Tuesday, December 3, 2019

To Breed Or Not To Breed

I learned a new word from the Internet: anti-natalism, also spelled without the hyphen: antinatalism. Spell check doesn't like it either way. Here's one definition.

Antinatalism concludes through philosophical reasoning that it is better for human beings not to be born - Wikihow(Antinatalism) [1]

I don't think that anti-natalism deserves a Wikihow page.

The term anti-natalism was coined by David Benatar, philosopher and author of the book "Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence" [2].

If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

Another variation of anti-natalism is "I didn't ask to be born". A 27 year old man in India named Raphael Samuel has sued his parents because he didn't ask to be born, therefore he claims that they are obligated to take care of him. His mother wisely responded with this:

If Raphael could come up with a rational explanation as to how we could have sought his consent to be born, I will accept my fault - Fox News [3].

The stated goal of anti-natalism is to end suffering, not just for humans, but for animals too. Using human reasoning, Benatar and others conclude that the best way to do that is to stop having children. Fewer people means less demand for earth's resources, and especially fewer animals killed for food (less suffering). Taken to its conclusion means the end of human life. A woman who calls herself the Friendly Anti-Natalist wishes that humans could “walk hand-in-hand together into extinction” - Daily Citizen [4]. Mankind has apparently been using the wrong approach up till now by trying to kill other people or other nations, to have a bigger slice of the pie for themselves. All you need to do is convince everyone to stop having babies. Apparently it's OK to leave all the animals, just eliminate the humans. This overlooks the suffering already present in the animal kingdom.

Benatar believes that "abortion is not only permissible, but a moral obligation" - Daily Citizen [4]. So a child that didn't ask to be born is also not asked if it wants to be killed.

Take A Step Back

Some of the tenets of anti-natalism have been around a long time. I imagine that many people have felt so awful at some point in their lives that they echoed Benatar's words "I wish I'd never been born". Which is slightly different from "I want to die". And some like poet John Milton have expressed the idea eloquently

Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me man? Did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me? Goodreads(Antinatalism) [5]

That's just a fancy way of saying I didn't ask to be born.

And we even find the idea expressed this way in the Bible. King Solomon wrote

Eccl 4:3 But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed, who has never seen the evil activity that is done under the sun.

The Bible also talks about how children are a blessing. Indeed, in ancient times, it was a shame to a person not to have children. Several of the matriarchs were barren for long periods of time, and the Bible records their agony. Today in Western culture it is not looked at the same way. Men and women are not shamed for childlessness, some even choose it voluntarily - and not because they are anti-natalists. Anti-natalism is the opposite of "be fruitful and multiply".


There is certainly suffering in the world; no one gets through life without some suffering. Solomon said something similar.

Eccl 12:1 Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”

But anti-natalists go from the observation that there is suffering to offering a solution that we should all die. How did they draw that conclusion? By philosophical argument, aka human reasoning. The problem I see is that if you start from a faulty premise, you can conclude anything. Anti-natalists reject God, consequently reject what He might have to say, statements like "Choose life" (admittedly in a different context). Here is the whole verse.

Deuteronomy 30:19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants,

The faulty premise is that life has no meaning, that the suffering has no meaning, that the suffering can't be stopped. And these things are true without God. What vanity it takes to think that God can't or won't end the suffering. Here's what Declan Leary said about the lack of meaning in an anti-natalist's life.

A life actively and monomaniacally devoted to the notion that life has no meaning might feel meaningless. National Review(Against Antinatalism) [6]

If there is too much suffering in life, maybe it comes from rejecting God and violating His laws. God's law actually brings peace and blessings, and reduces suffering. You can't expect God's blessings if you disregard His rules. If you have to invent your own solution to suffering, you miss the comfort in a statement like this.

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

In HIS Time

God's plan for dealing with suffering is simple - eliminate suffering and death altogether, but in His time. Like everyone else, I've had days where I suffered, but on balance, I am glad I was born, and I look forward to this day.

Revelation 21:4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”


1. https://www.wikihow.com/Live-As-an-Antinatalist
2. https://www.amazon.com/Better-Never-Have-Been-Existence/dp/0199549265
3. https://www.foxnews.com/world/indian-man-to-sue-his-parents-for-giving-birth-to-him-without-his-consent-wants-to-be-paid-for-his-life
4. https://dailycitizen.focusonthefamily.com/anti-natalists-the-people-who-believe-that-the-cure-for-human-suffering-is-not-being-born-at-all/
5. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/antinatalism
6. https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/05/anti-natalism-argument-david-benatar-wrong

Tuesday, November 19, 2019


I used to joke that I spent my life learning things I didn't want to know. Epispasm may just be one of those things. I learned of it while reading "Unlocking the Scriptures" [1] by Julia Blum . The book is filled with tidbits of information about the Bible that are not apparent in most translations. But I was surprised when she mentioned 'epispasm— a surgical procedure that "reversed" circumcision'. What??? I had never considered that circumcision might be reversed. How can this be?

