NEWSFLASH: Are you sure you know anybody who is a citizen of Ancient Israel?

I will admit a certain fascination with some of the most frequent groaners from the COMMENTS section of The Sensuous Curmudgeon:

“If you believe in creationism because you believe that every word of scripture is literally true, you are also going to believe in executing gays and disobedient children.”

No. Not really. And no. (I suppose I should give some leeway to the ambiguity of what it means “to believe in”, but I should at least clarify why the majority of Young Earth Creationists would strongly object to this popular but mistaken generalization.)

If someone actually cares what the Bible states, they aren’t going to apply the relevant Torah passages to life today unless they think they are Bar Mitzvah citizens (Sons of the Covenant) of ancient Israel and have taken a loyalty oath to the national Constitution (i.e., the Torah Law) recognizing YHWH as the head of that theocracy. (I suppose I could allow for a time machine.  Nah.)

You might think that even the most casual Bible reader would have noticed two testaments, one called The Old Testament and the other called The New Testament.  Of course, if one is not accustomed to the vocabulary of 1611 English at the time of King James and his authorized Bible, perhaps the modern term contract would be easier to understand.  Accordingly, does it seem more likely that The Old Contract or The New Contract would guide the lives of Christian’s today? Hmm. Years ago I had a mortgage contract on my house.  After mortgage rates dropped, I refinanced and got a new mortgage contract. Did both contracts continue to govern my relationship with the lender until my mortgage was paid off?  I don’t think so.

Jeremiah wrote centuries before Jesus, “‘The day will come,’ says the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. . . . But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,’ says the Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people’” (Jeremiah 31:31,33) Jesus himself said Luke 22:20, “And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”  The Apostle Paul hardly left any ambiguity as to the New Covenant (i.e., the New Testament contract) replacing the Old Covenant. Virtually the entire Epistle to the Galatians made that fact very clear.

How much of the Old Contract (the Old Covenant/Testament) was to be continued under the New Contract. The gathering at Jerusalem settled the matter by eliminating any remaining ambiguity:

“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” Acts 15:19–21)

This official proclamation from the Apostle has become known as the Council of Jerusalem and was summarized repeatedly in the New Testament. The Old Testament prohibitions of food polluted by idols, strangled animals, and blood as well as sexual immorality would remain binding.  The “loyalty to the theocracy” provisions of the Old Testament Torah Law were declared no longer binding. Of course, since the New Contract allowed Gentiles (non-Jews) into the Kingdom of God, we should hardly be surprised that modern day Christians would not pledge themselves to obey the national Constitution of ancient Israel!

Of course, this reality should hardly surprise anyone with at least room temperature IQ and good night’s sleep. After all, is America today governed by The Articles of Confederation?  Hardly.

While we are correcting the S.C. commenter, we should also remind them that the Torah says nothing about “executing gays”. Indeed, the Torah Law says nothing about sexual orientation at all!  Of course, The Torah does prohibit a detailed list of sexual acts, but an admission that “I am only attracted to some persons of my own gender” was not a Torah violation in ancient Israel.

The commenter found several more ways to ride off the rails completely.  (For example, despite the damage done by some sloppy English translations of years gone by, Israel’s unruly toddlers didn’t get executed for having a bad day.) But it always pains me when the Bible-ignorant so commonly show such a failure to grasp the nature, purpose, and significance of the two main divisions of the Christian Bible. Seeing how everything in the Biblical texts gets expressed in modern English, perhaps it is time to do the same kind of updating with the archaic titles The Old Testament and The New Testament.  Accordingly, my vote is for The Old Contract and The New Contract. (I might have called them “The Old Deal” and “The New Deal” but I heard that a popular politician already made good use out of those terms.)

Yes, there is much that Young Earth Creationist get wrong about science and about the Bible. But most of them do understand that they are not living under the national constitution of ancient Israel. And that’s why the Young Earth Creationists who don’t own time machines don’t generally believe that they should go around “executing gays and disobedient children.”

(c) 2014. Professor Tertius & the Bible.and.Science.Forum at Gmail.com
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8 responses to “NEWSFLASH: Are you sure you know anybody who is a citizen of Ancient Israel?

