The Bible Reconsidered: A Second Historical Look at Scripture

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,418
Republika Srpska
The more I read the Bible the more I find it disillusioning and far from what it tries to be. It's certainly the word of the authors, not the word of God. It's a love letter to Israel and anyone who isn't a Jew is a fool to take the book other than what it is - a book, albeit a fascinating and good read.
The Old Testament maybe, but Israelites in the OT spend most of the time being occupied and displaced due to disobeying God. The New Testament is less Jew-centric.
 
Sep 2015
328
The Eastern Hinterlands
The Old Testament maybe, but Israelites in the OT spend most of the time being occupied and displaced due to disobeying God. The New Testament is less Jew-centric.
Jesus Christ weeping over Jerusalem and his followers spreading his word show who are the main characters of the work. It's a book by Jews for Jews.
 
Jul 2019
561
New Jersey
Not to get bogged down in this discussion (I promised myself I won't), but is it possible that the experiences of the Jews hold lessons for other nations as well? In other words, can't a universal message be couched in a national narrative?
 
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Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,418
Republika Srpska
Jesus Christ weeping over Jerusalem and his followers spreading his word show who are the main characters of the work. It's a book by Jews for Jews.
And then we have accounts of the Apostles travelling across the Roman Empire and spreading their faith and we even have Epistle to the Hebrews that challenges old Judaism. So no, New Testament is not a book for the Jews.
 

abram

Ad Honorem
Oct 2014
2,177
oklahoma
The authors were Jews and at the time they were writing may have been thinking primarily about Jewish issues, but somewhere along the line Isaiah articulated the idea that the Jews and their teachings were a light to the rest of us: a light unto the nations. Isaiah 42: 6; 49:6. It seem to have been true for Christians and Muslims, who account for some 55% of the world's population.
 
Nov 2016
970
Germany
but is it possible that the experiences of the Jews hold lessons for other nations as well? In other words, can't a universal message be couched in a national narrative?
That depends a lot on the message you have in mind. Which one is it?

But I see a problem with the phrase "universal message" in the circumstance that Judaism can hardly have a universal message, i.e. a message that affects the whole of mankind, because it sees itself as a singular group that is different from the rest of mankind. This is clearly defined in the myth of Abraham. The Jewish God is by definition not a God of all people or for all people, but only for a certain group.

Purely theoretically it could be that one day all people will be Jewish, but this has nothing to do with universalism, for the aforementioned reason that the Jewish god is a god for a group right from the start.

The rule or law of circumcision is explicitly introduced as a sign of distinction from other groups and has, at least officially, only this meaning. This clearly contradicts the idea of universalism, I would say. Paul therefore abandoned this rule in order to universalize Christianity.

If I misinterpret that, I would be interested in your reasoning.
 
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Jul 2019
561
New Jersey
That depends a lot on the message you have in mind. Which one is it?

But I see a problem with the phrase "universal message" in the circumstance that Judaism does not have a universal message, i.e. a message that affects the whole of humanity, because it sees itself as a singular group that is different from the rest of humanity. This is clearly defined in the myth of Abraham. The Jewish God is by definition not a God of all people or for all people, but only for a certain group.

Purely theoretically it could be that one day all people will be Jewish, but this has nothing to do with universalism, for the aforementioned reason that the Jewish god is a god for a group right from the start.

The rule or law of circumcision is explicitly introduced as a SIGN of distinction from other groups and has, at least officially, only this meaning. This clearly contradicts the idea of universalism, I think.

If I misinterpret that, I would be interested in your reasoning.
In Exodus, the Jews are enjoined to be "a nation of priests". In other words, they are commanded to be teachers, to lead by example (whether they succeed at that or not is irrelevant to the injunction). They are meant to remain distinct so as to not learn from the ways of the gentiles, but they ultimately are supposed to teach and/or inspire the world to those commandments which were given to Noah and all men - to worship one God, to establish just societies, etc. Salvation is never limited to Jews alone; Jews just have some extra duties. But the gentiles can also learn a lot from the Bible about faithfulness with God, establishing equitable societies, the nature of man and sin, etc.
 
