Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Other Prophecy


For all the "End-Timers" out there; sorry but prophecy does not necessarily include prediction of future events in time domain.


When the word prophecy comes up, many think first of biblical prophecy. The Bible, after all, chronicles the words and deeds of numerous prophets in both the Old and New Testaments. 
What definition springs to mind when you think of prophecy? Surely most would answer, “Predicting or foretelling the future.” 
Yet in order to achieve clarity in understanding what prophecy is, it is helpful to consider that the scriptural definition is much broader. By no means is prophecy restricted to today’s popular usage—that is, predicting the future. 
Prophecy comes from the Greek word propheteia, which literally means “to speak forth” (pro, “forth”; phemi, “to speak”). 
W.E. Vine says in his Dictionary of New Testament Words that a prophet is “a proclaimer of a divine message…. 
Notice what Alexander Cruden, in his popular concordance (Lutterworth Press, London, 1971, s.v. “prophet”), says: “A meaning of the word less often recognized, but really as common, is one who tells—a forth-teller—who speaks for another, most usually for God.  
So prophecy is both foretelling (prediction) and forth-telling (preaching). 
A broad definition of prophecy would be, as above, “divine revelation, whether in reference to the past, the present or the future.

"The Other Prophecy"
John Meakin - vision.org


Philosophy is a struggle against the bewitchment (Verhexung) of our understanding by the resources of our language. [Ludwig Wittgenstein, "Philosophical Investigations," 1953



71 comments:

Bob said...

Tell that to ISIS.

Matt Franko said...

Tell it to Chistendumb....

John said...

Some of the prophecies are in some Bibles but absent in others. Compare a King James Bible with a Catholic Bible, and you'll see the differences. The Coptic Church, which is probably the oldest Christian Church, has a radically different bible, with a very different set of revelations. And why is the Book of Revelation, by John of Patmos, even in the Bible? For the first few centuries, everyone understood John of Patmos's "revelations" to refer to the Roman Empire, with the number of the beast referring to the emperor. Now, most take it to mean something else entirely, from Saddam Hussein to Vladimir Putin. It's become farcical. There have, I believe, hundreds of "Day of Judgement" been declared by various Christian sects: all the necessary phenomena have come to pass, leading people to claim that the earthquakes, famines, war, etc are a sign of the last days.

If you're going to read the scriptures, read them as something akin to poetry and more importantly commandments for a good spiritual and moral life, at least that is if you listen to the morals of Christ's teachings. After all, it is now common knowledge to Biblical historians that many of the most important stories were added centuries later by scribes: the story of the woman taken in adultery has Jesus famously declaring "he who is without sin cast the first stone". That was added centuries later by some creative scribe.

If you're religious it's best not to read the scriptures literally all the time, although some can indeed be taken absolutely literally, or you'll get into a terrible mess, especially all the stuff about revelation, otherwise you'll miss the essence of what is being conveyed. And let's not forget, the prophets were nearly always at best ignored, while others barely escaped with their lives, hence the Lord's wrath on the people for their arrogance.

As for "Christendumb", Matt, unfortunately when the people overturned the clerical dictatorship of the Catholic Church for the more progressive Protestantism, it also unleashed some very nasty "literalist" tendencies which prey on the weak, like we see with these demonic televangelists. Hence the raging Christendumb we now see. It's a funny but accurate characterisation. I'll use it from now on.

John said...

Bob, ISIS have obviously never read the Quran! All this Islamic eschatology comes from the Islamic clergy's readings of the purported sayings of their prophet. The fact that these purported sayings are at variance with their holy book (which says almost nothing about the end times, other than only God knows when it will be and that it will occur within seconds) and they are spouted by a clergy which is banned by the Quran does not enter their barbaric skulls.

GLH said...

Definition of prophesy: Bullshit.
Don't waist your time!

Ignacio said...

Tell that to ISIS.

Tell it to Chistendumb....

Is two sides of the same coin, in both camps are nihilistic elements actively seeking the end of times. Is purposeful misunderstanding and interpretation due to biased personality traits. Traits drive language more than the other way around.

Unfortunately the idea that thought (and behavior) is shaped by language still is mainstream, but usually is the other way around as language comes after the fact.

Rotten and damaged apples everywhere (metaphor ;)).

Matthew Franko said...

Ignacio idk....

In this case imo it looks like they are getting it from these words or unqualified academic interpretation of the words in the versions of these scriptures they are reading...

iow I dont see how people would get these ideas in their heads otherwise?

How else would otherwise seemingly intelligent people ever come to the opinion that "we're out of money!" other than reading it or hearing it coming out of some moron they view as an authority on the matter?

Matthew Franko said...

And that isnt even bringing up the whole "war of Armageddon!" BS and/or whatever the Islamic fundies think they are doing...

Ignacio said...

Matt because seemingly intelligent people can't face the truth that you can't run out of money.

Ultimately people is slave to their acts, and when they face that you are working your ass to get something that is materially trivial to "manufacture" (like money) they have a mental break down and have to come with convoluted explanations (that's why ultimately you get hyperventilation about "hyperinflation!" from some of that people) or plain denial.

Is a failure to face personal cognitive biases.

Matthew Franko said...

John,

" the story of the woman taken in adultery has Jesus famously declaring "he who is without sin cast the first stone". That was added centuries later by some creative scribe."

See if that is in here:

http://www.codex-sinaiticus.net/en/

You guys have this version over there its radio carbon dated to at least 2nd Century so if that verse is in there then it couldnt have been added centuries later as it was written at the latest in the first century...

iow this version is radio carbon dated to about contemporaneous to the events described in time domain...

(All of Israel ('the bride of the lamb') was in adultery with the nations so none could cast the stone...)

Andrew Anderson said...

For all the "End-Timers" out there; sorry but prophecy does not necessarily include prediction of future events in time domain. Franko

The purpose of Biblical prophecy is to produce repentance so that God may be merciful or at least delay judgement as He did with Nineveh for about 120 years.

Since it's obvious our thieving banking model stinks to High Heaven, I suggest we start repenting with regard to it (I suppose starting with immorality is too much to ask.)

Revelation 9:21 and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts. [bold added]

jrbarch said...

I don’t know whether ‘prophecy (speaking forth) = divine revelation’ either. Sometimes, just speaking simple truth is healing enough for people.

For me, my discipline is to wake up every morning and ask myself ‘who do I want to be today’? Only after I have settled that do I ask myself what I would like to do. My first priority is to get in touch with the peace, that beautiful energy, of the heart. I sit there and enjoy for between 1~2 hours. That is ‘getting in touch with the Self’. I arrange what I ‘do’, to accommodate this priority. I have done so since 1974. A human being first; a human doing later.

Because of this, the only thing I need to ‘believe in’, is myself. And since I know the Self (and what animates it), I don’t have to just believe in it.

"Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."


The world is full of impossible things to believe, but the Self is real. So, I decide to stay in touch with the good inside of myself, to feed the good wolf; to let inspiration come. To be who I am, be content in myself (not trying to screw my contentment out of the mind or the outside world) and widen that little hole in the inner sky, where the starlight shines through.

To Alice, when she went down the rabbit-hole, the world she left behind was just a dream; but when she came back, she dealt with it very practically – it wasn’t such a big deal. What else should prophecy speak of, for a human being? But people want to believe in everything else, other than themselves ....!

Andrew Anderson said...

But people want to believe in everything else, other than themselves ....!

And what are we that we should believe in ourselves? A ruptured blood vessel in your brain might do what, do you suppose?

IF we are anything it's because God wills that we be and remain so against all sorts of dangers.

jrbarch said...

And what are we that we should believe in ourselves?


Everything.


But I have no argument with you Andrew- you want justice for people and that’s a good thing.


It has always puzzled me why people create a God for themselves that is just like them: - threatening, vindictive, invades your privacy, watches, punishes, rewards, is racist, ideological, murderous, keeping count, pointing the finger – everything down to ‘his/her Will’.


Then there is that universal energy – beautiful, impersonal, real. We are all terminal in one way or another; it’s part of the package deal. For me, religion is only useful, if it leads you to the real. People should be free to believe whatever they want, but they should adopt a few simple human principles – like ‘do no harm’.

Matthew Franko said...

AA,

"and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts."

Past tense there...

Where is the next part where it says: "... and if anybody reading this in the future doesnt want the same thing to happen to them, then they better repent..."

Doesnt exist... where is this threat?

This post went right over your head...

Andrew Anderson said...

Revelation 4:1-3

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. [bold added]

John said...

Matt,

Perhaps I'm using the linked site incorrectly, but there are missing verses. There is a discontinuation in the Gospel of John: it jumps from 7:52 to 8:12. The woman taken in adultery should appear in John 8:7. The first eleven verses of John chapter 8 are missing. Perhaps there is a good reason for it. I've heard and read New Testament scholars argue the same thing about verses being added over the centuries. Old Testament scholars are finding the same problems. Apparently Old Testament scholars are finding something far worse: many of the sites mentioned in the Old Testament do not exist. There is no archaeological evidence that anything was ever there. The conclusion is that parts of the Old Testament were simply made up.

The New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman is excellent on this stuff. By his own admission, he was an evangelical zealot before reading the New Testament in the original and studying the differing Bibles available and how they came to be put together. Strangely, Ehrman makes the point that this is all well known to Bible scholars. The revolutionary thing that he's doing is that he's making it known to the general public. It reminds me of Shlomo Sand writing that there was no Roman expulsion of the Jews. Every Roman historian knows this, but the general public doesn't and continue to parrot the gibberish that there was a Roman expulsion. No one cares for real history!

Andrew Anderson said...

It's funny that so much energy is spent trying to discredit the Bible and almost none, by comparison, discrediting, for example, the Koran and other religious texts.

A back-handed compliment that is since those other texts are apparently not even credible enough to be worth refuting.

Also, I doubt the Judge will be impressed by those who strain out gnats wrt the Bible but swallow camels wrt other testimony.

Tom Hickey said...

It's funny that so much energy is spent trying to discredit the Bible and almost none, by comparison, discrediting, for example, the Koran and other religious texts.

A back-handed compliment that is since those other texts are apparently not even credible enough to be worth refuting.

Also, I doubt the Judge will be impressed by those who strain out gnats wrt the Bible but swallow camels wrt other testimony.


There are large bodies of scholarship on all scriptures from all traditions examining provenance, textual history and authenticity, historical usage, exegesis and hermeneutics.

Andrew Anderson said...

It has always puzzled me why people create a God for themselves that is just like them: - threatening, vindictive, invades your privacy, watches, punishes, rewards, is racist, ideological, murderous, keeping count, pointing the finger – everything down to ‘his/her Will’. jrbarch [bold added]

You won't find any racism in the Bible. The Lord does prune branches of the human genealogical tree but race has nothing to do with it - wickedness does and after much forbearance on His part.

And the Lord does curse and bless - for good reasons.

Murderous? No. A killer? Yes indeed but only after much long-suffering on His part.

I suggest you re-read the Old Testament but first leave behind any preconceptions you may have of what God is or should be. For example, contrary to popular belief, God does NOT know everything in advance.

Andrew Anderson said...

There are large bodies of scholarship on all scriptures from all traditions examining provenance, textual history and authenticity, historical usage, exegesis and hermeneutics. Tom Hickey

The last time I was in a bookstore there were dozens of books dealing with the Bible critically or attempting to distort it but I was hard pressed to find ANY dealing with the Koran (Yes, I've heard of "The Satanic Verses") or any other religious texts.

Of course that was in the US and Muslims don't take kindly of any criticism of the Koran - because it can't take much?

Tom Hickey said...

The last time I was in a bookstore …


A single bookstore is hardly representative. Do some searching online or in a large university library.

Tom Hickey said...

contrary to popular belief, God does NOT know everything in advance

"God does NOT know everything in advance" implies either, "I believe God does NOT know everything in advance," or "I can present an argument that God does NOT know everything in advance."

Andrew Anderson said...

God regretted making Saul King. (1 Samuel 15:11)

Also,

I, the Lord, search the heart and test the mind ... Jeremiah 17:10

What need to search and test if the Lord already knows?

Tom Hickey said...

That is simply an assertion of literalism. Exactly the same as the Wahhabis regarding the Quran.

Andrew Anderson said...

A single bookstore is hardly representative. Tom Hickey

It was a Barnes and Noble and I'd say it was representative of the taste of the general population.

Andrew Anderson said...

That is simply an assertion of literalism. Tom Hickey

Both of those are direct quotes of God and appear to be quite plain speaking to me.

Tom Hickey said...


"For not My thoughts are your thoughts, Nor your ways My ways, -- an affirmation of Jehovah"
Isaiah 55:8

Young's Literal Translation

Tom Hickey said...

appear to be quite plain speaking to me.

What is the criterion for best explanation? Looks to me like either subjectivism or literalism.

Tom Hickey said...

It was a Barnes and Noble and I'd say it was representative of the taste of the general population.

Lame.

Andrew Anderson said...

Exactly the same as the Wahhabis regarding the Quran Tom Hickey

Probably correctly so. The so-called moderate Muslims are quite possibly the heretics.

Btw, it's taken me a lot of thought but there's little in the OT that so offends me that I must de-literalize it.

Andrew Anderson said...

Looks to me like either subjectivism or literalism. Tom Hickey

The OT is not an easy read or at least it wasn't for me at first. I literally stumbled over nearly every sentence since I came to it with a lot of preconceptions. But I stuck to it, as painful as it was, because I was desperate after having the two people I loved most wrenched from me.

Now I can read it easily and I find your agnosticism wrt understanding it inadmissible - you just haven't read it enough.

But I'll sum it up for you in case you never do:

What is desirable in a man is his kindness and it's better to be a poor man than a liar Proverbs 19:22

I think you do well on both counts,btw.

Tom Hickey said...

The OT is not an easy read or at least it wasn't for me at first.

Interpreting texts not written in English in the original without knowing the original language and ancient texts without reading the scholarship of the history of the time is subjective.

Everyone is welcome to their own opinions but not the facts.

The original texts are often disputed by scholars as well as authenticity of passages. Their meaning is also controversial.

There are facts that are generally agreed upon based on criteria, facts in dispute and facts that cannot be determined. Then there are are traditional interpretations by sages and commentators. Then there is modern scholarship. Without taking all his into account one cannot claim due diligence.

Does this mean that reading scripture has no value? No, not at all, But the value is subjective and naïve.

John said...

Andrew, the Quran has for very good reasons yet to be put under the kind of scrutiny the Bible has. When it does, it'll no doubt have problems galore and collapse into the kind of incoherence the Bible has.

As it is, the only kind of scrutiny has been done by the inept, which claim ludicrous things like Mecca didn't exist in the seventh century. Serious scholars will eventually take the Quran apart, mainly because it's just a Christian heresy, as it was immediately recognised when it appeared. Apart from the Copts, who being the closest to the religion Christ preached unsurprisingly pray very much like Muslims, that tells you how much Christianity has changed. Christianity's present incarnation bares very little resemblance to what originally came out of Palestine two thousand years ago.

No serious scholar dares to submit the Quran to the type of textual and historical criticism that the Bible has been subject to for fear of being decapitated by jihadi madmen. Given that this jihadi threat will be with us for some time, because of various US geopolitical manoeuvrings, then competent scholars will do the sensible thing and opt to keep their heads attached to the rest of their bodies.

I can't figure out why you're getting so hot under the collar over all this. Muslims probably wouldn't mind having their holy book subjected to textual and historical scholarship because, like Christians and Jews before them, they're under the impression that the Quran can withstand any assault, being the word of God and all. Inventing farcical reasons to invade their countries and bombing them into the stone age is monstrous enough. Why literally add insult to injury by funding universities to uncover evidence that their religion is nothing more than a fairytale? What, you think this is the perfect time to do this? And it wouldn't enflame an already bad situation? I think that's a bit too much to expect. Even the anti-jihadi majority would say that this is unhelpful, to say the least.

As well as the fervent desire to never meet a jihadi assassin, I wouldn't be at all surprised if serious textual scholars are hesitant to scrutinise the Quran for that very reason: it is hardly an opportune time to subject the Quran to penetrating scrutiny when half the Muslim world is being engulfed by the countries that pay for your cosy university office, pleasant academic lifestyle and your agreeable jamborees.

Tom Hickey said...

Andrew, the Quran has for very good reasons yet to be put under the kind of scrutiny the Bible has. When it does, it'll no doubt have problems galore and collapse into the kind of incoherence the Bible has.

