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Thread: How to Read the Bible

  1. Top | #11
    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    It is not about taking past each other. There is no muddle ground.

    Today I listened to a self appointed preacher talking to someone with serious mental issues. It was scary. The preacher went through the bible picking out verses he thought applied. It was scary.

    There is faith physical healing, now it is faith based psychology.

    To me the Holy Babble is ancient oral traditions, myths, and genealogy put to pen centuries apart. Beyond it being one of many ancient traditions and myths there is noting we are missing and nothing for us to 'understand'.

    Read it in the context of other traditions. Buddhism, Hinduism, Egypt ion mythology, Babylonian mythology, Mayan mythology, Native American mythology.

    To the believer it is the word of god on any and everything. As in the example I gave. Conservative Israelis believe they have mpdern Israel and settlements in Palestine from divine biblical right. Echoed by the words of Netanyahu.
    I hope that being taken seriously isn't a goal of yours. Insulting nicknames for people, let alone books, are the rhetorical tactic of a nine-year-old.

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    I think the value of religion is its ability to induce reflection. This has nothing to do with the literalness or historicity of the text, there not being much of either imo. History or fact in the Bible is secondary to its purpose. The purpose is shaping an emotional relationship to reality.

    Of course reflection can be achieved in many other ways, and that's fine, to each his own. But for those to whom it speaks, ok, so long as it doesn't lead to injustice.

    I think the critical reading mentioned in the OP is not so new, but became separated in the modern age.

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    It is impossible for me to take anyone seriously who thinks the OT',a raw crude mishmash of sayings, rules, and moral edicts, represents any kind of moral structure. Especial someone who claims to be both pagan and Christian. A biblical impossibility.

    In contrast Buddhism and Confucianism have very clear definitions of what constitutes a moral life. I may disagree but the definitions are clear and unambiguous.

    The bible has an eye for an eye a tooth for tooth. And numerous other sayings that from an utterly useless contradictory morality. You can biblicaly justify just about anything. A just god who tortures Job on a bet with Satan.

    The underlying theme of the OT is Hebrews as a chosen people by god. If they worship god they are protected. The idea of translating that to modern society is ridiculous.

    The theme of the NT is if you believe in JC and the resurrection you get eternal life in heaven. That is it. It was Paul of JC who said if you are a slave be a good one, reward is not on Earth. The NT was not a god of love. One is judged by god's standards at the final reckoning. You may or may not go to heaven.

    Horatio has the right idea.

    What I took away form Campbell's PBS series Power Of Myth was that all mythology is a reflection of human cultural aspects. Images of Buddha across Asia vary with regional racial characteristics. The western JC became tall, blonde haired, and blue eyed.

    Rambo and John Wayne's cowboy persona are both in the mold of ancient mythology. Rambo is the journey of a Homeric warrior .

    Greek gods of love and war. The patriarchal misogynistic Abraham god, the family patriarch as essentially god ruling the family.The way to read the bible is in the context of what is known historically and factual about the absent Hebrews. Only then does it make any sense. The obvious influence of mythology from other cultures.

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    Cyborg with a Tiara
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    Quote Originally Posted by HaRaAYaH View Post
    Being a theist I find it amusing how little understanding there is about scripture around here.
    [...]

    So get yourself a good commentary and have at it. If you are going to read it in English you should use the JPS translation, It is the most faithful to the original Masoretic text. Here are some of my favorite Commentaries:

    [[...]

    You get a different insight from each one these.
    Thanks. It is always interesting to hear the various perspectives.

    Question for you, as a theist who reads these things from a Jewish perspective, can you tell me what the Jewish scholar's take (or yours, personally) is on the reason a god needs people to interpret his words for him? Do scholars think he is unable to write a book of his own that is understandable? Do they think he is not capable of creating understanding directly with each human?

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    Member Tharmas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    I don't apply just a single hermeneutic to reading the Bible (or any other sacred text); I do strongly oppose both literalism and race-centric readings, for reasons we could discuss at length if I imagined it were necessary to elucidate such on a secular forum, but aside from that I enjoy reading secondary literature from a vast array of denominational sources and academic schools. I certainly read the Bible slowly; I don't there is any benefit at all to rushing through just so you can say you've "read it", that's another pet peeve of mine. Meditative literature is meant to be digested, not merely consumed.

