Robert Turkel’s Software Blunder


By Joseph Joson


I thought this tid-bit in the latest installment of the Till/Turkel debate over “Yahewh’s Failed Land Promise” (see the transcripts here) was just too delicious not to single out and post as a separate “essay” on the site. It so beautifully exposes and details what I have called Turkel’s “weak apologetics” that I wanted to highlight it for my visitors.


I have been reading the material that Farrell Till has offered in rebuttal to Turkel’s many varied attempts to buttress biblical inerrancy and I ran across a particular item that I thought was most interesting. In Turkel’s “review” of Till’s article, “Why Didn’t They Know,” which questions why everyone else in the biblical story knew what Jesus meant by “resurrection” except his closest disciples, Turkel tries to defend this ignorance in part by appealing to certain Greek words in the New Testament. In particular, he focuses on the words egeiro and anistemi which translate into English as “raised up” and “rise again,” respectively. Here is a sampling of what Turkel wrote,

 

First let's understand exactly what is in John here. The words are "rise again from the dead" -- "rise again" is the Greek anistemi used twice for emphasis. In fact this we will see is the key to the whole issue; the word is commonly used for anyone just getting up from their place. (Matthew 9:9 And he arose, and followed him.)

 

And again,

 

Next up on Farrell's list:

 

And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be delivered up into the hands of men; and they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised up. And they were exceeding(ly) sorry (Matt. 17:22-23).

 

Matthew uses egeiro here, twice again;

 

In reply to these “explanations,” Till would in part ask,

 

What Turkel meant in saying that anistemi was used "twice for emphasis" in John 20:9 is anyone's guess, because the Greek text, which I transliterated above, shows that it was used only once here.

 

Or,

 

There he goes again with the "twice again" stuff. I'm far from an expert in Greek, but I do have a Greek text that I consult at times like this, and I cannot find egeiro twice in this text. I find egerthsetai, a derivative of egeiro, but I can find no other form of the word in this text.

 

Well, I wondered too. I was eagerly awaiting Turkel’s reply to these questions and I was stunned when I found it. In Turkel’s rebuttal to Till he had admitted,

 

Till undoubtedly whooped loud enough for the drycleaners in Hong Kong to hear when he discovered that there was a repeated "error" in my essay -- but it's one not attributable to my own error, but to that of my reference source. Here's an explanation.

I make use of a typical Bible software program from Quickverse that allows parallel versions to be posted on the screen simultaneously. One version is a Strong's Concordance that shows the Hebrew/Greek version of passages. Now allow me a demonstration based on John 1:51 which will illustrate exactly what happened:

And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

Now here is how that verse appears in the Strong's version of Quickverse, in parallel:

lego:G3004 . . amen:G281 amen:G281 . lego:G3004 . . arti:G737 . . optanomai:G3700 ouranos:G3772 anoigo:G455 . . aggelos:G32 . theos:G2316 anabaino:G305 . katabaino:G2597 . . huios:G5207 . anthropos:G444

Note that only "main" words are shown; prepositions are left out. This is one of the shortcomings of thie software. Of primary concern, note that John 1:51 has two "verilies" -- and the Strong's version has two "amens". Now compare on Matthew 20:19:

And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.

. . paradidomi:G3860 . . . ethnos:G1484 . empaizo:G1702 . . mastigoo:G3146 . . stauroo:G4717 . . . tritos:G5154 hemera:G2250 . . anistemi:G450 anistemi:G450

Now here's what Farrell will make a fuss about. In about half a dozen places I report that some Greek word translated "rise again" is repeated twice in the Greek -- and based on the above, you can see why I reported this: Quickverse's concordance reports it in a way consistent with that, within its own method of reporting actually duplicated words (as in John 1:51). In actuality, these words appear only once in the Greek, and Quickverse is therefore misleading on this point, and I have now amended my original essay to reflect the actual content of the Greek text.

 

The results of this: Quickverse is now "fired" as my primary source for the Greek text, and I neither make bones nor take blame for the misunderstanding. This is a typical "indexing" error that is found in reference sources, both online and in print.

 

[Before I begin to comment on this admission of error, I want you all to notice Turkel’s racism. See how he referred to “the drycleaners in Hong Kong”? What’s next? Will he be referring to “the camera stores in Japan,” “the towel markets in India,” or the “fried chicken and watermelon stands in Mississippi” in one of his upcoming articles? This really shows the depths of his insensitivity and hypocrisy. When you read his work, please notice how many times he calls others “chauvinists,” or “temporal provincialists”. On another side note, do not bother to check Turkel’s original posting (found here) for these errors. As he indicated above, he went back and removed them. They are only recorded in Till’s response to Turkel where Till copied from Turkel’s original article. Turkel is obviously going back over his material and correcting his mistakes in order to save face. I’m just glad Till is saving the original format.]

