“Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk;
but instead, let there be thanksgiving.”
– Ephesians 5:4 (NRSV)
“At least liberal scholars have some type of accreditation to validate what they say. You don’t have shit….”
– YouTube personality Praise I Am That I Am
Back in mid-June I posted to my website a review of The Ultimate Guide to Debunking Biblical Slavery, a brief volume written by YouTube personality Praise I Am That I Am that attempts to refute the notion that biblical slavery was as terrible as it is often portrayed. My review of the book was not very positive, owing to a host of issues that interested readers can discover for themselves by reading my review. Shortly thereafter, I posted an abbreviated version of that review to Amazon, giving the so-called “ultimate guide” the fewest stars I was allowed to. Given what little I knew of Praise I Am (PIA) – and it is very little – I figured that once the review was posted to Amazon I would become the subject of an attack (all in Christian love, of course) wherein he would address the review and defend it against the assault from this godless atheist. I was not disappointed. On July 3rd, PIA conducted a live stream in which he spent more time attacking me personally (as well as people like Joshua Bowen) than he did discussing what I actually wrote. You can view PIA’s video here:
Before I begin to briefly dissect some of PIA’s criticism of my work, I want to reiterate something I said in my review of The Ultimate Guide to Debunking Biblical Slavery. In context, I was discussing PIA’s misattributing the work of a student to that student’s professor.
Such carelessness and inattentiveness to detail is characteristic of PIA’s work in [The Ultimate Guide to Debunking Biblical Slavery] and calls into question his claim that he “meticulously” cites anything.
I stand by this statement and I think PIA’s review of my review offers further evidence for it. Not only is PIA both sloppy and lazy in his work, he is generally just an unpleasant person. If you watch the video, you’ll see that he is unable to stay focused on what’s in front of him and instead allows his anger that someone as unimportant as me would have the gall to write a negative review of his work get the better of him.
“A Disgruntled Apostate”
Throughout PIA’s seventy-four-minute video, he refers to me with a number of monikers, but his favorite by far is “apostate” (e.g. 05:21, 07:47, 9:11, etc.), doing so at least a dozen times. He also claims I was never truly a Christian (e.g. 11:20ff), and compares me to AronRa and, interestingly enough, Adolf Hitler (10:11ff). This sort of polemic reveals what little substance PIA has to bring to the table. It also reveals that, despite thinking he knows so much about me, he actually knows next to nothing. For example, he doesn’t know that Christopher Hansen asked me to write the afterward for his book The Foundational Falsehoods of AronRa: How An Educator Has Misinformed Thousands. Here is one of the things I say in that afterward:
Aron Ra’s rather flat-footed reading of biblical texts may garner him a following among the godless, but for those of us who do not believe in any deities and seek to understand both what the Bible is saying and how it is saying it, his approach leaves much to be desired. He not only lacks an appreciate for the texts’ linguistic, historical, and cultural background, he refuses to engage with it in good faith as well.
While much of my work is devoted to counter-apologetics, I’ve not been shy about my disdain for bad atheist takes on the Bible. I am more than willing to call out those in my own “tribe” if necessary, sometimes to their chagrin.
As PIA reads through my Amazon review, he explains that his aim in the video is to “expose [my] biases” (05:54) and show that I’m apparently “in cahoots” with Joshua Bowen (06:21). For those who may not be aware, I wrote a review of Bowen’s book on slavery in the Old Testament for my website. Additionally, I’ve had pleasant interactions with Bowen on social media since I began following him. I have a great deal of respect for his knowledge and demeanor. But I’m not a Patreon member, something that PIA claims (54:03ff), and have never contributed financially to anything related to Digital Hammurabi apart from purchasing his book. Nor am I secretly collaborating with Bowen to undermine PIA or anyone else for that matter. But even if all that PIA claimed about my relationship with Bowen were true, it would have no bearing on the substance of my review. PIA’s disdain for Bowen has trickled down and tainted his analysis. If that isn’t bias, I don’t know what is!
