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Old 08-19-2001, 11:16 AM   #61
Metacrock
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Originally posted by Apikorus:
<STRONG>Can you completely reject the notion that the Hebrew Bible is divine, then?

And how much wiggling can you get away with when it comes to the New Testament? Can one call himself a Christian simply because he has adopted a philosophy attributed to Jesus yet remain skeptical on key articles of faith such as the resurrection, the virgin birth, and divine sonship?

What do you think Jesus himself thought of the Hebrew Bible? Do you think, for example, that he believed Elijah really had ascended to heaven in a whirlwind, as described in 2 Kings? Is it possible to reject the historicity of the Elijah story, accept that Jesus believed it, yet still believe Jesus was divine?

P.S. to Nomad: My remarks about the Hebrew Bible were intended as a menu of modern scholarly opinions. I happen to support each of them, but that's irrelevant to my line of questioning. As for what would be a problem for Orthodox Christians, I would think all of them are potential problems. If Jesus believed in Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, then he believed in a legend (Mosaic authorship is hardly advocated anymore, except by the most conservative evangelical scholars). If the apocalyptic sections of Daniel are a vaticinia ex eventu of Hellenistic provenance, I'd think that also would prove inconvenient. Etc.

[ August 10, 2001: Message edited by: Apikorus ]</STRONG>
Meta =&gt;I get into arguments about this a lot. Every fundie who sees that I like evolution comes up with "Yea but Jesus believed in a literal Adam and Eve and in the story of the flood."

What i usually tell them is, we have no real evidence that Jesus was doing anything but speaking within the myth. He never says "yea Moses was a real guy, Noah really existed." He says "In the days of Noah." He refurrs to the Moseic law but than that's how it was called. So he never actually gives us a clue as to the status of the literal histroy, he affirms the value of the Hebrew Scriptures, as do I&gt; But than i find value in mythology.


Is The Bible The Word of God?

[ August 19, 2001: Message edited by: Metacrock ]
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Old 08-19-2001, 11:26 AM   #62
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<STRONG>If I were a Christian the cumulative case against the historicity of the Hebrew Scriptures that has been built up by biblical scholarship would definitely influence my faith but I think for the better. In fact my in-laws, both of whom are Episcopalians, believe that the bulk of the Hebrew Scriptures are mythological and allegorical. Yet, they enjoy a rich spirituality and consider themselves Christians in the sense of finding meaning in Jesus' teachings and attempting to live them in word and deed. Since Marcus Borg's wife (Marianne) is an Episcopal priest here in Portland he often lectures in her cathedral and so I go to hear him speak. A theme of his talks is how the old theology and the old ideas of God no longer work for people. I think that's why Borg, Spong, Crossan, and others like them are struggling to redefine what it means to be a Christian in an age where biblical criticism has destroyed literalism. They are seeking to find new meaning in faith (and hasn't this been the history of Christendom really?) Personally I think this is a healthy turn of events. I don't see why someone can't see the Hebrew Scriptures as largely allegorical, admit that Jesus was a product of his time for viewing them otherwise, and yet consider himself to be a Christian nonetheless.</STRONG>
Meta =&gt;I dont' have a problem, in principle, with the idea that the Hebrew scriptures are largley mythological, or with the idea that we need to traslate the theology into the modern context. That's just the old Bualitmannian project. But there is no reason to just give up wholesale which is what they've done.

This question is going to be determined by the model of inspiration. If one has a model that can only accept the acutal verbage as inspired--verbal plenary inspiritaion, than its a problem. But there are many other models. Mine is more or less an inner experince model with Avery Dulles' notion of dialectical retrieval. So for me the the ephasis has to be upon the way in which redactor choices are choices conditioned by assumptions about God based upon experince of God.

So with that in mind anything in the OT could be myth, symbol, or literal history. It's just a matter of what really happened, and since we have to peice that together though archaeology we have to just rely upon the power of the text to bestow grace, not upon literal fulfillment.

