What To Make Of The Old Testament

Discussion in 'Abrahamic Religions' started by Lux, Nov 27, 2014.

  1. DavidMcCann

    DavidMcCann Hellenist

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    Why this assumption that the only choice is between unbelief and an Abrahamic religion? People believed in God long before the Bible existed.

    As for the good, culture, and civilisation, they are surely outweighed by the bigotry, persecutions, and killings inspired by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam over the centuries. Anyone who says "God has spoken to me and what I say is the truth" is implying "and the rest of you are deluded liars". How can such an attitude not have sorry consequences?
     
  2. Lux

    Lux Active Member

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    How is Genesis compatible with evolution theory ? Were we homo sapiens from the very beginning (Adam and Eve), or did we evolve from apes?
     
  3. Lux

    Lux Active Member

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    Christianity just happens to be the religion I'm most familiar with. I don't presuppose other religions are wrong. I don't know enough about either Judeo-Christianity or other religions to reach the conclusion that there is only one true religion. But I just don't get polytheism (It may be just that I'm socially conditioned that way) and I heard Buddhists don't believe in God. So I thought I'm just gonna have a crack at Judeo-Christianity as a first step.

    I couldn't agree with you more. There are always those who use religions to brandish their bigotry. That was the biggest reason I used to be a disbeliever. But now I'm trying to focus on the religion itself, not on abusers of the religion, to see if I can find God.

    "and the rest of you are deluded liars" - Isn't this mentality rampant almost anywhere? Just look at political nuts of both extreme wings. Finding "a few good men" is the key to both politics and religions, I suppose.
     
  4. Lux

    Lux Active Member

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    Sorry I meant to quote this post.

    How is Genesis compatible with evolution theory ? Were we homo sapiens from the very beginning (Adam and Eve), or did we evolve from apes?
     
  5. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    a.. You've made a common mistake...Man did not evolve from apes, the evolved from cousins of apes....we have a common ancestor.

    b. I am also interested in his interpretations.

    c. You may enjoy this...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGx4IlppSgU
     
  6. BigJoeNobody

    BigJoeNobody Professional Argument Attractor

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    This isn't meant as a Join my religion post, but I see it kinda turned into sounding like one. as I said before I'm in a bit of a hurry. I'll try to rectify it soon. But it still has all the Info on the topic you asked about in it.

    I don't have the time to give a nice big response. With lots of references and examples. So I'll just give my experience. I am now Muslim. I was raised Christian. I went through the normal phases of Anti-Societal Christian or Biblical Christain or whatever you call it. But there were still many Biblical questions I had that 99% of people I talked to had no answers. I concluded something similar to what was stated above that maybe I just had to give it alternative meanings and that did seem to alleviate many of the inconsistencies. Some however just never made sense to me. So I started reading. I read some translations of the Torah (I believe it would be considered the Tanakh since it contained all of the books and not just the Law, but feel free to correct me. The best I could describe is an English translation of the Hebrew texts corresponding to the modern Bible). And that alleviated some issues. Then started reading different versions of the Bible (used to be a KJV only type). These included ASV, NIV, NKJV, and excerpts from others. At one point I was believing that maybe the Bible is so hard to understand so that one must work so hard to understand it. But that didn't really make sense for a God who wished all to be successful. So I started talking to people of all faiths and denominations. Hindu (Vedic) was interesting and very similar in ideals to that which the Bible promoted, but the whole images of God thing never settled with me. I then started talking to Muslims to the point I was convinced they just had another Prophet to bring Jesus' Message. So I read the Quran. The parts that were unclear of the Bible seemed to not only be rectified, but also explained logically. Then I got into Hadith, Tafseer, etc. Only then did I start listening to different Sheiks (Scholars) about the comparisons of Bible and Quran. And found that most if not all of those Sheiks that had converted (or reverted) to Islam from Christianity had most of the same conclusions I had come to that the Bible (while a great book and source of information) has its errors/hard or impossible to understand points, and the Quran has the answers to those hard to understand issues.

    This is how I understand and view the Bible. OT and NT. They are the perspectives of men with the word of God mixed in. I encourage you to read the Tanakh (Torah/etc), then as many versions of the Bible as you care to read, and then at least once, the Quran. If it doesn't sit right with you, fine. You read a book and have a perspective on 20% of the worlds population's religion.
     
