him. 27 Yahweh said, "I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel; and I will reject this city that I have chosen, Jerusalem, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there." 28 Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah?

But the writer was still not finished with his denunciation of Manasseh. In chapter 24, he blamed Manasseh for the damages that Judah was suffering from bands of Chaldeans, Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites who were raiding the land of Judah.

24:3 Surely this came upon Judah at the command of Yahweh, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, for all that he had committed, 4 and also for the innocent blood that he had shed; for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and Yahweh was not willing to pardon.

So three times, the writer of 2 Kings raged against the sins Manasseh had committed and the innocent blood he had shed. He even resorted to hyperbole to describe the blood shed as so excessive that it had filled Jerusalem. This is hardly a "monotonous, summary repetition" of Manasseh's evil doings; it was a very positive denunciation of his actions.

I could continue this and show how the writer of 2 Kings did in other cases either praise or denounce kings in more than just a "monotonous, summary repetition" of whether they had been good or evil kings, but I am going to limit myself to one more example that demolishes this aspect of Turkel's article. I just showed that the author of 2 Kings denounced Manasseh in specific terms that went far beyond a "monotonous, summary repetition" of the evil he had done, and an analysis of the reign of Josiah will show that this author was not the impassionate writer that Turkel is claiming in order to quibble that he disapproved of Jehu's conduct at Jezreel but just didn't say so because it wasn't his style. This is the kind of absurdity that the biblical inerrancy doctrine drives its defenders to.

Turkel evidently gleaned this quibble from the works of an apologist named Hobbs, whose "commentary" was published by Word Books in Waco, Texas, which doesn't sound very much like a bastion of objectivity. Hobbs's take on the "literary style" of the author of 2 Kings is obviously contrary to literary fact, as we will see after looking at Turkel's attempt to apply Hobbs's "solution" to the failure of the writer of 2 Kings to condemn Jehu's actions at Jezreel.

Turkel:
That [Hobbs's quibble] being so, we should not expect any such explicit condemnatory comments as Till suggests. For the Kings' writer, readers are intelligent enough to understand (especially living as they did in the same religious and socio-political world) that Jehu's piling of his enemies' heads in front of the city was an unwarranted tactic of terror;

[Addendum July 2005: I shouldn't have let this absurd statement get by me unchallenged. That Turkel would think that readers of that time would have been appalled by the beheading of Ahab's grandsons is either gross ignorance of the Bible on his part or else a flagrant concealment of biblical barbarism in hopes that his uninformed readers will buy the claim. The history of the Israelites--which is probably just a fictionalized history--is a bloody history. On their alleged sweep through the "promised land," they left no one alive to breathe (Josh. 10:40; Josh. 11:10-11). On their way to this promised land, they invaded Media, which had befriended Moses when he was a refugee from Egyptian justice, killed all the males, took women and children captive, and then killed all of the male children and nonvirgin females, and kept the virgins alive for themselves (Num. 31:1-18). In the time of their first king (Saul), they invaded the Amalekites and "utterly destroyed" the population, including even women, children, and infants (1 Sam. 15:1-8). When he was a fugitive from Saul, David raided towns and villages in the land of Gath, which had also given him refuge, and left neither man nor woman alive (1 Sam. 27:8-9). This was a culture that committed such barbarisms as cutting off the thumbs and big toes of captives (Judges 1:6-7), ripping open the wombs of pregnant captive women (2 Kings 15:16), dashing infants against rocks (Psalm 137:9, cutting off the hands and feet of captives (2 Sam. 4:12), cutting captives to pieces with saws, harrows, and axes (1 Chron. 20:3), and, yes, even beheadings (1 Sam. 17:51; 1 Sam. 31:9; 2 Sam. 4:7; 2 Sam. 4:12; 2 Sam. 20:22). This is only a partial list of biblical atrocities, which I could extend indefinitely, and Turkel has the gall to say that the beheading of Ahab's grandchildren would have shocked those who were living in Jehu's "religious and socio-political world"! Those people lived in very barbaric times and would have thought "another day, another massacre" when they saw the heads of Jerhoram's sons piled high at the city gate. If I said that the Israelite massacres of the Canaanites, Midianites, Amalekites, etc. were immoral atrocities, Turkel would be first in line to defend them as moral acts, but when he needs to find immorality in order to eliminate an inconsistency in the Bible, he is first in line again to declare Jehu's actions at Jezreel immoral, even though the "inspired" writer of 1 Kings had "dryly and disconnectedly" declared that they had been "according to all that was in Yahweh's heart." Is there anything more absurdly comical than a defender of biblical inerrancy?]

Turkel:
they did not need it spelled out for them (as some skeptics seem inclined to insist!) that Jehu went beyond God's orders in certain of his actions; they did not deem it necessary at the conclusion of events to recap by saying, "Jehu was told to do A, B and C; but he did A, B, C, D and E, which was more than he was supposed to do, and that was wrong." No, they did not need such superfluous Howard Cosell commentary; no more than we need a narrator of World War II films featuring visions of Auschwitz reminding us that what we are seeing, by the way, is bad. Certain skeptics, I have noted, tend to assume that all readers, especially those of Biblical times, are stupid, and are required to have their obligatory reactions spelled out for them on cue cards, or like some manner of ancient laugh track advising them that what they are seeing is funny. They may be right in many cases. However, very few are or were so dense as to not clearly understand the crystalline message of the Kings writer.

Till:
Well, I have shown that in the case of Manasseh, this writer whose style was so reserved listed 10 specific religious sins that Manasseh had committed before going on to talk about all of the blood he had shed, and this was just one case of many that I could have cited. In 2 Kings 16, this writer, whom Turkel claims just wasn't interest in giving catalogs of details, was very specific in listing the sins of Ahaz of Judah, which Turkel may read about himself if he wishes to enlighten himself on a subject in which he is obviously very misinformed. Passages like this one and the example of Manasseh, which I have already cited, are sufficient to show that it would have been entirely consistent with the style of this writer to specifically state what Jehu had done wrong in the matter of Jezreel. The fact that he did list specific offenses of other kings but didn't state any specific "sins" of Jehu beyond his failure to end the worship of the golden calves is reasonable evidence that Turkel is simply grasping for straws in this matter in order to defend a cherished belief.