  1. It seems to me, though, that there is a correlation between young earth creationism and prejudice towards the LGBT community.

    If you forced to make a wager on the attitudes about “the gay agenda”of a self-described biblical literalist, what do you think they would be?

  2. Last night, I watched Diane Sawyer’s interview with Bruce Jenner, imaginatively titled “Bruce Jenner: The Interview.” (In the interest of honesty, I was playing Euchre on my tablet while my wife was watching the show.) One thing that made my ears perk was a discussion about how Deuteronomy says dressing in clothes of the opposite sex is, you guessed it, an abomination. Jenner, a self-described Christian, felt he had to come to terms with this. So by extension, he felt that he had to come to terms with the Old Testament.

    Could it be that Christian pastors and priests and other church leaders are purposefully, if erroneously, affirming the belief that the laws of the Old Testament must be followed, too? Well, at least some of the laws, anyway. The laws they agree with, to be precise.

    I often see people quoting from Deuteronomy, to bolster their “evidence” about the evil of gay marriage. Fundamentalists have no qualms about using the Old Testament to suit their needs.

    Question: If someone uses Deuteronomy to support their views, isn’t it then fair to use the other rules set down there against them?

  3. I remember the “Pantsuit Paranoia” of those days! (They are still going on in some Bible Belt churches.)

  4. “It seems to me, though, that there is a correlation between young earth creationism and prejudice towards the LGBT community.”

    There certainly is! What I have seen is that the same people who are reckless and careless in how they selectively cite scientific evidence to support their traditions concerning science are the people likely to use the scripture data just as recklessly with limited thought.

    Of course, what is often missed when these topics of Bible interpretations are discussed by the general public is that the New Testament does reiterate various Torah laws. For example, both with the “Council of Jerusalem” (Acts 15) and plenty of individual NT scriptures, the OT standards and definitions concerning “sexual immorality” were reaffirmed again and again. So when critics of fundamentalists complain that “You said the New Testament replaced the Old Testament law” and then pretend that “If you continue to observe one aspect of the Torah, you must observe all of it” is just plain stupid. And many of the favorite targets of mockery from Torah Law were not at all arbitrary; they were quite obvious and meaningful in their cultural context. For example, those who say, “You insist on observing the ban on homosexual acts but ignore ignore the bans on beard trims and mixing meat and dairy.”, show their ignorance in many spheres at once:

    (1) The type of beard trimming that was banned was the Canaanite practice of displaying one’s devotion to the god Baal by trimming the beard into specific shapes, especially the beard style marking a priest of Baal.

    (2) Rabbinical traditions which banned all mixing of meat and dairy expanded upon the Torah ban that was specific to cooking a calf in its mother’s milk, a standard ritual of pagan worship among Israel’s neighbors. [I use the word pagan to communicate the context of the times when any religious practice of Israel’s neighbors can be characterized in that way.]

    (3) Torah Law prohibited all sorts of sexual acts which continued to be classified under the term sexual immorality in first century Palestine. So there is nothing inconsistent about fundamentalists observing that same prohibition based upon its New Testament reaffirmation. Indeed, when the “Law versus Grace” conflict kept coming up in the earth Church and believers debated which Torah Law Old Testament provisions still applied and which one’s didn’t, in instance after instance there is a reminder that sexual immorality bans of the OT still applied. When the Council of Jerusalem ended and the Apostle Paul was sent out with their blessing, they were urged to “remember the poor” and to “avoid sexual immorality”–so there is this constant reminder that even though many of the Torah observances would not continue, the sexual behavior regulations still remained, just as prohibitions of murder and theft still remainder. (I rarely hear critics of fundamentalists complaining that continued observance of OT prohibitions against murder and theft are somehow “inconsistent.)

    Notice that #1 and #2 involve Torah provisions that no longer were applicable to the context of the New Testament Church in the first century because (a) an national oath of allegiance for the citizens of ancient Israel in the New Land (which is what the Sinaitic Covenant is) and the accompanying signs of national loyalty are no longer necessary to the first century context, and (b) the sexual prohibitions of #3 are truly “timeless” in that the contexts never end.

