Există un obicei tare urât al credincioşilor şi care deşi nejustificat, îl întâlneşti destul de frecvent în discursurile unora dintre ei; aceştia îşi fac un soi de plăcere sadică din a sublinia inferioritatea (pretinsă) a celor care nu cred în miturile Bibliei, prin admiterea ipocrită a ascendenţei acestor sceptici (dar doar a lor!) "din maimuţe".

În opinia credincioşilor, cei "loviţi" de-o astfel de ascendenţă simiană sunt nu numai lipsiţi de nobleţea pe care numai o origine divină o poate conferi, ci şi privaţi de orice speranţă de ameliorare cognitivă şi morală: cel care "se trage din maimuţă" (precum şi descendenţii lui, evident), afirmă modestul nostru pios, e inevitabil si definitiv compromis în ce priveşte această eventualitate a ameliorării lui intelectuale sau morale. Asta e o dovadă că "fixismul" şi sechelele "scării fiinţării" (cândva la modă în Occidentul Evului Mediu şi încă câteva secole după) încă mai bântuie o groază de minţi şi acum!

Modul acesta prin care credincioşii se delimitează de ceilalţi denigrându-i, e în primul rând o formă de intoleranţă, însă în acelaşi timp şi o formă de a apărea ridiculi, căci credincioşii procedând astfel se delimitează de cea mai mare parte a erudiţilor contemporani; în plus, prin insistenţa lor de a continua să creadă şi ţină la pretenţia de veracitate a unor simple basme doar pentru că acestea sunt reconfortante (şi asta în ciuda cantităţii colosale de cunoaştere acumulată şi disponibilă care le dovedeşte iluzorii), credincioşii reuşesc să confirme tezele celebrei analize freudiane a religiei (din "Viitorul unei iluzii"). În această fină analiză psihologică care se distinge printr-o excepţională luciditate (în ea Freud fiind lucid până la capăt: în contrast cu mulţi alţi gânditori din vremea lui şi chiar mult timp după el, Freud nu crede că religia va dispare sau religiozitatea va diminua în mase, prin simplul fapt că omenirea sau societatea progresează; el n-ar fi putut să fie surprins deci de rezilienţa religiei în epoca marcată de puternic progres ştiinţific şi modernitate, care a urmat morţii lui), Sigmund Freud observa:

 

"[…], iar în trecut, în pofida lipsei lor incontestabile de adevăr, reprezentările religioase au exercitat asupra omenirii o influenţă extrem de puternică. […] Vom găsi răspunsul dacă vom lua în considerare geneza psihică a reprezentărilor religioase. Acestea, dându-se ele însele drept dogme, nu sunt nici sedimentul experienţei, nici rezultatul final al cugetării, ci sunt doar iluzii, împliniri imaginare ale celor mai vechi, mai puternice şi mai stringente dorinţe ale umanităţii; secretul forţei lor constă în forţa acestor dorinţe. […] în consecinţă, numim iluzie o credinţă în a cărei motivaţie predomină împlinirea dorinţelor, desconsiderându-se împrejurările reale, iluzia renunţând la o verificare a sa." (Sigmund Freud, "Opere I", p.387-389 (secţiunea "Viitorul unei iluzii"), Editura ştiinţifică, Bucureşti 1991, care e o traducere a Dr. Leonard Gavriliu după originalul în lb. germană; pentru o tălmăcire alternativă după o traducere franceză)).

 

Cercetările actuale din neurobiologie confirmă veracitatea tezei freudiene (care a fost multă vreme criticată nu pentru diagnosticul lucid pus religiei, ci pentru fatalismul ei sumbru ("de tragedie greacă", cum ziceau unii autori) în ce priveşte incapacitatea noastră ca specie de a ne extrage din cercul vicios al dependenţei de propriile dorinţe privitoare la temele majore gen nemurirea personală, ordine, sens şi curs moral al evenimentelor naturale ; aceste dorinţe sunt ridicate de o serie de religii la statutul de "adevăruri revelate". Rezistenţa religiei maselor la orice mijloc social modern anti-superstiţii şi anti-ignoranţă i-au dat dreptate lui Freud, care de altfel nu s-a declarat niciodată bucuros să vadă ignoranţa generalizată a maselor în această privinţă ; de altfel, el s-a declarat întristat de faptul ca cei mai mulţi oameni nu vor putea întreaga lor viaţă să se ridice deasupra explicaţiilor mitologice în ce priveşte marile chestiuni ale existenţei ; doar că evreul Freud era prea lucid pentru a confunda, emulându-i pe religiosi, ceea ce şi-ar dori să fie real cu ceea ce este real. De unde "fatalismul" profesorului.

 

În atari condiţii, sclavi ai determinismeor sociale şi biologice fiind, cei mai mulţi dintre noi rămân din această cauză lipsiţi de acel mult-visat (de către teologi şi filozofi) "liber-arbitru". Şi statisticile amintite în acest text nu fac decât să reflecte această situaţie tristă, anume incapacitatea indivizilor de a rezista propriilor impulsuri sau necesităţi biologice (şi acele "dorinţe" amintite mai sus, sunt şi ele astfel de necesităţi psihice imperioase pe care cei mai mulţi dintre noi şi le împlinesc în imaginaţie măcar, în lipsă putinţei de a le vedea împlinite în realitate; ele sunt de aceea nişte impulsuri sau necesităţi biologice şi sociale). Unii oricât şi-ar dori să nu mai creadă bazaconiile religiilor, realmente n-au nici o şansă să reuşească: abandonul speranţei într-o viaţă după moarte i-ar paraliza pur şi simplu! Ar muri înainte să moară, căci ar muri de frica morţii; de scârba pentru o lume în care evenimentele au loc fără vreun sens moral, o lume fără un stăpân, un judecător, o sursă de ordine şi un creator. Cum zicea Freud, dorinţa lor pentru aceste lucruri e prea mare pentru a putea să confrunte realitatea. Şi astfel, deşi credincioşilor le place să-şi numească adversarii pe tărâmul filozofiei "nişte maimuţe", în anumite privinţe ei înşişi se comportă exact ca nişte maimuţe sub experiment: într-o lucrare recentă a unui teolog american (anume Nancey Murphy - profesor de filozofie creştină la "Fuller Theological Seminary" - pasajele relevante din lucrare, în engleză, aici) despre care voi avea ocazia să vorbesc şi ceva mai departe în text, este reluată  pe scurt descrierea unor experimente de biologie cogniytivistă, descriere făcută de către Terrence W. Deacon în lucrarea "The Symbolic Species : The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain" (NY, W.W.Norton 1997, pp. 413-415); într-un astfel de test, unui cimpanzeu îi este oferită posibilitatea de a alege între 2 grămăjoare de bomboane inegale d.p.d.v. cantitativ; în mod constant, cimpanzeul alege, cum ne aşteptăm, grămăjoara mai mare.