Yet, despite all of this I still think there is an amaznig level of fulillment in Messinaich prophsey and I see no reason not to take seriously.
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Old 08-19-2001, 11:39 AM   #63
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[QB]

Bede, this is clever but perhaps a bit too slippery.
[/b]


Meta =&gt; It is neither clever nor slippery. Again it depends upon the model of revlation that one accepts. But it's a very common apparoch in moderately liberal Evangelicalism. There are cleverer and slipperier appaorches. See Jurgen Moltmann Theology of Hope for example.


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There may be no historical methods to assess whether Jesus was born of a virgin, but there certainly are methods to assess if he was not. (E.g. if there were texts, deemed reliable, which discussed Jesus' early childhood and revealed that he had older siblings. Of course this is wildly hypothetical and intended only for illustrative purposes.)
Meta =&gt;Yea,if he had older sibs, but since that's not the case there's no way to use it. That doesn't really address Bede's point. There's no reason why he should suspend belief pending a peice of info that is not likely to ever surface.


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Similarly, that Jesus was resurrected bodily is perhaps a nonhistorical assertion, but if tomorrow a Roman account of Jesus' execution were discovered which revealed that his body was eaten by dogs (sorry if this offends; I think Crossan suggests this! again this is only for illustration), then historical methods once again intercede.
Meta =&gt;Only if the historicity, verification, and reliability of the document could be absoltuely prove. Hey everything we know could be a lie. Documents could turn up proving that the mood landing and pictures form Mars were faked in Arazona. But are you willing to dobut them pending the final proof?


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It seems then that the creeds do carry with them some implicit historical assumptions.
Meta =&gt;Sure they do. The Nicene states that he was crucified under Pilate. That's an historical assumption, and we have it cold.


Quote:
James: nice post. I suppose the basic question is whether one's beliefs about Jesus are in any way limited by one's attitudes toward the Hebrew Bible.
MEta =&gt; It is, but there is no reason to give it all up wholesale.


nullIs The Bible The Word of God?
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Old 08-19-2001, 01:42 PM   #64
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I think Metacrock and I would agree that historical matters are largely assessed on a probabilistic basis. I have no doubt that many Bible-believing Christians would not be swayed by even the strongest possible evidence falsifying various Jesus legends. But certainly many others would find their faith shaken.

Regarding Jesus' beliefs about the Hebrew Bible, unfortunately we really know very little of what the historical Jesus said or believed. It seems likely he revered the Hebrew scriptures (or, more likely, the LXX) as divinely inspired.

Metacrock, I'm curious as to how far you are willing to go in demythologizing the Hebrew Bible. Do you believe that, as a Christian, you must find some divinely inspired element to the "Old Testament"? Well, I'll find out soon enough as I am about to follow your link to your views on divine revelation...

I think both you and Nomad have shot from the hip here in stepping into my discussion with Bede. Bede had claimed that certain elements of faith such as the virgin birth and bodily resurrection of Jesus are simply beyond historical inquiry. My point was that this is not really the case. I introduced those hypothetical sources for illustrative purposes only. I'm not terribly interested in discussing the plausibility of the hypotheses.

On messianism: the Hebrew Bible really doesn't present a coherent messianic framework. That later Jewish and Christian authors were to adduce messianic allusions from the text tells us more about later Jewish and Christian tradition than it does about the Hebrew Bible itself. Nothing spooky here.

[ August 19, 2001: Message edited by: Apikorus ]
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Old 08-20-2001, 09:44 AM   #65
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Originally posted by Apikorus:

Incidentally, Nomad, of what consequence is it if my interpretations agree with Orthodox Jewish "teachings" (which, as I've explained, can be quite rich and diverse on nonhalakhic matters)?
What I was hoping to uncover was whether or not your interpretation of Hebrew Scriptures was supported by other Jewish exegesis, especially what comes from traditional orthodox Jewish thinking. Based on my own discussions with religious Jews, they do not see God as misleading even the wicked to their own destruction. At the same time, if that is what they believe (in effect, this would mean that they agree with your interpretation), then it would appear that the traditional Jewish view of God would be far more radical than I had expected.

