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Ask a Theologian II

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Plotinus, May 9, 2008.

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  1. Maimonides

    Maimonides Chieftain

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    That would be easier to answer if you asked about a specific mitzvah (commandment/law). There are 613 & I don't have them all memorized.:) I can say that the most observant Jews do try to follow every mitzvah in the Torah. Some of them can't be followed today because they are specific to the Temple which no longer exists, but they would be reinstated if it were ever possible to rebuild it.

    Many of them have been reinterpreted for modern times. For example, there's a mitzvah about leaving 1/10 of a crop for the needy. Most of us aren't farmers these days so it's interpreted as donating 10% of income to tzedakah and tikun olam ("charity" & "repairing the world") & Jews do do this.
    It's my understanding some Christians interpret it this way today as well.

    As I said earlier, even the most observant Jews do not stone people to death for capital crimes. We defer to civil law for criminal cases these days.

    There is a mizvah about males not cutting their "forelocks" which is why you can see Chasidic & some Orthodox Jews with long tufts of hair ("peyas" in Hebrew) in front of their ears. The tricky thing there is that we're not exactly sure which forelocks we're not supposed to cut. That specific info got lost somewhere in the milennia. Therefore, you get several interpretations ranging from beards to sideburns to peyas-another reason observant Jews often grow long beards.

    The laws of kashrut (dietary laws...kosher food) are still interpreted strictly. Perhaps the most so is the one about not boiling a goat in it's mother's milk. Observant Jews interpret that to mean never mixing dairy products & meat even though it's impossible to ever boil a chicken in it's mother's milk.:lol: This means that Jews classify food in 3 categories-milchik ("dairy" in Yiddish), fleishik ("meat" in Yiddish) & pareve (neither dairy nor meat, in Hebrew I think). Pareve food can be eaten with the other two.

    You can get a great sandwich in a kosher deli, but don't ask for swiss cheese on your pastrami.:) I've seen that happen many times & it makes for an awkward moment. I used to own a kosher meat market, deli & bakery so I could talk about this subject all day...

    While I'm on the subject, there's a major misconception that kosher food has been blessed by a rabbi. It's not. Blessing stuff is more of a Christian concept.

    As I said earlier in the thread, it would be easier for me to answer these questions if you gave a specific example. There are 613 mitzvot in the Torah...

    Thanks. I've enjoyed this thread allot, too. Plotinus' expertise on Christian history has been very interesting. I just hop in when questions on Judaism arise as it's not Plotinus' specific field & he doesn't seem to mind. I'm far from being a rabbi, but if I don't know the answer, i'll try to find it.
     
  2. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    Well, I weren't thinking of any specific laws, I'm not that familiar with them, but whether there are people who demand every law of the Old Testament to be obeyd as it is written. There are christians and muslims who think that way, so there could be such jews also. But I guess this

    answers my question, if you mean that there aren't jews who think that people should be lapidated according the demands of the Bible (that is: there is no such school of interpreting the Bible).
     
  3. Maimonides

    Maimonides Chieftain

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    Oh, we have some crazies just like any other group, but keep in mind that Judaism doesn't have a missionary aspect. We don't care whether or not anyone else is Jewish or follows Jewish laws.

    Not that I've ever heard of, but I personally have no problem with capital punishment for a crime like murder. Capital punishment for sodomy...no way. I can't imagine anyone but an extremist nutjob would approve of that & I've never heard of a Jew that fits that description.

    There is one example that might meet your criteria. I'm hesitant to bring it up, but there are Jews who use G-d's statement in the Torah about us being given a certain piece of real estate as an excuse to go overboard... Thankfully, they are a tiny minority. We do have our extremists, but they're not the "accept Jesus as your lord or burn in hell forever" types.