Further evidence that Turkel's assessment of the style of the 2 Kings writer is way off base can be found in his account of Josiah's reign. Josiah was presented as a king who "did that which was right in the eyes of Yahweh" (22:2), which according to Turkel's assessment is as far as his "monotonous, summary repetition" should have allowed him to go, but he went on and said much more of a very specific nature. First of all, he said that Josiah "walked in all the ways of David his father and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left" (v:2). The writer devoted two full chapters to record the reign of Josiah (approximately the same amount of space that he took to tell Jehu's story), and in doing so, he mentioned the following specific acts of Josiah:

The list of Josiah's specific acts of righteousness continued on through 20 more verses, but these are sufficient to show that Turkel is wrong in saying that it wasn't the style of the writer of 2 Kings to go into details about the right and wrong that kings did except to speak in "monotonous, summary repetitions" of whether the kings did good or evil. All anyone has to do is actually read this book to see that the writer was quite often very specific in recording the righteous and unrighteous acts of kings. Hezekiah "did that which was right in the eyes of Yahweh, according to all that David his father had done" (18:3). Then the writer listed these specific acts of righteousness: (1) He removed the high places. (2) He broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. (3) He broke into pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made, because the Israelites were burning incense to it. (4) He clung to Yahweh and departed not from following him but kept his commandments, which Yahweh had commanded Moses.

To continue this thread is unnecessary. Turkel's statement about the literary style of the writer of 2 Kings is nonsense that has been hatched up in order to quibble about a point of embarrassment in 2 Kings 10:30.

Turkel:
With that, we now turn to the specifics of Till's case for disharmony: Hosea the Condemner?

The first aspect of our analysis attacks the issue from the rear, so to speak. Our subject verse is Hosea 1:4:

Then the LORD said to Hosea, "Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel."

A word is in order, first, about a potential argument which we will not pursue for lack of necessity and lack of direct evidence. It has been assumed by all sides and by many commentators that Hosea here is specifically referring to the events of 2 Kings 10. But the fact is that there is nothing in the verse above that requires this connection at all. It has merely been assumed that since 2 Kings is the only other place in the OT that describes suitable events located at Jezreel, that this must be, necessarily, what Hosea is referring to. However, the fact is that there is nothing in Hosea that connects this reference to the specific actions of Jehu in 2 Kings. Allegedly condemned here is the "house of Jehu"--but this "house" consisted of several kings and their respective [h]ousemates (see below), all but one of which had sufficient time to commit some objectionable (but otherwise unrecorded) atrocity or series of atrocities in Jezreel. In the end, there is no certainty that Hosea is indeed referring to the events recorded in 2 Kings 10, which may make the entire discussion pointles [sic].

Till:
Not much needs to be said about this except that it is a variation of the old same-name-different- person argument that inerrantists sometimes resort to in order to try to wiggle out of situations that are damaging to their inerrancy position. An example would be the inerrantists who actually argue that the Amram who was listed in Exodus 6:18 as the son of Kohath was not the same Amram mentioned two verses later as the father of Moses and Aaron. They so quibble in order to avoid a chronological discrepancy between this genealogy and other Old Testament passages. If, for example, the Amram who was the father of Moses and Aaron was the same Amram who was the son of Kohath, then this would have made Aaron and Moses the great-grandsons of Levi, who was one of the sons of Jacob who came into Egypt in Genesis 46, so if only four generations separated Levi and Moses, this would hardly have allowed enough time for the 430-year sojourn in Egypt claimed in Exodus 12:40. Furthermore, a wilderness census taken of the Kohathites (Num. 3:28) indicated that there were 8,600 of them who were classified as Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites, and Uzzielites (named after the four sons of Kohath). If we allow for an approximate distribution of the 8,600 within the four "families," this would mean that Amram had about 2,150 descendants at the time of the exodus, a population that would not have been possible if the Amram who was the father of Aaron and Moses was the same Amram who was Kohath's son. Hence, inerrantists argue that this is a case of the same name but a different person, even though the two verses in Exodus 6 that trace Kohath's descendants to Aaron and Moses don't even hint that there were two Amrams intended. Inerrantists, however, will resort to all kinds of desperation to keep from admitting that discrepancies are in the Bible, and this is just one example of the tactics they will use.

[Addendum July 2005: Readers who want to see more about the Amram/Kohath problem in Exodus 6 can go to the index page of TSR Online and read the articles under the header Egypt.]

In effect, this [same-name-different-person] is what Turkel is attempting to do in this case. The Old Testament records two cases of bloodshed at Jezreel: (1) the murder of Naboth when Ahab coveted his vineyard [1 Kings 21], and (2) Jehu's massacre of the royal family of Israel [2 Kings 9-10]. Since Jehu was not involved in the first act of bloodshed, we can reasonably conclude the second one was what Hosea was referring to, and since Hosea clearly associated the bloodshed at Jezreel as something that should be "visited" on the house of Jehu, it is pure speculation to suppose that the "blood of Jezreel" referred to another atrocity at Jezreel that happened not to be recorded in the Bible. In addition to being a variation on the same-name-but-different-person quibble, it is also a resort to the kind of argumentation that we see inerrantists using to explain why no one can find prophecies in the Old Testament, such as the one that Matthew claimed in saying that it had been prophesied that Jesus would be called a Nazarene (Matt. 2:23). They will argue that Matthew said that the prophets had "spoken" this, so this could be a case of something that prophets spoke but never actually wrote down. Since Turkel did nothing but assert the possibility that Hosea 1:4 was referring to an atrocity that wasn't recorded in the Old Testament, there is really no argument here to answer. If Turkel would like to present one, let him do it. Then I can decide if he is "worthy" of any more of my time. Obviously, the more reasonable interpretation of Hosea 1:4 would be to assume that the prophet was referring to the bloodshed in Jezreel, committed by Jehu, which is recorded in the Old Testament. If this wasn't what he meant, this would be just another case of confusion in a book that was presumably verbally inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent deity.

Turkel:
That said, we will nevertheless assume, for the sake of argument, that Hosea did indeed have in mind the events recorded in 2 Kings, where, it is our position to state that Jehu overstepped the orders of the Lord.

Till:
I have already shown that the Bible claims that Yahweh ordered Jehu to destroy the house of Ahab as thoroughly and completely as the houses of Jeroboam and Baasha had been destroyed. The orders extended to all males bond and free in the house of Ahab, so, as the story is told, Jehu did exactly as he was ordered and was praised for doing so. He would have, in fact, disobeyed his divine orders had he not killed every male that belonged to the house of Jehu. I will return to this point later as I address Turkel's quibble that "friends" in the account of the destruction of Baasha's "house" was a different word in Hebrew from the "friends" of Jehoram of Ahab that Jehu massacred. We will then see that this quibble is completely without merit.

