Friday, December 29, 2006

Gods of Hebrews and of Cosmos


The question that you asked is an axis around which many of the most important issues in theology orbit. This is the careless, unstudied, almost universal assumption that the god of the Hebrew Scriptures ("Old Testament") is the same as the God of the Christian Scriptures.

It is quite easy to slide or fall into this assumption; most Christians do hold it as a matter of dogma. It is so commonly assumed, in fact, as to be invisible. Even most educators and religious teachers take it fully for granted.

But the assumption that Jehovah-Yahweh is God contradicts a few important historical issues. For it was the loyal, faithful people of Yahweh who conspired with the Romans to murder Jesus. It was also they who were among the most vicious enemies of Christianity during its first two centuries.

Wise and intelligent people can hold to no stupid or ignorant anti-Semitism because of this, however, for no one is ever responsible for the actions of her ancestors.

True, many Christians tried like mad to force Christianity into the mold of Judaism. These were called "Judaizers." They pretended that the Hebrew Scriptures were part of the "Bible" of Christianity, and they, too, made the serious mistake of identifying (and equating) the god of the Hebrews with the Lord of pure Love identified by the mystic Jesus.

In stark contrast, many of the earliest Christians, including the teacher Marcion (c. 140), taught clearly that the god of the old way was not the God of Love. Here is evidence: Although some form of the sacred name, written YHWH, was used nearly seven thousand times in the "Old Testament," no form of this sacred name was ever used a single time in all the oldest manuscripts of the Christian Scriptures.

But the very reason that Christianity split from Judaism is that it had an entirely different and incompatible set of Scriptures, the Christian Greek Scriptures ("New Testament"); Christianity recognized its own, and separate, prophets; and it had its own teachings. These teachings did not concur with those of the "holy days," "feasts," "sacrifices," and other patterns from Judaism. Christians abandoned all these ceremonial commemorations despite the fact that they had been "commanded by Jehovah."

Christians ignored all of this fanfare, even though these celebrations and rituals were demanded by the Hebrew Scriptures. Even though the Levitical and other laws of Jehovah were included in the Bible of the Hebrews, their practices were simply dropped and abandoned by the Christians. It could accurately be said that many if not most Christians simply dropped and abandoned the Hebrew Scriptures as the "Bible" of another religion-- Judaism.

Christianity did not evolve from, or originate within, Judaism as a "splinter" group. No, it originated from the teachings of an enlightened man reared in Egypt-- Jesus. To prove that the religion did not have power over free Christians, Jesus altered many of the "Laws of Jehovah," as in Matthew chapter 5. In other words, he did not feel bound to those ancient laws.

Christianity did not hate Judaism. But it insisted upon total freedom from the "written law codes," as Paul made clear in Galatians. These law-codes were the Bible of the Jews.

It is most logical that a religion that has a different Bible, different prophets, different teachers, and different teachings has also a different God. The God taught by Jesus was Love, as reflected by his disciple John, who wrote simply, "God is Love," and he wrote it twice. (1 Jn. 4:8, 16)

The ancient god periodically showed a quality called chesed in Hebrew, "loving-kindness." But he showed this to only those who carefully obeyed all of his laws, and very rarely. Jehovah was a god bound by law, and was very concerned about "righteousness" and "obedience." The Christianity of Jesus was more concerned with a deeper, more authentic,

The whole idea of a priesthood, a temple, and a thousand religious laws, binding on the Hebrews, was simply deleted by the Christians. Also, the exclusivity of being the "chosen people" disappeared, as Christianity began to be a universal faith, open to non-Jews ("gentiles").

When you separate the God of Love from the ancient god, it clears up so many mysteries. For Jehovah, says the record, slaughtered women, men, and children. He was a creation of mad and murderous generals and kings of the Middle East, and naturally, he thought precisely as they did. These horrid activities are unthinkable to the omnipotent Lord of Love. They are hideous. So is Armageddon, a God-slandering myth, and so is eternal hellfire, another myth of nightmarish humans, not a creation of the stainless God.

If you have any questions re the misidentification of God that is common to our society and culture, let me recommend my book Jehovah, Good-bye: The "New Theism" of Love.

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