When I read how it was done, I realized I was thinking too literally. I pictured trying to sew flesh back on. That's not how it's done. Epispasm gives the appearance that circumcision has been reversed. You can read lots more detail for yourself at BIBLE REVIEW [2] and at Wikipedia [3].

After getting over the what and the how, one wonders why. A little history lesson is in order.

If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

A Brief History Of Hellenism

During the Hellenistic Period of ancient Greece, Greek culture reached its peak influence. This was the time beginning with Alexander the Great and ending with the rise of the Roman Empire, 323 BC to 31 BC. 
Territory of Alexander the Great 
That Greek culture gave the world many things, including Democracy and the Olympics. Sports were popular then as now. They built gymnasiums in every city they conquered - Judaism vs Hellenism - [4]. Ancient Greek Gymnasiums were more than places to get physical exercise, they were places for education, social gathering, and making business connections. "Participation in athletics was often a prerequisite for social advancement." - [2].

The Bath-Gymnasium Complex at Sardis
The gymnasium in Ancient Greece functioned as a training facility for competitors in public game(s). It was also a place for socializing and engaging in intellectual pursuits. The name comes from the Ancient Greek term gymnós meaning "naked". Only adult males were allowed to use the gymnasia.

Athletes competed nude, a practice which was said to encourage aesthetic appreciation of the male body, and to be a tribute to the gods.
In our culture, athletes may be naked in the locker room, but I suspect most athletes would be uncomfortable with the idea of competing in the nude. "Aesthetic appreciation of the male body" did not include circumcision however, so Jewish men missed out on the socializing, intellectual pursuits, and business opportunities of the gymnasiums. So, some Jews sought to undo circumcision through epispasm. Around 168BC, Antiochus Epiphanes, whose name means God Manifest, passed a law against circumcision, making it punishable by death. Then it became a life or death decision.

Understanding the meaning of epispasm makes this verse make a lot more sense.

1 Cor 7:18 Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised.

I always thought that Paul was writing an absurdity here to make a point. But apparently not. Epispasm "reached its peak of popularity in the first century C.E."  [2]. The word used in this verse is epispastho - Biblehub [5], so  Paul was familiar with epispasm, and here he is referring to the surgery by name.

But this isn't the earliest reference to epispasm. It can be found in the book of Maccabees, which many don't consider part of the Bible - GotQuestions [6], but is valuable history nonetheless. Consider this.
1 Mac1:11 In those days certain renegades came out from Israel and misled many, saying, “Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles around us, for since we separated from them many disasters have come upon us.” 12 This proposal pleased them, 13 and some of the people eagerly went to the king, who authorized them to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles. 14 So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to Gentile custom, 15 and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil.

More History

Antiochus did more than just make circumcision illegal, he enforced the death penalty on mothers who circumcised their babies, and killed the babies too. He also made the Jews follow Greek law, he desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem, he forbade burnt offerings, sacrifices, and the Sabbath. This sparked a revolt by a priest named Matthias who refused to let a Hellenized Jew offer an unclean sacrifice on the altar. He killed that Jew, and a Greek official as well. Matthias and his five sons hid in the hills, the oldest son Judah organized a guerrilla army. Judah was nicknamed Maccabee, which means hammer. The revolt was successful, defeating the Greek army which was larger and well trained and even had elephants. After three years of fighting, the Maccabees recaptured Jerusalem and cleansed the Temple which Antiochus had defiled. This the origin of Hanukkah, a remembrance of the time when the Temple was dedicated by the Maccabees. Hanukkah means dedication. And we find Jesus apparently keeping Hanukkah in the New Testament, though scholars disagree on whether He kept it or not - Did Jesus Keep Hanukkah? [7], Jesus and Hanukkah [8].

John 10:22 At that time the Feast of the Dedication (Hanukkah) took place at Jerusalem;  23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.

Even More History

The  revolt of the Maccabees was the beginning of the Hasmonean dynasty. So for a time, the Jews had peace and could practice their religion, including circumcision. Kind of. The Hasmonean dynasty started off well, but the descendants of the original Maccabees were not as noble, many of them were Hellenized (embraced the Greek culture). The Hasmoneans set themselves up as kings, though they called themselves princes instead of kings because a king had to come from the line of King David, and Matthias was a  priest. Priests were of the tribe of Levi, whereas King David was of the tribe of Judah. They were corrupted by power, and the dynasty suffered a moral decline. Matthias' grandson Yochanan conquered more lands and forced the conquered people to leave or convert. Forced conversion is a very anti-Jewish thing to do. One of the lands conquered was Idumea (Edom), and one of the descendants of forced conversion was King Herod, who was both good and bad for the Jewish people. Eventually the dynasty collapsed when the last two Hasmonean rulers, brothers Hyrcanus and Aristobolus, were vying for the throne and asked Rome to intercede - Revolt Of the Maccabees [9].

Modern History

Epispasm became practiced again during Nazi persecution of the Jews. Just being circumcised could be life threatening, as in the day of Antiochus Epiphanes. Jewish men had to either hide their genitals or seek epispasm. "Aryan doctors" charged a lot of money for epispasm surgery - Uncircumcision [10].