Turkel:
Our argument in this regard ran as follows:

Many commentators of all stripes have suggested, based on structure and parallelism, that Hosea 1:4 is better read to express the idea that the bloodshed of Jezreel will be visited on the house of Jehu--which is to say, the verse should read, not "punished for the blood of Jezreel," but "punished by"--the reference is to the mode of punishment, rather than the cause of it

Till's reply to this has been most peculiar. He insists that our "language is ambiguous" and offers several rhetorical questions of the effect, "What does he mean by...?" etc. "Who knows?" he concludes, what I mean.

Till:
Well, actually, I didn't suggest that "our language" is ambiguous but that Turkel's language was ambiguous. I don't blame him for hiding behind the pedantic "we" throughout his rebuttal, but I hope that readers will not let this affected writing style cause them to forget that Turkel was the one who wrote the articles, so it was his language that was ambiguous and his arguments that failed to resolve the discrepancy under consideration. After wading through his 80K response a couple of times, I think I finally understood what he was trying to say, but that doesn't remove the fact that his language was ambiguous. As I come to them in my reply, I will address his attempts to show that he knows more about how the Old Testament should read than did the many translators who collaborated in producing the versions that I have quoted, but at this point, just let me suggest that when someone's defense of the Bible depends on the claim that all of the hundreds of translators who cooperated in producing the KJV, ASV, RSV, NRSV, NKJV, NAB, NIV, etc., etc., etc., etc. got it all wrong, that's a pretty good sign that the debater knows that his case is weak, and so he has to resort to trying to find books written by biblicists who were aware of the problem under consideration and resorted to far-fetched, what-it-could-have-meant explanations to try to show that there really isn't a discrepancy.

Turkel:
Who knows? Everyone except Farrell Till, evidently, who is thus far the only one to complain.

Till:
Hmmm, then I wonder why when I asked others if they understood what Turkel was trying to say, they said that they weren't sure they understood what he meant either. I spent 30 years of my life reading freshman compositions, many of them ambiguously written in places, but I could almost always figure out what they meant. I finally figured out what Turkel meant (I think) in saying that the house of Jehu would not be punished for the blood of Jezreel but by the blood of Jezreel, but it took some time and rereading and rereading to do it. It isn't my fault that Turkel can't express himself clearly at times. Lapses in clarity happen to all writers at times. When it happens in my writing, I see no disgrace in admitting it, but Turkel apparently sees weakness in even acknowledging that his own writing isn't inerrant.

[Addendum July 2005: Since I wrote this, the quantity of sloppily written articles that I have seen on Turkel's website has made me realize why his writing is so often ambiguous. He cranks them out instead of putting the time into them to make them coherent and orderly. Good writing simply takes time, and any writing instructor will tell his/her students that. I spent 30 years reading student essays, and the ones that were written in haste were easy to spot. The stream-of-consciousness school was popular in American literature early in the 20th century, but it lost favor because the poorly organized ideas in stories written this way drove readers away. If I had no interest in debunking biblical inerrancy claims, I would read Turkel's articles only if I were paid a salary to do so. I recall an e-mail that I received from someone a couple of years ago, who said that he saw no need to read Turkel's articles, because "when you have read one, you have read them all." He said that he could see the appeal that his constant harangues would have to simple-minded Bible believers who enjoy seeing Turkel "tell off" those who reject the Bible, but there just isn't anything in them to appeal to people who think critically.]

Turkel:
Apparently Till feels that he can convince his readers that a given reading is vague if he says so;

Till:
No, I found that I didn't have to tell them that the statement was "vague"; they had already recognized it themselves. Of course, I probably made the mistake of asking people who hadn't twisted themselves into verbal pretzels from years of trying to find a way out of the consequences of face-value readings of biblical texts; hence, they had had limited experience in trying to find innovative ways to make a text not mean what it plainly says.

Turkel:
this may work well for the persuasion of his adoring fold, but those of us who still maintain our own entitlement of independent thinking need not be swayed so easily.

Till:
I just can't let this pass without comment. When I read a text in the Bible, I have an "entitlement of independent thinking" that, despite my recognition that the Bible is contradictory and inconsistent at times, will allow me to decide that the statement may be historically accurate. Turkel and his inerrantist cohorts are the ones who have no such entitlement, because they aren't free to make the opposite decision. Since he is a biblical inerrantist, he has to look for ways to make the text "historical" even if it obviously isn't, and that is because his position leaves him no freedom to exercise "independent thinking." That is what is wrong with his reliance on "sources" that find harmony and consistency in the Bible. Their belief that the Bible is in some sense "the word of God" will not allow them to see inconsistency in the biblical text, so such statements as his comment above may sound good to his "adoring fold," but those of us who know that biblical inerrantists always approach the Bible with the assumption that whatever it says is historically accurate know that Turkel is not free to think independently. Perhaps it is envy on his part of those of us who do enjoy such intellectual independence that leads him to make such ridiculous statements, because one thing that Turkel absolutely is not is an intellectual independent. He is, in fact, an intellectual slave to his preconceived notion that a collection of superstitious writings, produced by superstitious men, in superstitious and prescientific times, is the "inspired word of God."

Turkel:
Even so, for the sake of those in thrall to Till's persuasion, let us restate our position in terms that might more easily be comprehended by Mr. Till. The argument involves two aspects - a) concerning the word translated "punish/avenge," and b) the word translated "massacre. [sic]

Till:
So now we get to hear Turkel boast that he knows much more about Hebrew than the hundreds of scholars who gave us the various English translations of the Old Testament. He may not say it directly, but between the lines, we will see him suggesting that it is a pity that these translators didn't know as much about Hebrew as he does.

Turkel:
The first argument a) is that Hosea's words indicate that the house of Jehu will be punished, not because of the blood of Jezreel, but in the same way as occurred at Jezreel--which is to say, as Jehu at Jezreel destroyed his enemies, so shall now the house of Jehu be destroyed

Till:
And no doubt the various translators rendered the verse as it will be found in English versions simply because they wanted to mislead readers by incorrectly translating Hosea 1:4. I have already posted several translations of the verse to show that there is general accord among translators about its meaning, so this time I will just cite the one translation of the Jewish Publication Society: "Name him Jezreel; for, I will soon punish the House of Jehu for the bloody deeds at Jezreel." Of course, it is ridiculous to think that Jews translating their own writings might know more about the meaning of this verse than a non-Jewish biblical inerrantist working on the assumption that the Bible is inerrant and motivated by a desire to explain away a discrepancy.

