Kaip Dievo Tėvo požiūrį išsako jo išsiaiškinimo būdai?
Išmąstyti Dievo pažadus ir jo nenuoseklų kalbėjimą jais. Koks jo supratimas laiko, erdvės ir t.t.? Kokia jo vidinė kalba, kodėl jis neišsitenka žmogaus kalboje? Kaip jisai verčia mąstyti kitaip? Palyginti ir su Kristaus prisikėlimu, su laiko ir erdvės pakrikimu.
Klausimai Dovid, Lara:
Dievo Tėvo požiūrį bandau išvesti iš Senojo Testamento.
Senasis Testamentas, tai provokacijų knyga, kad žmonės nesnūstų, nenusiteiktų, kad viskas gerai, kad jie pabustų. Tam ir yra jos visos nesąmonės. Tai redaktoriaus provokacija. Tai bendruomenės istorija, kad ji nenusiramintų, kad atsibustų. Tikslas papurtyti bendruomenę.
Komentatorių smulkmeniškumas, tai filologijos tikslumas.
Dievas Tėvas pastoviai rauna blogį. O Dievas Sūnus neskuba rauti, bando blogį suprasti, paaiškinti. (Zokaitis)
Gyventi viena - atleisti ir Dievui jo prasižengimus, jo neištęsėtus pažadus - palengvinti jam - padėti jam reikštis kitokiame, tai yra, mūsų pasaulyje.
Senajame Testamente pranašai rodo blogį - moko, kad "Dievas nebūtinai geras" - pratina šviesuolius bendrystei.
Senojo Testamento rašto prasmė susiveda kaip kad susiveda kertinė vertybė.
Dievas Tėvas, Senojo Testamento Dievas yra būtent žydų tautos Dievas. Ką tai reiškia? Kaip toks suprastimas keičiasi? Antra Dievo tauta, tai krikščionys. O trečia Dievo tauta, tai šviesuoliai.
Dievo pažinimo sklaida
Tikslas yra iš paskirų patriarchų (būtent Abraomo, taip pat Izaoko, Jokūbo, Juozapo) Dievo pažinimo išvesti bendrystę, visos tautos pažinimą Dievo, tikėjimą, visokiausių žmonių - priešų ir draugų. Tai vyksta "nieko neįvykimu", pavyzdžiui, Dievas įvedė į Egiptą (paskiro tikėjimu) ir išvedė iš Egipto (tautos tikėjimu). Blogį išvertė į gerą, tai tapo Dievo valia (anot Juozapo), tai Dievo šlovei (anot Jėzaus).
Jo santykis su mumis yra labai įvairus. Tai reikėtų apžvelgti. Jis mums įsako, prižada, mus moko, perspėja, baudžia, įkvėpia, skatina.
Dievas veikia per žmones.
Dievo platesnis suveikimas
Šventykloje Dievas pasiekiamas norint palenkti jį dėl gero oro visame krašte, kurį iššaukia žmonių nuodėmės, o pataiso malda iš šventyklos.
Dievas pilnai išnaudoja ribotą susikalbėjimo galimybę
Jam yra labai sudėtinga su mumis bendrauti kadangi jam tenka bendrauti ne vienaip, o visaip. Mes tik suprantam gėrį ir blogį, viską supaprastiname. O jis bando išsiaiškinti, ar jį pripažįstame, jaučiame, tikime, pažįstame, ar jisai yra, ar jisai būtinas. Tad jisai su mumis yra labai gyvas. Labai lengva nesuvokti, ką jisai su mumis daro, nes jisai su mumis ir geras, ir blogas. Jisai nori būti bešališkas, abejingas, vardan savo tyrimo, bet jeigu mes tik jį įžvelgiame, jeigu tik tikime, tai jisai vardan to paties bešališkumo, turi mums nelikti abejingas. Tad jisai labai dviprasmiškas. Ogi jį atpažinti, tai gyventi dviprasmybe, amžinu gyvenimu, jog Dievas nebūtinai geras, tad gal ir gal ne, tad dviprasmiškai. Dievas bando labai ribotu kanalu, gėriu ir blogiu, išreikšti labai sudėtinga santykį, amžiną gyvenimą, mūsų buvimą kartu būtent kada esame atskirai, žiūrėti ne į Dievą, o su Dievu, ne reikalauti iš Dievo, o suprasti Dievo požiūrį. Nesitikėti iš jo malonės, nors jisai malonės vienintelis pagrindas, bet palaikyti jo teisumą, nes tokiu būdu jį pažinsime. Nes kas gyvena malone, tas jos norisi, ko mažiau, o kas gyvena teisumu, tas reikalauja, ko daugiau. Tad mes palaikome Dievo teisumą nuoširdžiai gyvendami malone, tai yra Kristaus kelias.