  7. Lux

    Lux Active Member

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    Wil, you're right. My bad.

    Thanks for the youtube link ... Is this professor analyzing human psychology from a secular point of view? Do you know if he is a believer? For now, I'm mostly interested in believers' perspectives; how they justify seemingly illogical or immoral beliefs of their religion. I haven't given them a fair hearing while I most always have supported secular arguments trying to be on the side of science and common sense. But science has its own shortcomings too. I've realized there are many intelligent folk - who know more about science than I do - truly believing in God, not as a metaphor or humanly-manufactured concept, but as an actual existence. I'm now very curious about their thought process.
     
  8. Lux

    Lux Active Member

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    BigJoe, thank you very much for your thoughtful reply as someone who went through the similar questions as I'm going through now about the bible. You sure sound well-studied. It may take me ten years to get to your level! I know nothing about the Quran or what Islam teaches. If I understand it correctly Muslims are the descendants of Ishmael, does that mean they value the old testament (the portion up until Hagar and Ishmael had to leave, or the entire book?) as important guidance for their faith? No grudges against Abraham and Sarah for casting them out?

    You said, "The parts that were unclear of the Bible seemed to not only be rectified, but also explained logically." ... could you give me an example?
     
  9. Lux

    Lux Active Member

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    Here's my next question to Jewish and Christian folks ...

    I most sincerely hope I don't offend people too much - I don't mean to be abrasive - when I say God may have not (I'm not deciding God didn't) given the ten commandments at Mt. Sinai.

    My assumption is that the ancient Israelis figured them out over time by divine inspiration (most definitely the latter half - universal virtue) - in a similar manner Abraham figured out human sacrifice is not needed - and instituted under the leadership of Moses. There were no divine tablets. Those words were written by men. (At this point, I'm skeptical if God speaks in a human language.) But the legend was created and passed on. ... If any believers in this forum disagree, please edify me.
     
  10. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    Lux, out of curiosity. What is the difference to you? Can you know through scientific means if it was God or man, and how would the difference affect your faith and how you act?
     
  11. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Well the first thing I would say is be careful not to read history from a contemporary sensibility, the events were discussing occurred about 4,000 years ago.

    This is an archetypical story: a king, two queens, two contenders for the throne. From the perspective of the times, the solution is easy. Machiavelli would have laughed at Abraham sending Hagar and Ishmael away. As soon as Isaac came along, Abraham should have killed them both. Leaving them alive is a recipe for disaster!

    The history of the royal dynasties of Europe plays out this story, and variations of it, over and over again with tiresome regularity. In England we have the great houses: Wessex, Norman, Angevin, Plantagenet, Lancaster, York, Tudor ... the names change, but the story stays the same.

    What I would say is don't expect too much of the people – the Jewish scribes were certainly not inclined to whitewash their history – but keep your focus on how they see God and how God deals with them.

    It seems to me that even if we assume an agnostic position, if one reads the History of the Jews with a open to ideas, then the Jewish idea of God is in a completely different, and dare I say transcendent, league compared to contemporary ideas of the peoples of that region in that era of history.

    Look at the Greek myths. There you have this world, and another world – Olympus. Set Abraham, Sarai and Agar, Ismael and Isaac in a Greek myth, and the gods would have be pulling the strings, using them to play out their own petty squabbles, we poor mortals are pawns in their game. In fact, the odds are that the gods would have bedded Sarai as they seemed to do so often with mortal women!

    (Having said that, I read the genius of Greek myth is in its psychodrama. The gods on Olympus are, as Plato pointed out, very much people like us, with the same virtues, the same vices ... and often a lot worse! But a psychodrama, as the Olympian gods are really anthropomorphic projections.)

    There were many philosophers who believed that Plato must have read Moses (the Pentateuch) and that many of his ideas of a transcendent and all-encompassing monotheistic deity derived from his exposure to the Jewish religion when he travelled in Egypt.

    I'm not saying he did, but what I am pointing out is two 'ways' of interpreting the world, a 'philosophical' way and a 'mythopoeic' way – the Hellenic and the Hebrew, and that there are significant correspondences between the two once you get passed Hellenic polytheism and certain contemporary notions about 'literalism'. The distinction then is dualism, Hellenic thinking tends to dualism, and still largely 'infects' Christian thinking. Hebrew thinking tends to holism.

