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metapunditedgy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-19-09 11:32 PM
Original message
The "Old Testament" on the foundation of human rights
In <http://metapunditedgytheanticlown.blogspot.com/2009/02/... >, I rattled on about a disturbing political trend of valuing the lives (or well-being) of foreigners as less important than our own.

Now let's talk about religion. It's not surprising that religious perspectives are so closely related to political stances on such matters of "foreign relations." Open a Bible, read a few pages, and you'll be smack-dab in the middle of the argument.

Some Christians contrast the "Israel-centric" nature of the Old Testament with the "universal" audience of the New Testament. And, in fact, it's true. The Old Testament is, in large part, a history of the wars that Israel fought against anyone and everyone. Sometimes they attacked, sometimes they were attacked. Sometimes God ordered Israel to kill civilians, sometimes God used Israel's enemies to slaughter Israel's civilians. Or to be more accurate, in God's eyes, no infidel was a civilian.

While there are some notable exceptions, the idea that people in ancient Israel were more valuable than anyone else is fundamental to the Old Testament.

Much has been claimed about the religious revolution the New Testament writings initiated. But foreigners had always been permitted to join the Hebrew religion, as long as they joined the nation of Israel. If the New Testament really was revolutionary, perhaps it was not so much in a religious sense as in an ethnic sense. In a culture whose religion preached that non-Jews were worth little, Jesus and his followers suddenly asserted that human value is (at least relatively) independent of nationality or culture.

In modern politics and religion, the liberal-conservative split still seems to revolve around this issue. How much is your life worth compared to mine?

<http://metapunditedgytheanticlown.blogspot.com/2009/02/... >
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aquart Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-19-09 11:51 PM
Response to Original message
1. Never read a Haggadah, I take it.
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metapunditedgy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-20-09 01:07 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. Not that I recall. What am I missing? n/t
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Meshuga Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-20-09 12:15 PM
Response to Reply #1
10. I don't know what a hagaddah would have anything to do with this but
Edited on Fri Feb-20-09 12:27 PM by Meshuga
the claim of a "religious revolution the New Testament writings initiated" is a pretty narrow analysis by the OP because the NT was not the first attempt at replacing "pentateuchism" and moving power away from the Hebrew Bible.

Perhaps your hagaddah comment was a response to this claim: "In a culture whose religion preached that non-Jews were worth little..." which is a bullshit claim.
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Deep13 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-09 07:03 PM
Response to Reply #10
26. The OT has YHWH ordering the Hebrews to eraticate other people.
The anti-foreigner and anti-infidel directives of the OT are plain as day.
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ZombieHorde Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-20-09 09:10 PM
Response to Reply #1
16. Pointless posts are fun. nt
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Why Syzygy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-19-09 11:55 PM
Response to Original message
2. The tribes
that were killed in the OT were related to the Nephilim. It wasn't that the Israelites were inherently "better". But, in order to have a clean blood line (without the off world taint), to bring forth the Messiah, those who had mingled with the Nephilim were removed. It really gives a new perspective when you learn that those were no ordinary humans. We certainly are to regard every HUMAN life as valid as any other.
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TechBear_Seattle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-20-09 08:11 AM
Response to Reply #2
6. The Nephilim and their descendants were killed by the Flood
In fact, wiping them out was the whole point of the Flood.
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Why Syzygy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-20-09 01:14 PM
Response to Reply #6
11. Well.
They made a reappearance. David thumped one. There is evidence some of them even survived to visit the Maya.
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laconicsax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-09 03:40 PM
Response to Reply #11
24. What?
Could you point me to some of this evidence? I'd be fascinated to see evidence not just of giants, but of those giants visiting the Americas.
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Why Syzygy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-09 04:59 PM
Response to Reply #24
25. You mean, like from the Smithsonian?
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laconicsax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-09 10:05 PM
Response to Reply #25
27. If you're going to claim that evidence exists, you had better be able to present that evidence.
For the record, I did check Google for a hint of what you might be talking about before responding. There's nothing to be found aside from wild speculations that the Nephilim of the Old Testament were a space-fairing race referenced in the Sumerian kings list and that they may have something to do with the 2012 "end of the world" in the Mayan calendar.

