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Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Old Testament God vs The New Testament God

Like many modern day critics of Scripture, Marcion of Sinope (2nd Century) understood and accepted the fact that there are irreconcilable differences between the way that God is portrayed in the two Testaments of the Christian Canon. What was his conclusion and solution? They can't be the same personage, so Christians must reject their Jewish roots and the Old Testament!

In similar fashion, many folks in our day have decided to walk away from both Testaments. They reject the attempts of Fundamentalists to reconcile the differences as feeble, disingenuous and illogical. After all, their apologetics are based on the premise that Scripture cannot contradict itself (a thesis that engenders a lot of circular reasoning).

Nevertheless, in fairness to the founder of Christianity (Jesus of Nazareth), I think it should be noted that he didn't attempt to justify the Old Testament depictions of God or reconcile them to his own portrayal of the Divine. In fact, he underscored the contrast!

Jesus said that God was NEVER for divorce (he said that was a Mosaic invention to accommodate their hard-heartedness). He said that God didn't sanction revenge - that "an eye for an eye" wasn't God's principle. He taught that his Father wasn't legalistic about Sabbath observance and didn't countenance using religion or devotion to himself as a justification for mistreating others. Jesus Christ taught that God was the embodiment of love, and that "He" wanted to save everyone (not zap or destroy them). Jesus said that God didn't just want us to abstain from murdering each other, but that "He" wanted us to refrain from entertaining feelings of anger and hatred for each other! In fact, one of the chief disappointments of both his supporters and detractors was his refusal to launch an Old Testament style genocidal war of liberation from the Romans.

In short, Jesus knew what many of us have come to understand: The human authors of the Old Testament had often attributed characteristics and feelings to God that did not belong to "Him." Christ was the antidote to those false depictions. He was meant to offer a glimpse into the TRUE nature of God. Jesus wasn't interested in reconciling the two depictions of God - he simply wanted to set the record straight. Notice also that he accomplished this without discrediting or discounting Scripture or rejecting the people and religious tradition into which he was born. In effect, his message was "you've got the right God, but your understanding of 'Him' and 'His' expectations is FLAWED!"

From my perspective, that's a much more satisfying approach to the problem than the apologetics of the Fundamentalists or the rejection of a Marcion or Dawkins. What do you think?

11 comments:

  1. By the way, in anticipation of one of my critics, I am well aware that there wasn't any "New Testament" or "Christian Canon" in the Second Century (at least not like anything approaching our concept of those terms). My reference to Marcion was in the sense that he had access to much of the same material that we do, but didn't accept it as being authoritative.

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  2. "...the founder of Christianity (Jesus of Nazareth)"

    No, actually, the founder of Christianity was Paul of Tarsus.
    Paul has no Jesus Kerygma to work with other than his mystic vision he admits to in his Galatians.

    Decades later, another fraud, "Mark" (even the name is fraudulent) synthesized Jesus Sayings - which you take as "gospel" (pun intended) and historical without a shred of evidence!

    More decades later - perhaps even 2nd century - "John" invents even more Jesus Sayings and turns decidedly anti-Jewish--uh oh, this would reverberate down through the centuries climaxing in the murder of 6 million Jews while your fellow Christian, the Pope, looked the other way.

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    1. Didn't Christ's ministry precede Paul's? Didn't Paul say that he had persecuted the church prior to his conversion? Wouldn't an affirmative answer to both of those questions suggest that Christianity was founded before Paul joined the movement? Now, if you were trying to say that Paul defined the parameters of Christianity for later generations, we could find much to agree on in such an assertion. You are also correct in asserting that some of Paul's writings came first (before the gospel accounts), but you may want to recheck your chronology regarding when the gospels were written. There is no excuse/justification for anti-Semitism, and the Catholic and Protestant churches of Europe could have done much more to help the Jews and resist Hitler. You'll get no argument from me on those points. Nevertheless, I think that the majority of scholars would say that my acceptance Christ's sayings is "without a shred of evidence" is over the top!

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  3. "..some of Paul's writings came first (before the gospel accounts)"

    Tell me about these post-gospel Pauline writings.

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  4. I've noticed that you rarely respond to my questions. Nevertheless, in the interest of discussion, I'm including a link that addressed your question to me:http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/a-chronological-new-testament_b_1823018.html
    You are, of course, aware that none of these writings can be dated with precision. Hence, I cannot say that I endorse all of these assignments; but I do concur with the prevailing judgment of most scholars that Mark and Matthew (or significant portion of them) precede some of Paul's later epistles.

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    1. "..some of Paul's writings came first.."
      (implying some didn't)

      Irenaeus is with you in your apologetic attempt to contemporize Paul & G-Matthew/Mark.
      He wrote:
      "Now Matthew published also a book of the Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching.."

      That's impossible of course, because Mark/Matthew "predicted" the fall of Jerusalem, so could not have been written before 70AD. And Paul wasn't even alive by then!

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  5. Circular reasoning - you're assuming that it would have been impossible for them to actually anticipate/predict the fall of Jerusalem, so they must have been writing after the event.

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    1. Back In your 2nd comment of 4:04AM you appeal to "the majority of scholars"; now you reject the scholarly majority on the dating of the Gospels vis-à-vis Paul.

      What a fine 'Church-Father' Irenaeus was, pedaling all those falsehoods: Scholars - including Catholic Jesuits - today reject all four points of his statement: namely Matthean priority, Matthean authorship, Matthean early dating, and Matthean original language!

      Now why do modern scientific scholars reject Jesus' prophesy of the destruction of Jerusalem? Because that would be supernatural and scientists can't accept supernatural premises - like, for example, when analyzing the Book of Mormon, we can't accept, at face value, the claimed miracles accompanying its genesis.

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    2. Further, to come to my point: In rejecting Jesus' prophesy as legit, scholars are then compelled to forward-date Mark - and therefore all the Gospels - to later than 70AD. Of course Jesus could have been a real prophet, as Islam & Christianity contend, and could have known the future - that would be great: all that believers need to do is advance evidence for this and the scholars will happily revise their dating... Well, it's been 2000 years now and the Christians/Muslims haven't come up with the necessary scientific data, but there's still HOPE -- but be aware, HOPE, as stock investors say, is a four-letter word.

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  6. I think we've been down this road before. The familiarity of the early leaders of the church (like Ignatius), and the apparent congregations to which they were writing, with elements of Christ's story that appear only in the Gospels (not in Paul's writings) leads one to the inescapable conclusion that these stories had been around for MANY years. Moreover, the speculation regarding the origins of these writings in the Third and Fourth Century (along with the myths and legends) attest to their antiquity.

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    1. Yes, Ignatius and Irenaeus had the GOSPEL, but they didn't have GOOGLE --- or Wikipedia. Christians hate Wikipedia, I've noticed.

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