Įvykiai, kur niekas neįvyksta
Dievas Tėvas - jį domina įvykiai, kur niekas neįvyksta - užtat mus tyrinėja, o mes bręstame - jisai kuria iš nieko
Kristus kuria iš kažko, Dvasia iš betko.
Dievas tiria žmogaus sugedimą, kaip jisai priima Dievo nemalonę
Dievas Tėvas tiria žmogaus sugedimą, kodėl jis atsisako pilnatvės, laikosi kurios nors dalies (gėrio ar blogio pažinimo), laikosi stabmeldystės. Tad Tėvas savo žodžiu iššaukia prieštaravimą jame, koks yra ir savyje. Bando susikalbėti su gerumą ir blogumą tepripažįstantį žmogų.
I think that the bad kid's narrative is what God is looking for - how a perspective lacking God yet leads to God being necessary. However, the good kid's narrative is one that God didn't expect. The good kid says - hey, there is a God - and what might be the wonderful consequences of that? And so the good kid thus makes for problems with God's experiment. But the good kid is good and thus fits in with God's experiment and allows it to proceed.
So that may be a way to read the Biblical narratives. God set up Adam, Eve, Cain, etc. as doomed in order to prove his point. And yet God made note of good people (at least good in some key way) like Noah, Abraham, David who he liked and who merited that God grow. So it is a story of God's growth.
Gėrio ir blogio pažinimas, tai požiūris į save iš šalies, kaip atrodome kitam. Užtat pasijuto nuogais.
Žmogaus sugedimu įvyksta Dievo valia
Juozapas paaiškino, jog tai nebuvo brolių prasižengimas, o Dievo valia, nes jo dėka Dievas išgelbėjo daugelį nuo bado.
Jėzus Kristus yra pakeitęs savo nuomonė: sakė, kad neis į šventę, bet visgi nuėjo, matyt, persigalvojo. Tai panašiai, manau, Dievas Tėvas gali persigalvoti, jeigu tik esame geri, jeigu jam tatai leidžiame, jeigu mūsų širdys to pilnai nori. O tuo tarpu jeigu pakenčiame, tai ir palengvinam jam jo veiklą. O jo veikla palengvinta nes ji vyksta per jo sūnų, kuris dėl mūsų prasižengimų kentėjo. Ir jo kančia priklauso nuo mūsų dabartinių veiksmų, ar susiprasime? Taigi, mažiname Jėzaus kančias, ko širdingiau priimdami jo mokymą, taip ir palengvindami Dievo Tėvo darbą, kuris vyksta per Sūnų.
Dievas ar visuomenė
Asmuo, asmenybė - dirbtinai atkirsti nuo kitų. Turi rinktis tarp besąlygiško (Dievo)(viduje) ir visuomenės. Dangaus karalystė, tai visuomenė pagrįsta paskirais asmenimis, tad visuomenės pergrindimas. (Namai ant uolos.)
Izaijo knygoje išdėstomas, kas kuo įvairiausiai pasitiki, ir kaip tai neprilygsta Dievui.
Dievo erdvės išskirtinumas
Šventasis Raštas dažnai nusako kur Dievas yra: įstatyme, lentelėse, skrynioje, palapinėje, aukure, šventykloje, žemėje, vertybėse ir taip toliau. Tai yra šventumo nusakymas, atskyrimas, kur Dievas tikrai yra, ir kur jo dar nėra, kur jisai tiktai iškyla.
Tautų lytinė kilmė
Dievo pažinimas susijęs su tauta. Tautą apibūdina jos kilmė. O kilmę nusako tėvų santykiai. Tai
Pasakėlių kilmė ir tikslas, klausimai: Kodėl negyvename rojuje? Kodėl neišnaikino žmoniją?
Dievo paveikslas - Dievas už savęs - Mes susiję.