 

I figured Till would have a field day with this because it revealed that Turkel is not the expert in finding “hidden,” “nuanced” or missed meanings in either the Hebrew or Greek texts that he likes to pretend that he does. In many of Turkel’s articles he makes a big fuss over revealing what the “actual” Hebrew or Greek word is for this or that English translation. He then copies and pastes from Strong’s the “many and varied” definitions for whatever Hebrew or Greek word he is working over at the moment in an attempt, it seems, to dazzle his inerrancy-minded readers into a belief that he is some kind of self-taught amateur whiz in these biblical languages. However, his admission that he fumbled in his documentation to Till, and that in fact he uses a common software program to do his work for him from which he simply cuts and pastes his material, reveals that he really is a self-taught amateur but one who actually doesn’t have the wherewithal to double-check his sources (since he obviously wouldn’t know Greek grammar if it hit him in the face otherwise he would have puzzled over the double inclusion of certain words from the garbage-in-garbage-out software program) and find out if they are actually accurate in their reporting. And recall, folks, that this guy has a Master’s degree in Library Science which should uniquely qualify him for checking source material!

 

Errors like this one destroy a person's credibility. It destroys an apologist’s credibility because it revels deception and sloppy research. Such an error reveals deception because, when Turkel was parading "his" Greek "knowledge" around, he never once informed his readers that his statement "the Greek anistemi used twice for emphasis" was attributable to the Quickverse program. Not mentioning where he got his information, he allowed his readers to assume that this was simply a knowledge of Greek that Turkel himself possessed. It is sloppy because Turkel, that Master of the Dewey Decimal system, should have known to double-check his "reference source" for accuracy since he himself had no self-contained knowledge of Greek words or grammar and so should have been more careful in his research. But, perhaps credibility is not an issue for the pack of teenage "Hiz" worshippers who hang on every word Turkel has to offer in defense of their sacred book. Perhaps Turkel's juvenile antics, muppet jpgs, name-calling and pompous strutting appeals to those who care about "style" (such as it is) over substance. However, those of us who rely on serious scholarship cannot abide by Turkel's mistakes. I don't think a single scholar, whose "lifeblood" is the Bible, ever cut and pasted a programming error from Quickverse into their discussion of a Hebrew or Greek word.

 

I also hope you all noticed in the above that Turkel never once claimed responsibility for the blunder. First of all, notice how he put the word “error” in his opening statement within quotation marks. To my mind, this denotes that the “error” really wasn’t one in actuality; it only “appears” as an error. I could be wrong, but this is the sense that I get. He then states, “…but it's one not attributable to my own error, but to that of my reference source.” Well, Turkel, just who is using this “reference source” if not you? Who is responsible to make sure that his “references” are accurate and convey what you want it to convey? Aren’t you the one with the Master’s degree in Library Science? Shouldn’t you be the expert in finding the very best “reference sources” available and then use them appropriately? Wasn’t it you who stated, “…I claim professional status…in the ability to locate, apply, and ‘translate’ the works of those who are scholars”? I emphasize the word “professional” because I assume Turkel is referring to his Master’s degree. While Quickverse may not be the “works” of a scholar, it certainly is a work I would think Turkel would have the “professional status” to know how to “apply” and “translate.” You know, I find it amusing when people blame their computers for errors of their own. It is never the user who is at fault when a program “misbehaves.” I have a couple of friends in the IT business who laughed uproariously when I showed them this gem from Turkel. They rolled their eyes and said in effect, “Yes, that’s the same type of lame excuse we hear from end-users everyday! Then we ask them to pack up their systems and send them back to the manufacturer since they are obviously too dense to know how to use the equipment.” You will see in a moment that Farrell Till uses this same software program, but because he has the experience and knowledge to check his sources (and, recall, Turkel –he of the Masters degree in Library Science—has chastised Till for “merely” having a Masters degree in English which virtually disqualifies him from commenting negatively on the biblical text) noticed that there was something odd in what Turkel was reporting (influenced by his software “reference source”) and double-checked what he had claimed.