    But as a for instance on how I approach things, I've been engaged in an extended study of Paul's letter to the Colossians lately. I started by consulting my Nestle-Aland, and trying to produce my own translation. I then compared it to a large number of other translations. Then came a set of concordances, then the various well-known commentaries. One thing I like to do is take a few key passages and write them down in a few places so that I'll encounter them a couple of times throughout the week, sort of chewing away at them. So this week's passage has been 2:16-17-

    μη ουν τις υμας κρινετω εν βρωσει και εν ποσει η εν μερει εορτης η νεομηνιας η σαββατων α εστιν σκια των μελλοντων το δε σωμα του χριστου

    Roughly paraphrased, "let noone judge your participation or lack thereof in the customs of your society, as these are only a shadow of that which will be completed in Christ."

    Often interpreted as an overtly anti-Semitic passage, and that's where I started also. I've been mulling it over from a number of other directions, though, and especially from a Gnostic point of view. One thing I've noticed all through is that ALL of this letter leads rather differently if you imagine that the author is a Gnostic or proto-Gnostic, because it actually places a huge emphasis on fullness and completion (gk. "pleroma"), a concept which was deeply foundational to Gnostic systematic theology. And since we know next to nothing about theological positions of the original author of this letter even if it is actually Paul (just ask Elaine Pagels about this!), this might not be a coincidence. But I've also been thinking about the whole thing in terms of political history and some of the things that were going on in the Roman world at the time that the passage is thought to have been composed. I've grown up in a world where Islam is often used as though it were a synonym for radical Islam in more conversations than not. How similar or not similar is this to the perception of Jewish festivals at this time? Were Jews even free to practice them for the duration of the rebellion and war? As near as I can tell, no one has a definitive answer for the question. A fourth reading I came up with the other morning has to do with judgement and the role it plays in early Christian thought. The passage also reads differently if you think of it less as contemporary apologetics and more as "what is the appropriate way for someone to discern what they ought to do, if traditional religious authorities are not to be or are no longer to be trusted blindly?"

    You get the general idea. I'm a line-by-line, take-it-to-the-sources-but-leave-room-for-creative-thought, kind of guy.
    Impressive! Do you read Koine Greek? Many years ago I purchased, for 25 cents, a copy of the Jehovah's Witness Greek-English interlinear New Testament. There were actually two English versions supplied, one a literal word for word rendering and the second a more fluid translation. That, coupled with a knowledge of the Greek alphabet (allowing me to sound out the words), a Greek/English dictionary, and other translations and commentaries, gave me some ability to make sense of the original. Well, at least enough for my purposes, which was to add perspective to some of the references in the English literature I was reading. So that was my way of doing it on the cheap, as a starving graduate student with a small family to support.

    So you got me to look up "pleroma." Interesting. I don't really know Colossians that well. I'll have to have a look.

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tharmas View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    I don't apply just a single hermeneutic to reading the Bible (or any other sacred text); I do strongly oppose both literalism and race-centric readings, for reasons we could discuss at length if I imagined it were necessary to elucidate such on a secular forum, but aside from that I enjoy reading secondary literature from a vast array of denominational sources and academic schools. I certainly read the Bible slowly; I don't there is any benefit at all to rushing through just so you can say you've "read it", that's another pet peeve of mine. Meditative literature is meant to be digested, not merely consumed.

    But as a for instance on how I approach things, I've been engaged in an extended study of Paul's letter to the Colossians lately. I started by consulting my Nestle-Aland, and trying to produce my own translation. I then compared it to a large number of other translations. Then came a set of concordances, then the various well-known commentaries. One thing I like to do is take a few key passages and write them down in a few places so that I'll encounter them a couple of times throughout the week, sort of chewing away at them. So this week's passage has been 2:16-17-

    μη ουν τις υμας κρινετω εν βρωσει και εν ποσει η εν μερει εορτης η νεομηνιας η σαββατων α εστιν σκια των μελλοντων το δε σωμα του χριστου

    Roughly paraphrased, "let noone judge your participation or lack thereof in the customs of your society, as these are only a shadow of that which will be completed in Christ."