Sūnus prisikėlė trečiąją dieną - tai ne nuo kryžiaus (nepraėjo trys dienos) - ogi tai trejybės ratas ir gyvenimo lygtis, nuo dvasios į esmę. Juk sandara yra dvasios mirtis, o atvaizdai, tai mirties liudijimas.
yetzer hara - polinkis į blogį, yetzer tov - polinkis į gerą
My Study of the Tanakh and "another ten commandments"
Dear Dovid and Lara,
I want to share progress that I'm making in my study of the Tanakh. My goal is to make sense of the God of the Tanakh. What is this God? What is he trying to tell us? And how?
I will start with my own view of life and then compare that with what I'm finding about the God of the Tanakh. I will share a method that I've come up with for studying the Tanakh. I will end with an interesting idea about the "ten commandments".
The point of life is to bring forth a culture by which we live one with all. Indeed, this is how God lives through us. So it is important to be open to the different angles by which we know God. (I can describe a system of 24 such angles.) We unfold through a God who is motivated by the question Is God necessary? In other words, would God be even if God wasn't? Thus God ever pulls away to see. And God arises anew through us, the humblest vessel in which God might arise. Thus there is God who understands he is God ("the Father"), there is God who comes to understand he is God (notably, "the Son"), and there is a God who is understood ("he is God") by them both ("the Spirit"), so that they are all the same God. Likewise, we ever have the choice between growing (appreciating that God doesn't have to be good, life doesn't have to be fair - this is eternal life) and living (insisting that God is good - this is living until death, that is, until we get knocked down by life). I am also interested in the conceptual structures which allow for both unity and diversity. I am interested in the full variety of questions in life - they come together as How are we one? And as I study the Holocaust in Lithuania I am developing a new morality; we already have a morality of the Ten Commandments, which however, is external to us and does not explain exactly what they are, nor how or why to keep them; we already have Jesus's Sermon on the Mount, whose "antitheses" raise the questions that sharpen our conscience, yet they suppose that we are not one; and I am developing a new moral practice to deal with moral quagmires where it seems that nothing is moral and yet we can live one with all, we can try to make it easier for others to deal with our wrongs. I think this would make for a practice of showing good will. We can also be one through a practice of praying in twos and threes for whatever we wish. Overall, we can make real a conceptual language as the basis for a shared culture.
In reading the Tanakh, I think the main idea is how the acquaintance with God of a single person, notably Abraham, but also Moses, David and others, is the foundation for the acquaintance with God of other people, friends and foes, and ultimately, the Jewish culture and all other cultures. In other words, the assimilation of the reality of God is an expansive process which the Tanakh describes. The Tanakh is thus a history of relationship with God expanding among the people. When we are open to God (as with faith), then we can experience and know God. Typically, that happens when God tests us by showing his disfavor. Cain, Esau, Isaac, Joseph and others all react differently, some better and some worse. Typically, God tests us by forcing us to choose between going with God or society. Typically, in these episodes "nothing happens", for example, God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac but then calls it off. Typically, there is a space opened up for God, which may be the Law, the tablets, the ark, the tabernacle, the temple, the land, the people, and often not God directly.
Dovid has given me some books to read about the history of the Tanakh. In a way, it is disturbing to realize that the Jerusalem of David and Solomon was a village of only 300 people. Or that the "newer" books like Isaiah are actually the oldest books, whereas the Torah is actually quite new, dating after the return from Babylonia. So I started to think critically about Genesis and Exodus, which I've been reading. The final form of these books is very new. So how do we know that the content isn't new?
I came up with a method to analyze the age of the content. I simply do a Bible search on a name like "Adam" and see what books it comes up in. Outside of Genesis, the name "Adam" occurs only once, at the beginning of Chronicles, in the list "Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah." Eve, Abel, Cain, Rebekah don't appear at all outside of Genesis. Sarah is mentioned once in Isaiah: "look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth". Leah appears once, along with Rachel, in Ruth 4:11: "May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel." Rachel appears only once more, in Jeremiah 31:15. This is what the Lord says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Noah appears in that first line of Chronicles, and also in Isaiah 54:9, “To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again." and in Ezekiel 14, as in: "as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, even if Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they could save neither son nor daughter. They would save only themselves by their righteousness."
