cnorman, I just read this because of another post of yours. It is very helpful and gives me a new respect for Judaism.
Thanks very much. I apologize for taking so long to respond to this, but I had other fires to put out and other bombs to defuse -- not all on this forum.
I was raised an evangelical. My grandfather was an evangelist who spoke around the country. But my father loved the Bible stories (I accept your terminology of Bible, vs. Old Testament), and I was raised on them. Maybe it was just that I like stories as opposed to theology. To me, the parables of Jesus are more powerful than argumentative theology of Paul or anyone else.
I quite agree. That's what people never seem to grasp (well, hardly ever); the Hebrew Bible, at least, is not theology. It is LITERATURE.
Some of the New Testament, it seems to me, IS theology; but that is not my concern, and I have nothing to say on that subject.
One of the truly unique (in the original sense of that word) is the story of God speaking from the burning bush and telling Moses he is beyond names, that He is who He is. Tho' I am an atheist now, I was always impressed by this declaration, that God is beyond these mortal games of idols and their names.
As far as the popular, conventional, cartoon-caricature God, the Bearded-Old-Man-In-The-Sky, Santa Claus in a different outfit, is concerned -- why, on that God I am an atheist too. I think that was rather the point of Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.
"You can't make a MENTAL image of Me either."
One of the other differences that intrigues me is the idea of tolerance for different beliefs vs the Christian hopeless compulsion to unify its beliefs.
Agreed again. Since no "belief" can or will ever be confirmed as objective, inarguable FACT, and since all "beliefs" are mental constructs,
tools with which we THINK about these matters -- what's the point of dumping on someone else's mental construct because it doesn't match one's own? ETHICS are blood and bone and muscle, REAL things that have REAL consequences. Theology is just -- thoughts. Ideas. Real when they influence what one DOES -- but without substance themselves. Deeds matter; "creeds" are just lists of right thoughts.
Incidentally, to clarify terminology (and this isn't MY terminology; it's the standard meaning of these words for all Bible scholars, Jewish, Christian, or otherwise):
The Hebrew Bible, or Tanakh
as we call it, is identical to the Christian Old Testament except for the order of the books. Some Jews are offended by the term "Old Testament," since it seems to imply that the Old Covenant (Testament) is obsolete and has been replaced by the New; I am not. I don't think that is a matter of intent, but merely of conventional terminology. I won't hold Christians responsible for a label that was first applied more than a thousand years ago.
The Torah consists of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible; it is part of the Tanakh, and the most central and important part of the Bible to Jews. It is followed by the Prophets, or Nevi'im,
books which were written by the Prophets themselves; and those by the Writings, or Khethuvim,
which are books written by the prophets' followers, or are other documents (fragmentary court records, Temple hymns, books of wisdom, etc.). Tanakh
is a Hebrew acronym formed from the initials of the three sections: T-N-Kh.
Forgive me for stating the obvious, but the New Testament is not included in Jewish Bibles and holds no authority and little interest for us. I hope all that helps.