    Often interpreted as an overtly anti-Semitic passage, and that's where I started also. I've been mulling it over from a number of other directions, though, and especially from a Gnostic point of view. One thing I've noticed all through is that ALL of this letter leads rather differently if you imagine that the author is a Gnostic or proto-Gnostic, because it actually places a huge emphasis on fullness and completion (gk. "pleroma"), a concept which was deeply foundational to Gnostic systematic theology. And since we know next to nothing about theological positions of the original author of this letter even if it is actually Paul (just ask Elaine Pagels about this!), this might not be a coincidence. But I've also been thinking about the whole thing in terms of political history and some of the things that were going on in the Roman world at the time that the passage is thought to have been composed. I've grown up in a world where Islam is often used as though it were a synonym for radical Islam in more conversations than not. How similar or not similar is this to the perception of Jewish festivals at this time? Were Jews even free to practice them for the duration of the rebellion and war? As near as I can tell, no one has a definitive answer for the question. A fourth reading I came up with the other morning has to do with judgement and the role it plays in early Christian thought. The passage also reads differently if you think of it less as contemporary apologetics and more as "what is the appropriate way for someone to discern what they ought to do, if traditional religious authorities are not to be or are no longer to be trusted blindly?"

    You get the general idea. I'm a line-by-line, take-it-to-the-sources-but-leave-room-for-creative-thought, kind of guy.
    Impressive! Do you read Koine Greek? Many years ago I purchased, for 25 cents, a copy of the Jehovah's Witness Greek-English interlinear New Testament. There were actually two English versions supplied, one a literal word for word rendering and the second a more fluid translation. That, coupled with a knowledge of the Greek alphabet (allowing me to sound out the words), a Greek/English dictionary, and other translations and commentaries, gave me some ability to make sense of the original. Well, at least enough for my purposes, which was to add perspective to some of the references in the English literature I was reading. So that was my way of doing it on the cheap, as a starving graduate student with a small family to support.

    So you got me to look up "pleroma." Interesting. I don't really know Colossians that well. I'll have to have a look.
    Yup, I was once upon a time a ministerial candidate, and learned Koine Greek (well), as well as Attic & Latin (poorly). While no longer on that sort of spiritual track, I always enjoyed the methods of exegesis they taught at the seminary, and apply similar strategies even when digging into secular works or those from other traditions. One thing a Lutheran education gives you a helpful habit of attention to detail. Word-for-word interlinear works are great, I wish it were a more common practice with religious literature. With the Bible you can always look such things up on line, but you're SOL with many other ancient works, and I'm always curious, especially when I know that something is probably getting mistranslated (like "religion" or "love" in any ancient Greek work) but don't have easy access to an original.

    The Pleroma is kind of the Gnostic version of Nibbana- the "fullness" to which all souls are ultimately being dragged back.

  7. Top | #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    It is impossible for me to take anyone seriously who thinks the OT',a raw crude mishmash of sayings, rules, and moral edicts, represents any kind of moral structure. Especial someone who claims to be both pagan and Christian. A biblical impossibility.

    In contrast Buddhism and Confucianism have very clear definitions of what constitutes a moral life. I may disagree but the definitions are clear and unambiguous.

    The bible has an eye for an eye a tooth for tooth. And numerous other sayings that from an utterly useless contradictory morality. You can biblicaly justify just about anything. A just god who tortures Job on a bet with Satan..
    Hence the purpose of this thread. "HOW" to read the bible.

    What does Judaism do with the text?

    The Orthodox view.

    The Reform View.

    So no matter what sect of Judaism you look at nobody believes in an "eye for an eye literally means an "eye for an eye".. That is why you need to read the text in the original Hebrew or with a really good commentary uf you want to know what you are speaking about.

  8. Top | #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhea View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by HaRaAYaH View Post
    Being a theist I find it amusing how little understanding there is about scripture around here.
    [...]

    So get yourself a good commentary and have at it. If you are going to read it in English you should use the JPS translation, It is the most faithful to the original Masoretic text. Here are some of my favorite Commentaries:

    [[...]

    You get a different insight from each one these.
    Thanks. It is always interesting to hear the various perspectives.

    Question for you, as a theist who reads these things from a Jewish perspective, can you tell me what the Jewish scholar's take (or yours, personally) is on the reason a god needs people to interpret his words for him? Do scholars think he is unable to write a book of his own that is understandable? Do they think he is not capable of creating understanding directly with each human?
    The Jewish view of things is that there is a partnership between God and Man. God is in search of Man. For a better explanation that will not satisfy the non believers listen to this interview with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the most influential Jews of the 20th century, I would recommend the entire interview, but the relevant part starts at bout 3:14. I think there would not be the need for commentary if you were of the age it was passed down orally and understood the language and culture of the time they were written.


