Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The 6th Commandment: "Thou Shalt Not Kill" or "Thou Shalt Not Murder" ?

Philologos: Killing Versus Murder, The Forward, January 9, 2004

Professor Berel Lang writes from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.:

"Perhaps you would give a couple of paragraphs to the misconception (and the mistranslation) of the Sixth Commandment [in Exodus 20:13], 'You shall not murder,' as 'You shall not kill.' The original Hebrew, lo tirtsah., is very clear, since the verb ratsah. means 'murder,' not 'kill.' If the commandment proscribed killing as such, it would position Judaism against capital punishment and make it pacifist even in wartime. These may be defensible or admirable views, but they're certainly not biblical."

Professor Lang has touched on what is, to put it mildly, a lively issue. A Google scan of the Internet comes up with 134,000 entries on the Sixth Commandment, a high percentage of them dealing with its translation! Although a sampling of these entries shows that few have anything cogent to say about the linguistic issues involved, many illustrate why the debate is so fervid. Not only pacifists and opponents of capital punishment are active in it. There are also vegetarians, anti-abortionists, environmentalists, animal-righters, and others, as well as those hostile to them, all feeling they have a stake in the question of whether the Bible forbids human beings to take life for any reason at all ("killing"), or only when there is no legal justification for it ("murdering").

ETC...

Friday, August 19, 2005

Paul Nussbaum: The surprising spectrum of evangelicals

Q. Whose Bible is it? A. Whose isn't it?

Jon Meacham: Believers, Save the Republic!

Washington Post, Sunday, July 3, 2005; Page B01

On July 4, 1827, a leading clergyman of the day, the Presbyterian minister Ezra Stiles Ely, preached a controversial sermon in Philadelphia that was published around the country. Its title could not have been clearer: "The Duty of Christian Freemen to Elect Christian Rulers." Calling for the formation of a Christian party in politics, Ely, a supporter of Andrew Jackson's in the 1828 presidential race, said: "Every ruler should be an avowed and sincere friend of Christianity. He should know and believe the doctrines of our holy religion, and act in conformity to its precepts."

Reading the sermon, Jackson sensed danger in Ely's words. There was a time for politics and a time for religion -- but both at once, inextricably entwined, meant trouble. Like the early years of the 21st century, the 1820s was an age of great evangelical fervor, but Jackson had no interest in fueling the fire Ely wanted to ignite. "All true Christians love each other, and while here below ought to harmonize; for all must unite in the realms above," Jackson later wrote Ely. Having given faith its due, he also reminded Ely of the centrality of individual freedom in religious matters. "Amongst the greatest blessings secured to us under our Constitution," Jackson told Ely, "is the liberty of worshipping God as our conscience dictates."

Now, 178 July Fourths later, the commingling of religion and politics in America would seem a prime exhibit of the Old Testament's adage that "there is no thing new under the sun." Though we have been here before, there is something different and disturbing about the skirmishes of our own time. Always important, the religious factor in politics has become pervasive, converting public life into a battle of uncompromising extremes. Whether the subject is terrorism, Iraq, abortion, gay marriage, the judiciary or stem-cell research, virtually every issue is being viewed through the prism of faith. Our public background music has moved from "Stars and Stripes Forever" to "Onward, Christian Soldiers" -- and we have too many Elys and not enough Jacksons....

Op-Ed: Roe As A Jewish Issue

America had two different sets of spiritual fathers...

'Atheism is unknown there; infidelity rare and secret; so that persons may live to a great age in that country, without having their piety shocked by meeting with either an Atheist or an Infidel."

Thus wrote Benjamin Franklin in his 1782 pamphlet, "Information to Those Who Would Remove to America." At least one thing hasn't changed since Franklin penned those words: America remains a godly nation. Among advanced industrialized countries, it is easily the most religious. Some 60 percent of its citizens say religion is very important to their lives, about six times the percentage of the French. But the divine looms even larger in most Americans' hearts than those figures suggest. Some 90 percent say they believe in God--94 percent if you add those who revere a "universal spirit" --while less than 1 percent call themselves atheists or agnostics. It is very possible that an American might still live to a ripe old age without meeting an atheist or infidel....

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A National Anthem Is Born

Two Versions of the Ten Commandments in the Hebrew Bible

From the 1917 JPS Translation of The Holy Scriptures:


EXODUS (Sh'mot) CHAPTER 20:

1 ¶ And God spoke all these words, saying:
2 I am the LORD thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;
5 thou shalt not bow down unto them, nor serve them; for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me;
6 and showing mercy unto the thousandth generation of them that love Me and keep My commandments.
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work;
10 but the seventh day is a sabbath unto the LORD thy God, in it thou shalt not do any manner of work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates;
11 for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day; wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
12 ¶ Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
13 Thou shalt not murder.
14 (20:13) Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15 (20:13) Thou shalt not steal.
16 (20:13) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17 (20:14) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house; thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.


DEUTERONOMY (Devarim) CHAPTER 5:

1 ¶ And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them: Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and observe to do them.
2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.
3 The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.
4 The LORD spoke with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire--
5 I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare unto you the word of the LORD; for ye were afraid because of the fire, and went not up into the mount--saying:
6 ¶ I am the LORD thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
7 Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
8 Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, even any manner of likeness, of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
9 Thou shalt not bow down unto them, nor serve them; for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hate Me,
10 and showing mercy unto the thousandth generation of them that love Me and keep My commandments.
11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.
12 Observe the sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD thy God commanded thee.
13 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work;
14 but the seventh day is a sabbath unto the LORD thy God, in it thou shalt not do any manner of work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest as well as thou.
15 And thou shalt remember that thou was a servant in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God brought thee out thence by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.
16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God commanded thee; that thy days may be long, and that it may go well with thee, upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
17 Thou shalt not murder.
18 (5:17) Neither shalt thou commit adultery.
19 (5:17) Neither shalt thou steal.
20 (5:17) Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.
21 (5:18) Neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's wife; neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's house, his field, or his man-servant, or his maid-servant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's.

