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Jul 22, 2005

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Michael Kruse

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will spotts said...
Interesting approach. I'm curious how you'll apply this.

I'm not persuaded that we know a whole lot more today than the original audience did. I've heard people argue, for instance, that New Testament era people could believe in a Virgin birth because they didn't understand reproduction as well as we do. Excuse me, but this is a horrible mis-estimation of the capacities, intelligence, and general knowledge of prior cultures. As long as people have raised animals, they understood that sex was necessary for reproduction. Similarly, for the most part they understood, even if the language was male-centered, that both parents contributed to characteristics of offspring.

I think I do tend toward more of a static viewpoint. (Just observing my own processes.)

My take on this is would be that God revealed himself in scripture progressively. But I'd still maintain that God did not change (essentially); neither did right and wrong. An example of this I would mention is that most of the teachings we associate with Jesus (in the Sermon on the Mount, for instance) have precursors in the Hebrew Bible. Many in Torah, some in Wisdom literature and the prophets. Most of the beatitudes are quotes -- Jesus is unique in proclaiming these blessings, but the reasons he gives are from the Old Testament. It was not really that unusual that Hillel asserted a form of the Golden Rule before Jesus -- as it was his summation of what Judaism taught.

Nonetheless, our understandings change -- we grow in this as individuals, and this does change our culture. Slavery is a good example. Western culture (though not large segments of the world) rejects slavery now -- when it was not greatly addressed in the Bible. (Though Paul did touch on this -- he was more concerned with how Christian slave acted, and how Christians who owned others treated them and regarded them.)

The example you give -- Lamech(?), to the Torah, to Jesus is interesting -- but I'm not sure Jesus was disputing the justice of the Torah's formulation. Its rightness or wrongness didn't change -- as much as Jesus was giving us a way past it, by denying the justice that was due us, we had a choice. It is kind of like Tevye's comment in Fiddler on the Roof -- when someone said, "An eye for and eye, and a tooth for a tooth" -- "Very good, soon you will have a blind and toothless world." Justice, by itself, as outlined in Torah -- is expressed negatively.

July 23, 2005 12:03 AM

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