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Reply to Robert Turkel

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> rather than cite verses here we will call
>upon the explication of Coogan [Coog.2K, 114], who
>cites an example of an Akkadian concept of "friend of the
>king" - a person who paid a tax for this designated
>status and was able to pass it on to his children, much
>as in modern times someone who donates to a political
>campaign may be designated as a "friend" of the
>politician.  (As in modern "friends" of Bill Clinton!)
>While "yada" Is not precisely in line with this idea, and
>has a wide number of other nuances (including
>"kinsman/folk" - not the likely meaning in the Jehu
>matter, since these people are clustered with non-family,
>and the Kings writer, as we have seen, uses the more
>specific word for "kinsman/folk," "ga'al," elsewhere), it
>is obvious that the Baasha account and the Jehu account
>refer to two entirely different types of people, thus
>making Till's argument re:  "friends" in 2 Kings
>irrelevant.  Not that he even needed to know definitions:
>The fact that two entirely different Hebrew words are
>used is more than sufficient to demolish his pretenses.
>In any event, the matter is clear:  Till has failed to do
>his homework, and has fallen upon the same blunders (and
>far worse) than those he alleges were committed by Miller
>and myself.

Okay, this is the extent of Turkel's argument on the meaning of "yada," and
so now I can put it on the chopping block.  I will do that by demonstrating
that the words "yada," "reya," and also "ahab" were often used
interchangeably in the OT in passages that used the Hebrew literary device
known as parallelism.  A major characteristic of Hebrew poetry was its
frequent use of parallelism or repetition of the same idea in different
terminology.  As a matter of fact, parallelism was widely used even in
Hebrew prose but was especially prominent in poetry.  There is no need to
waste time analyzing the OT to point out examples of parallelism, so I will
cite just a couple of cases to show what the literary device was.  Zechariah
7:1 says, "And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius that the
word of Yahweh came to Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, *even
in Chislev.*" The ninth month was Chislev, and Chislev was the ninth month.
The two are the same.  Notice that when parallelism is used the two terms or
expressions in the parallel could be switched without altering the meaning
of the sentence: "(T)he word of Yahweh came to Zechariah in the fourth day
of Chislev, even in the ninth month."  In 12:6, Zechariah said, "And they of
Jerusalem shall yet again dwell in their own place, even in Jerusalem."
Their own place was Jerusalem, and Jerusalem was their own place.

Parallelism was very prominent in Hebrew poetry.  Psalm 85:1 says, "Yahweh,
you have been favorable to your land; you have brought back the captivity of
Jacob."  The second clause simply repeats the idea of the first but in more
specific terms.  Verse 2 says, "You have forgiven the iniquity of your
people; you have covered their sin."  Covering the sin of the people merely
repeats the idea of the first clause, i.e., the forgiving of the people's
iniquity.  Verse 3 says, "You have turned away all your wrath; you have
turned from the fierceness of your anger." Again, we see a verse consisting
of two clauses, the second of which repeats the idea of the first. The two
could be reversed without altering the meaning of the verse.   Anyone can
read the psalms and easily see that parallelism (repetition of the same
idea) was one of the chief characteristics of Hebrew poetry.

With that in mind, let's look at an entire psalm, which I will later analyze
to show (1) the consistent use of parallelism, and (2) the interchangeable
use of "yada," "reya," and "ahab" to communicate the same relationships.

>Psalm 88:1  O Yahweh, God of my salvation, when, at night, I cry out in your
>2  let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry.
>3  For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol.
>4  I am counted among those who go down to the Pit; I am like those who
have no help,
>5  like those forsaken among the dead, like the slain that lie in the
grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your
>6  You have put me in the depths of the Pit, in the regions dark and deep.
>7  Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves.
>8  You have caused my companions [yada] to shun me; you have made me a
thing of horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
>9  my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call on you, O Yahweh; I
spread out my hands to you.
>10  Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the shades rise up to praise you?
>11  Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in
>12  Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your saving help in the land
of forgetfulness?
>13  But I, O Yahweh, cry out to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
>14  O Yahweh, why do you cast me off? Why do you hide your face from me?
>15  Wretched and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I
am desperate.
>16  Your wrath has swept over me; your dread assaults destroy me.
>17  They surround me like a flood all day long; from all sides they close
in on me.
>18  You have caused friend ['ahab] and neighbor [reya] to shun me; my
companions [yada] are in darkness.
>89:1  I will sing of your steadfast love, O Yahweh, forever; with my mouth I