Even the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, occur rarely outside the formula "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and his covenant with them". If not for Genesis, all we would know about Isaac is who his relatives were. All we would know about Joseph was that he was "sold as a slave", and that "the rights of the firstborn belonged to Joseph" because the firstborn Reuben defiled his father's marriage bed, and despite the fact that Judah was "the strongest of his brothers and a ruler (!) came from him". In fact, all that we would know about Abraham is that God chose Abram, brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham, where his family worshiped other gods. God made a holy promise to Abraham, made him many, and he possessed the land. And we would know his relatives. That is all, these few sentences!
What this shows is that the "Bible stories" - arguably, the most important part of the Bible, the part which is transmitted orally, to children, and is taken to heart - these stories are not referenced in the Tanakh. So we can't prove that these Bible stories are old. Of course, we are used to thinking of these as ancient legends. But is that necessarily the case? Perhaps it's much more likely that these stories are the newest part of the Tanakh?
Then we would have a situation where lists of names may be old, characters like Robin Hood or King Arthur may be old, but their stories may be quite new. They may be literature, not legend.
It's quite odd that in the Tanakh there is no reference to Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac. There is no reference to the story of Joseph in Egypt. Or to the stories of Adam and Eve and paradise, the details of Noah's ark. Whereas all of these stories are frequently mentioned in the Christian Scripture.
So let us consider, what is the point of Genesis? One of them is very clear - it is an explanation of Joseph's tribe as having highest status based on the highest status of the sexual relations of the corresponding parents Jacob and Rachel. It seems to divide the 12 tribes into two leagues - the children of Leah and the children of Rachel - and makes finer distinctions by introducing their handmaids. Anthropologically, the whole point is to delegitimize the other peoples - the Moabs, the Edomites and so on - who were actually very similar.
Logically, it makes zero sense that nations descended from patriarchs and matriarchs as the stories purport. Now could those stories be ancient? It doesn't make sense that these nations and tribes would define themselves in such ways. The stories could only make sense if their purpose is to demean them. And what would have been the purpose of demeaning them back then? And why doesn't that thinking echo throughout the Tanakh? But the stories could help foster a distinctive Jewish identity at a time when only a few tribes remained. It may well have been written by a woman of Samaria given the emphasis on Joseph and the matriarchs.
Whereas if the stories are new, then they have a purpose in bringing an overall order to the disparate writings of the Tanakh. We can thus imagine that the Tanakh came to be as "God's Scripture" only when it was completed, at the very end, by the 5 Books of Moses, and especially, Genesis.
Indeed, the Torah is followed promptly by the Midrash, which is full of unabashed inventions of stories. So I am saying that Genesis and the Books of Moses were of the same spirit.
When I accept this thinking, then I understand better how God authored the Tanakh. It did not start with the Torah and build from there, but rather, it ended with the Torah, which gave unity to the whole Tanakh to come to life as a holy text, to be accepted and discussed as such. In a sense, it is esoteric literature.
I have written above about the deep themes of the Tanakh, and especially, Genesis and Exodus, how the experience of God spreads from a person to others and a culture, and also, how God grows wise as he tests people.
My method gave very interesting results when I tried it on the "ten commandments". This important phrase only appears in Exodus and Deutoronomy:
What is interesting is that the quote in Exodus doesn't reference the usual ten commandments. It actually references an entirely different set of commandments in Exodus 34 which I number below. God told the children of Israel the usual ten commandments and they were so frightened that Moses went to talk to God. He was gone for forty days, so they built and worshiped the golden calf. When he came back, he dashed to pieces the original ten commandments. Then he got a second set of "ten commandments" and they are different! They are ten commandments of Jewish religious culture.
With the first ten commandments, God presented himself in terms of what he had done in the past, freeing them from Egypt. But with the second ten commandments, God presents himself in terms of the terrible miracles he would do in the future, giving them the land of Israel from the Canaanites.
God has replaced the morality of the first ten commandments with the cultural identity of the second ten commandments. And it came about by a moving dialogue between God and Moses. God wants to create a new nation from Moses - Moses rebukes him - God repents! - God says they should go to Canaan without him - Moses says they insist that God go with them - They agree that the Hebrews are a stiff-necked people. Apparently, that is why they need the second ten commandments rather than the first ten commandments. It is a new covenant - another "rewrite" after those of Noah, Abraham, and the first with Moses.
So I will try to apply this method further to see what people, stories, places and concepts are well established in the Tanakh, and what came about at the end along with the Torah.
I'm curious what you think. Is this thinking original? Meaningful? Fruitful? Godly?