The Hebrew scripture is ancient and there are a lot of issues involves in study of the provenance, authenticity, historical usage, exegesis and hermeneutics of the texts, as well as the historical context and the meaning of terms in the context of the times, which were somewhat extended over time. In the eyes of both Jewish and non-Jewish scholars, Biblical Hebrew is required

The NT is much more recent, of course. Still there are many issues that are either unresolved for lack of clear evidence or controversy. For example, the canon was not settled for some time. The NT was originally written in Greek although there are Aramaic and Coptic versions. Scholars are required to know these languages and the attendant context.

The Quran is more recent and the history is more available. The text was written down very early and it seems mostly intact. Issues arise around the destruction of versions that were deemed spurious by the first caliph.

Translations of the Quran are not recognized as Quranic but only a "renderings." The Quran must be read in Arabic and one must study Quranic Arabic to be qualify as a scholar.

There is a huge amount of scholarship around the Quran and different schools of thought, some in disagreement. Wahhabis regard Sufis as heretics even if they are Sunnis, for example, and Sunnis generally egard Shiites as heretics. Islam is not homogenous by any means and there is no central authority.

There is also a great deal written by amateurs most of whom have limited if any qualifications. This is generally looked upon as uninformed speculation or rants for or against.

John said...

Tom,

All true, especially about the OT and the NT, which have collapsed under the scrutiny of textual criticism, carbon dating and all the other paraphernalia. I highly recommend Bart Ehrman's books and his more inviting video presentations on YouTube.

Traditionalist readings of the Quran have problems. These have not been thrashed out and really examined in detail, but there do seem to be many unanswered questions, some extremely serious. One of the major problems is that there is no agreed definition to some of the words. A classical Arabic dictionary gives different meanings to words that many Arab speakers take for granted. Some English translations are universally acknowledged by translators to be utterly awful.

The greatest problem is probably more to do with how the Quran's is at variance with traditional Islam itself, which it clearly is, whether Muslims like it or not. As I said above, knowledge of the end times in the Quran are solely known by God. Islamic eschatology has it that Jesus will come down from heaven and slay the anti-Christ. The Quran has very few punishments and there are very few sins, and is explicitly against stoning. Traditional Islam likes nothing more than punishing just about everything. There is no punishment for consuming alcohol: the Quran merely states that it is best to stay away from it.

The Quran is very much at variance with a lot of traditional Islam. That's to be expected: Islamic clerics, which are forbidden by the Quran, like nothing more than controlling and punishing people. So they just make up new laws. The Quran is about 300 pages long, most of it made up of retelling traditional Biblical stories from a different angle, usually upturning the usual narrative and understanding so as to give a different moral slant: for example Noah was not a drunk, David was not an adulterer, Jesus was not the son of God or partly divine, there is no concept of original sin, ad infinitum. You can't do much with that if you want to control people.

As you say, rank amateurs who know next to nothing (and double up as Islamophobic warmongers) are currently making all the running, whose stupid findings make headlines. Unsurprisingly the Quranic scholars who tear these amateurish (and Islamophobic) findings apart do not make any headlines. It's all quite embarrassing. The only thing in the Quran's favour is that it does not look adulterated. It appears to be as it was 1400 years ago, leaving aside the silly stories made up about Satanic verses and other nonsense, usually made up by Muslims of all people! Other than the textual criticism, one thing that could lay waste to the Quran is the archaeological evidence. But the sacred nature of the sites has made it impossible for archaeological digs to be granted. Technology being what it is, archaeologists will find a way around this and will probably make the same discoveries made about sites in the Old Testament: they never existed.

jrbarch said...

One thing John’s scholars would probably all agree: ‘how do you prove the recipes came straight from a particular God’. Especially for the Indians who have 30 million. Indians can never be outdone!

Andrew Anderson said...

Interpreting texts not written in English in the original without knowing the original language and ancient texts without reading the scholarship of the history of the time is subjective. Tom Hickey

Well, in the case of the Bible, you are neglecting the role of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.

Also this, should the Bible be so undeniably THE TRUTH that it compels belief? Like the Law of Gravity? But life is a test as Jeremiah 17:10 affirms and that includes how people will behave in the face of less than perfect understanding. Yet we can increase our understanding by reading and heeding Scripture and that's a test too - if we'll do so or not.




John said...

jrbarch, next year I plan to read the Vedas (not in the original Sanskrit). So I'll get back to you!

Andrew, no amount of Holy Spirit can invest you with understanding scriptures written in an archaic language in which the original meaning is not as clear as it once was. There are words and passages that no one understands. That's to be expected. It's hard enough reading the English of the King James Bible let alone trying to decipher the real meaning, not just translation, of ancient Hebrew, Aramiac and Greek. Truth and spiritual meaning are often lost in translation. Hebrew experts inform us that the commandment is not that "thou shalt not kill" but "thou shalt not murder", a very different thing entirely. Here we have an example of a relatively easily translatable word, yet how many of us get it wrong? Imagine the difficulty with far more difficult words, and how they can change the meaning of a passage.

As you well know, not all of the Bible is meant to be taken literally. Jesus does not want us to literally gouge out our eyes if they offend us - everybody would be blind. A lot of the Bible is literal, and that's fine because there's some beautiful and mesmerising stuff in it. A good deal of it is metaphorical and talks to our spirits. Too many confuse the two. And we may never know the difference because the nuances have been lost.

Andrew Anderson said...

no amount of Holy Spirit can invest you with understanding scriptures written in an archaic language in which the original meaning is not as clear as it once was. John

I find the Bible to be internally consistent and almost every mystery I've encountered has been resolved with further reading of it. Yet those who are easily offended, as I once was, will be repelled and seek no further as a form of self-punishment for being easily offended.

Andrew Anderson said...