You claimed knowledge of evidence. Please present your evidence, preferably from a reputable source.
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Why Syzygy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-09 10:15 PM
Response to Reply #27
28. I'm sure that I put more
Edited on Sun Feb-22-09 10:16 PM by Why Syzygy
faith in legend accounts than you. So, I won't cite any of those.

Here's something, though:
http://www.stevequayle.com/Giants/S.Am/Royal.Incas.html

I haven't closely examined the entire 'evidence'. Feel free to share what you discover.

ps. 2012 "end of the world" is bunkus.
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Meshuga Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-20-09 07:03 AM
Response to Original message
4. The OT is the story of the Hebrews
Edited on Fri Feb-20-09 07:06 AM by Meshuga
So what would you expect? The special status is given for the good and for the bad alike. In the same way the "People of Israel" were chosen to receive the laws of God they were attacked for being the fucked up people who could not achieve righteousness. They drive God in the story to almost wiping them out and giving Moses an entire new nation. But Moses told God to chill out.

"People of Israel" being more valuable than anyone else in the way you seem to imply is not an accurate take on what the books are about. The Hebrew bible is a very ethnocentric body of work that the Christian religion tried to turn as universal since Christianity is an universal religion the books are supposed to be taken by Christianity as prequal to Jesus. So I understand this take when analysing it with the lenses of a society where Christianity is a majority.

So when the OT gives the "People of Israel" special status it gives it for the bad and for the good but the intentions is to solve their problems and for their own survival. And that is obvious because it tells the story and saga of these specific ancient people.

It is hard to give only one nature to the Hebrew bible because the Hebrew bible describes a religion that tries to solve problems of an ancient people in different situations that were relevant to them at the time. You have the problem solving God solving problems for a seminomadic people, you have the other God nature who solves problems for the people in the wilderness, you have the God who appoints kings through prophets to fight their wars (for self defense, to conquer land, and to destroy their enemies). The same God was not forgiving if the nation misbehaved or if they were not righteous or, for example, did not treat foreigners as prescribed in its laws (i.e., "When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien in your land must be treated as one of your native-born." Leviticus 19:33-34 and "Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.")

I don't even think the Hebrew Bible touches on the subject of conversion until later in the book of Ruth who vaguely chose to be part of the people. So I don't think there was a requirement to join the people of Israel in order to live among them. Disputes in those days were resolved by one nation wiping the other side in wars. It was that simple.

But which religion today is the religion of the so called old testament? Christianity has its New Testament and Judaism plays down the harshness of the Hebrew Bible since the Pharisees brought about the twofold law sometime in the 1st or 2nd century BCE.
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trotsky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-20-09 07:28 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. Or as the old saying goes, "The victors write the history books."
Of course they're going to describe themselves as their god's chosen ones. Plenty of other tribes of people probably thought the same thing, until they were obliterated.
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Meshuga Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-20-09 10:28 AM
Response to Reply #5
9. Pretty much
You write the story so you exagerate in your favor.
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metapunditedgy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-20-09 08:27 PM
Response to Reply #4
13. The disagreement is?
- "The Hebrew bible is a very ethnocentric body of work that the Christian religion tried to turn as universal since Christianity is an universal religion the books are supposed to be taken by Christianity as prequal to Jesus."

Yes, and I don't see where we would disagree? I don't like ethnocentrism, but I don't think it was particularly unusual. However, it's been promoted to "divinely-inspired status" in the particular case of the Christian Old Testament. (Perhaps because it was so well-written.)
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Meshuga Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Feb-21-09 12:31 AM
Response to Reply #13
20. I think we disagree
Because you appear to be saying that "People of ancient Israel" saw themselves as more valuable than other nations. That's BS.

The religion of the Hebrews was Torah based where the laws were used as the glue that kept the people together. The laws were necessary for the survival of the nation. The law was supposedly god given so the duty of an Israelite was to follow these laws and by following these laws the person was following the religion thus enabling it to survive.

Not feeling the need to have other people follow your religion and traditions is not a claim to superiority. Wanting your ethnic group to survive is not a claim to superiority either.

