Friday, February 04, 2005

Old Testament Law

This post is partially in response to Josh's religious rant (although it diverges from the original topic). In any sense, this is a topic I've been thinking about for a just seemed like a good time put it up.

I don't believe the Old Testament is simply a collection of old stories with good morals - myself being a Christian you should not be surprised by this. However, outside of my religious beliefs (or maybe because of them), I find some correlation between what "God" commanded in the OT and what is healthy for a person or the society. I'm not just talking about the 10 commandments, although those are certainly included, but even the seemingly random protocols and commands when it comes to eating, cleaning, etc.

Let me give a few examples:
Draining/cleaning all of the blood out of an animal and cooking it all the way through before eating it - removing pathogens and that might be present.

Washing hands before meals - prevent contamination or spread of bacteria and other items into your body.

Banning adultery - almost eliminating the spread of any STDs, unwanted pregancy, as well as reducing chances of uterine cancer.

Banning incest - preventing genetic defects that cause several diseases.

Removing yourself from contact with others when you've bled or been in contact with someone else's blood - preventing spread of disease.

While these make perfect sense to us now, much the science we have that confirms these good health habits were developed only recently (as in the last few centuries to decades). But we know the OT was written before any of this was available. In addition, many of the symptoms involved don't present themselves until days/months/even years until after the fact, making it impossible for whoever wrote the OT to trace the consequences to the original act.

In short, I think some kind of supernatural intervention is required. I know these examples may seem somewhat crude, but underneath lies a deep understanding of science and medicine - WELL beyond what was known for the time (as mentioned by Josh when discussing the Sumerian creation myth).


Blogger Joshua Conner said...

Two questions that occur to me as I think about this post:

- Seeing as there were a *lot* of laws laid down in the Old Testament, do you worry that, in picking a few of the less controversial of those laws as evidence of divine intervention in the creation of said laws, there's some confirmation bias going on?

- Could priests have discovered the efficacy of things like handwashing and monogamy without the benefit of modern science? Trial and error? Observation? I mean, I'm sure that there were people in ancient societies whose hands were cleaner than others; could not someone have noticed that these people, as a group perhaps tended to live longer? Could it also be kind of common sense, since dirt *is* visible even if microbes aren't?

I don't mean to sound too skeptical, but I *am* a big fan of Occam's Razor, and so I want to find the most parsimonious solution.

4:16 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Question 1: Confirmational Bias?
Yes, I mentioned this ("or maybe because of [my beliefs]"). The examples I choose were what came to mind, but it's not an exhaustive list. I acknowledge a lot of weird stuff happends in the OT (I couldn't rationalize all that's laid down), but I think the point still applies.

Question 2: Law from Observation
I have a few thoughts on this:
OT law is written to protocol, not understanding. I think laws from observation would be more lenient.
Also, while observing people wash hands may show sickness over the next few days, not all consequences are that short, making it difficult to impossible to decipher which outcome came from which event.
We now have methods to inhibit the spread of STDs or similar, but a lot of people don't use them. Which means a lot of people still don't understand them.

I'm simply saying some OT laws were for the benefit of the individual or society. Most of those laws we keep today because we realize the benefits. I believe they were inspired by God (at least partially) for that reason.

9:49 PM  

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