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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - April 20, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta The Bible does not support Velikoysky Saturday, April 20, 1974 THE IETHBHIDQE HERALD By Doug Walker, Herald editorial page editor THE VOICE OF ONE Dr. Frank S. Morley Dire warnings that the cornet Kohoutek. spelled catastrophe for the earth were taken in stride by most people. Some credit for this may be due Immanuel Velikov.niy. Why should people get upset at the prospect of another catastrophe if twice before the world has survived upheavals on a major scale? A pollyanna-like confidence in the recoverability of the earth from all possible disasters could well spring from Velikovsky's disclosures. The comfort that Velikovsky's theory about previous upheavals in historic times could provide is unfortunately denied to those who are puzzled by an argument posited on the concept of "collective amnesia" and who are put off by the insubstantial nature of the supporting "evidence" set out in Worlds in Collision. A casual reading of the book might leave an impression of plausibility but a proper academic inquiry leaves it shorn of credibility. At the outset it has to be asked how such well remembered events as the exodus from Egypt and the sparing of Jerusalem from Assyrian assault could have elements about them that were suppressed from explicit recollection. How could events that were so exhilarating that they passed into celebration, at the same time be so frightening as to re- quire a psychological mechanism for blotting them out of consciousness? It is incredible that an event so central to Israel's faith as the exodus had elements about it that only survived in veiled lorm. There are so many references to the exodus in the Bible that it would be impractical to attempt to list them here. Suffice it to point out that in addition to the extensive narrative in the pentateuch, compiled from at least three source documents, there are the credal affirmations in Deuteronomy 26 and Joshua 24, the numerous psalms rejoicing in the event (78, 105, 106, 114, 136 to name a and a multitude of references in the writings of the prophets. How could any elements of such an event have been forgotten and why1? Likewise the deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrians was such a cause for rejoic- ing that it too entered firmly into the stream of memory. Not only is it impossible to believe that events so relished and remembered should be attenuated by inability to face the full compass ,of what occurred, but such a development is exactly the reverse of what usually takes place Most events take on additional- coloring in the recounting, confronting the historian with the task of identifying the extraneous in order to get at the truth. Biblical scholars, for instance, have noticed how the small number of lieu s in Goshen required the of only two midwives (Exodus but in the escape the number o! people has multiplied to 600 000 men, plus. women and children Exodus a my c.d -f about three million ivlw, close columns of fours, would stretch from Egvpi -jj Sinai and back. Similarly the withdrawal of Sennacherib's army, explained as due iu receipt of bad new-, from home in one accou..i Kings 37 is explained in another accoi'.-t (2 Kings 19 as being due to the slaughter, by an angel, of Assyrians in the night. Maybe it is the puzzle of how collective amnesia applies at all to these biblical events which will be grappled with by the scholars who plan to meet with Dr. Velikovsky at the University of Lethbridge in May. If this looks like a fairly taxing problem it is nothing compared to devising a cloak of academic respectability for the kind of evidence Velikovsky claims to find in the Bible, some examples of which will now be considered. passages references to something more spectacular than the usual thunderstorm. So he says of Exodus (p. 67 of the Dell paperback edition) that "a 'small dust' like 'ashes of a fell 'in all the land of and then a shower of meteorites .flew toward the earth The dust was a forerunner of the gravel." The dust, referred to in the Exodus verse, did not fall on the earth because of a cosmic disturbance but because Moses threw it up and it fell down. Except for the translators of the King James Version of the Bible, Velikovsky is alone in thinking that the Hebrew word "ruach" (in 2 Kings should be rendered "blast" rather than "spirit" (p. He builds a case for a catacylsm on that word. The use of "blast" by the KJV translators is truly inexplicable, Young's Analytical Concordance shows that they translated "ruach" 224 times as 91 times as 28 times as and only four times as "blast" (two of these being the duplicate passage under The exegete (Norman H. Snaith) in The Interpreter's Bible says laconically of the KJV rendering that it "is not good." No knowledge of Hebrew is needed to recognize the mappropriateness of using "blast" to translate "ruach" in the context. Velikovsky only gives part of. the verse in his book: "I