Turkel:
Let's look again at this verse. The NIV reads, "I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel..." The KJV reads, "I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu...." The key here is the Hebrew term which emerges in our translations as punish/avenge. The Hebrew word in question is "paqad." Let us look at the definition from Strong's Concordance

6485. paqad, paw-kad'; a prim. root; to visit (with friendly or hostile intent); by anal. to oversee, muster, charge, care for, miss, deposit, etc.:--appoint, X at all, avenge, bestow, (appoint to have the, give a) charge, commit, count, deliver to keep, be empty, enjoin, go see, hurt, do judgment, lack, lay up look, make X by any means, miss, number, officer, (make) overseer have (the) oversight, punish, reckon, (call to) remember (-brance), set (over), sum, X surely, visit, want

Note well the applicable meanings: We see avenge and punish; but also bestow, remember, set (over), visit. If this verse is read, "I will visit the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu..." or "apply the bloodshed of Jezreel" [t]hen we have something entirely different than [sic] what Till has argued, and which matches what we have stated previously: The matter is one of punishment by type and method, and has nothing to do with retribution for the actions of Jehu. It is saying no more than, "I will bring upon the house of Jehu the same type of judgment that they brought about at Jezreel" - i.e. extermination of the totality of the house

Till:
Another observation about Turkel's linguistic knowledge is in order here. He apparently doesn't know what homographs are. A fairly common misconception is that words like bear, and bear or mean, mean, and mean are the same words, which are sometimes used in different senses, but they are actually different words derived from different etymological sources. Mean in the sense of signify, for example, was derived from an Old English word maenan, which meant "to tell of," but mean in the sense of average was derived from the Latin word medianus, which meant "middle." Mean in the sense of unkind or spiteful was derived from the Old English word gaemene, which meant "common." All three homographs came to be spelled and pronounced alike in English, but they are all different words. We have many homographs in English, which are loosely referred to as homonyms, a word that implies they are the same words with different meanings.

I am not a linguistic expert in Hebrew, but I would consider it very unlikely that pqd in Hebrew was always the same word, since this homograph had so many different meanings. Nevertheless, what is true of English must have also been true of Hebrew, and so the meaning of a homograph is determinable by the way that it is used. If I should say, "I saw a bear in the woods," no person fluent in English would think that this was any word except the one, which meant "brown one"; hence, the word in this sentence would be the homograph that designated the animal from the Ursaidae family, which is most often brown in color. A study of pqd as it was used in the Old Testament can also determine its probable meaning in Hosea 1:4.

I am not going to play the game of my-scholars-against-your-scholars, and so I am just going to say at this point that my research into pqd, when it was used in a sense most often translated as "visit" or "punish," showed that the word has no exact parallel in English but that it connoted the idea of "remembering" in either a positive or a negative sense. That a word in one language may not have an exact parallel in another doesn't mean that the sense or meaning of the word cannot be translated into another language. I think immediately of the word chez in French. If one should say in French, "Je suis chez mon frere," he would mean that he is at his brother's home or house, even though the word "home" or "house" is not actually in the sentence he used. To translate this sentence as, "I am at my brother's house" would be an accurate representation of what the speaker meant. To say that an accurate translation of pqd in Hebrew isn't possible would be a strange position for a biblicist to take, because he would be arguing that his god inspired the writing of the Bible in a language that cannot be deciphered.

As I mentioned above, in its sense of "visit," the word pqd denoted the idea of "remembering," but whether the "remembering" was positive or negative could be determined by context. If an English speaker should encounter an insult or a spiteful deed from someone, he might say, "Okay, I'll remember that." The statement would carry the sense of a threat or payback, which anyone fluent in English would understand. On the other hand, if a good deed were done to a person, he might also say, "I'll remember this," but here he would be speaking in a positive or favorable sense. The idea of a payback would be understood in the statement, but the person it was said to would understand that it was a promise to return the favor when the opportunity presented itself. No one fluent in English would experience any problems understanding what was meant in either situation, so it is reasonable to assume that the same would be true of pqd in Hebrew. the contexts would clarify meaning. Here are some statements where PQD was translated "visit" in the KJV but used in obviously positive or favorable senses.

Genesis 50:24 And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit [PQD] you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 25 And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit [PQD] you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.

Exodus 13:19 And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit [PQD] you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you.

Genesis 21:1 And Yahweh visited [PQD] Sarah as he had said, and Yahweh did unto Sarah as he had spoken. 2 For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.

Exodus 3:15 And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Yahweh God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. 16 Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, Yahweh God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited [PQD] you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt:

Exodus 4:31 And the people believed: and when they heard that Yahweh had visited [PQD] the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.

Ruth 1:6 Then she [Naomi] arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited [PQD] his people in giving them bread.

1 Samuel 2:21 And Yahweh visited [PQD] Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before Yahweh.

Psalm 106:4 Remember me, O Yahweh, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit [PQD] me with thy salvation; 5 That I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance.

In these and other examples that I could cite, the context in which PQD was used easily enables readers to determine that a "visiting" or "remembering" in a positive or favorable sense was intended. Since we have homographs and homophones in our own language, it should not surprise us to know that in other languages the meanings of homographs or homophones can be easily determined by the context in which they are used. Only someone who is looking to shore up a pet theory would argue that the meaning of a word like PQD was so mysterious that we can't really be sure how a writer intended it to be understood. Anyone reading the passages above can see that what was done or said at the time of the "visiting" or "remembering" enables the reader to see that the word was being used in a positive or favorable sense. Now here are some biblical passages in which the context easily shows that a PQD (visiting or remembering) in a negative or punitive sense was meant.

Leviticus 18:25 And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit [PQD] the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.

Psalm 89:30 If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; 31 If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; 32 Then will I visit [PQD] their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.

Jeremiah 14:10 Thus saith Yahweh unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore Yahweh doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit [PQD] their sins.

Amos 3:3 Hear ye, and testify in the house of Jacob, saith the Lord GOD, the God of hosts, 14 That in the day that I shall visit [PQD] the transgressions of Israel upon him I will also visit [PQD] the altars of Bethel: and the horns of the altar shall be cut off, and fall to the ground. 15 And I will smite the winter house with the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end, saith Yahweh.

Exodus 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I Yahweh thy God am a jealous God, visiting [PQD] the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

Lamentations 4:22 The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion; he will no more carry thee away into captivity: he will visit [PQD] thine iniquity, O daughter of Edom; he will discover thy sins.

As in cases where PQD was used in the sense of a positive remembering or visiting, the sense or meaning of PQD is also easy to determine by context when it was used in a negative or punitive sense. The linguistic formula was invariably to state that a PQD (visiting or remembering) would occur and then to follow that with the reason for the PQD. When applied in a negative way, PQD denoted a "visiting" or "remembering" of sins or iniquities, and one would have to be desperate for a straw to grasp in order to argue that the sense of PQD in such cases was not intended to convey that Yahweh would "visit" or "remember" these sins and iniquities in the sense of administering punishment for them. This is exactly the type of context that we find in Hosea 1:4.

