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Oral Tradition

Discussion in 'Biblical Debates' started by Pah, Nov 23, 2004.

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  1. Pah

    Pah Uber all member

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    A poor post! Who are you quoting and what relevence is it to oral tradition that preceeded the Bible.

    Bob
     
  2. Runt

    Runt Well-Known Member

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    LOL! Precept...

    In a way you are right. The Torah is the first five books of of the Old Testiment/Tanakh. That's why the Torah is also known as the Pentateuch.


    But the Torah is only PART of the Old Testiment. The Tanakh is the whole thing.





    You're confusing the Tanakh with the Talmud. (It's easy enough to do... Torah... Tanakh...Talmud... too many names beginning with "T"!)


    TALMUD: During the 2nd century C.E. Juda Ha Nasi (a Rabbi) started collecting all writings and commentaries on the Torah from all the way back to the end of the Babylonian Captivity (when Jerusalem was restored). This was the Mishnah. In about 500 C.E. the Gemara, a collection writings by other Rabbis, was completed, and it included new interpretations of scripture, sermons, and a variety of other writings. Collectively, the Mishnah and the Gemara are called the Talmud.


    TANAKH: Essentially the Old Testiment you find in the Bible...


    "Tanakh" is basically an acronym:


    T- Torah (Law)
    N- Nevi'im (Prophets)
    K- Ketuvim (Writings)


    The Torah is the first five books of the Tanakh.



    Here's everything in the Tanakh:

    The Torah:
    Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

    The Nevi'im: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel (Plus the Twelve Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi)

    The Ketuvim: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles.

    Look familiar?
     
  3. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate

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    The flood story is a common myth among many cultures. It's in Greek mythology. It's in Chinese mythology. I believe that it's in some NA myths as well.

    The flood story in the Hebrew bible most likely comes from Babylonian influence. The epic story of Gilgamesh, which predates the Torah, records a flood that covered the world.

    It's also interesting that in that part of the world, the personification of the sea, Yam in Hebrew, is considered to be a chaos monster. Large amounts of water were clearly considered to be threatening. Thus, in the Babylonian myth, Marduk slayed Tiamat - "order" overcame "chaos." You can still see traces of that in Gen 1:2 when it says that the spirit of God moved across the face of the waters.
     
  4. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate

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    Hello,

    in general I agree with your position on this argument. However, you picked a bad example to support it. Your argument assumes that the Lilith story that was popular in Hebrew folk tradition was known at the time that the hebrew bible was written/compiled and then deleted or intentionally left out. Thus, the Lilith in Isaiah is a remnant of the Lilith story. However, it is more likely that the Lilith in Isaiah simply refers the Lilitu (or Lîlît as you put it) from Babylonian/Summerian mythology. Many elements from Babylonian mythology made it into the Bible, so I'm not proposing anything radical. (the flood story from Gilgamesh for example) The Lilitu in Babylonian mythology was a female wind demon and succubus, who was "promoted" by cult followers to the status of "goddess." She was associated with the screech owl (as Athena is associated with the owl in Greek mythology). So translating Lilith as simply "demon" or even "screech owl" is not completely out of line.

    some pics of Lilith
    http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~humm/Topics/Lilith/ancPics.html

    The Lilith story that you related makes its first appearance in written form in a Jewish midrash called the Alphabet of Ben Sirah. That wasn't until the 8th century, at the earliest. I'm sure that an oral tradition predates the written one, but there's no reason to believe that it predates Isaiah or Genesis.

    -lilith
     
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  5. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate

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    um... so there's no room for degrees of truth? or types of truth?
     
  6. Pah

    Pah Uber all member

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    I would think there is. Truth is such a grand, expansive word. There is a great deal of truth in the myth of the Bible and the oral tradition that preceded it. The error is only in ascribing truth to fact in so many Biblical instances.

    Bob
     
  7. precept

    precept Member

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    Lilithu....might you have got your facts backwards? Let us assume you right that the "Greeks" and "Chinese"; all coincidentally spouted the same identical myth. And not to be outdone, the Babylonians joined in also; propagating again the same mythical flood. And now joining in, the Hebrews, not willing to be left out told the same myth.
    Wouldn't you suppose that there might be some mythical truth to the myth why it was so universesally accepted by such diverse cultures, spread accross such vast expanses of the earth?

    The Greeks are light years, in distance removed from the Chinese, in terms of ancient travel between nations which would be necessary to transfer cultural thought and or religious beliefs.

    The Babylonians and the Hebrews are no less removed in distance and mode of transfer of cultural ideas and religious thought, from the Chinese.

    If these diverse groups end up believing the same religious myth; they should as well believe other myths common to the individual religion of each group.

    What was so unique about this particular myth that made each of the group of Babylonians, Greeks, Chinese, and Hebrews to borrow this tall tale and yet leave behind more important religious beliefs as unique to each geoup?

