(Investigator 41, 1995
Previously when investigating the Bible for INVESTIGATOR I examined statements of fact in the disciplines of zoology, archaeology, history, etc. I compared such statements with statements of people who disagreed and investigated which statements are true and which are false.
However, disagreements are not always about whether certain statements are true or false. That's just one type of disagreement. Disagreements can also be over whether certain values are right or wrong; whether laws or principles are just or unjust, fair or unfair; whether attitudes and emotions are appropriate or inappropriate.
Values, laws, principles, attitudes, emotions, etc, effect behaviour and actions. One way to evaluate values, laws, emotions, etc, is by the likely behaviour and likely consequences of behaviour they promote, and whether the consequences were intended or not.
Child abandonment and infanticide were common in the ancient Graeco-Roman world. This was a prevailing value and standard of society but was opposed by Jews and later by Christians.
To Jews children were a blessing from God. This attitude and belief was derived from the Scriptures:
Deuteronomy 4:9-11; 32:45-47
Proverbs 4:1-4; 13:22; 17:6; 36:7
Psalm 78:1-6; 103:13-14; 115:14; 127:3-5; 128:3-6; 148:11-12
2 Timothy 3:15
This positive attitude toward the wellbeing of children, promoted in the Bible and guiding the attitude, values and behaviour of Jews and Christians gradually defeated the contrary attitudes and values which permitted and encouraged infanticide.
A safer world
Plato, we remember, abolished the family in his planning of the ideal society. Such a solution to community shortcomings would have been inconceivable to the Jewish mind, for the Hebrews interpreted the community in terms of the family. No more telling evidence of the family's central position in Jewish society can be found than in the comparison the Hebrews draw between the relationship of God to the nation and that of a father to his children. The Jewish conception of Jahweh was a reflection of the patriarchal family system. This difference of outlook explains why Jewish family life reached a level never attained by the Greek world.1
It is true that in the earliest period of Jewish history the Jewish father had power of life and death over his children; but neither in the Bible nor in the Talmud before A.D. 135; is there any evidence of child exposure so common among other Mediterranean peoples, and biblical references to child sacrifice are seldom made except to condemn the practice. In this respect there is a marked difference between the Jews and their Graeco-Roman masters: Hebrew law recognized the right of the child to his own life centuries before such a right was recognized by the rulers of the Roman Empire, where infanticide was not made a capital crime until the sixth century of our era, largely owing to the consistent pressure of Christians.
As Nathan Morris remarks, ‘This is all the more remarkable when one remembers that in Palestine itself, during the Roman period abandonment of children was quite common amongst the non-Jewish elements of the mixed population.' It was this Hebrew view of the sanctity of human life, passing through the medium of Christianity into the Roman world, that finally destroyed the monstrous evil of infanticide.2
There is, indeed, a vast difference between the Jewish and the Graeco-Roman attitude to children. Throughout the Bible children are a sign of God's blessing and the barren woman is a mark of his displeasure: Give me children or I die,' cries the childless Rachel;3 Elizabeth rejoices when the Lord takes away her ‘reproach among men';4 to the man that feareth the Lord the psalmist promises the blessings of increase:Thy life shall be as a fruitful vine
Thy children are like olive trees, round about thy table.5
Article 11 of
American Constitution says that civil officers of the US could be
impeached for bribery. In 1853 it became unlawful to bribe a
congressman. In 1881 the bribery of a private citizen became a
misdemeanour in New York.
In Roman times
were permitted to take gifts (bribes?) from both parties [in a legal
dispute]. The Bible explained the wrongness of bribery a thousand years
In 1929 Al Capone (1899-1947) ruled Chicago. An estimated 3,000 police and 300 prohibition agents were being bribed with profits of Capone's illegal liquor trade. Elliot Ness (1903-1957) and his "Untouchables" arrested numerous bootleggers but these were not convicted because the legal system was riddled with bribed stooges of Capone.
Nowadays, virtually every week we read newspaper reports of police, bankers, politicians, etc, accepting bribes. Acceptance of bribes is often called "corruption". There are entire countries where bribery seems the way of life and permeates all officialdom.
Bribery is condemned in the Bible:
Deuteronomy 10:17; 16:19
1 Samuel 8:3; 12:3
Proverbs 15:5; 26:10; 17:23; 29:4
Isaiah 33:15; 1:23; 5:23
The reason is that: "...a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right." (Exodus 23:8)Bribery usually involves lies or deceit at some stage and lies are likewise condemned in the Bible. (Revelation 21:8). Bribery also entails hypocrisy and double standards – also condemned. (Proverbs 20:10, 23)
Many legal systems have made the offering and acceptance of bribes an offence. The reason is obvious. If bribes determine the decisions of judges, politicians and financiers, then there would be justice for no one.
potential benefits of
a bribery-free world, a lot of people remain skeptics in this issue and
offer or accept bribes.
in conflict will be considered another time Christianity and the Bible
have produced a safer better world and if taken seriously would produce
a still safer and better world.
The Bible versus the Skeptics, on this website: