Should the so-called “Old Testament” be part of the Christian Bible? What is it that justifies its presence there? Is that justification – provided it really exists – sufficient to ensure that the Christian Bible should consist 80% of texts in which no Christian had ever written even one single line? Is it then “un-Christian” to insist on the removal of non-Christian writings from the Christian canon? The following text – a dialogue between a Marcionite and a Judaizer – is a response to such questions. This text does not have one single author only. It is the result of a whole series of similar dialogues and polemics, both verbal and written, in which I participated, and which related to the place and role of the so-called “Old Testament” in the Bible as well as in the life of the Church over the centuries. Especially when it comes to the character of the “Judaizer”, his statements presented here consist of comments by many people, including theologians, and are consistent with typical views of todays “judaizers”. Some of the statements by those people are quoted here verbatim in large passages. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those people for the help rendered, especially because until recently I did not contemplate creating the following dialogue. So: I invite you to a discussion, Judaizer!
Judaizer Thank you for the invitation. But at the outset I have a few questions. First of all, why do you call us “Judaizers”? Is it not an abuse? Do you not know that those of Christians were called this insisted on the need to observe the practices of Judaism? Do you not know that in the early Church there was a dispute about this issue? There is, after all, even an information on such debates in the Book of Acts, Chapter 15… What does that old, played-out dispute have to do with the fact that today we simply defend the rightful place of the Old Testament in our Bible? And, by the way, does not your negative approach to the Hebrew Bible reflect a kind of anti-Semitism or crypto-anti-Semitism? You will probably reply that it does not but I nevertheless would like to know your answer… Especially since it often so “strangely” happens that the opponents of the Old Testament are clearly anti-Semites…
Marcionite I am aware of that old dispute and we also know that the New Testament – that is, the only Christian part of the Bible – notes it elsewhere as well, most notably in the letters by Paul of Tarsus, to which we will return. No, I do not think the term “Judaizers” in relation to you is an abuse. It was the books we know as the “Old Testament” that were once a carrier of the dispute within the Church as well as of the dispute between the Church and the Synagogue in a broader sense.
The main dispute with Judaism stemmed from the interpretation of the “Old Testament”. And often that controversy around the allegedly “common” books paved the way for what you are so frequently and mistakenly referring to as “anti-Semitism”. Mistakenly, because these attitudes were not racially motivated (i.e. in relation to any Semites) but doctrinally.
It is true that sometimes a rejection of the “OT” is motivated by anti-Jewish (albeit not always anti-Semitic) attitudes, precisely as it is true that a full acceptance of those books not always goes hand in hand with Judeophilia. And so it also “strangely” happened that the medieval Cathars from southern France, from Germany or northern Italy, who totally rejected the OT, were not characterized by anti-Jewishness, while on the other hand the Catholic Church, to whom the “OT” was an apple of the eye, after having suppressed the Cathar rebellion, had – in one of the first provisions – prohibited the Jews from holding any public office…
However, the Church, having accepted the OT, with truly Judaistic fervor used its commandments in regards to the so-called “Heretics” – and even to the Jews themselves (what an irony!). So what, therefore, that for example circumcision and many other practices were rejected if in many other aspects, far more negative than circumcision, those Judaistic ordinances were applied in cold blood? Was the inquisitor Torquemada not a Judaizer just because he was not circumcised and did not observe the Sabbath?
And you, yourselves, do you no longer talk about Jews as “chosen people”, even contradicting your own “orthodox” Christian interpretation, according to which the elect of God are supposed to be those who follow Christ – that is not necessarily only the Jews?
On what basis would you maintain that you are no longer Judaizers? You are in many ways different from the original Judaizers, but certain legacy of the OT still weighs heavily over you.
It is a bit like with us, Marcionites: we are not like the Marcionites from the second century AD and, for that matter, we generally no longer define the differences between the NT and OT in terms of the existence of “two Gods”, the worse and lower one of the OT and the better, more perfect, proclaimed by Christos. But despite those differences we continue to be regarded as Marcionites and quite often even people on your side use this term to describe us for that very reason that we reject the “Old Testament”. If we can, therefore, be Marcionites, then you are Judaizers.
J Here the differences between us are enormous. I believe that the New Testament came from the Old. Rejection of the Old Testament is to me and to many Christians against the roots of the History of Salvation in the history of the Chosen People.
In regards to Marcion, I would emphasize his misrepresentation of the teachings of Christ by detaching them from their roots, that is from the whole of Judaism, from the canon of the Bible which was the Septuagint. Christian churches tend to agree that if Jesus came into the world in the tradition of Judaism, then it happened for a reason, for a purpose intended by God, and OT and NT are one entity.
By “misrepresentation” I do not mean the interference in the content of specific documents, but such selection of writings as to carry dualistic theses foreign to Judaism and to separate the person and teachings of Christ from the continuity and continuation of all the content of Judaism. I believe that we must not reject the Bible of Jesus. Jesus grows in the Bible’s spiritual climate and embodies it – just as the embodied Torah, the Word made flesh.
With his attitude he reveals a certain interpretation of it – in the name of which he lives and dies for (condemned, by the way, in the name of another interpretation). The story of Jesus is inseparable from that background and it is not without reason that the Gospels retain His statement that “not one iota, not one stroke shall pass away from the Law”…
Through Him, with Him and in Him we participate in Israel’s history.
M No, it is not a rejection of salvation (for as to the myth of “history of salvation” we could have an entirely different discussion here!). And why would that be? Look at it yourself: in HOW MANY books, out of those dozens, a reference is made to a “Messiah”? Not in all of them but in a minority. And from how many books of the OT did Christ quote in NT? Only from a handful of them – you can find it out yourself by reading footnotes in NT… And yet the Church took the entire OT.
It’s a bit like a man who wished to drink a glass of milk regularly, purchased immediately for that purpose the entire dairy farm with a herd of cattle, cow-sheds and silos with fodder… (therefore there is no coincidence that I speak of the “wholesale” takeover of OT by the Church…). In Jude (1; 14-15) there is even the 1 Book of Enoch quoted (and specifically 1En 1;9), which is not in the OT, but although it is quoted there, it is not included in the canon. But the whole OT is included. This is a further confirmation of the wholesale borrowing.
Islam had acted more wisely: they recognized the prophets, but they had not decided to create lengthy scriptures. They concluded that Muhammad was the last prophet, who “summed up” the whole history of salvation. Hence, the Quran is enough for them.
Therefore, Islam not only is a religion of its own but it also documents it with its own scriptural achievement. While in your argumentation I sense a tendency to treat Christianity merely as a sort of a “contribution” to the history of Israel.
J Not a contribution but continuation. Against any rejection of the Old Testament as Jesus’ Bible, volumes are spoken by the fact that practically all the time He quotes from it. Take, for instance, that in the Gospel according to Matthew the Old Testament is quoted 58 times. Once again: 58 times! In that Gospel alone! And if you add this to the quotes from the other Gospels and from the remaining New Testament writings, then the sheer number of quotations becomes simply enormous! Simply huge, reaching literally hundreds! Without the Old Testament, what we now call the New Testament would be virtually incomprehensible, divorced from its roots. And this rejection of the Old Testament would be tantamount to a rejection of the whole history of salvation.