4 And Yahweh said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge [PQD] the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.

Yahweh first stated that he would bring about a PQD (visit or remembrance) and then gave the reason for it, i. e., the blood of Jezreel. There is no significant difference here from the passages above in which Yahweh said that he would PQD (visit or remember) and then stated the reason for the "visit," i. e., the sins and iniquities of the parties being "visited" or remembered.

A good way to determine how a particular writer probably intended a word or expression to be understood is to note other statements in which he used the same word. If we do this, in the case of Hosea, we find the following examples of how he used PQD.

2:12 And I will destroy her [Hosea's wife of "whoredom," symbolically Israel] vines and her fig trees, whereof she hath said, These are my rewards that my lovers have given me: and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them. 13 And I will visit [PQD] upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the LORD.

4:9 And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish [PQD] them for their ways, and reward them their doings. 10 For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD. 11 Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart. 12 My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God. 13 They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good: therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery. 14 I will not punish [PQD] your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery: for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots: therefore the people that doth not understand shall fall.

8:13 They sacrifice flesh for the sacrifices of mine offerings, and eat it; but Yahweh accepteth them not; now will he remember their iniquity, and visit [PQD] their sins: they shall return to Egypt.

9:7 The days of visitation [PQD] are come, the days of recompense are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred. 8 The watchman of Ephraim was with my God: but the prophet is a snare of a fowler in all his ways, and hatred in the house of his God. 9 They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah: therefore he will remember their iniquity, he will visit [PQD] their sins.

12:2 Yahweh hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish [PQD] Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him.

So seven other times, Hosea used PQD, and in each case, the word carried the sense of remembering sins and iniquities and punishing for them. Is it any surprise that PQD is translated in the sense of "punishment" in other versions of the Old Testament? Here are the renditions of the Jewish Publication Society:

2:15 (verse 13 in KJV): Thus I will punish [PQD] her for the days of the Baalim.

4:9 Therefore the people shall fare like the priests: I will punish [PQD] it for its conduct, I will require it for its deeds.... 14 I will not punish [PQD] their daughters for fornicating nor their daughters-in-law for committing adultery; For they themselves turn aside with whores and sacrifice with prostitutes....

8:13-15 When they present sacrifices to Me, it is but flesh for them to eat: The Lord has not accepted them. Behold, he remembers their iniquity, He will punish [PQD] their sins: Back to Egypt with them!

9:7-9 The days of punishment [PQD] have come for your heavy guilt; The days of requital have come--Let Israel know it. The prophet was distraught, the inspired man driven mad by constant harassment. Ephraim watches for my God. As for the prophet, fowlers' snares are on his paths, harassment in the House of his God. They have been as grievously corrupt as in the days of Gibeah. He will remember their iniquity, he will punish [PQD] their sins.

12:3 The Lord once indicted Judah, and punished [PQD] Jacob for his conduct....

A check of other translations will show that most of them were rendered to carry the sense of punishment wherever Hosea used PQD. Except for the damage that this translation does to his pet inerrancy theory, Turkel would see no reason to disagree with them, but when inerrancy is on the line, an inerrantist must deny the obvious in order to defend his position.

Turkel:
The question, of course, is whether we are justified in deferring to the bestow/visit interpretation upon this word, in preference to the avenge/punish interpretation.

Till:
For the sake of argument, let's just assume that Turkel's interpretation of Hosea 1:4 is correct. This is how he interpreted the verse: "It is saying no more than, 'I will bring upon the house of Jehu the same type of judgment that they brought about at Jezreel"--i. e., extermination of the totality of the house.'" Turkel, of course, needs to establish that this is undeniably what Hosea meant or he has no case, but let's just suppose that this really was what Hosea meant. The fact that the prophet selected this particular event from Jehu's past as his example of what would happen to the house of Jehu would surely indicate that he considered it a despicable event. In other words, to find something appropriate to compare to the impending fate of the house of Jehu, Hosea looked back and selected Jehu's complete extermination of the royal family of Israel. Would he have done that if he had thought that Jehu's actions at Jezreel were praiseworthy? Turkel may think so, but to so argue would certainly require a resort to some peculiar principles of literary interpretation. The death of those who fought at the Alamo is considered an example to be greatly admired, and so the men who died there are thought of as exceptional heroes. If the ignominious end of some despicable person should be compared to an event like the fall of the heroes at the Alamo, anyone could see the inappropriateness of it. Let's suppose, for example, that a prophet of today should pronounce impending doom upon Saddam Hussein by saying, "God will visit upon Saddam Hussein the death of those who died at the Alamo." Who would not be able to see the incongruity in the comparison? Anyone could see that a far better analogy would be to compare Hussein's fate to the atrocity that he administered on the Kurds within his own country when he used nerve gas to wipe them out.

[Addendum July 2005: In his typical "smorgasbord" fashion, Turkel picked this rebuttal as one that he would answer. I urge readers to go to "Jehu: Black Hat or White Hat?" to see how he tried to dance around this rebuttal argument. I can't link to the exact section where he "addressed" this point, but using Alamo as a key word in the search window will take you directly to it. He said that my analogy "misses the point" and then rambled on about how to "fix" the analogy.

If the point of referring to the Alamo here is that the Texans were starving for independence, then yes, the analogy would be inappropriate - never mind the social, chronological and geographic anachronisms involved, which make this an even more inappropriate analogy for our case! But if this had been said with the particular violence of the Alamo in mind, then it would indeed be appropriate - albeit, because of the problem of anachronism, not as good as using the Kurds. So then: It is incorrect for Skeptic X to say that even if my interpretation is correct, "the text would still indicate that the prophet disapproved of the massacre at Jezreel." Actually, it would indicate that he thought it was a bloody event, not the kind of place where you'd sit down and eat popcorn and wave flags, but that in itself places no moral weight upon the motives and actions behind the event.

To fix that impaired analogy: The difference here would be between someone saying, "I will punish Santa Ana's [sic] descendants for the bloodshed at the Alamo" versus "I will visit upon Santa Ana's [sic] descendants the bloodshed of the Alamo." If we have the first sense, it is an obvious condemnation/ punishment for the events of the Alamo. But if we have the second sense, then the source of the condemnation/punishment could be anything - perhaps the Alamo, but also perhaps if Santa Ana [sic] (or his descendants) beat someone up 20 years after the Alamo, or perhaps in relation to a poker debt! To decide one way or the other, we need to know the context of the statement - and that is where our arguments re the content of the rest of Hosea favoring a "visit" interpretation come into play.

