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Thursday, March 16, 2017

God, Christians and the Jewish Bible

In numerous posts, this blog has explored the question of whether or not the Christian Bible has any value in our quest to understand the Divine. Longtime readers of this blog know that the author has commented on the authorship, writing processes, editing, inspiration, reliability and internal consistency of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.
In that tradition, I found a Roman Catholic study of the relationship between Jewish Scripture (the Old Testament to Christians) and the New Testament (writings of the early Christian era) to be very interesting. Hence, I am including a quote from the preface to the results of that study which was written by the man who eventually became Pope Benedict XVI:

"From this viewpoint, the Fathers of the Church created nothing new when they gave a Christological interpretation to the Old Testament; they only developed and systematised what they themselves had already discovered in the New Testament. This fundamental synthesis for the Christian faith would become problematic when historical consciousness developed rules of interpretation that made Patristic exegesis appear non-historical and so objectively indefensible. In the context of humanism, with its new-found historical awareness, but especially in the context of his doctrine of justification, Luther invented a new formula relating the two parts of the Christian Bible, one no longer based on the internal harmony of the Old and New Testaments, but on their essential dialectic linkage within an existential history of salvation, the antithesis between Law and Gospel. Bultmann modernised this approach when he said that the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ by foundering. More radical is the proposition of Harnack mentioned above; as far as I can see, it was not generally accepted, but it was completely logical for an exegesis for which texts from the past could have no meaning other than that intended by the authors in their historical context. That the biblical authors in the centuries before Christ, writing in the Old Testament, intended to refer in advance to Christ and New Testament faith, looks to the modern historical consciousness as highly unlikely.
As a result, the triumph of historical-critical exegesis seemed to sound the death-knell for the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament initiated by the New Testament itself. It is not a question here of historical details, as we have seen, it is the very foundations of Christianity that are being questioned. It is understandable then that nobody has since embraced Harnack's position and made the definitive break with the Old Testament that Marcion prematurely wished to accomplish. What would have remained, our New Testament, would itself be devoid of meaning. The Document of the Pontifical Biblical Commission introduced by this Preface declares: “Without the Old Testament, the New Testament would be an unintelligible book, a plant deprived of its roots and destined to dry up and wither” (no. 84)."

-- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 2001, from the preface to The Pontifical Biblical Commision's The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible

What do you think? Did the Jews introduce God to the rest of the world? Can Christianity's appropriation and interpretation(s) of their Scriptures be justified?


  1. If you are seeking enlightenment on the God of Abraham, why are you only focusing on two 'sacred' canons? It's quite inconsistent that you ignore other 'inspired' Yahwist scriptures like Koran, Book of Mormon.. for which there is equal 'evidence' of their divine validity.

  2. This post is concerned with Christianity's use and interpretation of the Jewish canon. To your point, I have never dismissed or ignored those other "Yahwhist" scriptures (they simply aren't relevant to the questions I'm exploring in this post - the one's that the Catholics were attempting to address).

  3. The Australian Aboriginals waited ~ 58,000 years for Miller Jones' messiah, Jesus Christ, to appear. Unfortunately/fortunately the Apostles never did reach Australia with the "good news" of his soon - in their lifetime - second coming in power to displace the oppressive Roman Rule. But eventually the fair skinned Europeans did reach them 1900 years later and proceeded to convert them to the "truth" of the Bible and Jesus including the "historical truth" of the 'origin of man in the Middle East 6000 years ago and Noah's Flood (endorsed by Jesus)

    1. Straw man - I never stated or even implied, nor do I believe, that Australian Aborigines waited 58,000 years for Jesus. And you should know by now that I reject the prophetic/philosophical/intellectual gymnastics which have portrayed the second coming as imminent. Furthermore, I have made it abundantly clear in this blog that I do not believe the Bible to be a source of "historical truth" about the origins of mankind (at least not in the literal sense that you and most Fundamentalists are talking about). As for Christ's endorsement of Noah's Flood, if I mention Gandalf's defeat of the Balrog in Moria, does that suggest that I believe it happened? Is it possible to employ literary devices that an audience would be familiar with in making some larger point without saying or suggesting anything about its accuracy or validity?

    2. How do you allegorize away your Jesus' belief in Adam & Eve & Noah's Flood??

    3. Once again, you are equating the mention of these things with a belief in them - I do not. For me, the story of Adam and Eve reflects the fact that we all share a common male and female ancestor - that we are all of one blood - connected and related to each other. And, since stories of a flood are so widespread among ancient cultures, the story may suggest a shared memory of some cataclysmic event in the story of early humans (not a literal planet-wide event). As for symbolism and spiritual lessons, there are probably a great many possibilities (e.g. punishment for evil, the baptism of mankind, the washing away of sin, etc.)

  4. Miller Jones said: "Strawman"

    I notice modern Bible Belt Christian apologists like to use "logic" against skeptics. I therefore theorize that Miller Jones lives somewhere in the Bible Belt/South?