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The largest splits between Christian denominations do not come from issues of Biblical interpretation but doctrines added independently; for example, the Protestant Reformation began partly because of the sale of "indulgences" by the Catholic Church, which is not an issue of Biblical interpretation but of priests basically taking spiritual bribes. Similarly, Presbyterianism exists because of disputes over church leadership and organization.

 

There are of course groups which split because of Biblical interpretation issues, but that doesn't negate the point about the love commandments. As you insisted ewmon do, I read exactly what is there, and it told me that the Old Testament law is no longer binding.

 

But many christian denominations interpret some of the biblical texts differently.

 

I give again an extreme example for the sake of the arguemnt (but there ARE less extreme ones) - of Fred Phelps. He goes by the absolute literal translation. Is he wrong?

 

Some Christians believe in capital punishment (biblical 'eye for an eye') while others do not ('do not kill'), etc. The point is that the Bible (both NT and OT) are FILLED with contradictions. Whoever follows these texts MUST at some point pick and choose what to interpret and what to skip, or they must obey everything and conduct some rather unethical conduct (see phelps again in this one). Phelps, btw, still has a whole bunch of "commandments" he DOES NOT follow. You simply CAN'T follow the biblical texts entirely because of the multitude of contradictions.

 

Who picks and chooses then? Who's right?

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Some Christians believe in capital punishment (biblical 'eye for an eye') while others do not ('do not kill'), etc. The point is that the Bible (both NT and OT) are FILLED with contradictions. Whoever follows these texts MUST at some point pick and choose what to interpret and what to skip, or they must obey everything and conduct some rather unethical conduct (see phelps again in this one). Phelps, btw, still has a whole bunch of "commandments" he DOES NOT follow. You simply CAN'T follow the biblical texts entirely because of the multitude of contradictions.

 

Who picks and chooses then? Who's right?

What you've just stated is essentially a shortened version of Pauline theology as expressed in the New Testament epistles. This is why faith in Jesus frees you from the "disciplinarian" of the law -- to rely solely on the Old Testament law is impossible.

 

The point of being freed from the law is to make these kinds of arguments unnecessary. Of course, part of the original premise was that the Kingdom of God on Earth was soon to arrive, and so God's rule would be established, rendering debate on the finer points of theological practice worthless. Now we've had to live for two thousand years with uncertain rules.

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What you've just stated is essentially a shortened version of Pauline theology as expressed in the New Testament epistles. This is why faith in Jesus frees you from the "disciplinarian" of the law -- to rely solely on the Old Testament law is impossible.

 

The point of being freed from the law is to make these kinds of arguments unnecessary. Of course, part of the original premise was that the Kingdom of God on Earth was soon to arrive, and so God's rule would be established, rendering debate on the finer points of theological practice worthless. Now we've had to live for two thousand years with uncertain rules.

 

But don't these things happen with the New Testament too?

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There's a whole lot less law in the New Testament. If you're trying to determine historically what Jesus actually did and said, then yes, the four Gospels contradict each other regularly. The theology is more consistent (largely because nearly half of the New Testament is written by Paul or at least claims to be so) but nonetheless contradictory in a few places; for example, the description of the end times varies somewhat between Mark and Revelation, and John's description of the Passion provided significant impetus for anti-Semetism despite being contradicted by the Synoptics.

 

But it's my impression that a large part of the religious ceremonies and doctrines in Christianity are extra-Biblical; the Catholic Church, for example, derives much of its theology from its various councils, writings, laws, and disputes.

 

Nonetheless, the literal vs. figurative interpretation question is a vast oversimplification. The biggest complaints I have with modern New Testament interpretation by various religious groups is their lack of understanding of the historical context surrounding the writing of the works. You cannot interpret them literally without understanding what they were written to address and why.