We can see immediately in Psalm 88 (quoted above) serious problems
for Turkel's quibble that "reya," "'ahab," and "yada" were significantly
different words in meaning.  First, let's notice the obvious use of
parallelism throughout this poem.

V:2  let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry.  (The
second clause repeats the idea of the first, because if Yahweh inclined his
ear to the cry of the psalmist, he would be letting the prayer come before

V:3  For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol.  (A
life drawing near to Sheol would be parallel to a soul full of troubles.)

V:4-5  I am counted among those who go down to the Pit; I am like those who
have no help, like those forsaken among the dead, like the slain that lie in
the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from
your hand.  (Here the idea of the first clause is not just repeated but
restated five times.)

V:6  You have put me in the depths of the Pit, in the regions dark and deep.
(The regions dark and deep would be the same idea as the depths of the Pit.)

V:7  Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your
waves. (Yahweh's overwhelming of the psalmist with all his waves would be a
repetition of Yahweh's wrath lying heavy upon him.)

V:8  You have caused my companions [yada] to shun me; you have made me a
thing of horror to them. .  (Here the psalmist says that Yahweh has caused
his companions [yada] to shun him, which would be the same as having been
made a thing of horror to them.  Notice that "yada" was the Hebrew word that
has been translated "companions" in this verse.  The best that I was able
to follow Turkel's reasoning, he seemed to be claiming that the "friends" of
Joram, whom Jehu killed were merely distant associates in 2 Kings 10:11, who
were not to be considered the close friends that were represented by the
word "reya" in 1 Kings 16:10, which refers to the massacre of Baasha's
"friends," but we notice in Psalm 88:8 that the writer is very distressed
over being shunned by his "yada" and having been made a thing of horror to
them.  If this indicates anything, it surely indicates that "yada" (at least
to this writer) expressed a much closer relationship than Turkel is arguing,
but I will have more to say about that later.  For now, I want to focus on a
really damaging blow to Turkel's quibble that comes in a later section of
this psalm.  For the sake of brevity, I will skip over the examples of
parallelism in verses 9-17, which anyone can verify by reading them as
quoted above, and cut right to the chase.

V:18  You have caused friend ['ahab] and neighbor [reya] to shun me; my
companions [yada] are in darkness.

Here in his final example of parallelism,  in references to "friends" or
"companions" or "neighbors" or "acquaintances" who were distressing him by
shunning him, this psalmist used all three Hebrew words that Turkel quibbled
about.  Turkel cited Proverbs 14:12 in an effort to show that "reya" and
"'ahab" are not to be considered as synonymous, although both are sometimes
translated as "friend."  I won't argue that point with him now, because  the
psalmist here used both "'ahab" and "reya" in his first clause above, so
they could have referred in this context to different associates or friends.
In the second clause, however, which repeats the idea of the first, the
psalmist used the word "yada," which indicates that he thought that "yada"
could accurately describe both a "reya" and an "'ahab."   Obviously, then,
biblical writers sometimes used
"'ahab," "reya," and "yada" interchangeably, a fact that casts serious doubt
on Turkel's claim that the "friends" of Baasha who were massacred were
somewhat different from the "friends" of Joram whom Jehu massacred. To say
the least, this quibble is tenuous at best, and I'm not even through with
this point yet.  Let's look now at another psalm.

>Psalm 55:12  It is not enemies who taunt me-- I could bear that; it is not
adversaries who deal insolently with me-- I could hide from them.
>13  But it is you, my equal [`erek], my companion ['alluph], my familiar
friend [yada],
>14  with whom I kept pleasant company; we walked in the house of God with
the throng.

