Anyone want to discuss the Bible/the Torah?

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Anyone want to discuss the Bible/the Torah?

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apr 23, 2008, 9:20 pm

like so many before me, i'm looking for answers, and i thought i might look in some of the obvious places first. so i read the copy of the Torah that my Hebrew teacher gave me on my bat mitzvah which had been gathering dust for 6 years. i read it thoroughly, and now it's bristling with post-it notes for tabs. (really, post-it notes are the most useful invention for readers to come from this century.) next, i got a copy of the NIV Study Bible from the public library and i'm reading the Synoptic Gospels (I'm through Matthew and Mark, and about half of the way through Luke). I also skimmed Proverbs a bit. anyway, i just thought there might be some people in the group who might like to talk about their opinions on the Old and/or New Testament. what's your take on it? what parts interest you? what parts bother you? how much credence do you give the miracles/wonders recorded in it? and, most importantly, what meaning, if any, has it had in your life?

apr 23, 2008, 10:04 pm

I have read through the Bible a few times and do believe in what it professes. I have found it helpful with my problems and reassuring when I'm scared. I have also heard it used to justify horrible things and misquoted to swindle people. Thats one of the reasons I read it, so I wouldn't be led astray as it were. I'm not gonna pretend I understand all of it but as I read it more and more it starts to click. If you want to read it a little more "in order", when you finish Luke go to Acts before John. Acts is what happens after Jesus so it picks up right after His crucifixion and is written by Luke so it flows nicely.

apr 25, 2008, 12:40 am

thanks for the tip. :)

"I have also heard it used to justify horrible things and misquoted to swindle people. "

Quite. I know just what you're talking about, and I feel like it's very sad when that sort of thing goes on, because obviously those people are completely missing the point.

I grew up in a mixed family. (My Dad's side is Roman Catholic, Mom's side is Reform Jewish.) Judaism kind of got the longer end of the stick, though. (I had a bat mitzvah and a Jewish naming ceremony shortly after I was born, but I was never baptized or confirmed. Mainly, it's just because one grandmother had more influence than the other. It's really the grandmothers that controlled this part of my life.) In any case, when I read the Bible, I tend to read it from a Jewish perspective. My very favorite part of the Bible (at least, that I've read so far) is when someone asks Jesus, "What is the greatest comandment of the Torah (the Law)?" and Jesus says,
"The most important one is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love hte Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:28-32)

When I read that, I imagine Jesus singing the first couple of verses of the Shema, because that's basically the most important and basic prayer of Judaism. The Shema has been called a brief summary of the whole point of Judaism and it has quite a lovely melody to it. I can't think of it without thinking of it being sung. (I wish I could sing more of it myself, I only know the first couple of lines.) Anyway...when I read that, it makes me feel like Christians and Jews are brothers, and it makes me wonder why we've come to dislike one another so much and why no one ever talks about that passage and what it means. Jesus was a rabbi and a prophet, a spiritual leader, a great teacher and a sage. (And that's if we only allow him his earthly/secular titles.) How did everything end up as such a mess? By which I mean, how did Christianity forget that it is Judaism's child, and how did Judaism end up disowning and/or ignoring such an admirable son as Jesus of Nazareth? It's incomprehensible to me. I mean, there you are, right in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus sings (or at least speaks the lyrics of) the Shema, and says it is the greatest commandment (mitzvah). *sigh* This is why organized religions are irritating to me...because it seems like most people who are part of one are completely missing the point....I don't feel like I fit into any particular one. I view myself as a student looking for teachers, and I'll accept anyone as a teacher whom I deem to have a good heart and wisdom that's worth listening to, regardless of where they're from or what religion they represent. So, any thoughts?

apr 25, 2008, 1:47 am

Yeah, I was never raised in a Christian home or went to church so I didn't get that distinction. I'm not sure why each side doesn't like the other, probably happened in those years of religious persecution all around. The thing that gets me is that Jesus was a Jew, born and raised. Jesus even said that He didn't come to deny the law but fulfill it. (Matthew 5:17)
As for keeping the two most important commandments, basically it seems to me that if you keep God above all else and treat people with honesty, understanding, and fairness, you'll be good in that area. As a Christian i believe that no person can always meet those requirements all the time. So by accepting Jesus, part of the first commandment, he will in a sense trade standings with God with you. Pay the penalty if you will for not being perfect. that is my belief. No one can deny the roots of Christianity. A good understanding of Hebrew culture and beliefs will help understand Christian beliefs. Besides, Christian literally means follower of Christ. If you follow him, put his as the leader, you're a Christian. Their is a lot of wisdom out there and wise is wise, wherever it comes from. I'll listen to others with an open mind but I don't have to believe them. I have the same problem with organized religions. it seems to me that as soon as a religion gets organized it starts to lose its purity. a horrible generalization but sadly true. Not all churches are bad though. we do the best we can but we all fail eventually.
There are many denominations of churches in the Christian faith, all differing on small details. its so needles.
thats why i talk about it all i can and learn as much as possible. I talk to other people and have a sort of loose "church" going on. maybe one day ill find a church that i can deal with but as of right now im not sure enough to get into organized religion. your thoughts?