Ulterior, experimentatorul complică situaţia, în sensul că după fiecare instanţă în care cimpanzeul alege grămăjoara mai mare, aceasta e dată unui alt cimpanzeu, în timp ce protagonistului i se acordă grămăjoara mai mică. Repetat de multe ori şi cu protagonişti diferiţi, experimentul dovedeşte că în majoritatea cazurilor cimpanzeul este incapabil de un simplu raţionament profitabil pe care totuşi un copil cu o vârstă de doar 2 ani împliniţi sau mai mult, îl face cel mai adesea cu uşurinţă (alegând după câteva încercări eşuate grămăjoara mică pentru a-i reveni cea mare). Ori cimpanzeul nu reuşeşte decât să se agite enervat, privind frustrat cum, încercare după încercare, grămăjoara mare merge la altul, în timp ce el se alege cu cea mică...

Biologii explică că deşi intelectual perfect apt să producă raţionamentul care să dejoace deznodământul dezavantajos, cimpanzeul este pur şi simplu orbit de proeminenţa grămăjoarei mari, atracţia pentru aceasta fiind de fiecare dată prea mare pentru o "judecată rece", în plus, atracţia asta devine din ce în ce mai mare pe măsură ce eşecurile de a obţine "premiul" se acumulează. Exact cum farmecele unei prezenţe feminine produce la masculul uman tânăr o limitare severă a abilităţilor de evaluare şi modificare a obiectivelor (studiile arată că abilităţile manageriale ale unor adminstratori cu experienţă sunt drastic reduse (de manieră temporară, evident) după expunerea la imagini cu conţinut sexual (poze cu duduiţe antrenate în activităţi sexuale), fapt care nu se repetă în teste care le prezintă alte tipuri de imagini), tot aşa şi cimpanzeul îşi pierde acea calitate definitorie a animalelor superioare, anume auto-transcendenţa ("self-transcendence" - capacitatea individului de a-şi reprezenta aspecte ale propriilor procese cognitive cu scopul de a les evalua) atunci când anumiţi stimuli fizici sunt prea importanţi pentru a permite desfăşurarea normală a proceselor mentale.

Cercetătorii au constatat de altfel că atunci când stimulii perturbanţi trec în plan secund, ca de exemplu în experimente mai complicate, în care cimpanzeul este pus să aleagă indirect grămăjoara preferată, prin intermediul unei corelaţii (sau reprezentări) simbolice, comportamentul acestora reuşeşte să se smulgă puterii de subjugare a stimulilor, ei alegând grămăjoara mică pentru a o obţine, cu profit, pe cea mare.

 

Deacon consideră că reprezentarea simbolică (alocarea unui simbol pentru fiecare grămăjoară şi oferirea spre alegere a simbolurilor, şi nu direct a grămăjoarelor) are un efect pozitiv în reducerea puterii de distragere exercitată de către stimuli, modulând astfel comportamentul. Concluzia se impune de la sine: creşterea abilităţilor de a crea si manipula simboluri (cum e limbajul la om sau animalele superioare) eliberează progresiv reacţiile comportamentale de sub influenţa imperioasă a stimulilor quasi-instinctuali. Cimpanzeii, şi probabil şi alte animale superioare, sunt în mod normal capabili de a rula mental (în imaginaţie) diverse scenarii alternative fiind astfel apţi de a evalua propriile lor acţiuni şi comportamente, ca şi pe cele ale altora. Frans De Waal (în "Good Natured : The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals", Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1996, p. 83) povesteşte cum într-o grădină zoologică (anume "Arnhem Zoo") după ce un cimpanzeu matur a încercat în mod repetat şi în van să extragă un cauciuc (pneu) dintr-o serie de mai multe care se aflau băgate să atârne pe o bârnă (acest cauciuc fusese băgat printre primele), un cimpanzeu tânăr intervine şi le împinge pe toate afară până când ajunge la cel de interes (cuşca fusese udată dimineaţă de către îngrijitor cu furtunul, şi în acest pneu anume se acumulase mai multă apă decât în celelalte), pe care îl extrage cu grijă, aducându-l şi punându-l în faţa cimpanzeului adult. În termenii filozofiei cognitiviste, această relatare ilustrează capacitatea recunoscută a cimpanzeilor de a poseda o "teorie a minţii (celorlalţi)": capacitatea de a realiza că ceilalţi indivizi posedă capacităţi similare de judecată, şi că au intenţii, scopuri şi strategi pentru atingerea acestora.

Eşecul unora, fie ei cimpanzei sau oameni, când e să discearnă realitatea şi să acţioneze şi comporte în consecinţă, doar pentru ca-şi doresc cu mare intensitate nişte lucruri, întristează dar şi amuză în acelaşi timp. E clar că pentru unii nu există leac pentru beteşug, dar dacă pentru alţii totuşi mai e o speranţă, apai aceea nu poate fi decât o confruntare cu realitatea; ori acest text va încerca în continuare să le ofere câteva faţete esenţiale ale ei, căci el prezintă iudaismul.

Religie care azi (şi întotdeauna) deşi fără importanţă dacă judecăm în termeni de număr de credincioşi (în plus trebuie să ne amintim şi faptul că istoric vorbind această religie n-a fost niciodată o religie misionară în sensul în care au fost si mai sunt încă misionare creştinismul şi islamul), merită a fi cunoscută mai bine; utilitatea cunoaşterii istoriei iudaismului apare dacă ne gândim la relevanţa pe care această geneză de religie o are atunci când eventual judecăm cât de serioase şi veridice sunt credinţele veritabilelor "mari religii" precum cele două deja amintite.

Există Dumnezeu?

Există Rai unde trăiesc înviaţii virtuoşi?

Există "viaţă după moarte"?

Au oamenii un "suflet" aşa cum îl înţeleg creştinii şi musulmanii (ca esenţă imaterială nemuritoare a omului)?

În Biblie şi Coran sunt exprimate gândurile şi voinţa lui Dumnezeu sau măcar a unui dumnezeu real, altfel spus sunt ele aceste cărţi sacre scrise sau măcar inspirate de Dumnezeu, sau sunt ele doar banale scrieri umane?

Şi încă altfel spus: ne-a comunicat el Dumnezeu vreodată ceva, sau Biblia şi Coranul sunt de fapt doar nişte scrieri interesate ale unor indivizi trăitori în vremurile credulităţii generalizate?

 

Faptul că la toate aceste întrebări studiul iudaismului poate răspunde cu un grad de siguranţă tot atât de mare cât sunt în general afirmaţiile ştiinţifice şi în particular cele ale istoriei şi altor ştiinţe ale omului şi societăţii lui n-ar trebui să mire prea tare în măsura în care pentru credincioşi Biblia este, chipurile, mărturia scrisă sub inspiraţie a primilor oameni care l-au cunoscut şi recunoscut pe Dumnezeu, a primilor oameni care l-au adorat şi i-au urmat poruncile, şi pe care azi în fond credincioşii îi percep şi recunosc încă a fi fost nişte "aleşi" ai unicei divinităţi reale, care a ales să-şi facă cunoscută voinţa prin vocea sau pana acestor aleşi; Biblia este sursa de informaţii recunoscută cea mai veche în ce-l priveşte pe Dumnezeu, fiind în plus şi o referinţa comună a acestor credinţe actuale. Atât în creştinism cât şi în islam, ideea aceasta fundamentală de Dumnezeu unic, atoatecreator, părinte atent al umanităţii si ghid moral vorbind patriarhilor şi prin profeţi, are o origine, si aceasta este Biblia evreiască. Fireşte, creştinii pot crede că la un moment ulterior transmiterii "Vechiului Legământ" Dumnezeu s-a întrupat şi a trăit o vreme printre oameni, discipolii lui apropiaţi fiind autorii "Noii Biblii" care este Noul Testament, cum şi musulmanii pot crede la rândul lor că  Dumnezeu s-a decis încă şi mai târziu să transmită un nou şi ultim mesaj către umanitate printr-un profet războinic, ranchiunos şi afemeiat, fapt rămâne că toţi cred că se referă la acelaşi "Dumnezeu" care cândva, mai demult, a vorbit, încercat şi ghidat "patriarhii" unui trib sau popor anume, şi care a îndrumat atent acest "popor", grăindu-i adesea prin gura "profeţilor biblici".

 

De aceea a explora iudaismul înseamnă practic a-l căuta pe Dumnezeu, a încerca să afli dacă acesta e o pură fabulaţie, aşa cum admis este sunt toate divinităţile antichităţii, ori chiar este o divinitate reală; în acelaşi timp, în măsura în care există, mai înseamnă să afli în măsura posibilului cine e?, unde e?, ce a facut si ce vrea de la oameni?, cine sunt indivizii care l-a cunoscut primii? şi cum a răspândit acest individ sau grup uman cuvântul lui? Dar mai ales înseamnă a coborâ pe firul timpului până la sursa credinţelor creştine şi islamice, transmise oral şi mai târziu prin scris de-a lungul generaţiilor, din zorile istoriei până azi.

 

Există, fără îndoială, multiple modalităţi de a verifica temeinicia pretenţiilor religiei creştine şi islamice, studiul istoric al religiei fiind doar una dintre acestea: există multe drumuri care duc la Roma.

Însă eficacitatea urmării acestei căi speciale în afară de a fi cea mai logică şi naturală (filozofii eşuează încă când îşi propun să explice pentru care motiv ale lor "cauze prime" sunt o necesitate logică şi practică, şi cu atât mai mult dacă si-ar propune s-o identifice pe aceasta cu zeul antropomorfizat al religiei clasice evreieşti) are o dublă (sau chiar triplă) virtute, în măsura în care dacă iudaismul se bazează pe fabulaţii, atunci şi creştinismul şi islamul în mod necesar şi ele se bazeaza pe aceleaşi iluzii.

Căci atât timp cât şi Coranul şi Biblia creştină preiau teza apariţiei lumii şi omului de la iudaism şi nu un alt mit al creaţiei din panoplia dealtminteri amplă a religiilor, şi cât timp personajele cheie (gen "patriarhi" şi "profeţi") apar menţionate şi sunt adorate atât în textele sacre islamice cât şi creştine, e imposibil practic ca faţa şi credibilitatea religiei creştine sau islamice să poată fi salvate în eventualitatea în care credibilitatea iudaismului se năruie. Pentru creştini situaţia e cu atât mai dramatică cu cât Biblia creştină încorporează practic cea mai mare parte dintr-o versiune cunoscută a Bibliei evreieşti (Vechiul Testament al Bibliei creştine actuale este doar o versiune a textului sacru evreiesc tradus cândva, demult, de evreii unei diaspore antice).

 

În ciuda acestei importanţe certe, iudaismul este totuşi puţin cunoscut de către credincioşi, cum puţin cunoscut este el şi de către sceptici; adevărat e, în general credincioşii (creştini şi musulmani deopotrivă) cunosc tare puţin despre propria lor religie (cum să te aştepţi în atari condiţii să cunoască religia altora?), aşa cum au demonstrat-o repetat sondajele de opinie, însă asta nu-i scuteşte totuşi de obligaţia de a confrunta evidenţele legate de natura iudaismului atunci când se pretind, în ciuda ignoranţei lor notorii, posesorii ai "Adevărului".