In "fixing" the analogy, Turkel begged the very question that is in dispute. Did Hosea mean that Yahweh would visit the blood of Jezreel on Jehu's descendants in a punitive sense, or did he mean only that he would visit the descendants of Jehu with a punishment that was like the bloodshed at Jezreel, which Jehu was reponsible for? Turkel's position is the latter, and here, in "fixing" the analogy, he assumed the latter, even though Turkel, in all of his citing, has not produced a translation that so renders Hosea 1:4. I have quoted over 30 different English and French translations that say that the former meaning was conveyed in this passage, and all that Turkel has been able to do is scream, "But my commentators of many stripes don't agree with the translations Till quoted!" Don't you know that if Turkel could quote English translations that presented his spin on this verse, he would do so in the blink of an eye.

We don't have the "visit" idiom in our language, and I doubt that Spanish does either, but if we could imagine Hebrew being the general language here and in Mexico, what would be the difference in Turkel's two statements?

    I will punish Santa Anna's descendants for the blood of the Alamo.

    I will visit on Santa Anna's descendants the blood of the Alamo.

Both would mean the same thing. From the Mexican perspective the blood shed at the Alamo wasn't a moral wrong, so someone who held the perspective that the blood of the Alamo had been the right thing to do, would not choose "the blood of the Alamo" to express either why or how Santa Anna's descendants would be punished. A Texan, however, would see the blood of the Alamo as an atrocity, so there would be no doubt at all about the meaning of either statement if they were made by someone with a Texan perspective. Obviously, Hosea was saying that the house of Jehu was going to be brought to an end--and not even Turkel can deny that--so he needs to explain why the prophet would have chosen Jezreel as a point of comparison to the end of the house of Jehu unless that prophet thought that the point of comparison had been a moral wrong? Turkel's spin on this verse has Hosea saying something like, "There was nothing at all wrong about what Jehu did at Jezreel, but in just a little while, I am going to bring down the house of Jehu in the same way that he brought down the house of Ahab at Jezreel." Now why would Hosea have chosen a case that he thought was morally right as a way of comparing how the house of Jehu would end?

For what it is worth, I will ask a question here so that Turkel can ignore it later (if he replies to this). Did the Israelites in Hosea's time understand what this controversial reference to the blood of Jezreel meant? If so, why is Turkel claiming that it has taken almost 3,000 years to figure out what it meant?

Turkel's claim that modern research has uncovered within the last 5-7 years a new meaning in Hosea 1:4, so it must be right, is a hermeneutic principle that I am sure that he wouldn't accept in other biblical matters. Modern research, for example, has uncovered evidence that much of Old Testament "history," especially tales of the exodus, wilderness wanderings, and conquest of Canaan, was fictionalized, but I am sure that Turkel would reject this view and claim that its modernness would be an indication that skeptics have been working to try to find new ways to discredit the Bible. However, when he finds recent research that solves a biblical discrepancy, he doesn't see it as just another attempt by biblical inerrantists to vindicate the Bible. He touts it as if it had been written in stone by the finger of God. Go figure!]

So even if Turkel's strained interpretation of Hosea 1:4 is correct, the text would still indicate that the prophet disapproved of the massacre at Jezreel. All that I have argued in this matter is that the writer of 2 Kings approved Jehu's actions at Jezreel, whereas the prophet Hosea disapproved. Therefore, it is at least very doubtful that the Bible is completely unified in its themes, as Josh McDowell claimed in ETDAV.

Turkel:
In answer to one of my arguments about this verse Till made the observation that:

Whenever Biblicists are cornered on an issue, they love to start talking about the "Semitic mind" and nuances in the original language.

...and from there, Till proceeded to list some 20 English translations of the Bible, 2 of which offer the "visit" interpretation, but the rest of which use the punish/avenge interpretation.

Till:
A comment is in order here. Even the two translations that offered the "visit" interpretation were clear in conveying that Hosea was saying that Yahweh would "visit" the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu in the same sense as when he said in many other passages that he would "visit" or "remember" the sins and iniquities of people. When used in that way, even the word "visit" carried the connotation of punishment or vengeance. So when I find that all of the translations that I have access to rendered this verse in a way that conveyed that Yahweh intended to wipe out the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel and can find none that agree with Turkel's spin, what should I do? Should I reserve judgment on the likely meaning of the passage until I have heard from Turkel what he thinks that it means? Turkel, of course, ridicules the fact that I have cited over 20 translations that support my interpretation of this verse, but I suspect that if he could find even a fraction of this many translations that support his speculative interpretation, he wouldn't hesitate to quote them. After all, we have seen how fond he is of saying, "Proven says," or "Hobbs believes," or "In Coogan's opinion," etc., etc., etc., so are we supposed to think that he wouldn't quote translations if they supported his opinion?

Turkel:
This, so he feels, earns him a victory lap.

Till:
And why wouldn't this be a more impressive victory lap than just quoting people who have written books that express agreement with one's religious view? Anyone can find writers who bend over backwards to try to explain difficulties in the Bible, but one can't always find translations that support those speculative explanations. So what Turkel is actually arguing is that the hundreds of Hebrew scholars whose efforts went into the KJV, NKJV, ASV, RSV, NRSV, NASV, NIV, NAB, etc., etc., etc. don't deserve nearly as much consideration as the opinions of men who have written books that labor to defend the Bible.

Turkel:
Let it be said that here we have a classic example of the sort of superficial scholarship that is common to Mr. Till's presentations.

Till:
Well, sure, go ahead and let it be said. Meanwhile I will continue to wonder why Turkel didn't just say, "We have here a classic example of the sort of superficial scholarship that is common to Mr. Till's presentations." Perhaps that just didn't sound pretentious enough to suit him, but, anyway, I don't wonder about his stilted style of writing nearly as much as I wonder how someone who considers himself a first-rate biblical apologist would argue that the obvious opinion of hundreds of Hebrew scholars, who worked on the various committees that produced the many translations I quoted, would represent "superficial scholarship." What is really superficial is the amateur apologists, like Turkel, who lift a fragmented quotation from this book, another from that article, another from this book, another from that article, etc. and string them all together in a "treatise" that says, "Metzger thinks..." "Coogan believes..." "Provan says..." etc., etc., etc., and consider that "in-depth" scholarship. Most of the time, those who use this approach don't even quote enough from their sources to give readers any basis for determining if their opinions are credible. Yes, indeed, talk about superficial scholarship!