Following his interaction with the Amazon review, PIA tracks down my website to see the fuller review I posted there. Before he can do so, he needs to abuse me, noting that I go by the pseudonymous “Amateur Exegete,” a name I chose a few years back, consciously aware that I am by no means a professional or scholar though I am interested in biblical exegesis. But PIA, full of vitriol and sarcasm, cannot resist: “Amateur is right,” he opines. “I would say below ‘amateur’” (16:37). I am, in his eyes, a “bottom of the barrel exegete” (16:49). With this I won’t argue.
When PIA finally tracks down the Book Review page on my website, he is immediately offended by what he finds:
“Well, lo and behold,” PIA says, “Joshua Bowen was right ahead of mine. How…that is just a coincidence” (16:59). It isn’t entirely clear to me what the criticism is here. I understand that it is in part due to review of Bowen’s work. But why is he surprised that my review of his book comes after my review of Bowen’s? Is he angry I arranged them in alphabetical order by last name? Apparently, such an arrangement shows my bias (18:09).
After briefly scrolling through my review of Bowen’s work (and being upset by it), PIA’s juvenile behavior continues unabated. Failing to note that I did nothing more than write a review of his book, he questions whether I have the “cajones” to address these issues face-to-face (18:20ff). It appears PIA doesn’t understand that reviewers aren’t obligated in any way to address their criticisms with those they disagree. I certainly feel no compulsion to do so as my review stands on its own merits. Moreover, why would I want to do so? It is clear PIA lacks the maturity to stick to the issues, choosing instead to name-call and lambast. For all his claims that I engage in little more than diatribe in my review, it is truly PIA who has mastered the art. I am sure his audience relishes this behavior but that speaks to their own lack of maturity. If I thought PIA could have a good faith discussion on this issue, I would likely engage. The first ten minutes of his video demonstrates otherwise. Frankly, it’s sad.
Blinded by Bias
After spending an inordinate amount of time complaining about my review of Joshua Bowen’s book, PIA finally begins a discussion of my review of The Ultimate Guide to Debunking Biblical Slavery. But before he can dig into that, he has to (you guessed it) dig into me some more. Noticing my link where interested parties can support my blog financially, PIA says, “He thinks his work is worthy of a dollar. Well I would say no, it’s not worth it. It’s not even worth toilet paper to wipe your, oh not even gas station toilet paper to be honest” (20:52). By his lights, my work is about as worthless as a “urinal mint” (21:20). Am I or anyone else to think that PIA is mature enough to handle informed disagreement? The evidence continues to mount that he is little more than a “disgruntled” theist.
PIA begins to read the opening line of my review. I wrote, “There is something to be said for apologists’ work on biblical slavery.” But here is how PIA quoted it (with dripping sarcasm): “There is nothing to be said for apologists’ work on biblical slavery” (22:09). As I stated at the beginning of this post, PIA’s work is sloppy and lazy. If he can’t be bothered to quote me correctly, why would I want to engage with such a dishonest interlocutor?
In any event, beginning at around 23:00, PIA brings up my conversation with Jackson Wheat over at Wheat’s YouTube channel earlier this year. PIA briefly plays a clip wherein I explain my background in Christianity which included my upbringing and fervent belief in King James Onlyism, my movement into Reformed theology, and finally my current position of atheism. That conversation with Wheat was very pleasant and though I’ve not known him long I consider him a friend. In fact, he graciously contributed to a recent piece of mine on the identity of Behemoth in the book of Job. But PIA, who loathes Jackson almost as much as he does Bowen, finds fault with my testimony, referring to me as a King James Only “wannabe” (24:05) and asserting, after looking at my face in the conversation, that I’m “disgruntled” (24:54). I don’t remember being disgruntled but maybe I have RDF (resting disgruntled face). Who knows? Whatever the case may be, PIA thinks that I was never a Christian: “He was fake. He’s a fake charlatan in Christianity” (25:47). If that’s what PIA wants to believe, who am I to deny him his delusion?