M By the way in Matthew The OT is “quoted” 57 times, not 58 because the 58th time a quotation appears, but we do not know where it came from. And in those 57 “quotes” how many OT-books are quoted? I take the word “quotes” in quotation marks and I will explain it to you in a moment why. But first let us look at those 57 “quotes” in Matthew. Well, then you say that Christos quotes from the OT all the time, simply incessantly. However from among those 57 “citations” only 10 are put into his mouth. Only 10 – in the entire Gospel!
What the 10 “quotes” in this whole text of the gospel mean, is best illustrated by their interplay with other emerging elements in it: there are also seven so-called “Chreiai” or “useful expressions”, succinctly expressing certain thoughts. These “chreiai” (from the Greek word “chreiodes” or “useful”) are short notes in the form of anecdotes. This form is known from the Greek literature. Then there are 10 allegories and 13 parables in that Gospel. Also 10 times the term “sons of God” appears in relation to various people.
Thus Christ does not cite “continually” as you so eagerly emphasize, rather those quotes are merely a certain part of the means at his disposal.
In total, there are supposedly approximately 300 references to the Old Testament in the New. But to a large extent they are not only quotations but also so-called “allusions”. And what actually are those “allusions”? For instance, in Deutronomy 24; 1-4 there is a longer statement on marriage and divorce. And in Mt 5;31 Christos merely states that the law says that if someone rejects his wife, then he should give her a certificate of divorce.
He does not even quote anything nor says where he found it, but it is apparently enough for some to include that remark by him to those allusions – and namely to a particular verse (nay, sometimes even to “quotations”!) and thus to stress the “importance” of the OT. So I am asking you: in which way this kind of “quotation” from the OT and a so-called “allusion” to it in the NT are “important for the history of salvation” and how the exclusion of the Book of Deuteronomy from the Christian canon is to be “a rejection of history of salvation”?
Are you not trying to abuse the term “salvation history” to simply bolster your argument of the “indispensability” of the OT?
As one can see, you even deliberately “inflate” the number of references to OT in the NT by the production of so-called “allusions” so that the total number could indeed “run into hundreds”…
And anyway, even this number of 57 citations or “hints” in “Matthew” is very far-fetched. For example, Mt 2;15 is supposed to have this “quote” – or if you prefer – an “allusion” to the Old Testament, namely Hosea 11;1 in this form: “Out of Egypt have I called my son”, which is supposed to mean Christ arriving from Egypt after the death of Herod, who wanted to kill him. Yet the authentic verse from Hosea 11;1 refers to the people of Israel and their exodus from Egypt!
And there are more of such faked “citations” and “allusions”, also in “Matthew” like Mt2;17-18, where a reference is made again to Herod and his “slaughter of the innocents” as the fulfilment of a “prophecy” from Jeremiah 31;15, while in reality in “Jeremiah” (no matter which sort of a “Jeremiah” wrote it) there is a reference to Israelites killed in Babylonian captivity… Or yet another, even more glaring example, Mt 2;23, where a mention was made of a “prophecy” that Christ “will be called a Nazarene”. Our experts immediately combined this with at least two verses in the OT, namely Isaiah 11;1 and the Book of Judges 13;5. The first one says however nothing at all about any “Nazarene” but only about “stem of Jesse”. The second quotation refers to… Samson who was not a “Nazarene” but a “Nazarite” , that is a man consecrated to God, a man who among other things was to avoid any contact with the dead and was to abstain from drinking wine or any other fermented beverage.
But Christos was not a Nazarite, he most certainly was not Samson, according to the Gospels he not only had contact with the dead but is even credited with bringing some of them back to life. And in addition he openly admitted that he drank wine! (Mt 11;19).
So even in this case, these “quotes” and “allusions” had miraculously multiplied : from one single verse in the Gospel according to Matthew we have two references to the OT. And how made? Well, through one fake “citation” and one non-existing “allusion”…
Tell me if your thesis about the “validity” of the OT is getting really more significant, lofty and credible by the creation of this kind of a bungle which you then are trying to “sell” as “revealed truth”? Whom do you actually hope to fool in this way? I guess that only those who tend more to believe in the OT than to read it themselves and compare with any of the early writings about Christ …
What you call the history of salvation, started much, much earlier than the OT…
The utterly wrong decision by the Church to incorporate the whole OT into the Bible is of such sort that one could well require from us and from the Jews that we include the aretalogies of the goddess Isis and the Egyptian Book of the Dead (preferably the whole Book, one could assume…). These aretalogies are from the time approx. 1500 years BC (shortly before Moses then…) and the Book of the Dead is dated even earlier, around 3000 years BC (even the mythical Abraham was still not around for almost 1000 years…).
And why would it be? Well, because that’s where we find the entire set of the 10 Commandments (and lots of other orders and statements) which are the commandments which Moses was to “obtain from God” on the Sinai …
J Yes, but Jesus was born in one particular tradition of this history of salvation. And this tradition is the Old-Testament-Judaism of Abraham, Moses, David, Saul, Solomon and the Prophets, and not of Isis, of Egypt or Mesopotamia!
If we had the canon to incorporate all those different traditions, perhaps even Hinduism, Buddhism, The Vedas and from among the geographically closer ones probably Zoroastrianism, we would have a whole library full of beliefs, even mutually exclusive, such as belief in the bodily resurrection VERSUS reincarnation!
Not to mention the fact that even after having disqualified a number of quotations and allusions, the number of authentic quotations in the New Testament is quite large…
Is it not better then to focus on one tradition but consistently?
M Reincarnation does not necessarily contradict the belief in resurrection of bodies, but that’s another issue.
However, you are right that a religion is not capable of accommodating all beliefs and practices. Therefore, please tell me in earnest:
Do you seriously think that everything in the “Old Testament” is compatible with Christian doctrine? Does everything written there conform with what the Christian Church accepted? And you yourself: would you be able to accept everything there as the will of God and God’s law? And finally, does everything in the „OT” refer to any kind of salvation (no matter how understood). Or, rather many, many things there are marginal, of minor importance and may have perhaps some relevance to a historian specializing in the history of ancient Israel and its myths but completely irrelevant to our religion and religiosity. And look at what Jesus was doing:
Christos was constantly opposing something, at one time he was against divorce (which was allowed by the law). At another time he did not observe the Sabbath, or opposed the regulation of stoning anyone to death. Again, he was against the principle of “an eye for an eye”… A “neighbour” was to him not only a Jew, but a Gentile just as well – which was in evident contradiction with the regulations of the Mosaic law and with Jewish commandments.
The two people whom he praised most for the strength of their faith, were the two so-called “Pagans” that is the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mk 7:25-30 and Mt 15:21-28) and a Roman officer (Mt 8, 5-13 and Lk 7, 1-10), Iesous even maintained that such faith is not seen throughout Israel. As for someone who claimed that “not one iota” shall disappear form the law, he behaved rather strangely…
Yes, these fragments also could be connected to the quotations and allusions to “the Old Testament” if you insist. But only as a sign of opposition to it. Hence the number of the authentic references to the OT in the NT is further diminished…
Indeed, to define Christos as the “Torah incarnate” as you have called him, seems to be in these circumstances a kind of a poor joke…
J Well, yes, but it still does not undermine my thesis that Jesus grew up in the tradition of Old Testament Judaism. Christians are not so much a “people of the Book”, as the Mohammedans say about us. Rather we are people of a Person – Jesus Christ. We are interested in the Bible and it applies to us only in so far as it has to do with him. And that’s the crux of it – The Tenach was his set of writings. He drew from it. His life was a continuous dialogue with the Scriptures of his people. And that is the primary reason why we cannot reject these books, because then we would de facto reject Him – the living, incarnate Midrash.
