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Author Topic: Ornery U: Judaism 101
Pete at Home
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Gracias.
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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by hobsen:
So far as I know, the incident illustrates a first century Jewish belief that the high priest could be inspired to speak truth beyond his own understanding.

Except there never was such a view among Jews.

quote:
Originally posted by hobsen:
But I am not clear whether this was a popular superstition, or something in Jewish tradition, or something explicitly stated in Jewish canonical books. Which is it?

An invention? To the best of my knowledge, there were only ever two high priests in the history of our people who were prophets. Possibly three. Aaron (Moses' brother) and Zechariah, who lived at the time of Jehoash. Zechariah's father Jehoiada may also have been a prophet.

Edit: Just to add, one reason it was exceedingly rare to find the high priesthood and prophecy combined was that they're essentially opposites. A prophet is a conduit of communication from God to us. The high priest atones to God on our behalf.

There is a midrash regarding the death of Zechariah, who was stoned to death in the Temple by order of King Jehoash. As the story goes, his blood could not be cleansed from the floor of the temple, but instead bubbled and boiled there for centuries. When the Babylonians came, their general Nebuzaradan saw the blood and asked what it was. He killed priest after priest until he was told. And then the butchery started in earnest. He decided that he'd satisfy the blood of Zechariah (remember, this is a midrash, and isn't intended to necessarily be taken literally). He butchered a group of young priests, but the blood kept bubbling. He did this over and over and finally cried, "Zechariah, would you have me destroy all of your people?!" Only at that point did the blood stop bubbling.

A rabbi I learned with once explained that killing a high priest who is also a prophet is essentially saying F-U to God. That it's one of the only things that's unforgiveable, for the simple reason that it's a breaking of the conduit with God by means of which we can be forgiven.

He was telling us this in the context of Aaron making the golden calf. The question was: how could Aaron have done such a thing? The Torah says that when Moses went up to Mount Sinai, he left Aaron and Hur there to be in charge of things. We never hear about Hur again after this. Our tradition tells us that when the people came and asked for a golden calf, Hur told them no, and they killed him. And that they threatened to do the same to Aaron if he refused. This rabbi explained that Aaron chose to do what he knew to be wrong rather than risk the nation doing something unforgivable.

FWIW.

[ March 08, 2008, 09:06 PM: Message edited by: starLisa ]

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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
anecdote: when the high priest went into the holy of holies that one time a year, they'd tie a long rope to his ankle, in case he died and they needed to drag him out [Smile]

This was only in later Second Temple times, when the post of high priest had become something bought and sold and subject to Herodian and then Roman appointment. Since the high priests at that time were often rotten people, they tended not to survive Yom Kippur.
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hobsen
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Various Christian denominations differ on how much accuracy can be expected from the Bible, and I do not know where the LDS Church stands on this. Anyway Pete at Home said,
quote:
The statement is from one Gallileean>Jew>Christian, John the beloved. It was written, as best we can tell, quite late in the 1st century BC, after John returned from Patmos...
Since Quakers have no Bible translation of their own, so far as I know, I generally refer first to my wife's Roman Catholic one. This is the New American Bible described as follows:
quote:
One of the most common English language translations in the Roman Catholic Church, the first edition of the New American Bible was translated by the Confraternity for Christian Doctrine and published in 1970. It includes the full Catholic canon, though in a slightly different order from the Vulgate, and is the primary source for Bible readings in Catholic services.
It notes that many Protestant and Roman Catholic scholars have come to agree the name "John, son of Zebedee" may be attached to the tradition behind the fourth gospel, as the name "Peter" is attached to one tradition behind the synoptic gospels. In fact the gospel was possibly written by a disciple of John based on his preaching, and later edited and supplemented by at least one other disciple of John; but the present version cannot possibly have been written in its entirety by John himself.
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hobsen
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Pete at Home added,
quote:
If you believe that John was inspired to write that line in his gospel, then it's God saying, through John, that the message really did come from God through Caiaphas.
This view has traditionally been ascribed to William Jennings Bryan, and what H.L. Mencken used to call the flat-headed sects. Wikipedia notes more politely,
quote:
Many who believe in the Inspiration of scripture teach that it is infallible. Those who subscribe to infallibility believe that what the scriptures say regarding matters of faith and Christian practice are wholly useful and true. Some denominations that teach infallibility hold that the historical or scientific details, which may be irrelevant to matters of faith and Christian practice, may contain errors. Those who believe in inerrancy hold that the scientific, geographic, and historic details and of the scriptural texts in their original manuscripts are completely true and without error.
Both inerrancy and infallibility are rejected by the majority of Christians today. The most I would say is that the authors of the books of the Bible did not intend to deceive; they tried to write the truth. And in many cases they were right, while in others they were misled by falsehoods and legends widespread among the people of their time. But the idea that God guarantees the accuracy of what they wrote seems to me nonsense, as they were wrong on such basic matters as the location of places near Jerusalem.
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hobsen
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But the above creates a mystery. At first I thought Pete at Home himself might have been responsible for my belief that the high priest was thought to prophesy, in some other thread. But looking in my wife's Bible, the note to John 11:49 says flatly, "The Jews attributed a gift of prophecy, sometimes unconscious, to the high priest." Since the authors of the NAB submitted the final text for review by Catholic and Protestant and probably Jewish scholars, and received something like half a million criticisms as I remember, it is impossible this note passed unchallenged. So they may have been wrong, but they had a source, and Pete certainly has grounds for his assertion also. Perhaps it is merely a late Christian tradition, but I shall try to find out what it was.
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RickyB
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"There is a midrash regarding the death of Zechariah, who was stoned to death in the Temple by order of King Jehoash."