apr 25, 2008, 9:51 pm

hmmm...i don't have too much experience with actual church services. when i was in elementary school, one of my best friends was a Mennonite and she took me to church with her a couple of times following a saturday night slumber party. it was all right; i found it boring. and then in middle school i had this friend that went to one of those "mega-churches". (Willow Creek, if you've heard of it. I'm pretty sure it's one of the biggest in the country.) That was incredibly lame. It felt so fake, so impersonal and faceless, and somehow...just false. i didn't get any feeling of real spirituality there, just this kind of slimy veneer on the surface. then, my only other experience with it is that of the Catholic church. whenever we have a baptism, wedding, communion, confirmation, on Dad's side of the family (which is fairly often, b/c we're such a big family) it happens in a Catholic church. that just feels completely cold and lifeless to me, like a dead fish. i feel so uncomfortable and unwelcome there. (maybe i'm just paranoid, maybe i just feel awkward 'cause i don't know what to say or when to kneel or rise and what-not. but it didn't do anything for me.) however, more recently, i went to this talent show at my friend Aly's non-denominational church and that was completely different. everybody there seemed really happy to be together and everyone was friendly and open. (it was especially apparent to me, because I only knew two or three people there.) the pastor came over and shook my hand and chatted with me, and I have to say, he really impressed me. he's definitely an enlightened being.

on the other side of the split, i've been to both orthodox and reform jewish services. (yom kippur, shabbat shira, passover, etc.) the orthodox gives me some of the same feelings as the Catholic church does, though not to the same extent because in synagogue I at least know what's going on and what I'm supposed to be doing. however...the whole segregating men and women thing? i dislike that. and also, there are just so many rules. and now that i've done some reading, i know the biblical origins of many of them, but, come on now, do you really think eating bacon or not eating bacon makes you a better person? or does wearing clothing with tassels at the corners make you good? all those wacky rules....the reform services i've been to have been really good, though. Reform Judaism is the most recently broken off and one might say the most modern and liberal branch. (women and men sit together, women can be rabbis and cantors, generally more liberal political views (but not extremely so), less focus on nitpicky rules and more on the broad principles and morals of being Jewish.) i get a great feeling at the congregation Beth Joshua by where I live. the Rabbi there is great--she's this elderly woman but very tall and stately with white hair and spectacles. she's very kind and friendly, and you can tell she's great with the kids and that there's nothing else in the world she'd rather be doing.

anyway, i think you can tell when you're in a place of worship where people are really spiritually invested, and when you're not. probably, i could go back and deeply analyze these impressions and figure out what exactly gave it away, but i don't feel the need to. i feel like i can know it holistically without chopping it to bits. i might someday join a church like the one aly belongs to, or a synagogue like Beth Joshua, or maybe one of each. or maybe not. i just take it where i find it. anyone whose religious or philosophic beliefs have made them a loving and unselfish person is welcome to be a member of my sangha (Buddhist term for spiritual community). that's the way I see it.

jan 14, 2009, 10:20 pm

> walden_girl, can't help but wonder if you're originally Canadian from the Eh? on your profile. Hot-button topic you introduced, probably a testament to LT members that no flamers have piled on.

I grew up in a midwestern family of fundamental Christians and now find myself a member of a reform synagogue. My current interest lies in what I might call post-Existentialism, what others might call Zen Buddhism. My deeper roots, prior to my sojourn in the midwest, were not religiously Zen, but probably culturally Zen. I don't have explicit memories. To tie myself back to these roots I need to take a Western path, through Camus and Suzuki, eventually landing comfortably, I hope, in Lao Tzu land.

My take on the post-Tanakh books of the Christian Bible is that the teachings of Jesus are superseded by the letters of Paul. Jesus taught within the milieu of Jewish culture and religion, Paul laid down the Law to the emerging gentile churches of the Roman regime, to keep them in line. You'd think that Jesus would have precedence, Son of God and all that, but beatitudes do not a church make. "Judge not, that ye be not judged." Yet we see people making harmful judgments all the time.

To get back on a literary footing, I was introduced to a marvelous book, The Master and Margarita, by the Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov. One plot line concerns the encounter between Pilate and Jesus and treats the issues of fundamental truth and fundamental human goodness. I find more potential for truth in literature like M&M than in, for instance, historical analysis of the writers of the Bible. Because it comes down to what these writers instill in me, to affect the way I conduct my life among others, and not historical corroboration of the writing.

I have recently read Moby-Dick critically and the conjunction of Western and Eastern religions can be found there if you look hard enough. There are references to the books of Job, Jonah, and Ecclesiastes, perhaps some influence of Kierkegaard, and a philosophy that seems to anticipate Camus and to go beyond. To where? I haven't gotten there yet, but I expect it's in the direction I'm headed.

feb 6, 2009, 2:58 pm

Try Irvin D. Yalom's book: Existential Psychotherapy. Or, maybe Staring at the Sun.

jun 13, 2009, 8:49 am

You might enjoy, Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine, by Harold Bloom of Yale. He believes that the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testement are very different books with very different purposes. At the very deepest end of the pool, you will find the Pritzer edition of The Zohar as translated by Daniel Matt.

jun 13, 2009, 10:00 am

For a somewhat different perspective, try The Messengers by Julia Ingrom; Amazon: Buy Used & new from $0.01

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