For example, the KJV uses the word "damn", an infinitely terrifying word to modern ears, when "criticize" or "censor" might be closer to the meaning. Yet if one reads and ponders the KJV enough it becomes obvious that "damn" has multiple meanings, not all infinitely terrifying.

John said...

Andrew,

Then you're one of the lucky ones. Perhaps all it takes is a great deal of effort. I'm not exactly offended by the Bible. I grew up in an overtly Christian home in which I looked forward to hearing my parents read from the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. They still mean a great deal to me. What means more to me, however, are all the true Christian teachings of helping the poor, the homeless, the disabled, refugees, etc. I did a lot of that growing up, and it wasn't really a case of my parents forcing me. I genuinely enjoyed doing it, and still do when I can. At the same time, I developed a true hatred of hypocrites - the Christian hypocrites who parade their piety when it's clear they're utterly depraved and hell is too good a place for them. We know them when we see them: the Christian right in America and in the UK, the televangelists, the Church that covers for paedophile priests, and all those self-righteous anti-refugee racists and demagogues.

Speaking for myself, I'm not all that repelled by the Bible, although there are some passages that are grotesque and surreal at the same time. My ultimate issue, no matter how much I treasure and look back fondly on the Christianity of my youth, is that the huge chunks of the Bible do not withstand textual and scientific analysis. Does that minimise the beauty and the majesty of the Bible? To some extent it does. But the deeper spiritual and moral teachings will stand no matter what is thrown at it. And in any case, what Christianity are we speaking about: the various protestant churches, televangelist thieving weirdos, the various Orthodox churches or a Catholic Church whose history is shameful? As for me, I always liked the Quakers, and in fact still do.

John said...

Andrew,

Try "strange", as in so and so "married a strange woman". Back then "strange" meant foreign. That's in English and it confused, and presumably still confuses, those who read it. That's the English of Tyndale, not Chaucer!

Tom Hickey said...

I plan to read the Vedas (not in the original Sanskrit). So I'll get back to you!

When I was in my twenties I ran into mysticism, actually a book about world mysticism by a well-informed Christian scholar whose name slips me at the moment. That piqued my curiosity and lit a spark that would guide my later pursuits. Since mysticism is based on experience, it was clear that understanding is insufficient to grok it.

After studying a broad section of the mystical literature and tradition knowledge, I was satisfied that I was coming along pretty well on my own in gaining understanding. Then one day when I as a grad student in philosophy at Georgetown, I was pursuing some books on the Indian tradition in Yes bookstore. I happened on a translation of the Vedas and quickly realized that I was never going to be able to figure this out on my own. So I started looking for someone who understood it based on experience in addition to learning. It was a wise thought.

Tom Hickey said...

There are basically two approaches to religion, exemplified in Christianity as scripture alone with no intermediary and scripture and tradition with the subsequent mediation of the learned. The same applies to other religions, but Protestant Christianity is fairly unique in its believe that all sincere believers are guided in their quest by the Holy Spirit. The problem here is explaining how the Holy Spirit guides some followers in seemingly conflicting or contradictory ways. The usual course is asserting that the Holy Spirit has rightly guided some and other are merely deluded in their belief of being guided by the Spirit.

Islam is basically Quranic, but most Muslim don't think that is the whole of it. They hold to the belief in scripture and tradition, with scholarship being part of the tradition. The Sunnah consists, for example, of the tradition surrounding the Prophet, based on the "rightly-guided caliphs" and the scholarship of the learned (imams). Shia is also based on the Quran but includes the doctrine that Muhammad's son-in-law Ali was Muhammad's designated successor and the correct tradition stems from imams in the line of Ali.

Similarly in rabbinical Judaism, there is the written Torah and the oral Torah that ha been preserved by the learned teachers (rabbis). The oral Torah was subsequently recorded as the Talmud, but some of it is still oral teaching preserved by the learned.

All religions also have mystical teachings at their core, and these teachings are only partially revealed publicly because they cannot be understood correctly in the absence of experience. So the mystical traditions are largely oral and are passed from master to disciple in direct lines of transmission of knowledge where genuine knowledge both include experience and understanding.

The basis of all spiritual teaching is personal revelation. The challenge of personal revelation is, first, distinguishing the authentic from the bogus, secondly, ordering it since there are many levels. for those lacking personal revelation, the challenge involves distinguishing genuine teaches and teaching from half-baked and bogus.

Andrew Anderson said...

is that the huge chunks of the Bible do not withstand ... scientific analysis. John

Such as PI being rounded to 1 digit? Such as the apparent motion of the Sun around the Earth? Those are gnat straining.

And what about the numerous references to the Lord stretching out the Heavens? Long before the Theory of the Big Bang? How do you explain that?

Anyway, your Biblical education and practice shows, in my opinion, to your credit and that's more evidence to me that it's the Word of God. Otoh, I was mostly ignorant of the OT until 2008 and that has shown too, to my discredit.



John said...

Tom,

In your experience, the Vedas are not easy to approach? Any recommendations on how to ease one's way into them, books not people? I picked up Wendy Doniger's books "The Hindus" and "Hindu Myths". I thought they may be useful entry points, but the Vedas may require more background than that. My aim was to make 2017 the year of India, the Vedas and a half-decent knowledge of the Hindu scriptures.

I once shared a house with a Hindu, and quite frankly I really couldn't make head or tail of what he was saying about Hinduism. He might as well have been speaking in Sanskrit for all the good our conversations did for my understanding. Perhaps the western educated mind needs time to grasp eastern philosophies, especially an ancient religion like Hinduism.

Tom Hickey said...

Contemporary scholars do not regard the KJV as a reliable translation.