 

Now that you’ve seen that Turkel claimed the error was due to his software program and not to him, draw your attention to his original discourse in which he not only simply cut and pasted the information obtained from Quickverse, but then used that erroneous information to stress a point! He didn’t simply notice that the particular Greek word was “used twice” in the verse, which is what his computer program reported, and stated this matter-of-factly. He then used this error to interpret that usage as one the biblical author used “for emphasis.” Quickverse did not tell Turkel that the word appeared “twice for emphasis,” that was Turkel’s interpretation of what the program was reporting (and, remember folks, Turkel has claimed “professional status” in the ability to “apply” and “translate” relevant information). Therefore, the “error” was indeed his! When I realized what Turkel had done and admitted to, but then tried to pass off as a mere “software glitch,” I got the mental picture of Barney Fife shooting himself in the foot on the old Andy Griffith show. I can hear the canned audience laughter now! Look at the lengths biblical apologists will go to distance themselves from problems which destroy not only their inerrancy stance, but also their credibility. The trouble here is Turkel has agreed to debate Till in a public forum and he can’t easily sweep these errors of judgment and research under the rug with a quick editing job of his article without mention of his mistake. Everyone is already aware of the mistake since his material was entered into the public record. I can see now the brilliance of Farrell Till for cornering Turkel into engaging in an open, public debate where EVERYTHING that both sides submit will be open for public scrutiny!

 

Do the people who send Turkel money realize what buffoonery this guy’s apologetics are? They dish out at least $70 a year to this “ministry” under the impression, I would assume, that their money is buying them first-rate apologetic material that will aid them in combating skeptics like Farrell Till. They trust the intellectual work at Tekton to buttress their faith. Now they find out that their hero is stumbling in defense of their faith by pretending to know subtleties of biblical Hebrew and Greek but all the while he was using a second-rate, error-prone software program! This is simply unbelievable and if I had given money to Tekton I’d demand it back.

 

To my personal delight, Farrell also caught Turkel’s admission and then nailed his hide to the wall with it. Here is what transpired in the latest round of the “Land Promise” debate:

 

Please note that the following retains the format of the original debate as it appears on Farrell Till’s Skeptical Review Online. In it, when Turkel is quoted from his first rebuttal, he is identified by Turkel (1). Likewise, when Till is responding to this material from Turkel, his writing is identified as Till (1). When Turkel then responds to Till [Till (1)], his work is identified as Turkel (2) and conversely, Till’s response to Turkel (2) material is identified as Till (2).

 

In the debate, Turkel was once again trying to demonstrate his knowledge of Hebrew/Greek by bringing in Strong’s to help define a word.

 

Turkel(1) [quoting Strong]:

423. yarash, yaw-rash'; or yaresh, yaw-raysh'; a prim. root; to occupy (by driving out previous tenants, and possessing in their place); by impl. to seize, to rob, to inherit; also to expel, to impoverish, to ruin:--cast out, consume, destroy, disinherit, dispossess, drive (-ing) out, enjoy, expel, X without fail, (give to, leave for) inherit (-ance, -or), + magistrate, be (make) poor, come to poverty, (give to, make to) possess, get (have) in (take) possession, seize upon, succeed, X utterly.

 

Till(1):
For readers who may not be familiar with Turkel's "apologetic" style, I should explain something.

 

Turkel(2):
This is an interesting statement of intent by our opponent, but it is not an argument, and it is not necessary to quote this

 

Till(1):
When he is in a bind, he apparently thinks that he can wiggle his way out of it by conning his readers into thinking that he is able to see subtleties in the Hebrew text that eluded the hundreds of Hebrew scholars who have partipated in translating the various English versions of the Old Testament.

 

Turkel(2):
This comment is meaningless prattle intended to sway a gullible, skeptical readership, as our opponent fails to show here or later that I have offered this entry in the interest of demonstrating any "subtlety" in the Hebrew text not recognized by Hebrew scholars, nor has it been shown that I offer anything here contrary to the majority understanding in this case.

 

Till(2):
Then why did Turkel introduce the Hebrew word yarash if he wasn't intending to suggest that translators have missed something that he is going to point out about the word.  If he is offering nothing new, which is not in agreement with the "majority understanding," then why waste our time quoting what Strong said about the word yarash?

 

He did so for no other reason but to impress readers into thinking that his opinion deserves serious consideration, because, after all, he knows what the Hebrew word for "possess" was.  This is a routine tactic that Turkel will resort to in his "apologetics."  I don't recall ever reading an article of his in which he didn't say something like, "The Greek word used here was..." or the Hebrew term used here was...."

 

He does this, although his knowledge of biblical languages is limited to what he can cull from lexicons (usually Strong's). Those who bother to read my reply to his article, written in response to "Why Didn't They Know?" will see that Turkel is no more knowledgeable than I am in Greek. I was able to catch him in errors as he attempted to show his readers that I was confused about the apostles' failure to understand that Jesus had said that he would rise on the third day because I just didn't understand what "rise" meant in Greek.  I exposed his own confusion so thoroughly that even he had to admit that he had erred.  In his reply to my rebuttal, he tried to blame his mistakes on flaws in the software program he uses when he cuts and pastes to give readers the benefit of his knowledge of biblical languages.