    I put it to you that having your facts backwards made you unable to see that the captivity of the Israelites by the Babylonians, caused the Babylonians to be introduced to the story of the flood as recorded in the Israelite's Torah.

    The bible records the Babylonians under their king Nebuchadnezzar, as accepting the God of the Hebrews as his own. This would also include accepting the Hebrew Torah as the "writings of God". This acceptance of Torah, as the official spiritual writings of the realm would include stories such as the flood. It also stands to reason that the subsequent return to their Pagan past after the death of king Nebuchadnezzar, would include taking some of these borrowed Jewish religious beliefs.

    The fact that these religious beliefs would be passed on from one nation to another; based solely on its mystic appeal, is no surprise; for such was the mythical appeal of gods such as "Orion", "Jupiter", "Ra" or "Diana" to name a few....and with each religious group trying to out-do the other with its own unique mystical version.

    That the mystics of those past civilizations borrowed selectively from each other, stories; the more mystical the more the appeal, with the incorporating of these stories into their religious thought, is very true. Incorporation, however, of the stories from the writings of Judaism comes with an important exception.
    Moses was seen by mystics such as Plato as a philosopher who explained an only God...and Plato presumed to expand upon the phylosophy of Moses in his attempt to make his disciples to actually see Moses' God through his Plato's philosophy.

    Plato referred to his knowledge of the Hebrew Torah with reference to "Lawgiver"[Moses] and the "prophets". Thus showing his familiarity with the work of Moses and the Hebrew prophets.

    Justin, the philodopher who studied Platonic philosophy said this about Moses: In Justin's words: "There existed, long before this time, certain men more ancient than all those who are esteemed philosophers, both righteous and beloved of God.....They are called prophets......Their writings are still EXTANT [current available and used by the then philosophers] and who has read them is very much helped in his knowledge of the beginning and end of things and of those matters which the philosopher ought to know...." [Quoted from Justin in his Dialogue with Trypho, the Jew].
    And to quote Justin again; who lived around 160 AD, and also in his discourse with Trypho, the Jew : "Permit me, further,[he said] to show you from the book of Exodus how this same One, who is both Angel, and God, and Lord, and man, and who appeared in human form to Abraham and Issac......"

    The above documentation by quotation is more than enough proof that the ancient mystical visionaries borrowed from the Hebrew religious beliefs, incorporating same into their own belief paradigms. But because these nations predated the Israelite nation, thus making their religious beliefs also to predate the religious beliefs of the Jews but also making adopted Jewish beliefs appear their own.


    precept
     
  8. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate

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    I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply that this myth is present in all these cultures because they all selectively borrowed it from an original source. I simply meant that a flood myth exists in a variety of cultures. It's not the same story in each culture. The most reasonable explanation is that the idea of a great flood that covers the world and threatens to destroy all humanity is a very powerful idea and was developed independantly in several cultures. Having said that, the Greek flood myth is uncannily similar to one in Genesis.


    You're right, the captivity of the Israelites by the Babylonians caused these two cultures to be intimately exposed to each other. I wouldn't presume to decide on my own in what direction the influence went. The reason why I say that it was the Babylonians who influenced the Israelites, and not the other way around is because the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh predates the Hebrew Genesis.
     
  9. HelpMe

    HelpMe ·´sociopathic meanderer`·

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    i was quoting the kjv.my post was as poor as yours perhaps, except that mine showed an undeniable flaw in someone's translation.(whereas yours was a mere commentary, rather off topic as well no?)
     
  10. precept

    precept Member

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    If the Israelites borrowed from the Babylonians, and since the Israelites' Torah is a compilation of the five books of Moses; with the subject matter a continous, connected prose; and with historical information covering more than forty years of their dealing with their Jehovah God;and with their own historical record of their God miraculously killing the Eygptian firstborn while sparing their own; and with God causing water to spew from a rock, where before there was just barren and dry surroundings; and why borrow one unique story when they had so many unique stories of their own-such as "manna" falling from heaven and God's dividing the huge expanse of the Red sea allowing them to pass over on dry ground, while killing the Eygptians when they tried to follow. Why do you suppose; if the Israelites bowrrowed the story of the flood from the Babylonians, that they would have just selectively chosen the story of the flood, to the exclusion of other stories, and make such a story of the flood as continuous with their own historical prose; with skilfully omitting the folklore of the Babylonian version?

    Why didn't history record the Jews as adopting the religion of the Babylonians; which if they had, the chances would be greater that they the Jews borrowed from the Babylonians. And since it were the Babylonians that converted to Judaism under king Nebuchadnezzar, any religious shift would have been at the expense of the Babylonian's religion--not the religion of the Jews.