    (View video on YouTube)

    Heschel Bibliography:

    The Earth Is the Lord's: The Inner World of the Jew in Eastern Europe. 1949. ISBN 1-879045-42-7
    Man Is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion. 1951. ISBN 0-374-51328-7
    The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man. 1951. ISBN 1-59030-082-3
    Man's Quest for God: Studies in Prayer and Symbolism. 1954. ISBN 0-684-16829-4
    God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism. 1955. ISBN 0-374-51331-7
    The Prophets. 1962. ISBN 0-06-093699-1
    Who Is Man? 1965. ISBN 0-8047-0266-7
    Israel: An Echo of Eternity. 1969. ISBN 1-879045-70-2
    A Passion for Truth. 1973. ISBN 1-879045-41-9
    Heavenly Torah: As Refracted Through the Generations. 2005. ISBN 0-8264-0802-8
    Torah min ha-shamayim be'aspaklariya shel ha-dorot; Theology of Ancient Judaism. [Hebrew]. 2 vols. London: Soncino Press, 1962. Third volume, New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1995.
    The Ineffable Name of God: Man: Poems. 2004. ISBN 0-8264-1632-2
    Kotsk: in gerangl far emesdikeyt. [Yiddish]. 2 v. (694 p.) Tel-Aviv: ha-Menorah, 1973. Added t.p.: Kotzk: the struggle for integrity (A Hebrew translation of vol. 1, Jerusalem: Magid, 2015).
    Der mizrekh-Eyropeyisher Yid (Yiddish: The Eastern European Jew). 45 p. Originally published: New-York: Shoken, 1946.
    Abraham Joshua Heschel: Prophetic Witness & Spiritual Radical: Abraham Joshua Heschel in America, 1940–1972, biography by Edward K. Kaplan ISBN 0-300-11540-7
    "The Encyclopedia of Hasidism" edited by Rabinowicz, Tzvi M.: ISBN 1-56821-123-6 Jason Aronson, Inc., 1996.

    My favorite book is The Sabbath, where he lays out the difference between time and space.


    Heschel Quotes:


    (View video on YouTube)

  9. Top | #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by HaRaAYaH View Post
    The Jewish view of things is that there is a partnership between God and Man. God is in search of Man. For a better explanation that will not satisfy the non believers listen to this interview with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the most influential Jews of the 20th century, I would recommend the entire interview, but the relevant part starts at bout 3:14.
    Hi HaRaAYaH, I can’t download video. Rural bandwidth too slow.

    I think there would not be the need for commentary if you were of the age it was passed down orally and understood the language and culture of the time they were written.
    But are you saying that the bible doesn’t make sense if you’re not a bronze-age human?
    Why does the god need to be in partnership with humans in order to communicate? It communicated directly back then, but lost its powers, maybe?
    I don’t get why it was not powerful enough to write a bible that makes sense in any age. Puzzling, isn’t it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhea View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by HaRaAYaH View Post
    The Jewish view of things is that there is a partnership between God and Man. God is in search of Man. For a better explanation that will not satisfy the non believers listen to this interview with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the most influential Jews of the 20th century, I would recommend the entire interview, but the relevant part starts at bout 3:14.
    Hi HaRaAYaH, I can’t download video. Rural bandwidth too slow.

    I think there would not be the need for commentary if you were of the age it was passed down orally and understood the language and culture of the time they were written.
    But are you saying that the bible doesn’t make sense if you’re not a bronze-age human?
    Why does the god need to be in partnership with humans in order to communicate? It communicated directly back then, but lost its powers, maybe?
    I don’t get why it was not powerful enough to write a bible that makes sense in any age. Puzzling, isn’t it.
    So the Bible was an oral tradition. It was passed down orally. That means the language was clipped. Things were left out that were understood by people of that era. Think of someone looking at a string of text messages today. Without a commentary explaining the vernacular of the time what dp you think the future will think of our messages.

    Also, any translation is itself a commentary. You need a commentary to understand the language and the vernacular of the time. A modern parallel is the US constitution. They are just words and yet we need the Supreme Court to explain what it means. Can't you just read the words and understand it?

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