Um, Zechariah being stoned to death? Wasn't that a 2nd temple incident Around the time of Herod?

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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by hobsen:
Since the authors of the NAB submitted the final text for review by Catholic and Protestant and probably Jewish scholars,

Um... highly doubtful.
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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
"There is a midrash regarding the death of Zechariah, who was stoned to death in the Temple by order of King Jehoash."

Um, Zechariah being stoned to death? Wasn't that a 2nd temple incident Around the time of Herod?

II Chronicles 24:20-22
quote:
And the spirit of God clothed Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest; and he stood above the people, and said unto them: 'Thus saith God: Why transgress ye the commandments of HaShem, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken HaShem, He hath also forsaken you.'

And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of HaShem.

Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son. And when he died, he said: 'The HaShem look upon it, and requit it.'


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RickyB
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Thanks. Scary how these things repeat... Even if the NT story about Giovanni's papa is simply a copy of the Chronicles story, there was a Zecharia ben Baruch murdered in the temple by the zealots during the revolt.

[ March 09, 2008, 12:19 PM: Message edited by: RickyB ]

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RickyB
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"Both inerrancy and infallibility are rejected by the majority of Christians today."

Really? Most *church-going* Christians? That would be good news, if true. [Smile]

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hobsen
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Lisa may be right that the scholars who prepared the New American Bible did not include Jews; the most I can confirm is that they were not all Roman Catholic. The Introduction says,
quote:
The New American Bible has accomplished this in response to the need of the church in America today. It is the achievement of some fifty biblical scholars, the greater number of whom, though not all, are Catholics. In particular, the editors-in-chief have devoted twenty-five years to this work. The collaboration of scholars who are not Catholic fulfills the directive of the Second Vatican Council, not only that "correct translations be made into different languages especially from the original texts of the sacred books," but that, "with the approval of the church authority, these translations be produced in cooperation with separated brothers" so that "all Christians may be able to use them."
There were allegedly 58 scholars, but I have not found a list online. Including one or more Jews would have been sensible, as a translation which was erroneous or offensive to Jews would certainly not be acceptable to all Christians; but I cannot say they did.
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RickyB
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<shrug> Even if ethnic Jewish scholars had been consulted, it doesn't mean they'd conform to what Lisa and people who believe as she does require. In fact, it has already been established here that there are perfectly *orthodox* scholars who believe things that Lisa seems to consider anathema [Smile]
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hobsen
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Concerning inerrancy and infallibility, I should have said the denominations to which most Christians belong no longer insist on these, so far as I can see. Also I should have restricted the statement to denominations in Europe and the United States, as I know very little about the positions of the various Orthodox churches.

Prior to World War II, conservative denominations accepted infallibility and inerrancy, and liberal ones rejected them; the split was about half and half among those outside the Roman Catholic Church. And the Roman Catholic Church still adhered to a statement on the Bible which maintained that "every stated fact in the Bible is historically true," or words to that effect; I do not claim to remember the exact phrasing. This was widely ignored in practice, but the official position was enforced from time to time by acts of the Vatican censuring individual scholars.

In the intervening years, the Roman Catholic Church has in effect changed positions; and the sheer number of Roman Catholics tilts the scale in favor of liberals. The following amusing paper by a Roman Catholic priest opposed to the change illustrates its magnitude; as he says, in respect to the decrees of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, "As a sign the battle is over, consider the fact that many, if not most, priests trained since the 1960s and seminarians today do not even know what the PBC decrees are." The editor comments concerning his paper,
quote:
The following article represents the typical situation of a Catholic student attending classes in a graduate school of theology and finding himself being presented with novel and even shocking ideas of biblical interpretation taken from that confused and often misleading area of thought known as Catholic biblical scholarship.
http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt94.html

The situation on infallibility is less clear than on inerrancy, which would require a literal interpretation of such events as Noah's flood. But the New American Bible is the one most widely used by Roman Catholics in the United States; its introduction to Ecclesiastes says,
quote:
The moral teaching of the book is imperfect, like the Old Testament itself (Hebrews 7:19), yet it marks an advance in the development of the doctrine of divine retribution. While rejecting the older solution of earthly rewards and punishments, Ecclesiastes looks forward to a more lasting one. The clear answer to the problem was to come with the light of Christ's teaching concerning future life.
So far as I can see, saying the moral teaching of a book of the Bible is imperfect is a denial that "what the scriptures say regarding matters of faith and Christian practice are wholly useful and true." Perhaps one could still argue that the Bible as a whole is infallible, but the idea that God ensured the moral correctness of every sentence of every book is clearly being rejected. But since I personally always thought the old PCB guidelines worthless, I am hardly shocked that they are no longer maintained.
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hobsen
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Lisa-baiting seems unjustified, RickyB. She has always said her views represent a minority among Jews. I think she would settle for being right, rather than being in the majority. And while I do not believe she is right in general, she has certainly produced evidence which often changed my previous positions, which is easier because my own knowledge is admittedly both slight and faulty.
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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
<shrug> Even if ethnic Jewish scholars had been consulted, it doesn't mean they'd conform to what Lisa and people who believe as she does require.

I would assume that most Jewish scholars would figure that a translation with things like "a virgin shall conceive" and "my hands are pierced" and other such mistranslations was problematic enough that disputing claims like that would be relatively unimportant.

quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
In fact, it has already been incorrectly claimed here that there are perfectly *orthodox* scholars who believe things that Lisa seems to consider anathema [Smile]

Fixed that for you.
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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by hobsen:
Lisa-baiting seems unjustified, RickyB. She has always said her views represent a minority among Jews. I think she would settle for being right, rather than being in the majority.