So, what you are saying, does not undermine my main argument, for the sake of which we should retain the OT in our canon of Scripture…
M Yes, it does undermine it. More than that: it refutes it! Indeed the main argument for maintaining the OT in our Bible is – and always has been – not that Christos was “raised” in his tradition, but that the OT is supposed to be “fulfilled” by him in its prophecies, beliefs and orders! Christos – as you emphasized – allegedly “embodies” the “Old Testament” “as the embodied Torah, the Word made flesh. With his attitude he reveals a certain interpretation of it” adding that “not one iota, not one stroke shall pass away from the Law”. You must admit that in order for it to be so, it was not enough for him to be born and raised in a certain tradition, because it could be amended or simply rejected. No ancient text telling us anything about Christ –whether a canonical gospel or any non-canonical one, like those Gnostic ones, nor even the Islamic Quran – represent that man as someone who would teach that any Gentile who approached a Jewish place of worship had to be “immediately killed”. It does not portray him as someone who taught that Gentiles were “unclean”, it did not claim one should not form familial ties with them nor even eat with them at one table. Nor did he promote any regulation by which a Jew must not even enter a home of a Gentile, or else he would then undergo a seven-day-long “purification” procedure. Had he been teaching that priests of non-Jewish religions must be slaughtered like hogs (as “vividly” described in the 2 Book of Kings) and their temples turned into latrines?
No, none of those writings telling us anything about Christos presents him in such a way. NOT EVEN ONE!
Clearly then that man did not teach about God in the way we know from the “Old Testament”…
J Not true! He was just – as it was in the Jewish tradition – presenting a certain interpretation of that tradition. And that got him convicted and executed – in the name, moreover, of a different interpretation. Of course, OT was giving often – post facto – an alibi for the many transgressions, but was it really their source? One would have to prove it somehow. People are what they are – and the OT describes it perfectly – and they always find a book which can be invoked to justify their atrocities.
Interestingly, though, that they only notice its dark side, not seeing anything in it that is beautiful and good. And Jesus with his attitude to life and death pointed to a way of interpretation and actually was taking the wind out of the sails of anyone who intended to rely on His Scriptures, the Scriptures of His people…
M Well then, I suggest to you now something else. Look at the following small range of examples (truly a small range, although a bigger one would not pose any problem). Please have a closer look at some examples of the “law of God” and “divine love” straight from the “Old Testament”, and then I have a few questions for you:
2;30-31: The “Lord” deliberately makes Sihon, king of Heshbon “obstinate” so as to provoke his war against Israelites and to give them a pretext to slaughter. And then:
2;34-35 “And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, the women and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain. Only the cattle we took for a prey unto ourselves, and the spoil of the cities which we took.”
(By the way: an explanation note to the verses tells us that the Hebrew word for “destroy” originally meant an irrevocable sacrifice of the destroyed people and goods to the god, often by their total annihilation – which means that they made them a wholly-burnt sacrifice – the Greek word for “wholly-burnt”, as you probably know, is “HOLOKAUSTOS”…)
Then, similar expressions of “unity with god” are in 3;1-7, and verse 4 adds with pride, that the “experiment” took place in 60 cities (the number, of course, is exaggerated).
3;21 Moses to Joshua: “Thine eyes have seen all that the Lord your God hath done unto these two kings: so shall the Lord do unto all the kingdoms whither thou passest.”
7;2-6 A long instruction of what the Jews had to do to the defeated nations, including: „but thus shall ye deal with them: ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire”.
7;16 “And thou shalt consume all the people which the Lord thy God shall deliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity upon them; neither shalt thou serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto thee”
7;24 “And he (that is: that „Lord”) shall deliver their kings into thine hand, and thou shalt destroy their name from under heaven: there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou have destroyed them”.
13; 6-11 “If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom (…) entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods … Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people”.
20; 10-15 Moses says that when the Israelites go to war against any other people, they should first offer them peace – that is a voluntary submission of that people to Jews as slave labour. If they reject such a “magnanimous” offer, then … thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword: But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoils thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself”.
Book of Joshua
On military campaigns,
6;17 “Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers we sent”.
6;21 “And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword”.
6;24 here it says that Israelites, having burned everything in the city, took however silver, bronze etc with themselves.
7;1 „God” (yes, that idol from the OT) is furious about the Israelites, but not because they were murdering, but because they took that silver and bronze mentioned above, instead of sacrificing it to their “Lord”… (how edifying, is it not?)
8; 30-35 After some more of such “achievements” the “chosen people” carry out a “renewal” of their “covenant” with their “God”. Pay attention, if you have enough patience to read the Book of Joshua, that such renewals of that “covenant” frequently take place after consecutive “Shoahs” against other nations. I intentionally decided not to mention all the details…
Chapters 13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20 and 21 reveal to us further spiritual and divine details: whose land and how it was divided between the various clans of Israel – this is of course another part of the un-holy Writ which the Christian Church can under no circumstance afford to get rid of if we really want to know Christos and his „Heavenly Father”, right?
For if we rid ourselves of that scribble, which resembles psychopathology rather than religion, then we will not be able to “understand” Christos, not to mention following him, right? Indeed, we probably could not even be Christians if those chunks of supremacism and degenerative megalomania were absent from our canon of Scripture, I presume…
When you get a chance, you can read the Book of Judges where, next to similarly lofty descriptions of “piety” you will find some curiosities, like the 300 Israelites who smashed and annihilated an enemy army of 135 thousand soldiers. There you will find a man named Samson, who single-handedly kills 1000 people in a brawl and is up to other similar acts…
Surely, the Church in its “infallibility” had to also include this – in bulk with other stories – into the canon, for the “Mother Church” could not live without such “divine” stories. The Church would not make any sense, were it not for such literature. One gets surprised that similar stories about Hercules were not included as well. After all he was doing fairly well too…
Sometimes I get the impression that our past leaders had decided about the books of our canon, while drunk…
That saga is continued in 1 Samuel, where in 15;3 we find repeated – up to the point of boredom (is it still surprising?) commandments form „God”: “…and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass”.
And so they did, albeit not entirely, for they spared king Agag and the best of the animals. Therefore the “God” said (15;11): “It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments.” (Good, is it not? God is love, Hallelujah!!! Amen!!!)
And in 19;9-10 you will see something that can turn out to be a complete revelation to you (for I am no longer surprised): “And the evil spirit from the Lord was upon Saul”
Can you feel it? “The evil spirit from the Lord”. Yes, this too had to be unconditionally included in the Christian “deposit of faith”…
About the “necessary” killing of Gentiles approaching Jewish places of worship I already told you. Also that the Jews were a “chosen people” (sometimes they are called the “holy nation” there). Others were “unclean”…
And now I have a few questions for you. You are saying that Christos confirmed the “law” and that he died for a certain interpretation of it. Could you then point to those particular verses in the Gospels – in whichever Gospels – in which he is recorded as confirming, praising and retaining any of the above regulations and commandments – or other similar, in which the OT is teeming?