The word "`erek" has not come up yet, but Strong, Turkel's chief Hebrew
authority, defines it as "equal" or "estimation," so according to Turkel's
logic, already discussed and discredited, which he used to determine that
"reya" was a friend to whom one would entrust his personal property and
management of personal affairs, we could conclude from verse 13 in this
psalm that a "familiar friend" [yada] is one's "equal," someone with whom a
person kept "pleasant company," someone considered a "companion" ['alluph].
Strong defines this word (#441) as "familiar friend, governor, guide, or ox."
The KJV renders the word "guide," so then a "yada" would be not just an
"equal" but also someone who guides.  Or I suppose we could use Turkel's
logic and even argue that the psalmist in this verse was simply saying that
he was a familiar friend to an ox '['alluph], which was also his equal.

But I'm still not through.  Examples of parallelism in the poetry of Job
also indicates that "yada" was a word used to denote friendships as close as
what Turkel has claimed for "reya."

>Job 19:6  Know then that God has put me in the wrong, and closed his net
around me.
>7  Even when I cry out, 'Violence!' I am not answered; I call aloud, but
there is no justice.
>8  He has walled up my way so that I cannot pass, and he has set darkness
upon my paths.
>9  He has stripped my glory from me, and taken the crown from my head.
>10  He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone, he has uprooted my hope
like a tree.
>11  He has kindled his wrath against me, and counts me as his adversary.
>12  His troops come on together; they have thrown up siegeworks against me,
and encamp around my tent.
>13  "He has put my family far from me, and my acquaintances [yada] are
wholly estranged from me.
>14 My relatives and my close friends [yada] have failed me;
>15 the guests in my house have forgotten me; my serving girls count me as a
stranger; I have become an alien in their eyes.
>16 I call to my servant, but he gives me no answer; I must myself plead
with him.
>17 My breath is repulsive to my wife; I am loathsome to my own family.
>18 Even young children despise me; when I rise, they galk against me.
>19 All my intimate friends [math] abhor me, and those whom I loved have
turned against me.
>20 My bones cling to my skin and to my flesh, and I have escaped by the
skin of my teeth.
>21 Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends [reya], for the hand
of God has touched me!

In verses 13-14 of this text, Job deplores the estrangement of his relatives
and "close friends."  The word for "close friends" was "yada," as noted in
brackets, but as Job continued his lament, he used "math" to refer to all of
his "intimate friends" (v:19) and concluded his lamentation by crying for
his friends "reya" (v:21) to have pity on him, as if  "reya" was inclusive
of all the words Job used in this passage to convey the idea of friendship?
Apparently, then, the Hebrew language was like the English language, which
can used words like "friend," "comrade," "companion," "pal," etc. without
necessarily denoting distinctive nuances like those that Turkel has claimed
for "reya," "yada," and "'ahab."

On the basis of Judah's having sent Hirah the Adullamite to deliver a kid
from his flock to Tamar for payment of her sexual favors, Turkel argued that
"reya" was a word that denoted a very close special trust and relationship
that was not conveyed by "yada," the word used to denote the friends of
Joram whom Jehu killed, but look at how the word "yada" was used elsewhere
in Job.  We all know how this book ended with Job's wealth being restored,
his honor regained, and his last state better than the first. The occasion
called for the celebration described below:

>Job 42:10  And Yahweh restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for
his friends; and Yahweh gave Job twice as much as he had before.
>11  Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had
known [yada, rendered "acquaintances" in KJV, NKJV, ASV, and others] him
before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy
and comforted him for all the evil that Yahweh had brought upon him; and
each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring.

On the basis of Exodus 22:7, Turkel argued that "reya" was a word that
denoted a friendship so close that one would entrust his valuables to him,
but notice above that Job's acquaintances [yada] gave him "a piece of money
and a gold ring."  I would say that anyone who would give me money and a
gold ring would very likely be someone who is a close friend.