Rick Wade, The Debate Over the King James Version

John said...

Andrew,

What I meant was the science of carbon dating, manuscript analysis and the like. For instance, we now know that the oldest surviving texts of the Gospels are dissimilar in many ways to the Gospels we find in any standard Bible. Further analysis shows that passages were added by scribes along the way, like the one about the woman taken in adultery. That story does not appear in any of the earliest Gospels but mysteriously appears many years later.

The inks can also be dated and the writing can be analysed. These show different inks and different handwriting from different times are on the same pages. So the Gospels essentially develop from generation to generation as each scribe adds a bit here and there. It isn't widespread, but it appears more often than is comfortable.

John said...

Tom,

Quite right on the King James Bible. It always seemed to me peculiar that ancient languages could be translated literally into such beautifully poetic English. A literal translation would be stilted and awkward, not something that compares with Shakespeare. The Hebrew and Greek was made poetically English by Tyndale. Clearly he had taken many liberties and probably did not understand some of the words he was translating. So he simply brushed that aside and made the sentences mesmerisingly beautiful.

Andrew Anderson said...

There are basically two approaches to religion, exemplified in Christianity as scripture alone with no intermediary and scripture and tradition with the subsequent mediation of the learned. Tom Hickey

Jesus warned of tradition being used to nullify Scripture. Also, while Paul exhorted his disciples to follow his example they were only to do so as he himself followed Christ. But how is Christ known outside Scripture?

So it appears to me that tradition may be a helpful guide but it must always be subject to Scripture and thus subject to revision if Scripture has been misunderstood or incompletely understood*.

*Which I assert is the case with Calvin's justification of usury between fellow countrymen.

Andrew Anderson said...

and probably did not understand some of the words he was translating. John

That's consistent with Biblical prophecy - as one is led by the Holy Spirit - speaking in tongues being an extreme example.

Andrew Anderson said...

Then you're one of the lucky ones. John

Imo, you're a fortunate one, having been shaped by Scripture before you were sophisticated enough to doubt it.

Tom Hickey said...

n your experience, the Vedas are not easy to approach? Any recommendations on how to ease one's way into them, books not people? I picked up Wendy Doniger's books "The Hindus" and "Hindu Myths". I thought they may be useful entry points, but the Vedas may require more background than that.

Wendy Doniger is the Milton Friedman of Vedic Studies.

My aim was to make 2017 the year of India, the Vedas and a half-decent knowledge of the Hindu scriptures.

There is a saying that the Upanishads are the cream of the milk of the Vedas, and the Bhagavat Gita is the butter churned from the cream. Winthrop Sargeant has a decent translation accompanied by the Sanskrit and a parsing of the Sanskrit. It's not possible to understand Indian scripture without a basic knowledge of Sanskrit. It's not necessary to be a scholar but most of the key words are based on non-ordinary experience and have no counterpart in English. There are many translations of the Gita online. YMMV.

Many of the great Indian masters wrote commentaries on the Gita. The most easily accessible Is Jnaneshwar's (also transliterated Dnyaneshwar). It is called Jnaneshwar's Gita, or Jnaneshwari. Here is a freely downloadable online version.

I once shared a house with a Hindu, and quite frankly I really couldn't make head or tail of what he was saying about Hinduism. He might as well have been speaking in Sanskrit for all the good our conversations did for my understanding. Perhaps the western educated mind needs time to grasp eastern philosophies, especially an ancient religion like Hinduism.

The ordinary Hindu, just like the ordinary follower of any religion, has little understanding of the mystical tradition on which it is based, although the Hindus and Buddhists are in a better position that Christians, Jews, and Muslims, since the mystical tradition is not concealed or suppressed. But without some experience and contact with a genuine teachers, the notions are mostly imaginative.

The simplest way to develop an understanding of the universal teaching is read Meher Baba's God Speaks at least five times. It is in contemporary English. My mentor, Don Stevens, edited it. He left the untranslatable terms from Sufism and Vedanta in Arabic and Sanskrit respectively. There is a glossary. Meher Baba's Discourses also provide the background to understand the role of sanskaras (latent impressions) necessary to understand Indian thought in general, but it also underlies other wisdom teachings implicitly. (Free downloads here ).

Meher Baba presents an outline in eight chapters of the entire scheme of things in terms of the ten fundamental states of consciousness as the sole reality coming to apprehend itself in its totality. While it is a conceptual model, the fact that it was written by one speaking from experience enables it to transmit something of that experience. This, btw, is the value of reading any scripture, or the teaching of perennial wisdom given the sages, and the testimony of the mystics. This is even true, or especially true, of reading or hearing the scripture and teaching in the original even if one doesn't know the language.

BTW, I am saying from my own experience and study this is the way to cut to the chase. The literature is vast and most get lost without a guide. Same goes for inner experience.

Tom Hickey said...

Quite right on the King James Bible. It always seemed to me peculiar that ancient languages could be translated literally into such beautifully poetic English. A literal translation would be stilted and awkward, not something that compares with Shakespeare. The Hebrew and Greek was made poetically English by Tyndale. Clearly he had taken many liberties and probably did not understand some of the words he was translating. So he simply brushed that aside and made the sentences mesmerisingly beautiful.

The major problem with the KJV lies with the Greek edition they used.

John said...

Tom: "Islam is basically Quranic, but most Muslim don't think that is the whole of it."