Circumcision of newborns used to be very common in the United States, but has been steadily declining, to the point it has gone from 60% of boys in the 1990's to 32% in 2009 - United States Circumcision Incidence [11]. One of the big reasons for the decline is a change in guidelines from the medical community, reclassifying circumcision from routine to elective - History of Circumcision [12]. Today there is a growing movement of men who wish to be restored from circumcision. Tens of thousands of men have undertaken it - CIRP [13]. The National Organization of Restoring Men (NORM) [14] is dedicated to that purpose.

The Swedish Center Party has proposed a ban on infant circumcision. This has caused anger in the Jewish and Muslim communities of Sweden. Some Jews see it as a request for Jews to leave Sweden, because it would be impossible to live as a Jew (or Muslim) in Sweden. The proposal would be a violation of religious freedoms and civil rights - Breaking Israel News [15]. It is a proposal, not a law, but if it were to pass, maybe some will be tempted to undergo epispasm.

The things one can learn even if they don't want to...

1. https://www.amazon.com/Unlocking-Scriptures-Julia-Blum/dp/1798290928
2. http://www.cirp.org/library/restoration/hall1/
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreskin_restoration
4. https://njop.org/resources/holidays/complete-guide-to-holidays/chanukah/judaism-vs-hellenism
5. https://biblehub.com/1_corinthians/7-18.htm
6. https://www.gotquestions.org/first-second-Maccabees.html
7. https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/60986/did-jesus-celebrate-hanukkah
8. https://thinkhebrew.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/jesus-and-hanukkah
9. https://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/the_revolt_of_the_maccabees/
10. http://www.cirp.org/library/restoration/schultheiss/
11. http://www.cirp.org/library/statistics/USA/
12. http://www.cirp.org/library/history/
13. http://www.cirp.org/pages/restore.html
14. http://www.norm.org/

15. https://www.breakingisraelnews.com/138099/major-swedish-party-calls-for-banning-world-saving-biblical-circumcision-covenant/

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Cover It With Covering

When you think of the Day of Atonement, you don't normally think of Noah’s ark. It doesn’t seem like the ceremonial sacrifice involving two goats has anything to do with Noah’s ark. But there is symbolism in Noah’s ark that has parallels with Atonement, so let’s explore what Noah’s ark has to do with The Day of Atonement. And while we're at it, why it's important for Christians.

Gen 6:14 "Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch.”

There are variations in different translations that say “cover/coat it with pitch/tar inside and out” - BibleHub(Gen 6:14) [1]. The King James Version and a few other translations say “pitch it with pitch”

But isn't the wording in Gen 6:14 unusual? The Pulpit Commentary [1] explains that the Hebrew says “literally, shalt cover it with a covering.” Cover it with a covering? Pitch it with pitch?

If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

The word translated as cover is the word kaphar, and some sources say that it is the origin of the English word cover - Edenics [2],  Karaite Insights [3], meaning Hebrew kaphar became English cover. However, in 71 out of 102 occurrences, kaphar is translated as Atonement, It is also translated as reconcile, forgive, purge, pacify, cleanse, appease, or pardon - Hebrew Dictionary [4]. The word translated as pitch or tar is kopher, which is from the same root word kaphar. In English we would say like the Pulpit Commentary “cover it with covering”. Gen 6:14 is the only place kopher is translated as pitch  [4].


Two other words are derived from kaphar: Kapporet and Kippur.  Kapporet is translated as mercy seat, which was the gold lid that covered the Ark of the Covenant, that is, kapporet is a noun form of cover. It is the cover of the Ark of the Covenant.

By the way, the Ark of the Covenant and Noah’s Ark are two different words. The word used for Noah’s ark is the same word used for the basket that the baby Moses was placed in to float down the Nile River. The ark of baby Moses was only covered outside with pitch (different word for pitch). These are the only two places that particular word for ark  (tevah) is used in the Bible. There are any fascinating parallels between the ark of Noah and this ark of Moses - The Ark Of Moses.

And kippur should be familiar as the Hebrew name of the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. And kippur is always translated as Atonement.

The point to remember is that the root meaning of all these words (Pitch, Mercy seat, Atonement) is COVER. And we can use Noah’s ark as a memory aid “Cover it with covering”

The word Atonement is a made up English word - Ministry Magazine [5], Etymology Online [6], Theopedia [7].William Tyndale coined several new words for his translation of the Bible 1526-1536, which made their way into nearly all later translations - David Rolphh Seely [8].

Tyndale was the first to use the terms Jehovah, Passover, atonement, scapegoat, and mercy seat in his translation of the Old Testament. The King James Bible and the Restoration, David Rolph Seely  [8]

While we certainly owe a great debt to Tyndale for his pioneering effort in translating the scriptures into English, his choice of words has shaped theological thinking for 500 years. You can read scholarly articles about Atonement by men who have never actually kept Atonement.