will send a blast upon him and he shall return to his own land." The full text, as rendered in the RSV, reads: "I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor, and return to his land." It is not difficult to see why Velikovsky omitted the part about the rumor it makes his translation of "blast" absurd and his conclusion about a catacylsm silly image was derived from the pillars of Solomon's temple, or from the smoke that rose from the altar of burnt offering, and was borrowed to portray the Presence in the exodus story. Almost any reference to darkness in the Bible is considered by Velikovsky to be a remembrance of the clouds that covered the earth because of the upheaval at the time of the exodus. No. attention is paid to context or type of writing. A pertinent example is a quotation from appreciation of the primarily religious nature of the Bible. What has been ignored is the view of the writer (s) that the Lord (Yahweh) was in the pillar of fire and cloud (e.g. Exodus These passages were not meant to be treated as literal descriptions of physical phenomena but as religious expressions. Here is figurative language to signify the sense of the presence of God. The entry on pillar of fire and cloud in The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible offers the speculation that the whole The University of Lefhbridge, at its spring g convocation, will confer an honorary degree on Dr. Immanuel Veiikovsky, controversial author of ii-i several books on the theme of upheavals caused by the near collision of planets. In an earlier edition of The Herald (Feb. 5 there was an exchange on the subject of the dating f ij: of the biblical exodus and its bearing on the Velikovsky thesis. Dr. Alan Parry, U of L counsellor, led off that discussion. It was responded to by Doug Walker, Herald editorial page editor. Dr. Parry gave a rebuttal. Today the exchange has to do with the use Dr. Velikovsky made of the Bible in his initial 6 publication, Worlds in Collision. This time Mr. g Walker leads off with a revised and abbreviated :j: version of a paper given at a U of L class studying g Velikovsky. Dr. Parry makes the response and the S rebuttal comes from Mr. Walker. Job (p. The book of Job (a piece of Wisdom lit- is a verse drama in which an afflicted man argues with his friends about the justice of God and finally, impatiently and imprudently, challenges .God to justify his own righteousness. It is then that God speaks to Job. asking him unanswerable questions to humble him by the realiza- tion of his ignorance and folly in impugning his (God's) wisdom and justice. God asks Job 9, 12, 13) if he was around at the time of creation when he (God) bounded the seas and made thick darkness its swaddling bands. What has an imaginary dialogue on creation got to do with a supposed planetary collision in historic times? Would Velikovsky consider the political and economic upheavals of today, described as gloomy in sermons and editorials, as evidence of a collective amnesia about planetary collisions? The thought has occurred to me that Immanuel Velikovsky may have perpetrated an elaborate spoof. If that should be the case I think I could bring myself to laugh with him about it although the thought also makes me embarrassed for the University of Lethbridge. The Spanish Tragedy Tangled wood Only Velikovsky thinks Isaiah should be translated- "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, the light of Noga was upon them" (p. "Noga is writes Velikovsky; "it is, in fact, the usual name of this planet in Hebrew." Actually, the Hebrew word in the Isaiah passage is "nagah" and it means "shine" as it is usually translated. It is the same word that appears in Job "Yea, the light of the wicked is put out, and the flame of his fire does not shine Substituting Noga in that context doesn't make any sense; it does make superficial sense in the Isaiah passage but it isn't correct. The examples above indicate that Veli'novsky is not a trustworthy translator and as a consequence that much of his case for cosmic catastrophe, buil.t on mistranslations, collapses. Now some of his interpretations will be examined. Following the lesson on the "proper" translation of the Isaiah passage there is a discussion of the destruction, by Hezekiah, of the bronze serpent that had supposedly been made by Moses and subsequently was hung in the in Jerusalem. Velikovsky says the serpent "was most probably the image of the pillar of cloud and fire which appeared as a saoving serpent to all peoples t.J ihe world." (p. This is a purely fanciful interpretation. The Association of lire with the comes from the in Numbers v-iiere the making of a bronze replica -had a supposed prophylactic purpose. Inflammation caused by snake bite doubtless accounts for the designation "fiery serpenls." It extremely doubtful if Closes had ng to do wiin UK of the bronze serpent, most likely the object was a legacy of the pre-Israelite cult of Jerusalem. Spanish history is a ghastly record of unimaginable suffering and hideous cruelty. Attempts have been made