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Since there are countless ancient books of wisdom around, all purporting to reveal the mysteries of the ethical order of the universe (the Tibetan Book of the Dead; the Egyptican Book of the Dead, the Old and New Testaments, etc.), how do you decide which of these texts to struggle with interpreting to find out what you should do? Obviously you need some initial, rational criteria for making this selection, but since that selection is itself guided by rational principles, why bother with the book at all -- whose doctrinal force only comes from its having satisfied your rational criteria for accepting it as a source of wisdom? The actual contents of the book seem like an unnecessary addendum; since it was only their satisfaction of your rational criteria for selecting a belief-book that validated them, why not just stay within your rational criteria in deciding what is the ultimate moral truth and order of the universe and forget about the book?

 

If all the available sacred texts contain contradictory or irrational elements, why not just use your criteria for sorting out the valuable from the valueless sacred text aspects as your guide to making your own theology, since it is obviously superior to the sacred text itself, given that it generates a rule for which elements of it to exclude or include.

 

If faith is supposed to be our guide, it obviously has to be faith in some defined focal point of insight, otherwise what our faith generates could just be nonsense, self-serving desires, or the 'whispers of an evil spirit' arising from the subconscious. But then we are back to relying entirely on our own rationality to determine our religious orientation, since we have to make an initial, rational decision about what defined focal point (e.g., the God of the Old or New Testament) to use as the orientation for our faith, and this makes the focal point for faith itself just the product of rational reflection, not faith.

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Since there are countless ancient books of wisdom around, all purporting to reveal the mysteries of the ethical order of the universe (the Tibetan Book of the Dead; the Egyptican Book of the Dead, the Old and New Testaments, etc.), how do you decide which of these texts to struggle with interpreting to find out what you should do? Obviously you need some initial, rational criteria for making this selection, but since that selection is itself guided by rational principles, why bother with the book at all -- whose doctrinal force only comes from its having satisfied your rational criteria for accepting it as a source of wisdom? The actual contents of the book seem like an unnecessary addendum; since it was only their satisfaction of your rational criteria for selecting a belief-book that validated them, why not just stay within your rational criteria in deciding what is the ultimate moral truth and order of the universe and forget about the book?

You decide by your religion, apparently.

I agree with you, Marat, as I said before I personally don't take any text as my ultimate command; I have quite a few philosophers I appreciate, and most of them I find point of agreement and points of disagreement with. I think the best way to become (and remain) an ethical individual is to continously question your own morals and their source.

 

But this particular debate is about Christianity, so we focus on the Christian texts; the Christian believers go by particular texts, not the Tibetan Book of the Dead. We therefore analyze that one.

 

Feel free to open a new discussion comparing other books, by the way... that sounds like it could be an interesting debate. We should try and get back on topic, though, we all seem to have strayed from it a bit, partly my fault, I was trying to understand why the insistence on literal reading when half the literal meanings are ignored... seemed like an inconsistent claim to me.

 

 

Capn,

 

I still have a few problems with the fact that the NT is supposedly making the OT's laws irrelevant; if that's the case, why are Christians so adamant about the Ten Commandments? Those are from the Old Testament, clearly. So... these were still relevant,but the rest isn't relevant anymore?

 

I find this whole claim extremely confusing. If the OT's laws are no longer at play, then ALL of them aren't at play. Otherwise, there must be a consistent claim to figure out which of them Christians are supposed to follow and which not. Also, if that's the case, why do Christians hold the OT dear ALONGSIDE the NT at all and not just replace it completely with the NT?

 

~mooey

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Paul argued primarily against following the nitty-gritty rules of circumcision, sacrifice, ritual purity, and so on. Jesus specifically said in Mark (see the quote I posted above) that the Commandments are still important but that they can be summarized with "love thy neighbor."

 

The Gospels also alter the purpose of the Law in Jesus's disputes with the Pharisees, arguing that, for example, the Sabbath was created for mankind's benefit, and hence it is not a violation of the Law to heal a sick man on the Sabbath.

 

Christians hold the Old Testament dear because they believe the writings of the Prophets predict the coming of Jesus. When the New Testament talks about Scripture -- and it does so very often -- it usually means the Old Testament, and particularly the prophets.

