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8 years ago  ::  May 24, 2010 - 8:42PM #1
sharktacos
Posts: 244

I am a Christian seminary student interested in learning more about the Jewish faith.


Walter Brueggemann has described the Hebrew Scriptures as having multiple competing "witnesses," different narratives each competing to be the one true description of God. As many have pointed out (Karen Armstrong being a popular example) there is clearly in the Hebrew Scriptures a narrative of the tribal violent warrior God, yet the majority of Jews would describe God as being primarily being a God who is loving and gracious towards all humanity.


As a Christian I agree with this, and would also prioritize this narrative of a gracious and loving God as well as the key aspect of God's character, and seek to understand the other narratives within that bigger story. So I am happy to see that there is a commonality here.


Here's my question: In so doing we have both prioritized this narrative of a loving gracious God over the warrior narrative. I agree with this prioritization, yet as a Christian I get to this through the New Testament. I would like to learn how Jews get to the same place as I do without use of the New Testament.


thanks!


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8 years ago  ::  May 24, 2010 - 9:00PM #2
Heidi2027
Posts: 396

Karen Armstrong writes with a pro-Islamist slant for all practical purposes. 


To portray Jehovah as a god of war makes it easier to neutralize "Allah's" violent nature.


More perspectives:


www.faithfreedom.org/4284

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8 years ago  ::  May 24, 2010 - 9:17PM #3
sharktacos
Posts: 244

I'm not really interested in Armstrong per se.


I'd rather have a response to the larger question I am posing here.

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8 years ago  ::  May 24, 2010 - 9:48PM #4
Heidi2027
Posts: 396

Every time I see the name Karen Armstrong, I must respond as to the truth because she decidedly doesn't.  


Regarding your larger question, was it not a loving God who through Moses led the nation of Israel from enslavement in Eqypt to freedom in their homeland?


Watch the Ten Commandments.  You won't be able to deny the love if you are truly looking for it.  This is a really awesome movie.  It came on TBN last night.  They will probably show it again soon.


www.tbn.org/watch-us/our-programs/the-te...

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8 years ago  ::  May 24, 2010 - 11:06PM #5
sharktacos
Posts: 244

Heidi, you are not addressing my question. Or to be more precise, it looks like you are simply denying that there are parts of the Bible that present God as warlike. I could point these out to you, but my guess is that if you are not already aware of them then you will not have reflected on how to understand them.


In the example you cite of the Exodus, right there we have to deal with the biblical herem which is deeply troubling. If you are unfamiliar with the herem read 1 Samuel 15:3.

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8 years ago  ::  May 25, 2010 - 1:37AM #6
LeahOne
Posts: 18,418

I've got quite a few responses to your inquiry, Tacos.


First of all, I must say how refreshing it is to read discussion from a serious Christian who's trying to look at Judaism in its own right.  


I suppose it depends on where and how one looks in the Torah (Hebrew Bible, much of what you call the 'OT'), what the view of YHVH is.....Even 'ancient' and 'Orthodox' Jews didn't read teh Torah with the kind of literalness that most Christians do (let alone the 'fundamentalist' literalists!) - nor do we have any view corresponding to 'sola scriptura'. 


We could start with Adam and Eve:  after they eat from the tree, YHVH makes them clothes.  And He's still talking to them (an illustration of why I don't buy the 'sin separates us from GOD' of Christianity).  He tries to talk to Cain, to counsel him about his envy of his brother's success...    Is this not the kind and  loving Father?                                                                                                                                      

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8 years ago  ::  May 25, 2010 - 2:09AM #7
LeahOne
Posts: 18,418

When we sing about the Torah in the synagogue, it's described as 'from the mouth of YHVH, by the hand of Moses'.   We do not assume the words we are reading are reality:  they are only symbols, at least one level removed from the actual events. 


How important is the story about A&E and the garden?  It is important to Judaism to show us that 1) We are all descended from one source, and no people is better than another, and 2) Every person is important:  if there hadn't been an Adam and an Eve then the human race would not have existed.  So the whole of humanity depended on just one man and one woman.  Each of us is important, and our actions, our choices, do count.


If you read the rabbinic commentary on that story, I don't think you'll find much about the Expulsion - that mostly seems to be important to the mystics.  What you will find is a lot of commentary about our purpose of 'tikkun olam' - repairing (improving) Creation.


Most of the discussions about YHVH's grace are in the Talmud, as comments on Torah portions, midrashim.  There's one about the Exodus:  while Miriam and everyone are singing praises to YHVH by the Re(e)d  Sea after the Egyptians are drowned,  the angels join in....and YHVH silences them angrily saying 'The work of My hands is perishing - you will NOT celebrate this!'   Does that sound like a 'tribal war god' to you?


And again, YHVH sends teh prophet Jonah to .....Ninevah, to instruct the people there on how to repent and have YHVH lift the plague He has sent upon them.  What's the 'punchline' of the story?  GOD chides Jonah about his mourning over the gourd:  if Jonah could be so attached to a gourd which he neither planted nor nourished, should not YHVH care about Ninevah and all its people and other lives within the city?


What's the story of Jonah telling us? Same as the midrash:  that YHVH cares about ALL His creation.  And He loves our enemies, too..... 


I'm afraid this is rather basic stuff:  I'm a homemaker with about a high-school Jewish education, not a teacher or a scholar.  I'm not up on different philosophies within Judaism or historical theological developments. 

