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Judaism and origins ~ spinoff thread

post #1 of 105
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BelgianSheepDog View Post
Well I think what's causing the misunderstanding is the belief that the people described in the Hebrew Bible were following a religion that = Judaism today.
This is a common misperception that C'ians have, as I did.

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I'd guess not many modern Jews believe that Ba'al really exists but is just wimpier than the God of the Torah. However, if you look at the Hebrew bible, that kind of belief is all over the place.
2Kings 1:2 Now Ahazi'ah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber in Sama'ria, and lay sick; so he sent messengers, telling them, "Go, inquire of Ba'al-ze'bul, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this sickness."
2Ki 1:3 But the angel of the LORD said to Eli'jah the Tishbite, "Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Sama'ria, and say to them, 'Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Ba'al-ze'bub, the god of Ekron?'
2Ki 1:4 Now therefore thus says the LORD, 'You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone, but you shall surely die.'" So Eli'jah went.
2Ki 1:5 The messengers returned to the king, and he said to them, "Why have you returned?"
2Ki 1:6 And they said to him, "There came a man to meet us, and said to us, 'Go back to the king who sent you, and say to him, Thus says the LORD, Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending to inquire of Ba'al-ze'bub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone, but shall surely die.'"

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Off the top of my head, I think references to henotheism can be found in Raphael Patai's research, possibly in the writings of Mordechai Kaplan, and definitely in anthropological writings on the ancient Near East.
Patai wrote The Hebrew Goddess. He did the math. Asherah's image stood in the temple more often that not, in its history. She was considered the consort of the LORD by many groups. Thousands of small Asherah devotional statues have been found all over Israel/Samaria by archeologists.

Josiah, in his "revolution," considered this to be an abomination and attempted to wipe out all evidence of her. 2 Kings 23 (C'ian OT) is a great reference for this revolution in Judaean thought and enforced practice.
post #2 of 105
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by merpk View Post
And I repeat, as I've posted before: The fact that many Hebrews/Jews were idol worshippers and were not behaving as the Torah instructs does *not* mean that Judaism/the Hebrew belief system was ever nonmonotheistic.

It just means lots of Jews/Hebrews were behaving badly. By Torah law, that is.
Yes, I know that is your traditional belief, stemming from rabbinic interpretation and study beginning in the early centuries of the current era. And you are welcome to hold to it.

Is is considered revisionistic however, acc to historical/critical scholars.

Here is a transcript of a lecture series given by a rabbi on the subject of the evolution of Jewish theologies.

http://www.art.man.ac.uk/RELTHEOL/JEWISH/sherman01.htm



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Indeed, none of [Torah's] books lays claim to consist, as a whole, of words literally dictated by God, even though several of them contain speech attributed to God. Whether such reports are intended as verbatim reports of God’s words, or as attempts to capture the ineffable in human language, is rarely made clear.

It is unclear how, when and why the books in our Bibles achieved and retained canonical status. Moreover, the evidence of ancient versions and of the Dead Sea Scrolls casts doubts on the accuracy of the received texts, and even on the notion that there is such a thing as an "authentic" text. The question "What constitutes Torah?" cannot be answered outside the context of rabbinic teaching.
post #3 of 105
Thread Starter 
The final paragraph:

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From an historical point of view the notion of Moses sitting on the mountain and taking verbatim notes must be rejected. Nevertheless, the "divine dictation" image may be utilised as what anthropologists would refer to as a "myth" (in a very different sense from the ordinary use of the word), that is, a concept which focuses the relationship of God, Torah and Israel. The error lies not in the claim that God revealed the Torah, written and oral, to Israel at Sinai, but rather in the insistence on a literal, historical interpretation of what is in reality a transcendent image, not an historical statement.
post #4 of 105
Thread Starter 
Just by the way, I find the term "idol worshippers" to be insulting to those of other faiths who use devotional images in their religious practice.
post #5 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaryLLL View Post
Yes, I know that is your traditional belief, stemming from rabbinic interpretation and study beginning in the early centuries of the current era. And you are welcome to hold to it.

Is is considered revisionistic however, acc to historical/critical scholars.

Here is a transcript of a short lecture given by a rabbi on the subject of the evolution of Jewish theologies.

http://www.art.man.ac.uk/RELTHEOL/JEWISH/sherman01.htm

the first one listed.
Nu, Darylll! Isn't this a thread to ask questions of practicing Jewish people about our traditional beliefs? What do you mean, "that is your traditional belief and you are welcome to it"? The traditional belief is the point of the thread!

There are Jewish people out there who have reconciled modern historical scholarship of the bible with Jewish practice, of course. (Oh yeah, I'm one of them!) Still, it seems to me entirely ahistorical to refer to the traditional beliefs about idol worship in the Bible as "revisionistic". Merpk's beliefs are traditional. MINE are revisionistic.