I found that the exact opposite is nearer the truth. Islam is theoretically based on the Quran. In practice a very good case can be made that it is un-Quranic. I read the Quran quite recently - twice. It's a shortish book, nowhere near as vast as the Bible, and can be read within a few hours. Obviously to truly understand it requires years of study, but the general thrust of it can be grasped quite easily. Again, like the Bible, in places it is surreal, but on the whole it is nothing like what the demented Islamophobes claim. Practically all the violent passages are easily explained away. Gandhi was right when he said that the Quran is non-violent and a religion of peace, although I'd add it's not pacifistic and advocates violence only in self-defence. I read up a little on what Islamic law covers at the same time. It was striking how different they were. In case anyone is thinking of reading the Quran, one has to be ready to encounter a very unusual book. It is not chronological, and jumps around from one thing to another. There doesn't seem to be any overarching aim to the chapters. That's because it has to be read completely to grasp how it is meant to be understood. Only then can it be appreciated as something unique and special. It's also just about the scariest book you'll ever read: you are told time and time again in chilling detail that hell anxiously awaits you unless you redeem yourself.

Unlike the Bible, the Quran has very few laws. You can probably write them all down on one sheet of paper. Islamic law, meanwhile, is unimaginably vast: the Sunnah, the Hadiths, the doings of the companions of the prophet, the doings of the companions of the companions of the prophet, the writings of the learned scholars, the writings of those who have read the writings of the learned scholars, ad infinitum. There are volumes - volumes! - of book on how to pray and where to put your hands while in prayer! It's unimaginably unbelievable. It reminds me of how the Catholic Church did not want the Bible translated into everyday national languages, fearing that they would lose their power over the people. It seems the Islamic clerics are doing the reverse: do not read the Quran but follow clerical law, no matter that it is in direct contradiction to the Quran. It's such a bizarre state of affairs. And no one thinks to say, "Hang on a minute, the Quran is adamantly and vehemently anticlerical! So where the hell did all these Imams, Mullahs, Ayatollahs and the Learned Clerical Scholars come from?"

John said...

Tom, thank you so much for those references. Shame about the Doniger books!

Tom Hickey said...

Islam is theoretically based on the Quran.

The criterion in Islam is the Quran. Scholarship and learning is base on the Quran being the starting point at which all argumentation ends. However, the Quranic verses can be interpreted variously, and there is no magisterium in Islam as there is in Roman Catholicism. So different scholars come up with different interpretations and schools of thought arise. Similarly, different Imams may issue conflicting injunctions (fatwa) based on different viewpoint. In Shiite Islam, there is a hierarchy of learned culminating in the Ayatollahs.

The case is similar in other scripturally based religions that give priority to learning.

In Protestantism, there is freedom of interpretation with the presumption that the Spirit of Truth speaks with a single voice, so while there is no official heresy in Protestantism there is "groupthink" around accepted views. The simplest way to settle this is literalism and primitivism, but many contemporary Protestants view literalism and primitivism as simplistic. As a result there are fundamentalist and liberal approaches.

Andrew Anderson said...

It's also just about the scariest book you'll ever read: you are told time and time again in chilling detail that hell anxiously awaits you unless you redeem yourself. John

Chilling details? Or details that make God out to be a sadist delighting in ingenious cruelty? And thus discredit the Quran as a work of fiction?

Andrew Anderson said...

but many contemporary Protestants view literalism and primitivism as simplistic. Tom Hickey

Don't know what you mean by primitivism but obviously literalism could be quite inconvenient to the lifestyle choices of some.

An example in my case is that I desperately wanted to marry a divorced woman but could find no obvious loop-hole to allow it. Now I'm glad I didn't find any!

Andrew Anderson said...

Here's a little testimony re Scripture being "Living":

For quite a while I've been convicted that I should attend church services because "many logs burn brightly together", a passage I would have sworn is in the Bible - but it isn't! Not by a long shot.

And that's hardly the first time that I've searched the Bible only to find a passage has been subtly changed - especially when my desire is to thump someone with it!

Of course, the obvious answer is a faulty human memory or in the case of online Bibles, human editing. And the obvious check is to compare against a hardcopy Bible - which I may soon do.

Andrew Anderson said...

Nor is "many logs burn brightly together" in my hardcopy Bible so either my memory is at fault or the Bible is being changed in real-time - hence "Living".

Tom Hickey said...

Literalism is interpreting texts based on their "plain meaning." This is the basis of fundamentalism.

Primitivism is living in accordance with the lifestyle of the founder and early followers. Primitivism in Christianity models lifestyle onJesus and the early followers, for example, "apostolic Christians" of different sects. Primitivism in Islam is found in Salafism.

Those who follow the scripture based on the plain meaning of the text and also emulate the lifestyle of the founding era are both literalists and primitivists.

jrbarch said...

Tom: ”So I started looking for someone who understood it based on experience in addition to learning. It was a wise thought”.

Makes sense to me.

The world is full of recipes and articles about food; but only a cook can teach you how to cook.

To add one more to the 30 million recipes:

A little girl comes up to her parents and says: ‘Mummy, Daddy – what is God; who is God”?

Mummy and Daddy launch into one of the 30 million recipes.

Or, if they were honest they would say: ‘I do not know’.

The recipe I would add is simple: - within the human heart there is a feeling of awe and wonderment about existence. The recipe is to follow it. No religion, no broker, no belief system required. In your own time and in your own way, you find out for yourself: - you are going to need someone who knows how to cook.

We take our experience and paint 30 million + one recipes on it. Why not unpack the experience itself?

Religion in my view is a capsule, a story, like the stories humans have told around the campfires for thousands of years, that needs to be unpacked to get to its essence. If our stories were literal, it would bore the pants off us.

Andrew Anderson said...

Ah yes, the Amish though I do think they allow ball bearings in their horse drawn carriages.

One very compelling reason to take Scripture literally as much as possible is the Bible's emphasis on truth. I don't see anyway around that.

