Jewish Approach to God: Chosen-ness

“Are you not as the sons of  Ethiopia to Me, O sons of Israel?” declares the LORD 
“Have I not brought up Israel from the land of Egypt, And the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?”
(Amos 9:7)

Borrowed from Rabbi Neil Gillman’s book ‘The Jewish Approach to God: A Brief Introduction for Christians’ (2003)

Rabbi Neil Gillman makes a point in his book about this passage and chosen-ness. The idea seems to be Israel was ‘chosen’ – but so were the other nations mentioned (Phillistines and Arameans)…in that they are all paralleled in this verse from the prophet Amos. It’s intriguing because it places a light upon God caring for these other nations at some point (in that they were also ‘brought out’ from other nations).

It seems the point is that although Israel was chosen – they are not alone on God’s concern meter. God seemed to care about these other nations mentioned as well, enough to bring them out of whatever they were experiencing (which seems to parallel the exodus possibly).

Gillman relates chosen to choosing from a handful of fruit. For example, just because he chooses aan apple over an orange does not make one less than the other. In this same sense, Israel’s chosen-ness does not make them better than the next nations…just that they are part of a covenantal experience with God.

In fact, the Noahide laws concering Gentiles says ‘Law 7: Requirement to have just Laws: Set up a governing body of law (eg Courts)”. This seems to include the idea of Gentiles having their own nations and version of law codes…as just as acceptable as the covenant experience Israel has with God. Gentiles living in their nations following just and righteous codes of their own can be seen as good in the eyes of God as well.

Eighteenth-century Rabbi Jacob Emden proposed that Jesus, and Paul after him, intended to convert the Gentiles to the Noahide laws while allowing the Jews to follow full Mosaic Law.” (Wikipedia – Noahide Laws quoting from “”Seder ‘Olam” (pp. 32b–34b, Hamburg, 1752))

I think this statement is true about what I see in the NT as well (namely Acts 15). Which, if true, means it was okay for the Christians to follow their nation states and the ‘just’ laws they already had…no shame in that game. Which means, as Gentiles from a variety of cultures in the West it is okay to observe the laws of your respective country as respecting to God (which we also see in Paul’s letters). We may be inspired by the Torah (which I think Christians are) and we can find our leading there – but it is okay to follow your nations laws and serve God.

Point being, why all this need to be special…enjoy where/who you are and live your life.


The End of Biblical Studies, Chapter 1: Translation

Hector Avalo’s outlines polar positions regarding translation: 

(1) “A translation is an interpretation. Absolute reproduction is impossible in any work” (Phillip Schaff, The End of Biblical Studies, pg 38) 

(2) ‘the bible, unlike any other book, is able to ‘adapt itself perfectly’…and to speak with equal directness, clearness and authority to all peoples, tribes, and nations in their mother tongue’ (Avalos paraphrasing Philip Mauro, The End of Biblical Studies, pg 38) 

The second approach has the translation problem of ‘functional equivalence’ (or dynamic equivalence) – purpose:

From the point of view of the target literature, all translation implies a degree of manipulation of the source text for a certain purpose” (Avalos quoting Theo Hermans, The End of Biblical Studies, pg 39-40)

The basic principle of dynamic/functional equivalence is to use translations that would make sense in the reader’s culture rather than exact-word equivalents” (Avalos, The End of Biblical Studies, pg 41)

Example: Romans 3:28 – Luther adds in the world ‘alone’ to ‘faith alone’ based on the needs of the German language.

Another problem with ‘functional equivalence’ – priority

So, in some ways, dynamic/functional equivalence privileges the target language (the language for which the translation is meant) over the source language (the language from which the translation is made)” (Avalos, The End of Biblical Studies, pg 42)

Some examples (Tanakh):

Deuteronomy 32:8-9 (polytheism) – the terms ‘The Most High’ (Elyon) and ‘The Lord’ (YHWH)

Genesis 1:1-3 (Creation from nothing?) – ‘Accordingly Genesis 1:1-3 does not describe creation out of nothing (creation ex nihilo), but the story begins with something already there” (Avalos, The End of Biblical Studies, pg 46). I have also heard this claim in Jewish theology by Rabbi Neil Gilman in another book I am reading about ‘God’.

