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Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Plotinus, Feb 13, 2007.

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  1. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I don't think that a completely secular Jew would be Jewish at all. What does "Jewish" mean? Does it mean coming from a Jewish background? But we don't say that someone is a Christian simply for coming from a Christian background even if they are not a believer themselves.

    I agree that it is hard to be clear about this sort of thing because religion and culture are so closely linked, and this is particularly true of Judaism, which, more than perhaps most religions, is especially associated with various festivals, cultural practices, and so on, and has far less of an emphasis on doctrine. Plus it does not encourage conversion of outsiders, so belief in the religion is very closely associated with coming from that culture. All of this is a major factor behind the controversy over Beta Israel (better not say "Falasha", as this is a pejorative term). However, I do think that it makes little sense to describe someone who does not believe in Judaism or do any of the traditional cultural stuff as Jewish, since such a person is indistinguishable from everyone else. Similarly, if someone converts to Judaism (which normally happens only when they marry one, but it's still at least theoretically possible to do it even otherwise), then they become Jewish, don't they? In which case, Jewishness is a matter of what you believe (partly) and what you do (mostly). Someone who believes and does the relevant stuff is Jewish, and someone who doesn't isn't. I don't really see what other criteria you could have.
     
  2. Sidhe

    Sidhe Chieftain

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    But Israel is a quite secular nation, so you would dilineate all the secularists from the worshipers, saying x in a familly was not Jewish because he had lost his faith? Even though he was a 26th generation Jew? I find that a little odd that peoples ethnicity has been confused with their faith so much, Jewishness is an ethnicity not a religion. IIRC to be a Jew you merely have to be born of a Jewish woman, even marrying a Jewish woman would mean your kids were Jewish(technically at least) Which is why Jews are more protective of their daughters in marriage than sons, so I've heard.
     
  3. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    But being Israeli isn't the same thing as being Jewish. Why should it make any difference what your ancestors were? It comes down to the same thing: what do you think Jewishness is? Now on the one hand it is a religion; on the other hand it is a culture. The two are very closely linked but not identical; I'm sure there are many people who participate in all the festivals and so on and so forth but who do not actually believe in anything. And we can say that they're Jewish in at least a cultural sense. But if you have someone who doesn't believe in the religion, and doesn't do any of the cultural stuff, aren't they identical to someone who isn't Jewish in any sense? In which case, why on earth call them Jewish at all? The idea that having a Jewish mother necessarily makes you Jewish just seems daft to me, if the word "Jewish" becomes divorced of all necessary connection to culture and religion. It just becomes a word with no meaning whatsoever. So why use it?
     
  4. Sidhe

    Sidhe Chieftain

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    I disagree, I think you can be culturally linked and be Jewish and you can be religiously linked and be Jewish, and you can be both. I don't see a distinction, maybe a Jew could settle it?
     
  5. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    But if you're not culturally or religiously Jewish, then you couldn't be Jewish, right? Because I can't see what else there would be to it.
     
  6. Elrohir

    Elrohir RELATIONAL VALORIZATION

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    I guess we just have different ways of looking at things, with different preconceptions, because it doesn't sound like He is denying being the Messiah to me.
     
  7. bd41094

    bd41094 Chieftain

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    Good point
     
  8. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Perhaps. At the very least, though, he dodges the question. This verse always makes me think of Newsnight - Jesus is talking like a politician being interviewed: instead of giving a straight answer to the question, he throws it back in the interviewer's face and completely changes the subject!
     
  9. PrincepsAmerica

    PrincepsAmerica Nothingness made flesh

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    The idea of the "Messianic Secret" has always seemed to fit in fine with the fact of his messiah-hood well enough to me. But then I'm just a layman.
     
  10. Elrohir

    Elrohir RELATIONAL VALORIZATION

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    I would agree that He didn't answer the question very clearly, and He may have been dodging it. But there's precedent for that, I seem to recall Jesus at least once telling someone He healed to keep quiet about it. (And I'm pretty sure the guy didn't listen....) But I don't think He is actually denying being the Christ - that would be especially odd for Matthew to record, considering he calls Jesus the Christ many other times in his Gospel. No, I think you're just reading too much into this.
     