I think that the religion of the Biblical Israelites might not have been apostasy. Instead it seems to me more likely that they were originally polytheistic and developed monotheistic beliefs gradually--beliefs that looked more and more like what we believe today. (Which is substantially different from thinking that polytheistic practices were a rejection of the revelation at Sinai.)

To me, if it's not monotheistic, it's not Judaism. The religious practices of the Biblical Israelites are really interesting, but they are a precursor to Rabbinic Judaism. We have no Temple. We don't do sacrifices. We emphasize the primacy of text study.

We devote ourselves to studying and interpreting the text, not to replicating the lives of the people in the text.
post #6 of 105
With all do respect, unless followers of these other religions come forth I find it a little presumptuous that you would assume the term "idol worshippers" to be insulting, not being of those "other" religions yourself.

I actually find speaking for the followers of other religions insulting. I could never presume what another thinks or feels on a certain topic until they reveal it to me.
post #7 of 105
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by captain optimism View Post
Nu, Darylll! Isn't this a thread to ask questions of practicing Jewish people about our traditional beliefs? What do you mean, "that is your traditional belief and you are welcome to it"? The traditional belief is the point of the thread!
I think that I am confused about terms. This thread is for "practicing" Jews, not just for the Orthodox, correct? So, the POVs of practicing Reform Jews, for ex, would also be valid.

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There are Jewish people out there who have reconciled modern historical scholarship of the bible with Jewish practice, of course. (Oh yeah, I'm one of them!) Still, it seems to me entirely ahistorical to refer to the traditional beliefs about idol worship in the Bible as "revisionistic". Merpk's beliefs are traditional. MINE are revisionistic.
What do you think of Josiah? Did he reform the religion of Judah, or revolutionize and actually create it? Have you read much about the documentary hypothesis theory?

Again, this thread was not addressed to "traditional" or "Orthodox" Jews. So your POV and the POV of other Reform/liberal theology Jews is valid. Such as the author of the lecture series I linked to. He cites many rabbis and thinkers from across the centuries who have questioned and debated Torah issues.

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I think that the religion of the Biblical Israelites might not have been apostasy. Instead it seems to me more likely that they were originally polytheistic and developed monotheistic beliefs gradually--beliefs that looked more and more like what we believe today. (Which is substantially different from thinking that polytheistic practices were a rejection of the revelation at Sinai.)
According to my research, I agree with this, with the exception being the actions of Josiah in the chapters I cited above.

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To me, if it's not monotheistic, it's not Judaism. The religious practices of the Biblical Israelites are really interesting, but they are a precursor to Rabbinic Judaism.
This is also correct, I have no quarrel with it.

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We have no Temple. We don't do sacrifices. We emphasize the primacy of text study.

We devote ourselves to studying and interpreting the text, not to replicating the lives of the people in the text.
Of course, and I never claimed otherwise. I still think Josiah had Deuteronomy written as a political tool b/c of a reaction to the conquering of the Northern Kingdom by Assyria and the Babylon threat to Judah.
post #8 of 105
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Potty Diva View Post
With all do respect, unless followers of these other religions come forth I find it a little presumptuous that you would assume the term "idol worshippers" to be insulting, not being of those "other" religions yourself.

I actually find speaking for the followers of other religions insulting. I could never presume what another thinks or feels on a certain topic until they reveal it to me.
PD, I do have inspirational devotional images in my home.
post #9 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaryLLL View Post
PD, I do have inspirational devotional images in my home.
Which you worship?
post #10 of 105
Thread Starter 
I don't worship the images, no. I thought that I made that clear. People do not worship images. They worship/are devotees of the dieties the images represent.

So, the use of the term idol worship, altho used in the Hebrew Scriptures (Eng trans) is inaccurate and ethnocentric. It was used to demonize Asherah devotees. I think we have discussed this before, BB, and you apologized for your use of the term, which I remember appreciating.