Andrius Kulikauskas, firstname.lastname@example.org, +370 607 27 665
1 The Lord said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. 2 Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain. 3 No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain.”
4 So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the Lord had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. 5 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
8 Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. 9 “Lord,” he said, “if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.”
10 Then the Lord said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you. 11 Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. [ONE] 12 Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. 13 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles.14 Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. 15 “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. 16 And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.
[TWO] 17 “Do not make any idols.
[THREE] 18 “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.
[FOUR] 19 “The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. 20 Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons. “No one is to appear before me empty-handed.
[FIVE] 21 “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.
[SIX] 22 “Celebrate the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year. 23 Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel. 24 I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the Lord your God.
[SEVEN] 25 “Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast, and [EIGHT] do not let any of the sacrifice from the Passover Festival remain until morning.
[NINE] 26 “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.
[TEN] “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”
27 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.
The Distortions which God Inhabits
Dear Dovid, Lara,
I am glad to be able to write to you.
I woke up in the middle of the night and came up with some ideas about the Tanakh which I thought I should think through and write to you because I don't feel tired.
The main theme is that God inhabits a particular type of distortion which I would like to describe.
All of my life I have sought to know everything and apply that knowledge usefully. I'm at a point where I'm trying to overview it all. That is why I am studying the Tanakh. I want to match what I've found with the truth of the God of the Tanakh, the God of the Jews.
In my own quest, I can distinguish between content and form. In my thinking, the form of truth is given by conceptual structures, such as divisions of everything into two perspectives for matters of existence, three for participation, four for knowledge, and so on. The content is given by practical wisdom, such as the understanding that "God doesn't have to be good, life doesn't have to be fair". The concept of God is of central importance as the perspective in which everything comes together, from which everything unfolds and by which it is ever possible to transcend all manner of constraints and live free.
Similarly, we can distinguish between the content and the form of the Tanakh. Typically, only a small detail of the Tanakh is considered, not the whole of it. Also, usually what is discussed is simply the form, not the actual lesson, the wisdom that God would have us draw. What can we say about the content and the form of the Tanakh as a whole?
For me, the Tanakh is meaningful if it can be understood, which is the case if the meaning can be stated and restated. An absolute meaning would be expressed in terms of conceptual structures. For example, the seven days of creation bring to mind the ways of dividing everything into one, two, three, four, five, six and seven perspectives. The Ten Commandments have a structure of 4 positive commandments (what to do to love God) and 6 negative commandments (what not to do to love your neighbor as yourself). The latter 6 I believe can be derived as pairs of the former 4, although I am still working on that.
But for much of the Tanakh it is not clear what meaning it has, if any at all. I am trying to unlock that.
A key goal for me is to learn from the Tanakh how to write Scripture. I imagine that it can teach us how to structure Biblical truth, making use of any historical truth, such as we find in the documentation of the Holocaust. We can thus know how to expand our hearts, our minds and our spirits. We can view as God views. If we can do this, then we have understood the Tanakh and so it's not a problem if 98% is nonsense or balast because we have the living germ of the seed and it sprouts life.
We know, that is, I believe that the Tanakh is a perfect book in the sense that it affects every reader or listener for the better, but especially if their intention is good, and yet again even if it is not. It's form is structured in a way that opens us up for a content that has us expand and grow. This happens even if the meaning is only partly comprehended, and even if it is miscomprehended. It happens even if it is translated or retold. Thus the Bible stories are very important as such because they must contain that germ of life. This is what it means that it is the word of God. But this may all depend also on our relationship to the text in that we take it to be sacred and it evokes that in us.
An alternative point of view is that we can never exhaust the wisdom of the Tanakh. Well, perhaps we may not exhaust it. But I disagree with the idea that we cannot master it, that we cannot encompass and capture the essence of it. I believe that God wants us to master it. I think that God is fulfilled in that we make a culture of his wisdom. I think we can do so deliberately and are indeed taking part in that.
I have a lot of personal experience with God as a concept and as an acquaintance. In that sense it is clear to me that God is more real than anything I know. Thus I can look at Scripture critically as to whether it is of God. When we truly know how Scripture works, then we can say of any text - this is God's word and this is not - this is what is missing to make it God's word. We can say this of every sentence in the Tanakh as well.