Jeohoiachin’s real age – 2 Kings 24:8 and 2 Chronicles 36:9 (show different ages)

Who killed Goliath? 1 Samuel 17:49-51 (David) or 2 Samuel 21:19 (Elhanan) – the KJV adds in ‘brother of Goliath’ which are not in the Hebrew

Some example (Gospels):

Luke 14:25-26 – the word ‘hate’ is translated differently in the Good News Bible and the comparative approach creates problems with other translations (as in hate in regards to loving Jesus)

Matthew 19:12 – CEV sanitizes the act of genital mutilation as ‘okay’ with Jesus

The NIV/TNIV has decided to add ‘gender inclusive’ language to fit the market – problem – hides the misogyny and creates translation problems:

All gender-inclusive translations, therefore, aim not to express the original culture of ancient authors but to hide it and render it palatable to modern culture” (Avalos, The End of Biblical Studies, pg 56)

Anti Judaism in the NT texts (translators, namely of the NIV strand, are trying to hide these occurrences):

Irvin J. Borowsky states that it would be good for biblical societies and religious publications to create two editions – one for the public and one for scholars (paraphrased from The End of Biblical Studies, pg 56).

Orwellian double-speak could not be celebrated more fervently. The proposal is paternalistic because it assumes that readers need to be protected from their own bible.” (Avalos, The End of Biblical Studies, pg 56)

In conclusion, Avalo’s sees a pattern in translation, whether formal (word for word) or functional equivalence…”mistranslation is, in this sense, often the goal of all biblical translations.” (Avalos, The End of Biblical Studies, pg 58).

So, do students of the bible has a problem here with translation and knowing what they are (or are not) reading in the texts from translatiing from Hebrew and Greek to English? How much of a problem is this? Are we being mis-lead?

Fundies, Fanatics, and Beliefs

“A very good real world working definition of a ‘fundamentalist’ (or “fundie”) is: a person that is 1. willing to die for their belief system, or 2. is willing to kill to defend their belief system. If a religious, or political, believer fits that mould in either way then it is safe to say they are likely a fundamentalist thinker and believer.” (Johnny Bird)

“If this is an accurate definition, which I don’t think it is, I would fall into category 1 but not into category 2. Does this make me 1/2 a fundie?

I think Jesus’ message was absolutely non-violent and his actions prove this point – as he releases his life into foreign powers to be killed (he never did fight back). Then the stories of his disciples are also in that same vein according to Acts. Later Christian narrative actually starts using ‘martyrdom accounts’ to help ease people into the fact they would likely be killed for their faith by Roman power (in certain places).

It seems to me Jesus died for his faith (and so did his disciples) but did not kill for it (and the same goes for his disciples).” (SocietyVs)

Fundamentalism refers to a belief in a strict adherence to a set of basic principles (often religious in nature), sometimes as a reaction to perceived doctrinal compromises with modern social and political life” (Wikipedia – Fundamentalism)

That seems like a very accurate way to coin ‘fundamentalism’ to me. The lack of movement (inflexibility), especially to the left, on many key doctrinal issues seems to be the lench-pin for fundemantalism. I think what you are describing in your defintion is not just fundamentalism – but radicalism (kind of being a ‘fanatic’ for one’s beleifs).

I admit I am a fanatic in the sense I own up to my beliefs and would be willing to lay my life down for what I believe in. However, everyone is going to live/die for something regardless if they admit to that or not. So I am not sure it is fanatical to ‘die’ for one’s beliefs – it’s a very common human experience.