The religion of the Hebrews was not meant to be universal. It went from being a henotheistic religion with a god who was "the god of the Israelites" just as other nations had their own gods but the hebrews eventually turned to monotheism. The god of the Israelites gave them their laws, protected them as a nation, helped them in building armies to fight enemies, brought a good harvest if they followed certain rituals, etc. It was the problem solving tool for a specific people facing a specific problem and not a tool to claim superiority.

In Christianity, God was not a problem solver for a people but a means to personal salvation for all humanity. A different concept where a group of people claiming chosenness could be seen as thinking they have a special status (and even be killed for this reason). But to understand that these people don't claim superiority one would have to take off his/her Christian goggles.
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metapunditedgy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Feb-21-09 12:15 PM
Response to Reply #20
22. But the laws themselves were highly ethnocentric.
And it wasn't just a case of saying "Don't act like those other people." For example, Deut. 3:3-8 prohibits N generations of people from other nations from joining Israel. Ammonites and Moabites were especially singled out; they could never join. Others have to wait several generations before they can join. Foreigners had different religious status (Lev. 21:10). Slavery rules, wartime rules, etc.

So maybe we're just disagreeing on what it means to "claim superiority." I agree that's a broad term, but it seems to apply at least in several important ways.

Thanks for your thoughtful responses, by the way. And if I haven't said so already, I'm not trying to criticize the OT writers or any ancient nation; I expect you can make a great argument that the Torah was very enlightened in its historical context. I'm just interested in the way it applies to modern times (and Christianity, specifically).
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Meshuga Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-09 01:03 PM
Response to Reply #22
23. Enemies of the Hebrews were excluded
Edited on Sun Feb-22-09 01:11 PM by Meshuga
from "joining" and in the case of Ammonites and Moabites (per scripture) it was because they did not offer Israel bread and water on the way when Israel came out of Egypt and they caused Israel to sin. Israelites were forbidden to marry with their enemies. But then again, King David himself is descendant of the Moabites through Ruth and the supposed messiah is his descendant. So, where does this fit when you say "in a culture whose religion preached that non-Jews were worth little" in your OP? I don't think the religion preached that non-Jews were worth little.

In a similar way, the opponents of Christians (i.e., the Jews) were not very well regarded in Christian scripture. And there are those who don't accept Jesus therefore they don't have a place in this kingdom according to the NT.

The problem is not being critical of the OT and its writers. Criticizing it is easy to do. But clarifying the role of Torah in that society. The Torah (as the first five books) by itself is a body of work that was meant to give religious power to a class of priests. Phariseism took the powers away from the Pentateuch with the torah sheba'al peh (the oral law) and the intention was to grab religious power for themselves. Not surprisingly, their new work (the Oral Law) also criticized their opponents. For example, the priestly class (also Jews) who was given special religious status in the Pentateuch did not have a place in the so called world to come. But this did not mean that other (non-Jewish) nations did not have a place in this world to come. It is just more evidence that the people who wrote scripture were not very forgiving of those they found at opposition.

However, Jewish scripture was more of a vehicle for a segment of the Jewish people to gain religious power within the Jewish community than it was a statement of how Israelites viewed non-Jews. Non-Jews were irrelevant as far as the laws were concerned because the laws were meant to solve problems for the Jewish people. Non-Jews were sometimes the rulers of the Jews and sometimes the ones being ruled.

Regardless, I understand why Torah and the rest of the Hebrew Bible is important to Jews and Judaism since it tells the Jewish story. Whether the stories are positive or embarrassing it is part of Jewish heritage. And the Oral Law is an interpretation and re-interpretation of Written Law. But I don't understand the adherence of Christians to the Hebrew Bible since phariseism seems to be more related to Christianity than "Pentateuchism".

But if an ancient hebrew thought his life was worth more than a non-Jew, what does the New Testament say of the worth of a soul that does not adhere to Christianity and have a certain faith? After all, such a soul does not deserve a place in Heaven.
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cosmik debris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-20-09 09:13 AM
Response to Original message
7. Jesus...asserted that human value is independent of nationality or culture
Edited on Fri Feb-20-09 09:15 AM by cosmik debris
I don't recall seeing that.