    The Jewish Torah is kept under safegaurds that prevent any tampering or alteration of its prose from the first day Moses had it transcribed on parchment. To this day the Torah is guarded from any inclusions not originally transcribed. The Tanakh, unlike the Torah contains the inclusions of rabbis, scholars and Jewish visionaries. The Tanakh, like the Quran and other holy books of the world's religion, contains additions, deletions, contradictions, as one visionary's thoughts and ideas supplants that of his predecessors. Such is not the fare of Torah. Torah stands unchanged from the original text; and is kept so by the Author Himself-God.


    precept
     
  11. Runt

    Runt Well-Known Member

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    Actually, I was responding to this comment by Precept:

    So when I said...

    ...I was just trying to show the flaw in his argument... which of course spawned several new posts of debate, lol!
     
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  12. HelpMe

    HelpMe ·´sociopathic meanderer`·

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    though he said 'is not'.not 'was never'.
     
  13. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate

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    They kept their religion because they prefered their religion. History shows that when transcendant religions come into contact with earth-based religions, the transcendant one seems to win. That the Babylonians converted to Judaism is consistent with that. That Judaism converted to monotheism after contact with the Egyptians is consistent with that as well. (Monotheism was "discovered" by an Egyptian, not the Hebrews.)

    They chose some stories because the stories resonated with them and ingored others because they didn't. And of course they wove it seemlessly into their tradition. That's what oral traditions do. To get back to the subject its all about telling stories. Good story-tellers pick elements of other stories that speak to people and weave it together into a coherent whole. If you are a bad story teller, your version doesn't get passed on and someone elses does.

    I'm not sure why you assume that the direction of influence has to be only one way. When two cultures come into contact with each other it is much more common for both of them to be influenced by one another than for one to completely subsume the other. And in this case, if one had subsumed the other, we wouldn't be having this conversation.


    I am not trying convert you. You can believe what you believe. I do not try to argue with Muslims about whether the Qur'an was divinely transmitted in its entirety. And I don't try to argue with Christians about whether Jesus is God. If we were in a different forum on a different thread, I would be discussing the text itself with you as truth and what that means. But this thread started off looking at scriptural text from the historical perspective.

    And looking at it that way, I don't believe that the bible, including the Torah, was created de novo and handed down unchanged. There is too much evidence to the contrary, internally and externally. That doesn't mean I don't see great spiritual truth in it. In fact, I think that the filter of the generations - people keeping what resonates with them and discarding what doesn't - is what gives the text such power.

    So does this mean that you only recognize spiritual authority in the Torah and not in the other parts of the bible?

    (The Tanakh includes the Torah btw. Tanakh = Torah + Prophets + Wisdom teachings)
     
  14. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    See ...
    That is easily one of the most demonstrably ignorant statement I've seen in some time. Torah scholars readily acknowledge the pluriformity of text. See, for example;
    You are not served well by such willfull ignorance.
     
  15. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate

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    Got it. :)

    btw, hello fellow UU! There aren't many of us in the real world but we sure seem to be well represented on the web.
     
  16. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    I would appreciate any historical/archaeological resources that you might have that discusses the conversion.
    I do not believe a causal link can be shown here. The Israeilite federation appears to have remained monalatrous until long after Egypt's brief flirtation with monotheism.
     
  17. Runt

    Runt Well-Known Member

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    I can't remember where I heard it (and thus haven't the slightest clue how reliable a source this comes from) but supposedly UUism is among the top 6 fastest growing religions...

    So, you want to suggest that when he said "Truth is not truth if passed on by oral tradition", he really meant "Truth is not truth if passed on by oral tradition, but it can SOMETIMES be truth"? That statement makes no sense. It is like saying "A carrot is not a fruit, but it can sometimes be a fruit" or "Red is not blue but it can sometimes be blue"...
     
  18. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate

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    Hey, I'm just going by what precept said. My point was that such a conversion would not be proof that the flood myth orignated with the Hebrews and was transmitted it to the Babylonians. The argument was over direction of influence. But you're right; I was making an assumption.

    Would this be more satisfactory?
    "If the Babylonians did convert to Judaism (I actually shoulda said monotheism), their conversion would be consistent with that."



    Brief flirtation such as it was, the first historical record of the idea of monotheism comes out of Egypt, and predates the first historical record of monotheism amongst the Hebrews. If you want to argue that the idea was developed independantly, I won't fight you on it. Correlation does not prove causation but it is good enough for me in this case.
     
  19. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate

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    If that's true, it's only been true very recently. According to the last survey that I saw taken in 2001, we're at 0.3% of the population - less than either the Unitarians or the Universalists were before the merger.

    I hope you're right. I've never been much for evangelizing (UU works for me, may not work for others), but ever since the election and the whole moral values thing, I've been thinking that we need to put ourselves out there as an alternative.
     
  20. Runt

    Runt Well-Known Member

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    Well, there is a subtle difference between the number of people who belong to a religion and the rate at which new people are converting to it. Note that I didn't say it was one of the six largest religions... only the six fastest growing.

    But there I go again, getting off topic. From this point on I'm offically not responding to anything but comments about oral tradition! ;)
     
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