Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Non-Fundamentalist Bible Study

It is time for something that has never been done before on this blog; a comprehensive study of the Old Testament. This will be cover to cover -

1) Historicity
2) Philosophy/Metaphysics
3) Biblical Ethics For the Modern World.
4) Apologetics
5) Where Orthodox Judaism gets it right and where Orthodox Judaism gets it wrong.
6) Where Liberal Judaism gets it right and where Liberal Judaism gets it wrong.
7) My own personal insights & speculations.
8) Perhaps, other people's personal insights and speculations.

This will be from the perspective of a divinely guided big bang and evolution; not from a young earth perspective.

Once in a while I will throw in a NT reference when it commentates on an OT passage. This will not be a forum for me to try to "prove" Christianity. When we get to the prophecies, I will give both the Jewish and Christian opinions of them in a nonbiased manner.

This is not a forum for Judaism/Christianity debate. Posts to that effect is subject to almost automatic deletion without notice. If a NT reference is irrelevant to you, simply focus on what is relevant to you. Disagreeing with NT references that I mention is allowed of course. Also, the books of Tobit, and 1 and 2 Macabees are not apart of the Jewish canon so the 3 books will not be covered.

I will be using the KJV, but I will point out where Jewish translations differ.

And now we begin of course, with Genesis 1:1-2, where we can do a wealth of commentary.

בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

וְהָאָ֗רֶץ הָיְתָ֥ה תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ וְחֹ֖שֶׁךְ עַל־ פְּנֵ֣י תְהֹ֑ום וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־ פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם׃

And the Earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Apologists have in the past made this legitimate point, that the Bible makes the definitive statement that the universe has a beginning; something confirmed only by twentieth century science via the big bang, of which two major proofs are the expanding universe and background radiation in space indicative of an explosion.

The problem with Young Earth Creationism is that the creation narrative is simply not as specific as young earthers suggest. There is no command to believe that the 6 days are twenty four hour Earth days. There is no command to believe in a universe that is less than 10,000 years old. Hence, in the past, both Judaism and Christianity has had Old Earth traditions; Judaism within Kaballah, and Christianity within the streams of thought called Gap Creationism and Day-Age creationism. Gap creationism posits literal 24 hour Earth days but an undefined amount of time between Genesis 1:1 and Gen. 1:2, and Day-Age Creationism posits an undefined amount of time for the days of creation.

Since I accept both the big bang and evolution as being the divinely guided method of creation, I lean towards Day-Age creationism.

On an interesting note, the first two letters בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית (In the beginning) is בר which means mustard seed. It would almost seem like the Bible is telling us that that the story of creation started with something small as a tiny little seed! Where have we heard that before? O.O It gets better when you consider that אש means fire. Perhaps ית can be taken as a diminutive of אש.

But, (I know not to start sentences with but, but in this case I'm breaking the rule. Sue me.) does the Bible really allude to a big bang?

Isaiah 40:22 says, "It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:" It would appear that Isaiah discovered the expanding universe before Edwin Hubble!? That stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain? The heavens get spread out? O.O We've definitely heard that before, from 20th century science.

It gets better, Isaiah 42:5 is, "Thus saith God the LORD he that created the heavens and stretched them out he that spread forth the earth and that which cometh out of it he that giveth breath unto the people upon it and spirit to them that walk therein."

Also note Jeremiah 10:12, "He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion."

Job 9:8- "Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea."

Psalm 104:2- "Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who strechest out the heavens like a curtain:"

It would appear that the Bible and science has more in common than young earthers and hardline atheists realize.

I want to make a sidepoint about the cosmological argument. Hardline atheists tend to make fun of it without understanding (perhaps on purpose) that the whole point of it is to take away the infinite regress.

Now here are two questions for speculation.

First is, is God, and the Spirit of God separate entities?

Second is, is darkness per se a creation? It would seem to me that darkness is the same thing as empty space and hence not a separate creation.

Now, I would like to put in a NT reference for speculation, "John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Is God the same entity as his laws?

Feel free to post your thoughts on any part of this post. Ad hominems of any kind are subject to automatic deletion, an offender will still be able to repost without ad hominems.


jewish philosopher said...

How did you become a Christian? A year ago you were making fun of Mount Sinai and the Ten Commandments and now you're OK with the Resurrection?

Shilton HaSechel said...

This looks like an exciting project I hope you continue.