WP: Versions of the Ten Commandments Vary by Tradition

Washington Post: Versions of the Ten Commandments Vary by Tradition
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A55480-2004Oct22.html


JEWISH VERSION

1. I the Lord am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage.
2. You shall have no other gods besides Me.
3. You shall not swear falsely by the name of the Lord your God.
4. Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house: you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or...anything that is your neighbor's.

Based on the Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures (Jewish Publication Society, 1985).

Numbering varies by tradition.


CATHOLIC-LUTHERAN VERSION

1. I am the Lord your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord's Day.
4. Honor your father and your mother.
5. You shall not kill.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods.

"A Traditional Catechetical Formula" in Catechism of the Catholic Church (U.S. Catholic Conference, 1991).


PROTESTANT VERSION

1. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out
of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2. You shall not make yourself a graven image.
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. You shall not kill.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or . . . anything that is your neighbor's.

Based on the Book of Confessions (Presbyterian Church USA, 1991).

My Feb. 2004 Essay on Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ"

My Take on Mel’s Movie (Sight Unseen)
Holly in Cincinnati, 2/15/04


Mel Gibson claims that his new film, "The Passion of the Christ" is about "faith, hope, love and forgiveness." If I were to see his movie, I doubt that I would see even one ounce of these qualities – they are simply not connotations of the Cross for non-Christians. I cannot speak for all Jews and Mr. Gibson cannot speak for all Christians, but it should be obvious that when Jews and Christians look at the story of Jesus' crucifixion or even a cross on the outside of a church, we do not see the same things.

Superstitious Jewish emigrants from Eastern Europe would spit or “poo-poo” to ward off the Evil Eye upon seeing such an ill omen. When they saw a church, they walked on the other side of the street. I do not know what a Christian sees when he looks at a cross or a crucifix. Quite possibly "faith, hope, love and forgiveness." At best, I see something to be ignored or something meaningless. More typically I see persecution, hatred, anti-Semitism, murder, bigotry, falsehood, racism, calumny and evil. I asked a friend who is converting from Islam to Judaism for his reaction: "Muslims see the cross as a symbol of oppression...when you see the cross coming, either prepare to run or fight: the Christians have come to kill you and take your land and possessions...I know that I would see a film that was sowing the seeds of hatred, persecution, destruction, and death." Do churches seriously think that this movie will be an evangelizing tool?

From what I have read, this movie is unbelievably graphic and violent and will be attended mostly by people who publicly deplore popular culture, sex and violence. This gives them an "acceptable" reason to attend the film and delight in their baser emotions. In Europe, the most common reaction of the ignorant populace to medieval Passion Plays and bloody sermons was to rush out of the church, murder the neighborhood Jews and seize their property. The Crusades were only an extension of this nasty attitude into the Muslim world. Although this is not likely to happen in North America, it is a real possibility on other continents.

Christians and Jews who express concern about this film are subject to vicious personal attacks. Some fundamentalist evangelical Protestants have made veiled threats that, since they support the State of Israel, Jews should shut up. Mr. William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, said of suggestions that the film could spark violence against Jews, “The obvious implication is that Jews need to fear practicing Christians more than agnostics or atheists or Muslims.” Maybe this is news for Mr. Donahue, but I do fear (some) practicing Christians far more than I fear agnostics or atheists. Christians often seek to change my God-concept, religion, politics, values and sexual orientation, whereas agnostics and atheists generally respect me for who and what I am.

Mr. Gibson says that his movie is "meant to make viewers realize the extent of Christ's sacrifice." For non-Christians, "Christ's sacrifice" means nothing. Mr. Gibson’s statements that Jesus "died and suffered for all mankind” and “we're all culpable in the death of Christ” seem incredibly ignorant, insensitive and insulting to non-Christians. We do not consider ourselves to be guilty of any acts for which Jesus’ death could possibly atone. This Jew’s death seems wasted, a fabrication, as if you murdered my cousin Josh and blamed me for it. This is the theological equivalent of shouting "Fire" in a crowded theater just for kicks, thereby causing dozens of people to be trampled to death. A good case can be made that this controversial portrayal of a radioactive slice of the Gospels violates several of the 10 Commandments.

I have problems with being slandered as a murderer. If I were to see this movie, which I doubt because a) I do not want Mr. Gibson to get even one cent of my money and b) I'm not into snuff porn, I doubt that I would see anything but misery, false witness and Mr. Gibson raking in the dollars. It’s not about love – it’s about money. Is it at all likely that God will forgive Mel Gibson for this atrocity?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Reader Column in Cincinnati Enquirer

Monday, August 15, 2005

Your voice: John Brennan
Fly rainbow flag to endorse inclusion


I put a rainbow flag on my car the other day. No bigger than an index card, but bright and colorful.

And scary.

Now maybe I fancy myself as much more a rebel than actually I am. As I know one friend would say, this wasn't exactly like being on the front lines at Selma.

But I'm male, Caucasian, married with kids, and of Christian family background. Culture has told me all my life that this is my world, even though others do live in it. And once I popped on that rainbow flag, it just wasn't quite the same clubby feeling.

Quite potentially, in the eyes of any who might look on, I was no longer one of Us, but one of Them.

Copyright 1995-2005. The Cincinnati Enquirer, a Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper.

http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050815/EDIT02/508150305