  11. GenMarshall

    GenMarshall Ghost Agent

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    What your opinion about these in a theological perspective.
     
  12. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    The "Messianic Secret" is really an invention of Mark, I think (or possibly one of his sources). The idea runs something like this. Mark believes two apparently contradictory things: first, hardly anyone in Jesus' lifetime regarded him as the Messiah (remember that, in his lifetime, Jesus made far less of an impact than other messianic or quasi-messianic figures, such as John the Baptist or "the Egyptian:); but second, Jesus actually was the Messiah (so Mark believes). How to explain this? Mark's answer is the "Messianic Secret": Jesus was indeed the Messiah, and even claimed to be, but he tried to keep it secret. So in the key section of 8:27-30, we have Jesus admitting to being the Messiah but instructing his disciples not to tell anyone (see also 9:9; 9:30; etc). We are not given any reason for this peculiar behaviour. Even odder, perhaps, is the repeated them of Jesus healing people and then trying to keep it secret. See 5:43, for example, and 8:26. At other times, though, Jesus tries to publicise his miracles - 5:19. Of course, healing people wouldn't prove that Jesus was the Messiah, so this is a distinct theme, though evidently related.

    It's all particularly odd given that Mark says that Jesus completely failed in his attempt to remain incognito. For example, the effort to keep his healings secret clearly didn't work - see 3:7-12 and 6:53-56, for example. Plus, of course, the very fact that Mark knows the stories proves that people ignored Jesus' instructions not to tell anyone.

    It would indeed be odd, although these sorts of authors are always saying odd things. Minucius Felix, for example, denied that Christians worship Jesus, which has caused commentators endless problems ever since... As I say, I think the "Messianic Secret" trope is unhistorical: in fact, it seems unlikely that the historical Jesus regarded himself as the Messiah at all, although of course this is endlessly disputable. In discussing this sort of thing we're generally discussing only the intentions of the author of the Gospel in question rather than the intentions of Jesus himself. It gets complex where we have material that probably does go back to Jesus himself, but where the author may not interpret it in the same way as Jesus. A good example is the cleansing of the Temple, which very probably did happen. But did Jesus do it for the same reason that Mark suggests in his description of it? Perhaps, but then again, perhaps not. This is the sort of complex problem that New Testament scholars have to deal with.

    I don't know them well enough to comment on their theology. Of the ones you list, the only one I've read is the Gospel of Thomas, which certainly has leanings towards Gnosticism, though it is not as all-out Gnostic as, say, the Acts of John or the Gospel of the Saviour. It's also pretty much the only non-canonical Gospel to have any chance of preserving authentic sayings of Jesus not recorded in the canonical Gospels - although its value from that point of view is still far inferior to that of the Synoptics, and inferior even to John.
     
  13. Maimonides

    Maimonides Chieftain

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    I'm afraid I'm getting a bit off topic here, but I feel I must clear up some confusion. This thread seems to be more focused on Christian theology. If I am off topic, I apologize.

    Not possible from the Jewish perspective. A Jew who converts to Christianity is no longer considered a Jew by other Jews.

    Jewish converts to Christianity have historically been treated with suspicion at best & terrible persecution at worst by Christians. Study the Inquisition for starters on this topic. It didn't just occur in 16th century Spain. The last office of the Inquisition closed it's doors in Mexico City in 1815. This has improved since the Holocaust & converts seem to be welcome with more open arms these days. Modern Evangelicals have found they can catch more flies with honey.

    Correct.

    I have never in my life heard the term, Jewishness. I don't think it's a word. Insert the term, Judaism in that sentence.

    Perhaps this would be easier to understand if you think of Jews as a people, tribe or nation rather than a religion. The Tribes of Israel just happen to have their own religion. That religion has kept them bound together for generations despite being spread to the four corners of the world. You can't really apply a that Christian paradigm to Judaism. One is a people with it's own religion. One is a religion spread across many peoples.

