It's funny I was just reading on this last night, as my boyfriend is currently in Albi, were the Crusade against the Cathars got it's name from. Like Friends they believed in a inner light and had no clergy (simplification, I know) and had something to say about simplicity. They like some earlier "heritics" did not identify the god of the Old Testament with that of the New. On the contrary they were dualists who linked the demiurge of Greek myth with the creator of the material world -and went further than earlier groups and identified that god with Satan who opposed a God of light.
I have to say I'm a monothiest, to me the difference arises due to human ignorance and a social evolution. When we move past tribes and nations to embrace all humanity we end up with a better ethic. This happens on occasion in the Old Testament too -I'm thinking of Isaiah chapter 2.
Of course what we know about the Cathars comes from their enemies, who may not have gotten all the details right. So far as they were carrying on the gnostic tradition they would have been a mixed bag, having some great insights plus some odd notions for people to swallow "on faith." (Of course the gospels tended to take a dim view as to who ruled (or rather claimed to rule) "This World." But then the whole point of calling them "gospels" was their claim that 'Satan' had been replaced by a better ruler.)
Okay, so we've got one and only one God in charge. Are there significant differences between the portrayals in the Old Testament and in the Christian scriptures? Do both, or either, misrepresent God-- or is there an interpretation of both or either that makes them valid (with or without a few misprints & flyspecks?)
Is there valid continuity between the two? Is Christianity a goyim sect based on getting Judaism wrong, or is it (sometimes, in at least some interpretation) the fulfillment of ancient Judaism? A reformation of Jewish mistakes? There are a great many ways to read this history; what can we say about it?
For me, Christ is emmanuel - God dwelling with us; a fulfillment of OT promise. It is through him that I can see God most clearly, including the Hebrew Scriptures. He is the lens through which I encounter the 'authentic' voice of God (I know it's subjective). Believe me though, I find it to be missing more than occassionally. Someone had a discussion about "eating the meat and spitting out the bones" here on Q-Q -I liked that. We're dealing with humans here, we all make mistakes, whether. In interpreting Scripture or writing it. Humility and forgiveness are the watchwords here.
Well, the way people were living went through some radical changes within the Old Testament-- and with that, the way people thought about God changed.
There are even different names for God in different parts of the Old Testament; we don't catch that readily in English, but rabbis have all along found the differences significant.
There's a sense in which people living under the essence of religion understand each other, even though their particular religions differ. So Jesus could have talked with devout Hindus, Buddhists, or Moslems and gotten along just fine... but he was born and raised Jewish, and what he said was based on Jewish tradition-- so they argued!
There's a history Jesus was born into, born into a religion emphatically based on history, at a crucial point in that history. Born a little earlier, in principle he could have been crucified along with some 1999 other Jews in 4 BC (roughly around the date scholars conjecture he actually was born) when the Romans slaughtered and raped their way through Galilee to put down an uprising there.
& how did one horrible death accomplish something different from thousands before and thousands yet to come? His contemporary followers insisted that this one person was the Messiah, meaning the legally anointed king of Israel... Other groups of Jews objected that the Messiah was supposed to conquer the pagans, not succumb to them, hence this one, however nice he might have been, just wasn't it; hence his followers must be as mistaken as the adherents of any other would-be Messiahs so far. This disagreement has caused considerable friction.
Yes, "Why us?!" and "Why me?!" are traditional questions for many people and peoples... Jesus seems to have understood this in much the same way that earlier prophets did.
"In Jesus himself, I suggest we see the biblical portrait of YHWH come to life: the loving God, rolling up his sleeves (Isa 52:10) to do in person the job that no one else could do, the creator God giving new life, the God who works through his created world and supremely through his human creatures, the faithful God dwelling in the midst of his people, the stern and tender God relentlessly opposed to all that destroys or distorts the good creation, and especially human beings, but recklessly loving all those in need and distress. “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall carry the lambs in his arms; and gently lead those that are with young” (Isa 40:11). It is the OT portrait of YHWH, but it fits Jesus like a glove."