There is more--much more--to say on this issue, but to keep the postings
from being tediously long, I am going to stop here.  Baasha's "friends"
[reya] were killed when Zemi, presumably acting as Yahweh's agent of
vengeance, destroyed the house of Baasha.  When Jehu received his commission
to do to the house of Ahab what had been done to the house of Baasha, Jehu
killed Joram's "familiar friends" [yada].  To argue that the two words
denoted significantly different types of friendships is merely a desperation
quibble.  For one thing, many translations have rendered "yada" as "familiar
friends" in 2 Kings 10:11, as it also has been translated in Job 19:14, so, if
anything, "yada" expressed a closer friendship than "reya."  Obviously,
Turkel's argument has failed miserably.

>                       "Conclusion"
>     Till closes one section of his diatribe with the
>remark that he expected my reply to him to pose "perhaps
>still another solution to this problem."  As we have
>seen, the solutions previously offered remain standing,
>unbattered by Till's dilettante exegesis.  There is no
>need for new explanations.

Well, the facts in this matter tell a different story.  If I said that I
have completely demolished or pulverized Turkel's defense of inerrancy in
the matter of Jehu's massacre at Jezreel, that would certainly not be an
overstatement.  Here is a list of Turkel's failures in this debate.

1.  He tried to present himself as an expert in Hebrew who is able to
recognize "nuances" in the original biblical languages that escape ordinary
readers, but I have certainly exposed this as a myth that exists only in
Turkel's mind.  To assign Turkel's opinion of his linguistic talents to the
trash heap on which it belongs, I have digressed from time to time in the
debate to point out that Turkel the Hebrew linguist doesn't even understand
many elementary facts about his own native English language.

2.  In his pseudolinguistic approach to explaining the problem of Jehu's
massacre, Turkel alleged that the Hebrew word "paqad" was used in so many
senses in the OT that its meaning in Hosea 1:4 could not be determined, but
I showed by analyzing the contexts of other passages where the word was used
both in Hosea and other OT books that this is a claim that cannot be

3.  He quibbled at length about "nuances" in the words "reya" and
"yada," but these attempts failed when I showed that these words were used
interchangeably in the OT and that he had only selectively quoted passages
to leave the impression that these words had meanings limited to what he is
claiming in his response.  This turned out to be easily refutable.

4.  He has relied heavily on constant slurs and insults as if ad hominem
attacks prove anything.

5.  His approach also relied on frequent references to what Jones,
McComiskey, Hobbs, Provan, and an array of other "scholars" think about this
problem, as if their opinions are authoritative enough to settle anything.
As I have pointed out repeatedly in my series of responses, finding books
and articles that agree with one's religious position is simple to do, so in
this respect Turkel has done nothing that a Mormon couldn't do in defense of
the Book of Mormon or that a Catholic couldn't do in defense of papal
infallibility or that a Seventh-Day Adventist could not do in defense of his
position on observance of the sabbath, etc., etc., etc.  Turkel may think
that this is "scholarship," but an examination of his article will show that
he rarely used logical argumentation to support the claims made by his
sources.  He simply cited them, frequently in very fragmented quotations,
and went on to something else, as if the mere citation of the reference was
sufficient to make his case.

By coincidence, something happened recently to show Turkel's colossal
hypocrisy in this matter.  On the errancy list, a subscriber from England
had run into repeated difficulties in his efforts to defend biblical
inerrancy, and so he formed a special list called CCBE (I have forgotten the
meaning of the letters), limited it to Christians only, and undertook to put
their collective heads together to formulate responses to postings that were
appearing on the errancy list.  I found out that none other than Robert
Turkel became one of the subscribers to this list.  When the group was
discussing a problem that I posted to the list, i.e., how the magicians of
Egypt could have done "in like manner with their enchantments" after that
Moses and Aaron had changed ALL of the water throughout ALL the land of
Egypt into blood.  Their answer was that the magicians went to the river,
dug along the bank, found ground water, filled some pots, and changed that
into blood.  In reply to this, I pointed out that they are reading into the
text something that is not stated, and then I quoted the 1st century Jewish
writer Philo Judaeus, who stated the following about the plague of blood:

> "The brother of Moses, by the divine command, smote with his rod upon the
>river, and immediately,  throughout its whole course, from Ethiopia down to
the >sea, it is changed  into blood and simultaneously with its change, ALL
the lakes, >and ditches, and fountains, and wells, and spring, AND EVERY
PARTICLE OF >WATER IN ALL  EGYPT, was changed into blood, so that, for want
of drink, they >digged round about the banks of the river, but the streams
that came up were like >veins of the body in a hemorrhage, and spurted up
channels of blood like springs,
> no transparent water being seen ANYWHERE" (*The Complete Works of Philo,*
Hendrickson: Peabody, MA, 1993, p. 468, emphasis added).