Very true. But contrary to what Ricky wants to claim, what I've posted here is the mainstream view among Orthodox Jews. Virtually unanimous, for that matter. The fact that Ricky can find one or two people who claim to be Orthodox and claim to have a different view doesn't change the fact that they are way outside of the consensus (sort of like I am when it comes to the issue of homosexuality and Judaism, except that I'm right <grin>), and I'm not.
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hobsen
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Concerning "a virgin shall conceive" the NAB translation originally said "a young woman shall conceive." But the Catholic bishops in the United States insisted on using "virgin," resulting in the following translation and footnote:
quote:
NAB (New American Bible): Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
Footnote: [14] The sign proposed by Isaiah was concerned with the preservation of Judah in the midst of distress (cf Isaiah 7:15, 17), but more especially with the fulfillment of God's earlier promise to David (2 Sam 7:12-16) in the coming of Immanuel (meaning, "With us is God") as the ideal king (cf Isaiah 9:5-6; 11:1-5). The Church has always followed St. Matthew in seeing the transcendent fulfillment of this verse in Christ and his Virgin Mother. The prophet need not have known the full force latent in his own words; and some Catholic writers have sought a preliminary and partial fulfillment in the conception and birth of the future King Hezekiah, whose mother, at the time Isaiah spoke, would have been a young, unmarried woman (Hebrew, almah). The Holy Spirit was preparing, however, for another Nativity which alone could fulfill the divinely given terms of Immanuel's mission, and in which the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God was to fulfill also the words of this prophecy in the integral sense intended by the divine Wisdom.

This notion of unconscious prophecy would seem to be more of a problem for you than for me, Lisa. If God controlled the very words of a sacred text, how do you know the text does not contain hidden prophecies? If I remember correctly, you said God was outside time, so texts with divine authorship could well include messages which would only be understood later. Since I believe such texts have human authors, inspired only in the sense that they may be given power to say true and useful things about God and religion, I am comfortable in being extremely skeptical concerning such alleged hidden messages. But the traditional Jewish Kabbalah seems to be full of interpretations which make this interpretation of the words of Isaiah seem a very limited flight of fancy.

Incidentally, concerning this alleged prophecy of birth to a virgin, I have never been convinced Matthew was certainly referring to the version of Isaiah currently accepted by either Jews or Christians. The Qumran discoveries have made it clear versions of Isaiah in circulation differed at that time, and Matthew could have referred to another prophet altogether. The opinion that the reference is to Isaiah 7:14 is well supported, but not conclusive.

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RickyB
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"But contrary to what Ricky wants to claim, what I've posted here is the mainstream view among Orthodox Jews."

This I can buy, for the most part (except when it touches contemporary politics, then not so much)

"Virtually unanimous, for that matter."

That's where you cross the line [Smile]

"The fact that Ricky can find one or two people who claim to be Orthodox and claim to have a different view doesn't change the fact that they are way outside of the consensus."

I will bet you anything that in a survey of orthodox, pray three times a day Jews who happen to be academically certified in history, the view that the first temple in Jerusalem was indeed destroyed in 422 BCE, rather than the accepted date of 586 BCE or thereabouts would get no more than ten percent. Tops. And there are more than enough orthodox academics.

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hobsen
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The assertion that the high priest could prophesy probably comes from prophetic dreams related by Flavius Josephus in The Antiquities of the Jews, finished in April of 94 CE. In Chapter 8:
quote:
Now Alexander, when he had taken Gaza, made haste to go up to Jerusalem; and Jaddua the high priest, when he heard that, was in an agony, and under terror, as not knowing how he should meet the Macedonians, since the king was displeased at his foregoing disobedience. He therefore ordained that the people should make supplications, and should join with him in offering sacrifice to God, whom he besought to protect that nation, and to deliver them from the perils that were coming upon them; whereupon God warned him in a dream, which came upon him after he had offered sacrifice, that he should take courage, and adorn the city, and open the gates; that the rest should appear in white garments, but that he and the priests should meet the king in the habits proper to their order, without the dread of any ill consequences, which the providence of God would prevent.
In Chapter 10:
quote:
Now a very surprising thing is related of this high priest Hyrcanus, how God came to discourse with him; for they say that on the very same day on which his sons fought with Antiochus Cyzicenus, he was alone in the temple, as high priest, offering incense, and heard a voice, that his sons had just then overcome Antiochus. And this he openly declared before all the multitude upon his coming out of the temple; and it accordingly proved true; and in this posture were the affairs of Hyrcanus.
Also in Chapter 10:
quote:
But when Hyrcanus had put an end to this sedition, he after that lived happily, and administered the government in the best manner for thirty-one years, and then died, leaving behind him five sons. He was esteemed by God worthy of three of the greatest privileges, - the government of his nation, the dignity of the high priesthood, and prophecy; for God was with him, and enabled him to know futurities; and to foretell this in particular, that, as to his two eldest sons, he foretold that they would not long continue in the government of public affairs.
Another possible source is the Testament of Levi; but the oldest surviving manuscript seems to be 17th century and modified by Christians, while alleged fragments found at Qumran may be from some other apocalyptic work.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by hobsen:
But the above creates a mystery. At first I thought Pete at Home himself might have been responsible for my belief that the high priest was thought to prophesy, in some other thread.

Yes, I did mention it on another thread, except that I said that John thought him to have prophesied (after the fact when it came true), rather than depicting this as a general belief in Judaism.

quote:
But looking in my wife's Bible, the note to John 11:49 says flatly, "The Jews attributed a gift of prophecy, sometimes unconscious, to the high priest." Since the authors of the NAB submitted the final text for review by Catholic and Protestant and probably Jewish scholars, and received something like half a million criticisms as I remember, it is impossible this note passed unchallenged. So they may have been wrong, but they had a source, and Pete certainly has grounds for his assertion also.
That is cool. I'm not sure how one could read the John text otherwise, since John is pretty emphatic about the matter.
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RickyB
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"while alleged fragments found at Qumran may be from some other apocalyptic work."

