Thursday, April 20, 2006

Mercy... a different view

I was reading some stuff recently that suggested that what the Bible has to say about "mercy" was a bit different to how I / everyone typically think of it.

This argued that the word "mercy" used in the Bible refers to an appeal for family support. An honourable person helped and aided members of their family, and failing to do so was dishonourable. Hence a person who is in need can ask for mercy from members of their family (or pseudo-family). Thus an important part of getting mercy from someone could be to persuade them that they were in your pseudo-family and thus obligated to help you out of concern for their own honour. (eg "You are a fellow Israelite, have mercy on me!")

Today we think of mercy as an unobligated kindness given usually to strangers of the goodness of your heart. However, if we accept the above suggestions, strangers weren't even eligible for "mercy", and the whole point of mercy was that there was an obligation to give it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Daylight in the ancient world

In ancient times Daylight was thought to be independant of the Sun.

The enitre universe was believed to have a Day/Night cycle. It was thought that the sun just so happened to be in an orbit (around Earth) such that it was only in the sky during the day.

If you think about it, such a view is not surprising. The sky is blue during the day, and the sun is yellow - so how can one be causing the other? Also the sky gets light before the sun rises and doesn't darken until noticably after the sun has set. Also clouds can block out the sun but the rest of the sky is still light.

Anyway, for whatever reason, the Sun was not believed to be the cause of the Day/Night cycle. The sun was just the brightest of the 7 bodies (Sun, Moon, 5 planets) that orbited the Earth.

This view can be seen exemplified in the creation account in Genesis 1. God creates the Day/Night cycle on the First creation day, and the Sun on the Fourth creation day. Since they were considered independent entities, there was no problem with this.