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Paul argued primarily against following the nitty-gritty rules of circumcision, sacrifice, ritual purity, and so on. Jesus specifically said in Mark (see the quote I posted above) that the Commandments are still important but that they can be summarized with "love thy neighbor."

How do you pick which is "nitty gritty" and which isn't?

And for that matter, is the ten commandments "nitty gritty" or are they supposed to be followed? 'cause Christians only follow PART of them, too. It's very confusing.

 

The Gospels also alter the purpose of the Law in Jesus's disputes with the Pharisees, arguing that, for example, the Sabbath was created for mankind's benefit, and hence it is not a violation of the Law to heal a sick man on the Sabbath.

Jews argue that as well. There's a concept that if something is done to save a life, it is okay to do it on the Sabbath even if otherwise the same act would have been "illegal" on the Sabbath. That, for example, is how religious jewish Doctors work in the ER on Sabbaths, but might not work in a private clinic on a Sabbath. One is saving lives, the other can wait for after sabbath.

 

That's not all that different... and yet, Jews still keep the Sabbath in general since it *is* in the 10th Commandments. Christians don't. So...... are the 10 commandments just a "recommendation"? were they changed with the NT? If so, why are modern-day Christian seemingly so adamant in pushing them into everywhere, including the courts and all that? They're not following the 10 commandments!

 

I don't get it.

 

Christians hold the Old Testament dear because they believe the writings of the Prophets predict the coming of Jesus. When the New Testament talks about Scripture -- and it does so very often -- it usually means the Old Testament, and particularly the prophets.

 

So Old-testament rules are moot? Why are Christians refering to them when they feel like it, then? "A man shall not lie with another man" etc - that's OT quote. It's used as the main reason against homosexuality. There are many other such examples. What's up with that? Is the OT only there to predict Jesus but its rules are no longer valid or... is it pick-and-choose laws?

 

Seems utterly inconsistent to me.

 

~mooey

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So Old-testament rules are moot? Why are Christians refering to them when they feel like it, then? "A man shall not lie with another man" etc - that's OT quote. It's used as the main reason against homosexuality. There are many other such examples. What's up with that? Is the OT only there to predict Jesus but its rules are no longer valid or... is it pick-and-choose laws?

"God doesn't like _____" is still a valid moral argument. "The Law" is more than just a set of moral rules -- it is primarily a set of behavioral rules for ritual purity, sacrifice, and so on. Those are cast out by Christians.

 

The rest of your questions could be answered by reading the Gospels and Paul's letters. I don't think I can explain them better than the original texts can.

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"God doesn't like _____" is still a valid moral argument. "The Law" is more than just a set of moral rules -- it is primarily a set of behavioral rules for ritual purity, sacrifice, and so on. Those are cast out by Christians.

No they're not. You have a whole set of rules saying how you should and shouldn't act with your family, your wife, your friends, with God, how to consider "crimes" against another and against "nature" (or god) etc etc etc. The ritualistic laws I can understand,but there are quite a LOT of laws that aren't ritualistic and are ignored by Christians.

 

That's picking and choosing. It's inconsistent. If you say "a man shall not lie with another man... " thing is still valid, then the whole 5 chapters before and after it - all talking about rules of families and conduct, not rituals - should be valid too. That goes for the rule saying that a child that disobeys his parents is to be stoned to death.

 

But that's clearly immoral, yes? So it's ignored.

 

that's my point. There's either an external way of defining morality (and picking the moral laws to obey) or the bible *is* the moral standard, and then you are either OBEYING the laws consistently or you don't.

 

Either the entire chapter of "a man shall not lie with another man.." is to be followed, or none of it should be. All of it speaks of laws of conduct, not laws of rituals.

 

 

 

The rest of your questions could be answered by reading the Gospels and Paul's letters. I don't think I can explain them better than the original texts can.

 

I read some of the NT, but admittedly not all of it, and much of it was a bit confusing to me; I'm used to reading religious texts in terms of contextual analyses, so NT is a bit different.