And if you do not find such verses (which I am absolutely sure), then would you like to conclude from this that if such things are not mentioned among his sayings, it means that he tacitly accepted them or “accepted them differently”?
Compare to these:
Gal 3;13 “Christos hath redeemeth us from the curse of the law”
Gal 3;23-25 “we are no longer under the supervision of the law” (since the faith in Christ came)
Kol 2;13-14 “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and (Christ) took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross”
Ef 2;15-16 “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity therein”. Well! Quite strongly stated: “having abolished” !
Under such conditions, how – according to the rules of any logic – can you honestly speak about “lack of contradictions”? After all these contradictions between the OT and NT are so striking that it would be difficult to find any similar ones in any kind of literature – even in the religious literature, where various oddities were said to have been possible.
So, what will you say NOW?
J When you interpret the allegories in the Old Testament through the lens of the NT, maybe they will become easier to accept and perhaps you will be able to turn your attention for instance to:
Exodus 34;6, Numbers 14;18, Deuteronomy 4;32, Nehemiah 9;17, Psalm 86;5 & 15, Psalm 108;4, Psalm 145;8, Joel 2;13.
M Which “allegories” do you mean? Is it really about an allegory? Of course, if anyone insists on allegory, it could be so. For example, in the verse which you have quoted, Numbers 14;18, where it says that the “Lord” is “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation”, some Jewish Reincarnationists translate the word “generation” as “incarnation”. But if it is simply that the effects of errors of the fathers will be affecting the children and grandchildren, then it is no allegory at all.
What do you think about Numbers 31;14-18, where Moses, furious that his soldiers did not murder all Midianites, tells them to finish this “work” by murdering even women and children? The only exception were to be young virgins, whom the Israelites were to “keep for themselves”. If this is supposed to be an “allegory”, then I ask: allegory of WHAT?
J Judaism is an endless chain of interpretations. Some stories are interpretations of others. On the basis of these stories are created midrashim (Among other things, the Talmud is a collection of midrash. The NT can also be treated as a collection of midrashim.) Beside these we have mystical comments like “Sefer Jecirah” and “Sefer Zohar”. We have a whole series of comments on these comments (both to the Talmud and the mystical books) and new midrash (for example, the famous Hasidic stories), etc., etc.
In this chain there are virtually no links more or less important. A rabbi becomes an important commentator on the Scriptures if he gathers a large school around himself. Already in the Old Testament YHWH proves to be a jealous God favouring Israel (though that favour sometimes turns against the favoured), but he is also the God who speaks through the mouths of the Prophets, that Israel becomes “not my people”, while other peoples are also peoples of YHWH.
In the Scriptures we come across both a particular-tribal motif and a universalistic. And so it is with the later tradition of Judaism. Take for example the Judaism of Rosenzweig, Buber, Choraqui, Lawrence, Kushner and others to whom Israel is God’s “test bed” and the choice of Israel becomes the first step towards the selection of all mankind. In fact, Judaism is a never ending debate of various trends. It preserved the teachings and practices which then inspired both Christianity and Islam. I am personally amazed at just how the original tribal religion could develop and become a powerful source of inspiration for the entire humanity. Does not the current common interest in Kaballah (even if it often takes an exceedingly primitive form!) prove it sufficiently well?
M And here you are proving your Judaization entirely. Because we are talking about the Christian canon of Scripture, and you are changing topic and talk instead about the development of Judaism. However, just as Judaism is a “discussion”, so is – and has always been! – Christianity. And even more than just a discussion – it has been an endless polemic, in which there was much greater diversity of opinions, even beliefs, than there ever was in Judaism or Islam.
After all, at some point it seemed almost that various Christians believed even in two different Gods! Such great differences the other religions did not have.
The interest in Kaballah is not at all “common”, but even if it was, we do not deny the fact that one of the roots of Christianity is in Judaism. One of the roots – but not the only one! Besides, Judaism itself also drew heavily from other traditions and sources.
We do not deny that Judaism (and Islam) has undergone its own metamorphosis.
We are concerned about the fact that the Christian Bible is composed 80% of non-Christian writings, in which not one line was written by a Christian hand, and that a large proportion of those writings contradicts Christianity, no matter whether we are talking about the so-called “Orthodox” or “Heretical” Christianity.
Christianity is based on the concept of an immortal soul. Meanwhile, in OT this concept appears very late. It turns out to be so – if we put it sarcastically – that the Yahweh, who was always finding time to instruct his Israelites how and when to exterminate other peoples (including babies!) and even to show his anger and “sadness” if they did not fulfill these orders completely – could not, on the other hand, explain to them, that they, as human beings, even possessed such a thing as a “soul”. They had to be instructed to that effect by those “Pagans” whom they were supposed to kill so mercilessly “on the order from God”…
We might be able to explain this phenomenon with the historical development of Judaism, but the fact is and remains, that we have such books in our canon! On the other hand we tend to almost pass in silence the very fact, that our own myth of Christ is deeply rooted in the so-called “Pagan” religions, while in Judaism there was no place for it at all.
And as for that “tribal religion that could develop and become a powerful source of inspiration for the entire humanity”, what would you then say to single individuals, such as Buddha, Christos, Muhammad or Zoroaster? They also became “sources of inspiration to the entire world” and even more so than Judaism – just look at the combined number of those who identify with religions founded by them!
And in Europe itself, there was no shortage of titans. Like Dr. Martin Luther. The volume of his written works are such that perhaps Lenin, Marx and Engels would be able to “hide in shame”. But speaking of Luther: you know that he mastered the Hebrew language and was therefore able to read the Talmud. He read it. Well, you know what his reaction was to this type of literature…
J You are talking as if you only saw the negative impact of the Old Testament on Christianity. Meanwhile, there is also a lot of good, one could quote whole pages of it. Do you think that because there are contents that outrage you, it should be discarded as the whole? Would that not be the typical “throwing out the baby with the bath-water”? Ibelieve that the Church did the right thing, keeping the Old Testament, because in this way it prevented itself from cutting off its own roots.
It is such a cutting-off that I would consider to be an expression of dissociation from Christianity itself. In truth, I consider such attempts to be downright un-Christian. I see no reason to castrate the Bible of certain content just because you seem to view it as barbaric. At least it illustrates that life happens to be brutal. What sense would it have to compile the canon of only the painfully sublime contents, contents certainly noble, but with no direct connection to the reality of life?
The specificity of Christianity is that it proclaims God’s interference with human history and existence – an existence painfully concrete. It is a story that begins in the bosom of Israel, and gradually grows from it.
M And this is just the point, I am aiming at. You are trying to defend the OT, because it shows the kind of life as it is. And here I can just answer that it is one thing to show the brutality of life, and another to recommend this brutality. It is one thing to oblige people – or simply to encourage them – to an exemplary life, and another thing – to tell some of them that they are “chosen” by God and especially “beloved” by him in comparison to all others.
We can safely assume that there would have been no such bishops and inquisitors, responsible for thousands of lives were it not for the corrupted doctrine – corrupted by the “Old Testament”. And even if there were, they would have had much less on their conscience. Because they would not have had the “helper” in the so-called “word of God” to prompt them that such actions were noble necessity.