To bolster this opinion of me, PIA begins to quote 1 John 2:19 (25:57) which says, “They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us” (NRSV). But PIA apparently cannot accurately recite the verse from memory and decides he needs to track it down. He types the phrase “were never with us” into his search bar but it doesn’t bring up what he’s searching for (26:37). So, he tries some other means (presumably with a physical Bible). He finally tracks it down but when he tries to locate it in whatever Bible software he’s using, he doesn’t know where 1 John is in the New Testament canon! He scrolls back and forth a couple of times through the list of NT books, passing over it, before he finally finds it (28:24-28:56). (But sure, I’m the “fake.”) In all, PIA spends over five minutes attacking my claim that I was a Christian rather than dealing directly with my review of his book. As it turns out, a lot of PIA’s review of my review is sarcastic (and poor) readings of what I wrote. And finally, at around 33:00 he begins to dissect my actual claims. But within a space of about one minute, PIA demonstrates both his ignorance and his inability to read.
Tripping Over Transliteration
First, in my review I transliterated the Hebrew verb עָבַד as ‘ābad. PIA in his book transliterated it as “avad.” The issue has to do with the ב in עָבַד. Students of biblical Hebrew know that when ב has a dagesh qal (or, as I learned it, a dagesh lene), it looks like this: בּ. The dagesh here alters the pronunciation of the letter so that it sounds like the b in “boy.” Without that dagesh, however, the letter is pronounced with a v as in “violin.” Since the ב in עָבַד lacks the dagesh, when pronouncing the word, avad would be perfectly acceptable.
But how would you transliterate עָבַד? When I took biblical Hebrew fifteen years ago, I was taught to render ע with a ‘ (since ע is a glottal stop), ב with a b if it had a dagesh and b if it lacked the dagesh, and ד with a d.
So, without the vowels, עָבַד would be rendered abd. These days, however, I rarely do any transliteration work myself. Instead, I use the Logos supported website transliterate.com. On this handy website, all I have to do is copy whatever words I need to from my Hebrew Bible or Greek New Testament, paste them into the field at the top of the webpage, and click on “transform.” When I insert עָבַד, this is what I get:
My transliteration of choice is always that of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) which, in the case of עָבַד is ʿābad. Per SBL guidelines, “[s]pirant forms (dagesh lene) are optional, based upon convention and appearance…. The main guideline is that any given decision should remain consistent throughout a manuscript.” Thus, transliterating ב with b even though it lacks the dagesh is perfectly acceptable. Since this is the standard I’ve chosen for transliteration, I do my best to remain as consistent as possible within it. And I am not alone in transliterating ב with b. For example, in their Hebrew grammar, Gary Pratico and Miles Van Pelt offer as the transliteration for ב the English letter b.
Additionally, in their discussion of transliteration in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, the authors make note of the two ways to pronounce ב depending on the presence of a “hardening dot” (i.e. dagesh qal/lene). They write that while other “systems of transliteration” choose to represent the different ways of pronouncing the ב, they decided that for their work it was “better to represent all these letters [e.g. ב] by their sound as stops – the ‘hard’ pronunciation. So Beth [i.e. ב] is always b….”
Finally, in his commentary on the book of Exodus, highly acclaimed scholar William Propp renders the Hebrew וַיַּעֲבִ֧דוּ (Exodus 1:13) with wayya‘ăbidû, writing at the beginning of the book that in consonants like ב he generally doesn’t “indicate ‘weak’ dagesh.”
So, while PIA may not like my transliteration of עָבַד as ʿābad, it is perfectly in line with the guidelines of the Society of Biblical Literature and is used by grammarians and scholars alike. His objection is noted but is wholly worthless.