Turkel:
One suspects that Till's reaction to arguments related to Semitisms and the original language are a hint that he is aware that to take such a turn would put him out of his capabilities and place the argument beyond his reach.

Till:
I'll say here what people have heard me say on the internet and in public speeches many times. I took Greek and Hebrew in college, but I don't consider myself anywhere close to being a biblical-language scholar or even a biblical scholar, period. I didn't continue my studies in Greek and Hebrew, as I did in the Bible, and so my ability in biblical languages is limited to enough knowledge to use lexicons and interlinear Bibles. I suspect that this puts me somewhere on the level of Turkel. I think I can recognize a pseudoexpert when I see one, and I seriously doubt if Turkel has any special skills in Hebrew. I'm so sure of this that I am going to call his bluff. I know people who are very knowledgeable in Hebrew, and one of them has devised a test to expose the phoniness of those who pretend to be experts in it. I wonder if Turkel would be willing to submit to the test. If so, I will be glad to make the arrangements for him to show us his stuff.

If Turkel ignores this challenge, it will be obvious for all who are following our exchanges.

Turkel:
Given Till's apparent zeal for listing and copying translations in English (and even one in French), one is constrained to ask why he did not bother to consult a single source relative to the Hebrew, which is (we hope) certainly within his wherewithal.

Till:
As I just explained, I did study Greek and Hebrew in college (over 40 years ago), but I don't consider myself a scholar in biblical languages. Having studied the languages, however, I can assure Turkel that it is within my "wherewithal" to consult sources in Hebrew. The fact is that I did consult Hebrew sources, because I looked at the Hebrew text to see, the best that my recollection of my limited studies in Hebrew would permit, if there was any reason to think that Hosea 1:4 did not mean what the various translations indicate that it meant. I could find none. I also consulted a person who grew up in Israel, speaks Hebrew fluently, and taught it to Jewish immigrants in Israel before he came to the United States. His opinion was that Hosea was saying that Yahweh would "visit" the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu in the sense that he would remember this event in a punitive way. I have resisted taking the time to post again all of the translations of this verse that I posted before, but Turkel's lengthy complaints about my policy of consulting various translations to support my interpretative opinions tell me that it might be a good idea to let everyone see those translations again. So here they are, as posted before, with a few more thrown in for good measure.

I have even checked Segond's French translation and found that it says (if my personal rendition of the French can be trusted), "And the Eternal said to him, 'Call him by the name of Jezreel, for yet a little time, and I will intervene against the house of Jehu because of the blood shed at Jezreel; I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.'"

Here are 25 different translations of Hosea 1:4, and they all clearly say the same thing: Yahweh was going to punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel. Even the two that used "visit" instead of "punish" did so in a way that showed the contextual meaning of the statement was that Yahweh would "visit" the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu in the same way that he would "visit" the sins and iniquities of the fathers upon succeeding generations. As I asked when I posted these translations before, are we to assume that the "(m)any commentators of all stripes," whom Turkel referred to know more about the meaning of this verse than the various translation committees that put together the versions quoted above? I suspect that these "(m)any commentators of all stripes" are actually believers in biblical inspiration who, being aware of the conflict between 2 Kings 10:30 and Hosea 1:4, are looking for a way to plug a big hole in the traditional claim that the Bible is a work of perfect harmony.

[Addendum July 2005: Research into Turkel's "comentators of all stripes," which I conducted after this debate was completed and first posted, showed that my suspicions were right. These "commentators of all stripes" were primarily commentators covered with the stripes of biblical inerrancy, who, with only two exceptions, actually took the view of Hosea 1:4 expressed in all of the translations quoted above. The results of this research has been posted as a companion article to this debate, and those who access it will see that Turkel flagrantly misrepresented the views of the majority of them.]

In the translations quoted above, which are all of the translations I have in my personal library, there is obviously a general agreement that Hosea claimed that Yahweh would punish the house of Jehu for something that their ancestor had done at Jezreel. Turkel may ridicule this approach to biblical interpretation all that he wishes, but the length of his protest reminded me of a quotation from Hamlet: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." I suspect that the principle stated here applies to Turkel's complaint about my citing various Bible translations in support of my opinion. He can see the force of this method of argumentation, and so he complains at great lengths about it as if he hopes that someone might actually believe him if he says often enough that this is a sign of "superficial scholarship."

[Addendum July 2005: Although Turkel has ridiculed my quoting translations in support of my arguments, an examination of his website will show that he will quote translations when they support whatever doctrine du jour he is defending. In a lengthy article simply entitled "Genesis," he undertook, with the apparent assistance of that scientifically objective organization known as Answers in Genesis, to resolve claims of errors in this book. In reference to Genesis 10:5, which declared that people after the flood had "spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with its own language," even though the next chapter of Genesis, in introducing the (snicker, snicker) story of the tower of Babel, claimed that only one language was spoken on earth at this time, Turkel offered the following "solution" to the problem, which may have been the solution of his friends at "Answers in Genesis." As hastily as Turkel throws together his articles--and this one shows signs of even more haste than usual--readers can't always tell exactly what he means.

How can this be so, since Babel was yet in the future and there was still one language? Modern translations make this a parenthetical note, an expression of what would take place - not an event that was presently in effect.

In other words, Turkel resorted to his old "dischronologized-narrative" solution, which he will invariably do to "solve" chronological discrepancies in the Bible, but in so doing, he made an appeal to "modern translations," and if he is going to appeal to different translations himself, why does he criticize me or anyone else for doing the same? In "The Modern Arians," he criticized an opponent named "Heinz" for quoting translations in support of his position.

"Heinz" often takes the tack of "quote the versions to prove your point" and compiles around 30 translation cites [sic] that render aqanah as "created" in Prov. 8:22. None of this is of any effect, for a "created" interpretation of aqanah is based on false suppositions.

So Turkel's position seems to be that he can quote "modern translations" when it is to his advantage to do so but that if others do it, they are engaging in "superficial scholarship." Notice that he said just a few paragraphs below that he is not "engaging in any sort of special pleading."