I can double check later, but I'm pretty sure the testaments of the tribes were indeed found in Qumran.

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hobsen
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Backing up here, RickyB, you said,
quote:
I mean, the sages say explicitly that prophecy ended in the early Persian era.
When Flavius Josephus asserted John Hyrcanus was a prophet and gave two examples of his prophesies, isn't this a contradiction? It would seem Josephus was either making up stories to impress the Romans or relating legends found among first century Jews. What is your opinion on that?

The trouble with the Testament of Levi reference as I see it is that even if it were found in its entirety at Qumran, how would we know it was not a Christian document? The caves there have documents from many sources, and we know Christians believed that high priests sometimes prophesied because it says so in the Gospel of John.

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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by hobsen:
Backing up here, RickyB, you said,
quote:
I mean, the sages say explicitly that prophecy ended in the early Persian era.
When Flavius Josephus asserted John Hyrcanus was a prophet and gave two examples of his prophesies, isn't this a contradiction? It would seem Josephus was either making up stories to impress the Romans or relating legends found among first century Jews. What is your opinion on that?
Josephus was a good friend of the Herodian dynasty, which claimed to be descended from the Hasmoneans. Not to mention the fact that he'd used a claim of personal prophecy to get in good with Vespasian (a story which probably didn't happen, btw, since it's obviously copied from an identical story that happened to Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai).

Josephus also claims that Herod married Miriam the Hasmonean, while the rabbis claim that she killed herself before he was able to do so.

Josephus isn't a very trustworthy source when it comes to Jews and Judaism. His goals were to aggrandize himself, to entertain the Flavians, and to laud his friends the Herodians.

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hobsen
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Thank you, starLisa; that is why I raised the point. I had heard Josephus was untrustworthy. On the other hand, liars do not always lie; and I failed to see what he could gain by making up stories about John Hyrcanus, who lived so long before. Also why he would have wanted to ingratiate himself with the Herodians, if the Herodian dynasty ended with the death of Agrippa II in 92 CE, when he was writing in 94 CE? Did the Herodians still hope to return to power somehow, even after the last heir had died? Otherwise it seemed possible that legends about John Hyrcanus might have been floating around in the Jewish community of Rome, to whom he was a revered figure long dead and far away. Or am I mistaking his stature, and would he have been by that time unknown to most Jews? Of course, I do not want to take too much of your time; I am sure RickyB also knows much more than I do about Jewish history, which really should be discussed on his thread.

By the way, I was somewhat shocked to see The Antiquities of the Jews listed among Early Christian Writings on a major Internet site. From what I have heard of Josephus, you Jews can keep him.

[ March 12, 2008, 10:16 PM: Message edited by: hobsen ]

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RickyB
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"Josephus also claims that Herod married Miriam the Hasmonean, while the rabbis claim that she killed herself before he was able to do so."

That's kind of silly to say, since they did have two sons, whose existence is well documented.

Where do they even say that?

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Pete at Home
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"By the way, I was somewhat shocked to see The Antiquities of the Jews listed among Early Christian Writings on a major Internet site."

That's because there was a version (probably forged by post-300 AD Christians) of Josephus' writings that asserted that Jesus was the true Messiah.

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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
"Josephus also claims that Herod married Miriam the Hasmonean, while the rabbis claim that she killed herself before he was able to do so."

That's kind of silly to say, since they did have two sons, whose existence is well documented.

Where do they even say that?

He had two sons who he claimed were the sons of Miriam. However, on Baba Batra 3a:
quote:
Herod was the slave of the Hasmonean house, and had set his eyes on a certain maiden [of that house]. One day he heard a Bath Kol say, 'Every slave that rebels now will succeed.' So he rose and killed all the members of his master's household, but spared that maiden. When she saw that he wanted to marry her, she went up on to a roof and cried out, 'Whoever comes and says, I am from the Hasmonean house, is a slave, since I alone am left of it, and I am throwing myself down from this roof.' He preserved her body in honey for seven years. Some say that he had intercourse with her, others that he did not. According to those who say that he had intercourse with her, his reason for embalming her was to gratify his desires. According to those who say that he did not have intercourse with her, his reason was that people might say that he had married a king's daughter.
There's a whole discussion in Kiddushin about whether a gentile slave becomes free (and thereby Jewish) when all of his owners die, or whether it requires a writ of manumission. The latter turns out to be the law, and the fact that the Herodians were slaves according to Jewish law is attested to there and in Ketubot.
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RickyB
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"He had two sons who he claimed were the sons of Miriam."

You know what? I'm not even gonna go into this one, except to say that again, when a man's life was very well recorded, from an early age, from several different angles, by many reliable contemporaries and near contemporaries, I'm gonna believe those sources over a clearly fantastical story, from a source heavily indisposed toward the subject, from several centuries later, following several upheavals that left very few if any records. Remember that all the records held in the temple were burned. [Smile]

There are allusions that the Herodian *family*, several generations before Antipater, were slaves, like before Hasmonean conquest, but there are no reliable sources, since Antipater was the first man of real distinction from that line. Antipater was clearly not a slave, else he would not have been able to do all he did, such as place his sons as governors. And if by some huge anomaly he was, it would have been well noted. The Romans could not have been kept in the dark about this. Herod was obviously not born a slave. It is entirely possible that they are using slave to mean servant, retainer (in the feudal sense, like a samurai). Also it can be read as a condensed version of the history, since Herod did, over a pretty long period of time and several political twists and turns, kill or cause the death of every single hasmonean scion save his grandkids.