Already in the year 346 a Christian lawyer Firmicus Maternus wrote a treatise “De errore profanarum religionum”, dedicated to the sons of the emperor Constantine: Constantinus II and Constans. In it he demanded:
„It is enjoined on you by the law of the supreme God, that you severely persecute in every way the crime of idolatry. Hear and entrust to your holy consciousness what God commands concerning this crime. God orders that neither son nor brother be spared, and directs the sword as an avenger through the bellowed limbs of a wife. A friend he also persecutes with lofty severity, and all the people are roused to arms to rend the bodies of sacrilegious people. Destruction is determined even for whole cities, if they are apprehended in this crime.”
Here we recognize concrete verses – the same ones from Deuteronomy (DT 13;6-11) from which we were quoting here just a moment ago. For almost 15 centuries, that is throughout ¾ of the entire time of its existence, the Church was setting its hand to crime. Only please, do not try to argue that the “Old Testament” had nothing to do with it!
You mentioned the Talmud. And very well. If you had not mentioned it, I would for sure.
Are you surprised that the Talmud continues the despicable attitude to the “Goyim”, if it is based on the same scriptural foundation, known as the “Old Testament”? Are you surprised by murders of “Pagans”, “Heretics”, by desacration of heir holy places and by their being replaced by churches – as a sign of “triumph?
I am not. Because for years I have been consistently sticking to the rule:
which writings – such teachings; which teachings – such results
J No, I will not try to argue that ST does not have anything to do with it. Of course it does. I only say that we should not “throw the baby out with the bath water.” Moreover, the very content of such verses as those of Dt 13, 6-11, could not alone be a reason for the crimes of the Inquisition. Show me a religion in which no one has ever killed anyone for religious reasons! Even verses from the New Testament could have well been used for this purpose. Moreover, you know very well that this was done.
For example, at the end of May 1431 Joan of Arc was burnt alive. And which verse was chosen? Well, from the New Testament. On the 30th May, shortly before the execution, Father Nicolas Midi gave a sermon based on St Paul, and more specifically on 1 Corinthians 12;26: “and whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it”. This was to be a justification of the excommunication and death sentence. Well, what will you say to this?
That that sentence was not based on this verse. The sermon by Father Dr. Midi was not the foundation of the sentence, it was merely an attempt to morally justify it after it had already been decided. And as it was delivered at the end of the process, that fools you? Show me please where in that verse, in that whole letter or anywhere in the New Testament is there any commandment to kill anyone because of his view or beliefs.
No, in the New Testament there is nowhere anything like it at all.
However you know, and know very well – why are you then trying to hide it? – that by that time theologians had developed the following „exegesis”: as known, the Bible was written over a period of more than 1000 years by many authors, so it consists of conflicting views expressed – we are now talking about those contradictions, especially between the OT and NT. Therefore the theologians and the hierarchy decided that, since the whole Bible is the word of God, and God cannot contradict himself, hence the writings of the Scriptures must not be interpreted as a collection of contradictions, but must be construed so as to be mutually reinforcing and complementary. Therefore the verse from 1Cor 12;26, which says nothing about any death at all (by the way: the whole NT goes no further than excommunication) was, in a dishonest way, made to justify murder. It was the meaning of the OT verses that gave it such context. Exactly as it gave such meaning to Mt 18;15-17 “if thy brother shall trespass against thee (…) but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican”, quoted to Joan by the same Dr Midi on April 18 1431 or Jn 15;4 “as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me”, which was quoted to her on yet another occasion. None of these verses says anything about a necessity to murder.
Inquisitorial courts acted “according to the law of God, as outlined in the Canon and Civil law …” – this is a direct quote from the first sentence of the indictment against Jeanne d’Arc, in the trial which you mentioned. And it was based on the Scriptures covering both the Old and New Testaments. Of those two only the first – i.e. the Old – contains orders to kill for faith.
You ask me to show you a religion whose followers “have never been guilty of shedding blood” because this is supposedly the only way I can convince you of what I am saying about the impact of OT on the history of the church. Thus you are putting it in a not very honest way, for you know that there is no such religion where no-one killed anyone else. The problem is not in the “nobody ever”, but rather in the routine-like nature of killing for reasons of doctrine.
J I would pose a question about whether the rather undoubtedly Old-Testamental character, which the Church as such retained, is actually anything wrong. One can also approach this as a certain well-known author:
“The historical Church, I believe, is an institution of the Old Testament; that is, the Church in its empirical existence is the Old Testament. It continues to be the synagogue, but the synagogue is necessary for the Christ to appear. Therefore such a Church must exist, it is itself a necessity. There are in the activities of the Church, whether liturgical, charismatic or other, such moments when that determination of empirical reality in which the Church exists has been overcome and then and there the New Testament arises. There is no need to be so terribly shocked by that evil in the Church nor to criticize it so sharply. In fact, the worse the Church is, the better, because there is more of the Christ in the Church. A Church that would be perfect, would not have room for Christ.”
M Well, this author does not have much to say: “the worse the better”… One could well say that the better the Church, the more of the Christ in it, and the worse the Church, the less of him there. It turns out that the best was the Church of the “holy” inquisition, the Church slaying Gnostics, Hypatia or the Cathars… If of course it is Hypatia and the Cathars to be regarded as Christos, while the pope was Pilate or the head of the Sanhedrin…
But this does not justify in any way the presence of the “OT” in our canon. Evil is in life itself, there is no need to advertise it in holy scriptures. You are going as far as to claim that those who wish to remove the non-Christian writings from the Bible are not Christians… Are you kidding or do you really like turning things on their head?
Just look at how many Christian writings came into being in the first several centuries of our religion. We still know very little about that literature because for centuries our “Orthodox” leaders perpetuated a rage of destruction. Nevertheless what we have managed to find out, shows that in the first two centuries a lot of works were written and many more by the end of the third century. Tell me how many of those non-canonical works suggest that Christos was “incessantly” or “all the time” quoting from the OT or making “allusions” to it? Those works were written mostly not by Jews, but by other people: Greeks, Copts etc. If they were able to produce such a plenitude of works about Christ, it means he was able to “speak” to them. And the nature of those works leaves no doubt that what appealed to them had little or NOTHING to do with the “Old Testament” but was more universal and not so entrenched within the limits of Judaism. How many of those people do you think were interested in all that nonsense about 300 Israelites “routing” an enemy army of 135,000 soldiers?
Or do you perhaps imagine that those “Gentiles” were drawn to Christ by a raving about Jews not being permitted to enter into any familial relationships with them, nor to even eat with them at the same table, because they, the Gentiles, were so “unclean”? You do not believe it yourself, do you?
If Christ was really so “Old-Testamental” as you claim, he would have never ever become a foundation of a new religion, but he would instead have been just another Jew within the framework of Judaism and nobody would have ever interpreted him otherwise.
He could have become probably someone like the legendary Rabbi Hillel or, at most, someone like John The Baptist.
Will you be still arguing that without that kind of OT-scribble, nobody would have been able to understand or appreciate Christos? After all, those so-called “Pagans” who converted to our religion are themselves an indisputable proof, that one could – and can – understand the message of Christianity and appreciate it without throwing into it – like a bottomless bag – literally all the literature of the “OT”.