 

Ce spun ştiinţele despre religia evreilor?

 

Înainte de  a putea răspunde la această întrebare, e important să determinăm cum şi unde găsim exprimată poziţia ştiinţelor într-o chestiune sau alta legată de iudaism şi istoria lui. Cea mai facilă metodă de a ne informa în această privinţă e trecerea în revistă a articolelor legate de termeni cheie ai religiei iudaice în enciclopedii. Desigur, când scriu "enciclopedii" nu mă refer la "wikipedia" ci la enciclopediile serioase ale căror articole sunt redactate de specialişti ai domeniilor de care ţin chestiunile tratate într-un regim de obiectivitate şi responsabilitate. Avantajul relativ al unui astfel de demers stă în faptul că parcurgând textele relevante din doar 2 sau 3 astfel de enciclopedii consacrate, ai deja o bună idee referitoare la care e poziţia dominantă a comunităţii de specialişti în acea chestiune de interes, dacă există una.

 

Pe de altă parte, dezavantajul utilizării enciclopediilor stă, fără îndoială, în faptul că inevitabil aceste articole sunt o sinteză, departe de a onţine setul complet de detalii ale problematicii tratate. Pentru a ajunge la acest "set complet" de detalii, dacă chiar există aşa ceva, pentru asta trebuie parcurse mai multe lucrări dedicate, lucrării ale căror autori sunt cercetători recunoscuţi în materie.

 

Trebuie spus din capul locului că sunt chestiuni în care există un consens al unei majorităţi a specialiştilor, cum există şi chestiuni asupra cărora opiniile sunt încă prea divizate pentru a putea vorbi despre o "opinie majoritară". Însă întotdeauna, fie că avem de-a face cu o opinie a unei majorităţi sau doar cu multiple opinii ale unor "şcoli" sau "curente" aflate în perioada de confruntare, ele sunt toate doar adevăruri relative, nici mai trainice şi nici mai şubrede, nici mai credibile şi nici mai false decât majoritatea adevărurilor ştiinţifice, deşi merită observat că prin natura obiectului studiat, unele adevăruri din ştiinţe gen istorie, sociologie sau criticism literar şi psihologie au obiceiul de a fi mult mai puţin consensuale decât cele din ştiinţe zis "exacte", precum de exemplu fizica sau chimia. Fapt rămâne însă că întotdeauna un astfel de adevăr este totuşi mult mai mult decât o simpla afirmaţie emisă fără nici un suport logic sau faptic, aşa cum sunt în general şi prea des afirmaţiile teologice sau religioase. Nu degeaba a adera la astfel de afirmaţii religioase fără suport se mai numeşte încă "credinţă", în timp ce admiterea şi însuşirea afirmaţiilor ştiinţifice e cunoscut mai degrabă a se numi "educaţie".

 

Este unul dintre paradoxurile lumii actuale faptul că într-un ev în care informaţia este atât de abundentă şi accesibilă, oamenii mai ezită încă să tragă concluziile în consecinţă. Asta poate se datorează şi faptului că deşi "abundentă", informaţia rămâne totuşi infinit mai puţin accesibilă decât… dezinformaţia. În general prima implică în producerea ei cheltuieli (savanţii costă…) şi de aceea nu e gratis, în timp ce a doua este gratis (românii zic că "rahatul e un leu tona"… şi asta întrucât capul oricărui maniac idiot poate produce şi arunca pe internet o tonă de imbecilităţi, şi astfel de indivizi nu sunt deloc rari). Aş putea fi considerat însă naiv dacă n-aş aminti aici, printre explicaţiile îngrozitoarei ignoranţe actuale în ce priveşte religia evreilor, şi faptul că se fac eforturi imense, motivate de interese nu mai puţin importante ale unora, şi aici nu mă refer doar la parazita clasă popească a creştinilor, ci la acea parte a evreilor (credincioşilor iudaismului adică) care percep orice demitizare a religiei lor ca un atac direct contra comunităţii sau propriilor lor persoane. Statele Unite sunt (alături de lumea musulmană) unul dintre statele sau civilizaţiile ideologic tributare din punct de vedere religios iudaismului, şi din păcate până de curând acest stat nordamerican a dominat prea singur umanitatea în termeni de bogăţie şi cunoaştere, drept pentru care dacă miturile tuturor puteau cădea (şi au căzut!), cele ale creştinismului şi ale religiei sale sursă sunt încă cocoloşite cu grijă. Astfel ţara care a încarnat atât timp în ochii restului lumii întreg "Occidentul", şi care a fost până de curând un model pentru miliarde de oameni din alte colţuri ale globului, a fost din păcate ultima care ar fi trebuit să joace un astfel de rol istoric, căci ce a văzut restul lumii pentru decenii în şir, a fost o naţiune de ignoranţi ale căror mentalităţi pot foarte bine fi (şi sunt) numite "medievale" din punctul de vedere european.

Cum spunea Peter Berger, naţiunea-stindard a celei mai avansate civilizaţii a umanităţii e, de fapt, în termeni de mentalităţi, "o naţiune de indieni condusă de o elită de suedezi" (asta pentru că sociologii, analizând nivelul relativ de religiozitate a ţărilor lumii au constat că cea mai religioasă ţară este India, în timp ce cea mai puţin religioasă este Suedia - vezi pentru asta citatul din Berger, articolul "Secularization Falsified", Peter C. Berger, First Things, February 2008, sau citatul din lucrarea "Atheism Remix: A Christian Confronts the New Atheists", autor R. Albert Mohler Jr., Crossway Books (a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers), 2008, p.35, vezi pasajul).