Would you be kind enough to cite some examples of Jesus specifically asserting "that human value is independent of nationality or culture"?
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trotsky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-20-09 09:51 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. Jesus also advocated representative democracy.
Didn't you know that? :sarcasm:
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metapunditedgy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-20-09 08:01 PM
Response to Reply #7
12. How about examples like...
- the parable of the good Samaritan (and the context of "who is my neighbor?")
- healing the Syrophoenician woman's daughter (though you could certainly read this both ways; it's not usually preached as racial condecension)
- various statements about the "kingdom" being handed over to non-Jews

By "and his followers," I also mean the broader NT writings, regardless of whether they actually reflect or expand on the gospels.
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cosmik debris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-20-09 08:43 PM
Response to Reply #12
14. I think you are being evasive
by giving vague, general answers.

If Jesus really asserted what you say, there should be some clear cut quotations that you could use to illustrate your point.

I also think you are using a your own very broad interpretation of a general metaphor rather than presenting the facts that your OP indicated.

If you are just pushing your own personal opinion, that's fine. Everybody can push their own personal opinion.

But if you are pretending that your opinion is fact, you need to back it up with something more than "various statements about the "kingdom" being handed over to non-Jews"
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metapunditedgy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-20-09 09:04 PM
Response to Reply #14
15. Well, in response to your question, I think the Parable of the Good Samaritan
is pretty clear on the subject. When asked, "Who is this neighbor that you say I should love?" Jesus told a story in which Jewish religious leaders were less neighborly than the foreigner was. Then it was agreed that the Samaritan was in fact the true neighbor in the story.

It sounds to me like this is a statement that, at the very least, "love your neighbor" and shared humanity trump ethnicity.

But maybe I don't understand your point. I certainly have a lot of preconceptions, and part of my posting is trying to identify them.
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cosmik debris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-20-09 10:17 PM
Response to Reply #15
17. I certainly don't read it that way.
The "nationality or culture" of the victim is unknown. Jesus omitted that detail. And you have to guess that he did it on purpose.

If it was the essence of the story, that the victim's nationality was irrelevant, why did it get omitted? For all we know, the victim was also a Samaritan too. That would explain why the Levite and the Priest refused to help. And it would certainly negate your interpretation.

So you seem to be basing your opinion on what Jesus did NOT say rather than what Jesus did say.

I agree with your statement "Then it was agreed that the Samaritan was in fact the true neighbor in the story." And I think that is the point of the story--who is a good neighbor--not who is a good victim.
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metapunditedgy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-20-09 10:29 PM
Response to Reply #17
18. I think the audience is intended to identify with the victim, and
the Samaritan, a foreigner, is neighbor to the victim. You might say that it's somewhat evasive (foreigners should treat ME well, rather than the other way around). Or you might say that it's deliberately switching things around to be a more powerful story. If I help someone, then I could be motivated by all sorts of things, but if someone helps me when I'm in need, then I will naturally feel gratitude toward them.

So anyway, I think it's (among other things) a story about learning to do *unrequited* good to others across ethnic boundaries. And I was struck by how strongly such statements contrast with the attitude expressed by Cheney to throw people in Gitmo because they're the kind of people that might be terrorists. And then I got interested in the idea of how ethnocentrism shows up in modern Christianity....
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cosmik debris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-20-09 10:57 PM
Response to Reply #18
19. You sure read a lot in it that is not there.
The only thing said about the victim is that he was "A certain man..."

But we get real details about the Samaritan. We learn of his feelings, and we get a chronicle of his actions.

It is a story about the Samaritan, not the man he helped.

But like all Bible stories, people will always find a way to pretend that the Bible supports their position.
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Why Syzygy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Feb-21-09 10:54 AM
Response to Reply #18
21. Honestly.
I'm not sure what the objective is in your OP. However, I would agree that nationalism was put aside in the NT. Just because we may not have a direct quote to match the one you typed, does not mean the intent was not there. Spirit transcends nationality. We have brains for a reason.

The difference in their places of worship, represent their differing *nationality*.

Book of John: Chapter 4

19 The woman said to Him, Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus said to her, Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

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