Now to kill for something – that’s real fanaticism. One minute ago that human was breathing, now he is not. That’s a transfer from a normal condition to an unexpected one (death)…the unexpected thing that entered was another human with a fanatical mindest. Jealousy, makes fanatics of men wo have been estranged from their wives. Terrorism makes fanatics from a religious ideology called jihad. Gangs makes fanatics out of normal aged school kids. Fanaticism is the extreme step over the line where one will do something they would not normally do under more balanced conditions.

The Buddha (PBS) – A Commentary

Caught a great documentary the last 2 nights, actually I PVR’d it, the Buddha on PBS. It was a great story about his whole life and what he taught concerning enlightenment. First time I have actually watched anything on Buddhism and I really enjoyed it.

I guess I liked the fact that spiritual enlightenment is not ‘easy work’ – true insight into the human condition takes time, reasoning, observation, and experience. Any good spiritual insight is received through hard work, nothing falls into your lap (so to speak). I see in the Buddha a person that worked hard to get what he wanted answered – the question of suffering/dis-satisfaction. Reminded me of Jacob wrestling with the angel in Genesis…just had to have an answer. I think most inquiring people can relate – sometimes you just have to ‘know’.

It’s kind of a cool religious system because the Buddha was open to questions and allowed for his teachings to be challenged…this is definitely godly (IMO). The Buddha remained humble through-out his life and was someone that earned the respect of his peers in this day in age. I also see many similarities between Christianity and Buddhism in their teachings and lifestyle…which also intrigued me quite a bit.

I do have my knocks on Buddha, to a certain degree. He did leave his wife and child to seek this ‘enlightenment’…a man does that now to a woman and he is a ‘deadbeat dad’ (that kind of dis-pleased me). The monastery’s he founded were celibate. There is a belief that being celibate is better than being ‘married’…I find this doesn’t adequately represent the persepectives of women of faith. Women can naturally ‘bare children’ – to take that out of the equation is to miss out on an aspect of ‘enlightenment’ for them (IMO). Also the idea of seperation from society bothered me (with these cloisters he developed as monasteries). How can one face real suffering if they are hid away from it all? Sure you may get to know yourself, but if we are talking of a ‘middle path’…the monastery is anything but a ‘middle path’ – it’s an extreme.

Nonetheless, I appreciated the teachings of the Buddha and what he lived and died for. He put his time and work in to get where he got – and I appreciate that. He set a good example of ‘how to seek’…exhaust all efforts until something makes sense. He also spoke a lot of ‘balance’ and the ‘middle way’…I concur this is where enlightenment is to be found. However, one needs to experience the harsh and abundance of life to see through many lenses.

Losing Our Religion…Book

Had a chance to catch S.E. Cupp on Bill Maher the other night and she has a new book out ‘Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media’s Attack on Religion‘.

First off, I like the book title. Secondly, she’s an atheist. Thirdly, she’s a Religious Studies major (an area I am thinking of getting my Master’s in). Irony, an athiest defending religious freedoms and reporting on the slant she see’s in the ‘liberal’ media to ‘attack’ religion. Absolutely brilliant!

I see a lot of what she is doing in what I am doing – except from varying sides of the religious spectrum. I take a critical approach to the Christian faith (and sometimes religion in general) and seek to see changes in thought and pattern occur – but not to the demise of the religion – to it’s improvement. In one hand, I am criticizing many things in Christianity and in another hand I am also seeking to uphold it…my delicate balance in life.

This lady is an atheist that is seeking to see religion maintained because of it’s needfulness in society (she actually thinks it does more good than harm). I also agree with her 100% and also make many of the same defences (in debates) when talking with non-Christians about the usefulness of the Christian religion (in society). She was a great guest on Bill Maher, took him a bit to task – admirable because she was someone I think came to this subject with a balanced style – and that’s getting tougher to find these days.

I was just thinking I would like to meet someone who kind of thought like me…and ta-daa!

To The End of The Earth (Made Up World)

Holden Caufield was right. Life is filled with ‘phoniness’. The Matrix kind of nailed it…we live one thing while not knowing it’s a reality we have been given to live out (real or not).