I mean, you really believe this? Or are you just sharing an alternate version for our edification? It's fascinating, btw. I wish I had time to study talmud at Alma [Smile]

And another important question - do you find it religiously important to believe that this story, for example, is factually and literally true? I mean, surely you concede that large parts of the Talmud are not to read literally. There are allegorical passages, passages written in a sort of code so as not to run afoul of authorities (the reason there's so little about the great revolt, for instance... damn them! I think I'd find Ben Zakai a much more reliable source about what exactly happened inside the walls than that self serving little twerp. [Smile]

[ March 13, 2008, 04:07 PM: Message edited by: RickyB ]

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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
"He had two sons who he claimed were the sons of Miriam."

You know what? I'm not even gonna go into this one, except to say that again, when a man's life was very well recorded, from an early age, from several different angles, by many reliable contemporaries and near contemporaries,

Name one, other than Josephus the self-serving traitor. Seriously, just one.

quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
I'm gonna believe those sources over a clearly fantastical story, from a source heavily indisposed toward the subject, from several centuries later, following several upheavals that left very few if any records. Remember that all the records held in the temple were burned. [Smile]

And remember as well the importance of family status to the rabbis. Labeling someone as a slave who was not would have been abhorrent to them, if for no other reason than the simple fact that it changes who they can marry.

And interestingly enough, not two lines away from the place in Kiddushin where it talks about anyone self-identifying as a Hasmonean in those late times having the legal status of a slave is the maxim "kol ha'posel, b'mumo posel". No, I'm more than willing to rely on them in this case, not because they're the Sages, so of course they're right, but because it would have been extraordinarily problematic for them to have people whose status was in question. They were deathly serious about this stuff in a way that you, growing up in the 20th century, probably find ridiculous. But you can't deny that it was that important to them.

quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
There are allusions that the Herodian *family*, several generations before Antipater, were slaves, like before Hasmonean conquest,

On the contrary, it's well known that Antipas (Antipater's father) was an Idumaean, and that the Idumaeans were enslaved by Hyrcanus. They weren't slaves before the Hasmonean conquest; they were enslaved in the Hasmonean conquest.

quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
but there are no reliable sources, since Antipater was the first man of real distinction from that line. Antipater was clearly not a slave, else he would not have been able to do all he did, such as place his sons as governors.

You misunderstand what slaves were. They weren't all household menials.

quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
And if by some huge anomaly he was, it would have been well noted. The Romans could not have been kept in the dark about this. Herod was obviously not born a slave.

He obviously wasn't a slave in the way that Romans thought of slaves. But then, Jews didn't own slaves in the way that Romans thought of slaves. Romans had no limitations on what they could do with their slaves the way Jews did. Romans had no responsibilities towards slaves the way Jews did. Slaves weren't considered all but citizens to Romans, but they were considered all but Jews to us. It's a POV issue, Ricky.

quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
It is entirely possible that they are using slave to mean servant, retainer (in the feudal sense, like a samurai). Also it can be read as a condensed version of the history, since Herod did, over a pretty long period of time and several political twists and turns, kill or cause the death of every single hasmonean scion save his grandkids.

No, Ricky. They meant, in all seriousness, that Herod was an Eved Kenaani, in every sense of Jewish law. That had he been freed by killing the last of his owners, he would have been a full Jew (an eved meshuchrar), but since he wasn't, he remained an Eved. This was not something they said out of pique. They had a great deal of admiration for Agrippa, who was considered a righteous man, albeit unfortunately a slave.

When he read the Torah publically for Hak'hel (a king is required to read the Torah in public once every seven years, during Shmitta), and he got to Deut 17:15, he began to cry, because he knew he wasn't really qualified to be king due to his status as a slave. The people cried out, "Don't fear, Agrippa. You are our brother, you are our brother". The rabbis said about this that Israel deserved destruction because they flattered Agrippa.

quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
I mean, you really believe this? Or are you just sharing an alternate version for our edification? It's fascinating, btw. I wish I had time to study talmud at Alma [Smile]

Alma? And yes, I really think this is the case. There's only one source anywhere that says Herod married Miriam. Josephus Flavius. The man was a liar even by his own testimony.

quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
And another important question - do you find it religiously important to believe that this story, for example, is factually and literally true?

Not in the sense that it's important to keep kosher, keep Shabbat, etc. The average person needn't ever even think about this. But when you delve deeply enough, it's really problematic to think that it's not the case. The implications are a problem. It would mean that the rabbis, for all their lip service about the law, really didn't give a damn about labeling someone as having a different halakhic status just because they didn't like him. That they were so deeply hypocritical that they saw nothing untoward about doing so at the same time that they condemned anyone who did the same. I honestly don't buy it. I look not only at who is saying it, but the context in which they said it, and what their deeply held beliefs seem to be. And on that level, the rabbis saying this about Herod carries a whole lot more weight to me than Josephus saying what Herod wanted people to think.

Come on, Ricky. Even you, as eager as you are to poo-poo anything traditional in Judaism, can't really think that Josephus is more credible about this particular issue.

quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
I mean, surely you concede that large parts of the Talmud are not to read literally. There are allegorical passages, passages written in a sort of code so as not to run afoul of authorities (the reason there's so little about the great revolt, for instance... damn them! I think I'd find Ben Zakai a much more reliable source about what exactly happened inside the walls than that self serving little twerp. [Smile]

Aggadta is definitely not always to be taken literally. You're 100% correct. And if it was just a matter of the passage I quoted before, I'd be more than happy to assign it to that category. But when they have a legal discussion about what Herod's status was afterwards, and draw practical conclusions in the way they did, all I can say is that they honestly, truly, believed that what they were saying about him was literally true. The business with Agrippa is Mishnaic, incidentally, so we're talking about a time frame not much later than Josephus.
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RickyB
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"Name one, other than Josephus the self-serving traitor. Seriously, just one."