    We can certainly discuss the 'spiritual' reading of Genesis if you like, but I'm only equipped to do so from a Christian position. I'm still reading the Jewish ...
     
  12. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    some quotes of his...

    God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It's as simple as that.

    Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.

    One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that.
     
  13. BigJoeNobody

    BigJoeNobody Professional Argument Attractor

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    I'm glad you enjoyed my story. There are several people here that would disagree with the your commendation. And I will even go as far as saying I probably don't deserve that much credit.

    To comment on your statements however, Muslims aren't the decendents of Ishmael (PBUH). Mouhammed (PBUH) is a decendant of him. As for the OT. We view (as doctrine) it as a book that contains the words of God. It is Holy because of this. We do believe however that amongst the words of God there are words of man. And that some of these words are contradictory of Gods and is at times inpossible to discern God's word (and commands) from that of the man (or woman) who wrote it.

    One example is the Initial creation. The Bible creates a very specific picture that the heavens and earth were created in 6 days. Now for years I as well as most people would just say "Yeah but who's to say what a day was then". The problem with this thinking is you are not backed by anything from the text.

    The Quran uses a word that is better translated as a period of time. so 6 periods of time. Also, God rests on the 7th day in the OT. This doesn't make sense for an all-powerful transcending not bound by time. The Quran doesn't mention this. Instead it says he created the world in 7 periods and did not falter (50:38).

    This is obviously only 1 issue. and maybe it makes sense to you and maybe it doesn't. To me it doesn't mean the OT was wrong, but rather that the person who wrote it used a word that over the millinea was misinterpreted. I still have several Bibles and read them from time to time. Especially when talking to family who are preachers, etc. It is invaluable for many things. But it does have its "flaws" (using the word loosely to represent misinterpretations over time rather than errors)
     
  14. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hi Lux –
    Thought I'd pop in on this one from the Catholic pov.

    Answer: Yes, Genesis is compatible with evolution theory. It's also compatible with cosmology generally, in fact its compatible with science, because it's not a science commentary. It's not an 'either Genesis or science' thesis.

    According to Genesis (2:7): "And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul."
    The sacred scribe had no inkling of evolution, any more than the scientist did until the theory was broached. So he writes from his understanding of God.

    God created all 'things'. There's an old theory of 'essence and substance' which is common to all religious traditions, and which still stands (spirit and matter (Abrahamics); purusha and prakriti (Hindu); the unspoken and the spoken (Tao), the Uncreate and the created (Buddhism); idea and form (Plato, albeit simplified); Formless and formal; Absolute and contingent; Infinite and finite, etc. in various philosophical systems). 'Humanity', for example, refers to the essence, to what it is to be human, a 'human' refers to the realised or actualised substance, the person.

    What this verse speaks of essentially is that man emerged as a product of nature (the slime of the earth) and is brought into being by the Will of God. What the ancients did not get involved in is quite how you form a biological entity out of mud, that was beyond them. What they did know is everything goes in cycles – linear time, as we read progress, is a modern idea – and if you leave a body long enough, it turns to the dirt of the earth. So it seemed logical to them that if you end up as earth, then that's where you came from.

    The point of the Bible is not that God did it. The point is that He chooses to make Himself known to His creation. We are theists, not deists. If we were deists, God would have made the world and walked away. Instead, we choose to believe God walks with us.

    The Moslems have a wonderful, luminous saying of God's: "I was a secret treasure, and wanted to be known."

    That much (and so much more, in essence) the Abrahamics, 'the People of the Book' as my Moslem brothers and sisters say, agree on. And we're not alone in that.
     
  15. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    hi Lux –
    You've put your finger on it.

    The metaphor is the most powerful figure of speech in language. It comes from the Greek verb 'to carry over'. In the case of the Bible, the 'image and likeness' of God is carried over into the soul. One 'thing' has something in common with another 'thing'.

    Modern ideas about metaphor are not a relating, a carrying across, but rather relating everything to itself (a carrying back, the desire to possess, the cause of the Fall). It carries, if you like, the other way, and says God is a construct, a projection of the idea of self, an infinitely powerful idea, but crucially nothing more than that.
     
  16. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    In essence I agree. In substance perhaps, we might differ.