Those people were as much persecuted and murdered by the Caesars as the proto-Orthodox people were, without any distinction being made between them.
J I believe that putting the blame for all (or almost all) evil in the Church on the OT is a breakneck thesis which you should prove first.
Personally, I see no need for any ‘cuts’ in the catalogues of the scriptures of various religions. That would be censorship, some pushing something in the subconscious. Such is the tradition into which we have been grafted, not through the ties of blood but through the person of Jesus. His past is thus our past. I see however the need for asking anew questions about what it means that a writing or a tradition is sacred to me so that, by listening intently to it, I discover the voice of God in it.
A Scripture, a writing inspired by God, does not have to be a scripture to which we all react collectively by joining our hands piously, bowing humbly and saying that we agree with it. Rather, it is the Scriptures that “will not let us go”, with which we are in some interaction, through which we discover something in ourselves and around us. It is a Scripture which triggers something in us. One can argue with Tenach, one can argue with God. And we are taught this also by the tradition of Israel!
It seems to me that a new approach to the concept of the chosen people, shown for example by Rosenzweig, Buber, Levinas, in which the choice of Israel was not a grant of privileges, but rather a “laboratory situation” in which God was “trying out” the Covenant, must in principle include the whole of humanity, and even more – the whole Creation.
And besides, why should we also get rid of what in the Old Testament is good and widely accepted? Should we no longer have the Psalms? Should we forever deprive ourselves of the Book of Ruth? And what is supposedly so wrong about that book? I even understand that there might be some ill feelings about the Book of Job, where God seems to be a kind of a depraved manipulator, deliberately heaping evil upon his faithful servant and worshipper… But even in that book there is a lot of good and it is able to induce many valuable reflections. The Hebrew Bible is full of diversity and I do not know why we should get rid of it. After all, not everything in the New Testament is widely accepted by Christians themselves, so what are we supposed to do? To expurgate even the New Testament? How much would we then retain of the Bible?
And that raises another issue that I would like to mention: for there is a tendency on your part, sometimes marked by fanaticism, and the trend is only of a “destructive” character. You often say that the OT should not be in the Bible. You would like to claim the right to throw out almost everything you could. But in your attitude there is so little articulated desire to offer something in return as a “quid pro quo”. This one-sidedness is simply terrifying. And it is a double one-sidedness: it is one-sided firstly because it is a negative evaluation of the Hebrew Bible when you do not see (or even are unwilling to see) its good sides, and you only see the negative ones. And secondly it is also one-sided if you want to take away the negative and not replace it with something positive.
And completely paradoxical in your attitude is, that in your frenzy you interpret the Old Testament as did those brutal Church inquisitors…
M First and foremost nobody is blaming the “Old Testament” for everything. After all, if it comes to sexual scandals among the clergy for instance, they have nothing – and never had anything – to do with the Hebrew tradition, because the Jewish priests were not bound to celibacy. Our point is simply that these books contain ideas and commandments unacceptable and incompatible with Christianity.
I would also not emphasize the possibility of “polemics with God”, for whoever does so, engages in polemics with… himself. I would be therefore more interested in controversies among people – also among followers of the same religion – and in this regard we have probably a much richer tradition than many others. And besides you admitted yourself that not everything in the New Testament – not to mention extra-biblical Christian books – is generally accepted by all of us.
Which means that in our own “backyard” we have enough writings that “do not let us go”. As for the “OT” as a matter of fact the only issue about it that “does not let me go” is the scandal of it remaining in our canon. Otherwise I do not have much in common with it.
I cannot find even a trace of justification for your approach, very schematic by the way, of the sort: “We do not want to get rid of it!”; “What? We are no longer to have Job, Psalms or Ruth?” or “What for all that censorship?”
Hang on a minute: since when is it “a censorship”? The removal of some books from the canon does not mean any ban on them, nor does it mean their inclusion in the “index librorum prohibitorum” ! It is just a stern warning that with some ideas we do not have anything in common.
If, within Judaism, the rabbis want to deal with issues such as: “whether God’s choice of us is the beginning of choosing all mankind?”, then that is their business. We have no such problem because we do not accept, and NEVER accepted, any notion of a “chosen nation”. We did not because, first, we do not carry within us any pride of being favoured by God in any way over any nation on Earth, and, second, which sort of “choice” would it be? A choice FOR WHAT?
And does God need any “test bed”? WHAT FOR? What does that “God” want to “learn” about us, the “omniscient”, that he has to “experiment” first as if he was an ignorant novice? Such tradition thus has a problem because thousands of years ago it created a kind of “dogma” of its own “selection”. And now, after so many centuries of living together with other traditions, especially with far more universal Christianity, it feels the need to redefine that “dogma”. Not willing however to part with it completely, it keeps inventing new interpretations, one more absurd than the other.
Yes, we indeed focus on negatives in this discussion. Because we believe one should part with the negatives. We are not going to insist on ridding ourselves of positives….
But you are right that a constructive approach appears to be far too rare. So now I’ll try to express briefly what has not been stated entirely until now:
There are two reasons, one scriptural and the other moral, why I am opposed to the presence of at least part of the “OT” in the Christian canon. The scriptural reason is that the Christian canon, in principle, should only consist of works written by Christian authors, irrespective of their origin. Hence the concept of the Main Canon and Supplementary Canon, which I will explain to you in a moment. Of course the core criterion to be met for any work to be allowed in this category is that its contents would have to be completely compatible with Christian teaching. It is absolutely unacceptable to allow ideas like those we mentioned previously such as people being “unclean” on the basis of their origin. I do not know why it is so difficult to understand.
The second, which is just a moral reason, is more open to pre-Christian works that suggest a logical consequence of Christianity. Of course also in this scenario the negative “specimen” of the literature of the “Old Testament” would have no greater right of “access” than a dirty hog would have to the operating room. But the Preliminary Canon, itself being an introduction to the two other canons, would allow part of the works of the “OT”.
And this is all what it is about.
You mentioned that my way of interpreting the “OT” (and this of course refers to its negative segments) is parallel to that one used in the past by our “Richter und Henker” (“judges and executioners”) from the former ecclesiastical elite. Yes, it is parallel – to a certain degree of course – because I am against those segments of the “OT” precisely for the same reason for which they were “in favour” of them…
But did it not occur to you that if so many of those “Richter und Henker” understood the “OT” in that particular way, it means that there is indeed a good reason why these writings should have never been included in our canon?
It occurred to me – and can one really wonder?
But to the point:
The ideal solution would be to create the canon only of works by Christian authors – just as the Judaists have their holy scriptures created only by Judaists and Islam has only Islamic works.
On the other hand, to emphasize that Christianity indeed borrowed from earlier sources, we could create three segments of the canon: the Preliminary Canon, the Main (or Essential) Canon and the Supplementary Canon. The Preliminary Canon could include those works of the “OT” which are directly quoted in the NT. Although the number of such works is not very large, are quoted regularly. Apart from these there are works by Plato and Plutarch as well as other works of which I do not intend to give a full list here, although a list of them would not be very long.
The Essential Canon could be divided into several smaller segments:
1. Gospels. These would be all the canonical gospels included together with some of the non-canonical (like Thomas, Philip, Mary Magdalene, Gospel of Truth, perhaps even Judas).