I don't know if this is relevant to your purposes here but some medieval Jewish commentators did not think that creation ex nihilo was necessarily the intention of these verses. Yes I don't think any Jewish commentators believed that the universe had been running uninterrupted for all eternity (a la Aristotle). However many conceded to "matter" that was eternally coexistent with God.

>Apologists have in the past made this legitimate point, that the Bible makes the definitive statement that the universe has a beginning

Personally I think this is irrelevant after all there were basically only two choices: eternal universe or created universe. It's a 50 - 50 chance of getting it right.

Day-Age theory: Personally not a fan because A. The creation is not in the right (scientific) order anyway B. Because I think it's a bit of a stretch to say that "Day" allegorically means a million something years (although somewhere in Psalms it does say "for a thousand years in your eyes is like a day")

Personally I'm more a fan of Umberto Cassuto's approach that says it's all a myth borrowed from Mesopotamia and changed to support Monotheism.

>First is, is God, and the Spirit of God separate entities?

The Torah often speaks of "God's cloud" appearing. I would guess that this is a similar reference. (Ruach - more literally means wind, I'm not sure if spirit is such a good translation)

If we are to follow DH then this would make even more sense since all (or most) of the cloud references are in the Priestly code as is this "wind" reference. I would think the idea is the cloud or wind is just a way of representing that God cares or is involved in something.

If any of these thoughts aren't in the spirit of this enterprise just let me know.

SJ said...

JP- It was gradual after I started reading about it.

Shilton, thank you for coming.
As for your post, the Bible does not even seem to command belief in creation ex nihilo.

Yes, your post is indeed in the spirit of things. The days of creation are obviously coming up next.

Shilton HaSechel said...

The OT doesn't really command belief (in the modern religious sense) about anything.

The question is does the simple meaning of Torah advocate creation ex nihilo or not.

My assumption is the Ancient Hebrews weren't philosophical enough to even think about it too deeply. (Even if you believe in divine authorship, the OT was still authored primarily for non-philosophical Ancient Hebrews)

SJ said...

>> The OT doesn't really command belief (in the modern religious sense) about anything.

In terms of present day Orthodox rituals, it isn't too far from the truth.

jewish philosopher said...

Didn't any Christians personally witness to you? Did you visit Messianic congregations?

You see, I came from a somewhat Christian background, however I'll tell you basically what turned me off.

Christianity claims that a certain man who lived in Palestine about 2,000 years ago was the creator, lord and master of the universe.

Now obviously, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The claim that a person is God is surely the most extraordinary claim possible, however the evidence here is merely four books, the gospels, written by unknown authors at some unknown time and place. The could easily be partial or total fabrications. Therefore I find the claim to be utterly unconvincing.

Baconeater said...

Shilton, two choices doesn't mean something has a 50 percent chance.

As for God, there is no evidence. No evidence for Moses, and no contemporary evidence for Jesus.

All man made stuff for man.

I do have more respect for those who don't ignore reality or pretend reality is fake in order to make their bible right, over those who can't handle evolution and an ancient earth.

Baconeater said...

JP, yet the story of Moses isn't extraordinary. Where is the evidence for the Exodus? Both the Exodus and the story of Jesus are both man made fairy tales for adults.

SJ said...

JP, Baconeater, thank you for coming.

JP, this is not a Judaism/Christianity debate fourm. I'll let it go now, but future posts on Judaism vs. Christianity will be deleted no exceptions. Your opinion is indeed noted. lol

When it comes to the prophecies, I will be balanced and give both Jewish and Christian opinions for the sake of being explanatory.

Shilton HaSechel said...

>Shilton, two choices doesn't mean something has a 50 percent chance.

Its a colloquialism my point is that there is a huge chance of a lucky guess. If there were say 50 possibilities the (supposed) correspondence between the OT and science would be a little more meaningful.

jewish philosopher said...

I'm not saying anything about Judaism; I'm curious about the Christianity thing.

So far I've only interviewed one Jewish Christian. It was many years ago. He had become a drug addict in college, hit bottom, met a Christian and the rest was history.

So this makes you number two.

Maybe you could post about it, if you want to.

SJ said...

*Yawn* JP. I am drug free. I see no reason to destroy my lungs, mess with my brain's endorphin production, etc.

jewish philosopher said...

Bacon, the evidence for God is indisputable (see the Watchmaker Analogy) which makes the idea of a mass revelation at some point in history is quite un-extraordinary. The only one on record is Mount Sinai.

The refutation to this is that the fossils prove evolution while falsifying the Bible. I debunk that on blog.

jewish philosopher said...