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Jun 2012
7,420
Malaysia
Not to get bogged down in this discussion (I promised myself I won't), but is it possible that the experiences of the Jews hold lessons for other nations as well? In other words, can't a universal message be couched in a national narrative?
In that case, it kind of mirrors, in some way, the experiences of the Iranians with their Zoroastrianism. And perhaps the Indians also with their Veda, Upanishad, Purana etc.
 

abram

Ad Honorem
Oct 2014
2,177
oklahoma
What did Gen. 2 teach us that might have universal value? When Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they expected to be wise like gods, but instead became self-conscious and aware of their nakedness--what they didn't have. The story seems to be in the same general ballpark, though quite different from, some other pagan myths: Icarus, who flies too close to the sun; Tantalus and Sisyphus, who, respectively and try to dupe the gods and betray a divine secret; and of course the Greek counterpart to Eve, Pandora and her jar of troubles--possibly even the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic, in which a king embarks on a futile quest for immortality and rejuvenation, but has to resign himself to mortality after a serpent steals a rejuvenating plant.

The Genesis myth has variously been interpreted as being about disobedience or hubris or both. By aspiring to be like God, the first humans may also have committed idolatry by putting themselves above God. Saint Paul emphasized disobedience, and Saint Augustine took that ball and ran with it , developing the doctrine of hereditary original sin. Puritan schoolkids used to write on their slates: "in Adam's fall, we sinned all." Paul taught in Romans 5:12 that sin entered into the world, and death after the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Since humans were no longer perfect, their progeny were also imperfect (Romans 3:23). Therefore, the sacrifice of a perfect man, a new Adam (i.e., Jesus) was necessary to make things right. (Romans 6:23; 1Corinthians 15:22, 45, 47). Later Christians, speculating on what the fruit symbolized, concluded it must be sex, since sex could circumvent moral reasoning by producing autonomic changes that would occur even though they were not willed or (even worse) would not occur when they were willed. As any good Freudian could tell you, the serpent is a phallic symbol, obviously designed for seduction.

Jews never did take it that far. For the most part, they rejected hereditary sin. Even some Christians had a different take. Christians of the eastern Orthodox traditions didn't share Augustine's view, and in western Christendom, Pelagius opposed it. He thought that since everything created by God was good, as affirmed in Gen.1, He could not have created fallen creatures. How could anyone be held responsible for another's sin? Augustine, however, prevailed, and Pelagius was excommunicated in 418 c.e.. An even more radical interpretation was put forward by some sects of Christian Gnostics: Sethinas Ophites, Nassenes and Sertpentarians, turned Gen. 2 on its head, portraying the serpent as good (and in some versions, Christ instead of the devil), Yahweh as an inferior Demiurge named Yaldabaoth, and the fruit bringing enlightenment or gnosis. They noted it was the serpent who told the truth: eating the fruit did not cause death (at least not instantly) and gave insight (for better or for worse). (See,e,g., the Aprocryphon of John.) That view became the target of leading Christian herisiologists--Saint Irenaeus and Hipploytus of Rome.

I've aleady allluded to my preferred interpretation in an earlier post: Gen 2 seems to be saying allegorically what the Buddha addressed in the Second Noble Truth: Taṇhā (desire) is the root of dukka (misery). I'm certainly not suggesting that the Jews who wrote Genesis were influenced by Budhists--only that they seem to have reached a similar conclusion about the root of human suffering . Here I'm persuaded by Rabbi Moshe ben Nachmanides' argument that the words eits hada’at , translated into English as “tree of knowledge”, are better translated as “tree of desire” (da'at having that meaning). If so, that might be an example of two world religious traditions reinforcing each other: the Abrahamic and the Buddhist.

Ehrman, taking the more traditional view , sees "the clear message" to be that: "Unlike other living creatures, humans have come to know the difference between good and evil (having eathern the forbiden fruiit). But unlike God, humans are inclined to do the wrong rather than the right thing." Whether this is "original sin" is debatable, but it seems to be a common tendency inherent in the human condition--related to the tension between selfish impulses the Freudians call "id" and the internalized demands of society (super ego). Evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson (The Meaning of Human Existence) thinks this conflict was incorporated into separate modules in the human brain at an early stage in our evolution--reflecting conflict between the need for individual interests and the social co-operation needed for human survival .
 
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tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,765
T
Purely theoretically it could be that one day all people will be Jewish, but this has nothing to do with universalism, for the aforementioned reason that the Jewish god is a god for a group right from the start.

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Not really... Unlike Christianity or Islam that busily converted everyone they could (including against their will) and made themselves the official religion of every state they could (and where possible the ONLY religion), judaism was not really targeting conversion (no imposition of itself as a state religion everwhere) ... So the numbers of its followers were always small and remain so to this day (roughly 1% of the followers of Islam and likewise roughly 1% of the followers of christianity)
 
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