<sigh> Tacitus, Dio Cassius, Strabo, Philo (I think)... Shall I continue? Cause there ar elesser writers too. It is impossible to write a history of the near east in the 2nd half of the 1st century BCE without talking about Herod. He was the lead auxiliary force in Agrippa's naval campaign of 14 BCE. The man funded the Olympic games. You cnnot pretend people in his time didn't notice what was up.

"And remember as well the importance of family status to the rabbis. Labeling someone as a slave who was not would have been abhorrent to them, if for no other reason than the simple fact that it changes who they can marry."

Another <sigh>. There are numerous instances in Jewish literature of calling someone a slave when it's pretty clear they weren't exactly - except that they were in service of the person, especially a king. If he were a slave we would find clear references to objection to his kingdom on this ground. A slave cannot be king in Israel.

"No, Ricky. They meant, in all seriousness, that Herod was an Eved Kenaani, in every sense of Jewish law."

He was most definitely not Canaanite.

"Alma? And yes, I really think this is the case. There's only one source anywhere that says Herod married Miriam. Josephus Flavius. The man was a liar even by his own testimony."

And the other Roman historians, who refer to the boys as his sons.

Alma is a free beit midrash. google it.

"It would mean that the rabbis, for all their lip service about the law, really didn't give a damn about labeling someone as having a different halakhic status just because they didn't like him. That they were so deeply hypocritical that they saw nothing untoward about doing so at the same time that they condemned anyone who did the same."

Or that they were speaking figuratively. Seriously. If I call someone a piece of ****, I don't mean they are made of feces.

"When he read the Torah publically for Hak'hel (a king is required to read the Torah in public once every seven years, during Shmitta), and he got to Deut 17:15, he began to cry, because he knew he wasn't really qualified to be king due to his status as a slave. The people cried out, "Don't fear, Agrippa. You are our brother, you are our brother". The rabbis said about this that Israel deserved destruction because they flattered Agrippa."

Read again. Not in reference to slavery at all. In reference to gentility. "Thou shalt not put upon you a king who is not of your people". Hence the answer, Our brother you are. How you get slavery here is beyond me.

"Come on, Ricky. Even you, as eager as you are to poo-poo anything traditional in Judaism, can't really think that Josephus is more credible about this particular issue."

Again, read what I actually say, not what you think I say as the representative of classic academic "Jewish narrative denying at all cost". I detest Josephus with a passion. Didn't I just say I'd have loved to read direct testimony from Raban Yochanan, and believe it more than the words of the twerp? Stop arguing with a world-wide conspiracy to discredit your religion and talk with the people actually addressing you. Yes, I take some glee in punching holes in your bizarre theories. I'm still responsible only for my words and not those of others.

"The business with Agrippa is Mishnaic, incidentally, so we're talking about a time frame not much later than Josephus."

Indeed, and I showed you why that's not applicable. The incident itself is contemporary with the life of Jofockus Flaccidus, tho he was very young at the time.

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RickyB
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"The rabbis said about this that Israel deserved destruction because they flattered Agrippa."

This is true (that the quote exists and refers to the passage. They were referring to the fact that his observance of the Torah was mostly for show and politics, and that the rabbis were guilty of legitimizing that.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by hobsen:
Pete at Home added,
quote:
If you believe that John was inspired to write that line in his gospel, then it's God saying, through John, that the message really did come from God through Caiaphas.
This view has traditionally been ascribed to William Jennings Bryan, and what H.L. Mencken used to call the flat-headed sects. Wikipedia notes more politely,
quote:
Many who believe in the Inspiration of scripture teach that it is infallible. Those who subscribe to infallibility believe that what the scriptures say regarding matters of faith and Christian practice are wholly useful and true. Some denominations that teach infallibility hold that the historical or scientific details, which may be irrelevant to matters of faith and Christian practice, may contain errors. Those who believe in inerrancy hold that the scientific, geographic, and historic details and of the scriptural texts in their original manuscripts are completely true and without error.
Both inerrancy and infallibility are rejected by the majority of Christians today. The most I would say is that the authors of the books of the Bible did not intend to deceive; they tried to write the truth. And in many cases they were right, while in others they were misled by falsehoods and legends widespread among the people of their time. But the idea that God guarantees the accuracy of what they wrote seems to me nonsense, as they were wrong on such basic matters as the location of places near Jerusalem.

hobsen, one obviously does not have to believe that the Bible is inerrant or infallible in order to hold my position on this one scripture. Again, I said:

quote:
If you believe that John was inspired to write that line in his gospel, then it's God saying, through John, that the message really did come from God through Caiaphas
I did not say "if you believe that all scripture is inerrant or infallible."

If you believe that the bible writers were sometimes inspired by God, and that they tried honestly and consistently to write the truth, then it stands to reason that when they say "thus saith the Lord" or that X was inspired prophesy from God, that they have strong basis for saying so.

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Clark
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Wow. I'm wondering if Hobsen will wait a year to respond back to Pete. If so, this could be a new way of setting the Ornery record for "longest" running debate.
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hobsen
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quote:
hobsen, one obviously does not have to believe that the Bible is inerrant or infallible in order to hold my position on this one scripture. Again, I said:


quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you believe that John was inspired to write that line in his gospel, then it's God saying, through John, that the message really did come from God through Caiaphas
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I did not say "if you believe that all scripture is inerrant or infallible."

