I have a problem with the OT

I would be grateful for other's thoughts on this.
Throughout the OT God says how much he cares for the Jewish people, and how he will protect them. But how does that fit with the experience of the Holocaust? Plus centuries of terrible anti-semitism?
Am I reading the OT in too literal a fashion?
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Comments

  • OhherOhher Shipmate
    1. Yes.
    2. Being "chosen" is not necessarily synonymous with being "cared for."
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    FloRoss wrote: »
    Am I reading the OT in too literal a fashion?

    Maybe. But it likely IS the way that the writers of the Old Testament wanted people to read it.

  • It shouldn't be forgotten that much of the OT was written while the Israelites were in exile. This must mean that much of it represents a longed-for ideal rather than consistent experience. The strange land is every bit as much part of OT experience as years of the Lord's favour. As is the wilderness - forty years of wandering...
  • @ThunderBunk that's well-observed.
  • A Feminine ForceA Feminine Force Shipmate
    edited October 7
    I have the same problem, which was compounded when I spent five years studying and worshiping with the ChaBaD Chassidim.

    Lovely people, devoted and mindful in so many ways, but everything about Talmudic thought struck me as being almost like an apologist with Stockholm Syndrome. Extremely logical and rational, but a little bit on the batshit crazy side at the same time.

    LAFF

  • The RogueThe Rogue Shipmate
    God never said to anyone that shit won't happen. The Israelite nation was chosen to reveal God to the world.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Funnily, I have a big problem with the idea of a particular ethnic group being somehow special to God. I can't see how it's not basically racism.
  • The promise to Abraham says that through him all nations will be blessed.
  • Does being “chosen” necessarily mean being more special in God’s eyes? I’m not sure it does, nor do I think that’s the message of the OT.
  • KarlLB wrote: »
    Funnily, I have a big problem with the idea of a particular ethnic group being somehow special to God. I can't see how it's not basically racism.

    You're a king. You need a messenger to send a message. You pick one. Does that mean that person is more special than all your other subjects? This is the scandal of particularity. God picked this group of people and groomed them for hundreds of years to be the messengers of his message, and to be the bearers of his Messiah. He had to pick somebody. If it hadn't been the Hebrews, it would have been someone else.

  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Does being “chosen” necessarily mean being more special in God’s eyes? I’m not sure it does, nor do I think that’s the message of the OT.

    Really? I think there are passages that suggest so.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    A good rear guard action. How did He groom them? Which hundreds of years? They claim eighteen continuous ones from Abraham to Christ arbitrarily alone and back twice that and more. The oral and lost written traditions from that prehistory don't enter history until the C6th BCE. Was the grooming continuous? Or scattered over pre-history? Over the period of the narrative. Of God the Killer. Rhetorically of course.
  • Yes, but there are other ones that suggest otherwise, and those are the ones the NT latches on to.
  • KarlLB wrote: »
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Does being “chosen” necessarily mean being more special in God’s eyes? I’m not sure it does, nor do I think that’s the message of the OT.

    Really? I think there are passages that suggest so.
    Passages, yes. But do those passages mean that God saw Israel as more special, or that the writer believed God saw Israel as more special.

    As @Eutychus says, there are many other passages that say otherwise. I would say the overall scope of the OT firmly says otherwise, and that, again as Eutychus says, the NT says otherwise.

  • @Martin54 if you insist on sticking with God the Killer, nobody is going to dissuade you. And if you're going to go all uncritically historical-critical, the same applies.

    Christianity involves a belief that God revealed himself to Israel, as attested to in the OT. It doesn't require literalistic belief, neither does it exclude imperfect understanding of the Israelites of what God required of them, or even exclude some rather flattering ex-post editorial treatment of the narrative.

    What it does require is a belief that the Scriptures are important and that their transmission by the Church is, too, hand in hand with a responsible approach to constantly reinterpreting them for the times we live in. It is not irresponsible or wilfully inconsistent to interpret the OT as containing within it a promise for all nations to be blessed without favouritism, whilst leaving aside the genocidal bits.

    I believe the Word of God emerges in our lives from the Spirit-inspired dialogue between the Scriptures and those that seek to follow Jesus today.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    In my Adult Learning Community, we were discussing Joshua 24. Basically, it is Joshua's final speech to the Israelites which, was no doubt written after the return from the exile. Joshua tells the people if they serve God, God will bless them, but if they turn from God there will be negative consequences. It is the cyclical pattern the writer saw in his overview of history.