2. Apostolic Letters. These would be all the Apostolic Letters from the NT as well as several other letters, such as those by Ignatius of Antioch and even The Didache.
3. The Books of Acts. These would include the Book of Acts (that is “Praxeis”) and The Acts of Paul.
4. Literature of the Apocalypse that is “Apokalipsa Ioannen” which is in the NT and, in addition, the Apocalypse of Peter and the text which is known as “The Apocalypse of the Great Power”
And the Supplementary Canon would consist of other works, like “The Shepherd” by Hermas, “Sophia of Jesus Christ” and many others. Once again I will not give a full list here.
Such a canon would certainly reflect the greater multiplicity of views that existed in the early Christian church compared with the present canon.
But these points are intended here merely as an indicator, that the possibilities are quite enormous. And it is not so that we only have a choice between the OT or NT or both of them combined.
J Well, one can imagine the mess that would result from this! As if it was not already enough that Christians are divided into thousands of churches and sects for reasons smaller than the contents of the Bible… Take the followers of Lefebvre, who do not accept Vatican II or even the fact that the mass is in the vernacular instead of Latin. Can you imagine what would happen if anyone now, be it the pope personally or Billy Graham or the Patriarchs of Moscow, Constantinople and Jerusalem, suddenly announced the rejection of the Old Testament?!
There would be no end to divisions! Because to many Christians it is simply unthinkable to distance themselves from the biblical tradition. Because no matter what else you could say, Jesus lived the tradition of the Hebrew Bible, hence the term “Midrash incarnate” or “living Midrash” which is sometimes applied to him. It is indeed generally accepted today in Christian churches of various denominations, that if Jesus had been born among the Jews and in the Judaic tradition, it happened for a specific reason. That is God himself placed him in that tradition for a specific reason, because God does not do anything without reason.
M Then why do you not look a bit closer at that environment in which “God placed” Christos? There were close contacts between Jewish culture and other cultures. Under the influence of Babylon many Jews were engaged in astrology and some Jewish historians, like Flavius Josephus, Philo and Aristobulos, claimed that it was the Jews who invented it (!). Archeological excavations in the current state of Israel prove that even centuries after Moses Jews worshipped various gods (and not just “Yahweh”). In ruins of old houses little statues of various gods are being found…
Spiritual traditions were borrowed from “Pagans”, like the concept of the “immortal soul” we mentioned before, which you could hardly find in the oldest parts of the “Old Testament” but which appears for the first time as late as the Book of Daniel. Jewish culture and religion was developing in normal relations with its neighbours.
There was no shortage of Jewish Gnostics. There were interpretations of the “Yahweh” in a truly “Dionysian” way. And not only interpretations, for often also rituals. In his “Histories” Tacitus wrote among other things:
„That Jewish priests used to perform their chants to the flute and drums, crowned with ivy, and that a golden vine was discovered in the Temple, has led some to imagine that the god they worshipped was Liber” (Liber was a Roman version of Dionysus).
Within a radius of 25 km from Nazareth, where Christos lived, there were 12 Greek cities and towns, including Sephoris (which was the closest at only a few kilometers away) and Kaisarea Philippi (Caesarea) which was the largest. Another relatively close city, Gadara, had for some time a school of “Pagan” philosophy. From Gadara came several known Greek writers and philosophers, like Meleager, Mennipus or Philodemus. In yet another nearby city, Scythopilis, there was a centre of the Dionysian mystical cult. In Bethlehem (yes, in THAT Bethlehem!) there was a grotto and grove, both dedicated to the god Dionysus, whose allegorical story was repeated in the Christian legend of Christ.
It was in such an environment and in such, very diverse Judaism, that Jesus of Nazareth was born.
Meanwhile, as you Judaizers simplistically treat a rejection of some “OT” books as if it was a “prohibition” or “cutting off from roots”, so too – equally simplistically – you assume that people like Christos or Paul of Tarsus had in their entire lives no idea of anything else and read nothing else than the “Old Testament” and therefore they allegedly were able to draw only and exclusively from that tradition alone.
Sure, when Christos talked with Jews (and he talked mostly to them), then he used as a reference something that appealed to them, as they thought in the way in which they were brought up to think. Paul on the other hand, who mingled mostly with Gentiles, used different traditions in order to teach about Christ, and in the end he irrevocably rejected the law of the so-called “Old Testament”… And he was besides not the only one to have done so…
If we take into account the various forms of expressions used by Christos, including those Greek “chreiai”, would you be against calling him a “Living Chreia”, “Living Parable” or a “Living Allegory”?
J Maybe not, even though they could suggest – especially the last one – that he was nothing more than an allegory or for that matter that he never really existed…
M Probably no more so than calling him a “Living Midrash” could imply that he was merely a “literary genre”?
M But back to the main point: no, we do not wish to force the rejection of the “OT”. At this stage we would rather encourage a discussion among Christians on this subject. Especially since the “OT” is to some extent already “rejected” and namely even by the so-called “Bible Christians”. Just look at the copies of the Bible owned by them: how easy it is to see from outside which pages are soiled, even when the Bible is closed, which indicates which part of it they read regularly and which they leave clean and pristine as if freshly taken from the printing press…
J But this does not mean that we need to immediately reject the unread part! Anyway, just to finish, I’ll add that those crimes committed by the Church which we mentioned earlier, took place centuries ago and the Church does not do such things anymore. Thus the fear of the Old Testament, even if we decided to consider it justified – and I am making this remark here only for the purpose of this discussion – may have been justified those days, when those crimes were being committed or even earlier, to prevent them. But not now, post factum, what advantage would it have?
M Meaning what? That we would retain those books in the canon as a sort of a “dead hand” since the killings are no longer committed by the Church? Besides, I am not at all sure whether the “hand” is really so “dead” or merely it is rather in a “deep sleep”…
Yes, it is clear that after some 15 centuries of it becoming a monster, even a blind man could notice that this was not the way to go. And it is true that it would have been better to avoid the inclusion of the “OT” in our canon before all of those disasters occurred. And among other things this is where Marcion’s greatness lies when he opposed those books.
He probably could not have foreseen the later developments. But he warned against the Hebrew Bible as early as the second century AD and namely because of the barbarity in it.
He was under the influence of what he knew about St. Paul of Tarsus. And to the Church’s great detriment its later leaders did not take greater advantage of Paul’s experience and Marcion’s conclusions.
After all: Who was that Paul, if not a criminal in person? Killer, a mere murderer – indeed, even more than “ordinary murderer” – the NT represents him at certain point as a ringleader among such murderers.
There is much talk about how Jesus “revealed himself” to Paul, but has one considered seriously enough the possibility that Paul’s own pangs of conscience played a major role in his own conversion? Anyway Paul was certainly a man who personally even better than Marcion knew how an acceptance of particular teachings and of certain “God’s commandments” ends. And he came to know it within one generation only – his own.