On the other hand, as you have agreed that the great majority of Jewish rabbis accept that God is willing to accept repentance at any time, even from the most wicked, then it appears that their understanding of Hebrew Scripture is pretty close (on this point) to that of the Christian view. I will leave you with a Biblical presentation of that view as given by one of the earliest Christians:

Acts 7:41-42 (RSV) And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and rejoiced in the works of their hands. But God turned and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: 'Did you offer to me slain beasts and sacrifices, forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?

As I said, if we reject God, then He allows it, and hands us over to our own evil. But as we have seen, neither the Hebrew Scriptures (as represented by the Jewish faith), nor Christian doctrines teaches that God leads people to their own destruction.

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Old 08-20-2001, 09:56 AM   #66
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Nomad, traditional Jewish (and Christian) exegesis of the Hebrew Bible is pre-critical. I don't see why it should be probative with regard to the actual plain sense of the text, which I claim I have properly adduced.
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Old 08-20-2001, 10:23 AM   #67
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Originally posted by Apikorus:

Nomad, traditional Jewish (and Christian) exegesis of the Hebrew Bible is pre-critical. I don't see why it should be probative with regard to the actual plain sense of the text, which I claim I have properly adduced.
This is why I cautioned you about the willingness to accept a translation from one language to another uncritically. Very often, the nuances contained within the translation are lost, and misunderstandings take place. Any individual who has been involved in translational work (in any languages) is aware of this danger, so for anyone to claim that they have uncovered the "probative" or "plain sense" meaning of a text is, at best, being a little naive.

As a final point, I would hope that you are not suggesting that such a thing as "pre-critical" or "critical" exegesis has any real meaning, as such a view is merely question begging. After all, none of us are free of our biases, and taking a "critical" view is no more (or less) non-prejudicial than "traditional" views.

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Old 08-20-2001, 11:04 AM   #68
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Apikorus wrote: "Nomad, traditional Jewish (and Christian) exegesis of the Hebrew Bible is pre-critical. I don't see why it should be probative with regard to the actual plain sense of the text, which I claim I have properly adduced."

Quote:
Nomad: This is why I cautioned you about the willingness to accept a translation from one language to another uncritically. Very often, the nuances contained within the translation are lost, and misunderstandings take place. Any individual who has been involved in translational work (in any languages) is aware of this danger, so for anyone to claim that they have uncovered the "probative" or "plain sense" meaning of a text is, at best, being a little naive.

As a final point, I would hope that you are not suggesting that such a thing as "pre-critical" or "critical" exegesis has any real meaning, as such a view is merely question begging. After all, none of us are free of our biases, and taking a "critical" view is no more (or less) non-prejudicial than "traditional" views.
Nomad, you've misunderstood Apikorus. When he says that traditional exegesis is pre-critical that's a polite way of saying that believers cull their own meanings from the text in accordance with their preconceived ideas of what it "ought" to mean in conformity with orthdoxy or dogma. This practice results in a collection of disparate and relative meanings across religions and sects. ("Yes it says X but it really means Y...") By hinting that Apikorus fails to see the correct "nuance" or translation and so is unenlightened in his critical reading of the text, you've done nothing more than prove his point. If there is any question-begging going on it is in the desire to make all Scripture conform to orthodoxy rather than the other way around. And therein lies our present postmodern problem, namely, these texts cannot be a basis for truth because all texts are products of interpretation. Critical scholarship is a tool for allowing us to discover (as best we can) the intent of the author abstracted from the desires of the readers. This can succeed only if we commit ourselves to the freedom to be able to arrive at conclusions that do not necessarily agree with the teachings of this dogma or that orthdoxy.
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Old 08-20-2001, 12:38 PM   #69
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Nomad, your claim that modern critical scholarship is no more or less prejudiced than relgious tradition is relativist nonsense. Jewish tradition holds that Moses wrote the Torah (and the Book of Job, in fact!), that 600,000 men were present to receive the Torah at Sinai, that we have modern letter-for-letter-accurate replicas of Moses' Torah, etc. Christian tradition also holds that Moses wrote the Torah, as well as that Jesus is referred to throughout the Hebrew Bible. (Incidentally, Muslims believe that Mohammed is prefigured in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament as well.) None of these views is held remotely plausible by modern scholars, save for Orthodox Jews and Evangelical Christians, whose objectivity is appropriately questioned.