 

I do plan to get to it again, though.

 

~mooey

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No they're not. You have a whole set of rules saying how you should and shouldn't act with your family, your wife, your friends, with God, how to consider "crimes" against another and against "nature" (or god) etc etc etc. The ritualistic laws I can understand,but there are quite a LOT of laws that aren't ritualistic and are ignored by Christians.

Because Jesus said it can be summarized with "love thy neighbor."

 

That's picking and choosing. It's inconsistent. If you say "a man shall not lie with another man... " thing is still valid, then the whole 5 chapters before and after it - all talking about rules of families and conduct, not rituals - should be valid too. That goes for the rule saying that a child that disobeys his parents is to be stoned to death.

Well, there's a brief mention of sexual immorality in the New Testament as well, and some people interpret it to also condemn homosexual relationships.

 

Paul addresses rules of conduct by suggesting you simply remove immoral people from your church, rather than stoning them to death. The End will come soon enough anyway.

 

Either the entire chapter of "a man shall not lie with another man.." is to be followed, or none of it should be. All of it speaks of laws of conduct, not laws of rituals.

I don't think this is valid when the New Testament specifically addresses certain parts of the law and alters or denigrates them.

 

I read some of the NT, but admittedly not all of it, and much of it was a bit confusing to me; I'm used to reading religious texts in terms of contextual analyses, so NT is a bit different.

You need to read it with a decent study Bible (HarperCollins or Oxford Annotated) to get an idea of the history around the texts. It's very difficult to understand Paul's letters, for example, without knowing who he was writing to or why.

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Because Jesus said it can be summarized with "love thy neighbor."

Cap'n, I'm sorry, I truly don't get it. If that's the case, why read that "man shall not lie with another man" part at all. It's just "love thy neighbor."

 

And yet, Christians DO read it and treat it as law, and use it to say that homosexual behavior is wrong. So.... it's not exactly shrunk into "love thy neighbor" is it?

 

Well, there's a brief mention of sexual immorality in the New Testament as well, and some people interpret it to also condemn homosexual relationships.

Yes, but they usually get back to that "original" verse.

 

Paul addresses rules of conduct by suggesting you simply remove immoral people from your church, rather than stoning them to death. The End will come soon enough anyway.

 

I don't think this is valid when the New Testament specifically addresses certain parts of the law and alters or denigrates them.

 

 

You need to read it with a decent study Bible (HarperCollins or Oxford Annotated) to get an idea of the history around the texts. It's very difficult to understand Paul's letters, for example, without knowing who he was writing to or why.

 

Fair enough. I'll pick up one of those and try to read it. Maybe it will make more sense.

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Jesus specifically said in Mark (see the quote I posted above) that the Commandments are still important but that they can be summarized with "love thy neighbor."

He also says specifically in Matthew that the entire Law is important and must be followed to the letter until the end of days.

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Cap'n, I'm sorry, I truly don't get it. If that's the case, why read that "man shall not lie with another man" part at all. It's just "love thy neighbor."

 

Moses single handily wrote the 10 commandments. Well... I think what it says is that he went up into the mountain by himself, and was inspired by God... (Those talking plants again, I think it says he went without food or water for 40 days) to set the 10 commandments into stone. Basically he reflected on himself, and made a list of everything he does wrong, and then made it rules that no one else was allowed to do those things.

 

Jesus, obviously seeing moses as some sort of fraud, went around and attempted to reason with people that their original teachings where just a few fries short of a full happy meal. Jesus basically scrapped the 10 commandments by saying the only thing that is important is that you Love God. Through that, everything else would supposedly fall into place. He would go around and say things to the effect of 'You have heard it said Eye for Eye, and now I tell you, when someone smacks you upside the head, let them smack you up the other side of the head as well.'

 

And yet, Christians DO read it and treat it as law, and use it to say that homosexual behavior is wrong. So.... it's not exactly shrunk into "love thy neighbor" is it?