    To tackle the easy bit first: The history of the Jews tags certain events to certain places. Moses saw the burning bush on Mount Horeb. He received the commandments on Mount Sinai. I have no reason to not believe that the Jews were somewhere when these doctrines were formulated. But that's not your argument, I know that.

    The message at both is the same, with nuanced distinctions. Stated explicitly, it is codified in Leviticus 26:12 "I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people."

    When the Jews were at Horeb, God declares Himself. On Sinai we have the affirmation of the eternal covenant with Israel.

    The description of gatherings, the material details – sacrifices offered, declarations made and so forth – tallies with descriptions found in other contemporary cultures in the region. So that element – the witnessing of a contract – is not strictly Jewish, it's universal. Today we do it with signatures on a document.

    Some might argue that the Ten Commandments are, in that sense, universal. In any covenant someone, God, the gods, the king, your prince, the baron, your landlord, is the boss and lays down the law. (In a contract between equals, it's the law to which both parties pledge.)

    Again, it's the 'big idea' that's paramount. Leviticus again: I am your God, you are my people.

    As for the details, I happen to think yes, they occurred at Horeb and later Sinai. Mountains are significant places we go to to seek enlightenment and from whence we deliver judgements. The symbolism of the mountain endorses the statement.

    The descriptive detail is symbolic, but as I have explained, I happen to think of it in terms of an actual metaphor, not an abstract metaphor. God 'speaks' in human language but God is not just the God of man, He is the God of the Cosmos and he speaks through mind and He speaks through nature.

    The one is no more improbable than the other.

    It's all one. God is all-in-all.
     
  17. Lux

    Lux Active Member

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    Through scientific means? - No.

    Does it make a difference if I knew what really happened at Mt. Sinai (how the ten commandments were given) - Why, yes.

    If those were the authentic words of God - not what men figured out and crafted themselves - then they become absolute, word for word. But I'm iffy about the second one, not the commandment itself, but how it's said. "... punish the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation ..." - Punish innocent children when their parents are guilty? That sounds neither God is love nor just to me.

    But a Christian friend of mine said that he understands this way; "If you don't obey my commands, your children will likely follow suit and so will their children. People that disregard my commands will have difficulties building a good life as they'll go their own way and human's ways are susceptible to corruption. That's the consequence (punishment) your descendants will have to suffer" ... ok ... then I get it. But I still conclude that the wording is of man, then I can understand, considering how autocratic most ancient societies were and they often used coercive methods to control the populace.

    Even with the basic idea of the commandments coming from God, men put it into words. Then the end result may not perfectly reflect God's wish - this is the difference.

    And then, there's a subsequent 'divine message' after the ten commandments in Exodus chapter 20. These passages are bewildering - if God had really said them.
    =====
    Exodus 20:22 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: 23 Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.

    A) 24 “‘Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.

    B) 25 If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it. 26 And do not go up to my altar on steps, or your private parts may be exposed.’
    =====

    A) I'd insist God didn't say this. God desires no animal sacrifice either.

    B) I honestly don't mean to mock or anything by bringing this up, but, is God really concerned about our private parts? Is God that micro-managing? Do we need God to tell us this should be avoided? Or is it not what I think it means?
     
  18. Lux

    Lux Active Member

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    Correct me if I'm wrong but I take it he's not a believer of an actual existence of God. Does this professor (and do you also) image God as the ideal state of human psyche ... ? If so then God exists only when we exist - God came from our psyche, not the other way around. Is that his and your belief?
     
  19. Lux

    Lux Active Member

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    BigJoe, Thomas, I thank you both very much! A LOT to take in!!
    I have an early start tomorrow and gotta work over the weekend, I'll get back to you guys next week ...

    I hit a really good forum, a variety of perspectives, everybody seems to be well-mannered. I've tried a religion/spirituality section of a few philosophy forums before, but it didn't take. It was hard to discuss anything in a constructive manner because of the constant juvenile bickering between strong atheists and the religious. This is a really good forum.
     
  20. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    I believe G!d is the underlying principle of all things... Not an entity (nor do I believe in any critter called the devil) I believe in personal responsibility (not blaming some imaginary being for situations in life like bumper crops or plagues) I believe the ancients were in a blame mode, that prophets and Jesus tried to explain things but it wasn't well received.
     

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