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Featured The Problems of Hellenized Judaism and interpretation of Christian Scripture

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by pearl, Aug 4, 2022.

  1. pearl

    pearl Well-Known Member

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    I hope this paper is of interest, personally I found it remarkable. Abraham Heschel has always been a favorite of mine.

    There is another block to Jewish theology. This danger is a more insidious one. I refer to the Hellenization of Jewish theology… To oversimplify the matter: this approach would have Plato and Moses, for example, say the same thing. Only, Plato would say it in Greek and Moses in Hebrew. Consequently, you can say that Moses was a sort of Hebrew Plato. This view has had a great impact on much of Jewish medieval philosophy. They talk about God in the language of the Greeks.

    We are inclined to think in non-Jewish terms. I am not discouraging exposure to the non-Jewish world. I am merely indicating that it is not biblical thinking. It is not rabbinic thinking. It is not Hassidic thinking. It is non-Jewish thinking. A non-Jewish philosophy is fine. But we would also like to have in our thinking a Jewish view of things… If you take biblical passages or biblical documents or rabbinic statements, and submit them to a Greek mind, they are often absurd. They make no sense… May I say to you personally that this been my major challenge, ever since I began working on my dissertation; that is: How to maintain a Jewish way of thinking?

    In the second part of The Prophets, as in several other places, Heschel explained why he rejected the Greek God of complete actualization or being, instead introducing God as an omnipotent but passable God of Pathos, in need of man. As he wrote, “Plato thinks of God in the image of an idea; the prophets think of God in the image of personal presence. To the prophets God was not a Being of Whose existence they were convinced in the way in which a person is convinced of the truth of an idea. He was a Being Who is supremely real and staggeringly present.”48 Heschel did “not offer a systematic essay in metaphysics,” as Shai Held states; “he was content, instead, to point out that the metaphysical principles Maimonides simply took for granted are in fact historically conditioned—of Greek rather than biblical provenance.”49

    To give a comprehensive overview of his rejection is beyond the scope of this essay; I will only point briefly to the way Heschel went about discrediting the Greek approach as unbiblical and why he deemed that vital. It should first be stated that Heschel did not intend to go so far as to claim a conceptualization of God’s essence: “The idea of divine pathos is not a personification of God but an exemplification of divine reality, an illustration or illumination of His concern. It does not represent a substance, but an act or a relationship.”50 In fact, to make such a contention would be to misunderstand the root of Heschel’s issue with Greek thinking.

    According to the celebrated statement of Xenophanes, ‘If oxen and horses and lions had hands or could draw with hands and create works of art like those made by men, horses would draw pictures of gods like horses, and oxen of gods like oxen…’ The essential error is not in how man depicts God, but in depicting Him at all. The great revolution in biblical faith was to regard any image of God as an abomination.51

    Greek thought stands are absent: The notion of God as a perfect Being is not of biblical origin. It is not a product of prophetic religion, but of Greek philosophy… In the Decalogue, God does not speak of His perfection, but of His having made free men out of slaves. Signifying a state of being without defect and lack, perfection is a term of praise which we may utter in pouring forth emotion; yet, for man to utter it as a name for His essence would mean to evaluate and to endorse Him. Biblical language is free of such pretentions; it dared to call perfect (tamim) only “His work” (Deut. 32:4), “His way” (II Sam. 22:31), and the Torah (Ps. 19:7). We have never been told: “Hear, O Israel, God is Perfect!”52

    In contrast Heschel states: To the prophet… God does not reveal Himself in an abstract absoluteness, but in a personal and intimate relation to the world. He does not simply command and expect obedience; He is also moved and affected by what happens in the world and reacts accordingly. Events and human actions arouse in Him joy or sorrow, pleasure or wrath . . . Quite obviously in the biblical view, man’s deeds may move Him, affect Him, grieve Him or, on the other hand, gladden and please Him. This notion that God can be intimately affected, that He possesses not merely intelligence and will, but also pathos, basically defines the prophetic consciousness of God.53

    He subsequently elucidates the metaphysical assumptions which caused the Greek thinkers and those Jewish theologians influenced by them to arrive at a notion of God as an unchanging and unaffected being of complete unity. He then explicates the difficulties that lie in attempting to reconcile it with the God of the Bible, and suggests that: These difficulties arise from the attempt to reduce the biblical insight to an exact rational category. To be sure, the rational component is central to the biblical understanding of unity. However, the biblical intention is not to stress an abstraction, an idea in general, but the fullness of the divine Being; the certainty that the creator is the Redeemer, that the Lord of nature is the Lord of history. God’s being One means more than just being one.

