This week has been incredibly hectic (evidenced by the fact that I am posting this a little late, sorry). It has also been a curious type of hectic, I really don’t have much to say despite how much I’ve been doing. I don’t know how common that is for all of you, but the busy I have been experiencing has not led to any new breakthroughs in thought. That isn’t to say that I don’t think I’m working towards anything, but nothing earth shattering has happened yet. To attempt to salvage this post I will relate this feeling, very roughly, to examples of biblical figures who also do not have very much to say. For instance, Abraham didn’t have much to say when Yahweh asked him to sacrifice Isaac. Moses didn’t have much to say to the burning bush. Jeroboam didn’t really say much of anything when he was taking the kingdom away from Rehoboam.
Clearly this blog post is not a prophetic word in the same way that the stories of Abraham, Moses, and Jeroboam were/are. However it should be pretty obvious that sometimes not having anything to say isn’t the worst thing in the world. Honestly, before I started typing this post that observation a sentence ago was about as far as I got in figuring out what to write about in this post. Maybe it’s desparation, but that observation jogged something in brain. Some neuron or syntax started firing and I began thinking about the spirituality of the ancient Jews. This is probably an amalgamation of three of my classes: Puritan Sprituality, Old Testament Historical Books, and Advanced Ancient Hebrew III Seminar. I like studying the ancient Jews.
Here’s the tentative connection I’m going to make, Jews did stuff differently than us. When the modern reader might talk or inquire, the ancient Jew remains silent. When the modern reader would be silent the ancient Jew fires back questions and accusations (see Habakkuk). More than just doing things differently than us–that tends to happen when there is a difference of 5000 years between cultures–the ancient Jews believed very differently than we do as well. As an editorial note, at this point I am fully involved in this blog post. It has may attention and new ideas are coming out quickly. The synchronization of those ideas is more doubtful. That last comment is an example of the difference between our two cultures. It seems to me at least that most Evangelicals think of the Bible as being written at one time, each book by a single author etc. But editorial comments like this are frequent and point to the oral nature of the stories in the Old Testament.
What does that mean exactly? It means that long before the stories in Genesis, Exodus and even 1 and 2 Kings were written down they were passed down orally. Moreover, we can point out the comments made by the compiler of the story (whoever that is) is adding in small details to help out the reader. The observation that ancient Judaism was part of an oral, rather than a written, culture is not groundbreaking in any way. This observation just sets the stage for an observation that does have a much greater impact on theology. The ancient Jew was not a monotheist, and most scholars (even conservative ones) don’t think monotheism developed until the time the Apocrypha was being written (the apocrypha is the collection of books Catholics have but Protestants don’t).
Here’s a few points to support that. First, Yahweh never tells the Hebrews to not believe in other gods, just not to worship them. Second, the Jewish nation was not dumb. The reason they kept slipping into idolatry was not because they kept believing and then disbelieving, but because they always believed other gods existed, and that they were lesser gods. Third, the Hebrew word elohim is an interesting word because it is the word for God, but is also a plural word. The most literal translation of it would actually be gods (plural) not god (singular). None of these three points in themselves is knockdown support for the claim that the ancient Jews believed in other gods, but using these as starting points the argument has been built up from there. To summarize all of this, the upshot is that the Jews believed in Yahweh and Marduk, Baal and Dagon.
A lot of people tend to get upset by that. Clearly, Yahweh didn’t mind if people believed in other gods as long as they did not worship them. Yahweh seems much more concerned with setting the nation apart morally and spiritually rather than factually. In other words, Yahweh seems much more concerned with how the Jewish people believed rather than with what they believed. As far as that relates to spirituality, it is very comforting. It means I don’t have to get all the facts right in order to have an authentic spirituality. I have to believe rightly rather than believe the right things. I like that.
So begins my haphazard tie-in to the beginning of the post, let’s see if I can do it. Wish me luck. There are things that modern Evangelical Christianity tirelessly work on with the hope of gaining something later, much in the same way I worked this week. This week I found myself working and working but not having anything to relate to theology or culture (and consequently to the theocult blog). In the same way I find numerous people struggling away at tasks to prove the veracity or historicity of the Bible, to find proof about what happened. I admit that I tend to watch debates on creationism and evolutionism for fun, to me it’s better than an Adam Sandler movie. Whenever I watch them I usually think, “Gosh, why do creationists care so much. Even if it were true that the world isn’t that old, it sure seems like God made it look really old.” It looks like they are spending time working on something that really doesn’t impact spirituality or the actual calls of the Bible at all. It really is a cruel joke that somehow creationism and evolutionism is a zero sum game, and historically it is more the fault of christians, not evolutionists, to make it that way. The same could be said about strict historicism. Remember, Rudolph Bultmann and Charles Darwin were both Christians.
As I recall all of this I am constantly brought back to the figure of the ancient Jew. If the ancient Jew can follow Yahweh and still believe in other gods, than surely I can follow Yahweh and believe in evolution. As I continue to toil away at school, work and other duties I have I will try to remember to always try to relate my work back to the things that matter, rather than working for workings sake. Hopefully, other Christians will follow my lead. It may very well be that they think they are working toward something, but as I found out while writing this post that may not be the best motivation.
In conclusion, sorry about the hodgepodge of stuff and issues. The scattered thoughts etc. etc. However, I personally thought through some stuff, hopefully somewhere in here you did too.