The distinction Pete makes is obviously correct; he spoke of only one line, and I generalized his words improperly. And I see no point in waiting a year to say so. Even as things stand, Pete may not have a chance to get back to Ornery for months.
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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
"No, Ricky. They meant, in all seriousness, that Herod was an Eved Kenaani, in every sense of Jewish law."

He was most definitely not Canaanite.

I think I never saw this. An Eved Kenaani is a non-Jewish slave, as opposed to an Eved Ivri, who is a Jewish one. The term doesn't imply that the person is actually of Canaanite descent. That's just the technical term. In the same way that french fries aren't actually French.
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Paladine
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A few brief questions, and maybe an opportunity for me to clear up my understanding on a few points where I'm hazy. Here's my nutshell understanding, and please tell me where if anywhere I'm missing the mark.

God expects each of us to follow certain sets of rules. He designated the Jews as the priesthood of mankind and gave them a long list of laws to follow. Rabbis since then have expanded upon those with laws of their own (which are somewhat less in stature and authority than those coming directly from God, or at least subject to change where the latter aren't, please correct if wrong there). For the rest of us, he set forth six basic rules and a seventh telling us to set up governments to enforce the first six, and told us to see the Jews for details. Everyone does his part by following the rules set forth for him.


Now a few questions. I think I've seen you say elsewhere that, just as your hundreds of rules are many more, our six really comprise a broader range of activity as well. Have authoritative Jewish sources worked out what exactly those are? Priests in my understanding of the term are people tasked with setting an example, teaching and counseling others, and officiating at religious ceremonies. Do Jews have a responsibility to teach the rest of us other than simply saying "Hey, God left these laws for you to obey"? Are there religious services of some sort that we should be attending? Should we learn about God and the Bible and Jewish law even though we're not required to observe it?

On a more fundamental level, do you believe that every law serves some moral purpose, or that many of them are simply "I'm going to do this/live this way because God told me to"? You've mentioned that your debates with a professor led you to identify more with Judaism, but what made you believe that its religious claims were true and that God really did want these things from you? Do you have any idea what the objective of following the law might be, or what God's purpose is in giving it to us?

Sorry if that's a lot, but I live around a lot of Orthodox Jews and I still have a very incomplete understanding of where they're coming from. Suppose I show up at one of their schools or synagogues and say I want to learn about their religion, should I expect a welcoming reaction or puzzlement and a sense that my doing so is inappropriate?

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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Paladine:
God expects each of us to follow certain sets of rules. He designated the Jews as the priesthood of mankind and gave them a long list of laws to follow. Rabbis since then have expanded upon those with laws of their own (which are somewhat less in stature and authority than those coming directly from God, or at least subject to change where the latter aren't, please correct if wrong there). For the rest of us, he set forth six basic rules and a seventh telling us to set up governments to enforce the first six, and told us to see the Jews for details. Everyone does his part by following the rules set forth for him.

Good recap.

quote:
Originally posted by Paladine:
Now a few questions. I think I've seen you say elsewhere that, just as your hundreds of rules are many more, our six really comprise a broader range of activity as well. Have authoritative Jewish sources worked out what exactly those are?

Pretty much so. I haven't done a lot of study about it, but I know there are at least two books out there like this. There's The Path of the Righteous Gentile, by Chaim Clorfene and Yaakov Rogalsky. There's The Seven Laws of Noah, by Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein. Now... there's a book called The Rainbow Covenant: Torah and the Seven Universal Laws, by Michael Dallen. This one I don't know a lot about other than the fact that I've seen it mentioned a lot online. Plus the fact that it's published by Lightcatcher Books. The head of Lightcatcher, Jim Long, is a well known Noachide, and I tend to doubt that he would have published it if it hadn't been checked out. Also, they have a website that includes approbations from a number of major league rabbis. I know the wife of their main rabbinic advisor (as far as I can tell from their site).

quote:
Originally posted by Paladine:
Priests in my understanding of the term are people tasked with setting an example, teaching and counseling others, and officiating at religious ceremonies. Do Jews have a responsibility to teach the rest of us other than simply saying "Hey, God left these laws for you to obey"? Are there religious services of some sort that we should be attending? Should we learn about God and the Bible and Jewish law even though we're not required to observe it?

In theory, we have a responsibility to teach these laws to all non-Jews. In practice, there are two problems. One is that it hasn't been very long since Christians were of a mind to kill us even without us saying, "Look, you're doing it wrong. Here's what you need to do." And we definitely aren't required to risk our lives for this. The other problem is that, as I mentioned over on another thread, we need to get our house in order first.

quote:
Originally posted by Paladine:
On a more fundamental level, do you believe that every law serves some moral purpose, or that many of them are simply "I'm going to do this/live this way because God told me to"?

There's a big issue when it comes to the meanings of laws in Judaism. We never assume we know the full meaning of every law. Even when we have a reason, we always recognize that it is at most a reason, and not the reason.

There are a few different categories of laws. Some are called mishpatim, which are things that any healthy society should be able to figure out on its own. Don't kill, don't steal, don't kick your neighbor's teeth in. That sort of thing. There are eduyot, which are laws that commemorate something. Passover, for example. Shavuot, Sukkot and the like. Shabbat. And there are chukkim, which are "just because God said so" laws. Kosher laws, for example.

We assume they all have meanings. The plural being intentional. But we don't always know any of them.

quote:
Originally posted by Paladine:
You've mentioned that your debates with a professor led you to identify more with Judaism, but what made you believe that its religious claims were true and that God really did want these things from you?

I think it was the consistency. It's hard to pinpoint, because I'm much more an inductive thinker than an inductive one. Which I know has its weaknesses, but I think it has more than enough strengths to make up for it.