I walk around and I have to laugh, concrete and asphalt litter the ground…buildings that tower like mountains…windows to the left and to the right…everything seems to contain steel these days…it’s all a facade. It’s a pseudo reality pushed on us by generation of generation seeking the innovation of the earth to it’s commands. We make the planet what we want and the media sells us this lie (day in – day out).

All one needs to see is a normal house fly trapped in a window sile to know this is bologna. Or maybe a moose wandering into your backyard? How about ants under your kitchen sink? Something is awry…and it’s not the insects or animal kingdom.

We’re doing everything we possibly can to seperate ourselves from nature and we need to wake-up and realize we have taken too many steps in the wrong direction…we’re eliminating the wild-life and natural surroundings of the land so we can have ‘convenience’. The problem is, we’re not going to wake-up, unlike Neo, we have been too conditioned to what we have been born into. There will be no choice of what pill you can take (red or blue) – unless it’s prescription.

I don’t think we realize how much of a lie we have been born into to be perfectly honest. It’s normal to want the new car, big house, perfect yard, paved streets, pre-packaged food, and designer clothes…watch an ad now and then to see this is what they are ‘selling’. Life is always grand on television.

Problem is, what we want it is also going to be our demise. The new car is a constant pollutant (times that by a million others). The big house is wasting too much energy. The perfect yard is killing nature with pesticides/herbicides. Paved streets are killing the soil we could use to grow food/tree’s/grass…and actually have natural surroundings. Pre packaged food is unhumanely slaughtered on a regular basis so we can have some chicken with that rice. Designer clothes promote economic slavery and poor living conditions in other countries, so we can be more like Mike! This is only 1/4 of our problem in all reality…we are basically un-natural beings!

So a toast to the end of the earth as we have never known it.

Made Up God?

I was watching ‘You Don’t Know Jack’ last night (about Jack Kevorkian) and there was a scene where he said ‘at least my God isn’t an invention‘ to a bunch of religious protesters outside his house. I had to think about that sentence and this blog came out.

Is our God made up? In some ways, I think God is. It’s a very culturally based God. It’s a Christian God that started under Roman culture, then branched forward. Today we see this God as American, Canadian, or British (Western basically). Dylan writes a great song called ‘with God on our side’ which reflects this aspect very well.

Even Jesus is subject to the cultural shifting. Jesus is the proverbial ‘all things to all people’ across the planet. He’s can hang and bang with the punk community (se Jim Baker’s son’s show – ‘One Punk Under God’) or he can be the blue eyed blonde hair figure we see in most pictures of him (regardless if he even looked anything like this). Jesus is pretty much a mold of clay that becomes who we think he is and what we picture him as. One only need compare various denominations teachings on Jesus to see we may not be looking at the same Jesus church to church.

God is changing, or at least, our perspective of God (according to scripture in combination with culture) is changing. I am not sure of I am dealing with a very vengeful God or a peace loving God? Is Jesus Jewish or not? Is God actively involved in human history or sitting back and allowing us to make our lives? Does God take sides in a war? When Jesus walked on water – was he wearing Nikes?

I agree with Jack, God is an invention (at least to some degree). Ever notice how God always reflects…well…you?

Really? Divorce? (A Re-post From Oct 26, 2009)

“Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.

They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” He said to them, Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery. The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.”” (Matthew 19:3-10)

When you read that – what is being said about:

(a) Marriage?

(b) Divorce?

societyvs on October 26, 2009

Here is my take:

(1) This is a test – not resemblance of what the Pharisee’s believed – they just wanted to see Jesus’ answer to such a question (Jesus went to the law with his answer)

(2) Marriage seems to be something committed under God – in which the 2 become 1 and should not be broken up (the ideal)

(3) Moses allowed divorce – this is a known fact

(4) Jesus answers that this has not always been the case (the ideal again)

(5) But if divorce is to be allowed – immorality would be the issue. We can suppose sexual immorality is being hinted here (from previous teachings) but that fact he simply says immorality he could be referring to a number of law breaking ideas that would hurt your neighbor – in this case – your spouse (ie: violence could be an aspect of this).