    Nazis actually used this passage to justify the Holocaust, but I will not even go there. There is really no explanation of the Holocaust other than it was caused by a deranged cadre of individuals.

    What I find amazing, though, is in spite of the Holocaust there are still practicing Jews.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    KarlLB: Funnily, I have a big problem with the idea of a particular ethnic group being somehow special to God. I can't see how it's not basically racism.

    So did the writer of Jonah: God said: " Should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” Jonah 4: 10).
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    There is really no explanation of the Holocaust other than it was caused by a deranged cadre of individuals.

    Blaming the Holocaust on "a deranged cadre of individuals" is a convenient way of ignoring or erasing centuries of anti-Semitism and pogroms which informed the attitudes of that "deranged cadre of individuals". The architects of the Holocaust did not invent anti-Semitism out of whole cloth. They had a lengthy tradition to work from.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited October 8
    Our evolved, genetic strength is our weakness. The downside of eusocial altruism is genocide. That's the context in which God struggles somehow to get our attention without intervening. Unless we're claiming that He did at least in the minds of a cadre of C6th BCE intellectuals.
  • MPaulMPaul Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    KarlLB wrote: »
    Funnily, I have a big problem with the idea of a particular ethnic group being somehow special to God. I can't see how it's not basically racism.

    You're a king. You need a messenger to send a message. You pick one. Does that mean that person is more special than all your other subjects? This is the scandal of particularity. God picked this group of people and groomed them for hundreds of years to be the messengers of his message, and to be the bearers of his Messiah. He had to pick somebody. If it hadn't been the Hebrews, it would have been someone else.
    Absolutely!
    And,if you are God..the alpha and Omega of everything, who transcends time and, where he does acknowledge it, sees ends from beginnings, then you will construct a redemptive plan however you want.


  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    edited October 8
    The more I think about it, the more I reject the idea of a cohort of special individuals which the rest of humanity is supposed to be grateful for their special elevated existence.

    Unfortunately it is a very common trope; almost everyone seems to think that their religious insight is special and unique unto the earth and therefore they - and their even more select priestly class - are the rightful moral guardians and/or mouthpieces of the deity.

    Away with all that bullshit. I don't believe that the Lord has favourites, I don't believe he is interested in funny hats or long titles or thrones or beards. Or temples built largely of gold or special cloaks with pomegrates on the end.

    If we are reading holy texts and see there a deity who has favourites - and surprise surprise that's you dear reader - then we are either reading it wrong or (more likely) the holy text is a load of meaningless drivel.

    It seems to me that those who we should listen to are those from many different traditions who are creatively, magically, amazingly, able to lift the spirit of the religion away from all the painful crap that is as written and interpret it in such a way as to be self-sacrificial rather than self-justifying, challenging rather than comfortable, spurring believers on into acts of grace and love rather than crusaders for some bullshit idea of superiority.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited October 8
    Kwesi wrote: »
    KarlLB: Funnily, I have a big problem with the idea of a particular ethnic group being somehow special to God. I can't see how it's not basically racism.

    So did the writer of Jonah: God said: " Should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” Jonah 4: 10).

    As did the prophet Jeremiah concerning Babylon (cf. Jeremiah 28). It strikes me that the OT prophets portray Israel/Judah as a community with a God given mandate for the conditional inclusion of the nations, not automatic exclusion. Although Ezra-Nehemiah read somewhat differently at first glance.
  • Kwesi wrote: »
    KarlLB: Funnily, I have a big problem with the idea of a particular ethnic group being somehow special to God. I can't see how it's not basically racism.

    So did the writer of Jonah: God said: " Should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” Jonah 4: 10).

    Yep.

    I think the key concept here is A priestly people

    There are times when Latin can be helpful - the Latin title of the Pope Pontifex maximus (which has ancient pagan origins) means "Chief Bridge-builder." I'm not remotely Catholic but the idea that a priest is bridge-builder between man and God is really important to Judeo-Christian thinking.

    We see this is the NT with the concept of the Priesthood of all Believers and Paul's entreaties about reaching out to the world in the Name of Christ. Exodus 19: "A Kingdom of Priests" - this is God's redemptive plan - to use Abraham's decedents to bless all peoples.