It turned out that Turkel sent the CCBE list a response to this in which he
said the following:

>That's nice, but Philo is simply reading into the text what is not there.
>So if I find a Jewish commentator of equal worth that says the opposite, is
>it a draw? If I find two, do I win? Remember that Philo is trying to promote
>Moses and Aaron here and would maximize their feat to the greatest extent

First, it's rather ironic that Turkel would accuse Philo of reading into the
text what is not there, when Turkel is reading into the text that the
magicians dug for water along the banks of the river, when clearly there is
nothing in the text that even implies that this happened.  I suppose that in
Turkel's opinion the validity of what one reads into a text depends upon
whether the person agrees with biblical inerrancy.  At any rate, the latter
part of his statement is what I wanted to focus on.  Turkel wondered if he
could tie or win by finding one or two Jewish commentators of "equal worth"
who took the opposite opinion of Philo's.  Well, first of all, let him find
other Jewish commentators of equal worth to Philo who expressed an opposite
view, and then we can talk about it.  The primary thing in this statement,
however, is Turkel's own recognition that what writers think doesn't settle
anything.  If this is true of Philo, then why wouldn't it be true of Provan,
McComiskey, Jones, et al whom Turkel has quoted throughout his article?  If
I can find an equal number of writers who disagree with their position, does
the discussion about the blood of Jezreel turn into a draw? If I can find
more writers who disagree with Turkel's sources, do I win?  I predict that
Turkel will regret the day that he ever made this statement, because he has
chopped off at the knees one of his primary methods of "argumentation,"
i.e., the citation of writers who agree with him.  It is a very amateurish
method of argumentation, but now Turkel doesn't even have that.

>     We close with a recounting of a reflection passed on
>to me, one that purportedly originated with one of Till's
>many admirers, but is now deliciously ironic:
>     This is the first time Holding directly responded to
>Farrell Till.  I think Holding has put his foot in a
>wrong mouth this time.  :-) Farrell Till never ignores
>any response to him.  I have seen Till debate on the
>mailing lists many, many times.  He responds so quickly
>that the opponent thinks, as Till says, "lightening (sic)
>had struck him."  When it comes to the debating skill
>(sic), none (either skeptic or theist) equals Farrell

I don't know who said this about me, but I appreciate the vote of
confidence. My delay in responding to Turkel happened only because of a
pressing schedule that keeps me busy about 12 to 14 hours in my office each
day, weekends included.

>     "Holding" is on his way down the hill.  Trust me, I
>know what I am talking about.

It would now appear that with the exception of my quickness in responding
to Turkel, this person accurately predicted the outcome of Turkel's
encounter with me.  To say that I have sent "Holding" sliding downhill would
be an understatement.  He has been thoroughly exposed as an amateurish
"apologist" who talks a good game but fails to deliver on the field.  My
personal opinion of Turkel is that he is the weakest debating opponent I
have ever faced with the exception of Norman Geisler, and I doubt if I will
ever encounter his equal.

As for Turkel's downhill descent, I don't really follow his activities, but
I understand from comments that are going around that Turkel has fallen out
of favor with some of his former admirers to the extent that his webpage was
moved to another site.


>      A few comments here:
>     First, this writer is in error:

If I am, Turkel has certainly failed to establish it.  Every counterargument
he presented in his article has been taken and replied to point by point.
In so doing, I have exposed colossal flaws and false assertions in his

>I have previously
>responded directly to Till in AJINOD Chapter 5, regarding
>his article on Mara Bar-Serapion (which included Till's
>ludicrous suggestion that Mara was referring not to
>Jesus, but to the Essene "Teacher of Righteousness").  As
>yet, that has not been responded to, but I do not doubt
>that it soon will be, since I have deigned to bring it
>once again to attention.