Let’s explore the Atonement symbolism of Noah’s ark as simply the word cover. I’m not saying we don’t want to be “at one” with God, but maybe we lose sight of the symbolism involved in the simple word cover [5]. With the caution that like most things, kaphar is more complicated than I'm showing here -Abarim(k-p-r) [9]. Often the symbols in the Bible point to Jesus in some way. For example, both the High Priest and the sacrifices point to Jesus. Likewise, many elements of Noah’s ark can be viewed as symbols pointing to Jesus. Consider this picture – inside the ark, you are safe from the water, outside the ark, you perish. Inside Jesus you are safe, outside, you perish. Normally water is associated with life, but here water means death. Noah entered the ark from one world, and exited to a new world, much like ancient Israel left one world (Egypt), passed through the water and entered another world (eventually the Promised Land of Canaan). And like us, at baptism, we enter the water as slaves to sin, and exit as slaves to God, which is freedom. We all pass through the waters of death to a new life. The ultimate fulfillment of this will be in the resurrection, we will truly enter a new world. The ark then symbolizes the deliverance through Christ, and transport to a new world.

Let’s assume that the covering of the ark was actually pitch (pitch was made from wood until recent times - Creation.com [10]). Commentators say that the pitch represents the blood of Jesus - Good News Mission [11]. Our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus. Note the similarity to the Passover Lamb's blood on the doorposts. Pitch was smeared on the ark, lamb's blood was smeared on the posts and lintel of the door frame, and Jesus' blood was smeared on the cross – ark, doorpost, cross, all three made of wood. The covering of the Ark (probably pitch) pictures Jesus’ blood, covering our sin.

Some commentators see this as God covering His eyes to our sin. When we ask God for forgiveness, in a sense we are asking Him to cover His eyes to our transgressions [3]. In our culture we would say, “look the other way”.

The ark was covered with pitch inside and out, that is, there are two coverings. The Day of Atonement in the Bible is actually plural. The phrase "Day of Atonement" occurs three times, and it is always plural, as in the Day of Atonements or the Day of the Coverings - Day of CoveringsWe also see multiple coverings or Atonements in Lev 16 where the High Priest carries out the sacrifices of the Day.

Lev 16:33 And he shall make an atonement (covering) for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement (covering) for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement (covering) for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation.

There are different ways to look at that symbolism. One way is that no matter which direction you’re looking, you see the shed blood of Christ. That is, God the Father looks from the outside, He sees the outer covering, the blood of Jesus, instead of our sin. 'Hab 1:13 "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil” hence sin must be covered - covered by blood' - Gleanings In Genesis [12]. We look from the inside, and we also see the blood of Christ, protecting us.

One commentary said that the first covering is to make us right before the LORD, as it says in Lev 16:30. The second covering is to make us right with our fellow man - Day of Atonements[13].

MythBusters testing truck bed liner material
Another way we might look at “cover it with covering, inside and out” comes from an unlikely source, testing truck bed liner material [10]. The TV show MythBusters ran a segment in 2012 where they tested whether coating a wall inside and out made it blastproof. And contrary to their expectations, it did. An ordinary wood or concrete wall was badly damaged by a blast. But when the same wall was coated inside and out with bed liner, it withstood the blast. You can watch the video on Youtube yourself - MythBusters [14].  Another show called SmashLab showed that the coating has to be applied to both sides - SmashLab [15]. It suggests that the pitch made Noah’s ark not only waterproof, but impact resistant. When the fountains of the deep broke forth (Gen 7:11), or when the waters receded, the ark could have crashed on rocks, cliffs, or  even mountains. The ark had no propulsion and no rudder. It went wherever the water took it. Likewise, sometimes we can’t steer clear of trials. It is possible that the two coverings may have made the ark impact resistant. I realize that comparing truck bed liner with pitch is somewhat unfair.

What about the life of a Christian? The analogy is that being pitched inside and out makes us able to withstand crashing on the rocks of life. God doesn’t always spare us from the crashes, but makes us impact resistant.

How are we covered with covering inside and out? When the Old Covenant was ratified, Moses literally sprinkled the people with blood, that is, they were covered outside.

Ex 24:8 So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

When the New Covenant was ratified, the disciples took the wine, which represented taking Jesus’ blood inside.

Luke 22:20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.

The pitch on the outside and the pitch on the inside are both parts of the same ark. Two covenants, same law, same blood. One interpretation is this: keep the letter AND the spirit of the law.

There maybe other interpretations of the two coverings, I would like to hear your thoughts on this.