(6) The disciples respond and mention if the relationship is this bonkers who would want to marry anyways? In which Jesus responds he who can handle such info should note it (seems to be directed more at men – noting a man’s personal responsibility in such an endeavor).

(7) In the end, marriage is a good thing but can become something abhorrent. It is in the cases when things get abhorrent that the ideal should be broken…but not only to re-marry – but for the sake of sanity. Maybe it is also a warning of how much pain can be dealt out if one leaves a marriage for the sake of re-marrying and the bitterness that can be found in that scenario (which makes sense to me). Marriage’s should be ended only for the right reasons and in the right way – so as to ease the pain in the scenario in general.

Catholicism Will Suffer…

Just read an article in my local newspaper – The Leader Post – entitled ”Sin within the Church’ threat to Catholicism: Pope’.

My first thought ‘no sh*t Sherlock’.

My second, and more meaningful thought, is no one can trust a church that refuses to keep itself accountable – and even with this attempt – can they be trusted to ‘clean house of these sexual offenders’?

The Pope is quoted as apologizing and seeking to clean up the Catholic church – but in a church with a known ‘cover-up’ scandal I am not sure I like the odds they will deliver every pedophile to justice. The Pope says he wants to seek justice – I hope he ain’t lying…can’t be sure these days.

Oddly enough, I was actually calling concern to these issues some 3 years back when Catholics apologized to First Nations people for sexually abusing them in Residential Schools in the early 1920s to 1960s (and maybe longer). There was a very cheap pay-out to Aboriginal’s abused in these institutions (something like 10,000 per person) – which was way cheaper than what other settlements got in America (for example)…sucks to be a minority (then and now).

What I thought the Aboriginal case could do was ‘screw the money’ and seek pure justice in the way of getting each every name of the nuns and priests that did these actions hauled before a court – no matter if they were old or not; no matter if they were dead or not. I thought this was the only way to curb this Catholic institution from committing these crimes again…needless to say nothing of the like was done…and we have to live with an institution that does not care about accountability.

My last thought ‘no sh*t Sherlock’.

Moral Relativity & Interpreting the Law

It is morally acceptable to stone homosexuals, Christians, and adulterers to this day in other cultures. How well does that mesh with what you consider morally acceptable?” (Xander)

Personally I find that abhorrent and reprehensible. Again, it is taking life that may not be deserving of such a penalty. I think when we read the Torah we are not quite getting what is being said there (logistically and lawfully). I raised the point about adultery already and the problem people have with interpreting that law in Torah.

But let’s make this clearer in understanding – more close to home. Some states have the death penalty for the act of pre-meditated murder. However, for other acts of murder (2nd degree) there may only be a stiff jail term. And for even lesser offences within the murder hierarchy (manslaughter) someone may see short stints in prison – even extended probation. However, it’s all ‘thou shalt not murder’.

The problem with present Christians and their view of the Torah is they don’t understand what it is they are reading – they see a narrative and an ethical code – but it’s a law code….and it needs to be interpreted as such. In the case of something like ‘You shall not commit adultery’ (Ex 20:14) – well at what point of severity is the stoning to occur? Anyone that cheats is to be killed? Or is it more like a hierarchy – like murder is? One needs to remember, ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and life for life’…the only thing deserving of death is ‘murder’ (not adultery according to that measurement for judgment). Adultery that ends in murder would make more sense in this context as to what was deserving of ‘death’.

But far be it for current Christianity to really get down and dirty with the texts to start revealing the methods of the Torah (functions as law). Christians really have no clue how to approach those texts…and law can change. Judaism is aware of this. Christians should be aware of this – just cannot grasp God provided a law that can change. Movements away from slavery, genocide, and segregation are supposed be the norm as humans seek ‘peace’. One needs remember this is a God of peace we supposedly serve.

*Comment first presented on Xander’s blog ‘The Immoral God’