And our bishops did not draw proper conclusions from Paul’s case! Nor did they understand his situation. One in which they could imagine themselves or their successors who soon started doing to dissenters and heretics approximately the same thing that Paul (still as „Saul”) was doing to Christians… If they however could imagine it quite vividly, then I suspect that this kind of “vision” must have appealed to them…
And now? You yourself are often a witness to how the “common heritage” in the form of OT is used for political purposes to justify the Zionist crimes in the Middle East. A former old-testamental Israel is identified with the current Israel, with people of the likes of B. Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni. And it is the devout “Bible Christians” who take the lead in such interpretations. As we are informed by some authors, the Western Christians often tend to be asked by the Zionists in Israel whether they believe that the Bible is the word of God. The conversation goes approximately as follows:
Israeli Jew: “You’re a Christian, right?”
Israeli Jew: “Do you believe in the Bible?”
Israeli Jew: “Well then, you know therefore, that God commanded the ancient Israelites to wipe Gentiles out of the holy land of Israel. If that was right then, why can it not be right now?As you can see, the acquisition of the “OT” resulted not only in evil in the past, since even now it is being used as a weapon against us.
And look at how this legacy is often reflected in a kind of “hiccup” among Jews themselves:
“We have to recognize that Jewish blood and the blood of a goy are not the same thing”
(Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburgh, New York Times, 6 June 1989; also in: „Jerusalem Post”, 19 June 1989)
Another rabbi, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, among his statements about Jews and Gentiles (they were printed in Israel as “Gatherings of Conversations” in 1965) has the following flowery kind of thought:
“The difference between a Jewish and a non-Jewish person stems from the common expression: “Let us differentiate.” Thus, we do not have a case of profound change in which a person is merely on a superior level. Rather, we have a case of “let us differentiate” between totally different species. This is what needs to be said about the body: the body of a Jewish person is of a totally different quality from the body of [members] of all nations of the world …”And then:
“An even greater difference exists in regard to the soul. Two contrary types of soul exist, a non-Jewish soul comes from three satanic spheres, while the Jewish soul stems from holiness.”Good,eh? But let us continue together with Rabbi Schneerson:
“We therefore ask: Why should a non-Jew be punished if he kills even a non-Jewish embryo while a Jew should not be punished even if he kills a Jewish embryo? The answer can be understood by [considering] the general difference between Jews and non-Jews: A Jew was not created as a means for some [other] purpose; he himself is the purpose, since the substance of all [divine] emanations was created only to serve the Jews.” In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” [Genesis 1:1] means that [the heavens and the earth] were created for the sake of the Jews, who are called the “beginning.” This means everything, all developments, all discoveries, the creation, including the “heavens and the earth – are vanity compared to the Jews. The important things are the Jews, because they do not exist for any [other] aim; they themselves are [the divine] aim.”
I realize that this does not reflect the opinion of all Jews. I note this kind of “genius” without satisfaction. Because we on our part had, for whole centuries , the “inquisition” and murder associated with it, with ingenious methods of execution, such as burning alive or boiling (also alive!) in oil and turpentine. But what to expect? If one entered the path of error and folly and refuses to reject the railing on which that folly supports, then one will continue walking along the path of madness… The Inquisition and the Jewish Talmud are sort of siblings. They have two different mothers – for the Talmud is, so to speak, “of a Jewish mother” while the Inquisition was “of the Mother Church”, but they both have a common “father”, the “OLD Testament”…
And one more thing, just to finish: all Christians – regardless of what they think about the “OT” – agree that there are among its contents unacceptable ideas and commandments. Thus those, who defend the “OT” in our Bible, should not make any “fuss” about the fact that we on our part do not accept also the very books themselves that contain such unacceptable ideas and regulations.
And as for all those accusations of “un-Christianity” hurled at us because we do not accept non-Christian books in our Bible, then let our critics better reflect on it more carefully. For if it seems so easy for them to summarize us in this way, then how much easier it would be for us to accuse them of being non-Christians, since it is they who defend those non-Christian writings which make up 80% of the Christian Bible…
Please, think about it…
J Just out of curiosity, and as a side-note, I mentioned a bit earlier some universalistic Jewish authors like Buber and Levinas. I was surprised then by your answer (although, who knows, maybe I should not be, in these circumstances …). Therefore I will ask you directly:
why are you lowering yourself to the level of slandering the Judaic religion? You must admit, perhaps not immediately but after a moment of thought that calling the contemporary Jewish interpretations “one more preposterous than another” conceals a kind of contempt, which you are supposedly opposing as an opponent of the Old Testament? Would you be so “kind” to explain to me why it is just these Jewish interpretations, that you treat with such an unconcealed disdain?
M I understand your question. Therefore, I will answer immediately. Because the old interpretations had more logic in themselves. Jews a few thousand years ago did not know much about the world. They did not know even one whole continent. They knew only a certain region of the world. They knew those peoples with whom they traded, against whom they fought and then made peace.
The universe was completely unknown to them. They only knew a particular reality. They lived, trying to survive, so they fought. They had their god – as other nations had their gods. And that god “promised” them that having selected them, he would support them against the other peoples, that he would give them the land torn from the hands of other peoples, so that they could live on it. In exchange he required obedience to his commandment and strictly forbade them to worship other gods. It made sense, because the various tribes had their own different deities and worshipping a god of another people could have been, after all, considered a kind of betrayal…. This was a barbaric logic, but still a logic.
And now tell me: to what that “god” would “choose” the whole of mankind after thousands of years of “experimentation” on the Jewish „test-bed”? Here it is, the Universe, consisting of one-knows-not how many solar systems with one-knows-not how huge and „infinite” space with the yet unknown plenitude of planets and other celestial bodies. And here, on this little “ball” called “Earth” there is some humanity. Today it is several-billion-strong. But how many people did it consist of at the time of the formation of the “Old Testament”? A dozen million or so? Twenty million? Thirty?
And now this “omniscient” god must, amidst the immensity of creation, “elect” from a small particle of it, called “humanity” a smaller still fraction of so-and-so few thousand people to love them more than the others. And he has to “experiment” on them for thousands of years… I must confess that I am surprised by your question when the enormity of nonsense of such a “choice” simply stings one’s eyes like a burning needle…
It is better then to look the truth straight into the eyes and admit that:
1. There is not – and has never been – any “chosen people”. Which means in this context:
2. There is not – and has never been – any God’s „test-bed”. True, there are many religions in the world and each of them can be regarded as a kind of a ”test plot” on which one can experiment. But then it is not God experimenting there but humanity itself. I have no doubt whatsoever that among the contemporary Jewish theologians there are noble people. But I think that by trying to universalize what is itself not universal – even non-universalizable – they are wasting their precious time. It is becoming increasingly clear that all those theories about “chosen nations” are slowly reaching the end of their existence.
The mere fact of the effort made to “universalize” is evidence of this. For it proves that even the “reformers” of that old barbaric myth recognize now that it is untenable. Therefore it was not without reason that I asked you earlier which “reason” did God have by placing Buddha among the Indians? And what was the “divine plan” for which he placed Muhammad among Arabs? Or Mani among Persians? Or Marcion among Greeks? Or perhaps there was a “divine reason” for which Martin Luther was raised among Germans? What place in relation to the rest of humanity would it give to the German nation?
Which historic mission – according to “god” – do the Arabs have to accomplish? Or the Indians? Why being born an Indian or a German would “in the eyes of God – be anything lesser than to be born a Jew?
Can you now see the nonsense, this primitive senselessness of enslavement of one’s own mind with some notions of a “chosen people”? Or do you still need some time to become fully aware of that nonsense?