Nu e un secret că americanii sunt o curiozitate printre occidentali în ce priveşte credinţa în Dumnezeu, "lumea de dincolo", îngeri, demoni şi suflet, în timp ce totuşi stau rău comparativ în statisticile care reflectă educaţia populaţiei. Astfel, în naţiunea-model pentru încă o bună parte a naivilor lumii, ţara cu mijloacele financiare şi ştiinţa cea mai avansată a umanităţii, unul din cinci indivizi mai cred încă că soarele se învârte în jurul pământului!!! În ciuda acestei situaţii cu efecte negative nu numai pentru S.U.A. ci si pentru ţările care o percep ca fiind un model de urmat (şi aici mă gândesc în primul rând la România şi alte naţiuni est-europene care şi-au ales-o parcă ca model, când le analizezi transformările post-comuniste întru bigotizarea populaţiei), unii mai speră că lucrurile se vor aranja de la sine în timp, deşi statisticile demonstrează contrariul : în ciuda faptului că în ultimele decenii Statele Unite au devenit mai bogate, credinţele naive (şi nocive: politica externă ca şi cea internă a ţări este marcată puternic de opiniile cercurilor evangheliste conservatoare) ale populaţiei în loc să urmeze o tendinţă care să facă ţara mai similară statelor (vest-)europene, dimpotrivă, o face mai comparabilă cu ţările musulmane ale lumii a treia, sau cu alte zone socialmente subdezvoltate, precum "lumea ortodoxă" (unde azi artiştii sunt atacaţi fizic de gloate de pioşi instigaţi de popime, exact cum, pe la începutul secolului trecut se întâmpla în pogroamele epocii ţariste , sau aşa cum la începuturi creştinii erau mobilizaţi de sfântul Chiril sau patriarhul Teofil întru linşarea erudiţilor). Astfel, dacă în 1972 "doar" 70 % dintre americani credeau în "lumea cealaltă", în 2005 procentul crescuse la 78; ^ fenomenul afectează toate religiile monoteiste, pe evrei inclusiv, deşi aceştia din urmă sunt recunoscuţi pentru luciditatea lor religioasă în ce priveşte această chestiune, ei vorbind mai degrabă despre "lumea-care-va-fi" ("olam ha-ba"), adică o lume situată departe în timp (viitor), nu în spaţiu ("ceruri")) - vezi articol enciclopedie. Ideea inexistenţei unui spaţiu tainic şi invizibil, a cărei adresă exactă n-o ştie nimeni dar despre care vorbeşte toată lumea, precum "cerul" sau "lumea cealaltă", lumea-de-dincolo din creştinism şi islam, e puternic înrădăcinată la evrei; ei observă contradicţia în termeni din sintagma lumea de dincolo, "lumea" fiind prin definiţie "tot ce există". Henri Wald, un filozof român contemporan spunea:

 

"Este de înteles o "lume de apoi", dar nu o "lume de dincolo": transcendenţa ţine de timp, nu de spaţiu, este o posibilitate în viitor, nu o realitate în altă parte. "Lumea cealaltă" este o contradicţie în termeni, deoarece înseamnă "dincolo de infinit". De fapt, "lumea cealaltă" nu este decât o anti-lume, închipuită în opoziţie cu lumea noastră: o lume a adevărului fără eroare şi minciună, a binelui fără rău, a frumosului fără urât, a tinereţii fără bătrâneţe, populată cu fiinţe nemuritoare, atotştiutoare şi atotputernice." - Henri Wald, Înţelesuri iudaice, Hasefer, Bucureşti, 1995, p. 90.  

 

Paradoxul aparent observat de specialişti este că în ciuda puternicei şi sincerei lor religiozităţi, americanii sunt în comparaţie cu Europa civilizată (de vest), monumente de incultură religioasă: cei mai mulţi dintre americani nu ştiu care e numele primei cărţi a Bibliei (Facerea, sau Geneza), şi unul din doi americani nu e în stare să numească măcar o singură evanghelie din cele 4 canonice; dacă sunt americani catolici, ei nu sunt în stare să enumere cele 7 taine (sacramente), iar dacă sunt evrei, nu sunt în stare să numească cele 5 cărţi ale lui Moise... Doar unul din 10 adolescenţi americani poate numi toate cele 5 mari religii ale lumii, şi mai mult de unul din 7 nu e în stare să numească nici măcar una dintre ele! Când o parte atât de importantă a actualelor chestiuni majore de politică internă şi internaţională necesită pentru evaluarea lor o bună cultură religioasă, publicul american este total lipsit de chiar această cultură, şi asta în virtutea şi nu în ciuda proverbialei lor religiozităţii, drept pentru care termenul democraţie din sintagma "democraţia americană" rămâne o simpla vorba goală din panoplia propagandastică a unei elite care poate manipula după bunul ei plac opinia publică care e formată dintr-o largă gloată de imbecili, şi astfel pot manipula decizia întru atingerea propriului lor interes. Situaţia se repetă pentru toate celelalte chestiuni politice, care şi ele necesită o cultură economică, o cultură ştiinţifică, istorică, etică şi morală (filozofică). O naţiune de imbecili NU are cum să fie o democraţie veritabilă. 

În realitate, deşi autorii americani simulează ignoranţa când e să explice "paradoxul" amintit mai sus, ei ştiu foarte bine ca nu există NICI un paradox: statisticile au demonstrat-o repetat, cu cât o populaţie e mai ignorantă, cu atât ea e mai religioasă; cu cât mergi într-un grup uman de la cei cu puţină educaţie spre cei cu mai multă educaţie, cu atât constaţi că religiozitatea acestora scade. Dacă persoanele fără studii colegiale sunt în SUA credincioase în proporţie de ~95 la sută, cei cu studii universitare sunt cerdincioşi în proporţie de 50 la sută, în timp ce elitele academice sunt credincioase în proporţie de 5 la sută. Statisticile britanice demonstrează o tendinţă similară. În restul Europei de vest, religiozitatea mult mai anemică decât în SUA, fac mai puţin vizibilă statistic această legătură între educaţie şi credinţă.  

 

Lucrări recente, precum "Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America" a lui Barbara Ehrenreich sau "We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism" a lui John Derbyshire critică "existenţa în SUA a unor forţe ideologice care încurajează indivizii să nege realitatea" şi deplâng "tendinţa americanilor spre optimism iraţional". Diagnosticul lui Berger este exact în ce-i priveste pe noii lui compatrioţi (SUA este ţara sa de adopţie, individul fiind născut în Austria mi se pare), iar modelul de societate al SUA în general şi în particular modelul lor de educaţie (în ciuda succeselor incontestabile din învăţământul superior), nu poate reprezenta o cale avantajoasă de urmat pentru naţiunile rămase în urmă şi care ar dori să-şi aleagă un model modernizator, asta dacă ţin să nu devină precum americanii, o naţiune împărţită într-o "cremă" subţire de "suedezi", suprapusă peste o numeroasă gloată de "indieni". Şi totuşi dacă citeşti intervenţiile politice ale unor intelectuali români precum Pleşu sau Patapievici, ai impresia ciudată că de fapt aceşti fripturişti ieftini (atât de diferiţi calitativ - în sensul rău al termenului - de Gabriel Liiceanu!), chiar asta au nutrit ca vis intim şi ideal nedeclarat întreaga lor viaţă post- şi prerevoluţionară. 

 

Revenind la iudaism, încerc acum să sintetizez şi să documentez un set de cunoştinţe de bază despre originea acestei religii.

Iudaismul, înţeles aici ca "religia triburilor semite din Canaan si a celor care au aderat în epoci ulterioare la aceasta", ca şi toate celelalte religii, variază în termeni de credinţe în bună măsură de la o epocă la alta. Astfel, de ex., iudaismul "rabinic" actual este simţitor diferit de iudaismul veterotestamentar si sacrificial din antichitate. Unele autorităţi în materie vorbesc chiar de religii diferite, plasând iudaismul rabinic în aceeaşi categorie cu creştinismul, ca fiind o altă religie derivată la cumpăna mileniilor din iudaismul veterotestamentar (biblic).

Iudaismul intră în istorie ca fiind religia "naţională" (centrată deci pe adoraţia unui "zeu naţional") a unei infime populaţii canaaneene seminomade şi marginalizate, care capătă gradual identitate pentru a deveni un veritabil popor cu istorie şi cultură diferită de aceea a vecinilor lor, asta nu în ultimul rând şi datorită acestei religii. (vezi pentru asta concluziile arheologilor Israel Finkelstein şi Asher Silberman în "Bible unearthed")

 

O lungă perioadă de timp, istoricii occidentali au perceput şi ei religia iudaică ca un fenomen aparte şi special printre religiile Orientului apropiat si mijlociu: acestea erau religii, din categoria în care erau incluse şi tradiţiile politeiste ale grecilor şi romanilor, în timp ce religia evreilor era "adevarata religie".

Cu timpul însă, descoperirile arheologice şi mai buna cunoaştere a textelor sacre ale acestor religii, au demonstrat că iudaismul e o religie ca toate celelalte, având şi el o geneză graduală şi fasonată de influenţele religiilor regiunii sau a stăpânilor mai îndepărtaţi dar şi mai puternici. S-a putut astfel concluziona că iudaismul este parte integrantă a sistemului de religii mijlociu-orientale (actualul Liban, Siria şi Israel-Palestina) şi astfel subiectul influenţelor religioase ale marilor civilizaţii care au dominat în mod tradiţional şi de manieră quasipermanentă regiunea (anume Egiptul antic şi civilizaţiile succesive ale Mesopotamiei). Departe de a mai fi privit ca în trecut, anume a fi ceva aparte de religiile vecinilor şi rudelor evreilor, iudaismul în prezent considerat a fi un membru plin al de sistemului de religii canaaneene. Acest fapt este repetat în fiece lucrare savantă despre iudaism, un alt exemplu din această categorie fiind "Judaism - History, Belief And Practice" de Dan Cohn-Sherbok, lucrare apărută la editura Routledge în 2003. 

Ori religiile în mijlocul cărora s-a născut iudaismul erau politeiste, sau în cel mai bun caz monolatre. Cum în lumina celor mai recente date istorice evreii au apărut gradual ca şi populaţie distinctă din grupul etnic canaanean (nefiind deci nişte "imigranţi mesopotamieni", aşa cum afirmă miturile patriarhilor), religia lor nu putea fi nici ea decât o credinţă monolatră, un henoteism, şi textul biblic demonstrează încă suficient asta. Iudaismul n-a fost nici el o religie monoteistă o lungă perioadă a istoriei lui (până în perioada exilului babilionian), şi mai important, n-a fost în orice caz monoteistă în sensul pe care credinciosul obişnuit îl acordă azi termenului. În sensul absolut al termenului nici măcar astăzi nu este un monoteism absolut, cât timp admite alături de un dumnezeu suprem o serie de alte fiinţe supranaturale gen îngeri şi demoni. În aceeaşi situaţie se află, bineînţeles, şi creştinismul şi islamul. De unde necesitatea redefinirii monoteismului în termeni mai modeşti; Baruch Halpern, de exemplu, aminteşte în "The Oxford Companion to the Bible" observaţia lui Yehezkel Kaufmann, anume că monoteismul nu exclude existenţa mai multor zeităţi, ci doar impune o ierarhie în panteon, manifestând în plus convingerea că există şi falşi zei. Halpern explică că evreii aveau zeul lor tribal sau naţional, aşa cum o aveau si rudele lor din jur, anume neamurile lui Amon, Moab şi Edom. Nici israelienii şi nici aceşti vecini ai lor nu negau însă existenţa altor divinităţi decât zeul suprem la care fiecare dintre aceste populaţii aleseseră să-şi pună speranţele (henoteism sau monolatrie). Numeroase pasaje biblice din texte redactate începând cu secolul al 12-lea î.e.n. până la exilul babilonian, descriu curtea peste care Iahve prezidează, ca fiind un "sfat al zeilor"; aceşti zei subordonaţi raportează, sugerează strategii şi-l laudă pe Iahve, fiind la rândul lor evaluaţi de către acesta. (Deut. 32.43b [with 4QDeuta]; 1 Kings 22.19–23; Isa. 6; Pss. 29.1–2; 82.1, 6; Job 1.6–2.10).