The modern critical apparatus includes linguistics (not just Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, but also Akkadian, Ugaritic, Egyptian, etc.), cultural anthropology, history, archaeology, historical geography, etc. The refracted elements of Ugaritic mythology which we glean from the Bible - references to Asherah, Baal, Astarte, etc. - are contextualized by the cache of writings discovered at Ugarit only in 1929, after laying dormant for 3300 years. Boghazkoy, Amarna, Nineveh, Mari, Khirbet Qumran, etc. etc. have only been discovered and excavated within the past 150 years. It is dishonest and indeed desperate to imply that no distinction exists between modern critical scholarship and traditional religious approaches to the Bible. Your assertion that we all have our prejudices is a simplistic response that really says nothing.

Now it would be a mistake to assume that I think traditional approaches are worthless. That would be a foolish position to take, given that, until modern times, traditionalists have been the most educated and devoted students of the Bible, and often have proven to be extremely sensitive readers. Indeed, the best modern scholars do cite the rabbinic literature and Christian writings from time to time. Jewish sources are sometimes adduced for philological purposes: there are instances of hapax legomena in the Hebrew Bible which are illuminated by their usage in the Talmud. And though the christological objectives of e.g. Calvin often render his analyses worthless from the modern point of view, this is not always the case.

Traditional scholarship often identifies important questions. But, fettered by confessional stance, traditionalists are constrained in their answers. Modern historical-critical scholarship liberates the text from theology.

I will try to look into Jewish responses to this interesting question of God misleading the sinful. However, the language in those verses I adduced is quite plain. Your suggestion that this might be a result of theological biases in the masoretic (or proto-rabbinic) tradition falls flat, since the theological biases would if anything run the other way. Furthermore, your implication that the Targumim might provide a more authentic reading also is untenable, for reasons I have explained. Traditional Jewish exegesis, while it can be quite diverse on nonhalakhic issues, indeed is exemplified by the expansive and tendentious translations in the Targumim, so it would neither be surprising nor probative to find that midrashim support the interpretation in T. Yonatan.

Of course there are cases where direct translation fails, in instances of idiomatic constructions, puns, hendiadys, etc. But I am aware of all these issues (and, qal vechomer, even moreso is an Ezekiel scholar like Moshe Greenberg). In this case (and others I have adduced) you have simply run out of options, Nomad.
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Old 08-20-2001, 12:56 PM   #70
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Quote:
Originally posted by James Still:

Nomad, you've misunderstood Apikorus. When he says that traditional exegesis is pre-critical that's a polite way of saying that believers cull their own meanings from the text in accordance with their preconceived ideas of what it "ought" to mean in conformity with orthdoxy or dogma.
Hello James

Actually, I am well aware of what Apikorus is saying here, and what I am doing is pointing out the naive assumption built into his (and your) belief that we can best understand Scripture by seperating it from its religious roots. Thus, we see nearly endless examples of (sometimes nonsensical) understandings of the Bible, where the reader is insisting that even the author himself must not have understood what he was writing. Probably my favorite example of this is when fundamentalist sceptics try to show that Genesis is in error when it tells us how God warns Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil because if they do, they will surely die. This idiosyncratic individual then points out that Adam and Eve did not actually die right away (as the plain reading of the text said), but rather, that Adam goes on to live a good while longer!