1. https://biblehub.com/genesis/6-14.htm
2. https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/edenics/hebrew-words-found-in-english-words.htm
3. https://karaiteinsights.com/article/kippurim.html
4. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/3722.html.
5. https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1962/03/atonement-kaphar
 Tyndale and those who followed him failed to see this symbolism clearly enough to translate kipper as "cover." Instead, they chose or made up a word that expressed the result of the process—at-one-ment with God.
6. https://www.etymonline.com/word/atonement
atonement (n.) - 1510s, "condition of being at one (with others)," a sense now obsolete, from atone + -ment. Theological meaning "reconciliation" (of man with God through the life, passion, and death of Christ) is from 1520s; that of "satisfaction or reparation for wrong or injury, propitiation of an offended party" is from 1610s.
7. https://www.theopedia.com/atonement
The word atonement, is almost the only theological term of English origin. It was likely first used in Tyndale's English translation as derived from the adv. phrase atonen, meaning "in accord," literally, at one. In the English Bible, it is mainly used to translate the Hebrew word kipur, although it is used once in the King James New Testament to translate the Greek word katallage (see Romans 5:11).
 In the process of translating the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English, Tyndale coined several new English words—transforming older English words or in some cases inventing unique and striking new English words—that have since become central terms in religious discourse
9. http://www.abarim-publications.com/Dictionary/k/k-p-r.html#.XVokkvk3nIU
There are four different roots that are all spelled כפר (kpr) There doesn't seem to be an etymological relationship between these four, but their similarities may have prompted the poetic writers of the Bible to engage in word play.
10. https://creation.com/noahs-ark-pitch
pitch can be extracted by distilling or heating wood. In fact, prior to the rise of the petroleum and coal industries, this was exactly how pitch was made.
11. http://goodnewsmission.net/12-pitch-it-within-and-without-with-pitch/
12. https://www.biblebelievers.com/Pink/Gleanings_Genesis/genesis_13.htm
13. http://www.betemunah.org/kippur.html
Yom HaKippurim is the actual scriptural name for this festival, which means the Day of the Atonements. The meaning has two connotations to it: One, that a person repents for his sins that he has committed against HaShem and asks HaShem for His forgiveness, and the other is to ask for repentance from your fellow man for the sins that you have committed against him.
14. youtube.com/watch?v=3JOXrpCLCJg
15. youtube.com/watch?v=VSvVy6oiMZI

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Omer - Make Mine A Double

The time between the Wave Sheaf Day (during the Days of Unleavened Bread) and Pentecost (which means count fifty) is called the counting of the omer by the Jews. Their tradition is to recite a specific blessing every day during this time and name exactly how many more days are left before the "seven weeks of days" are complete - Sefirat HaOmer [1]. The Churches of God have no specific term for the 50 day period between Wave Sheaf Day and Pentecost.

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The Old Testament calls Pentecost the Feast of Weeks six times and the Feast of Firstfruits twice. Only in the NT is it referred to as Pentecost. The Jewish custom is to call it by its Hebrew name of Shavuot, which simply mean Weeks. What the Church of God calls the Wave Sheaf Day, they call Firstfruits, so it can be confusing. Some call Wave Sheaf Day Early Firstfuits, and Pentecost Latter Firstfruits – Heart Of Wisdom [2]. I like that terminology, even if it's not strictly found in the Bible. We will see that the Wave Sheaf day is linked to Pentecost in at least three ways. Let's first look at how the days are described.
Lev 23: 9 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf (omer) of the first fruits* of your harvest to the priest. 11 He shall wave the sheaf (omer) before the LORD for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.
14 Until this same day, until you have brought in the offering of your God, you shall eat neither bread nor roasted grain nor new growth. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.
15 ‘You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf (omer) of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. 16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath+; then you shall present a new grain offering to the LORD. 17 You shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two-tenths of an ephah; they shall be of a fine flour, baked with leaven as first fruits* to the LORD.

* This is why both Wave Sheaf Day and Pentecost can be called Firstfruits.

+ Some use verse 15 to say the Wave Sheaf Day is the second day of Unleavened Bread, the day after the holyday Sabbath, the First Day of Unleavened Bread. But verse 16 says the count ends the day after the Sabbath. Verse 16 has to mean the weekly Sabbath, so the count has to start the day after the weekly Sabbath during Unleavened Bread.

An omer of barley
Every place the text says sheaf, the Hebrew word is omer, a word we are already familiar with from the manna story. Omer sometimes does mean "sheaf" like a bundle of grain still on the stalk (as in Deuteronomy 24:19, Job 24:10, and Ruth 2:15) - that is, in the context of harvesting or gleaning. BTW, a different word (alumah) is translated as sheaf in the story of Joseph’s dream. And sometimes omer does not mean sheaf, a bundle of grain, it is simply a unit of measure, about two quarts. The Bible actually defines an omer as 1/10 of an ephah in Ex 16:36, making an ephah about six gallons, roughly the size of a paper grocery bag (in America). In Lev 23, all of the English language translations on BibleHub.com [3] chose to translate omer as sheaf. In the Torah, the five books of Moses, the word omer is only used in Ex 16 and Lev 23, hinting that there is a connection between the two.

Historically, the omer referred to in Lev 23 meant a measure of grain, specifically barley flour. Here’s what Alfred Edersheim wrote in his book The Temple - Its Ministry and Service [4].

This Passover-sheaf was reaped in public the evening before it was offered, … The corn (barley) thus prepared was ground in a barley-mill, which left the hulls whole. … Though one ephah, or ten omers, of barley was cut down, only one omer of flour, or about 5.1 pints of our measure, was offered in the Temple. The omer of flour was mixed with a "log", or very nearly three-fourths of a pint of oil, and a handful of frankincense put upon it, then waved before the Lord.