I went to an Orthodox day school for three years. Never took it seriously. I had cousins who were more religious, verging on Orthodox in some cases, but that was them, and if anything, I was glad I didn't have to do all that. But I gleaned a lot of information just in passing. None of it really integrated into a whole as far as I was concerned. Not that I was all that concerned. And when that professor started badmouthing Judaism, my negative reaction was purely emotional. He seemed mean-spirited, and just out to tear things down for the sheer joy of it. Which is the reason I couldn't stop arguing with him. It may be hard to believe from what you've seen of me, but when I was younger, the idea of speaking up in class, particularly when it meant everyone would be looking at me, was horrifying. I was extremely shy.

The closest I can come to describing what happened was to use the analogy of a jigsaw puzzle. A handful of pieces is just a mess, unless you luck out and they're right next to each other. But keep adding pieces, and either you continue to have garbage and static, or things start to fit together. When enough things start to fit together, and what you see is a coherent picture and not just more mess, it becomes hard to accept that it's a coincidence.

The only people who were happy about me becoming religious were people whose opinions didn't matter all that much to me. In fact, I think the only person who was supportive of it and I considered a friend was Catholic. Go figure. It's caused me more grief than I can reasonably explain to you (I'm not shy any more, but I don't want to cross into TMI territory on a public forum). Part of me really wishes I'd avoided that class and stayed far away from the subject. So I could be a nice ignorant lukewarm Conservative Jew like the rest of my family.

quote:
Originally posted by Paladine:
Do you have any idea what the objective of following the law might be, or what God's purpose is in giving it to us?

this is an essay by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. It isn't perfect by any means, but it isn't bad.

quote:
Originally posted by Paladine:
Sorry if that's a lot, but I live around a lot of Orthodox Jews and I still have a very incomplete understanding of where they're coming from. Suppose I show up at one of their schools or synagogues and say I want to learn about their religion, should I expect a welcoming reaction or puzzlement and a sense that my doing so is inappropriate?

The best answer is that it depends on the Orthodox community. In most cases, we don't really teach Torah to non-Jews beyond that which applies directly to them. I mean, we translated the Tanakh into Greek, and we've been regretting that move ever since. But there are Noahide forums (some better than others) where things like this can be discussed, and where there are other people who might be coming from the same place you are. I know there used to be a forum at torah.org, but it's been gone for a few years now. I've sent a message to Jim Long asking him if he has any ideas. I'll let you know if he does.
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Paladine
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quote:
The best answer is that it depends on the Orthodox community. In most cases, we don't really teach Torah to non-Jews beyond that which applies directly to them. I mean, we translated the Tanakh into Greek, and we've been regretting that move ever since. But there are Noahide forums (some better than others) where things like this can be discussed, and where there are other people who might be coming from the same place you are. I know there used to be a forum at torah.org, but it's been gone for a few years now. I've sent a message to Jim Long asking him if he has any ideas. I'll let you know if he does.
Thanks very much [Smile]

Another place where I'm kind of confused is your position on converts. As near as I can tell, you really are a lot like a priesthood in most major religions (or at least mine) in that the obligations you assume with your status mean that more is expected of you than of the rest of us. Person X might do fine in my faith as a layman, but as a priest he'd be severely wanting.

That said, we don't actively discourage people from being priests or say that we don't understand why they'd want to be one when they can more easily conform to God's will as a layman. We also believe that it's necessary for a priest to observe practices and to know things which a layman might not need to practice or observe, but it can only be a good thing if the laity gets as close to the priesthood as possible in terms of our knowledge and scholarship with respect to God.

It's not that we should challenge priests or the Church over primacy in scriptural interpretation or religious law, but it's a good thing for us to be as educated as possible. Do you have that same belief with respect to non-Jews, or do you think it better for some reason that there be certain areas of knowledge walled off to us?

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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Paladine:
Thanks very much [Smile]

No problem. Jim suggested that you have a look at http://noahidenations.com/

quote:
Originally posted by Paladine:
Another place where I'm kind of confused is your position on converts. As near as I can tell, you really are a lot like a priesthood in most major religions (or at least mine) in that the obligations you assume with your status mean that more is expected of you than of the rest of us. Person X might do fine in my faith as a layman, but as a priest he'd be severely wanting.

Right. But a hereditary priesthood complicates things. Back before the Maccabees, the High Priest Jason was a total sellout to the Hellenists, but he was High Priest. There wasn't a lot we could do about it. Other than civil war, I mean.

quote:
Originally posted by Paladine:
That said, we don't actively discourage people from being priests or say that we don't understand why they'd want to be one when they can more easily conform to God's will as a layman. We also believe that it's necessary for a priest to observe practices and to know things which a layman might not need to practice or observe, but it can only be a good thing if the laity gets as close to the priesthood as possible in terms of our knowledge and scholarship with respect to God.

My personal view is that more knowledge is always good. But Judaism is a tiered system. It's set up so that things are learned in a certain order, in a certain context. Removing either the order or context can easily, and often does, lead to serious misinterpretations.

In particular, if there's a religion, say, which considers itself to come from Judaism, but has been rejected by Judaism, members of that religion might very well try to use Jewish concepts out of context in order to try and bolster their position and trick uneducated Jews into thinking that their way is okay.

So it's kind of a fine line, you see.

quote:
Originally posted by Paladine:
It's not that we should challenge priests or the Church over primacy in scriptural interpretation or religious law, but it's a good thing for us to be as educated as possible. Do you have that same belief with respect to non-Jews, or do you think it better for some reason that there be certain areas of knowledge walled off to us?

It depends on the individual in question, I guess.
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