    This was Heschel’s chief issue with the Hellenized understanding. He recognized its incapability to remain consistent with the Biblical narrative, in which Heschel saw God in search of man as the major theme. The Bible is not man’s theology, Heschel would say, but God’s anthropology. No Aristotelian theologian could coherently synthesize his philosophical assumptions with what was in Heschel’s eyes this undisputable motif: Ribono Shel Olam [master of the universe], why do you bother? Why are you in search of man? Why are you still searching and waiting? Searching for whoever it is that may come? To create a better world; to create a better species? God in search of man? Why? And my answer to this would be: Because God is in need of man. The idea of God being in need of man is central to Judaism and pervades all the pages of the Bible, of Chazal, of Talmudic literature…55

    Microsoft Word - Lieblich (hakirah.org)
     
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  2. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    Love Heschel!
     
  3. Estro Felino

    Estro Felino Believer in free will
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    All this precious passage definitely makes sense to me.
    Because it is perfectly coherent with what I was taught in Catechism class.

    A Catholic theologian and priest once said (on TV):
    The Ancient Testament is utterly different than the New. We as Christians acknowledge how the God of the New Testament is completely different.
    The theological implications of this resounding difference are so complex, that we cannot simplify them.

    It is a fact that Christians focus on the New Testament much more. Because it is our book.
    And at Catechism Class I used to have a book called Gospels-Acts.
    So these are the only books that are relevant within the catechism curricula.
    We never used the entire Bible.
     
  4. syo

    syo Well-Known Member

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    Plato? Why people worship this moron? They even have him in the bible???
     
  5. pearl

    pearl Well-Known Member

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    And that was a fatal mistake as it separated Christians from their faith heritage.
     
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  6. Estro Felino

    Estro Felino Believer in free will
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    We are speaking of 8-11 year old kids.
    They used to tell us we were not supposed to understand/read the OT.
     
  7. Mock Turtle

    Mock Turtle 'Some of you humans are just so funny!'
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    Didn't they teach you to respect your elders? :oops:
     
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  8. pearl

    pearl Well-Known Member

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    By which time or before they learn the Ten Commandments, from Hebrew Scripture.
     
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  9. Estro Felino

    Estro Felino Believer in free will
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    The Ten Commandments are written in the catechism book. They are certainly not read from Exodus, at Catechism class
     
    #9 Estro Felino, Aug 4, 2022
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2022
  10. pearl

    pearl Well-Known Member

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  11. paarsurrey

    paarsurrey Veteran Member

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    My understanding is that Pauline-Christianity's-Priesthood discourages its people to study OT first and then NT, they read it upside down, first they read NT and then OT; is it correct, please? Right?

    Regards
     
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  12. Estro Felino

    Estro Felino Believer in free will
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    Just Catholicism.
    I have received a standard, strict Catholic upbringing and do not recall anyone teaching me what the Old Testament was about, and nobody encouraged me to read it.
    The Catechism exclusively revolves around the Gospels, and the parables.

    These were the only books.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  13. paarsurrey

    paarsurrey Veteran Member

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    Paarsurrey wrote:
    My understanding is that Pauline-Christianity's-Priesthood discourages its people to study OT first and then NT, they read it upside down, first they read NT and then OT; is it correct, please? Right?

    They (the Pauline-Christianity's priesthood) only cling to OT, as it has some prophecies, which they fit on Jesus to add some more credulity to the stuff they have collected that they call Gospels or NT, else, isn't the whole OT just a dead horse to them (the Pauline-Christianity), one gets to understand, please? Right?
    Jesus read and mastered the Torah, he could never have adopted such an approach for his people, one could say, right?

    Regards
     
  14. Wandering Monk

    Wandering Monk Well-Known Member

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    Read Paul alongside Philo of Alexandria. Some congruencies.
     
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  15. pearl

    pearl Well-Known Member

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    You must be referring to the Baltimore Catechism.
     
  16. danieldemol

    danieldemol Well-Known Member
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    No true Scotsman. There have been plenty of hellenised Jews throughout history.

    In my opinion.
     
  17. danieldemol

    danieldemol Well-Known Member
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    Bit like the way the Muhammadan priesthood encourage their people to read the Quran first then the older books such as the Torah and the Gospels isn't it?

    In my opinion.
     
  18. Mister Emu

    Mister Emu Emu Extraordinaire
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    Not always, I was taught to read them concurrently. Both as a S. Baptist child and in RCIA in the Catholic Church.
     
  19. Brian2

    Brian2 Well-Known Member

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    God reaching out for man in love to bring man back to Him is certainly there in the NT with the sending of Jesus for all of mankind.
     
  20. danieldemol

    danieldemol Well-Known Member
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    Including at the time of the writing of the Gospels @pearl
     
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