Edersheim references Antiquities of the Jews [5] by Flavius Josephus who lived approx 37-100 AD as the source of this info. So you could say they harvested ten omers of grain from the field to present one omer of flour in the Temple. Why is the use of the word omer important in Lev 23? Because omer connects the Wave Sheaf offering, Pentecost offering, AND the gathering of manna. Let’s see how. You may have noticed that the word omer is NOT used in Lev 23 describing the Pentecost ceremony, Lev 23:17 "You shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two-tenths of an ephah”. Two loaves, two tenths of an ephah. That is two omers. The Pentecost offering is double the Wave Sheaf offering. Two omers used for two loaves. And let’s read what happened when the Israelites first received manna.

Ex 16 15 When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. 16 This is what the LORD has commanded, “Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.”

And on the sixth day?
 Ex 16 22 Now on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, 23 then he said to them, “This is what the LORD meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the LORD."

In other words, God revealed the Sabbath by doubling the manna collected on the sixth day. The laws concerning manna are interesting, unique in that they are unbreakable  - Counting The Omer [6]. Consider the three laws of manna. 

1. Gather an omer per person.
2. Don’t keep it overnight. 
3. Don’t collect it on the Sabbath. 

 What makes these laws unbreakable? 

1. One omer – those that gathered more than an omer had no excess, he who gathered less had no lack. When they measured the day’s manna everyone had an omer. Except on the sixth day, when somehow they had two omers per person. 

2. Overnight – while some tried to keep it overnight, it bred worms and stank, so they couldn’t really keep it overnight, except for the sixth day. 

3. Sabbath – some TRIED to collect it Sabbath morning, but it wasn’t to be found. God was testing the Israelites with unbreakable laws.

Soon, laws were coming that could and would be broken. One lesson is that God revealed the Sabbath by doubling the omer. Note that this is separate from the Ten Commandments. A double portion is one of God’s ways of saying something important is happening. In Ex 16, Moses makes it clear what God meant by the double omer of manna, but the meaning of the double omer of bread on Pentecost is not made clear in Lev 23. Ex 16 and the New Testament can help us understand the Pentecost double omer.

Remember that the Wave Sheaf Day AND Pentecost are both called Firstfruits. Jesus ascended to heaven on the Wave Sheaf Day to become the First of the Firstfruits – 1 Co 15:20 “But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterwards those who are Christ’s at His coming”. The Early Firstfruits pictures Christ, Pentecost pictures the Latter Firstfuits, that is His resurrected saints at His coming - Significance of the Wave Sheaf [7]. In a sense, WE are the double omer, the Latter Firstfruits. Not that we are somehow greater than Christ. We are under Him, and will carry out His will to bring healing and peace to this earth. He did a great work while He was here on earth the first time, and through us will do an even greater work when He comes the second time  - John 14:12 "Yes, indeed! I tell you that whoever trusts in me will also do the works I do! Indeed, he will do greater ones, because I am going to the Father". In other words, we get to be part of His great work!


· The Wave Sheaf Day, Pentecost, and manna are connected to one another.
· Wave Sheaf Day and Pentecost are both called Firstfruits.
· The count to Pentecost starts on Wave Sheaf Day
· One omer for Wave Sheaf Offering, two omers for Pentecost offering
· One omer of manna daily, two omers on the sixth day to reveal the Sabbath
· Double omer signifies the importance of the Sabbath and Pentecost
· Christ is the Early Firstfruits, we are the Latter Firstfruits
. Together we will do an even greater work

 That greater work lies ahead, soon.


1. https://hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Spring_Holidays/Sefirat_HaOmer/sefirat_haomer.html
2. http://heartofwisdom.com/Acrobat/BHFF.pdf
3. https://biblehub.com/leviticus/23-15.htm
4. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edersheim/temple.html
5. https://www.biblestudytools.com/history/flavius-josephus/antiquities-jews/book-3/chapter-10.html
6. https://www.alephbeta.org/counting-the-omer
7. https://www.ucg.org/sermons/significance-of-the-sheaf

Thursday, June 6, 2019

You Don't Know What You Don't Know

Psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger have repeatedly shown that people who aren't good at something often overestimate their performance - PubMed(Unskilled and Unaware of It) [1]. And people who ARE good at something underestimate their performance. This seems counter-intuitive, but we all know examples of this already. For example, more than 80% of drivers think they are above average - Modern Driver [2]. Or maybe you have seen contestants on American Idol who think they are really good singers, but they aren't.

This phenomenon is now known as the Dunning Kruger effect (D-K), but it has long been recognized, just lacking the research and the catchy name. Consider this quote from Alexander Pope in 1709. The Wiki page even references Dunning Kruger.

A little learning (knowledge) is a dangerous thing - Wikipedia(Essay_on_Criticism) [3]. 
Or this observation from Charles Darwin. Some may find irony here.
Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge -  BrainyQuote [4].

