Elaboration of Texts…like Interpretation (but better)

You just interpret the bible to fit into your own thinking. You’re not allowing the bible to change your thinking.” (Temaskian)

I agree – I am not orthodox – but my faith and that bible do not ask me to be. Nowhere am I ever asked to adhere to the thought of a trinity and various atonement theories. Anyone that says anything like that has not read all 27 books and letters in the NT and cross-compared the vaiety of messages being offered from the synoptics, to Paul, to James, to John. These things need to be weighed out a lot better IMO.

As for interpretation, I would call what I do elaboration – in line with the rabbinic literature should be approached. These are not just words on a page – they need to be examined and re-examined and then re-examined somemore for the reality we have to face…what I call experiential theology…living the ideals.

If the teachings are just literal – then literal needs to be defined better and linguistics also needs to be looked at with regards to what is written (and context). I would say ‘yes’ they are ‘literally words on a page’…but they are meaningless without some substance…and now for 2 examples.

(a) The words become flesh – literal or metaphorical? For example, I am talking about an experiential theology – living what it is you are reading…in a sense I am saying…you are the words become flesh (a spiritual paradigm). This point is being made about Jesus in John’s intro – a book I find filled with symbolism and not literalism.

(b) You mentioned the beatitudes – namely the persecution aspect of those beatitudes. You only want to see a literalism to that verse – and not what it is pointing the person towards. Agreed, people will suffer for their faith – for holding to teachings that run contrary to some aspects of society…ever try be loving person in a gang? You don’t only lose respect I can tellz ya that.

But that teaching is about holding firm to your beliefs – having integrity even when it might hurt. Its confirming your faith is not just some magical feeling but experiential in nature and real…tried, tested, and true. It is also pointing the person towards change. If you don’t like the fact the Romans have orgies to their gods – then stop paying tribute to that god or attending those bathhouses. It’s about standing firm for change – and either the situation changes or you will suffer – but either way knowing your going to suffer you make a concrete stand in the face of opposition (ie: like civil rights activists in its hay-day).

I would say that teaching in the beatitudes is the reasoning for keeping one’s core beliefs. Yes there is an aspect of ‘other-worldly’ but your not persecuted for your stand in heaven – but on earth…that teaching is addressing the scenarios people will face ‘here and now’ and asking them to stand firm.

***Comment originally aired at Temaskian’s blog ‘another reason why it’s depressing to be a theist’

Advertisements

17 thoughts on “Elaboration of Texts…like Interpretation (but better)

  1. Jason,

    Just a clarification: when I mention orthodox theology, I don’t mean mainstream teaching, but theology as you would come to should you read the bible correctly.

    I appreciate the tone of your comments; you are truly non-combative in the way you engage in a discussion with me, at least so far, lol. Let’s hope we never have to come to blows.

    “Yes there is an aspect of ‘other-worldly’ but your not persecuted for your stand in heaven – but on earth…that teaching is addressing the scenarios people will face ‘here and now’ and asking them to stand firm.”

    And that was my point of the original post all along; that the instructions for the present life are predicated on the hope of a future heaven (that may not even exist).

  2. “Just a clarification: when I mention orthodox theology, I don’t mean mainstream teaching, but theology as you would come to should you read the bible correctly” (Temaskian)

    Correctly?

    Just a side note to this convo – the word trinity does not ever one time in 66 books and letters appear in the Tanakh or the NT.

    So if I am reading it wrongly yet Christianity arrives at the conclusion of a ‘trinity’ without even finding the term – how can I read it more right? Also for penal substitution and various other atonement theories – the synoptics traditons don’t contain the atonement theory…guess some people were damned who didn’t have Hebrews letters or John’s gospel…no covering of the blood for them.

    These books and letters appeared at different times and in different places in the empire and were not actually totally incorporated in the bible we now have until 400+ AD or so. They had to compile these works and find out what regions used what books and letters in their communities and decide which ones to incorporate into the ‘Christian texts of the NT’. They chose 27 that seemed to find some concensus of use in those days.

    Amazingly though, you will find that none of these communities used the same 27 texts – some did – most had variations of what they used…some less than 27 and some used books not in the bible. The fact is from community to community the texts use helped shape that community – and if we follow this deductive logic backwards – then it’s likely communities may have only had a letter and gospel or a few letters or a single gospel to start with.

    Which means, the message of the bible – which is sending a message about one gospel – has a variety of ways to be looked at and this grew out of the earliest forms of the church (even Paul and the Jerusalem council are different). The Ebionites, an early sect of the church, accepted only Matthew (in portions even) and James’ letter – and yet they tried to maintain in line with what James taught in Jerusalem. This whole orthodoxy thing didn’t come about until 325 AD under Constantine…which means prior to that Christianity was a little more diverse…and I like diversity.

