Still on This Rant; God’s Beloved Creation; Gnostic Jesus Making Waves; Charity Exception; We’re the Demons

1. Samuel C. Hyde, Jr., Pistols and Politics: The Dilemma of Democracy in Louisiana’s Florida Parishes, 1810-1899, page 57:

An 1850 bill designed to exclude from seizure the property or home of a debtor whose total estate did not exceed $450 would have protected large numbers of Florida parish farmers from possible confiscation of their homesteads.

Hyde mentions this in the context of his discussion about why Florida parish farmers were represented by people who voted against their interests.  Reasons include their inexperience with representative democracy and their satisfaction with the elites, who brought a measure of stability to the area.

This 1850 bill brings to mind the economic problems of the last few years, in which people lost their homes because they couldn’t pay their mortgages.  I got so annoyed with Christians who acted as if God was a conservative Republican because of the issues of abortion and homosexuality, yet they went with conservatism rather than biblical principles when it came to people losing their homes.  The Bible has laws requiring creditors to respect the property and dignity of their debtors.  Creditors were not to take the debtor’s millstone, which was his means of making food (Deuteronomy 24:6).  If they took the debtor’s raiment as pledge, they were to give it back to him at night, since he needed it to sleep in (Exodus 22:26-27).  They could not enter a debtor’s house to fetch his pledge, but they had to wait outside (Deuteronomy 24:10-11).

In light of this, would God approve of people getting thrown out of their houses because they couldn’t pay their housing debt?  Isaiah 5:8 lambastes those who join house to house, so that there’s no place for people to live.  I think that God wants people to be able to live in a home.

Whenever I bring up this point, conservatives respond that there should be consequences for risky behavior—which signing a bad mortgage deal out of greed was.  One lady quoted Bible verses saying that we should pay off our debts.  When I referred to Old Testament laws about the cancellation of debts and respect for debtors, she replied that we’re not under law, but grace, then she accused me of being a Judaizer.  Ironically, her religion doesn’t have a whole lot of grace.  Rather, it has a “they made their bed, let them sleep in it” attitude towards people who signed bad mortgage deals.

Personally, I don’t think people should get a free ride or escape responsibility for their poor decisions.  I agree with Bill and Hillary Clinton and John McCain, who say that the housing mortgages should be renegotiated so that people can pay some mortgage, while being allowed to keep their homes.  The Bible supports responsibility, but also humanitarianism.  Sadly, there are people who love to shoot off their mouths about what they consider to be God’s stances on political issues, but they don’t grasp the humanitarian aspect of biblical politics. 

2. Erhard Gerstenberger, Psalms, Part I with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry, page 111:

The personal God is the creator of this particular supplicant, therefore he has the obligations of a parent (see Pss 71:6; 139:13-16; Judg 16:17; Isa 44:2; 49:1; Job 10:19…).

I wrote about this a few years ago in my post, How Can I Be Sure God Loves Me? Part I.  I believe that I’m special to God because he created me.  There have been plenty of times in evangelical settings when I’ve heard this view.  At the same time, that co-exists with the notion that God does not hear non-believers, or that God will put them in hell, where they will be tormented for all eternity, without any hope of the torment ending.  How do those ideas jibe with God valuing his creation?

Yet, there are plenty of places in the Hebrew Bible where God destroys the wicked.  The wicked are his creation, too!  Yet, God destroys them.  So that needs to be factored in.

3. Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion, page 78:

Here, incidentally, we have as much as the “Christian” Gnostics in general could make of the passion of Christ and the reason for it: it is due to the enmity of the powers of the lower creation…threatened in their dominion and very existence by his mission; and, often enough, the suffering and death they are able to inflict upon him are not real at all.

I wonder how a Gnostic Jesus would have angered the powers-that-be enough to execute him.  Gnostics rejected aspects of the Hebrew Bible because they believed that the God of the Old Testament was a sinister sub-deity.  Many of them opposed matter, and, consequently, sex.  That would anger a Jewish religious establishment, which upheld the Hebrew Bible, along with sex and marriage.  Gnostics probably saw Judaism as a system that kept people enslaved to matter and the oppressive sub-deity, so, of course, Judaism would push back against that kind of Jesus.

The part about Jesus’ pain not being real reminds me of the Star Trek episode, “Spectre of the Gun”, and also The Matrix.  In both, the world of sight is considered an illusion, which means that pain (and bullets) are not real to the enlightened person who grasps that fact. 

4. Richard Sarason, A History of the Mishnaic Law of Agriculture: A Study of Tractate Demai, page 114:

M 3:1 allows him to give untithed [demai] produce to the poor, to transient guests, and, following Gamaliel’s precedent, to workers.

This is interesting.  Israelites could only eat tithed produce, but an exception was made for the sake of charity.  As my seventh grade Jewish social studies teacher said, Judaism holds that life is sacred!  If an observant Jew was famished after spending time in a desert, he would eat a ham sandwich if it were offered to him. 

5. Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16, pages 42-43:

An eminent Assyriologist has stated, “The impression is gained that everyday religion [in Mesopotamia] was dominated by fear of evil powers and black magic rather than a positive worship of the gods…the world was conceived to be full of evil demons who might cause trouble in any sphere of life.  If they had attacked, the right ritual should effect the cure…Humans, as well as devils, might work evil against a person by the black arts, and here too the appropriate ritual was required”…

The Priestly theology negates these premises.  It posits the existence of one supreme God who contends neither with the higher realm nor with competing peers.  The world of demons is abolished; there is no struggle with autonomous foes because there are none.  With the demise of the demons, only one creature remains with “demonic” power—the human being.  Endowed with free will, his power is greater than any attributed to him by pagan society.  Not only can he defy God but, in Priestly imagery, he can drive God out of his sanctuary.  In this respect, humans have replaced the demons. 

So, in P’s view, when there’s evil in the world, is it because humans have caused it—through their ritual and moral impurity?

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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