Illiteracy Meets Innumeracy
In my summary of the first section of his book, I wrote, “According to PIA, only twenty out of the 291 instances of ʿābad ‘unambiguously’ refer to” chattel slavery. However, when PIA reads my words, he leaves off the 1 in 291, reading it as “twenty out of 29,” and then claims, “This is not true. I never said 20 out of 29. That is an error, a misrepresentation of the data” (33:24). He then accuses me of creating a strawman and that I “purposely fabricated what [he] said” (33:37). The irony here is delicious since for all his bandying about, asserting I’ve misrepresented what he wrote, he misrepresents what I wrote and accuses me of creating a strawman. It’s clear he has before him “twenty out of the 291 instances.”
What’s he done is he has scrolled over with his cursor everything except the 1 in 291 and on that basis maligns my work.
And so yet again we see with what carelessness and inattentiveness PIA handles what he’s reading. He’s sloppy and no one has any reason to think he would treat actual scholarship any different than how he does with what is right before him on my non-scholarly website. Therefore, when he asks, “Can you even cite me correctly, you clown?” (34:20), it is a classic example of projection. And if I “lost credibility” with his alleged misrepresentation (34:23), what has he lost by making it all up?
After spending considerable more time abusing me, PIA moves on to the section of my review featuring an analysis of his book. One of the things I stressed there was just how awful his citation method tended to be. PIA will accuse me of being “Mr. Pedantic” (42:34) but I found this to be important for the reasons I stated in my review:
[O]ne of the many reasons proper citation is so important is because it is an author’s way of saying, “Fact-check me!” Failing to provide a properly formed citation demands that readers take an author at his word. But good scholarship, even from word processor of an amateur, is a call to healthy skepticism.
The first example of an improperly formed citation is his citation of Nahum Sarna’s words in his subsection on bull-gored chattel slaves. This is how the citation appears there. First, the quote with the note (placed for whatever reason before the quote):
Now, the note itself.
In my review, concerning this particular citation I wrote that it not only lacked publication details but also that “it lacks what is arguably the most vital bit of information one can provide in a citation – the relevant page numbers!” In his video, PIA defends his citation by claiming it conforms to MLA and APA standards. The problem with this is that he isn’t using MLA or APA standards. For example, in MLA when doing an in-text citation, it is required that you indicate the page numbers to which you are referring then and there. If you are using endnotes as he does, then you still must indicate the page numbers to which you are referring in the note itself. But PIA does neither! And so readers are left wondering where in Sarna’s commentary on the book of Exodus these words appear. For the curious, the citation should look something like this:
Nahum M. Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus (Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 1991), 128.
So, for all his bluster about following MLA/APA style, he doesn’t in this instance. Moreover, later in his book you find this:
Note that this citation is in good form and includes the relevant page number. If he could get it right here, why couldn’t he get it right elsewhere? I suspect, yet again, sloppiness.
It is at this juncture that PIA introduces the word “logic chopping” (40:24) a phrase I’ve never heard before. Apparently it is something akin to being nitpicky. PIA is free to think that’s what’s going on, but my discussion of his citations speaks to his methodology. To put it plainly, he does the reader a disservice by not providing an appropriate citation. And if you aren’t writing for a reader, why are you writing?
He moves on to my criticism of his use of Daisy Yulin Tsai’s Human Rights in Deuteronomy with Special Focus on Slave Laws (Walter de Gruyter, 2014). In my review, I noted that 1) PIA gets her name wrong, 2) doesn’t refer to the work by its actual title, 3) has an incomplete citation in note 5 of that section, and 4) is essentially using Tsai’s work as a quote mine. Here is how he cites Tsai’s work in his book.
Regarding #1, PIA calls me pedantic (43:02) and a “disgruntled atheitard” (43:27) and that’s fine. But again, it speaks to his methodology: he’s careless (and crass). He skips entirely #2 and moves on to #3 (46:59). What PIA was doing was quoting a piece written by Bernard Jackson that was being quoted by Tsai. Here is the citation per PIA:
You don’t even need to see the citation in Tsai to know that PIA’s is incomplete. It completely lacks the publication details and page number for the quote from Jackson. But for comparison, here is the citation in Tsai.