Quite simply, the problem for the interpreter of the Bible is that we very often want to make simple assumptions, and believe that there is only one logical reading of the Scriptures, when there is nothing in any tradition that shows that this is, in fact, the case. Even if we accept the idea that the human mind can reason on its own, and determine what is contained within Scripture, anyone that states that they have the plain text understanding of what is contained in the Bible should be treated with caution. And when this person presents a novel understanding of the text, and does so by divorcing it from the wider context, then we should be even more cautious.

Quote:
This practice results in a collection of disparate and relative meanings across religions and sects. ("Yes it says X but it really means Y...") By hinting that Apikorus fails to see the correct "nuance" or translation and so is unenlightened in his critical reading of the text, you've done nothing more than prove his point.
Actually, I am hoping that he will see a broader point that he may not have considered up to this point.

All human languages are extremely complex things, and when that language is attached to metaphysical, moral and theological principles, the level of complexity only increases. What I see happening when I am given interpretations like the above from Apikorus is that he operates from an underlying premise that I doubt he has even considered. I call this premise (for lack of a better term) "naturalistic presuppositionalism".

The best way to explore this concept is by way of analogy. Let us assume that I wish to set down some rules and consequences for my young son (he is seven). I give them to him, and tell him that if he needs any clarification on what I mean, that he should ask me and I will help him. Now, let's suppose that he comes up with an interpretation that makes sense to him. He even checks with his other 7 year old friends to see if they think he is right. But he does not check with me. Will his understanding be correct? Personally, given his history, I somehow doubt it.

So how does this relate here? In order to make Apikorus' understanding of Scripture work, it must be divorced from the doctrines and teachings of Judaism and Christianity. Yet these very Scriptures came to us from these traditions. To fail to listen to what they teach, based on their own holy works is to divorce rational thought from honest inquiry. I am not saying that this is done on purpose, mind you, but Apikorus' exegesis works only if his presuppositions are correct, and these would include:

1) There is no God (as described in the Bible) OR
2) This God, if He does exist, did not leave any teachings or traditions or institutions outside of the Bible to help interpret its meaning
3) This God has not seen fit to send messangers (in the form of the prophets, and the Church) to help advance understanding of His words.
4) The nature of God and His laws are not written on our hearts and minds and souls.

Now, it is perfectly acceptable to live by these beliefs, but one must understand that they are not divorced from their own set of prejudices. The sceptic cannot, by reason alone, establish that any one of the above premises are true. He must accept them as his starting ground. But once he does this, to assume that he is right is merely begging the question. After all, why should we trust him?

Quote:
If there is any question-begging going on it is in the desire to make all Scripture conform to orthodoxy rather than the other way around. And therein lies our present postmodern problem, namely, these texts cannot be a basis for truth because all texts are products of interpretation.
But why do you accept that post-modernism is true? Such a belief, is, in fact, self contradictory.

Quote:
Critical scholarship is a tool for allowing us to discover (as best we can) the intent of the author abstracted from the desires of the readers. This can succeed only if we commit ourselves to the freedom to be able to arrive at conclusions that do not necessarily agree with the teachings of this dogma or that orthdoxy.
I understand your faith in this statement James. I expect that Apikorus and others here agree with it emphatically. Yet, the fact that you do not see the underlying assumptions contained within your statement of belief is unfortunate.

If I may, try this:

Does your belief in your own personal understanding of the Bible hold up if the God of the Bible is real? IOW, can you understand the Bible through your own reasoning powers working alone? And if you can, how do you demonstrate this from the Bible itself (Remember, once the God of the Bible becomes real, then we would logically expect to follow the rules He has laid out for understanding His word)?

As Isaiah told us:

Isaiah 1:18a "Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:

The notion of trying to understand God's Word without asking Him directly does seem rather odd, don't you think, especially from God's point of view?

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