If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

D-K happens because our brain is hiding its own blind spots from us. When people don't get it, they don't realize they don't get it, that is you don't know what you don't know. The skill you need to evaluate your performance is the very skill you lack to actually perform well.

The maddening part is that D-K happens to all of us. We can't be expert in everything. "Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition" - Vox(D-K_Explained) [5]. When we learn something new, we underestimate how much there is to know about a subject, so we assume we have nearly mastered it, and overestimate our performance. When we study something deeply, we realize how much we don't know, so we underestimate our performance.

Hold My Ladder
Let me share one of  my own D-K experiences, involving painting (walls, not portraits). I know a few tricks about painting, things like keeping a wet edge, cutting in, how to quickly spread paint, etc. I thought I was pretty good at it. After my stroke, when I could no longer work over my head, we wanted our living room (which has high ceilings) painted. We hired a guy. I watched him paint. I realized my mediocrity. He painted that ceiling in a couple hours. It would have taken me two days. He had the right tools, knew the right techniques, and painted faster and better than I ever could, pre-stroke that is.

I think the ultimate example of D-K is Mother Eve in the Garden of Eden. She got a tiny bit of (mis)information, and made a decision to overrule God Himself. Did she think that she knew better than her Creator?

The poor performers fall victim to thinking "how hard can it be?" As in "Nobody knew health care could be so complicated".

Hypothetical Dunning Kruger Effect - Independent(William Poundstone) [6]

The graph above depicts the hypothetical Dunning-Kruger effect, plotting confidence against competence. It shows that absolute beginners more accurately evaluate themselves, that is they recognize that they are incompetent. Then, at a certain skill level, people begin to overestimate their competence. This graph was published by William Poundstone, not by Dunning and Kruger however. The D-K paper included four graphs, all of them similar to the one at right, which plots perception versus ability to recognize humor. Note the graph does not go to zero, so it really says nothing about absolute beginners, though a recent study by Dunning shows "beginners don’t start out falling prey to the Dunning-Kruger effect, but they get there real quick" - Vox(D-K_Explained) [7], PubMed [8]. Visit Graph Paper Diaries [9] to see the original D-K graphs for logic and grammar comprehension.

I think one has to distinguish between the D-K effect and arrogance. The D-K effect can be attributed to ignorance. Beginners are simply unaware of how much there is to know about a topic consequently overestimate how much they know about it. But there are people who offer opinions about things they know little about; often wrong, but never in doubt. Everyone falls prey to D-K, but the arrogant more so.

Enter Politics

Whether you're a voter or a politician, the Dunning Kruger effect is in play. Ill informed voters appear to be extremely overconfident in their political knowledge, but also strong in their opinions - Science Trends [10],  PsyPost(Study) [11].  In short, beware the loudest and most confident voices on social media. Politicians propose solutions that can't possibly work, but they are unaware of the costs and consequences of their solutions. I think this is especially true of campaign promises. Some politicians are sadly uninformed about science, technology, economics, history, etc., but make laws about these  very subjects that they don't understand, and be very vocal about it.

One problem for voters is that a truly knowledgeable candidate will likely underestimate his own solutions or his ability to govern. He may even appear to doubt himself. Who is going to vote for that person? People want confident leaders, and D-K says that those people are often the least qualified.

Enter Religion

In a sense, religion deals with "what we don't know", the very realm of the unknown.  We look to religion to give us the answers to life's biggest questions. There are things we simply cannot know from human physical experience, and we expect religion to know the "unknowable". But that leaves huge opportunities for not only D-K, but fraud as well. But to reuse an old joke, "never attribute to fraud what can adequately be explained by D-K" - Hanlon's Razor [12].

How are we supposed to approach it? Who do we believe?  If you don't know what you don't know, can you know what you do know? Personally, I believe the Bible, though I recognize that leaves out atheists and a lot of people who believe in other "sacred texts". I will confine my remarks to Bible believers. But still, Bible believers are split into about 40,000 denominations, they can't all be right. While some may be frauds, I think most are displaying D-K. Consider the D-K preacher, one who can take take a small part of the Bible, make a compelling sermon out of it, yet actually misunderstand the passage. The preacher has the added challenge of wanting to appear confident about the unknowable. Consider the D-K member, one who hasn't read much of the Bible, yet has great confidence they know the truth, or at least their church leaders do. The tendency is to look down on everyone outside one's own faith. Atheists apply D-K to Christians Atheist Forum [13], and Christians apply D-K to atheists  Phillip Jensen [14]. And I would guess that each denomination applies D-K to other denominations as well.

Message Of Hope

Contrary to what Mulder always said, the truth is not "out there" - Wikipedia(X_Files) [15]. And contrary to what Darth Vader said, the truth is not "in here", that is, you can't search your feelings for the truth - Wikiquote(The Empire Strikes Back) [16]. Our feelings are not the arbiters of truth. Truth is in the pages of the Bible, "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth" - John 17:17. But with all the misinformation and disinformation about the Bible "out there", one needs a guide - like the Ethiopian eunuch said to Philip.
Acts 8:30 Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?”
That guide is available. I invite you to read some of these publications from the United Church of God [17]. This is only a sampling of what is available.