    I'm always hearing here in OT about how brutal the Old Testament's G-d is compared to that of the New Testament, but I don't really understand this. I'd rather be turned into a pillar of salt than wear thorns, drag a big log through town, get crucified & then have some guy poke me with a spear. Revelations sounds much more brutal to me than the plagues of Exodus. In the end, we all have our own way of looking at things. What I think matters allot is whether or not we respect other viewpoints.
     
  4. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    I do think that the "OT God is evil or spiteful, NT God is merciful" thing is way overblown. Sure, the Pentateuch makes God out to be pretty harsh (whether justified or no) but the later prophets certainly stress His divine mercies.
     
  5. Sidhe

    Sidhe Chieftain

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    Different strokes for different folks though isn't it. People were less likely 2000 BC to be receptive of simple love, living in time where all around was war, famine, death and deprivation? I always though the OT makes sense in its time. The NT likewise for a new era. Of course it's a bit of a shame that The NT is behind the times now, but it can never change. The only people that can change are the Churches, and they change generally with all the alacrity of water carving out a canyon, well not quite but you get the point. Mind you I'm speaking generally, many churches are much more liberal than they were.

    Israel is one of the most liberal Western states out there, partly because it has always maintained that Zionism is secular and also because even the most right wing of them do not agree with the OT premises, the ultra orthadox maybe, but they are a minority. In Israel there are no laws against minorities, there has never been a death penalty, nor should there have been. They understand what an eye for an eye means. A means to guarantee that an offended party does not take the law into its own hands, seldom would a murder meet with murder likewise, unless the aggrieved party could not agree to a monetary recompense.

    Sometimes I think the death penalty stepped out of The Bible and into something else. Sadly people are enamoured of revenge, and of course that is nothing to do with Christianity or for that matter The OT; a state never had the right to revenge only the right to ameliorate.
     
  6. Pessimus Dux

    Pessimus Dux Seeker

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    Sidhe:
    "Different strokes for different folks though isn't it. People were less likely 2000 BC to be receptive of simple love, living in time where all around was war, famine, death and deprivation? I always though the OT makes sense in its time."

    I agree with you guys. OT was a normal way of understanding the God and the universe of its time, just as the NT was for his time. I'm a Christian but I never thought about "OT God" as "cruel" or "merciless" - he was interpreted as such by the people, and it has nothing to do with the YHWH Himself.
     
  7. holy king

    holy king Chieftain

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    is the catholic church the oldest denomination still in existance?
     
  8. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    That's impossible to answer. When what became the Catholic and Orthodox churches split from each other (and no-one can even agree exactly when that happened) each claimed to be the oldest and said the others were the schismatics. In a way they were both right. Earlier than that, when the non-Chalcedonian churches split off from the Chalcedonian ones, the same thing happened. The notion of "denominations" only came into existence in early modern times; in fact it was one of the consequences of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which established that each state could decide what its church was going to be. Before then, each church regarded itself as the one true church and the others as dreadful schismatics. Originally there was only one church, of course, and it later split, but to ask which of the subsequent churches should be identified with the original one is to ask an impossible question.
     
  9. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    Did this question go un-noticed:
    Also, this isn't about theology but scholastic philosophy: I was reading Carl Boyer's history of calculus, where he said:

    No method could be developed which would do fo kinematics what the method of exhaustion had done for geometry - indicate an escape from the difficulties illustrated by the paradoxes of Zeno. The quantitative study of variability, however, was undertaken in the fourteenth century by the Scholastic philosophers. Their approach was largely dialectical, but they had resort as well to graphical demonstration.

    Do you have some clue which scholastics he was referring to? Boyer himself won't tell.
     
  10. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Sorry, I missed the question about Caesar. I think it means that you should stop worrying about the emperor and worry more about God. The point of the response is the second half, "Give to God what is God's". Jesus is asked a question about politics and responds with an answer about theology - he's not saying anything about whether you should obey the emperor or anything.

    I'm afraid I don't know which scholastics are referred to in that passage, mainly because I don't know anything about maths. It's odd to talk about "the" scholastics in the fourteenth century as if there weren't any scholastics at any other time though!
     