to show that other countries were as bad; no one has tried to show that other countries were worse. The Inquisition, of course, is notorious, but the tyrannical suppression of the liberal movement under Ferdinand VII in the 1820s was as tragic and bestial as the suppression of democracy in the 1930s. It is a great loss to mankind since in the Renaissance Spain demonstrated, before the Inquisition fires destroyed initiative and enthusiasm, that she could produce as sensitive a literature, as brilliant an architecture, and as beautiful an art as any in the world. But always there have been two tensions in Spain. One has been between the different Spanish regions and the other between church and state. Into the 16th century the justicia mayor, on behalf of the Aragonese nobility crowned the kneeling king with the formula: "We who are as good as you swear to you who are no better than we to accept you as our king and sovereign lord, provided you accept all our liberties and laws; but if not, not." The French and Spanish Basques form a single cultural unit, speaking the Basque language. The Spanish Basques were in 1936 given a statute of autonomy for Alava. Guipuscoa, and Vizcaya by the Republican government, which was swept aside by the Franco regime and the provisional government went into exile. In the revolution an unexpected, bitter hostility to the church throughout Spain broke out with terrible ruthlessness. Churches were burned, religious services were banned, and thousands of priests and members of religious orders were slaughtered. When Franco came to power he restored the church to a most privileged position, for which he felt the church owned him much gratitude and complete fidelity. Despite the Spanish tradition, however, which dates back to Charles V equating heresy with treason, there has always been tension between Rome and the Spanish heads of state. Today as Richard Mowrer reports in the Christian Science Monitor church-state Rebuttal relations are at the breaking point. A complete rupture between the two appears inevitable. The Church is identifying itself with the popular movement for liberty and justice and is acting as spokesman for a suppressed people. The "Justice and Peace' Committee" of the Spanish Episcopate issued the following statement: "A struggle against the present social structure in Spain is necessary because men cannot be asked to. behave in a just way if at the same time they are forced to live under the inhuman weight of an unjust system." The church has gone to great pains to point- out that church and state have different and.' distinct roles and that the church is by no.'.' means automatically a supporter of state policy. In the Basque provinces the clergy have been aggressive in their support of., Basque desire for cultural and linguistic identity (Basque language is banned in state'i The Bishop of Bilbao, the Rt. Rev.11 Msgr. Antonio Anoveros wrote a homily on the subject which was read in the Basque., churches and roused the ire of Franco. With his aide he was placed under house arrest as a. supporter of enemies of the state. At the funeral of the brutal, Admiral Carrero, who was asassinated as he was leaving mass, a group of falangistas" shouted epithets at the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Vincente Enrique y Tarancon: "Assassin! Down with the church! Down with' the bishops'" Thus they reflected the bitter cleavage between the Falanage and the Catholic Church. Shortly before the assassination the bishops had urged the renegotiation of Spain's 1953 concordat with the Vatican, so that the" church might not be identified with the oppressive regime. There is little hope while Franco lives, there will be any real. liberalization of the laws or creation of economic and social justice. Carrero's, successor, Carlos Arias Navarro. is another, right-wing, tough character But the long-' term prospect is encouraging as the church" has taken a definite stand for justice, and reform. Unrepentent I'holo by Kfck Ervin The facetious introductory remarks in my critique seem to have been taken seriously by Dr. Parry; I hope I will not similarly be seen to have misunderstood his intent in my rebuttal of his numbered points as follows: (1) A simple assertion that Israel remembered and Response Ridicule unwarranted By Alan Parry, U of L counsellor Alone of translators Velikovsky b a r a d all modem of Hebrew, understands to signify "meteronte" not "hail" thus finding in Old Testament Prior to the "explanation" of the origin of the bronze serpent there is a reference to the pillar of fire and cloud in the biblical account of the post-exodus wilderness wandering of the Israelites. Here (p !84i as elsewhere in his book Veil KOI sky treats this as physical phenomena without any apparent The conflict between those who take Immanuel Velikovsky seriously and those who do not finally hinges on how the history of this planet is to be interpreted. For those who scorn Velikovsky it is an article of faith that recorded history has been a uniform affair in so far as nature