I do not worship, for example, the statue of Buddha I have in one of my garden beds. I honor what the statue represents, by planting seasonal flowering plants around it as an offering to what I hold sacred. Your High Priests did not worship the cherubim on the ark in the Holy of Holies, but honored the invisible ineffable god who was believed to be enthroned upon them.
post #11 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by captain optimism View Post
Nu, Darylll! Isn't this a thread to ask questions of practicing Jewish people about our traditional beliefs? What do you mean, "that is your traditional belief and you are welcome to it"? The traditional belief is the point of the thread!
Thank you so much! I was just about to post the same. Well, actually I was about to be snarky and say 'so nu Daryllll - when did you start practicing Judaism? See the thread title?' Thanks for helping me keep my negative midos in check .
post #12 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaryLLL View Post
I think that I am confused about terms. This thread is for "practicing" Jews, not just for the Orthodox, correct? So, the POVs of practicing Reform Jews, for ex, would also be valid.
Except, have you ever been any kind of practicing Jew?
post #13 of 105
I'm a little bit confused by DarryLLL's posting of all that stuff disputing the divinity of the Torah. The Written Torah was never intended to be read, much less studied, without the Oral Torah alongside it. All these "Biblical and Historical Scholars" are looking at the Written Torah alone, so none of their findings have any validity to Torah Observant Jews. If there were any Jews in the time of the Temple who were learning the Written Torah without the framework of the Oral Torah, then they were not observing Torah correctly (by Torah standards) and their actions cannot be considered "traditional Jewish practice."
post #14 of 105
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruthla View Post
I'm a little bit confused by DarryLLL's posting of all that stuff disputing the divinity of the Torah. The Written Torah was never intended to be read, much less studied, without the Oral Torah alongside it. All these "Biblical and Historical Scholars" are looking at the Written Torah alone, so none of their findings have any validity to Torah Observant Jews.
Ruthla, if you take a look at the lecture series I linked to above, you will see what some practicing Jews understand about the relationship of oral Torah to written.

And no, the "biblical and historical scholars" in the above articles are not looking at the written Torah alone. The article only cites Jewish rabbis and other theologians/philosophers, who were quite familiar with the Talmud and other Jewish writings. Some of them were suppressed as heretics.

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If there were any Jews in the time of the Temple who were learning the Written Torah without the framework of the Oral Torah, then they were not observing Torah correctly (by Torah standards) and their actions cannot be considered "traditional Jewish practice."
Which Temple? 1st (Solomonic) or second (built by Ezra's contemporaries)? Or 3rd (Greek style Herodian)? Who was learning "Judaism" properly in the "temple" when Asherah stood there and male sacred prostitutes lived there? Who authorized that?

I would say their actions cannot be considered correct by CE standards, or by Deuteronomic standards. But by pre-deuteronomic standards, it was legal to at the very least worship El in Beth El. I think the "oral Torah" of their day was a bit different from the written-down-oral-Torah of the post Temple destruction 3rd century CE.

http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi-b...n=rsv&x=7&y=10
post #15 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruthla View Post
I'm a little bit confused by DarryLLL's posting of all that stuff disputing the divinity of the Torah. The Written Torah was never intended to be read, much less studied, without the Oral Torah alongside it. All these "Biblical and Historical Scholars" are looking at the Written Torah alone, so none of their findings have any validity to Torah Observant Jews. If there were any Jews in the time of the Temple who were learning the Written Torah without the framework of the Oral Torah, then they were not observing Torah correctly (by Torah standards) and their actions cannot be considered "traditional Jewish practice."
Yes, this is the point that needs clarification.

Biblical and historical scholars are trying (with limited archeological and textual evidence) to describe the reality of the society of ancient Israel. Some are Jews, and some aren't. It's a very interesting field of inquiry. (Yes, it's a field of inquiry that assumes human authorship for the Torah.)

Practicing Jews are trying to practice Judaism, which is a different project.

The Reform movement rejected the validity of the Oral Torah in the 19th century. But, it's still part of rabbinic Judaism anyway. Reform Jews today still practice Judaism that looks, in most respects, like rabbinic Judaism. (Passover seder? Check. Well, that sure is rabbinic! Structure of prayer service? check. Rabbinic, again!) Reform Jews may call their congregations "temples"--but what they do in them is say the Shma, not sacrifice pigeons.

The Conservative movement never rejected the Oral Torah but like Reform scholars, many Conservative incorporate insights from biblical criticism into their readings of Jewish law. Do they learn Talmud? They sure do.

As Jewish people we tend to concentrate a lot on the differences between Jews, and miss the big similarities.
post #16 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaryLLL View Post
I would say their actions cannot be considered correct by CE standards, or by Deuteronomic standards. But by pre-deuteronomic standards, it was legal to at the very least worship El in Beth El. I think the "oral Torah" of their day was a bit different from the written-down-oral-Torah of the post Temple destruction 3rd century CE.
Yes but--we don't care. I mean, yeah, I care to learn about it because it's interesting. But it has only the most marginal relevance to Judaism. Judaism is a monotheistic religion even if our ancestors were polytheists who worshipped idols and offered cakes to the Queen of Heaven.