  11. holy king

    holy king Chieftain

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    do lutherans believe in transubstantation?
     
  12. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Luther himself believed not in transubstantiation but in consubstantiation, according to which the bread and wine remain bread and wine and become the body and blood of Christ. He considered this so important that he refused even to shake hands with Zwingli, who denied it (which hurt Zwingli so much he burst into tears). I'm pretty sure that Lutherans today believe something quite similar. Historically, the Lutherans certainly had a more realist understanding of the Eucharist than the Reformed did, which was one of the major bones of contention between them.
     
  13. bob bobato

    bob bobato L'imparfait

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    Does God's opinion ever change? I mean, does he still expect people to follow morals that have been ignored for centuries? It's impossible to know for sure, of course, so what's the Churche(s) current stance on that?
     
  14. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I think the vast majority of Christians would agree that God never changes his mind. Steadfastness and constancy are among his most prominent characteristics in the Bible. In the case of apparently outdated moral norms, they would say that those were never part of God's intention in the first place. For example, there was a time when many Christians believed it was immoral to catch a train on a Sunday. A Christian who does not hold this view today would say that when people believed that they were simply wrong about what God commands, not that it really was wrong back then and isn't wrong now.
     
  15. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    Another position, I suppose, is that while God is unchanging, the circumstances of humanity are constantly changing. Thus it may have once been immoral to catch a train on Sunday but isn't now, not because God has changed but for other reasons. I don't think this means the morals involved are 'outdated', necessarily, still valid under certain circumstances.
     
  16. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Well, in that case I'd think it would be more reasonable to say that the moral injunctions, or whatever, haven't changed, although the behaviour they dictate may have changed because of circumstances. For example, suppose there is a moral law saying that you shouldn't dress provocatively, because it causes offence. For someone living in the nineteenth century, that would mean a woman shouldn't wear a short skirt. But for someone living today, a short skirt might be fine. So the moral rule remains the same but the way in which one applies it does not. In that case one could say that it was once immoral to wear a short skirt but it is not now; but I think it would be less misleading to say that it always was, and always will be, immoral to wear a short skirt in a society where such attire is considered provocative. It is merely that we do not live in such a society today.
     
  17. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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  18. scy12

    scy12 Chieftain

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    However it also raises another issue that although God's will does not change only our interpretation of it , how do we know that our interpretation of his will is meaningful or correct ? And i would extent that question into how do we know that our interpretation of something is not well how we imagine it to be , want it to be.

    If our interpretation only changes that still is a massive problem and to me the question of why our interpretation changes is answered by the " In different societies is more convenient to imagine different Gods".

    Why would our interpretation change other than for this reason ?
     
  19. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Well, I suppose the answer to that would be that if God does not reveal his will to us, or at least give us a good chance of knowing his will with some reasonable degree of certainty, then we can't be blamed if we get it wrong! Or to put it another way, anyone who thinks that morality must be in some way determined by God's will (ie, they are divine voluntarists when it comes to ethics, or they hold some kind of divine command theory of right-making properties) must also, if this is to be a workable morality, hold that we are capable of knowing God's will. Because if we can't know God's will then we can't know what is right and what is wrong; but if we can't know that then we can't consistently act in a right way; but in that case we are not obliged to do so, because anything that we are obliged to do, we must be capable of doing (that is, ought implies can). Of course, if someone thinks that we can't know God's will, or at the very least guess it with a reasonable probability of being right, then that person must either think that morality can be known quite apart from God's will or think that we are not obliged to be moral. This is one reason why plenty of theists have thought that right and wrong have got nothing to do with what God commands.
     
  20. philippe

    philippe FYI, I chase trains.

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    I got a bit of a silly question but still perhaps interesting:

    Why would God create such an vast universe that it's sure we will not see parts of it, meaning, why would God make an universe so vast that we may never see it (and if it's lifeless it's pretty redundant).
     
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