tilting at windmills: a response to 'redaction theory'

Discussion in 'Comparative Studies' started by bananabrain, Sep 9, 2003.

  1. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    and l'shanah tovah to you too and thanks.

    yes, of course i realise that. my problem is - and this isn't the first time i've said so - that you appear to think that i ought to give your opinions and the opinions of other academics the respect i would give to the truth (and let me say that i do not for a moment suggest that they lack that certain logic and coherence which has convinced many) WITHOUT ACCORDING ME AND THOSE WHO AGREE WITH ME THE SAME RESPECT IN RETURN. you are, in effect - and don't think that i am trying to take offence on purpose here - suggesting thereby that opinions deriving from jewish thought are less than "respectable", which i consider entirely unwarranted, as if you were suggesting that academics are somehow infallible, in this case to suggest that *human logic and deductive rationality can explain everything*, which i find kind of arrogant. that's what gets up my nose!

    i am sorry if you think i don't "treat you with a tone of respect" (the web is a brusque medium and conveys little nuance of tone) the fact is that i *don't* disrespect your academic credentials, which i think i have said, yet you insist that my own points of reference are not worthy of respect! why on earth should i be convinced by such a one-sided perspective? you haven't justified it at all. look, if you *do* know about PaRDeS and the Oral Torah and yet choose to opine that all of this body of thought contains no "aspect of truth", as you put it, i can only conclude that you're being just as selective about what constitutes evidence as you think that i am being.

    i don't have any religious obligation to persuade you that i'm "right", you know - but what is it exactly that gives you the right to demand that everyone else kowtow to your frame of reference and justify themselves in your terms? i don't feel i have to justify myself to you and the only reason i am bothering to continue with this discussion is because i am trying to show the rest of the people that may be reading this that people like myself can maintain traditional jewish beliefs without relinquishing our critical faculties and that being branded as superstitious primitives by implication despite maintaining both is discourteous, unfair and unwarranted. i'm not interested in having a point-by-point argument with you about jeremiah because you're not open to any source of authority outside a western university. nothing i would say could possibly convince you. i can't convey my inner experience to you over the web, or even in person, yet you seem to think i am obliged to do so because your deductive methodology is by definition superior to mine! i'd like to coexist intellectually, but if you insist that my frame of reference must be subjugated to your own 'superior' one than i am afraid that that stands in the way of us being able to discuss things as with mutual respect.

    these are your words, but i could just as easily apply them to the irrational belief that rationalism is a powerful enough tool to understand the entirety of the human experience. do you listen to music at all? or look at art? rationality can't explain them. yet apparently i must deny spiritual truths because they cannot be validated by rationality. you haven't exactly addressed these points, possibly because they can't be addressed.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  2. bob x

    bob x New Member

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    It is not "all of this body of thought" that I am questioning, only the particular belief that the book dropped from the sky, letter-for-letter as we have it now, a claim that the text does not even make for itself. I find much of value in the "body of thought", and do not think it all becomes worthless if it is seen as something that evolved over time.
    I do not expect you to kowtow, but to examine those opinions and see if there is not logic to it. I examine Jewish opinion and find logic in much of it, but not in the Torah min-ha-shamayim premise. Not finding any verisimilitude in that, I accord it no more respect than parallel Christian claims about the Gospels and Epistles, or Muslim claims about the Qur'an, or Hindu claims about the Bhagavad Gita.
    If that is what you are trying to do, then of course, you need to exhibit the use of critical faculties.
    You are mistaken. If you say, "Here is something in Jeremiah, and here are the inferences I draw from those words", then I do not care whether the source of your inferences is a University professor, Maimonides, or the Idiot Rabbi of Pinsk-- or whether you have no source at all except your own insight. The strength of the inferences has to be judged on its own merit, not on the borrowed merit of any "authority". In that sense you can say that I am not open to any source of authority including western universities. Many opinions have come out of western universities which, on examination, prove to be rubbish.
    Well, we have our own inner experiences, and when it gets down to that level there is ultimately no real possibility of communicating. Deductive reasoning may or may not be "superior", but it is something that can be communicated from one person to another, in a way that internal intuitions cannot.
     
  3. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    *sigh*

    i think i'm pretty much done with this argument now.

    but what i keep pointing out and what you keep ignoring is the idea that the validity and authority of the Written Torah is *axiomatic*, which means it is unprovable and therefore fundamentally a matter of belief - much like your belief in the supremacy of logic, rationality and the other categories that come out of greek thought - and the only supporting opinions you are going to find for it are the ones that come out of the accompanying Oral Torah, which you also allow no voice. i am not by any means suggesting that you personally should start believing in TMHS, but what i am trying to do is give our friends here on this board some context to the assumption that textual analysis from an academic POV is the only game in town with any integrity. i am trying to argue that the traditional point of view is honest about not trying to prove things about a system using categories from outside the system. this is also a *anthropological* argument which you keep trying to frame in terms of "my claim is more *logical* than your claim". it's like a painter holding a gun at another painter's head in order to prove that his painting is better.

    no, of course not. however, what does fall down when TMHS is removed is the *authority* of the system. Divine Command has much more clout than "well, that's what our ancestors said they did". and i have strong reservations about whether the jewish people would have survived without TMHS.

    IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT LOGIC!!! halakha, for example, has its own logic, which does not - amazingly - exactly look like the logic of english common law. what i find astounding is that you seem to think that everything should be logical according to your understanding!

    hah, yes, but i don't find academics marching all over the middle east proclaiming that the Qur'an is not a Divine text, for some reason. not that i advocate the response of islamic fundamentalists for a minute, but it seems somewhat like the Torah is a softer target.

    there's no need to be insulting. my critical faculties have been exercised in this area for many years and are no less strong for the views i hold. i'm just not arrogant enough to think that they are the most powerful analytical tools ever used.

    er... so academics don't rely on any authority at all? i think that's questionable in the extreme. quite apart from the fact that you aren't saying who's doing this "judging" on its own merit. who judges how strong these inferences are? i might easily cite *you* as an authority, but somehow i doubt you'd object to that. tradition relies on a certain degree of *trust* - and that goes for you as well; you trust the academics before you not to have lied and, similarly, i don't see why i shouldn't trust that "moses received Torah at sinai, transmitted it to joshua, joshua to the elders, the elders to the prophets, the prophets to the men of the great assembly" simply on the say-so of a bunch of people whose doctrines, if followed, would lead to the extinction of our way of life.

    i've enjoyed some of our discussion and learned a lot, but i'd really rather finish it here, because i can't see any progress. i just hope the other people who have read it have taken something useful out of it.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  4. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste all,

    well, bananabrain, i did :)

    and i want to thank you both for a thought provoking thread!

    it can be... tiring... to explain a belief that is deeply held, even with someone that shares it.. let alone to those that don't.

    i, for one, always appreciate the time and effort it takes to have someone in a tradition explain how they percieve the tradition and how it's implemented in their lives.

    as they say... the Dharma rain falls equally on all... and we each respond in our own way and with our own capacity.
     
  5. bob x

    bob x New Member

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    Well, I thought you had abandoned me in disgust some time ago...
    All right, if you're tired I won'e answer blow-by-blow, just a few thoughts.
    I believe that you survived many centuries before this TMHS premise was ever thought up, and will survive after it has become a small minority view.
    The reason is simply that you haven't looked at what academics have to say about the process by which the Qur'an came to be, presumably because it is of little interest to you. Would it surprise you, for some reason, to find that most scholars do not think the Qur'an dropped out the sky, just as it is, letter for letter?
    I'm sure that's true. You do not come off as any kind of a dummy, and I am sorry if I gave the impression I was thinking of you as such. What I meant was that you were refusing to engage in critical reasoning, saying "What's the use of my elucidating Jeremiah for you when I know in advance you won't listen" and that kind of thing, and then you said your purpose was to show that you could still engage in critical reasoning. Well, if you want to show that, you would have to do so, not just say that you have done so on other occasions in the company of people you like better.
    Not in the sense you mean, of taking it as "axiomatic" that whatever Dr. Soandso says must be accepted without question. Of course, nobody has time to research everything personally, most things you have to take on trust. I would think fleas, lice, and ticks are similar kinds of bugs, but the biologists tell me fleas are actually like houseflies and mosquitoes but with wings distorted into backshields, while lice are like aphids or waterbugs, and ticks are not insects at all but like little spiders-- now I could examine for myself the reasons they say so, look at the injective proboscis on the flea and the sucking parts on the louse and count the legs of a tick, etc. etc. Or more likely, I will say, that is what they do professionally, I will take their word for it-- but that is because I do not really care what the proper classification of these vermin is. If there was some reason why it was important to know, then I would check out the evidence for myself.
    Yourself, always. If you take it as an axiom that the Torah is always right, it is still you who decided to trust the people who propose that as an axiom, as opposed to trusting the people who would propose the Qur'an.
    Not on THIS subject!!! On any matter connected with religion I want to see the primary textual material; I wouldn't take any scholar's word for "gospel" (if you'll pardon the expression).
    Vaya con dios!
    X
     
  6. Pamela

    Pamela New Member

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    This thread has been haunting my thoughts for the last two days. I wish to relate my quandary over redaction theory and literalism, and would appreciate input.

    When I was young (born and raised a Vatican 2 Catholic), I loved to read the Bible stories. One of things I recalled was regret that I didn’t live in those times, when magic and miracles took place..for of course, such things were long over. Around fourteen, I had a crisis of faith, and began to drift around. In these many years of drifting, and studying, I came across redaction theory, and it fascinated me. It gave me a means to approach these texts, and to go, “These people really were like me, and everybody else, weren’t they?” (I am not comparing myself to the noble souls of Moses, Jesus, Abraham, etc, but to the fact that people really were people back then.)

    Yet as I find comfort in redaction theory for giving me a means to approach the people within the scriptures, I sometimes miss the faith I once had. What happened on Mount Sinai, and what happened after Jesus’ Crucifixion (as two examples) that has inspired people, driven people, for hundreds of years? I may regret the dryness or rationality of redaction theory, but then I think about the scriptures and my experience of the Church and think, “why does it seem that The Divine really did stop speaking us authoritatively 2000 years ago?”