    The Torah Law was very detailed and empathetic about every aspect of daily life showing national loyalty to YHWH because the Mt. Sinai covenant between YHWH and his people (the Children of Israel) was based on a formula of “Obey me and I will bless you in the new land. Rebel and worship other gods and I will remove my blessing upon the nation.” This also explains why so many types of violations of Torah Law are punishable by death. Breaking the law was not just a “trivial” misdemeanor. Breaking Torah Law was a rebellion against God himself as well as the entire nation, and that rebellion risked breaching the contract between God and Israel. So an individual’s sin against both ran the risk of breaking the Sinaitic Covenant (contract) in general–and God would remove his blessing and allow disease and disaster to plague the nation.

    So whenever my students thought a particular Torah Law was “arbitrary” and made no sense, I told them to keep the purpose of the Sinaitic Covenant in mind and consider how individual acts could represent a breaking of one’s loyalty oath (“Sons of the Contract” is what B’nai B’rith means) as a citizen of Israel and an act of treason against one’s nation. That’s why looking like a Baal worshipper by how one trimmed his beard and why eating like a Baal worshipper by dining on the ritual dish of a calf boiled in its mother’s milk was such a serious act of rebellion!

    By the way, a well-known Christian apologist on the Internet, Matt Slick, has for years debated atheists and Bible critics and, even though he lacks extensive training in Biblical studies, he does appear to get these particular answers correct when fielding the routine Bible criticisms and attacks on Christians addressed in his videos and website. So it surprised me when his 20-something daughter recently got a lot of publicity for abandoning her background and declaring herself an agnostic (or an “atheist” depending upon who is announcing the news.) I’ve seen some of the videos produced by anti-theism crusaders and they interviewed Rachel Slick to ask her why she abandoned the Bible. To my surprise, she repeated the usual complaint about “Why do Christians oppose homosexual behaviors but not mixing the wrong foods or eating shellfish?” I had expected her to cite some of the most egregious scandals by ministry leaders or their allegedly ignoring various social ills but instead she seemed “stumped” by basic questions which any introductory course for non-majors at any university’s Department of Religious Studies could have addressed.

    So this is basically one of those fundamentals of Biblical studies that even some people raised in fundamentalist and evangelical churches never learned. Especially when we live at a time when the Internet has made basic Christianity Q&A and FAQs available to all with so little effort, I find it amazing that the lame accusation of “inconsistent application of Bible prohibitions” remains so ubiquitous.

    • TomS

      What about the Biblical stance against sacred images, stones, poles vis-a-vis the recent creches, crosses, decalogs, etc.?

  5. This topic reminds me that I should specifically address the “gay marriage” issue in its own blog article sometime soon. That one also tends to be a another “facts vs. feelings” example that I discussed in a recent blog. And I find it particularly interesting that most fundamentalists and evangelicals don’t pause to consider that many Christians of the past would have been shocked at the idea of the government “defining” marriage and that Christians today would get worked up over government involvement in marriage when Christians played such a big role in bringing the government into “marriage regulation”! Not so long ago there were Christians in the American Bible Belt who were all in favor of government definition of marriage so that they could exert the power of the government in preventing “mixed marriage” and “miscegenation”! They have discovered that giving the government more powers over daily life can be a double-edged sword.

    Of course, you can anticipate what I will be saying in that blog. I will point out that (1) not everything prohibited in the Bible necessarily needs to be enforced by government, and (2) one word can have many different meanings. Whatever the government may do in defining the word marriage for legal purposes does not necessarily alter the Biblical definition or the definition which will be recognized by the Church.

    I have often wondered how the “gay marriage” debate and discourse might have gone if the same legal goals had been pursued under a different legal term. Whether that strategy would have been a better idea than the term “same-sex marriage” would make an interesting discussion of its own.

    In any case, I would remind fundamentalist and evangelical Christians that whatever someone’s view on “gay marriage” may be, what the courts and legislation do in defining marriage has on its own no mandatory redefinition of Biblical doctrines concerning marriage or what is taught from the subject. (Of course, if the power of government is exerted towards churches in forcing a change in doctrine or church governance , that will be a whole ‘nother matter.)

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