În teologiile monarhice, aceşti zei subordonaţi se ocupă de alte naţiuni în numele lui zeului suprem, în cazul evreilor în numele lui Iahve deci (Deut. 32.8–9 [LXX]; Mic. 4.5; 1 Sam. 26.19). însă şi aceştia aveau dreptul la respect şi adoraţie din partea israelienilor. "Oştile Domnului" de care pomenesc cărţile Bibliei erau aştrii care luptau ca "armată a lui Iahve" contra Canaanului (în timpul miticului război de cucerire a "ţării sfinte").

Halpern spune că ideea monoteistă a încolţit în mintea elitelor regatului Iuda ca mijloc de a întări identitatea naţională şi a prepara astfel populaţia pentru confruntarea inevitabilă care se profila la orizont, după căderea statului evreu vecin. Ideologii monarhiei au primit astfel misiunea să demonizeze practicile politeiste ale populaţiei agricole din afara Ierusalimului, pe care monarhia plănuia oricum s-o abandoneze agresorului, în timp ce elitele şi populaţia urbană era concentrată în aşezările cele mai bine întărite. Oamenii regelui spuneau că deportarea de către invadatorul asirian a acestor victime rurale era, chipurile, datorată faptului că bieţii ţărani se dedau pe înălţimi cultelor lor ancestrale, drept pentru care Iahve, zeitatea supremă, i-a pedepsit. În realitate, popimea din Ierusalim, elita clericală a Templului, voia doar să obţină monopolul în materie de intermediere a relaţiei între zeu şi cetăţean; era o simplă chestiune de venituri, putere şi influenţă şi e dovedit de faptul că popimea Templului de la Ierusalim n-a acceptat ca puţinii preoţi din provincie care s-au refugiat în oraşul întărit, să se bucure de aceleaşi drepturi ca şi ei. În tendinţa lor centralizatoare, paraziţii din Ierusalim par a fi fost munciţi de această întrebare: "de ce o droaie de popi din provincie să ruleze şi ei afacerea lor agitând sperietoarea "Iahve", de ce localnicii să aducă animale la sacrificat acestora, când putem să-i convingem că Iahve nu poate fi slujit şi îmbunat decât la noi la Ierusalim?" Paraziţii Templului din Ierusalim voiau astfel monopolul exclusiv al "afacerii", şi finalmente l-au obţinut; hălcile de carne şi banii proştilor au mers astfel spre mai puţine buzunare, însă unele mai adânci, cei drept… Românii norocoaselor vremuri postrevoluţionare au şansa să fie şi ei martorii unui astfel de conflict de interese: popimea ortodoxă a fost marea câştigătoare a "vânzolelii din decembrie", doar că în condiţii de libertate religioasă, aceştia trebuie totuşi să se confrunte cu o concurenţă; nu-i vorbă, proşti sunt în România cât să trăiască toţi escrocii bine, însă escrocii în contrast cu proştii pe care-i jupoaie, au obiceiul să se gândească la ziua de mâine, nu la "lumea de apoi"! Ori ca să doarmă liniştiţi în această privinţă, escrocii trebuie să facă în aşa fel încât să-şi menţină "poziţia pe piaţă" măcar, dacă nu pot să şi-o amelioreze. De unde tendinţele monopoliste la ortodocşi, de unde tonul adesea ridicat între actorii de pe piaţa asta extrem de aglomoerată a escrocheriei religioase: când popii ortodocşi se agită şi fac spume la gură avertizând pe la TV contra "pericolelor pierderii credinţei stămoşeşti" datorită atracţiei malefice a sectelor şi blestematei lor propagande religioase, ei nu spun imbecililor pe care îi păstoresc decât exact asta: "nu mergeţi la alţi escroci, căci atunci statul va trebui să le dea şi acestora bani şi avantaje babane de care ne bucurăm deocamdată doar noi! Nu mergeţi să daţi bani şi altora, noi suntem cei care avem dreptul la ei, la toţi, pentru că suntem demnii urmaşi ai generaţiilor trecute de escroci care au trăit bine pe spinarea înaintaşilor voştri."

Nu degeaba Biblia impune plata dijmei, pretinzând că Iahve i-a dat lui Aaron şi descendenţilor lui "lucrurile pe care Mi le închină copii lui Israel." (Numeri 18:8-32).

Nu degeaba profeţii biblici recomandă cu căldură plata dijmei şi ofrandele la Templu. (şi nu degeaba insistă şi azi clerul ortodox pe faptul că biserica e singura autorizată să interpreteze Biblia şi să intermedieze relaţia între Dumnezeul evreilor şi credinciosul creştin). Chestiune de monopol… visul cel mai tainic şi sălbatic al oricărui businessman este să acapareze toată piaţa şi să înlăture orice concurenţă.

Şi nu degeaba în mod repetat Biblia repetă îndemnul de a plăti zeciuiala la popă! (Vezi 2 Cronici 31 :1-13, Neemia 10 : 35-39, etc.). Măsurile de centralizare a cultului lui Iahve aveau să îmbogăţească preoţimea parazită din Ierusalim, aceasta dobândind în timp o influenţă economică şi politică imensă, fapt fără de care istoria ulterioară a evreilor nu poate fi înţeleasă. Preoţii Templului au devenit în timp posesorii unor colosale averi materializate în aur şi alte metale preţioase, fapt care cum era de aşteptat, le va aduce şi neajunsuri pe lângă speratele avantaje, vezi repetatele descinderi ale invadatorilor în "garsoniera lui Dumnezeu"... Dupa exilul babilonian Templul începe să joace rolul de … bancă, fapt care spune enorm despre natura clasei preoţeşti dintotdeauna şi de peste tot. Atunci când Biserica Ortodoxă Română era (în epoca premodernă, dinaintea abolirii şerbiei şi sclaviei, şi dinaintea secularizării averilor bisericii de către Domnul Unirii) cel mai mare exploatator, deţinând în proprietate un sfert din întreaga suprafaţă a ţării şi fiind în acelaşi timp cel mai important stăpân de sclavi (robi mânăstireşti) şi exploatator de clăcaşi, aceasta nu făcea decât să-i emuleze pe leviţii şi aaroniţii din Ierusalimul postexilic, în tendinţa lor parşivă de a aduna una peste alta averile pământeşti, în timp ce predicau imbecililor de rând "fericirea săracilor pe lumea-cealaltă"...  