To me the attraction of Christianity is obvious. Evangelical Christianity (which is by the way nothing like medieval Christianity) is quick, easy, cheap and satisfying. It's the McDonald's of theology, therefore ideal for the modern American mass market.

I'm just curious how secular Jews are pulled into it.

SJ said...

JP, I'm nondenominational and the why is in the archives.

I've gotten into the why before and I'd rather not get into it now because the purpose is to study and bring respect to the OT.

jewish philosopher said...

I actually study the Hebrew Bible ("Old Testament" is of course a somewhat derogatory Christian phrase) daily and I've finished it entirely several times (around three or four).

Where are you're archives? I did a search of your blog for "Jesus" and "Christian" but didn't find much.

SJ said...

I see nothing wrong with using the phrase "Old Testament" as a secular historical term.

My post(s) regarding your curiosity is there somewhere.

jewish philosopher said...

I can't find it.

Would you call yourself "Christian" or "Messianic Jew"?

jewish philosopher said...

Only Christians call the Hebrew Bible, or Tanach, the Old Testament.

SJ said...

When the question is what ethnicity I am I say I'm Jewish, when the question is what my belief is I say I'm Christian.

I am unaffiliated with the Messianic Jewish movement. I do not call myself a Messianic Jew.

I'm sure secularists also say OT.

jewish philosopher said...

If their national background is Christian.

No Israeli, including total atheists, says "habrit hayashanah"

SJ said...

Christian is a religion, not a national background.

I'm American, not Israeli.

jewish philosopher said...

I mean if they are living in a primarily Christian country.

"Old Testament" is a Christian term, probably also used by atheists whose family background is Christian or whose nationality is primarily Christians. Jews find it offensive.

SJ said...

You are just going to have to be a big boy. Honestly you are starting to sound like feminist nuts who say that classical Hebrew is sexist because of the rules on when to make a noun plural.

jewish philosopher said...

We can call Tanach the Oldest Testament, the Christian Bible the Old Testament, the Koran the New Testament and the Book of Mormon the Newest Testament.

Would Christians have a problem with that? "Old" and "new" are relative; Testaments keep rolling out after all.

Or we could have the Testament version 1, version 2, version 3 and version 4.

SJ said...

JP feel free to call it what you want. XD

jewish philosopher said...

Torah and Christian Testament sound good.

Nosson Gestetner said...

Can't be bothered explaining. But our planet can be billions of years old while the universe was created in 6 days.

Please read http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48951136.html

Nosson Gestetner said...

As I wrote in reply to the comment on my blog, the starting point for me is that I believe, and that's all there is to it for me. I'm trying to share the beauty and depth of the Torah, and that's all I care about. What you believe is exactly that, what you believe, and I don't care very much for trying to change people who don't really want to change.

jewish philosopher said...

One thing which I've noticed which is kind of odd: Jews who become atheists or Christians seem to retain a sort of dual citizenship as "Jewish Christians" or "Jewish Atheists" but no one else does.

I don't think that Jews who convert to Islam call themselves "Jewish Muslims". They are just Muslims. As a Christian convert to Judaism, I'm never called a "Christian Jew". I'm just a Jew.

jewish philosopher said...

I thought this article was interesting regarding non-denominational Christians.


The most authentic Christian church is probably the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem.



ksil lo yavin said...

nosson gestener,

from your link....."God could have put the fossils in the ground and juggled the light arriving from distant galaxies to make the world appear to be billions of years old. There is absolutely no way to disprove this claim. God being infinite could have made the world that way."


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein said...

Fascinating discussion.

We are all free to believe what we want to believe, and that is a good thing.

I do hope that this blog does not denigrate into a My God Is Stronger Than Your God debate. No one wins...

SJ said...

Thank you for coming Pinky.

>> I do hope that this blog does not denigrate into a My God Is Stronger Than Your God debate. No one wins...

See above comments. I address that.

SJ said...

I'm sorry JP, your comment is deleted for engaging in Judaism vs. Christianity.

You oversimplify the history in a way that borders on outsiders are evil kind of propaganda; and also, my genes do not change with a change of belief.

jewish philosopher said...

There is no Jewish gene. An analysis of DNA cannot determine Jewishness.

Modern day Ashkenazi Jews are basically genetically a mixture of Syrian men and Polish women.

SJ said...

There is no JP.

jewish philosopher said...

DNA testing can indicate the likelihood of some Jewish ancestry, however many Jews would fail the DNA test and many gentiles would pass it.



It's probably about as reliable as the "Jewish nose" test, but more expensive.


SJ said...