    As was noted above, how God does his redemptive plan is entirely up to him. I don't think you need to see the OT through the lens of the Israeli people 'misunderstanding God' to see that this theme of a chosen people (with special blessings) is not just about them. It's in Exodus 19, it's in Jonah, it's in Daniel, it's in Isaiah... God's chosen people are meant to be a beacon for the world pointing to Him. As the church is meant to do today.

    The church so often fails as the Israelites surely did, but that doesn't change what they are supposed to do.

    AFZ

  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Dead Horses Host
    Those of us who see trajectory in scripture see the tribal henotheism of much of the Pentateuch, Joshua and Judges as part of an understanding which was overturned by the monotheism of the later prophetic writing. "The Lord is the King above all Gods" morphed into "I am the Lord and there is no other". The world view got moved by the experience of living under kings who did evil in the sight of the Lord, and also as a result of exile. The consequences of both the dark side of henotheism and also human pride as drivers of covenant-breaking are found all over the OT prophetic writing.

    So far as being chosen is concerned, the danger of it is that it causes those who perceive themselves as chosen to look down on those who they perceive as not chosen. There are certainly plentiful checks against such pride in the NT (e.g. the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector, the Magnificat, all the sayings about humility and servanthood) but pride dies hard in the human heart.
  • No funny hats?

    Spoil-sport.

    That's the Copts stuffed then.
  • I sometimes wonder if God's revelation works through the problems we have with the text.
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host, 8th Day Host
    There is the old story of a Jew who was complaining to God "I know we are your chosen people, special and dedicated to you, but God, please could you choose someone else for a while?"

    Chosen does not mean individually protected. It means selected, holy, different. And the OT promises to the people were to the nation as a whole, not individuals. So God has preserved the Jewish nation as a whole, but that doesn't mean individuals will not suffer and die. There is also the "should one man die for a nation" thing, to which the biblical answer is "yes".

    All of which sucks, of course. But this is where the conservative view that being chosen by God means they will experience great blessings, loads of money, and power and health falls down. It is not a biblical message. Being chosen by God usually meant life was about to get shit. Just ask the prophets.
  • finelinefineline Purgatory Host
    Jengie Jon wrote: »
    I sometimes wonder if God's revelation works through the problems we have with the text.

    That is an interesting thought. I know for myself I see it in terms of language and human expression being limited, ambiguous and contradictory, and God using that so that we don't come to rely on the words of the text, but on a God who can't be contained and confined by words. I see them as incomplete and cryptic pointers towards something indescribable.

  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    But this is where the conservative view that being chosen by God means they will experience great blessings, loads of money, and power and health falls down. It is not a biblical message. Being chosen by God usually meant life was about to get shit. Just ask the prophets.
    I agree with what you're saying here, but I'm not sure what you mean by the word conservative. Do you mean conservative evangelical? Politically conservative? American style health, wealth and prosperity gospel?

  • magnilo wrote: »
    But this is where the conservative view that being chosen by God means they will experience great blessings, loads of money, and power and health falls down. It is not a biblical message. Being chosen by God usually meant life was about to get shit. Just ask the prophets.
    I agree with what you're saying here, but I'm not sure what you mean by the word conservative. Do you mean conservative evangelical? Politically conservative? American style health, wealth and prosperity gospel?

    Ugh. I understand what you're saying, but how I loathe the equation of the prosperity gospel with the United States.
  • According to historian Kate Bowler, the prosperity gospel was formed from the intersection of three different ideologies: Pentecostalism, New Thought, and "an American gospel of pragmatism, individualism, and upward mobility."

    Source.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    The prosperity gospel certainly seems to be about extreme over-optimism and creepy religious chicanery - a mixture which seems to reflect a cartoon version of Americana. Particularly 19 century Americana in my opinion.

    But contemporary versions are most frequently found outside of America, usually in areas of extreme poverty. The massive megachurches and televangelists of the USA are generally not classical prosperity gospel and few ever were. Even that sub-sub-culture from within US Christianity were never really the thing popularly associated with it.
  • Jengie Jon wrote: »
    I sometimes wonder if God's revelation works through the problems we have with the text.

    One of my favourite and oft-quoted pieces of Ship wisdom, the author of which I have sadly forgotten, said that the Bible was the record of an argument between various people about what God was like, and that the continuation of that argument today was called the Church.