 Does God Exist?

Why are we here? What is our place in the universe? What is the purpose of life? The questions have been asked for centuries. But they all revolve around what is perhaps the most fundamental question of all: Does God exist?

 Why Were You Born?

What is your destiny? Why do you exist? Why were you born? Is there a reason, a purpose, for human life? These questions have baffled the greatest thinkers and philosophers down through the ages.  We ponder the meaning of life.  In the pages that follow, we will explore this, one of the greatest of all mysteries.

 How To Understand the Bible
The Bible is the world's most popular book, but at the same time the most misunderstood! The Bible continues to be printed more than any other book and is available in more than 2,000 languages. It has helped form the basis for Western society and has shaped much of its religious, economic and social outlook.

The Bible itself reveals ways to better grasp its message to mankind. Throughout its pages are principles that, when applied, can help your comprehension. Let’s now explore a number of important keys that will help open up this Book of books to your understanding.


Why should there be such confusion about one of the Ten Commandments that God gave to mankind? Why is there such controversy and confusion over this one commandment when most people, including religious leaders and their churches, have little quarrel with the other nine? You don’t have to look far to discover the answers to these questions. They can be found in the pages of the Bible and history. And we address these basic questions in this booklet.


Prophecy is an integral part of the Bible, God’s inspired revelation to mankind. Through it God reveals Himself, His plan for humanity and why we are here. When properly understood, the Bible speaks with a clear, consistent and reliable message that is just as appropriate for us as it was for the people of ancient Israel.

Why should you believe me? I don't have a degree from a seminary. I'm not an evangelist, and I don't play one on TV. Maybe I'm exhibiting Dunning-Kruger. Well, I'm not a beginner, I've been studying the Bible for over 40 years. God helped me make big changes in my life long ago. I'm not saying I am perfect, but I'm not the man I was in my 20's. People who knew me then would probably be surprised that I write a blog about Bible topics. You can read my blog for yourself, (65 articles as of June 2019), see the INDEX or the list on the right - you can see much of what I believe.

As far as beliefs go, I'm pretty certain about some, less so about others. For examples, I'm certain God exists; the Bible is the word of God; that He expects us to keep the Ten Commandments, including the Sabbath; that Jesus is the Messiah, and He is coming back, soon; Jesus started His church and it is still here (this is not meant to be an exhaustive  list of beliefs I am certain about, just a few examples). If a church teaches the Ten Commandments are done away, or the Sabbath has been changed to Sunday, or keeps Christmas and Easter, that church contradicts the Bible. On the other hand, there are things that I don't fully understand, despite my best efforts, things I may have opinions about, even strong opinions, but can't claim certainty, things like the exact nature of God, God's name, when exactly will Christ return, God of the Old Testament, Nephilim, church government, voting, and more. On the other hand, there are parts of the Bible that are not entirely clear, that people legitimately debate and argue about. Sometimes I think there isn't a verse that people don't argue about. Then I remember what Mark Twain said "It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand" - Brainy Quote [18]. At least I have reached the point where I realize I have SO much more to learn.

Overcoming the Dunning Kruger Effect

Is it possible to avoid D-K effect? The research says no because there are always subjects we are not experts at, which means areas we are ignorant and can't accurately assess our performance. But one key is humility - Vox(Intellectual_Humility) [19]. At least, one doesn't have to cross the line from ignorance to arrogance. "everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think" - Rom 12:3. Life Lessons [20] offers more tips on how to overcome D-K.

Discussion questions

Can you think of "Christian" teachings that contradict the Bible?
Do you have a D-K story?


1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10626367/
2. http://moderndriver.org/driving-and-the-dunning-kruger-effect/
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Essay_on_Criticism
4. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/charles_darwin_141357
5. https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/1/31/18200497/dunning-kruger-effect-explained-trump
6. https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/how-meryl-streep-showed-us-why-the-least-able-have-no-idea-of-their-own-incompetence-a7205316.html
7. https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/1/31/18200497/dunning-kruger-effect-explained-trump
8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29094960
9. https://graphpaperdiaries.com/2017/08/20/the-real-dunning-kruger-graph/
10. https://sciencetrends.com/study-finds-that-those-who-claim-to-know-more-about-politics-actually-know-less/
11. https://www.psypost.org/2018/04/study-people-less-political-knowledge-think-know-lot-politics-51062
12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon%27s_razor
13. https://atheistforums.org/thread-58139.html
14. https://phillipjensen.com/new-atheists-and-the-dunning-kruger-effect/
15. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_X-Files
16. https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Empire_Strikes_Back
17. https://www.ucg.org/bible-study-tools/booklets
18. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/mark_twain_153875
19. https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/1/4/17989224/intellectual-humility-explained-psychology-replication
20. https://lifelessons.co/personal-development/howtogetsmarterpart4/