 

Are you Jewish or Christian? One Law is by Moses, the other is principle or moral said by Jesus... hence the years of wars between unhappy extremists.

 

Yes, but they usually get back to that "original" verse.

 

They often also don't know their bibles very well... one book and they can't even get it right.

 

Fair enough. I'll pick up one of those and try to read it. Maybe it will make more sense.

 

lol... I would read the entire thing cover to cover, take important notes on who wrote each book of the bible, and why they wrote it. You will quickly discover the entire thing isn't that much different then the type of crap politicians pull out of there arse to gain control or power over groups of people. The fact people still buy into it after thousands of years is epicly sad.

Edited by Light Storm
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Just for the record here, what everyone call the "Old Testament" is, in its most original form we found, written in hebrew/aramic mix. I spent 12 years studying this version in those languages (not in the English translation, which is already quite heavily interpreted).

 

My confusion isn't about which book to follow, since I don't follow either book; my confusion is about the claims made by Christians about which book to follow.

 

 

I received a remark that I was condescending; I want to apologize for that - I didn't meant to be. I'm very confused about this whole thing, and my emphatic way of trying to make my point (admittedly, with EMPHASIS that might SOUND like YELLING ;) ) was only meant to try and deliver my point to be as clear as I can make it. I should remember that CAPS are used online for yelling rather than emphasis.

 

So I apologize if I sounded condescending, that wasn't my intent at all. I am, quite simply, confused. There are quite a lot of contradictions and I don't quite see the way out of them into some sort of consistency.

 

~mooey

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I've never read any of the Bible apart from when there were small quotes in mass pamphlets at Catholic masses , which I don't remember . There are many fine minds who know exactly what the bible says and if ever I wanted to know a thing or two , which is probably unlikely as I just try to sense the generalities of what's right or wrong and I'm happy with that , I'd probably be surprised at how responsive modern religious orders may be to a well written and courteous E-mail .

 

 

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Disproof of the Divine Authority of the Bible in Six Easy Steps, or Why Fussing About the Exact Meaning of the Text Can Offer No Guidance to Thinking

 

1) I believe in the text X, (which is a set of propositions containing statements a, b, c, ...) on the basis of arational faith in the sacredness of the text X.

 

2) However, since a, b, c, ... are often mutually contradictory, and occasionally contain assertions which make no sense, I will use rationality to pick and choose among them which I will believe and which I will reject.

 

3) But since the text X is really only the sum of its elements, each of which casts light on the others, then if you subtract some, preserve others, and emphasize or de-emphasize within that set according to yet further rational criteria of selection or emphasis, then you alter the text X by these changes based on the operation of rationality on the text.

 

4) So the text X which was originally believed in on arational grounds has now been passed through a filter of rationality, and the reshaped residue which remains is now a different text, X(1). But this text is really thoroughly rationally produced, and not at all generated by faith, since if you pass any raw material through the filter of rationality, and that filter is allowed to change and reshape what is being filtered through it, then the endproduct is really just what rationality demands, not what the original, arational content demands. The situation is just like taking a heap of unstructured empirical data from nature and rationally sifting it to produce Newtonian mechanics. Although each event in nature may appear contingent, that is, arational, after the filtering it is all rational. So too with the Bible after it has been subjected to rational pruning and reshaping.

 

5) But since the text we now have as the product of the rational reconstruction of the arational material presented by text X has been shown to be based on reason and not on revelation, then why do we still pretend that this rationally refined residue text, X(1), is divinely authorized or sacred, since it is now just the product of human rationality?

 

6) But if the residue text X(1) is just the product of human rationality, what's the use of making that unnecessary detour through the initial step of 'God gave Moses the first part of this text on Mt. Sinai and Christ validated the second part in his speeches,' since we humans have turned out to be the final arbiters of the content of that text? It is as though Einstein's baby were to babble, 'eemseesquah!' and that jogged Einstein's thinking about his work so that he refined that to e = mc(2) and then everyone were to say that the baby's authority had established that e = mc(2).

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