    Yup. There are two factors without which Judaism would not exist today: the Hebrew language & the Torah. The preservation of these throughout the generations is what has allowed Judaism to survive the millenia. Now we're leaving the subject of theology & getting into anthropology.


    I meant no offense. The Falasha Jews I have met in Israel never indicated that they were offended by the term, Falasha. Beta works for me, too, but I have never heard this term.

    The Falasha Jews of Ethiopia are fascinating becasue they were able to preserve Hebrew & the Torah despite being isolated from the rest of the Jewish world for centuries. When they were "discovered" in modern times, they knew nothing of Jewish holidays like Chanukah. The helps date their isolation. Chanukah celebrates the successful Jewish revolt against Greek rule that led to the Hasmonean dynasty in Palestine. Herod is considered the last of the Hasmonean kings despite not being Hasmonean himself. His claim to the throne was propped up by the Romans & his wife's Hasmonean lineage.


    Not so. Their mother must be Jewish & males over eight days old must be circumcised. In Nazi Germany, anyone with Jewish heredity was forced to wear a yellow star, but those days are over, thank G-d.

    I don't have statistics, but, in my experience, conversion to Judaism most often happens when a Jewish family adopts an orphan. Adult conversion is much less common, but do happen. I know one man who grew up in a devout Christian home (father was a pastor) & decided that he wanted to be a Jew. I know a woman who decided to convert at age 16. Her family wasn't thrilled, but they didn't forbid her.

    Conversion for marraige does happen, but, in a Jewish/Christian relationship, conversion to Christianity is FAR more common.

    The third criteria is who you are. Again, look at it from an anthropological point of view as well as theological. Jews share a common religion, but also a common language, common traditions & heredity. Besides Hebrew, there is also Yiddish & Ladino, but those aren't common for all Jews.

    Pretty much correct.

    I'm not so sure about this one. In my experience, Jewish parents worry about sons & daughters equally. The sons will pass on the family name, but it is the daughters who pass on Judaism. Some Chasidic & ultra Orthodox Jews still arrange marraiges. They don't want their kids chasing the opposite sex & all the immodesty that would arise from it.

    Correct. There are many Christian & Muslim Israelis. Modern Israel was founded to be a Jewish state, but it's citizens aren't all Jewish. As a Jew, I would be granted Israeli citizenship if I asked for it, but one passport is enough for me & I don't have any plans to move there.

    No offense, but I'm shocked to hear this from a highly educated theologian.

    Many of the Commandments from G-d in what you call the Old Testament are specifically directed at the descendants of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob. The Covenants are expected to be kept by their descendants. A Jew doesn't expect a non Jew to circumcise his children, for example.

    I'm trying.:) I'm far from being a rabbi, though.

    See above.
     
  14. ironduck

    ironduck Chieftain

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    So what happens if the child isn't circumcised? He's still just as jewish as he would otherwise be, no?
     
  15. Maimonides

    Maimonides Chieftain

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    No. Jewish males must be circumcised after 8 days old. This goes back to Abraham.

    Adult male conversion is particularly unpleasant. Even if the convert is circumcised, a drop of blood is drawn from the penis to signify his compliance with the Covenant.
     
  16. ironduck

    ironduck Chieftain

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    So a child born by a jewish mother is not jewish if left uncircumcised?

    Also, what do you mean adult male conversion is particularly unpleasant? Why would it be more unpleasant than for an infant? I'd think it would be the opposite if anything.
     
  17. Maimonides

    Maimonides Chieftain

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    After 8 days old, yes. Males only.


    I suppose. I guess what I meant is that an infant doesn't even know it has a penis & doesn't remember the circumcision. An adult is fully aware of having a sharp instrument piercing his penis. I also meant as opposed to a female conversion.
     
  18. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    As I understand it, circumcision is pretty unpleasant whether you're an infant or an adult, but it heals more quickly for infants. I had a friend who had to be circumcised for rather obscure medical reasons and it sounded absolutely horrific (after a few days the stitches burst, or something equally nasty, and he had to go back to hospital).