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8 years ago  ::  May 25, 2010 - 10:30AM #8
Heidi2027
Posts: 396

Well Leah -- surely those are the kinds of answers sharktacos is looking for.  Nice job.  That is the disadvantage I have:  not being familiar with the Talmud, Mishnas, and other writings.  These are where the building blocks of Judaism can be found, right? 


Back to ST's original premise: the God of the New Testament is peaceful as contrasted with the 'warlike' God of what Christians term the "Old Testament."


We would have to leave out a whole lotta history to make that a true statement (e.g., Crusades, Inquisition, the Holocaust -- where many Christians stood silent in the face of these atrocities).


Personally, I am finding this site quite helpful:


´╗┐http://www.torah.org/learning/basics/nutshell/part2.html


Mostly because you can learn at your own level, from the most basic to the "TMI/more than I ever wanted to know" level.


Smile

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8 years ago  ::  May 25, 2010 - 11:55AM #9
sharktacos
Posts: 244

Shalom to you both,


I'd like to clarify a few things so we can be on the same page. First, as LeahOne says, my goal here is to look at Judaism in its own right. I want to understand how Jews get to the conclusions they do from their own sacred texts. Now Heidi writes that my original premise is that: "the God of the New Testament is peaceful as contrasted  with the 'warlike' God of the Torah"


So let me clarify, this is not my premise. What I said was that we both arrive at a picture of a gracious God, and that we do so each using our own sacred texts. I of course understand how I get there from my perspective as a Christian. I would like to understand how Jews get there from theirs.


I know this is a "debate" thread, but I am not looking to debate, I am looking to understand. I posted here because the other boards where I as a repsectful guest am allowed to post don't have much traffic.


Leah gives some examples from the story of Genesis, Jonah, and the Talmud that show God being loving. The example from the Talmud is one of my favorites (yes I have read portions of the Talmud). Let me say two things about these:


1) I am in no way denying that God is presented as loving and gracious in the Hebrew Bible. I could list pages and pages that show this. But there is also alongside of this other passages that give a different picture of a God who is angry and violent. So one needs to how to approach these different pictures, and make sense of them. Contemporary Rabbinical Judaism has (rightly I think) chosen to prioritize the picture of God as gracious over the picture of God as merciless, it has chosen to prioritize the image of God as loving all people over the image of God who only loves one people. Again both can be found in the Torah. I am interested in how Judaism arrives at this conclusion. In other words, I agree with the answer, but I want to see the math.


2) The example Leah cites from the Talmud shows a critique of violence. It shows prioritizing grace over wrath. But in Exodus 14 Meriam sings


"The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name. Pharaoh's chariots and his army  he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh's officers are drowned in the Red Sea...The nations will hear and tremble ... terror and dread will fall  upon them. By the power of your arm"


Notice here that God is presented as being loving towards Isreal, but a "terror" to the other nations. God is praised for being "a warrior". This is one of the texts that I am talking about. In Exodus there is no critque of this given at all. It just stands. God the warrior is a terror to the nations. In the Talmud we see a beautiful critique of this view which focuses on God's love for all people - inclusing the Egyptians. God rebukes the angels for joining with Moses and Miriam. So right there we see the priority in reading that I am talking about happening. That prioritizing of grace can even be seen as involving a critique/correction of the Torah itself.


I am looking to better understand that prioritization of grace from a Jewish perspective. What made that Rabbi in the Talmud say that? On what basis? I want to get to the roots.

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8 years ago  ::  May 25, 2010 - 12:30PM #10
Heidi2027
Posts: 396

There is a certain exclusivity with which many people view Judaism, and which you refer to there sharktacos when you are inquiring of the views of Jews on how God is concerned with everyone's well-being, as opposed to just being concerned with the people of Israel. 


One thing I took away from the movie the other night (The Ten Commandments) was that Joshua was very difficult to teach to fight in his own defense.  The nation of Israel had been slaves for hundreds of years in Egypt -- to use weapons was a foreign concept to slaves who had been forced into a pacifist mindset.  In Joshua's mind, to not trust God to defend them on their journey through the desert was sinful.  It took time, but Moses eventually drew it out of Joshua.  God expects us to defend ourselves and use common sense.  As much as peace sounds peachy -- we are not always going to be dealing with rational, peaceful people.


Such is the case in Israel today, with aggressors all around.


I am trying to address your underlying implications.  Here are the basics on what Judaism teaches regarding people of other faiths.  And their "chosenness" that you keep alluding to, but never come right out and say (the exclusivity complaint), is explained very well here:


Jewish Attitudes  Toward Non-Jews


Level: Basic


 


Contrary to popular belief, Judaism does not maintain that Jews are  better than other people. Although we refer to ourselves as G-d's chosen  people, we do not believe that G-d chose the Jews because of any  inherent superiority. According to the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 2b), G-d  offered the Torah to all  the nations of the earth, and the  Jews were the only ones who accepted it. The story goes on to say that  the Jews were offered the Torah last, and accepted it only because G-d  held a mountain over their heads! (In Ex. 19:17, the words generally  translated as "at the foot of the mountain" literally mean "underneath  the mountain"!) Another traditional story suggests that G-d chose the Jewish nation because they  were the lowliest of nations, and their success would be attributed to  G-d's might rather than their own ability. Clearly, these are not the  ideas of a people who think they are better than other nations...


www.jewfaq.org/gentiles.htm

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