I guess I'm kind of surprised. You've taken such pains to educate yourself about Judaism--which is very cool--and you seem to be missing a key point anyway! Judaism is NOT incomplete Christianity. We aren't just, you know, the Hebrew Bible and that's it. We are a full-fledged religious tradition that has kept going! That's why we can have a variety of interesting responses to our ancestors' polytheism.

Also why it makes sense to allow religious Jews to be the ones to speak authoritatively about what religious Jews believe.
post #17 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaryLLL View Post
Which Temple? 1st (Solomonic) or second (built by Ezra's contemporaries)? Or 3rd (Greek style Herodian)? Who was learning "Judaism" properly in the "temple" when Asherah stood there and male sacred prostitutes lived there? Who authorized that?
There have only been 2 Temples. The first built by King Solomon and the 2nd when the Temple was rededicated (as recalled by the Hanukkah observances.) If there was an idol of Ashera and "male sacred prostitutes" lived there, then that WASN'T Judaism! From a Jewish POV, that would be the Temple being desecrated.
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I would say their actions cannot be considered correct by CE standards, or by Deuteronomic standards. But by pre-deuteronomic standards, it was legal to at the very least worship El in Beth El.
HUH?? Pre-deuteronomic is before the Temple was even built! There was no "Jewish People" before the Torah was given at Mount Sinai. Then Torah was given and we had it when we entered the Land of Israel after leaving the Wilderness.
post #18 of 105
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by captain optimism View Post
Yes but--we don't care. I mean, yeah, I care to learn about it because it's interesting.
I also care because it interests me how humans attempt to understand the ineffable, and then write what they think they know.

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But it has only the most marginal relevance to Judaism. Judaism is a monotheistic religion even if our ancestors were polytheists who worshipped idols and offered cakes to the Queen of Heaven.
Yes, where have I said otherwise?

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I guess I'm kind of surprised. You've taken such pains to educate yourself about Judaism--which is very cool--and you seem to be missing a key point anyway! Judaism is NOT incomplete Christianity.
tsk. I have never said that. If I have implied it, I am sorry. I am not on the Christians' side in some sort of "our god is better than yours" fight, as C'ians here can well attest.

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We aren't just, you know, the Hebrew Bible and that's it. We are a full-fledged religious tradition that has kept going! That's why we can have a variety of interesting responses to our ancestors' polytheism.
Yes, I am well aware of that.

I relate to the Reform POV, b/c of my interest in historical criticism and archeology.

Altho I am not Jewish, I am educating myself about the history of your religion. That's OK, isn't it?

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Also why it makes sense to allow religious Jews to be the ones to speak authoritatively about what religious Jews believe.
Religious Jews of any denomination? Orthodox, Conservative, Recon or Reform? Usually the only Jews that post in to these conversations are the Orthodox. You are one of the few Reform I have ever seen post here. I think many non-Jews who read these kinds of threads may be left ignorant of what the majority of practicing Jews believe. In this country the Orthodox only comprise 20%.

I am glad you are here, C-O.
post #19 of 105
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruthla View Post
There have only been 2 Temples. The first built by King Solomon and the 2nd when the Temple was rededicated (as recalled by the Hanukkah observances.) If there was an idol of Ashera and "male sacred prostitutes" lived there, then that WASN'T Judaism! From a Jewish POV, that would be the Temple being desecrated.
It is interesting to try to determine when "Judaism" really began. When do you think it did?

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HUH?? Pre-deuteronomic is before the Temple was even built! There was no "Jewish People" before the Torah was given at Mount Sinai. Then Torah was given and we had it when we entered the Land of Israel after leaving the Wilderness.
That, again, is an Orthodox (or mystical) belief not held up by historical research. Evidence points to Deuteronomy actually being written at the time of Josiah, not just "found" by his housecleaning staff in a dusty corner.
Please read this about the documentary hypothesis.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Documentary_hypothesis
post #20 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaryLLL View Post
It is interesting to try to determine when "Judaism" really began. When do you think it did?
When the Torah was given on Mount Sinai, shortly after the Exodus from Egypt.
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That, again, is an Orthodox (or mystical) belief not held up by historical research. Evidence points to Deuteronomy actually being written at the time of Josiah, not just "found" by his housecleaning staff in a dusty corner.
Please read this about the documentary hypothesis.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Documentary_hypothesis
I don't give a what the evidence points to, when those doing the looking are disregarding the fundamentals of Torah. I AM familiar with the "documentary hypothesis" and I reject it completely. I'm not interested in any "evidence" disputing the divinity of the Torah. To me, the Torah is a sacred text, not an artifact.

Back to historical fact: Orthodox Jews have beleived for centuries that the Torah was written by G-d during Moses' time. Jewish practice has been shaped by that belief. No amount of "evidence" to the contrary is going to change the Orthodox view or any of the practices based on that view.
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