    If Jewishness is simply a matter of being circumcised and having a Jewish mother, then that doesn't seem to me to amount to very much! For one thing, if you're from a country such as the US or Australia, where most boys are circumcised anyway (pointlessly, but that's an argument for another thread), then that loses its distinctiveness. Moreover, Muslims all get circumcised too. Which leaves only having a Jewish mother as a distinctive feature. But what makes your mother Jewish? Not being circumcised, obviously. So it must be just the fact that her mother was Jewish, and so on backwards for ever. In which case, does "Jewish" mean anything at all? Put it another way: for any term X, it should be possible to define X without having to use X in the definition. If you don't do that, your definition is circular. But if the definition of "Jewish" necessarily includes "having a Jewish mother", then the definition is circular and therefore empty.

    Now, no offence back again of course, but I'm not really sure that that is relevant. That's a theological argument. If you think that God really did command Abraham and his immediate family to pass on certain traditions to their own descendants and to no-one else, then yes, certainly it makes a big difference who your ancestors are. Of course, I don't believe that. More to the point, our hypothetical non-religious Jew doesn't believe it either. So I'm not sure why he should be bothered about who his ancestors were, or why I should either. Put it like this: suppose I discovered that in fact I am adopted and my biological mother is Jewish; suppose also that I am American, or perhaps had some ghastly accident with a window sash, like Tristram Shandy, and became accidentally circumcised. Would that suddenly make me Jewish? If you think so, then being Jewish really doesn't amount to very much. At least, so it seems to me.

    By the way, the Ethiopian Jews play an important part in my African scenario - follow the link in the sig for more...

    Anyway, it's not really been a threadjack, despite the fact that, as may be painfully obvious, I only really know about Christian theology (and not all of that either). Problems such as how to define "Jewishness" or "Judaism" or whatever have more general significance for how we define and handle religion in general. Is religion a matter of belief? Or a matter of how you behave in everyday life? Or a matter of what ceremonies you take part in? Or something else? How can you tell whether someone belongs to a certain religion or not? As we've seen, religions are connected to cultures - some more than others. Thus, following Shinto and being Japanese are closely connected in a rather peculiar way (officially, the vast majority of Japanese are Shinto, because the government counts anyone as Shinto who lives within a certain distance of a shrine). Again, being Malay and being Muslim are so closely connected that many Malaysians have real difficulty in even comprehending the notion of a non-Muslim Malay.

    So the problem of defining what religion even is is probably the central one in modern anthropology of religion, and it's important in theology too (theology does overlap with anthropology, as it does with most subjects one way or another). I think it's impossible to produce any universal definition of "religion" that all religions will fit; you can always think of something which most people would accept as a religion which doesn't fit the definition, and often you can think of something that most people wouldn't accept as a religion which does fit it. It's like Wittgenstein's "games" - there's no single definition which fits everything we call a "game". Rather, we call something a "game" if it is linguistically useful to do so. Religion seems to be much the same.
     
  19. Veritass

    Veritass Chieftain

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    I was circumcised as an infant, and I couldn't walk for almost nine months afterward. :mischief:
     
  20. Maimonides

    Maimonides Chieftain

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    I'm not sure the purpose of Jewish ritual circumcision is to make Jews distinct. It's more of a Covenant with G-d type of thing.

    Now I know you know the difference between a Muslim & a Jew...

    I've never thought of applying a mathematical model to the definition of someone's heritage. I don't think I care to.

    Some folks like to know where they came from. I do.

    You shouldn't.

    That's a tough one & I'm just a layman, but I'll take a whack at it.

    If you were adopted & Baptised then you would probably be considered a Christian by Jews.

    I don't think that an accidental circumcision would count. Jewish ritual circumcusion involves a ceremony called the Brit Milah. (Ashkenazic Jews pronounce the T like an S & so call it a Bris.) Several "prayers" & traditions are involved & the whole point is to enter into Abraham's Covenant with G-d. This wouldn't be the case with an accidental circumcision. I put prayers in quotes because there isn't a good corresponding word in English. The Hewbrew word is baruchot.

    Off topic, but wouldn't a window sash take off more then just the foreskin? Ouch!

    I saw that. Haven't tried it yet, but it's on my list.
     
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