Personally, this is very vivid for me in the Gospels. For me, there is a great tension between how people usually think and how Jesus (or God) thinks. I can say a lot about that structurally but he does it very efficiently, very intensely. I feel I have a good understanding of Jesus's perspective and so I am very interested to likewise understand the God of the Tanakh, the God of the Jews, which is the God of Jesus.
Alongside this, I think the goal of Scripture is to teach morality. As I look for meaning in my investigations of the Holocaust in Lithuania, I see the need for a third morality. The first morality is the Ten Commandments. But they are external to us, not necessarily grounded in us, and they do not really explain what they mean exactly and how we are to get ourselves to follow them. The second morality is Jesus's Sermon on the Mount, which provides counterquestions for sharpening our conscience. But this is a morality which supposes that we are all individuals. The third morality which I think we need and can discover is how to live in a moral quagmire where it seems to the heightened conscience that all choices are immoral. This is the case with the Holocaust, but also with war in general, and even in all the complex systems of daily life, including ecology and economy. How do we make a living from honest work? How do we live sustainably? How should we get involved in politics? This is the kind of morality that we are missing. And this is, I imagine, the point of learning to write Scripture. I think they key to this third morality is the point of view that we are not distinct individuals, but rather, one spirit which lives in all people. This outlook allows me to realize that maybe I will inevitably do wrong but I can hope that others yet may make it right, and I for them as well.
I wrote previously about the second set of Ten Commandments which Moses gave to the Hebrews. The first set were moral, but the Hebrews grew impatient and worshipped the golden calf. The second set were cultural, what it means to be a Jew. (Although circumcision is not one of them, but then again, that only affects men.) These are commandments for a "stiff necked" people. It reminds me of what Jesus said about divorce that Moses allowed them because they were "hard hearted" but "originally it was not so". Thus the cultural commandments are for a stiff necked, hard hearted people. They are stiff necked because they are looking to God, looking at God, rather than looking with God. God is saying, Don't look at me! Go before me! Life is the fact that God is good - that is looking at God, looking at the past - and that ends in death. But eternal life is that fact that God doesn't have to be good - that is looking with God out towards the future to deal with - and that is life unfolding forever and forever.
The Jews are a model people, not because so much of Biblical times, but because of what they've lived through since then. There is much to learn from the dynamics of their persecution as they've ever adapted to an evolving life on the margins of society. I think it is the same dynamics as for "independent thinker" in general. Independent thinkers are always on the margins because they wish to agree deeply but those who agree superficially end up in the center. So independent thinkers end up everywhere else. Similarly, Jews have looked to God and so they cannot end up in the center of this world. But they form a network of those who are not in the center. And that network thrives. So that is the model.
We know that we live in Biblical times because the Holocaust, the restoration of Israel, the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War are much more awesome than any events in the Bible. The promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses are fulfilled in a nation of millions, whereas all of their neighbors and even the Romans, Babylonians and Assyrians are long gone. But this is a long prologue to a criticism of the truth of the Bible.
For all of my life, I have understood that the veracity of the Bible can be critiqued. I was also aware that there were many dubious ways of addressing those challenges. But the most appropriate seemed to be to suspend disbelief. And then to focus on the value of the text. In the case of the Gospels, the teachings of Jesus are for me enormously valuable and inspiring as to how to live and think about life in ways that of myself I could only imagine if I were able to free myself of all of society's usual thinking. But in contrast, I've found little such inspiration in the Tanakh, and only once read it all the way through some 22 years ago. So I'm trying to find that inspiration, especially as regards God. And I'm allowing myself to look at it quite critically.
I've finished the first three books of the Torah - Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus - and I've started Numbers. Numbers is like a census. And the numbers seem so false in different ways that I find myself returning to the thought that "this is a book of lies". But this time I wondered, what is happening, what is God's point in writing his book in this way? What do these lies have to do with the other lies? Or more gently, what do these fictions have to with the other fictions?
As I think through this, I reject the "deus ex machina" which says that "there were other texts along the way" that explain how the original truth took shape as the truth we read in Scripture. My point is that there certainly were other texts along the way, but in the case of these lies, there was no "original truth". It was made up. The question is, what is special about the way that it was made up?
