This post originates on Second Thoughts: G-d In Search of Man
These are just some of my thoughts, free flow information that I wrote my friend Yoel about, I thought I would publish that writing here as well, since we are talking about Christianity.
This post is so HUGE. The questions are so vast and the response should be as such. I know, from my university experience and in life, most Christians have an elementary understanding of religion, not many people have a secondary school education on scripture exegesis and education on the Old and New Testament. As for your fellow’s questions, he is seeking answers that will come by way of education of a teacher who can enlighten the books of the bible in and of themselves and as an entire work of story telling.
As we know the bible is not a history book, nor is it complete, with so many books missing because of the “churches” sanctioning them, Gnostic texts and those that did not align to the teaching of Holy Mother Church. As we both know that the Old Testament of Judaism is different in scope and inclusion of some books that may not appear in Christians bibles. There is meaning behind the G-d of the Old Testament and the G-d of the New Testament. A reader must first understand the origins of the Old Testament and why stories were told, as the origin of the oral tradition finding its way into the written form as the texts of the bible were translated from the original languages into what we know today.
If one does not have a handle on early Judaic traditions and understands the meaning behind the writing, then why bother asking the questions. The answers are going to be more involved and much explanation (as I see it) comes in the religious education of those who have questions such as these. Without the understanding of Origins, you cannot move into the present. Most Christians will not invest that kind of time to really understand the nuances of writing, the art of story telling, the allegory, the metaphor and the proverb, and the psalm.
What most Christians do not readily understand is the minutiae of biblical writing. Judaism of the Old Testament was based on what was passed down orally and also that there were many authors of the books of the OT. The God of Abraham was, in most cases in the OT a God who punished the “generations” of Jews who had erred; Just look at the Moses story and why they wandered through the desert for 40 years, to cleanse the populations of all those who were part of the occurrences in the desert at Sinai.
The Old Testament God exacted fair punishment on those who did not “Follow the Law!” That is a difference in the OT was the importance of “following the law” the “Customs” and the dietary and religious restrictions and prohibitions of the time. Because if one studies early Christianity, where does that group of early Christians come from, “a sect of Judaism.”
The Old Testament God is the same God as the New Testament. But the spin of the OT was the creation of the world, the garden and Adam and Eve and the stories and journey of the Jews and their generations. There were certain issues that were endemic to the region, and people had specific issues addressed in the OT as they were in the NT, the difference there, is that the New Testament begins with the gospels (Synoptic, Narratives or Jesus).
In the Old Testament we have the fall of eve and the eventual issues of early Judaism. In order to get right with G-d, reparations and sacrifices and prayers had to be said. Abraham was tested in his dealings with G-d and Isaac. I wrote a paper of “Fear and Trembling” on that specific issue. The Jews were the chosen people, though they had their issues.
They waited on the coming of the Messiah. Death or the second coming was “Immanent” that the Messiah was going to come it was just a matter of time, and also they were looking out for him within their ranks, from the lineage of David. Look at the NT based on the OT. There are parallels that are apparent once sought and studied. Prophecies and statements in the Old Testament were made realized in the New Testament.
Jesus, from the line of David, was foretold in the Old Testament. That He would come from the lineage of David, he was not just named in the Old Testament. In the New Testament we start with the birth of Jesus, the census and the fleeing of Joseph and Mary and their eventual landing in Bethlehem. Was that a fluke? No.
Jesus would become the savior. Jesus would be the redemption for the fall of eve for the cleansing of the first original sin. Jesus brought redemption and forgiveness, his life, death and resurrection were necessary to complete G-d’s work on earth. The incarnation, death and resurrection and ascension were G-d made manifest in the world.
The Old Testament is riddled with prophets and prophetic proclamation, as the New Testament is riddled with the words of apostles and prophets, (itinerate preachers like Paul and the disciples after the death of Jesus). Where the OT was led by the men, recorded by the men, the scribes, the priests and other Jewish sages and teachers, ministry was regarded by the men who led families and synagogues.
Where did the teachers come from in the New Testament? From those who would lead the early Christians. The apostles appointed by Jesus, by Paul (Saul) who was a Jesus persecutor turned religious fanatic. Paul was as militant in his belief in Jesus, as he was a militant against him prior to his conversion on the road to Damascus.
Paul and the apostles had issues because early Christians followed Judaic traditions because they were Jews. Paul and the apostles had issues because they knew Jesus and Paul did not. Yet they taught the same message, and they had to figure out how to treat the Jew/Gentile question. The Second Coming was also Immanent to the early Christians as well, as we know Jesus said that one day we would be with him when He returns.
We are still waiting on the second coming… and at this rate, we might get there quicker than we expected by all the violence and wars raging all over the globe.
The Jews of the Old Testament had their problems; the factions, and the conquerors, the wars and the punishments (Sodom and Gomorrah) and Abraham and Sara and King David and such. Early Christianity saw its problems with the two temples in Judaic history and the movement of Christianity out of Judaism.
Both had their challenges. The Jews had to keep their traditions alive under the oppression of the Romans and other ruling elite. So did the Christians of the New Testament. Jesus was not elite, he was a peasant. His family was poor; they did not have what the elite had.
Yet Early Christianity had its stratifications. The Jews of the Old Testament followed the law to the letter, and there were strict ramification for not following the law. Those laws set down in the Old Testament are some of the most volatile points of discussion and contention for all of Christianity today. Prohibitions of the Old Testament are finger pointing “points” for everything that Christians today abhor, deny and rule out as immoral.
But what they fail to realize is the current of the time, the group that had the issue and what that issue dealt with specifically and how the Jews dealt with the solution when they found a solution. The law was the solution and breaking it, removed you from the whole.
The laws in the New Testament basically follow the laws of the Old Testament. Jesus hands down teachings in the form of allegory, parable and metaphor. And his listeners are supposed to divine the truth for themselves. The Gnostics believed that G-dly power was within us and attainable by knowledge. Jesus spoke of miracles and performed them. He taught right from wrong and he spoke about Love of ALL not just some.
Christians use the Old Testament against the teaching of Love thy neighbor because it is written in the Old Testament “Thou shall not…”
The New Testament is a guide to living a Christian holy life, based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, G-d made incarnate among the world. Paul’s epistles are teaching tools, if you look at them closely and you will see that (in my opinion and academic study) that Paul must have had special knowledge that the apostles did not. Yet they all had basic knowledge of Jesus, more so the apostles because they were there.
For Paul he had to minister to the people, most of which were Jews. There were gentile Christians and Jewish Christians. Most of the dilemma Paul had was reconciling the Jews and the gentiles. Yet by that time, Judaism and Christianity had already split, so there were two religious groupings.
The Old Testament is historical but the Bible is not a history book, nor a legal document. It is a window into the past, to show us how life was lived then and it shows us the issues faced by the Jews and the Early Christians THEN, and how we can change our lives in service of G-d as Christians today.
You can’t get a university degree in religion by reading your bible. And without proper biblical study, historical study of scripture and Torah then how can you find answers to your very difficult and heavy questions. This is just the tip of the iceberg in questioning Judaism and Christianity and there is so much information to be learned in order to properly interpret the bible as it is written.