Yet again, this speaks to PIA’s methodology: he’s inattentive and careless. He may consider it pedantic, but he should have the common courtesy to at least provide page numbers for his readers.
There is another problem here though: there is no full citation of Tsai’s citation! Under MLA guidelines, if you are doing indirect citing you would note this with the words “quoted [or, qtd.] in Tsai” along with the page number. In this case, the citation of Jackson in Tsai would look like this: “qtd. In Tsai 81.” Or, as I would write it:
Bernard S. Jackson, “Some Literary Features of the Mishpatim,” in “Wünschet Jerusalem Frieden”: Collected Communications to XIIth Congress of Int’l Org for Study of the Old Testament, Jerusalem, 1986, Matthias Augustin and Klaus D. Schunck, editors (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1988), 235; as quoted in Daisy Yulin Tsai, Human Rights in Deuteronomy with Special Focus on Slave Laws (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2014), 81.
With this citation, you get the full reference to Jackson and you acknowledge where in Tsai’s work you got it from. Yet again, this speaks to PIA’s carelessness and in particular his laziness.
But PIA refuses to be corrected and he decides he will defend himself (though not before once again abusing me and Josh Bowen [47:55]). “I’m going to take him to task on this,” he declares before revealing, yet again, his own inattentiveness (48:55). So, what does he do? He pulls up a citation for an entirely different note. As is clear from the review, I was referring to note 5 but he pulls up the data for note 4. He then accuses me of “shifting the goalposts” (49:36). More delicious irony! And the fact that he spends minutes engaging with the wrong note is just the icing on the top.
PIA and Slavery in the New Testament
At around 53:20, PIA finally gets to my critique of his discussion of slavery in the New Testament. PIA claims that he provided an exegesis of the two texts he offers: 1 Peter 2:18 and James 5:5-6 (54:55). But he doesn’t. Here is what he says about these two texts:
Where’s the exegesis? Nowhere. It seems PIA is not above lying. No surprise there.
As he reads through my discussion of James 5:5-6, he comes across this that I had written:
PIA takes exception with my statement that the wages of James 5:4 are depicted as crying out to God. “That’s an opinion,” he states. “You’re not substantiating anything” (56:01). This ignorant comment reflects on PIA’s inability to read the biblical text since this isn’t my opinion at all but is rather a reflection of what James 5:4 actually says: “Listen! The wages of the laborers…cry out,” the Jamesian author writes (NRSV). So no, it isn’t my opinion. The author is personifying the wages themselves. Again, inattentiveness to detail is PIA’s modus operandi. The is further demonstrated when he claims at 56:38 that I “finally cited a verse” (referring to my reference to Matthew 20). But prior to this I had mentioned James 5:1, James 1:10-11, Exodus 2:23, and was, in context, speaking of James 5:1-6. He simply cannot be bothered to pay attention what is laid out right in front of him.
After spending more time abusing me, PIA begins to discuss my take on 1 Peter 3:18ff. In my review, I noted that while 1 Peter 2:16 employs the plural douloi, this is not the term used in v. 18. Rather, the Petrine author changes the term to oiketēs, a term which refers to a household slave in Greco-Roman society. But how does PIA address this? He goes on a rant about the meaning of doulos, not oiketēs! He goes on another rant at 60:50 when he reads my statement that Greco-Roman oiketai “would become the property (i.e. chattel) of heads of households and employed in various tasks.” PIA explains what the word “chattel” refers to “in the Hebrew” (60:56) and then says that “chattel is a made up word in the modern…language, that you made up and other atheitards” (61:28). He complains that “chattel” has nothing to do with the context of the Hebrew word ʾḥzh (אֲחֻזָּה; Leviticus 25:45). In fact, PIA’s analysis in his estimation “makes a joke out of [my] analysis” and makes clear that I “suck at exegesis.” But here’s the thing: I wasn’t speaking about slavery in the Hebrew Bible. I was speaking about Greco-Roman slavery and specifically oiketai. So, it seems, the joke is on him: if I “suck at exegesis,” then what could we say about his ability to read contextually? Additionally, on what basis does he claim that atheists made up the word “chattel.” Surely he is not that ignorant!