John said...

Andrew, if you believe in God you have to believe in hell, with all its horrors. In any case, if you believe in God, there is no getting away from the fact that God has created man and will send a huge number of them to hell, some for eternity. That certainly makes God a sadist. In actual fact this is worse than sadism. Why go to all the trouble of creating man, watch man kill and torture his fellow man, and then roast them in hell? And what's wrong with the celestial absolute monarch warning the creatures he created of what is to come if they don't repent and do good works? Isn't that a good thing?

The Quran is undoubtedly a work of fiction, albeit one of sheer genius. The Bible is also undoubtedly a work of fiction, with Tyndale's translation being a work of art to rival anything ever written, painted or composed. If there is a God, then the Bible cannot be the literal truth, for a God that is good would not have behaved as he is recorded to have behaved, and that's without mentioning all the glaring discrepancies.

The only real issue I ever had with the New Testament concerns the two diametrical religions in the New Testament, as Thomas Jefferson and others have observed. The first is the righteous and humanitarian one offered by Jesus, the one I grew up in and still appreciate. The second is a concocted religion offered by the charlatan Paul, who somehow wrote himself into a religion of peace and love and subverted it into the Pauline heresy for Roman imperialist pagans. It is impossible to reconcile these two visions. Maybe my upbringing was unusual in that Paul was considered something diabolical! I don't know many Christians who share this view.

John said...

jrbarch:"...within the human heart there is a feeling of awe and wonderment about existence"

That's nicely put. We look for meaning, and there just may not be one. Or not the kind of meaning we want.

What Arthur C. Clarke said of earth being the only place in the universe in which life exists can be said of God. Either God exists or he doesn't. Both are equally frightening. For my part, I'd add that both are also unintelligible, but then God should be unintelligible.

Andrew Anderson said...

That certainly makes God a sadist. John

Have ever heard of Dr. Hugh Ross? He has a Phd in astrophysics and is a believing Christian. He argues that the torments in Hell are to prevent the inhabitants from making it even worse for each other.

So then solitary confinement in Hell? No, because apparently that's even a harsher form of torment.

Ross's site is www.reasons.org.

As for the alleged genius of the Quran, it lifts and distorts a lot from the Bible, does it not?

jrbarch said...

I think we forget: there is no end to space or time from our pov. You are staring at a point in Infinity right now, perhaps outside your kitchen window. Within this Infinity there could be almost an infinite number of universes, parallel or linear, in any number of dimensions. We humans tell stories about our existence. We dream. We make our dreams our reality. From this pov there is no greater heaven than right here on earth; and no greater hell.

There is a place inside of us that is beyond space and time. That makes sense because we are a part of it. The label I give it is ‘universal energy’ – although it is just a label. How to get from here to there is the tricky bit.

When we are kids we are put into a school (conditioning factory) where you are taught everything must be approached through the mind; everything must be learnt through the mind. This is wrong. We can also learn through feeling; through experience. We are feeling machines and the power to be able to feel, rises far above the mind (in my recipe) – understanding comes after.

But, most of us are good little robots: ‘yessir, nosir, three bags full sir’.

This thread is fun, which is what discussions should be.

John said...

Andrew, I've never heard of Hugh Ross. His wikipedia page has him advocating progressive creationism. But there are some very brilliant scientists who are Christians: one was a leading theoretical particle physicist who left it all to become an ordained priest, John Polkinghorne. I'm very sceptical when you hear the vast majority of scientists are atheists, as if these things are polled. There are many who are religious and many who are agnostic, and the simple truth is that religion just doesn't come up over tea and biscuits in the senior common room. The usual state of affairs are highly technical discussions regarding an extremely narrow area of research.

As for the Quran, yes, its content is very similar to the Bible, but that's because the Bible's God is the Quran's God, and the Bible's prophets are not only the Quran's prophets but said to be the first Muslims because they submitted themselves to God's will (Islam literally means submission, sometimes translated as peace through the act of submission, and Muslim means someone who has submitted themselves to the will of God). None of this is news. It's been known by everybody for 1400 years: hence the immediate denunciation of Islam as a Christian heresy. Note, that at the time it was not considered a different religion, but a *Christian* heretical sect because it denounced the divinity of Jesus and him being the son of God. And since Christianity is a Jewish heresy, we can say that Islam is nothing more than a Jewish heresy, which it in fact very closely resembles.

Now, there are two possible conclusions. One, the Quran is an opportunistic and cynical attempt to rewrite the Bible and then distort these stories to fit a militantly monotheistic creed that claims that Christianity is a corrupted ideology, with its trinitarianism, iconography/idolatory, and the role that Jesus plays as God in human form and the son of God. Two, the Bible was in fact corrupted by man, as the Quran claims, and that God sent the Quran to set things right. Now, I suppose either could be true. I know which one you believe is true. Your religious beliefs are no one's business.

As for me, I don't believe either. I'm not religious, but I do find religion interesting. That's why I'm planning to learn about Hinduism next year, and learned quite a bit about Islam and much more about the Quran this year. Holy scriptures are intrinsically fascinating. And truth be told, I did find the Quran absolutely fascinating, far more fascinating than I had expected. I think anyone who puts the effort into reading it cover to cover will find it by turns fascinating and profoundly deep, which isn't surprising given that about 20% of the planet, and possibly more, claim to live their lives by it. Given that it'll only take an afternoon, I think everyone should read it, if only to know one's religious competitor for mankind's souls.

Andrew Anderson said...


... if only to know one's religious competitor for mankind's souls. John

If only Christians read and heeded Scripture, I doubt there'd be much competition since even post-Christian America is currently a major contender - though fading fast.