has been concerned, and a gradual ascent from the primitive to the civilized for humankind. Modern liberal scholarship assumes that what it deals with are which, once established, become unquestionable certainties (for the time being, at An increasing number of scholars, who are not overwhelmed by the sacred canons of established orthodoxy, are coming to realize that history is not fact but interpretation. In other words, history is myth, and, at the same time ironically, in the words of William Irwin Thompson, "myth is the remains of the real history of the earth We select from the past those events which support current values and interests, and are oblivious to that which does not fit. Velikovsky's theory is, of course, an interpretation as well, probably based, as Mr. Walker suggests, on contemporary man's .increasing tendency to catastrophe, and regard it as the activating force of history, rather than gradual progress. All of this need not occasion cynicism or despair; instead it should lead' us to examine ourselves as parts of the world we interpret, in order that we may come to understand the role our interests play, and not be misled into mistaking them for what we see "outside" ourselves. Now on to Mr Walker's specific criticisms of Velikovsky. 1. Israel remembered and celebrated the catastrophic events of the earth's near-collision with the comet that later settled into the solar system as Venus because she was apparently one of the few beneficiaries of the event. Out of it came her deliverance from slavery in Egypt, the awe-inspiring escape at the Sea of Passage, manna in the desert, one of Joshua's most splendid victories, and later the miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem from Sennacherib's siege by the mysterious destruction of his army. Israel did not forget with the rest of the world because, unlike them, she had every reason to remember. 2 Mr Walker heaps ridicule on Velikovsky for suggesting that the shower of ash that settled over all the land of Egypt had a cosmic source when the Bible plainly says that Moses and Aaron caused the ash to cover the entire land merely by throwing handfuls of if from a nearby kiln. It seems more likely to attribute symbolic significance to the gesture by Moses and Aaron, and to look for a greater force than what two men could throw into the air to cover the entire land of Egypt (Ex. 3 Velikovsky is scorned for suggesting that the plague of hailstones referred to a rain of meteorites. This apparently demonstrates the arbitrary nature of Velikovsky's translations. Since, however, the biblical account refers to fire accompanying the hail (Ex. one is surely led to wonder at the kind of hail that would be accompanied by fire. Perhaps it was not hail at all but meteorites-. 4. "Blast" may well be a questionable translation of "ruach." which is, indeed, commonly translated as breath, wind, or spirit. But in disputing this point Mr. Walker seems to be suggesting that Velikovsky invented the story of the sudden demise of Sennacherib's army. Mr, Walker seems to be following the customary liberal inclination to accept a priori the more rational version and to relegate the mysterious version of the overnight death of troops to the category of later embellishment. If Velikovsky's conclusion about a cataclysm is "silly" then the Bible itself is the source of silliness not Velikovsky, not to speak of such other unrelated ancient sources as Herodotus who also make mention of this mystery. 5. Velikovsky is contemptuously dismissed for his "senseless" translation of Noga as Venus, notwithstanding the fact that he footnotes this translation with several Hebrew sources. Presumably, too, Velikovsky is not entirely unfamiliar with Hebrew, his father having been a Hebrew philologist, and Velikovsky having lived and studied in Palestine for much of his life. 6 Velikovsky's case is not, as Mr. Walker maintains, built on previous mistranslations, but on an hypothesis that has been gaining ground for many years, namely that it is far from frivolous to take myth seriously as "the remains of the real history of the earth." The once unquestioned assumption of liberal rationalism that myth was merely the idle fancy of unsophisticated and primitive folk who had no better tools for understanding nature than to personalize it has given way before the massive scholarship of, for instance, the great French Levi- science of anthropologist Claude Strauss, and his mythology. 