    “that the instructions for the present life are predicated on the hope of a future heaven (that may not even exist).” (Temaskian)

    I think they are predicated on their being more in an after-life – granted…a kingdom of God. However, that doesn’t alleviate someone suffering in the ‘here and now’ for doing that which is right by their faith’s teachings.

  3. “Just a side note to this convo – the word trinity does not ever one time in 66 books and letters appear in the Tanakh or the NT.”

    I had no particular loyalty to the trinity concept. I agree with you; it’s hardly supported by the bible. I believe the people in the OT believed in many gods, Jehovah/Yahweh was just one of them.

    “I think they are predicated on their being more in an after-life – granted…a kingdom of God. However, that doesn’t alleviate someone suffering in the ‘here and now’ for doing that which is right by their faith’s teachings.”

    Exactly, which is why theism is miserable for most Christians, if they were to really try to adopt the teachings of the bible, with the hope of eternal glory, which will not ever come for them, being merely a fictional notion. Liberal Christians like yourselves are smarter, and only pay attention to parts of the bible which are helpful.

  4. “Liberal Christians like yourselves are smarter, and only pay attention to parts of the bible which are helpful” (Temaskian)

    I should point out I believe in an afterlife…I don’t think I am playing cut n paste theology with my approach (oe as you would call it ‘picking n choosing’). I think the biblical focus is abundantly clear – it’s about the ‘now/present’…this is God’s concern…just like it is basically any human’s concern.

    “I believe the people in the OT believed in many gods, Jehovah/Yahweh was just one of them.” (Temaskian)

    I don’t what you mean by this – however I will answer with what they are taught in Torah – there is only One God.

  5. It may be more accurate to describe the Israelites as henotheists; though they worship only 1 god, they accept the existence of others. Which explains why their god has a name, just like all other ‘heathen’ nations, that being Jehovah/Yahweh.

    Deu 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord

    can be translated, hear o Israel, the Jehovah our elohim is a united Jehovah,

    which can mean several things, but certainly does not say that there is only 1 god.

  6. “which can mean several things, but certainly does not say that there is only 1 god.”

    you’re right! there’s a difference between monolotry (picking one out of many) vs. monotheism (there is ONE God). the biblical narrative shows this progression, some earlier books are monolotry while later ones are monotheistic.

    as for picking and choosing… fundies do it too. i would like to think my biblical knowledge is pretty tight and i pay attention to the whole, i just have a different view of what the bible is.. namely not God’s eye view of Man and instruction manual but a man’s eye view of God and a theological narrative of searching and finding (and not finding) God.

    check out “A Year of Living Biblically.” It’s about an agnostic, cultural Jew trying to follow everything in the bible.. it’s a quick and facinating read!

  7. Luke,

    I’ve heard of that book from watching the Daily Show. Will try and look out for it, thanks for the recommendation.

  8. check out “A Year of Living Biblically.” It’s about an agnostic, cultural Jew trying to follow everything in the bible.. (Luke)

    Wasnt he leaning more to being an atheist before, and after he became a “reverent Agnostic”

    At least that is what I remember from the book. 🙂

  9. “can be translated, hear o Israel, the Jehovah our elohim is a united Jehovah” (Temaskian)

    Question is – is it ever translated that way and if not, why? I have seen the Hebrew of that sentence used that way in all honesty – and that is one of the primary passages Judaism uses for Monotheism. I have to doubt you interpretation on that one until further backed up by proofs.

    God having a variety of names may not mean much either – just like a human having a variety of name means not much. I could have a nickname, a abbreviated name, a few titles to a few people, characteristics people know me by, etc. It’s still one person though.

    “which can mean several things, but certainly does not say that there is only 1 god” (Temaskian)

    Here’s the problem – it does though…that’s how Judaism has used it for some 1000’s of years now. I’ll even pull the Hebrew translation:

    “HEAR, O ISRAEL: THE HaShem OUR GOD, THE HaShem IS ONE” (Jewish Bible 1917)

    Hashem

    “Halakha requires that secondary rules be placed around the primary law, to reduce the chance that the main law will be broken. As such, it is common Jewish practice to restrict the use of the word Adonai to prayer only. In conversation, many Jewish people, even when not speaking Hebrew, will call God “Hashem”, השם, which is Hebrew for “the Name” (this appears in Leviticus 24:11″ (Wikipedia – Name of God in Judaism)

    I am taking a guess, and according to your translation of that passage as well, the Hashem is the same word both times. Well let’s look at the Shema (Deut 6:4):

    “The literal word meanings are roughly as follows:

    Shema — listen, or hear (according to the Targum, accept)
    Yisrael — Israel, in the sense of the people or congregation of Israel
    Adonai — often translated as “Lord”, it is read in place of the Tetragrammaton
    Elohenu — our God, the word “El” or “Eloh” signifying God (see also: Elohim), and the plural possessive determiner suffix “-nu” or “-enu” signifying “our”
    Echad — the Hebrew word for the number 1

    In common with other ancient languages, connective words such as “is”, and conventions regarding punctuation, are usually implied rather than stated as they would be in modern English.

