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1 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Sat, Jul 30, 2011 11:46:17am

Yeah, the Bible is pretty creepy, and not only OT. I mean, if we interpret parts of NT historically, and not mythologically, then, say, Ananias and Sapphira were basically murdered for stealing (it is written that God killed them; uh-huh).

2 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Sat, Jul 30, 2011 11:50:57am

re: #1 Sergey Romanov

(Akshully not even for stealing but for withholding their own money from the Christian community and lying about it.)

3 Bob Levin  Sun, Jul 31, 2011 3:07:25am

I always get confused over these type of critiques, or satire. Is the satire directed at the most common interpretations of these verses? Is the satire essentially agreeing that these common interpretations are actually the most accurate? Is the satire implying that, if I am religious, then I must hold these interpretations as accurate and therefore agree with them?

If the interpretations are Costello, then who’s Abbott?

4 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Sun, Jul 31, 2011 3:09:12am

re: #3 Bob Levin

> Is the satire implying that, if I am religious, then I must hold these interpretations as accurate and therefore agree with them?

Of course not. However these verses are in the Bible, so speaking of it as some sort of morality beacon is ridiculous. I think that’s the point.

5 Bob Levin  Sun, Jul 31, 2011 3:34:16am

re: #4 Sergey Romanov

I would agree that the Torah (where I’m most confident in my understanding) is grossly misunderstood. And his argument is indeed a poignant critique of established religious interpretations. Unfortunately, I think he’s beating a straw man. On the other hand, this straw man gathers lots of money and influence. Tough call on the proper course of action.

Personally, I would like the Torah to be properly understood. But the Weltanshauung is far from that point of understanding.

For instance, there really isn’t an accurate English translation for Weltanshauung. It becomes a completely baffling term. Such is the case with the Torah.

Hey, but if this is someone’s best strategy for dealing with Westboro, best of luck to the guy.

6 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Sun, Jul 31, 2011 3:42:18am

re: #5 Bob Levin

Bob, correct me if I’m wrong, but my guess is that your view of the Torah as misunderstood may partially stem from your religious assumptions (I leave the issue of language aside for the time being). I assume this from our previous debate on the slavery in the Bible.

E.g. if you believe (and I don’t know if you do) that the Oral Torah was given to Moses on the Sinai together with the Written Torah, then it is only proper to see the Written Torah in light of the Oral Torah. Moreover, any reading of the Written Torah without understanding it in light of the Oral Torah would amount to taking things out of context, telling only half of the story.

On the other hand, someone who doesn’t believe that the Oral Torah was given on the Sinai or has a divine origin, but rather accepts that it is merely a very late interpretation by ancient religious authorities of an older text, then it’s not necessary to take it into account while interpreting the text, because it stands by itself.

7 Bob Levin  Sun, Jul 31, 2011 4:24:04am

re: #6 Sergey Romanov

You’re close.

I do believe that the Torah can’t be understood without the Oral Torah. However, there are many passages of the Torah that simply cannot be understood without the Oral Torah, thus showing the necessity of the Oral Torah, and showing that the Torah cannot stand by itself.

But where do things begin to go haywire? Presently, it can be argued that somehow Webster’s Dictionary has climbed into the realm of the holy. If you begin to take the Talmud as not just commentary but also method, then one of the main methods of discussion is the definition of words—attained, sometimes successfully, sometimes not—through cross-referencing.

But if you begin this type of discussion with many religious Jews, they will reach for Webster’s. It never helps, and always leads to misunderstanding.

8 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Sun, Jul 31, 2011 4:32:29am

re: #7 Bob Levin

Taking into account the Oral Torah is a must when one is discussing Judaism’s take on the Written Torah.

However, the Torah can be simply read by itself, as an ancient book, the book written when there was no Oral Torah, and written without the Oral Torah’s interpretations in mind. I don’t accept the assumption that the Oral Torah is necessary for its understanding, since I don’t see evidence for this. I do know about some isolated places where readings may be affected by an ancient tradition (like “milk” v. “fat”). This doesn’t mean that one simply accepts the whole of the tradition’s interpretations. Moreover, Christianity doesn’t accept the Oral Torah, so reading the Written Torah “as is” is also acceptable when discussing the Christian claims of moral authority.

9 Bob Levin  Sun, Jul 31, 2011 10:48:00am

re: #8 Sergey Romanov

You’re agreeing with me on how the misunderstandings begin.

Two of the classic proofs for the necessity of the Oral Torah pertain to the construction of Tefillin, and how to properly slaughter an animal for food. The descriptions are not mentioned at all in the Torah, and yet the Torah states that these must be done in accordance with the way that has been told to you. So, where are these descriptions?

The Oral Torah is seen as the entire body of teaching, whereas the Torah is closer to the cliff notes, but some amazing cliff notes.

It’s not simply a commentary on the Torah but also a method of inquiry, a template for our internal dialogue, a means to awaken our curiosity, and using that curiosity as a tool for the development of the self, defines the structure of knowledge—I could go on for a while on this point. And it does all of this in the disguise of the most boring compilation of discussions ever put together.

It also puts the Torah itself into such a large context that there is no way one could draw the conclusions regarding meaning that the video has drawn and that Randall has footnoted.

You are also correct that discarding the Oral Torah does indeed make all of the difference when talking about Christian claims of moral authority. I think that this discarding makes Christianity as much as the existence of Jesus.

10 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Sun, Jul 31, 2011 11:07:17am

re: #9 Bob Levin

Bob, I know about these proofs, they are for “internal consumption”, so to say. One can’t establish historical claims with arguments such as these. Even if we accept that these verses necessitate additional sources, it still wouldn’t mean that the Oral Torah as we have it now is *the* tradition as supposedly required by these verses, rather than a complex set of various traditions evolving over time.

But then, I don’t think that it can be shown that they do necessitate these additional sources. I think to claim this is to be overly literal. Tefillin (totafoth) are a case in point. If one reads these verses, they can really be interpreted as poetical, metaphorical. And moreover, according to recent research (about which, I know, you’re skeptical) tefillin practice post-dates the Torah by centuries - it dates to late-Second Temple era. Note, I don’t insist on you accepting this, but I go with modern critical scholarship on these issues. Just my perspective, if you will :)

11 Bob Levin  Sun, Jul 31, 2011 11:50:52am

re: #10 Sergey Romanov

No problem. The method of religious investigation itself should be deeply personal. There is a history, in Western culture of using external proof to convince you to adopt something that must be firmly grasped by the heart.

So, there were (and still are) logical proofs for the existence of Gd, on the one hand, and scientific proofs getting into the same area, either theistic or atheistic. Even when I was in Israel there was a strong reliance on archaeological evidence in the makeup of many folks’ spirituality. This certainly would be the case with Tefillin. First, the Tefillin have to survive for thousands of years, which is unlikely because they are organic. Second, it’s very difficult to have the tools to make the fine sets we have today. But the real proof regarding Tefillin, is wearing them, putting them on about a thousand times until you understand it—or begin to understand it.

It’s not something I can communicate or prove to another person. Nor would I try—because the act of discovery is absolutely essential for correct practice. At least, that’s how I see it. And that’s also the main issue that I have with Jewish institutions. Modeled after Western schools and institutions, they tend to shut down the intense curiosity, the learning fire that we are all born with. They discourage the art of asking the hard question, the question which will shake the dominant paradigm.

But that is precisely what one should learn from the Talmud, asking the hard questions, shaking the dominant paradigm. Doesn’t happen nearly enough.

12 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Sun, Jul 31, 2011 11:55:02am

re: #11 Bob Levin

Thanks for another great discussion, Bob!


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