I can compare this with a revelation that I had once about Jesus's Resurrection. We Christians are told that the four gospels have differences but that just shows that there are four different witnesses of one truth. So one day it dawned on me to check, what if anything do the four gospels agree on as regards the Resurrection? I was shocked to discover that they agree on Absolutely nothing! No two gospels agree on Who saw Jesus, How many people it was, Where did they see him? Not a single fact can be drawn from these accounts. The only "logical" conclusion (if one is to believe in the Resurrection, as I chose to) is that there was, apparently, a total breakdown of time and space. Every witness saw it absolutely differently. Which kind of makes sense in the case of a Resurrection.
So let me go through some examples of what I consider the "lies" of the Tanakh and see what is holy about them.
What do all of these "lies" or fictions have in common?
In each case, there is information that was handed down through history, for example, a list of names of people, a set of place names, a sketch of a legend, an ancient rite, etc. This information is what grounds God's word in reality, in this world, provides grit. Also, there seems to be a human social purpose, an ideological goal of propaganda, for example, to exalt Joseph as the most legitimate tribe and rank the other tribes and nations accordingly, or to exalt the Levites as the legitimate priests, or to exalt the temple as the legitimate place of worship, and so on. Each is exalted by showing how they are dear to God. In each case, the human author lives much later than the original information and is drawing on it as grounding truth in a different age, a more absolute age, a more ideal age. In each case, the human author projects an ideal truth to flesh out the historical information. Thus the tabernacle becomes "ideal", the sacrifices become "ideal", the stories become "ideal". The author is not creating a fiction - the author, I think, believes that they are relating what is truly true, what must be true, what is divinely true. That seems to be what distinguishes the Tanakh - God's word - from the Midrash, which seems, the little that I've read, to be very much a human rationalization. Although I suppose in the Jewish faith there is a whole spectrum, I've been told, of revelation. But going up that spectrum I expect that there is an intensity of rationalization that transcends the human author.
In general, "prophecy" occurs not when the prophet predicts the future, but rather, when the prophet expresses wisdom which is greater than they possibly could have conceived themselves and so must come from God. For example, the story of Joseph clearly makes him the star, and anthropologically, the storyteller was a champion of Joseph. Among the brothers, Judah is distinguished as the one who offers himself as a substitute for Benjamin, which is what brings Joseph to forgive his brothers. Well, "being a substitute" happens to be the trait that later distinguishes Jesus of the house of Judah. But the storyteller could not possibly have known this. So this can be taken as a prophecy, as God's word. Similarly, Jesus talks how, at the end of the world, a third of the moon and the stars will fall out of the sky. But by coincidence the flags of the Muslim countries have a crescent moon and a star. So perhaps some day that will make sense as a prophecy.
My thought which got me to write this letter is the following. I can think of these "lies" as "distortions" which God inhabits. The distortions arise from the rationalizations by which something is exalted when related to God by way of "the ideal". "The ideal" reflects the human imagination and so is invisible to the author (who thinks it is the truth) but is brought out by the critical mind. Yet the author's intensity of faith, devotion to the truth, belief in the ideal, love of what they exalt, and reliance on God all together evoke a morsel of divine wisdom. In the case of Leviticus, we find Chapter 19 with the teaching "Love your neighbor as yourself". Amongst all the blood we thus find a teaching that is more fundamental, more heartful, more provocative, more demanding even than the Golden Rule. This is not by accident. The rites of sacrifice which are made ideal are considered in terms of their moral dimension, which evokes this chapter's moral overview, which yields this moral principle. Leviticus is justified by this one assertion, but also, this one assertion brings out the teaching that may lurk throughout Leviticus.
Thus it seems that God inhabits such semi-fictional spaces. I think the reason God is here is because of the divine importance that the human author attaches to the entire subject at hand, such as the holiness of the priests' sacrifices. That is what is lacking in the Midrash so that God's word there is only derivative and the human thinking is so obvious. God's thinking comes out when we are both comprehensive and insistent on divine meaning. Commentary is, almost by definition, not comprehensive and rarely seeks God with fervor. But commentary helps us see the distinction between human thought and God's thought.
As I read further I am interested to think more about these distortive spaces that God inhabits. It is interesting that they may suit him more than the "real world" itself. These spaces are expansions of our mind and thus the spaces of our personal growth.
I welcome your thoughts, critical, supportive or otherwise!
Andrius Kulikauskas email@example.com +370 607 27 665
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As I mentioned, I was stunned to read their exposition how the Jerusalem of David and Solomon was a modest village. I found a review critiquing their book: