Jesus the ritual sacrifice

Discussion in 'Christianity' started by exile, Jan 27, 2013.

  1. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    I'm wondering about the Facts we shouldn't ignore.
     
  2. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    From Jane-Q #50
    Cultural pluralism however, when you come right down to it, appears like a throwback to the tolerant, peace-loving ("live and let live") ways which existed under polytheism.

    From Thomas #52
    I think that's a very rose-tinted reading of history. When was antiquity ever 'tolerant' and 'peace loving'?

    From Jane-Q #59
    There is nothing "rose-tinted" about the facts, Thomas. The ancient world (from the mouth of the Yellow River to the Rock of Gibraltar) was ruled by one overriding concept: the idea of "peace and good order." If the ancient agrarian world had collectively decided on just one "god," this would have been it, full stop.

    My 2 cents
    Just my opinion, but it seems Thomas believes that the ancient world was as intolerant and war-like as us. Jane-Q believes the opposite. I side with Jane-Q (kinda). The pre-Axial Age peoples (those who existed before circa 1000 BCE) were, in general, devoid of the hatred for all who were different (“us versus them”) and did not indulge in total warfare (it took we Christians to come up with that). My biggest support would be the cultural conditions of the various aboriginal peoples whom we conquered. Intolerance and mass warfare (with very few exceptions, and those mainly centering around personality or cult-driven phenomena, like the Mayas) is something not present in Ainu, Australian, North American, South American, or native (not touched by Islam or Judaism) Africans… let alone the Pacific Islanders (not the Japanese).
     
  3. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    There are facts that say that non of those peoples feared what they didn't understand, and that there was no conflict over resources?
     
  4. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    No, the way I said it (or meant to) was that they were "multicultural" (accepted someone else's vision of g!d as acceptable as theirs--at least when it came to other indigenous groups) and that war was limited (in the extreme counting coups or to the first blood). For instance, there are many tales of the Pacific Islanders gladly sitting down and trading different tales of creation to the point of even adopting some into their particular pantheon. Likewise while the Cherokee did drive the Lakota out of their homeland they did not lock them all up in the villages and burn them all to death, they let them leave.
     
  5. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    Those are examples of acceptance, there are such examples throughout history. My agnosticism has a really hard time comprehending how anyone here can know how the many different peoples practiced and interacted their faiths. I would like to come back to these Facts I've been hearing about.
     
  6. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Their faith really has little to do with it. It is just that there is data that pre-Axial Age peoples were more tolerant (not just a matter of religion) and less violent (combat was often one-on-one vis champions like David or Achilles). Even if some indigenous groups were treated as second class (like the Dravidians in India--who probably became untouchables), their ideas were accepted (see the many Lotus figures from the Hippo sites) and they were not exterminated.

    Cultural intolerance and total warfare really need something like a God of Joshua, the Legions of Constantine, or the waves of Turks. It is possible they are both a function of uniquely Western Culture and concepts (like inerrantcy or having "God on our side").

    You are right, though, only Jane-Q can really say if that is what she meant.
     
  7. Jane-Q

    Jane-Q ...pain...

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    Hi, radarmark.

    I have an observation from moral philosophy for you.
    Plus two "thought experiments."

    My best recollection from college days is that, in arguing "moral philosophy," there are two major positions (plus innumerable variations).


    1. Descriptive Morality. Every culture has its own moral code, its own prejudices and presuppositions about human nature. Each culture's customary beliefs are just as valid as any other's. Anthropologists like this definition because it is unjudgmental and tolerant toward what in the present-day might seem politically-incorrect behavior (like "cannibalism" or "female genital circumcision").

    2.
    Normative Morality. This moral code (supposedly) transcends culture. Differences between cultures are seen as temporary. There is just "one" human nature, and thus ultimately one universal code of morality which everyone is working toward. Apologists for large and powerful civilizations are attracted to this definition because it appears fair and unbiased (not just an excuse for the powerful to impose their will upon the less powerful).

    There is no ground in-between these two positions. In this debate, one viewpoint must be right and the other viewpoint wrong. But which is which?

    My view is that both are right. But limited.
    They each have one thing in common. They each define "morality" as a "code of conduct."
    A "group" code.
    (To me, actual morality is something other than a "code of conduct." Morality exists solely between two persons. It is shaped entirely by the nature and details of their here-and-now interaction. Morality is not a group mandate.)


    1. "Descriptive morality" is not "morality" at all, but (in fact) a "system of values."
    2. "Normative morality" is not "morality" either, but is (instead) an "
    ethical system."

    "Values" are cultural, custom-bound, tribal. Family values, clan values.
    "Ethics" refers to public behavior. Correct civic behavior,
    civilized behavior.

    "Values" existed
    before cities came into existence. (It was the clan which promoted honorable "tribal" conduct, based upon an ancestral value-system.)
    "Ethics" did not exist
    until there were cities. (It was citystates that promoted and enforced "civilized" ethical conduct, based on notions of fairness to all citizens.)

    Short thought-experiment:
    In golden-age Athens, city management shifted from citizen to citizen by lot.
    radarmark, you are a member of the powerful Amalgi clan. But you are also a citizen of Athens, in good standing.
    Your number has come up. You find yourself to be the key vote at a critical make-or-break moment in the citystate's history.
    If you vote no, it will produce great social and economic benefit to the Amalgi clan.
    If you vote yes, it will produce great social and economic benefit to the people of Athens, taken as a whole.
    Which way do you vote?
    Do you serve the interests of your clan? Or do you serve the interests of your citystate?
    radarmark . . . how?

    Do you answer to tribal values? Or to civilized ethics?
    I think most people today would answer the latter. (If only because they are "supposed to." Though real-world pressures sometimes subvert that ideal.)
    In most people's mind, bipartisan "ethics" ranks higher than partisan "values."


    Long thought-experiment:
    In the beginning was a swamp-desert called Eden.

    This swamp-desert stretched beyond the horizon. For generations, all the land would be flooded. Then a sudden shift in climate and for generations the land would be parched, almost too hot to walk on.
    Few people survived. But some clans, in the swamp years, developed boats and developed customs which helped them to survive pretty well in the swamp environment. But most of these innovators died out during the desert years. But other clans developed tools and value-systems which helped them to adequately survive in the desert. But most of these clans died out during the swampy years.

    But there were surviving clans, sporadically located all over the map of Eden. Eventually, many of these surviving clans began to look skyward. Using wood and rock and woven vines and molded clay, each clan (without knowledge of others) began building pillars up from the land, far above the level of the swamp-water or heat of the desert floor. And they built a clay or wood platform atop these pillars, and lived there. And over many generations, each clan spread their platform laterally until it connected with other clans' platforms. And they called these interconnected platforms "Civilization" and developed laws and ethical systems about how different clans should interact with each other.

    After many many generations, most of the platforms on the east side of the horizon had connected up with each other. The only other large platforms were beyond view to the west. The platform was far more comfortable than the swamp-desert below them, but many people began looking skyward once again. Wanting, not so much a "better" existence, than a "different" existence.
    And these thoughts and desires created an energy forcefield well above the platform. This forcefield was even sturdier than the wood and clay platform. But it was only half-visible, and it looked unreal. It wavered from the light off the swamp or off the desert floor. And most people thought that what they were seeing was a water-reflection or a heat-mirage.

    A handful of ladders headed up to this forcefield, far overhead. These ladders were barely visible. They, likewise wavered.
    But some brave souls would test this ladder or that ladder.

    On the China Platform, Kongzi put his right foot up upon the ladder's first rung, but he did not lift his other foot. Mozi lifted his left foot and put it upon the first rung, but he too did not lift his other foot. Laozi would put one foot up, take it down and put the other one up. But he did not entirely leave the solid platform behind, either. They each loved Civilization too much. Only Zhuangzi lifted one foot up to the first rung, then lifted his other foot to the second rung. Leaving the solid platform, leaving Civilization entirely behind.

    On the Greek platform, Plato would lift his back foot up onto the first rung of the ladder. Aristotle would lift his front foot up. But neither would lift their remaining foot up to the second rung. They too stayed grounded, they too loved Civilization too much. Only Socrates hoisted himself entirely, first one foot then the other, entirely off the solid platform.
    In Palestine, many of the Hebrew prophets stepped to the first rung. However, their back foot never left the platform.
    St. Paul's did, though. Both feet. And Augustine after him. Followed by more and more individuals in Western Christendom, as the centuries passed. And they continued to climb rungs of the ladder, until many began to walk atop this forcefield high above Civilization.

    What about Jesus of Galilee? What about Siddhartha Gautama?
    (Needs more investigation.)
    They may have made it all the way to the top. They may have made it no farther than one foot up on the ladder's first rung.

    But most of us in the modern world now do spend some portion of our time atop this forcefield.
    It is different than the platform. More abstract. But just another step up, in human development.
    It is frequently complicated and nonlinear, way up there.
    However, there is nothing mystical about it at all, nowadays. Pretty ordinary, actually. (Now that we each spend much of our days there.)


    I am not certain that the creation of the Western notion of self is praiseworthy or of any ultimate value.
    --radarmark.

    Maybe. Or maybe not.
    But it is what it is.
    The western sense of self pointed us upward, to something other than "more Civilization."

    The real question for me, radarmark, is what's next?



    Jane.

     
  8. Jane-Q

    Jane-Q ...pain...

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    Hi, Dream.

    Been looking, some more, into inheritance in the Hebrew Bible.
    "Birthright."

    The laws found in the
    Book of Leviticus were first formulated (and perhaps written down) during the puritan reforms of King Hezekiah of Judah (715-686 BCE). Took just a quick scan, but found nothing in Leviticus about "inheritance."

    The laws found in the
    Book of Deuteronomy were formulated (and likely one section was written down) during a later period of puritan reform, the realm of King Josiah of Judah (641-609 BCE). Took a quick scan. And I located one reference:


    If a man has two wives, one loved and the other hated,
    and they each bear him sons, with the firstborn being from the hated wife,
    then on the day when the man wills his legacy to his children . . .
    he must nevertheless acknowledge as firstborn the son of the wife who is hated,
    and give to this firstborn a double portion of all that he has . . .
    since the right of the firstborn is his.

    --Deuteronomy 21:15-17.

    The right of the firstborn:
    the "firstborn" gets a "double portion."

    The Bible is anything but a reliable anthropological source.
    But this could well be true. At least for Josiah's era.
    (The Deuteronomist author is trying to protect what appears to be a traditional right. And insists that it cannot be overruled by a father's whim or his current affection.)

    "Giving of the blessing" in the
    Book of Genesis?
    Yeah. It appears a father once had more latitude:
    The Yahwist author has Jacob give his blessing to his fourth son, Judah.
    The Elohist author has Jacob give the blessing instead to Joseph, the eleventh son.

    (Joseph was the first son of Rachel, Jacob's favorite amongst his four women. This is the very kind of favoritism which the Deuteronomist lawgiver was guarding against.)

    When the lands of Canaan were divvied up between Jacob's sons, it was Joseph (via his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh) who received a "double portion" birthright of territories (the two richest territories, Ephraim and Manasseh).

    So . . .
    1. It appears the Elohist got it right. Joseph was actually the one who received Jacob's "blessing."
    2. It appears to be a standing Israelite tradition that the firstborn son receives the birthright, which includes a "double portion" inheritance. But that this tradition was not always followed to the letter.



    Jane.

     
  9. Dream

    Dream Well-Known Member

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    I don't like to be at odds with people, but I am in this case.

    I do not necessarily subscribe to the popular theories of Elohist vs. Yahweist etc. I understand that many do, but its not a given. These theories are a part of the whole "Who Wrote the Bible" thing which is fine, but the theorists and authors claim much more than they can sustain, which makes it an unfortunately broken contribution. In Who Wrote the Bible, for instance, the author tries to make it seem like they were forced to conclude x y z when its obvious that they wanted to choose x y z as a conclusion. They lay on a thick story about how they were trying to conclude something else. Such a pretense from them and from many others turns me away, not that I really matter. I'm sure that somebody edited some things in the Bible, but there's no stable theory to explain exactly when and what. All we have are theories that are popular temporarily and are then shot down and replaced with some other exciting new doctrine. Its too much to conclude that the Bible must absolutely consist of two major originals that were pasted together etc., that this bit must have been edited during such & such a reign and that bit was edited at another particular time. The Yahwist vs. Elohist is an idea but isn't a foundation that can be built on.

    I notice that this law is conditionally for the special case where one husband has children by two different women. It does not explain what should happen if he has two sons by the same wife. A law like this seems foremost to protect women and children from abuse and also men indirectly. That is generally what laws pertaining to women are for in the various chapters of Deuteronomy (I think).

    Its unclear exactly what happens. Central to the story of the rivalry between Joseph and Judah was the fact that Jacob loved Rebekah but married Leah first. The law (Deut 15 you mentioned) is meant to be read as a commentary on this very situation. Judah is the most eligible son of Leah that has not spoiled his birthright through bad behavior (except for his behavior towards Joseph son of the rival wife). Joseph son of Rachel who was thought to be dead 'comes back to life', and his brother Judah has wronged him making the birthright questionable. The way the Biblical authors/editors would have it the birthright should have gone to Judah, but this was before Moses judgments on these kinds of issues supposedly. It is a quandary is it not? Who should get the birthright in your opinion? The story incites you to ponder who it should be, and the Law hints at what you (as a Jew) ought to conclude ultimately -- that the situation was totally screwed up and never should have happened. It is a harmonious story regardless of whether the term Yahweh or El is used, the books Deuteronomy and Genesis working together as a unit.

    Joseph's two sons were adopted by Jacob. This may not be the same thing as making Joseph the firstborn, though it could be similar. Joseph's sons had an Egyptian mother. Judah's sons had an Adullamite mother, Tamar who was also Judah's own stepdaughter! This happened because Judah's firstborn sons were so evil that the LORD struck them both dead for refusing to produce an heir. Judah's sons/grandsons Perez and Zerah were born out of order while Josephs were blessed out of order. The two stories worked closely together to yield the result that it was not who one's parents were that determined value, aka that slavery was wrong. In light of this it seems highly unlikely that we are talking about an Elohist author pasted to a Yawehist author.
     
  10. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    Try reading this:
    Redaction Theory (Documents Hypothesis): Torah Torah Torah : Interfaith

    :)

    Basically, it's a question as to whether you believe that the Bible entire is the word of God, given without error or human input - an act of faith; or whether it is a document written by humans to try and understand God.
     
  11. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    Good old Bob X there.
     
  12. Dream

    Dream Well-Known Member

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    I like Bobx and note what he says here:
    All the various theories that he recounts have one thing in common: A Redactor. That there are often two threads and two copies of everything I agree, but combination of two or three other authors is not the only explanation for that. The redactor knows all, and we know nothing.

    From its beginning it was assumed that the Documents Theory would grow through evolution toward perfection, but who is to say whether this evolution of theory has the same talent as natural evolution since there is no risk, no survival test for the theory. Regardless of the mutation it lives on, because it will never lose its funding. As soon as someone disproves an aspect of it, they alter that aspect. It can do no wrong, no matter how wrong it is. It merely becomes increasingly complex.

    As for parallel stories there could be many reasons for that. The Torah redactor even comments that the redundancy in a dream is the assurance that it is important. (Genesis 41:32), suggesting that the stories are purposely altered and copied. I've no doubt that there were cults competing with Ezekiel's Judaism, but there's nothing to force the conclusion that two or three primary documents have been welded together. It remains an idea, not a fact. Theologically, too, I who am just a layman have already shown that there are potential reasons that the author or redactor may have had for purposely including parallel stories of various shades. I can see uses for it increasingly. Huge complex theories appear before me evolving even now as I pluck away at their weaknesses.
     
  13. donnann

    donnann Well-Known Member

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    I do agree with you that evolution leads to perfection.
     
  14. Dream

    Dream Well-Known Member

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    That isn't what I personally believe, and it isn't what I said. (feathers ruffled) Thanks for your response, however.
     
  15. Jane-Q

    Jane-Q ...pain...

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    Hi again, Dream.

    There is this marvelous book by A.C. Graham called Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China (1989). Graham claims that great ideas by someone like Kongzi (Confucius) did not arise sui generis, out of the brain of one great man. But these ideas developed instead in an arena of "disputation." Confucius is shaping his arguments over and against the arguments made by Mozi, and those made by the Yangists, and those made by the Sophists, and those made by other strong thinkers and schools of thought during his day. Couple centuries later, Laozi shapes the Daodejing via disputation with his own contemporaries, later generations of Confucians and Mohists and other original minds. You and I are not seated at the feet of some ivory tower "master" here, when we read their writings. We are entering into an agitated intellectual and emotional arena, with well-crafted arguments flying every which way. We are entering into an ongoing disputation.

    What is the Tao?

    This kind of disputational arena is easier to see in the Eastern Mediterranean of the First Century. Middle Platonists arguing with Aristotelians arguing with Epicureans arguing with Stoics. And throw in the odd Skeptic or Cynic philosopher or adherent to this Mystery Religion or that mystical Gnostic sect, and you have a real stew of disputation. In Palestine alone, (as the Talmud later states) there were 24 sects of Jewish Monotheism contesting for primacy. Not just the Sunday-School four: the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Essenes, and the Zealots. And most of these sects had internal factions, each faction with differing views on particular subjects. Within the Pharisee camp there were two major factions, the liberal "charismatics" like Hillel and the conservative "legalists" like Shammai. Both groups were highly tolerant and respectful of the differences each held versus their opposite. They were genuinely nice people. The arguments which they shaped vis-a-vis each other were polite. Not so polite toward the Sadducees, but still respectful. James the Just was likely a Pharisee of some repute. The Pharisees protected him as long as they could from the ire of the High Priest. James' brother Jesus was probably a Pharisee too, of the Hillel persuasion.

    What is Jewish Monotheism?

    All the anti-Pharisee rhetoric in the Gospels is an intentional distortion by its four authors in response to a later political-theological situation. This comes about, after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. This event removes from the picture Jesus' actual arch-enemies, the rich and priestly Sadducees. The Apostle Paul's letters and the four Gospels provide the first dim evidence of what was just the beginning of the internal disputations which would rock nascent Christianity for its next three centuries. And pretty high-caliber disputations these would become!

    What is Christian Monotheism?

    So, Dream . . . Let's rewind history three-quarters of a millennium, back from Jesus' time. There are dozens of singers (bards) in Palestine who are telling epic stories about Moses and Joshua and David, and witty folktales about the three patriarchs. Each singer, some from the Northern Kingdom and some from the Southern Kingdom, telling their tale a little bit differently. Jewish Monotheism, as practiced during this era, isn't actually a "monotheism" yet. It still has considerable polytheistic strains running through it. Then two groups of serious-minded reformers emerge, disputing the genuine meaning of Jewish Monotheism.

    One group is the Priestly school who instituted the puritan reforms of King Hezekiah of Judah (715-686 BCE). When you separate out the Priestly ("P") source from the other sources in today's Hebrew Bible:

    In the P source, access to the divine is limited to Aaronid priests. In all the stories in P, there are no mention of dreams, of angels, or talking animals, though these things occur in J, E, and D. As for human leaders: the words "prophet" or "prophesy" occur thirteen times in E and D, but not in P (or J). The single exceptional occurrence of the word "prophet" in P (Exodus 7:1) uses the word figuratively, and it refers to the High Priest Aaron himself! Judges too are never mentioned in P (as opposed to D, which says: go to the priest and the judges in matters of law). In P, only Aaronid priests have access to the Urim and Tummim. In P, all other, non-Aaronid Levites are not priests.

    In P, atonement for sin is to be achieved only by means of sacrifices that are brought to the Aaronid priests. It is not achieved by mere repentance or through divine mercy. Indeed, in P the words "mercy," "grace," "repentance," and "kindness" (hesed) never occur . . .

    P characterizes God as acting according to justice more than as acting according to mercy. If one wishes to be forgiven for an offense, one cannot simply be sorry; one must bring a sacrifice to the priest. As with the absence of angels and prophets, in P the priesthood is the only sanctioned path to God.

    . . . The Bible with Sources Revealed (2003) by Richard Elliott Friedman, p11-12.

    The P-author wrote the laws in Leviticus, and gave alternative readings to the Creation story, the story of Abraham and the story of Moses (where P is continuously inserting Aaron's name and inflating Aaron's role in the Exodus, wherever possible). And (as you can see) P was more than a bit of a control-freak. (P may have been just one author or maybe just one consistent "school of thought" over several centuries, with many individuals adapting the same "Priestly" writing style and theology.) But they had a very specific argument they were making about what Jewish Monotheism is, or should be.

    Fast-forward again three-quarters of a millennium to the First Century CE:

    A universal tithe was imposed on the entire Jewish population to support the Temple and subsidize the hereditary priesthood. Of even greater significance, the Temple became the dominant financial institution, housing money-changers as well as acting as a state treasury and even as an investment bank -- "a depository for capital sums, such as money belonging to widows and orphans or to the rich, who feared for their capital under often insecure conditions that prevailed" {p194, History of the Jewish People, 1996}.

    Soon the priests became "the wealthiest class and the strongest political group among the Jews of Jerusalem" {p310, Encyclopedia Britannica "Hellenic Judaism", 1981} . . .

    Thus the official Jewish religion was a centralized Temple religion, and the observance of any organized rites elsewhere was frowned upon. Centralization was also served by the fact that the tithes were gathered in Jerusalem and dispersed from there . . .

    The Sadducees represented the "official" Temple Judaism and drew support mainly from the aristocracy -- primarily the hereditary priestly families . . . And typical of all such temple priesthoods, their theology was quite worldly. For example, they denied both the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body and taught that God's rewards are gained only in this life. Perhaps their most controversial position was to assert that {p563, The Encyclopedia of Religion "Sadducees", 1987} "only those laws written in the Pentateuch were to be regarded as binding, while those that were not written down were not to be observed."

    . . . The Triumph of Christianity (2011) by Rodney Stark, p39-41.

    The Sadducees not only said no to the "oral" tradition, but no to just about everything else. No apocalypse and final judgment. No afterlife of any kind. No spirit world, no angels. No messiah. Yes, just . . . to "one God" and to the Law. And yes to making sacrifices, solely at the Temple in Jerusalem. That's it.

    Things did not change much from the time of Hezekiah, did it? Being "right with God" was still an economic proposition. A moral debt made-right at the Temple, with the proper sacrifice. But the Temple priests were not the only game in town, regarding the reform of Jewish Monotheism.

    Rewind, once again, back to the time of Hezekiah:

    What are your multiplied sacrifices to me?
    Says Yahweh.
    I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams.
    And the fat of fed cattle.
    And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats . . .
    Bring me your worthless offerings no longer!

    . . . Isaiah 1:11-13.

    Or even more pertinently:

    For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice.
    The knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

    . . . Hosea 6:6.

    Isaiah and Hosea were ardent monotheists, too. But these two reformers who prophesied during the reign of Hezekiah were clearly fed up with Temple sacrifices. Such a form of redemptive act seemed little more than a hollow gesture. They were fed up with one's connection made to God being measured solely in terms of an economic transaction. One calf for this kind of sin, two goats for that. A pay-off. Redemption by the book (by verse so-and-so in the Priestly author's Leviticus).

    Fast-forward again to the First Century CE.
    Matthew in his gospel has Jesus twice present the same riddle:

    I desire mercy and not sacrifice.
    What does this mean?

    . . . Matthew 9:13, 12:7.

    In Aramaic, Jesus is quoting Hosea. Translated in Greek as "mercy," this could mean here, something like the "forgiveness of a debt" (canceling the debt). As opposed to the "satisfaction of a debt" (full payoff, correct sacrifice). But Hosea, above, is clearly reaching toward a new kind of non-mercenary, non-contractual relationship with God. A "charismatic" relationship. As was Jesus. Something close to what the Pharisee Hillel (and his school of thought in Palestine) was talking about. "Steadfast love."

    There is something incredibly lovely about this endeavor of Isaiah and Hosea, of Hillel and Jesus. Don't you think?

    Dream. I personally would never have noticed such Scriptural connections, like the above, if I weren't on the lookout for the internal disputations going on, rampantly, within the Hebrew Bible. The Documentary Hypothesis is just one of many tools (this particular method being a very good tool, from my experience) for locating and making sense of these embedded theological arguments being made about what "genuine" Jewish Monotheism constitutes.

    But the Hebrew Bible is no more than an overwhelming (and sometimes infuriating) nest of contradictions if a person doesn't begin to make these kinds of distinctions. The Bible (the Hebrew Bible or the Christian Testament) is not simply passive knowledge. Each are better than that. Neither is merely a compendium of "nice quotes" to be pulled up as needed, for inspiration, lifted out of their genuine context. To me, such is a poor use of the great document that the Bible is.

    I think the so-called argument against the Documentary Hypothesis you have been listening to, Dream, is a strawman. It has nothing at all to do with the actual scholarship involved. But more significantly, this strawman sells short actual real-time struggles and disputes to be found within Scripture (by those who teach themselves how to look). Sells short the original beauty and the meaning created by pious historic individuals addressing a question of serious importance to themselves. Sells short and tramples real historical persons "interacting with" each other, but interacting most of the time in a spiritually intense "disputational" manner. Sells short individuals and groups of individuals struggling toward a better answer than the one they have right now. And Dream . . .

    This sells short what is truly sacred.


    Jane.

     
  16. Jane-Q

    Jane-Q ...pain...

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    Hi, radarmark.

    I'd like to take half-a-step back from my prior statements, to you, regarding Hebrew scripture and "debt." I've been doing a little research. (See my response to Dream, previous page.)

    The biggest advocate for the Temple system in ancient Judah and Israel was the Torah's "Priestly" (or "P") authors, whose point-of-view (and possibly some of their writings) originated during the puritan reforms of King Hezekiah of Judah (715-686 BCE). There are two remarkable things about these reforms:

    1. The reforms cleaned house, tossing out much of the Polytheistic trappings that hung around Jewish Monotheism at its very core. The Jerusalem Temple. No more Asherah (Sacred Pole, which some of the population still associate as Yahweh's "wife"). No more Pillars (sexual symbolisms relating to male fertility). No more Seraphs (Bronze Serpent, the healing statue which Moses is recounted as making). These are each, types of symbolic items which might be found in Polytheistic temples across the region. Items perhaps comforting to the common people, but repugnant to pious new Monotheists. Also, no more High Places (alternate sacrifice sites, where sacrifice of human infants might still be practiced). All sacrifices are to be performed in Jerusalem alone, and to be carried out following a strict procedure (laid down later in writing as the Book of Leviticus). The oral Law of Moses is to be followed to the letter.

    2. Hezekiah's "Priestly" form of Jewish Monotheism was patterned intentionally and strictly after the Temple system of Polytheism, practiced then across the planet. It perceived no other valid way to practice a religious faith. Such procedures required two things, "Praise to God" and "Sacrifice to God." This was the essence of the faith. A legal contract with God, a covenant. This was exactly, to the letter, the kind of contract which other peoples had with their patron deity. Hezekiah's priests could imagine no other way of being "right with God."

    Yahweh is a god of Fear. And there are strict rules to be followed in approaching Him. And only the priests have the rulebook. You have to approach God mediated by His priests. And this rulebook is also a kind of account-book. The righteous man is a God-fearing man. A man with a rulebook, a moral account-book in his head. Yahweh may invoke fear. But Yahweh is a reasonable god, a Just god, easily satisfied when given the correct payoff. When the Law is followed to the letter. A moral banker. But Yahweh is not a god who inspires Love. Not a god of Mercy.

    But, as I explain to Dream above, there were other pious individuals during Hezekiah's time, reformers, who could imagine a different way of "being right with God" within Jewish Monotheism. The prophets Isaiah (the first Isaiah), Hosea, Amos, and likely a number of additional anonymous individuals. They were beginning to think that Jewish Monotheism should be thought about and practiced from an entirely different social and psychological place. Yahweh is not a dispassionate judge. Divinity is empathetic. Following the "letter of the Law" is not nearly as important as paying attention to the "spirit of the Law." Yahweh is a god of "steadfast love," of Mercy.

    Fast-forward in time to the still largely polytheistic world of the First Century CE:

    In the pagan world, and especially among the philosophers, mercy was regarded as a character defect . . .

    Because mercy involves providing unearned help or relief, it is contrary to justice.

    As E.A. Judge explained {p107 God Who Is Rich In Mercy, 1986}, classical philosophy taught that "mercy indeed is not governed by reason at all," and that humans must learn "to curb the impulse;" . . . "the cry of the undeserving for mercy" must go "unanswered."

    . . . The Triumph of Christianity (2011) by Rodney Stark, p110.

    In the Hellenistic world, the "Just Man" pays what he owes. And he expects to be paid-back what is owed him, financially and ethically. There are certain duties which a Just Man must publically perform. This is true also of official Jewish Monotheism, i.e. the Sadducee-run Temple-monotheism centered around the Jerusalem Temple. The correct Jew is supposed to be a Just Man, a righteous individual. There are certain public duties a Just Man needs to perform, and in the correct way. There is a mental rulebook, an account-book involved. A check-off list. The letter of the Law.

    If you think about it, you can see that there are only minor differences separating the Just Man of official Jewish Monotheism from the Just Man of Hellenistic philosophy (both being products of the polytheistic temple-religions which spawned such thinking). Mercy has no place. There is a zero-quantum of Hosea's "steadfast love" (hesed) here. The spirit of the Law is missing.

    It is the Pharisee sect which kept Hosea's tradition of "mercy" alive, the underlying spirit of the Law alive, within Jewish Monotheism. Indeed, kept mercy viable vis-a-vis the whole thrust of the "justice-seeking" Hellenistic world, the world of both Gentile and Jew. And Jesus was one of the strongest Pharisee advocates for "mercy" . . . over and against the demands of "justice."

    The early Christian writer, Tertullian (155-222 CE), makes plain how different the contribution to their poor-box is from how "temples" functionally and contractually operate:

    There is no buying or selling of any sort of things of God. Though we have a treasure chest, it is not made up of purchase money, as a religion that has a price . . .

    small donation . . .

    These gifts are, as it were, piety's deposit fund.

    Tertullian makes plain that Christianity is not a religion which puts a "just" price on things, like temple sacrifices require. Charity is done not for legalistic account-book reasons, but for spiritual reasons. Christians give charity funds not dutifully out of "justice," but freely out of "mercy."

    As regards the care of orphans and widows and the sick and the disadvantaged, temple paganism largely abandons such people to their own devices. The Jewish Monotheism of the Sadducees however did collect charity funds but more as an invoice-style tithe-solicitation, which was distributed to the "deserving" needy strictly at the whim of the High Priest. This is the step-sister of Justice. (And certainly Justice is blind. It has no empathy.)

    With the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE, the temple-system of Jewish Monotheism broke down. A way now opened up where "mercy" takes a prominent place.

    Within Jewish Monotheism, this developed first in Christianity (even prior to the destruction of the Temple). This is followed a century or two later by the rise of Judaism. This Rabbinic faith, like its competing Christian sect, developed by utilizing Pharisee ideas to press Jewish Monotheism forward. But these ideas were then taken by the Rabbis in a slightly different direction.

    So, radarmark . . .

    Yes, Jewish Monotheism broke free of the "contractual" relations which were part and parcel of the polytheistic temple-system. You are correct, there.

    But it took quite awhile. Wouldn't you agree?


    Jane.

     
  17. Dream

    Dream Well-Known Member

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    Jane-Q I think there are areas where we agree and disagree. For instance you say "All the anti-Pharisee rhetoric in the Gospels is an intentional distortion by its four authors in response to a later political-theological situation. This comes about, after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple." to which I'd probably agree though without evidence. I reach that conclusion but with different reasons than you. However when you say "The Apostle Paul's letters and the four Gospels provide the first dim evidence of what was just the beginning of the internal disputations which would rock nascent Christianity for its next three centuries." I see that while true, the disputation and eventual disintegration off fellowship was predicted to occur. Various references to both Paul and Jesus support this. Whether it was predicted after the fact or has been added in hindsight, the internal disputations are observed by the authors, so there is not dim evidence of an oncoming dispute but open expectation and/or observation of eventual chaos.

    The way that you tell a story of bards in ancient Israel comparing songs is pretty cool, but its only one way that all of it could have happened. I once read part of Dawkins The Selfish Gene where he described replication as an explanation for the first cells. I found it believable and interesting, but I couldn't say its the only way that things could have gone down. Maybe the cell evolved some other way?

    You said something interesting here "
    Things did not change much from the time of Hezekiah, did it? Being "right with God" was still an economic proposition. A moral debt made-right at the Temple, with the proper sacrifice. But the Temple priests were not the only game in town, regarding the reform of Jewish Monotheism." Yet you don't give credit to the morality of the laws. To you they must have evolved, absolutely. They cannot, to you, therefore have been moral in this time period. In fact the monetary code that we are able to read in Leviticus is surprisingly 'Advanced' for such 'Primitive' people. It is in fact not centered around money but around maintaining that all people have value. The way that you are defining everything as solid as rock may be keeping you from seeing what's there.


    Also interesting you say "Isaiah and Hosea were ardent monotheists, too. But these two reformers who prophesied during the reign of Hezekiah were clearly fed up with Temple sacrifices. Such a form of redemptive act seemed little more than a hollow gesture. They were fed up with one's connection made to God being measured solely in terms of an economic transaction." Please notice that you have ignored a fundamental thing that the Law is celebrated and appreciated. Its like ignoring evidence. Isaiah and Hosea likely are written down by Ezekiel the scribe, and it is thought that later contributions to Isaiah are possible. In Ezekiel's time there may have been a problem with people enslaving each other (as recorded in Ezra & Nehemiah), however the words of the law as we have them today do not condone that kind of misbehavior. Perhaps the protestors such as Isaiah and Ezekiel came forward specifically because they saw that the spirit of the Law was not being followed; but you have no way of allowing that as a possibility if you insist that we already know exactly how the texts were made when in fact we cannot.



    It is an enticing stream of thought, yet I cannot see Hosea as that original. As I said when I read the Law I don't see a strictly contractual arrangement. We can theorize that the Law has been edited after the fact to become compassionate, but that isn't the same as knowing that it happened. Instead it appears that the Law was compassionate but that people ignored it until the prophets reminded them.

    I don't think that Hillel is inventing moral ideas (or that Jesus is saying anything new). Hillel is drawing from the laws compounded by his personal knowledge of human behavior and from his sense of compassion & morality. The laws as I mentioned were celebrated, much as people in the US today will celebrate the US constitution. For us laws about interstate trade aren't just about money, because they have an idealistic dimension about freedom. The constitution is spiritual in other words. The Laws in Israel seem like they were like that only more so.
    Thank you very much for pointing these things out. I agree that the Documents theory has a lot of value having taught you so much. There's no clear demarcation telling us who wrote what with finality, however. We can have a theoretical author P if we like and it can be helpful in our studies. On the other hand it will also limit what we can learn if that help is taken as a kind of 'Seal of truth', keeping us from observing other possibilities.
    I think that charlatans who are in no short supply have made the Hebrew Bible seem overwhelming and infuriating. I've been overwhelmed and infuriated. The distinctions you mention are one way to study, and they can be helpful. There are other ways, too; and different things can be learned by different methods. I only wish to stress that the morality of the legal code is much better than is reputed in the Documents Hypothesis sector, and that could cause misunderstandings about when such & such developed or was added. It could be a very important oversight.
     
  18. Jane-Q

    Jane-Q ...pain...

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    Thanks, Dream.

    I am being pretty "categorical" here, aren't I? Putting hard edges around things. When actual lived-reality has its sharp edges worn-down soft.

    I'm just trying to make sense of it all, like most of us here. With my nose in the Bible, there is still a significant fraction of myself that is saying, "This is crazy. Totally nutcakes! Why am I reading this?" Yet there is a smell to it. An unseen context, embedded in real history, in real human experience. But I can't quite make out what, so I keep following the scent.

    Leviticus is one place, Dream, where my "nutcakes" radar goes way up.

    You don't give credit to the morality of the laws.

    No. I don't. You'll have to explain that one to me with specific examples.

    To me, morality involves a one-to-one relationship. This is what Hosea is asking for. This is what Hillel and Jesus are asking for. Not so, the Priestly authors of Leviticus. Not so, the High Priest of the First Century Jerusalem Temple.

    As I explain to radarmark in [post=279224]Post 67[/post], "codes of conduct" are not morality. They involve either (1) tribal values or (2) civil ethics. I see Leviticus and much of the legalism of the Torah as mostly #1, i.e. one clan's customs of conduct being imposed on the larger population. With a little bit of #2, i.e. civilized ethics regarding how people with differing traditional customs are expected to "act in public" viv-a-vis one another. Even when its language seems to have a fuzzy-wuzzy quality to it, there is nothing about the Torah's legalisms that says "person to person" (each situation is unique) to me. You have to wait centuries, till the Mishnah, to find that.

    Years ago I read somewhere that major sections of the Law (Leviticus, for instance) were intended to be observed only by Levites (the clergy of Jewish Monotheism). Leviticus being their catechism (guidebook and crib-notes). That only later were these standards of conduct (the food laws, purity laws, etc.) extended, becoming a requirement for each and every Jewish adult male. Then (later still) to all Jews, women and children included. (Is this the original source of that lovely old Rabbinic pipedream that Israel would be a nation of priests, ministering to all the nations of the world?) I don't know what the current state of scholarship is, on this issue. But the original Levites were likely not one iota different than the hereditary clergy in pagan Babylon or Corinth or Tyre, or anyplace else during Hezekiah's era. Massive memorization of one truckload of details. What little scholars do know about polytheistic Temple rituals, is that priests were required to follow excruciatingly specific formulas in carrying out their rites. (Each polytheistic deity was pretty anal that way, in what he or she adamantly required of their "house servants," their Temple's priests.) Had any of these pagan clergy bothered to write down these memorized formulas, this book of formulas would probably have sounded a lot like Leviticus. But with a lot of additional details remaining hidden (many secrets still being handed down solely within the memorized oral tradition). If we found all these Temple rites from all over the Eastern Mediterranean magically collected and copied down in written form, and compared them to Leviticus, there would probably be nothing all that special or unique about Levitical "laws". Leviticus (the peculiarly Jewish temple and festival practices, set alongside priest-given "purity" injunctions) was probably pretty middle-of-the-road, for its day. It's just that Leviticus is virtually the only such document that scholars have in their possession to ponder over, i.e. its very existence as a written document being the only thing about it that makes Leviticus objectively all that valuable to scholars.

    The monetary code that we are able to read in Leviticus is surprisingly 'Advanced' for such 'Primitive' people. It is in fact not centered around money but around maintaining that all people have value.

    You'll have to explain that one also to me, Dream.

    In Hezekiah's day there was no coin-money in the region. Coin-money first appeared in the Persian period, but was not commonplace till the Greek and Roman periods. A "shekel" was originally a weight of silver (56.8 grams), but could also refer to the weight of grain or the size of a herd animal. This was the "coin of the realm" in Hezekiah's time: organic produce. (Not cold cash.) When I talk about Temple rituals being mercenary, I am talking about a "weight-scale." (Think of the Greek statue of "Blind Justice" holding her scale of weights.) The idea of "justice" (Law) in the polytheistic world is understood just this way, economically. As a weight-scale for the exchange of goods. Debit and credit. And what you are calling "morality" in Leviticus, I am merely seeing as "the satisfying of a debt." This animal or that sack or grain pays off such-and-such a sin or purchases such-and-such a request-for-aid before the Deity. The "monetary code" (as you call it) seems, also, pretty middle-of-the-road for its day. Richer places than Palestine likely had a much more fine-tuned exchange-rate, both commercially in the marketplace and up at their local temple. Judah's "scale of values", in Hezekiah's day? Not as primitive as some places, but not as advanced as Babylon's or Corinth's or Tyre's.