    The idea of the Word of God being revealed in dialogue around the Bible is very Eglise Réformée, Jengie - about the nearest thing we have ecclesiologically to the URC.
  • @Eutychus I am going to annoy Erin but :smiley:
  • FloRoss wrote: »
    I would be grateful for other's thoughts on this.
    Throughout the OT God says how much he cares for the Jewish people, and how he will protect them. But how does that fit with the experience of the Holocaust? Plus centuries of terrible anti-semitism?
    Am I reading the OT in too literal a fashion?

    Yes.

    The idea of the Israelites being "God's chosen people in perpetuity" is one of the most damaging and corrosive religious beliefs around.

    Yes - the Jewish people thought that they were God's special and anointed people. But I see that as a concept that should have been long dropped once Judaism moved to being a monotheistic faith.

    God has no "chosen people". All are loved equally. God shows no favours. The sooner we realise this, the better it will be for our world.

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Eutychus wrote: »
    According to historian Kate Bowler, the prosperity gospel was formed from the intersection of three different ideologies: Pentecostalism, New Thought, and "an American gospel of pragmatism, individualism, and upward mobility."

    Source.

    Aye, until this century it was American. It's obviously spread to South America, Nigeria.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    edited October 8
    FloRoss wrote: »
    I would be grateful for other's thoughts on this.
    Throughout the OT God says how much he cares for the Jewish people, and how he will protect them. But how does that fit with the experience of the Holocaust? Plus centuries of terrible anti-semitism?
    Am I reading the OT in too literal a fashion?

    Yes.

    The idea of the Israelites being "God's chosen people in perpetuity" is one of the most damaging and corrosive religious beliefs around.

    Yes - the Jewish people thought that they were God's special and anointed people. But I see that as a concept that should have been long dropped once Judaism moved to being a monotheistic faith.

    I think you should temper your language in these thoughts a bit.

    Jews are not the only people or religion to ascribe uniqueness to themselves. The most sensible reaction meeting someone who claims to be from a special god-ordained group is to shrug and mutter that you couldn't care less what they think of themselves.

    I don't see that there is anything especially damaging and corrosive about Judaism over-and-above the damage from any religion that (at best) thinks it is best and that (at worst) heretics are scum.

    Indeed, I think Judaism has very often shown itself to be far more accommodating than many other monotheistic religions we could mention - that conversely seemed to take great delight in attempting to show that the Jews were forsaken by the deity and therefore it would be hilarious to wipe them out.
    God has no "chosen people". All are loved equally. God shows no favours. The sooner we realise this, the better it will be for our world.

    Misquoting and paraphrasing Chesterton; the problem is not too many capitalists but too few.

    Maybe the problem is not so much with those who claim to be chosen but those poor people who go through their entire lives thinking that they would never be chosen by any deity for anything. That they'll always be the ones left unpicked in the cosmic gym class.

  • Martin54 wrote: »
    Aye, until this century it was American. It's obviously spread to South America, Nigeria.
    Because in the minds of many it is synonymous with The American Dream™

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Although I associate it with the Reformation admittedly. The Proddy work ethic. Wealth is 'good', so making it is and if you're poor you've only got yourself to blame with lots of Proverbs and even Paul to back you up.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    I don't think that was the Protestant work ethic, Martin. Methodist Welsh miners didn't work hard because they believed the deity would reward them with untold wealth (as we see today from the most extreme proponents of the Prosperity Gospel) but because those who had no way to support themselves went to the workhouse and slipped into poverty and death.

    If anything the moralising of (this kind of) Protestant work ethic was supposed to separate the upright, noble Christian - who thought about his family and laboured for those who depended upon him - from those selfish gits who got the same pay in the pit but spent it on drink, loose women and so on.

    The idea that "wealth is good" as an abstract is not, I think, really a part of the way the Protestant work ethic was usually (or often) understood.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    edited October 8
    Incidentally, I was reading the other day about how this went way too far in some Welsh mining communities; where any financial help or assistance or charity from outside the village was a sign of weakness and was to be resisted.
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host, 8th Day Host
    magnilo wrote: »
    But this is where the conservative view that being chosen by God means they will experience great blessings, loads of money, and power and health falls down. It is not a biblical message. Being chosen by God usually meant life was about to get shit. Just ask the prophets.
    I agree with what you're saying here, but I'm not sure what you mean by the word conservative. Do you mean conservative evangelical? Politically conservative? American style health, wealth and prosperity gospel?

