Posted by Jeff from LTU-207-73-65-124.LTU.EDU (220.127.116.11) on Wednesday, July 24, 2002 at 4:18PM :
In Reply to: The Great Debate, Part Deux posted by Jeff from bgp01107368bgs.wbrmfd01.mi.comcast.net (18.104.22.168) on Wednesday, July 24, 2002 at 4:17PM :
Marzillier: Thank you Mr. Parhead. Now, I will call on Dr. Ross for his first 10 minute presentation and then we will have 5 minutes each after that. Dr. Ross…
(Mr. Parhad walks from the podium to his seat; Dr. Ross approaches the podium and begins)
Dr. Ross: Well, I think I’m gonna do this a little more in-formally than Mr. Parhad did. I… This doesn’t like to plant (referring to his handwatch). Alright, now we are we are all here because of a protest about my web page. A web page that was not given to my students, but was available for anybody who wanted to look at my web site.
Now, what I teach is philosophy. And what I teach in that is logic and ethnics, and the kinds of critiques that I often have are about reasoning and about right and wrong, and the-- the web page in question was a web page about the politicization of history and about a nationalistic history and a nationalistic use of history and the support of distortions that often happen when history becomes politicized and people want to idealize their own people or their own tradition or their own history.
Now, the sorts of things that bothered me, that originally moved me to write that page, ah.. really a couple of them, were already in Mr. Parhad’s remarks. And one of them was just his mention of King Nebuchadnessar as though King Nebuchadnessar was an Assyrian and Nebuchadnessar was not an Assyrian, Nebuchadnessar was a Babylonian, and also Hammurabi was a Babylonian. Now, on my web page there are a number of examples of mistakes like that what I consider to be distortions, and I don’t have sources with me here to list, but the sources are listed on the page and the web site.
Now, another what I felt was a confusion in Mr. Parhad’s remarks, was that the deportation of the 10 tribes of Israel was not done by King Nebuchadnessar. The Babylonian captivity of the Jews under-- originally under Nebuchadnessar, that was many years later, then the deportation of the 10 tribes of Israel. Now, if the question is: Do the cruelties in the Bible meet or surpass or don’t exist in the comparison to the cruelties of the Assyrians, it is not my interest or business to defend the Bible as a work of Ethics.
In the Bible, God tells the tribes of Israel to go into the Promised Land and kill everybody! Well, I’m not interested in defending that. All I’m interested in is a neutral conception of history, and my objection is to an idealization of peoples in history. Now, one of the remarks I made on the web page that Mr. Parhad and others seem to take particular exception to goes like this - cause I did bring what the actual quote is – and it says: “In sacred history, where it involved Israel, this [namely, and I have an example of the kinds of reprisals the Assyrians took against rebels] this could make the Assyrians as much the moral equivalent of Babylon, Pharaoh, and worse.
Now, Babylon and Pharaoh are all condemned in the Bible because they do things that they are not supposed to, to Israel. But the context there is sacred history…cause if you are a Christian or a Jew, it doesn’t matter whether elements of Christianity or Judaism came from Ancient Mesopotamia, (whether that was the Epic of Gilgamesh or something else) to believing, Christians and Jews, they all come from God, even if there are these comparisons, cause after all, in Islam, if there are other religions that have elements that look like things in Islam, the explanation has always been, “Well, that did come from God, independently.” And I’m sure Christians and Jews want to say the same thing.
Now, you might wonder “Well why did that matter? Why was I talking about sacred history?” Well, I was talking about the modern Assyrian community AS a Christian community, and all of my remarks were addressed in that context. Now, if there are modern Assyrians who are NOT Christians, that just isn’t going to mean anything to them. It’s not relevant. And there’s no reason why they should be protesting me about that, cause I’m not interested otherwise in saying that the Ancient Israelites were morally superior to anybody – although I think in a couple of matters, maybe they were – but that could be argued independently. I would certainly not personally want to argue that all their religion comes directly from God. So really there is a context to this statement, and I think the context gets overlooked. If you are going to ignore the authority that some people vest in religion, than what I would have to say might be very different. In the passage, that’s where it goes on to say “Now, even Hitler—NOT even Hitler got rid of so large a percentage of Jews.” Now, that was quoted by Mr. Parhad as being that the Assyrians killed the Jews. And, of course they didn’t…they just deported them, but we don’t really know what happened to them because they disappeared from history.
Now, why did that deportation happen? Well, that was one of the practices of the Assyrians. Now, others had practiced deportations, the Hittites, even the Egyptians to an extent, had practiced deportations. Those are all part of Imperial policies. And why did the Assyrians do stuff like that? Well to break resistance. So Mr. Parhad mentioned that it’s rebels that get punished. Of course, rebels to the Assyrians are, you know, an insurrection to the people who practice the insurrection.
And it may not be the Assyrians were any crueler than anybody else, but they had the largest empire of the day, they had the largest empire that had existed up to that point, and the problem that creates is they had to do everything on a larger scale than everybody else. And so if there’s resistance, if there is a “rebellion” in their eyes, then you kill the leaders…and you kill them with exemplary tortures and then if that does not break the resistance of the community, you deport them, and it is not something just out of the bible, it is extensively documented in Assyrian records. And the estimates by Professor Roux in “Ancient Iraq” is that over 3 centuries, something like 4 million people got deported.
Now, does that mean that I don’t like the Ancient Assyrians? Well, no. They were doing what other people did but they were doing a lot of it. [Dr. Ross is notified that he has one minute left] Ok. And why did I write about it? Well, again the context was that if you are a Christian or a Jew, they are on the wrong side of the religious issue. If you just don’t care about what Christians or Jews might think, well then: it’s not relevant. It doesn’t matter. The Assyrians were doing things other people did.
But what we do have in the bible is the testimony of one of the conquered people. Cause really it has not ever been very well explained why the Assyrian empire fell…if it was so well governed, and it was so solidly founded, and it was so well supported, what happened? Well, one bit of evidence may be the Bible, may be the book of (________) especially that the Assyrians were hated by many of their subjects, even if the subjects were no longer able to resist, nor willing to resist. And of course the kingdom of Judah never resisted anybody else until the Celluseds centuries later. Thank you.
Marzillier: Okay. Now for a rebuttal, 5 minutes for Mr. Par—Parhad.
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