I'm not going to take the time to discuss here his "solution" to the problem posed by Genesis 10:5 except to say that he claimed that "modern translations"--that's plural--show this verse to be a parenthetical statement to indicate that the different languages were yet in the future, but I have looked through various translations (KJV, ASV, RSV, NRSV, NASV, NKJV, GNB, NAB, NCV, CEV, NEB, REB, HCSB, NET, ESV, WEB, 21st Century KJV, Bible in Basic English, Jerusalem Bible, Darby's, Moffett's, Revised Berkeley, God's Word, Amplified Bible, Message Bible, Hebrew Names Version, Third Millennium Bible, and Webster's Bible), 28 in all, which include some 20 "modern translations," and not a one of them showed Genesis 10:5 as "a parenthetical note." The only translation I found that so rendered it, was the one that Turkel quoted, the NIV, but I am sure that he won't acept the NIV's rendition of Hosea 1:4, which has Yahweh saying that he would "soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel." I have found that inconsistency is about the only consistency in Turkel's articles.

In saying that "modern translations"--plural--presented Genesis 10:5 as a "parenthetical note," Turkel either (1) lied or else (2) found that the NIV so rendered the verse and then jumped to the conclusion that other modern translations had done the same. If the error is due to number one, then Turkel is a liar, who will say whatever he thinks he can get by with to deceive his readers, who he probably knows will not bother to check his claims, but if the mistake was due to number two, then he is a superficial "researcher," who has no room to talk about the research methods of me or anyone else. A word to his readers, however, is definitely in order. When he makes a claim that you are not familiar with, take the time to check it, because he isn't above deliberate deception.

While I was checking the translations cited above, I also took the time to see what they said about Hosea 1:4, so here are eleven more, which all rendered this verse as a pronouncement of punishment on the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel.

So if this verse really meant what Turkel and his "commentators of all stripes"--who were really only two commentators with inerrantist stripes--meant, then why didn't at least a couple of these translations so render the verse? How could they have all missed something as obvious as the meaning that Turkel claims is in this verse?

Oh, yes, I forgot, the "research" that discovered this meaning, which had been hidden for almost 3,000 years, wasn't completed till 5-7 years ago.

Here is a final comment about these translations. The Bible in Basic English has a footnote at this verse, which pointed out that pqd was used in a variety of ways in the Old Testament, but it concluded with this comment.

(HALOT 955-58 s.v. dqp). In this context, the nuance “to punish” or “to take vengeance” (see 1b above) is most appropriate.

Gee, look at what I just did. I quoted a scholar, so that settles the issue, doesn't it? PQD in Hosea 1:4 conveyed the sense of punishment or vengeance.]

The scholarship behind over 25 translations [now 36] of the Old Testament have said that Hosea 1:4 means what is indicated in the quotations (above) from those versions. Now it is Turkel's burden to prove that all of these translators were wrong, and he is right.

I urge readers to notice the continuation of Turkel's complaint below and then decide if the gentleman doth protest too much in this matter.

Turkel:
Any OT schoolboy, however, knows that simply listing translations is insufficient scholarship.

Till:
Well, in the first place, I didn't just list them; I quoted them. So as I said above, it is now Turkel's burden to prove that the hundreds of translators who collaborated in completing these English versions of the Old Testament were wrong, and he is right.

[Addendum July 2005: If "any OT schoolboy" knows that "simply listing translations is insufficient scholarship," why does Turkel do this, as he did above in listing the NIV translation of Genesis 10:5 to solve its discrepancy with Genesis 11?]

Turkel:
Further, let it be pointed out (again!)

Till:
Well, okay, "let it be pointed out (again)." If he points it out enough, perhaps some of his "adoring fold" will even begin to realize that his incessant complaining about quoting translations is a probable indication that he knows this is a compelling argument against his position.

Turkel:
that we are not engaging any sort of special pleading here:

Till:
No, of course, not. All Turkel is saying is that it is "superficial scholarship" of an opponent to search through all the versions of the Old Testament available (over 25 in this case) and find that they all agree with the opponent's position. But that's not special pleading, of course. Does he think that one is not engaging in "any sort of special pleading" when he, in effect, says, "I am right, and hundreds of Bible translators are wrong."

Turkel:
It is no less legitimate to appeal to the "Semitic mindset" and the nuances of Hebrew when considering the Old Testament than it is to appeal to the "medieval mind" and the nuances of Elizabethan English when considering the works of Shakespeare!

Till:
In doing so, one should certainly present evidence that he is qualified to speak with authority on the "Semitic mindset" and the "nuances of Hebrew," but Turkel has certainly presented no such evidence; thus, there is no reason for us to think that he knows any more about the "Semitic mind" or the "nuances of Hebrew" than I or anyone else on this internet list. In all probability, he is just parroting something that he copied from commentaries and other books, whose authors were bent on defending the traditional view of the Bible. It sounds impressive, and so he passes it along to us. I will be very interested in seeing if Turkel is confident enough in his knowledge of Hebrew to submit to the test that I proposed earlier. If he ignores the request, that will speak volumes about how much he really knows about the "nuances of Hebrew."

Turkel:
Even the most basic anthropological work (such as Matthews and Benjamin's Social World of Ancient Israel) makes it quite clear that there is a world of difference between our way of thinking and that of members of Eastern Mediterranean society - and that these differences must be taken into account when considering the Old and New Testaments.

Till:
Oh, I have no doubt at all about the truth of what Turkel has said here. I lived five years in a foreign country and learned its language with reasonable fluency, but I don't think I ever learned much about the Gallic mind. I sincerely doubt if Turkel has studied Mideastern history and ancient Hebrew sufficiently to speak with any authority on the "Semitic mind" or the "nuances" of Hebrew. He tries to sound impressive, but there's a world of difference in sounding impressive and in speaking with authority on a subject.

Meanwhile, I will choose to believe that those who were knowledgeable enough in Hebrew to translate the 25 English versions quoted above were also knowledgeable in the nuances of the language they were translating and took those nuances into consideration as they were working to express in English what had been written in Hebrew.

Turkel:
Once again, Till fails on the same point as always, reading the text of the Bible through his jaundiced, 20th-century Western eyes and wondering why the text does not conform to his own chauvinistic expectations.

Till:
Of course, we are all expected to believe that Turkel understands the "Semitic mind" so thoroughly and the "nuances of Hebrew" so completely that when he reads the Old Testament, it is as if a Jew living in Palestine 2500 years ago was reading it. I'll look forward to seeing just how much confidence Turkel has in his understanding of Hebrew and the "Semitic mind." His reply to the challenge to put his understanding of Hebrew to the test will, as I said, speak volumes about how much he really knows about it.

Meanwhile, the burden is on him to prove to us that the scholars who worked on the 25 translations quoted above didn't understand Hebrew and its "nuances" well enough to translate accurately Hosea 1:4.  Go to Part Two.



Rollover button for Main Menu pageRollover button for Print Edition Main Menu pageRollover button for Search Engine pageRollover button for Contact Us page