7. Mr. Walker confidently asserts that the writers of the Bible wrote, and presumably thought, primarily in religious terms, as though there was a clear boundary between what they may have perceived with their senses and what they described for religious consumption. This is the classic assumption of liberal biblical scholarship, namely that the religious and the natural are two distinct categories, the one interpretive, the other factual, and, presumably, never the twain could meet. JSuch distinctions need no longer be taken seriously. The religious interpenetrates the natural inseparably, and is understood neither in terms of supernatural intervention nor of inner meaning added on to natural events. Finally, the history of biblical scholarship since around 1925 has tended over and over to demonstrate that the Bible is, to a remarkable extent, a document that does describe what a very earthy, wholesome, and concrete people saw happening in their midst. It was the evidence of their senses, not their fancy, that gave Israel the breathtaking realization that God was at work in the dramatic events that always seemed to be happening to them. Whether "the Bible was right" or not, however, is largely irrelevant to the Velikovsky thesis. What he is seeking to demonstrate is that myth is a remarkably valid indicator of what did happen in our history, whether it is reported in the Bible, or in American Indian, Chinese, or Hindu mythology, all of which contain evidence that within the memory of man a series of terrifying catastrophes were visited upon our planet.' By Doug Walker celebrated events of the earth's near-collision with a comet is no answer to my comment that it is incredible that an event so central to Israel's faith as the exodus had elements about it that only survived in veiled form. What is the evidence for this besides Velikovsky's wholly untenable interpretation of the Bible? (2) Dr. Velikovsky provides no clue that he was treating the Exodus passage symbolically. The impression he leaves is that it literally described the falling of cosmic dust and meteorites. By what canons of interpretation does Dr. Parry decide that the action of Moses and Aaron throwing dust into the air is to be taken symbolically while the reference to the covering of the entire land of Egypt is to be taken literally? (3) The translation of the Hebrew word "barad" as "meteorite" requires more justification than the notion that the fire accompanying the hail was something more than the usual lightning in the sky at the time of a hail storm. (4) Dr.' Velikovsky did not invent the story of the sudden withdrawal of Sennacherib's army, to be sure; what he invented was the story of a near-collision of planets to solve the mystery inherent in conflicting accounts of the event. The Bible provides two explanations: a rumor caused the Assyrian ruler to make a hasty withdrawl; the angel of death decimated the army in the night. Herodotus provided a third explanation: mice gnawed the bowstrings of the Assyrian warriors so that, defenceless, they fled. None of these lends the slightest support for Velikovsky's collision thesis. (5) It is not the translation of in Isaiah as Venus that is footnoted by Velikovsky, it is the statement that Noga is the usual name for Venus in Hebrew that is footnoted. Dr. R. F. Schnell, professor of Old Testament -languages and literature at St. Andrew's College in Saskatoon, has written to me explaining that "in late Hebrew, as represented in the Targum, the word for Venus is Nogha. Old Testament references to Venus use a different word altogether." Dr. Velikovsky may be familiar with Hebrew but he missed this important distinction which invalidates his argument from the Isaiah text. (6) The importance of myth is granted. What, is contended is that Dr. Velikovsky, in' Worlds in Collision, seeks build his case, unjustifiably, on two biblical events. His case collapses as a result of the untenability of his. translations and interpretations, of which only a sample of illustrations was supplied. The other literature which Velikovsky cites may support his thesis (though that is but the Bible clearly doesn't, and the supposed correlation is an illusion. (7) Granting the difficulty, and perhaps illegitimacy, of separating the religious and the natural in the Bible, it is nevertheless essential that the religious dimension be recognized. The very title, The Holy Bible, indicates a collection of little books distinguished from other. books because they have special religious sig- nificance Dr. Velikovsky does not seem to take cognizance of this. Unlike the biblical writers he does not, as was pointed out, see the presence ot God in events, he takes a strictly naturalistic approach. The failure of many religious people to recognize" this and to treat Velikovsky as some kind of defender of the faith is truly amazing. i Book review "Warships 1860-1970" (Douglas, David and Charles, 96 i Two categories of readership will find interest in this book sailors and sketchers. J M Thorton has assembled a fascinating series of simple line drawings illustrating the development of modern warships during the., past 100 years. The pictures appeared in the Canadian Navy magazine, CrOwsnest, and many were reprinted in other nautical publications. After further., editing, the collection has been stowed between hard covers for permanent record. Showing the flag in this book are old ironclads, dreadnoughts, early aircraft carriers, submarines and submersibles. armed'1 merchant cruisers and a fleet of vessels in disguise. Pencil sketchers will appreciate the book for its fine sample of clear drawings NOEL BUCHANAN ;