    How do I reconcile this? I haven't yet. I don’t know how. So I patiently study, and think and when I can, pray.

    How do the rest of you reconcile this? For I’m sure I’m not alone in this as a Westerner, at least.
     
  7. Chronicles

    Chronicles New Member

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    That's an interesting point - it might even serve for a thread in itself as I'm sure it's going to touch on far wider issues here.
     
  8. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    well, i was brought up to assume that the redaction theory was true, but eventually i just decided that a) it didn't really account for the nature of the Text on the level that i was encountering it from my own personal experience and b) it was complete euroccentric cultural imperialism with little understanding of the inner nature of the system. however, this does not prevent millions of (mostly europeanised) jews from believing it and nonetheless finding a variety of reasons to stay jewish and/or observe the commandments. what does fall over is the argument from authority, but it is precisely that argument that is necessary to enable one to start to appreciate the inner nature of the Torah and stand again oneself at Sinai, to paraphrase susannah heschel. in other words, without appreciating the Divine nature of the Text, there is only so far you can go on this particular journey. incidentally, bob, i've just been given a book that gives all the traditional sources for what we are required to believe and there is plenty of room for me to find a sustainably OK position as well as appreciate the fact that the sages have always disagreed about almost everything (apart from the halakhic process). it's r. aryeh kaplan's "handbook of jewish thought" and i think it would be a really interesting addition to your bookshelf, as it contains all the sources for what the traditionalists believe about, for example, tikkunei soferim or the masoretes.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  9. bob x

    bob x New Member

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    Maybe I will buy it for myself for Chanukkah ;-)
     
  10. bob x

    bob x New Member

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    The medievals had a different kind of faith than any except the most extreme fundamentalists: they thought they were STILL LIVING in a world where those kinds of stories take place as a matter of course. It is hard now to read the medieval stories about the saints without shaking our head and wondering how gullible people were: but recall that nobody had a good grip on how the world works back then, so none of the stories sounded implausible at all.
    It is only more recently that it has become necessary to have this kind of bifurcation, where part of your mind believes in the world where you go through your day-to-day activities and another part believes in a magical world of the past where quite different things used to happen.
     
  11. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    bump for the benefit of newer members ;) :D

    Enjoy!
     
  12. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Bump again for relevancy to recent threads.
     
  13. Dawud

    Dawud Byfluga

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    I believe Moses saw a Burning Bush and had communication with God... revelation from God. I can't say that the English translations are perfect or that any translations are perfect. I can't say that my understanding of it is complete, it couldn't be. I certainly can't take it literally word for word, as that would simply be a simplistic understanding of English words, relying totally on the translators... when translating itself needs a lot of interpretation. One can't simply replace words one by one in the same order... the grammar wouldn't make sense if you simply translate literally.... translators have to think about what a passage means and try to convey it in another language. Not an easy task, especially when it comes to scripture, which is deeper than philosophy. If philosophy is hard to understand, scripture is deeper.... I believe there is more meaning buried in holy texts than mere mortals can figure out. But everyone can benefit from scripture... we just need to know that there's more to it than a surface understanding, much more to it.
     
    Tone Bristow-Stagg likes this.
  14. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Found it! This is Bananabrain's response to Torah, Torah, Torah and Bobx. I would suggest appending this thread to that article so it doesn't disappear.
     
  15. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    Ok. It's now linked at the bottom of the Torah set of articles:
    https://www.interfaith.org/articles/torah-torah-torah/
     
  16. ScholarlySeeker

    ScholarlySeeker Active Member

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    I'm not sure if Pamela is still around here or not, but this is a profound point and great questions.

    What I personally have done is quit waiting for others outside to tell me what I am supposed to do, think, and experience. Yes things happened to others in ancient times, but they can also happen to us here and now too. We chase after it now, not wait for someone else to speak and tell us of their experience and follow that as truth. For them their experience is truth, for them, but of course. But our own truths are ours, as are our experiences. I suppose it would come down to having a mindset that I want to learn and discover truth, so I strike out on my own and read what appeals to me, and grasp what I can grasp, not feel guilty or worry about what others are reading and recommending as the way to truth.

    I read a lot of the religious texts of various religions, yet they aren't the finality for me. They are great reading, to be sure, but not the only reading, nor, importantly, the only way to connect with God in and with truth. Each have their own eccentricities if I can word it that way, and so each person's path is going to differ, truly. It's o.k. that this is how it works out. No guilt for anyone, just a movement toward truth for each, perhaps in their own way if necessary, perhaps others helping them and our using their ways and views for a while until we need to move on with our own.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 8, 2021
  17. muhammad_isa

    muhammad_isa Save Our Souls

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    - wikipedia -

    Makes a lot of sense to me. It seems very unlikely that it is inerrant, but nevertheless, it doesn't seem likely that it has changed beyond recognition either.
     
  18. ScholarlySeeker

    ScholarlySeeker Active Member

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    Yep, that's how I see it pretty much also. It is still intact enough to be recognizable, but it is nothing like a pristine source from a singular author. And then again, it doesn't have to be to have value either...
     

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