Turkel knows that when his response to my article was posted, he did it
anonymously under his "Holding" pseudonym.  Turkel presented an absolutely
ridiculous justification for his anonymity, which in a nutshell amounted to
a claim that he worked in a prison and feared for his life if he should make
his real identity known.  Yeah, right!  Prisons are filled with Christians,
and non-Christian prisoners are constantly bombarded with conversion efforts
by prison "ministries," yet for some reason, Turkel thought that his life
would be in jeopardy if he should write pro-Christian articles under his own
name when pro-Christian activities probably go on each day in the prison
where he works (if indeed he does work in a prison).  At the time that
Turkel's response to the Mara Bar-Serapion article appeared, I was teaching
at a college that provided educational services for a local prison, and I
knew from this experience that none on the staff considered their lives in
jeopardy.  I rejected Turkel's excuse for anonymity and offered him free
publishing space in my bimonthly paper *The Skeptical Review* on the
condition that he would publish under his real name.  He refused to do it,
and if he denies that this happened, he is a liar.  His memory just can't be
that bad.

>     Second, and more consequential, this:  Till is
>lauded here for his "debating skill" and prompt rejoinder

Turkel's Christian cronies, whose knowledge of the Bible is even less than
his, also laud him for his debating skill, but after they see my responses
to his trivial quibbles, they may want to reevaluate their opinion of him.

>I do not suspect his deftness in this domain.
>The arena of informal debate by all means favors those
>with the most thunderous and the swiftest riposte,
>notwithstanding the circumstance and/or measure of their
>erudition.  However, it has become quite plain that
>Till's "lightening" reflexes are of no service to him
>when it comes to the minutia of a particular issue.  Till
>manifestly has neither the forbearance nor the restraint
>to check his work thoroughly.  Arguments are shot from
>the hip, and thrown down like beef on a BBQ grill;
>accusations of collusion and conspiracy are bandied about
>with the frequency of an Erich von Daniken monograph.

This is rather humorous coming from one who claimed to know so much about
Hebrew "nuances," a claim that has now been shot down.  (So that he won't
forget it, I will renew my challenge for him to submit to a test
administered by someone who is knowledgeable in Hebrew so that we can
determine just how accurate his claim is.)  He tried to put a very limited
meaning on the Hebrew word "reya" and claimed that it connoted very close
personal friendships, but his claim was shot full of holes when I showed
that it was sometimes used in the OT in reference to those who were
opponents in physical combat and that it was even used once in reference to
pieces of dead meat that Abraham had laid on an altar.  So to dump his
insult back into his lap, "Turkel manifestly has neither the forbearance nor
the restraint to check his work thoroughly."  Superficiality pervaded
Turkel's work, and that was why it was so easy to demolish.  In all
probability, his Superficiality resulted from a naive confidence that he has
in the books of authors who have written in defense of biblical accuracy.
Perhaps his experience in this exchange has taught Turkel a lesson he will

>This kind of dialogue may serve to instill awe in the
>skeptical masses, but the strategy becomes rather diluted
>when challenged by diligence and brute fact.

In reply to this, I will say only that Turkel's kind of dialogue may serve
to instill awe in the gullible Christian masses, but the strategy become
rather diluted when challenged by diligence and brute fact.  And the brute
fact in this case is that Turkel has utterly failed to show that the writers
of 2 Kings 10:30 and Hosea 1:4 were not in disagreement over the moral
acceptability of Jehu's massacre at Jezreel.  The former clearly said that
Jehu had done according to ALL that was in Yahweh's heart concerning the
house of Ahab; the latter said that Yahweh would avenge the blood of Jezreel
upon the house of Jehu.  These are hardly statements that show a perfect
unity in the Bible, as McDowell claimed in the chapter of ETDAV that I
responded to.

One paragraph remains in Turkel's article, and I will respond to it in a
final posting. [We will make that available here when Till has published
it on alt.bible.errancy. -Ed.]
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