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Gettin' Ready

Posted on 2005.06.27 at 10:05
Current Mood: workingworking
Current Music: Meat Puppets - Lake Of Fire
I am finishing up getting stuff printed out and copied for my class tonight. Last session wasn't my best lecturing, for a whole host of reasons. I want to do a better job tonight. Tonight's topic is the way in which the New Testament interprets the Hebrew Bible, what texts it quotes, which versions it quotes, the techniques it uses for interpreting them, and related matters. I am not going to get (too much) into the whole question of concepts in the Hebrew Bible and how those are used or changed, just because this is supposed to be a 90 minute class; I am going to try and stick to actual texts and work from there.
One odd occurrence from last week, that sort of threw me, was when this one girl raised her hand and asked how come God in the New Testament was kind and loving, while the God of the Old Testament was cruel and vengeful.
I tried to sort of finesse the question by challenging the premise, but she would have none of it. I was a bit flustered, because while I am fully prepared to answer this question, the student-teacher dynamic made it difficult. I couldn't really lay the full theological smackdown on her, because I am supposed to be in a teaching helpful role. So I had to moderate my reply as I went along. I think she remained unconvinced, so I have to try and subtly address the matter as the course progresses.
I had supposed that there were still lots of people like that, but somehow I didn't expect them to end up in my classes, or ask a question like that. I suppose that it is better that it is on the table and I can try and give her a broader perspective and understanding. We shall see.
Anyone had similar situations?


Wrapped up in books
dithie at 2005-06-27 15:23 (UTC) (Link)
good lord! i say point out passages in the NT where God lays the smackdown (references to firey furnaces sound impressive) and pick out some particularly pretty psalms for this christian-biased miss.
theservant at 2005-06-27 15:27 (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, that was what I did last time, but she remained, I think, unconvinced. I am trying to be unbiased, so I don't want to go the other way and start to harsh on the New Testament; that wouldn't be fair.
We shall see how today goes. If nothing else, it is good at eating up some time; 90 minute classes can drag a bit.

Wow, that icon is really nice!
Wrapped up in books
dithie at 2005-06-27 15:24 (UTC) (Link)
also concept of hesed?
guh it makes me so mad when people think that. get that girl to read revelation.
theservant at 2005-06-27 15:29 (UTC) (Link)
It kind of caught me by surprise, sort of like if someone sincerely asked if wasn't it true that black people really did like to eat watermelon and fried chicken all the time?
I just wasn't ready for it, and it threw me off a bit.
Also, this girl calls me 'sir,' which makes me feel like Peppermint Patty.
tzaddiksohei at 2005-06-27 20:08 (UTC) (Link)
You could challenge her assertion by giving her an assignment to comb the Hebrew scriptures and record everytime G-d is mentoned as being vengeful/mean to everytime he is mentioned as being merciful/nice/awe inspiring/great. Maybe also have her have to read a Siddur.

However, it has been my experience that members of my former faith are typically a bit closed minded on this, or anything else that challenges thier belief system.

good luck.

theservant at 2005-06-27 20:13 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the info. I think that members of both groups can be seriously annoying, but this girl is, I think, sincere; I don't want to give her a huge amount of work or anything, I just want her to challenge her thoughts and dogmas a little bit.
davidfcooper at 2005-06-27 23:22 (UTC) (Link)
It occurs to me that since Xtianity from the git-go was/is a proselytizing faith they soft-pedaled the divine persona to make Him appear more attractive to prospective converts (so much of that faith smacks of automobile salesmanship), whereas since ours is a tribal religion we don't have to resort to that kind of bullshit.

As for calling you sir, tell her you're not in the military and you don't speak southern and would appreciate her calling you by your name.
theservant at 2005-06-28 00:12 (UTC) (Link)
I don't think she is southern either... I just find it amusing at this point, and frankly, I like the back and forth. I wish it wasn't in class so I could really go for it. I do that with people in airports and on the street and suchlike. I can usually argue them until their supervisor comes over and takes them away and tell me that it was nice to have met me but they have to go now.
Release the Kraken!
delerium69 at 2005-06-28 17:27 (UTC) (Link)
Sheesh that's an incredibly simple interpretation, and I only have a bare-minimum background in understanding religion. If my best friend, a UCC minister and an asst. dean at BU, caught that question, he probably would have read her, but would have done it so politely she wouldn't have noticed. You'd like him; he loves to get down and dirty in theology, probably why he's going for his Ph.D. now. And narrow-minded people make his claws come out (moreso because he's openly gay).

As for the "sir" thingy, I wouldn't spend too much time thinking about it. Not worth it, IMHO. (But your Peppermint Patty comment made me giggle.) Oh and I'm glad your nephew seems to be recovering.
theservant at 2005-06-28 17:30 (UTC) (Link)
Hmmmn. Think your friend can get me a job at BU?
Sorry, just networking.

I am trying to be subtle about the whole thing, but if in a couple of weeks there is no progress, I may have to be a little less so.
sputnik5 at 2005-06-28 17:34 (UTC) (Link)
Does the NT really talk about God the Father all that much? It seems to me your student is comparing God the Son to God the Father if anything...
theservant at 2005-06-29 03:35 (UTC) (Link)
That is one way of looking at it; frankly, I don't think that Trinitarianism as a doctrine is worked out in the NT. I think it's later. I know that during the middle ages, Jews were often accused of blasphemy and anthropomorphism for the sometimes humanistic portrayals of God in rabbinic literature; the Christian authorities felt that the Jews were referring to God the Father, and that this was unacceptable; obviously, the idea of the incarnation of the Son is the ultimate anthropomorphism.

I just think she is ignorant and parroting back some stuff she has heard. My goal is to open up her mind some.
metalclarinet at 2005-06-29 03:18 (UTC) (Link)
Well, I have not read enough of either the OT or the NT to have a qualified opinion, but I do think that the flood, killing all of the first born sons, and the pillars of salt were harsh doings. That said, my questions would be: are we talking about one God or two Gods. Is one book holy and the other not? If she believes that there is but one God and that both texts are the the Living Word, then she is contradicting herself.

However, you asked for similar situations. In College, my friends and I carried copies of Catch 22 to quote -- like others would quote from the Bible or Mao's little red book.

And for this occasion, we turn to the conversation between Yossarian and Dori Duz. Both were atheists, but the God Yossarian didn't believe in was a cruel God who invented pain and death. Any juke box manufacturer could have devised a system of fluorescent lights instead of pain to show you when there was a problem. This greatly upset Dori, because the God she didn't believe in was a good God, a just and loving God.

And so, based on the wisdom of Catch 22, I conclude that what your student reads into the OT and NT tells us more about her than about religion.
theservant at 2005-06-29 03:37 (UTC) (Link)
And so, based on the wisdom of Catch 22, I conclude that what your student reads into the OT and NT tells us more about her than about religion.

I agree with that, although she is repeating some long-held dogmatic beliefs with this kind of talk.
Tim Lieder
marlowe1 at 2005-06-29 04:11 (UTC) (Link)
That's a good one for weirdjews2 - but my answer is that a lot of the ways the Christian Bible interprets the Hebrew Bible is to focus upon the angry aspects of G-d. However, when you read the Hebrew Bible on its own merits you'll see plenty of contradictory elements in G_d's personality including affectionate, show offy, erotic (Song of Songs), absent but working behind the scenes (Ruth), hellfire and brimstone (Daniel) and really really pissed off (most of the prophets - as well as aspects of the Torah where Moses is telling G-d t he can go it alone if he kills the Israelites.

No need for a verbal smackdown. Just recognize the fact that you're working against a lifetime of assumptions and the basis of the Xian religion.
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