 

Second, Till undoubtedly whooped loud enough for the drycleaners in Hong Kong to hear when he discovered that there was a repeated "error" in my essay -- but it's one not attributable to my own error, but to that of my reference source. Here's an explanation.

 

I first wrote here that I wouldn't quote Turkel's explanations, because those who wanted to read it could click the link above, but on second thought his "explanation" so obviously confirms that he has no special talent in biblical languages that I have decided to quote his example.

 

I make use of a typical Bible software program from Quickverse that allows parallel versions to be posted on the screen simultaneously. One version is a Strong"s Concordance that shows the Hebrew/Greek version of passages. Now allow me a demonstration based on John 1:51 which will illustrate exactly what happened:

 

And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

 

Now here is how that verse appears in the Strong's version of Quickverse, in parallel:

 

lego:G3004 . . amen:G281 amen:G281 . lego:G3004 . . arti:G737 . . optanomai:G3700 ouranos:G3772 anoigo:G455 . . aggelos:G32 . theos:G2316 anabaino:G305 . katabaino:G2597 . . huios:G5207 .  anthropos:G444

 

Note that only "main" words are shown; prepositions are left out. This is one of the shortcomings of thie [sic] software. Of primary concern, note that John 1:51 has two "verilies" -- and the Strong's version has two "amens". Now compare on Matthew 20:19:

 

And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.

 

. . . paradidomi:G3860 . . . ethnos:G1484 . empaizo:G1702 . . mastigoo:G3146 . . stauroo:G4717 . .  tritos:G5154 hemera:G2250 . . anistemi:G450 anistemi:G450

 

Now here's what Farrell will make a fuss about. In about half a dozen places I report that some Greek word translated "rise again" is repeated twice in the Greek -- and based on the above, you can see why I reported this: Quickverse's concordance reports it in a way consistent with that, within its own method of reporting actually duplicated words (as in John 1:51). In actuality, these words appear only once in the Greek, and Quickverse is therefore misleading on this point (emphasis added by Till), and I have now amended my original essay to reflect the actual content of the Greek text.

 

The results of this: Quickverse is now "fired" as my primary source for the Greek text, and I neither make bones nor take blame for the misunderstanding. This is a typical "indexing" error that is found in reference sources, both online and in print.

 

I commend Turkel for admitting his error, but his explanation is certainly no excuse for the way he parades himself on his website as an expert in biblical languages, who struts around presuming to tell his readers that the poor skeptics he is "rebutting" wouldn't be so confused if they just understood Greek or Hebrew as he does.  I have only a very basic knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, but that knowledge was sufficient enough to recognize long ago that for all of his references in his articles to what the Greek or Hebrew meant, Turkel really doesn't know much at all about biblical languages.  I use Quickverse too, but I think I exercise a bit more care in using it than Turkel does.  I have printed copies of the Greek and Hebrew testaments, which I refer to when verifying what biblicists like Turkel presume to tell their readers about what the Greek or Hebrew really meant.  I consulted my Greek New Testament right away when I saw Turkel's claim of double usage of anistemi in certain texts (because the claim didn't make any linguistic sense) and found that that his claim was erroneous.  The word was used only once in the texts that he referred to.

 

I hope that this will be a lesson to Turkel's admirers, who should understand now that they shouldn't swoon in admiration when he undertakes to tell them what the biblical languages meant.  They should always take with a grain of salt what a linguistic amateur says when he presumes to explain the meanings of words in a language that he doesn't know.

 

Now, to display the depths of Turkel’s hypocrisy, which seems to escape the notice of his googly-eyed fans, I want to show you another exchange between Till and Turkel from the same debate. Here, Turkel has been chastising Till for “sloppy research” regarding a certain Hebrew word. Turkel wrote,

 

This sort of dearth of critical thinking is the sort we also showed above with respect to our opponent's inability to do a competent data search.

 

In response, Till pointed out,


Let's see if I have this right.  Someone who cut and pasted several times an error from a software package into an article of his actually has the gall to say that I am unable "to do a competent data search."

 

So the pot accuses the kettle again.

 

I, also, really hope Turkel’s admirers are witnessing the rapid destruction of their hero’s apologetics. In fact, in one of the e-mails I received from that anonymous Turkel-fan, this person had commented regarding the Till/Turkel debate,

 

            I think it is Till who is getting the worst end of this debate!

 

I wonder if “the fan” is changing their mind now? I doubt it, but this is good stuff, folks. Really good.

 

J.J.


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