    This first verse of the Shema relates to the kingship of God. The first verse, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord,” has ever been regarded as the confession of belief in the One God. Due to the ambiguities of the Hebrew language there are multiple ways of translating the Shema:

    “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God! The LORD is One!” and,
    “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God — the LORD alone.”” (Wikipedia – Shema Yisrael)

    I am sorry Temaskian – your Hebrew is either weak or very unpracticed. The word used as Hashem is Adonai (the unsayable name) or Yhwh – not Jehovah…some translations even used YHWH instead (which is the obvious switch)…has to do with the tetragrammaton. This is a strictly monotheistic passages by all accounts IMO.

  10. Jason,

    The OT was originally written in Hebrew, correct? So you should go back to the actual Hebrew words instead of how some people choose to translate the words according to whether they are Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists or atheists. You could get a Hebrew concordance, or you could download e-sword from the net.

    It’s not as difficult as you think, and you would not have to rely on Jews, pastors, ministers, or atheists to tell you what the verse actually says.

    At the end of the day, we can still agree to disagree, (I can’t believe I’m saying this, I must be getting soft, I used to be more combative) or we can gracefully part company due to our differences.

  11. “It’s not as difficult as you think, and you would not have to rely on Jews, pastors, ministers, or atheists to tell you what the verse actually says” (Temaskian)

    But that’s where the rub in this really lies – why wouldn’t I approach a Jewish scholar on such incidences of question concerning the Hebrew – when this is their area of study – that seems plausible to me. As it is, I just went to the simpleness of Wikipedia which is sourced by Jewish sources for that passage – which was not quite the concordonce or the Hebrew Bible. Nonetheless, the Hebrew bible translations are always the same (the ones I checked).

    As for Hebrew – having a bible in Hebrew doesn’t mean I am going to be able to trabslate accurately either – not without some Hebrew training. Just thought I’d note that.

    “At the end of the day, we can still agree to disagree” (Temaskian)

    We obviously disgree – that’s likely obvious…but what’s wrong with that exactly? I don’t see the problem per se – so much that we need to ‘part ways’?

  12. Perhaps I’m frustrated with the fact that you keep insisting on using obviously biased sources versus learning for yourself. This is typical of most Christians that I’ve encountered.

    In future discourses, you’re likely to resort to the same method of discerning truth, i.e. appealing authority to determine truth, rather than reasoning, logic, and finding the hard facts for yourself.

    If you keep doing that, then we, or rather, I, would have to spend time and effort to read nonsense that biased sources put up, and refute them, which is a waste of time for zero results, because you’ll just appeal to another authority.

    I guess I’m rather impatient with people who live in lies and untruth. Perhaps I’m an atheist puritan.

    I used to have this pastor, who insisted that a particular Christian author, whom I thought was questionable, had to be beyond reproach because his books were for sale in our denomination’s bookstore. Can you see the problem? He’s appealing to authority, i.e. since his denomination leaders allowed his book in, his book must be correct.

    Another example: related to this author again, he called his seminary professor to find out what he thought. His professor agreed with me, so he told me that actually I was right, but he still thought it was questionable because the bookstore was selling his book . Can such a person ever come to the truth of things?

    Obviously (I hope) you are not as simple as my ex-pastor, but yet you seem to be similar in appealing to authority rather than reason.

  13. “but yet you seem to be similar in appealing to authority rather than reason.” (Temaskian)

    Okay let’s re-ittirate what I am saying – because it seems to me you want to label me because of my appeal to someone who knows Hebrew a hell of a lot better than me as a ‘problem’. I suppose if we discuss psychology and I appeal to one of the world’s leading people in psychology I’ll get branded ‘simple’ also…or at least I hope your equal about this type of logic. Nonetheless, here it is without the use of anything – just based on the English.

    Deut 6:4 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”

    Mark 12:29 “Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD”

    Shema today: “”Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One”” (Wiki)

    If what you are saying is true (hear o Israel, the Jehovah our elohim is a united Jehovah) then how come the rationale and interpretation of this passage in some 3000 years has not changed? Are you willing to tell me that in 3000 years some rabbi missed what you have written? Believing your logic on the Hebrew on this passage makes no sense in light of some 100,000’s of people combing that passage over some 3000 years – and they all come to the same concensus on interpretation…meaning either you’re wrong or some 100,000 over 3000 years were just bad at Hebrew. I am using fairly simple logic here – hopefully this doesn’t trouble you.

