Wisdom from the Hebrew Bible

English: Hebrew Bible text as written in a Jew...

English: Hebrew Bible text as written in a Jewish Sefer Torah. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time when I was teaching a course using the books of the Bible as the main reading assignment, a student asked me why I always used the phrase “Hebrew Bible” instead of “Old Testament” when talking about the earliest books.

“Simple.  Because “Old” has a certain connotation, as in”superseded”. But for many it’s not old at all.”

Here’s an old (as in been around a while now) response to Dr. Laura.


English: Radio counselor Dr. Laura Schlessinger

English: Radio counselor Dr. Laura Schlessinger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


On her radio show, Dr. Laura 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. Schlesinger, written by a US man, and posted on the Internet. It’s funny, as well as quite 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, provided they are purchased from neighboring 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 – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. 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 shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

7. Lev. 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 Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 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 has a farm. He violates Lev.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 all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.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? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I’m confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,

James M. Kauffman,

Ed.D. Professor Emeritus,

Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education University of Virginia

P.S. (It would be a damn shame if we couldn’t own a Canadian.)

And watch a dramatization here:

 

Sunday’ Sermon

Sydney, St Andrew's Cathedral, Hardman and Co....

Sydney, St Andrew’s Cathedral, Hardman and Co. The Gospel writers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I knew early on that our first son would be a successful academic. When I was a student at SB Junior College I had a desk for studying at home. Little Steve wanted to study also. So I made a desk extension for him next to mine. We would study together. His book might be upside down but he concentrated on its text and he took “notes”.

Once in Santa Barbara when I was the janitor (and a university student) at the Unitarian Church Steve, who was about 4.5 years old, and I stopped by the office of the secretary. She asked him what he was reading.

“I’m reading about a boy who can fly,” said Steve.

“Oh, how exciting! You must be reading Peter Pan.”

“No, I am reading about Daedalus and his son Icarus, who flies too close to the sun!”

The secretary was astounded. And a bit embarrassed.

When Steve was about four he taught me an important lesson about reading and interpreting texts. He went to play school one day and immediately went over to an easel and stood there holding a brush ready to start painting. The teacher came up behind him and said, “What are you going to paint?”

“God,” he said.

“And do you know what God looks like?”

“I will when I finish the painting,” he said as he began to paint.

Isn’t that an amazing insight? Why do I find it important?

We do indeed give form and meaning to concepts and ideas in works of the imagination that we create including paintings and stories. We are the meaning seekers. We are the creators of meaning. The bible, for example, means by means of its stories. Think for a moment of the Christian hero, Jesus. There is a sense in which Jesus is a model for human beings to follow. He was a man of his time who held the assumptions and beliefs of his era. He is portrayed as a charismatic man who lived with intense purpose and drive, who had an existential thrust to his life, who cared deeply about human beings, and who wrestled with profound questions of ethics. The stories that grew up around him have affected the world for two thousand years and have touched the deepest parts of our humanity with their simplicity of image and their promise of “salvation”. [RTB]

I think of the Gospel writers as being like my young son.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; Do you know Jesus? “I will when I finish my story.”

So, as you can see, I have learned a lot from Steve. And it was clear from those first days that the time would come when he would be Dr. Steven Lane and a successful professor and administrator. But, thirty years of service at VIU??

Time flies.

{Steve is now an administrator at Red Deer College in Alberta}

Tell me a Story

                                  Professor Lane with the Reverend Doctor Lex Crane                                                                


Long ago and in a romantic faraway place my life was changed forever. Outside a Lutheran Church I met the woman who, some 61 years later, is still helping me to tell our story as a family.
Later as a student I worked with Lex Crane at the Unitarian Church in Santa Barbara where we would argue about philosophy, literature, and religion. (He was the minister and I the janitor.)
A second story was found in the works of Albert Camus – specifically the first two books he wrote:
The Myth of Sisyphus and The Stranger.
The ideas that had such an effect on me? The Absurd. And the absurd hero.
(The above is from a sermon I presented to the Unitarians here in Nanaimo some time ago. Interested?)
Or here:  UU_talk

Grow a Soul

RAM-NewLogoNotes

 

Bob’s talk presented at the Unitarian Fellowship of Nanaimo :

Only Connect: genetics, culture, and the veil of ignorance

or
Grow a language, grow a morality, grow a soul

 


I want to thank the Fellowship for inviting me to your service today. I want to welcome friends and family.
I have enjoyed speaking to you on several occasions and once again thank you for the opportunity. Most recently both Peter Croft and David Weston were present to question me. I miss them both.
The last time I talked with you I gave you a quiz. No quiz today! Today I want to talk about roots and soil and souls and growth. You will notice that I speak metaphorically at times and that there is in the talk a subtle (or blatant) attempt to suggest that growing tomatoes is similar to growing a soul. After the last talk one of you asked me if I am an agnostic or an atheist. I answered, “Neither. I consider myself an ignostic.”
I have been thinking about that question and answer for some time now. Perhaps a parable will help:
An ignostic was asked whether she believed in God, and said, “If you mean a big man in a cloud, as some conceive of God, then I am an atheist, for we have satellites now which would have surely seen such a creature if he existed. If you mean an all-encompassing God who is synonymous with the cosmos, then I am a theist… though I see no reason for having two words for the same thing.
Ignosticism is the position that there are many different, contradictory definitions for the word “God”, so one can’t claim to be a theist OR an atheist until one knows which definition is meant. I don’t, for example, believe in or worship Thor or Zeus or Facebook.
Furthermore, if the chosen definition is incoherent and makes no predictions that can be empirically tested, then it doesn’t matter whether one believes in it or not, for how can something meaningless be true OR false? (this last part is also known in philosophy as theological noncognitivism). And yet, of course, we humans speak and write of God. Some of us die for what we think is God. Fly planes into buildings shouting his name. God, I believe, is a character in literature in the same way that Hamlet is or that Sherlock Holmes is – an interesting, complex, fascinating character, but living only in stories.

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