    Regarding "all people having value"? That's a clan thing. Don't be fooled by it, Dream. People within one clan-group, yes, value other people within that inner circle, value them highly. Value members of the larger tribe? To some degree. But value outsiders? Not one iota! Civilized trade-conscious citystates like Babylon or Corinth or Tyre, by contrast, do value outsiders. It's an "ethical" (and a commercially practical) thing. It is written right into their laws. How about the Torah? There is a pathetically minuscule quantum of "civilized" ethics written into the Torah. Customs are not (or at least should not be considered) "laws." Genuine laws at least make the pretense of being universal, being totally fair and evenhanded toward all "peoples" living within the citystate's territory. Genuine laws make explicit what people's civil rights are, as guaranteed by the king and affirmed by the citystate's patron deity. The Torah, by contrast, is only interested in legitimizing its own clannish prejudices. Thank God for the Rabbis! It was the Rabbis, in the Roman world, who carefully dissected then humanized the "Law" of the Torah. But in Hezekiah's time? As a legal document, the Torah is about as arbitrary as they come! Not the least bit "advanced," but actually quite backward compared with those of other "nations" in the region. And certainly nowhere near as "humanized" as the law codes from great cosmopolitan citystates like Babylon or Corinth or Tyre.

    I know it is tempting, Dream, to read into Leviticus all kinds of Talmudic niceties. But originally, in the pre-Leviticus oral tradition? And in Leviticus's earliest written form? The Book was just crib-notes for Levites, for novice priests learning their trade. Servants learning the details of the business . . . the business of working in the house of a minor deity, a deity ruling over a rural backwater within the rich Mesopotamian-Mediterranean world.


    Jane.

     
  19. Dream

    Dream Well-Known Member

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    Some examples of good intentions in the law: 1. concern for orphans 2. for single women 3. concern for the reputation of women 4. laws protecting privacy 5. laws upholding equality 6. laws to curb monopoly

    Here is my theory:

    People in the past feeling their mortality have collected gifts and information for the future for our sakes. Fully knowing that it would not be of benefit to themselves they chose to see future people as fulfilling a destiny they could never share in personally. This is symbolized by the ancient tree, by the seven branched lampstand and also by the circle. Modern philanthropists such as Rockefeller are an example, but philanthropy is a very old art that springs up naturally from people. It is the reason we have any history of the ancient times. Sometimes knowledge was passed down through memorization, because sometimes memorization was thought to be more reliable than writings.

    Where in the cold Canaanite system of priesthoods that you've mentioned is the philanthropist hiding? Someone added all of the above concerns to the laws -- except that they weren't just an addition but were woven throughout. You have concluded that little to no philanthropy was involved and that no one wrote for the future. It all just happened. The laws were originally an employment guide for temple servants and were about blood and satisfying the hunger of gods. I don't believe it. In your reasoning you say that I should believe that Leviticus is a relic and "Thank God for the rabbis!" While I have no qualm with rabbis that I know of, I think this picture is missing something. Humanity does have wars and killings and all kinds of evils, but it also has compassions and preparations and gifts. The law is a gift from another age containing wisdom and also best wishes. Without this the 'Rabbis' would have nothing to work with.

    I should mention that you have based your model of Caananite priests upon your interpretation of Levitical priests and then in turn used your derived model of Canaanite priest to justify your view of Levitical priests. Isn't it possible that Hebrew laws pleased and naturalized the Canaanite peoples eventually uniting them into one? It seems a perfectly good explanation of things to me and would match certain symbolisms in the story of Israel's exit from Egypt, such as the way Moses serpent swallowed the serpents of the Pharoah's magicians. All I'm pointing out is that the extremely moral and progressive nature of the Levitical law could have been enough to create one people from several groups. I can't presume that Leviticus was immoral but that other Canaanite people adopted it anyway. I also just cannot see this particular set of laws coming from people who would slaughter all of their neighbors.

    I'm actually jaded, and I'm being factual. It could have been a clan thing, but if so why do the laws of this clan naturalize other clans? I don't see this being added after the Babylonian exile, because it goes against the grain of Ezra and Nehemiah. Additionally the fact that Hebrews consider themselves to be slaves is very important. Slavery is very weak if you don't have different classes of people. You must think that some people are better than others, or your slaves won't stay enslaved. To say 'We are all slaves' is a bit anti-slavery I think. When do you suppose the story of their flight from Egypt become so widespread? Whenever that was, whenever the first pesach (passover) was, that is when most of the laws were probably written.
    There are scores of examples to the opposite. "When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 19:33) In what way is this impersonal?

    'When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.' (Lev 23:22). Here's another one that benefits foreigners, widows, hobos and whomsoevers. Along with it, too, the laws specifically require having a good attitude about it. If the laws are to be believed, anybody could wander about the countryside living off of scraps.

    Of course based upon the imposition that morality merely evolved, some force themselves to believe that moral portions were late additions to the laws. I would call that a tainted jury. Instead I believe the law was imminently moral and was used to teach morality to children in the hopes that they would have a great future many generations into the future. There's nothing unnatural about that. While I don't doubt that evolution is a force of nature it is not necessarily applicable (though it could be applicable) to the Torah.
    Sorry about that confusion. I was referring to commodities and real estate laws. There are laws that prevent too much accumulation of land (laws of Jubilee and of inheritance limits). There are laws about tithing, where the tithe is used for priests but also to reduce poverty, and there are the laws about allowing strangers to pass through your field and eat along the way. There are laws about helping an escaped slave, and there are additional compassionate laws. The idea of limiting the accumulation of land is similar to our modern anti-trust laws.

    I suppose that all of this morality could have been added during the Babylonian exile, but I don't see why it has to be the case. I don't see why I must see it as a definite thing.
     
  20. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    I feel the problem on this thread is too much "I read it here, refute it". For one, I do not even agree with Jane Q's most basic ideas (all morality is either descriptive or normative and there is no in-between).

    The use of "either-or" or "all" or "none" in any discussion or communication is just a nice illusion of Western logic. The best reference is Dodgson's 'You might just as well say that "I see what I eat" is the same thing as "I eat what I see"!' Aristotle and Venn and all the other logisticians can be applied under various circumstances.

    But it is a fallacy to use true and false without some daatsi (“right and wrong”, “true and false”, “yes and no”, “possibly”). That is why I do not care to respond so some promptings.
     

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