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A Fascinating Contrast

A Fascinating Contrast

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Published by Gary Konecky
A look at the different methods of bible interpretation and the limitations of a fundamentalist or literal approach. This look also touches upon the hypocrisy arising from a fundamentalist or literal approach.
A look at the different methods of bible interpretation and the limitations of a fundamentalist or literal approach. This look also touches upon the hypocrisy arising from a fundamentalist or literal approach.

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Published by: Gary Konecky on Feb 09, 2010
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10/30/2012

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A Fascinating ContrastBy Gary Konecky
One of the things that fascinate me is the very different approaches people take to theBible.For bible literalists and Christian fundamentalists, the plain text is all that there is. Thereis no need to think, to research, or to ponder. It says what it says. If you point out errorsin the translation, if you point out apparent contradictions in the text, it does not matter.Their attitude is unshaken. It says what it says and that is all I need to know. If you pointout that the Hebrew Bible is different than the “Old Testament,” they deny this either with selective quotes pulled out of context or in some cases they deny it without havingever picked up a Hebrew bible.The other thing that fascinates me about bible literalists and fundamentalist Christians isthat they typically use an English translation of the Bible. Every Rabbi I know can readand fluently translate the original Hebrew, as well as Aramaic. The thought of reading or using an English translation would never occur to these Rabbis. There is good reason for this. Hebrew is the original language of all or half of the bible, depending on your religion or faith tradition. Hebrew is a very nuanced language when it comes to mattersof scripture, while English is not. Therefore, meanings are lost in a translation. CriticalHebrew words do not have English equivalents. Shades of meaning, sometimes entireconcepts hinge on a single Hebrew word that does not have anything resembling it inEnglish.In addition to this, the total approach taken by Christians to scripture is radically differentfrom the Jewish tradition. The Jewish tradition holds that G-d gave the Jewish nation theOral Torah and the Written Torah at Mount Sinai. For many Christians, they look to the bible as their only source of guidance. For Jews, even though the Written Torah is theword of G-d, they look to other sources for to know and understand the word of G-d onemust turn to the Oral Torah or oral tradition. The written word is only a starting point.For example, there is the law requiring “Whenever a census of the warriors was taken,every adult Israelite was to pay a Half-Shekel.”http://www.begedivri.com/shekel/teachings/Hertz.htm This seems a simple declarativestatement, yet there is an entire volume of Talmud that discusses this. If the text were to be taken literally, if the text were to not have deeper implications, then there would be noneed for a volume of Talmud on the subject.The Jews have wonderful bible stories. There is the terrific story taught in Hebrewschool about what Abraham’s father did for a living. Read the Hebrew Bible, search for it, read the “Old Testament”. Do you see any mention of what Abraham’s father did for aliving? If you cannot find it, don’t worry, as it is not there. It is part of the oral tradition.
 
Then there is the fantastic story about the sex organs of the original Adam. Is there anymention of this in the Hebrew Bible or “Old Testament?” No, it is not there, it is part of the oral tradition.One of the most quoted passages from the Hebrew Bible “is an eye for an eye and a toothfor a tooth” (Exodus chapter 21, Leviticus chapter 24 and Deuteronomy chapter 19). It isalso one of the most misunderstood. To know its meaning, one must again look towardthe Oral Torah.Are the 10 commandments are the same for everyone? No! There is the Jewish version,the Catholic version, and the Protestant version. In fact, there are differences in things assimple and straightforward as the mere numbers assigned to the commandments.Then there is the difference in translation involving the commandment: “Thou shall notmurder” that is often mistranslated as “Thou shall not kill.” In fact, the Torah lays downvery specific laws for when it is appropriate to kill.I have a book that is over 500 pages long and that only covers the weekly Torah portioninvolving the 10 commandments. This book devotes hundreds of pages to discussing andexplaining the 10 commandments. If the meaning was self-evident and that was all thereis to know, then why was a 500 page plus book written?The bible literalists claim that the bible flat out bans homosexuality, yet nowhere in the bible does it say: “Thou shall not be a homosexual.”The other funny thing is that many of those who claim the bible condemns homosexualitythink nothing of going out for a family dinner at Red Lobster, even though eatingshellfish is an abomination (Leviticus chapter 11).Leviticus 19:19 says: “You shall observe My statutes: You shall not crossbreed your livestock with different species. You shall not sow your field with a mixture of seeds, anda garment which has a mixture of shaatnez shall not come upon you."http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9920Do you know from reading this verse what shaatnez is?Why is it that I do not see the Roman Catholics, the Christian fundamentalists, theMormons, the Orthodox Jews and the bible literalists marching on Congress demandingan end to shaatnez? Why is there no outcry from these people demanding that the USDepartment of Agriculture regulate the mixing of seeds in a field? Why is no onelobbying Congress to close down Red Lobster? Why is no one is demanding the shuttingdown of the lobster industry in Maine? Why did the Roman Catholic Church spend$550,000 to repeal same sex marriage in Maine, yet never say a word about shellfish? As Rev. Mel White has pointed out:

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