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JEWISH LITERATURE VERSUS CHRISTIAN IDEALISM (PART I)

December 28, 2015

JEWISH LITERATURE VERSUS CHRISTIAN IDEALISM (PART I)

During the recent dust-up in re gay marriage finally put to rest by the Supreme Court in a confrontation between adherents of the Constitution and the Old Testament, some interesting arguments came to light. I have pieced some of them together in this essay along with my commentary and that of my retired PhD presidential library archivist friend based on information gleaned from the internet that raised the issue the Supreme Court decided (in favor of the Constitution). Implications of the court’s decision (in my view) go far beyond merely issuing marriage licenses for same-sex marriage; I think the court’s holding amounts to a judicial finding favoring Christian idealism over Old Testament literalism, as is fleshed out in the commentaries in this essay.

The background brouhaha on the internet giving rise to this effort is set out verbatim as follows:

On her radio show, Dr. Laura Schlessinger said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, written by a U.S. man, and posted on the internet. It’s funny as well as informative:

Dear Dr. Laura: Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. . . End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.

  1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, providing they are from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
  2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
  3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of Menstrual uncleanliness – Leviticus 15:19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.
  4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Leviticus 1:9. The problem is my neighbours… they claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
  5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
  6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shell fish is an abomination, Leviticus 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there “degrees” of abomination?
  7. Leviticus 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
  8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27. How should they die?
  9. I know from Leviticus 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
  10. My uncle owns a farm. He violates Leviticus 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Leviticus 24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Leviticus 20:14)

The foregoing interrogatories were propounded by a University of Georgia professor emeritus and amount to commentary by ridicule. What follows this is the more somber commentary on a literature in its day and age versus later and newer versions of mores and folkways within the same Judaic population, i.e., Old Testament versus New Testament and thereafter.

Here first is my commentary, and then that of my retired professor/archivist friend, a learned historian and biblical scholar in his own right.

The above one-way colloquy as quoted is another good reason to disavow the Old Testament in favor of that taught by the revolutionary Nazarene. The Old Testament is Jewish literature in place before the carpenter came with a reformed message and its various and judgmental requirements should be read as literature, not scripture. I think when Jesus said he came not to get rid of the law but fulfill it that he was talking in messianic terms. Considering his association with the dregs of society in his day and age and his message of forgiveness, it is impossible to pretend that he would have approved of Old Testament stonings etc.

After all, we have some sayings in our short history that meet Old Testament standards, too. So when we have an army general after the Civil War who said that “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” and Kluxers who routinely lynched blacks not that long ago, those became part of Americana. Do we wish to reinstate such history as welcome and alive and definitive in today’s society? I hope not!

I will continue with my commentary and conclude with that of my learned friend in Part II. Stay tuned.   GERALD    E

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One Comment
  1. billy1926 permalink

    Actually, General “Phil” Sheridan, in replying to a civilian’s question, said, “The only good Indians I have seen have been dead.” Afterwords, in frequent public parley – not unusually – it got twisted.
    WOB

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