WorldNetDaily and the New Mexico Ten Commandments

Complete with silly headline and flanked by an ad for a tee shirt that reads “Waterboarding Instructor” (obviously on an attractive female model), the supposedly Christian WorldNetDaily reports a hike to an inscription on rock as important news.

There are so many things wrong with this reporting that it’s hard to know where to start, but one of the most important is the citation of various experts without properly noting just why they are experts and what precisely they are verifying with regard to the inscription. One of the most amusing elements is the conclusion by Roger L. Williamson, cited in the WND article, that the one who made the inscription is of “Mosaic faith” but not of the “priestly class” (source). Concluding that of an inscription of this size and of doubtful provenance is ridiculous.

I’ll mention a few more of these experts shortly. But first let’s ask why this is a headline for WND right now. The reason can be found in the following paragraph:

Eidsmoe told WND that the message of the Ten Commandments is vital to the United States, because its system of law and societal values have for centuries been based on the laws.

Now who is this Eidsmoe and why is he interested in Ten Commandments inscriptions? He’s the legal counsel for the Foundation for Moral Law, founded by Roy Moore. Yes, that Roy Moore, who placed a ten commandments monument at his courthouse in Alabama when he was Chief Justice of the state and then defied orders to remove it.

Col. Eidsmoe reports on his trip here and manages pretty much the same set of errors that the WND manages in reporting on his trip.

One critical note is how certain scholars are represented. He cited both Dr. Barry Fell and Dr. Cyrus H. Gordon as claiming the inscription was consistent with ancient Hebrew. A couple paragraphs later he notes:

… It should be noted that although Dr. Fell was a Harvard professor, his academic credentials were in the field of marine biology, and although Dr. Gordon’s credentials in the field of archeology were impressive, he never actually visited the Los Lunas site.

Now it’s good to note that someone one has cited as a “Dr.” has their doctorate in an area unrelated to the field in which you’re citing him, though it might be better not to cite him at all. In the original citation he’s identified as “Dr. Barry Fell of Harvard.” It’s only two paragraphs down that we’re informed that he is actually a marine biologist.

But in addition, he fails to note that while Dr. Gordon was quite a well-known scholar of ancient near eastern languages, he became somewhat of a fanatic on early contact with the Americas from the old world. There was pretty much no inscription and no site that he wasn’t willing to accept in that pursuit. I am well acquainted with his work. I made use of his work on Ugaritic when studying that language, and later read some of his work on early contacts with the Americas.

When citing Dr. Gordon as an expert, one should be careful to note that he was not only known for his work in ancient near eastern languages, but also for a number of fairly odd theories. In my view, the Wikipedia article on him is a bit on the kind side, though of course his good work should be recognized as well.

But at least he’s not a marine biologist.

But it’s clear that the purpose of this article is not to present history. The point here is monuments of the ten commandments, something of a fetish for Roy Moore and his organization. Is it at all surprising that Col. Eidsmoe comes up with a proposal to date this monument early in the process of exploration? That his proposal (see here and search for the heading “A Third Alternative?”) is incredibly implausible and completely lacking in sound linguistic evidence (in fact, I see no linguistic evidence at all, just “could be’s” and “might have’s”) doesn’t matter at all. All that is necessary is planting the idea in people’s minds that ten commandment monuments are very early in the Americas is all that is necessary.

I think it’s pretty clear just from reading the ten commandments that this country was not founded on them. Certainly they are part of the history of laws and lawmaking, and an important part. But the first four of the commandments as protestants number them establish a strictly theocratic basis for government, and indeed this was the summary law code of a theocracy. Some people want to claim that the United States should be a theocracy, but they will find no comfort in our actual founding documents.

What amuses me even more is that these people, who claim such overwhelming respect for the ten commandments, and want to make sure they are posted publicly wherever possible ignore some of them. They make graven images all the time, though perhaps they don’t bow down to them or serve them, and they certainly do not keep the Sabbath holy according to the commandment.

Perhaps they ought to concern themselves with actions, and a bit less with monuments.

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  1. Joel says:

    So, the Mormons were right?

    1. Well, that would seem to be a logical conclusion, but obviously not the one Moore and Co. would draw!

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