I'm still working out how far I agree and disagree with Wright's various positions, but so far as working out what early Christianity was basically saying, I find him more plausible than anyone else so far.
How much that implies about how we ought to interpret the world... continues to exercise me; why not you?
Jesus cannot be summed up as a nice fella who fitted the prophetic images. He knew the old Law like the back of his hand, and understood it through his own spiritual experiences (his baptism, his retreats in the desert, his times of deep prayer). He became an extraordinary healer and comforter and re-interpreter of the Law, coming to know it to apply to universally, neighbours, enemies and all. His teachings about the practice of love was rooted in OT stories of spiritual discovery and took them to an utterly new level, which challenged the authorities so much they hated him. Knowing the ordinary people so intimately, and being so aware of their suffering through religious oppression, he knew God's call to challenge the religious authorities and open up the Temple to everyone. Finally he knew that leading the people into armed rebellion would lead to even more suffering and death and so he became the first practitioner of love in its consequence for non-violent resistance, even including death.
It is this story and its interwoven teachings about love, or the Kingdom of God, that inspired the first Quakers, led them into a lasting and central commitment to non-violence.
So the God of the OT is the same God as in the NT. But there is a huge difference in how God is understood to relate to the world/creation/humanity, though one can see the same understanding in the efforts of the major prophets of the OT.
It is a common mistake to use OT understanding of God to justify judgmental attitudes, racism, physical and capital punishment, and war - and call them Christian. But it is the same God, better known as the One, the Presence, who loves, guides and sends food for body and soul - for everyone.
When any human living on planet earth . . . has a true spiritual encounter with God . . . they are blown away by the gross errors that human cultures and human religions have tarred and feathered the true character of God.
One of those ancient guys said that "The eye is the chief impediment to seeing."
I'm still inspired by Alan Lew's notion that a certain notorious incident at Babel was not an attack on us, but a blessing. I consider that we needed many religious "languages" to better see what relation to God we're intended to grow up into. The fact that the "seeing" includes distortions is simply a feature of these instruments. But we weren't given them by mistake.
@ Ricky: I agree with you, but wonder if that agreement is because I define "a true spiritual encounter with God" as one that results in a similar image of God as mine? I wonder this because it seems that many people hold beliefs that I find rather abhorent, yet they seem to consider them spiritually based.
I aplogize for this comment, as it does not directly pertain to the topic, but assumed that people reading this may have a good answer for my question.
I would like to read the Old Testament, a version considered accurately translated and in more modern English. Any reccomendations? I've read the new, but would love any suggestions of favorite versions...
The New English Bible was what they were using in my college course in the mid-70's; it works. The old Revised Standard Version isn't bad. I couldn't really advise you on the newer ones except that some seem to oversimplify & the style of some okay ones seems weaker in the passages I compared-- but there are many I'm just not familiar with at all!
I agree with your reasoning. Let me define a true spiritual encounter . . . as I experienced it . . and maybe we'll be able to have a deep spiritual discussion that will help others.
A true spiritual encounter is when the individual is taken from their body and into the presents of God. There (with God) the individual makes spiritual contact with God.
Spiritual contact is when the soul of the individual unites with the actual being of God.
Standing before God and looking at God without being united with God is not a true spiritual experience. It is an experience that few people have ever had and I agree that it is a wonderful happening to see God.
Saul on the road to Damascus saw God and did not glean any spiritual knowledge about God. Saul spent many years seeking God until he had a true spiritual encounter with Jesus.
Moses on Mount Sinai saw God however . . . when he came down from the mountain . . . as he saw the children of Israel worshiping other Gods . . . Moses demanded that people be killed. Anyone . . . that has had a true spiritual experience with God . . . will love all men . . . without a given set of standards. This is the true sign of a person that has had a spiritual encounter with God.