    Nonetheless, lets take a look at your phrase was you think says there is more than one God allowed in the interpretation.

    “hear o Israel, the Jehovah our elohim is a united Jehovah”

    (a) No one has ever interpreted this passage that way

    (b) Your word for united is “Echad” – the Hebrew term for 1 – why you choose united as the translastion is strange to me (no one else uses that same terminology)..for more on Echad explained see Rabbi Singer’s blog on it – http://www.outreachjudaism.org/trinity.html

    (c) Elohim is actually “Elohenu” in this passage – which signifies ‘our God’. Elohim is a very simple terminology for the generic use of saying God (it is not used as a name for God). This would be similar to use saying the word God instead of saying the specific name for God we use.

    (d) Jehovah is the specific name of God used in this passage – and it is used twice consistently to point to the same One God being referred to in this passage.

    This is really no different than the arguements mainstream Christianity use for trying to find plurality of God in early Genesis – where we find God talking to Himself…people obviously not understanding the royal court of God and the type of mentality being used…but they persist anyways.

    I have to ask – have you also checked the Greek on Jesus’ use of that same saying in Mark? Does it also reveal the same findings you say you found in this basic Hebrew break-down of this passage from Deuteronomy? I mean, if they translate that term to Greek then it must also have the same idea with it – don’t ya think?

    In the end, your basically saying don’t trust the english interpretation on that passage and I really don’t see any good reason not to (as of yet). In Hebrew and Greek it’s coming out the same – and for 3000 years it’s been the same interpretation…it’s just hard for me to believe you cracked some bible code without knowing Hebrew all that well.

    If I sound harsh I am not – just keeping up in the debate…

  14. ” Perhaps I’m an atheist puritan.”

    ohh… i had to laugh that this. does that you mean that you believe in a really really RIGID and inconceivably HUGE God that doesn’t exist 😉

    or do you just live in new england and have buckles on your hat?

    okay.. back to U.S. church history. thanks for the laugh and unique phrase.

  15. Time is no proof that something is not erroneous. Some other religions have been around for a fairly long time too. Are you saying they’re right too?

    Secondly, how do you know how rabbis interpreted that passage 3000 years ago?

    Thirdly, no one can really tell how the language was used when the bible was written. Language evolves and changes.

    Ah, at last you allow that Jehovah is the word used in that verse. Jehovah is a name for the Israelite God. Different tribes have their own names for their own gods. Previously you said:
    “The word used as Hashem is Adonai (the unsayable name) or Yhwh – not Jehovah…some translations even used YHWH instead (which is the obvious switch)…has to do with the tetragrammaton. This is a strictly monotheistic passages by all accounts IMO.”

    So at least I’m glad to have changed your mind about something.

    I used to research such things with much fervor, because I used to think that there was a point to it all. Yes, I can vaguely recall having done a study on how Jesus quoted from the OT in the NT.

    You commented on my blog, then quoted from me in your own blog quite a few times now, to start a discussion. I realize now that you’re trying to stir up an argument and a debate. I think I can understand that. I used to love debating with atheists. I kept thinking I knew something more than them, and if I just shared a little bit more, then perhaps they can be saved too. And perhaps I could also strengthen the faith of my own brethren.

    I am no longer so eager for such religious debates. Discussions, yes. About how silly religion is, and even how silly I used to be for falling for such things. I have found the truth, or rather, the falsity of Christianity, and that it is already enough of that for me.

  16. “Time is no proof that something is not erroneous. Some other religions have been around for a fairly long time too. Are you saying they’re right too?” (Temaskian)

    I am not concerned with the time of it as much as I am concerned with the amount of people that have looked at that passage from decade to decade arriving at the same conclusion. Time is not the factor of importance in that equation.

    “Secondly, how do you know how rabbis interpreted that passage 3000 years ago?” (Temaskian)

    Truth is I don’t know. What I do know is that interpretation has never been under any serious interpretive challenges from the earliest communities in Judaism until now – which means many rabbi’s have interpreted that passage in many era’s and many places. The only change ever made comes out of Christianity – and even this passages is not contested for interpretive change.

    “So at least I’m glad to have changed your mind about something” (Temaskian)

    Well, I have to take your word for that – I don’t know Hebrew nor have the translation for that passage…so I believe you on that one.

    “I kept thinking I knew something more than them, and if I just shared a little bit more, then perhaps they can be saved too. And perhaps I could also strengthen the faith of my own brethren.” (Temaskian)

    You really don’t know me that well – I am quite non-evangelistic in nature…and I don’t really care to play that ‘you need to be saved’ idea. I made some interesting comments on your blog that I think are worth a good conversation – and if you feel no need – don’t worry about that – I do it more for me than anyone else. Plus I like to hear voices on issues I am thinking about…people come and comment and I appreciate that.

    I have no time to convert an ardent atheist.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s