A Legitimate Criticism
One issue about which PIA rightly criticizes my work is that if you click on any note in my review, it does not take you to the end of the document to the appropriate endnote (48:31). I own this problem entirely, having had issues with WordPress on this. So, for that I apologize. That being said, had PIA bothered to give my review a thorough read, he would have seen the notes section with its 17 endnotes and been able to figure out what goes with what. The reason he should be able to do that is that I know how to properly cite my sources.
PIA’s video ends with an appeal to his followers who have purchased his book to leave a positive review. But before he can do that, he feels the need to (yet again) lambast Josh Bowen and the positive reviews his book on slavery in the Old Testament received on Amazon. He takes exception with the fact that Jim Majors, an atheist, offered a positive review of the book. “To me that is awkward if an atheist reviews another atheist’s work and approves of it,” he says. By that logic, if one of PIA’s followers who are no doubt Christians offers a positive review of his little book, is that also awkward and suspicious? In truth, it sounds like he’s a bit jealous of Bowen.
So, what have we learned about PIA’s review of my review? Not a lot. Instead, all it has done is to reinforce the conclusion of my review, a conclusion with which I will close this post.
There is an aphorism that states, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This volume by PIA is my introduction to his work and it has left me disappointed. Nothing I read in UGDBS led me to believe that PIA has a grasp on the scholarship he was wielding and, much like a young child attempting to drive a car, it has resulted in significant damage to the image of Christian apologetics generally. By quote mining, misrepresenting scholarship, and generally misreading biblical texts, PIA exhibits all the hallmarks of the quintessential pop-apologist. But, of course, PIA didn’t write his volume to convince skeptics like myself; rather, like virtually all Christian apologetic literature these days, it was written for the already initiated. There is great danger in this as these apologetic acolytes become armed with false knowledge, unable or unwilling to fact check what they’ve read. They then become proselytes of prevarication, apostles of the erroneous.
It is for this reason that PIA’s Ultimate Guide to Debunking Biblical Slavery is actually the ultimate guide on how not to write about such topics.
 See “Book Review: ‘The Ultimate Guide to Debunking Biblical Slavery’ by Praise I Am That I Am” (6.16.20), amateurexegete.com.
 In which case, how could I have been an “apostate”?
 “My Afterward to Chris Hansen’s “The Foundational Falsehoods of AronRa: How an Educator Has Misinformed Thousands” (9.3.19), amateurexegete.com.
 E.g. “Evangelical (Atheist) Eisegesis: ‘The Skeptics Annotated Bible’ (#1)” (1.11.20), amateurexegete.com.
 See “Book Review: ‘Does the Old Testament Endorse Slavery?’ by Joshua Bowen” (3.12.20), amateurexegete.com.
 See “My Conversation with Jackson Wheat” (1.3.20), amateurexegete.com.
 See “Invasion of the Bible Snatchers: Ray Comfort’s ‘Scientific Facts in the Bible’ – “Behold Behemoth” (with Jackson Wheat” (4.27.20), amateurexegete.com.
 The SBL Handbook of Style, second edition, Billie Jean Collins, project director (Atlanta, GA: SBL Press, 2014), 59.
 Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 1. On p. 3 they indicate that בwithout the dagesh lene is pronounced with a v as in “vine” but transliterated with b. Cf. Christo H.J. van der Merwe, Jackie A. Naudé, and Jan H. Kroeze, A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 22.
 Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, editors (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1980), ix. It should be noted that in Walter Kaiser’s entry for עָבַד (p. 639), he transliterates it as ‘ābad.
 William H.C. Propp, Exodus 1-18: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1999), 134.
 Propp, Exodus 1-18, 2.
 See “MLA In-Text Citations: The Basics,” owl.purdue.edu.
 See “MLA Endnotes and Footnotes,” owl.purdue.edu.