    It is all of these. It is theologically conservative. Not just American, not just HWP stuff, but including these.

    There are many in the UK with the same ideas. There are many who would reject the HWP ideas, while still supporting the Celebrity Christian ideas.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited October 8
    Acknowledged mr cheesy. Thank you. I wasn't thinking of labouring working class Reformed.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    Martin54 wrote: »
    Acknowledged mr cheesy. Thank you. I wasn't thinking of proper working class Reformed.

    Oh ok. You don't see modern Prosperity Gospel as primarily a lottery-like prize for the poor?

    Are you saying it's for the aspiring middle class?

    Maybe true, I hadn't ever thought of it like that.
  • mr cheesy wrote: »
    Are you saying it's for the aspiring middle class?
    Definitely.

    Now think about the aspiring black middle class and ask yourself as (I presume) a white person whether pouring scorn on their embracing of the prosperity gospel is quite as easy as you thought it was.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited October 8
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    Martin54 wrote: »
    Acknowledged mr cheesy. Thank you. I wasn't thinking of proper working class Reformed.

    Oh ok. You don't see modern Prosperity Gospel as primarily a lottery-like prize for the poor?

    Are you saying it's for the aspiring middle class?

    Maybe true, I hadn't ever thought of it like that.

    Hmmm. Both! But they are different constituencies? Then multiplied by Eutychus' race dimension.

    The devout, socially conservative, pious, labouring working class is dead though. In western Christianity.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    Eutychus wrote: »
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    Are you saying it's for the aspiring middle class?
    Definitely.

    Now think about the aspiring black middle class and ask yourself as (I presume) a white person whether pouring scorn on their embracing of the prosperity gospel is quite as easy as you thought it was.

    I'm not pouring scorn, I think it is sadly predictable.

    For me it is very similar to the lottery - aimed at the poor. The difference is that with a lottery at least someone wins beyond the people who run it.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    edited October 8
    Martin54 wrote: »
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    Martin54 wrote: »
    Acknowledged mr cheesy. Thank you. I wasn't thinking of proper working class Reformed.

    Oh ok. You don't see modern Prosperity Gospel as primarily a lottery-like prize for the poor?

    Are you saying it's for the aspiring middle class?

    Maybe true, I hadn't ever thought of it like that.

    Hmmm. Both! But they are different constituencies? Then multiplied by Eutychus' race dimension.

    The devout, socially conservative, pious, labouring working class is dead though. In western Christianity.

    Well perhaps I left space there for misunderstandings. I think these things are targeted at poor people who have few other alternatives than the hope of wealth offered by religion or lottery (or other forms of chance). The middle classes can support themselves in other ways.

    When I said "aspiring" I meant the middle classes aspiring to be wealthier rather than poor people aspiring to be middle class.

    A bad choice of phrase on my part.
  • I've recommended Greenleaf here before. It's basically Dallas set in a black megachurch with prosperity leanings. I expected it to trash such churches but an interesting amount of what I would see as true Christian virtues occasionally shine through.

    More interesting here is the opening theme, which features actual photos of slaves. I must confess the link between prosperity gospel and former slavery had never occurred to me until then, and have found that checks my criticism of prosperity-focused teaching. Leaders may unjustly profit, but some of the followers genuinely do better themselves.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    Eutychus wrote: »
    I've recommended Greenleaf here before. It's basically Dallas set in a black megachurch with prosperity leanings. I expected it to trash such churches but an interesting amount of what I would see as true Christian virtues occasionally shine through.

    More interesting here is the opening theme, which features actual photos of slaves. I must confess the link between prosperity gospel and former slavery had never occurred to me until then, and have found that checks my criticism of prosperity-focused teaching. Leaders may unjustly profit, but some of the followers genuinely do better themselves.

    I've not seen it, but I think Prosperity Gospel is something very specific, so a church can't be "leaning". It either is preaching prosperity gospel or it isn't. Name-and-claim isn't not a perfect overlap for the prosperity gospel.

    Much as I personally cannot stand megachurches, clearly people gain from that type of religion.

    But again, megachurches are not prosperity gospel or vice versa.

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