*YAWN* Researchers locate Jewish genetic linkage: New study including dozens of Jews throughout the world finds that Jewish people shares joint genetic history

From Garnel's blog actually.

There is no JP.

jewish philosopher said...

Many Jews may share similar genes, as well as noses. Maybe curly hair.

However if the police find an unidentified body somewhere, there is no way that the coroner can determine if this person was Jewish. At most, it may be possible for the coroner to determine if the person most likely did or did not have some Jewish ancestry, a fact of genealogical trivia of interest to no one.

By the same token, no Israeli government official can examine a new immigrant and medically determine his being Jewish or not.

There is also no Jewish dress, language or cuisine common to Jews throughout the world.

Jewish ethnicity is a myth. Judaism is simply a religion which puts some emphasis on heredity, nothing more or less.

Having said all that, I do prefer to see a Jew turn Christian or Muslim, which are monotheistic, rather than atheist.

SJ said...

JP, we're talking genotypes not phenotypes. Jews generally share enough genetic information to indicate a common ancestry from waaay back, correlating with a fundamental tenent of the Bible, that Abraham, Issac, and Jacob are the biological forefathers of the Jewish people.

jewish philosopher said...

"Abraham, Issac, and Jacob are the biological forefathers of the Jewish people"

Abraham, Issac, and Jacob are the spiritual mentors of the Jews. We are "bnei Yaakov" just like a yeshiva student is a "ben Torah".

The children of Jacob married Canaanite and Egyptian women. A mixed multitude left Egypt with the Israelites Exodus 12:38. In the millenia since, countless gentiles have converted (see the Book of Ruth for one example) while countless Jews apostatized (look at the Spanish marranos).

Being Jewish is ultimately no different than being Catholic, Muslim or Buddhist, except for the fact that in Judaism, if your mother is Jewish, you are too. Each child does not need a personal baptism or some other initiation ritual.

SJ said...

JP, read Gen. 17:4-6. It's biological.

Also, there is no reason to believe that historically, converts to Judaism reached a significant percentage of the population; to my knowledge anyways.

Many in Exo. 12:38 could mean anything.

I'm not sure how accurate or fair it is to call the Marranos apostates.

>> Being Jewish is ultimately no different than being Catholic, Muslim or Buddhist, except for the fact that in Judaism, if your mother is Jewish, you are too. Each child does not need a personal baptism or some other initiation ritual.

Do I really need to respond to this?

Joshua said...

On an interesting note, the first two letters בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית (In the beginning) is בר which means mustard seed. It would almost seem like the Bible is telling us that that the story of creation started with something small as a tiny little seed! Where have we heard that before? O.O It gets better when you consider that אש means fire. Perhaps ית can be taken as a diminutive of אש.

I'm generally very skeptical of this sort of claim. There's a long history of people in many different religions trying to find how their religious texts symbolize some aspect of science. The question I would ask is if one thinks this is good evidence for the divine inspiration of the text would that cause one to seriously doubt the text if it turned out that the Big Band theory was deeply wrong?

SJ said...

I am not attempting to say that any 1 point is the magic bullet that proves OT.

Ahavah Gayle said...

Are you really going to go through the whole Tanakh? This could take a while, LOL.

I personally have no problem with a philosophy of scientific creationism. Science can tell how it was done, can tell the nature of the universe, and can even tell the nature of some of the dimensions we can't see ("heavens," if you will), but it can't prove there is a God who designed, created, and controlled the process. Only faith brings people to that point (if they have been skeptical), that or a simple refusal to investigate other possibilities for those brainwashed from a young age...

But I digress. I applaud your interest in studying the text, but it won't convince anyone of anything, most likely. Faith usually comes from some personal experience, not from reading arguments, no matter how well articulated.

I would argue that new translations of the words of the Torah into modern ideas and modern scientific parlance are a good thing - the Torah is eternal, but language is very, very mutable - even the Masorite text has translational bias in it, as do the texts of every other group that has translated the Tanakh.

Trying to strip away the bias is difficult, but trying to pinpoint textual hints toward science isn't, really. The literalists get bent out of shape, but so what? Perhaps the Torah was written in such a way that each age of discovery can translate it into concepts that they understand and that are scientifically accurate in that age.

If anyone could design a document that would be accurate in every age of human culture, surely God could. He's a pretty good linguist, after all (and has a wry sense of humour, too).

SJ said...

LOL Ahavah, it gives me something to post about and it will also get me to know the Tanach in a more specific manner.

The purpose is more to study than to prove.