popii evreilor s-au folosit de credulitatea şi propensiunea spre superstiţii a concetăţenilor lor pentru a-şi asigura o viaţă de rentieri şi o pensie pe viaţă lor şi copiilor lor, asta n-o spun politruci atei sau cărţile de propagandă comunistă traduse din autori ai răposatei Uniuni Sovietice, aşa cum ar crede unii naivi, ci chiar erudiţii Occidentului; că ideile acestora nu ajung până la urechile fraierului care crede încă că dacă bolşevicii s-au dus dracu atunci dispar şi aceste adevăruri despre superstiţia lor preferată, asta e o chestiune care ţine doar de modelul occidental elitist de societate, în care cei-care-posedă (bani, cunoaştere, influenţă), văd total natural faptul de a le păstra pentru ei şi între ei.

Închid aici această lungă paranteză şi continui cu descrierea lui Halpern: În timpul rămas până la căderea regatului Iuda, preoţimea urbană a templului din Ierusalim s-a îndeletnicit cu modificarea textelor religioase pentru ca acestea să se conformeze noii ideologii centralizatoare a statului care era iahvismul exclusivist; astfel au disparut în bună parte referinţele la intervenţii supranaturale altele decât cele ale lui Iahve. Deportarea populaţiei ţărăneşti si mai ales a elitelor clericale şi militare rurale, n-a făcut decât să participe şi ea la stârpirea vechilor tradiţii politeiste. Impunerea dogmei de stat, dogmă care dicta loialitate exclusivă divinităţii monarhiei, reflectă ambiţia statului de a trata direct cu subiecţii, şuntând centrele de rezistenţă şi ierarhiile clanice. În atari condiţii Deuteronomul 13: 6-11 ordonă evreilor să-şi trădeze şi lichideze fraţii, copii sau nevestele, dacă aceştia adoră în secret vreun alt zeu, precum ancestralele zeităţi astrale cunoscute sub numele de "oştile Domnului". Mai târziu, după exilul babilonian, scriptura evreiască avea să se îmbogăţească cu încă o componentă de intoleranţă şi intransigenţă exclusivistă, anume rasismul. Iudaismul din perioada imediat după exilul babilonian devine o religie rasistă dotată cu o ideologie de puritate etnico-relgioasă prin reformele lui Ezra şi Neemia, el fiind prima şi probabil singura religie supravieţuitoare care a transformat în text sacru nişte scrieri cu evident caracter rasist. Istoricii, dar până chiar şi teologii, subliniază fanatismul reformatorilor Ezra şi Neemia privitoare la măsurile de divorţ forţat pentru cuplurile în care unul dintre parteneri nu era evreu şi de interdicţie a căsătoriilor mixte. Legile naziste de puritate rasială au un precursor valabil în aceste măsuri ale religiei iudaice. Această veche tendinţă spre autosegregare şi tribalism, de întoarcere spre sine însuşi şi de refuz obstinat al celuilalt, care e din start perceput ca inferior, poluant şi astfel de evitat, şi care acum este codificată şi impusă de cei doi reformatori întorşi din exil, va avea importante şi tragice consecinţe atât pentru evrei ca şi pentru cei din jurul lor, care eventual s-au lăsat influenţaţi de religia acestora. Nu întâmplător samaritenii, aşa cum aveau să fie numiţi evreii locuitori ai teritoriilor defunctului regat nordic Israel, regat care fusese mai dezvoltat decât sărăcăciosul şi înapoiatul Iuda, vor respinge măsurile fanatice şi rasiste preconizate de Ezra şi Neemia, amprenta cosmopolitismului specifică unei societăţi cu un grad mai ridicat de ubranizare spunându-şi probabil aici cuvântul.

 

Închei aici traducerea explicaţiilor lui Halpern din articolul de enciclopedie amintit mai sus, nu înainte însă de a mai face totuşi câteva comentarii personale: chiar şi în micul, sărăcăciosul şi înapoiatul regat Iuda (vezi Israel Finkelstein pentru o comparaţie între cele 2 regate evreieşti), constatăm că se repetau aceleaşi procese de centralizare religioasă care au avut loc cu secole în urmă în Egiptul veacului al XIV-lea (î.e.n.), în timpul domniei lui Amenhotep al IV-lea (autonumit şi "Akenaton", adică "sluga lu' Aton", cum arabii şi ei au numele de "sluga (servitorul, sclavul) lu' Alah" - "Abd'alah", şi asta chiar dinaintea apariţiei islamului - tatăl lui Mahomed se numea Abd'alah), care a ales să impună întregii naţiuni adorarea exclusivă a zeului lui preferat (Aton); evident, preoţimea şi elitele clericale din provincii s-au opus din motive lesne de ghicit, de altfel după moartea faraonului aceştia îşi vor lua revanşa prin reinstituirea cultelor politeiste şi astfel abandonarea primului monoteism al istoriei. Dacă istoricitatea poveştii biblice a exilului egiptean ar fi documentată şi astfel istoric credibilă, remarca lui Freud (anume aceea că că mitul biblic al exilului egiptean îl plasează pe Moise în acelaşi secol al XIII-lea al Egiptului antic, de unde o transmisie directă a ideii) ar avea probabil temei; în realitate istoricii nu posedă date istorice care să confirme poveştile fabuloase ale exilului egiptean şi a cuceririi violente a Canaanului. Între politica ukazului aplicată de Akenaton elitelor lui provinciale, abandonarea în faţa invadatorilor şi mai apoi denigrarea murdară la care au fost supuse elitele rurale de către ideologii lui Ezechia, până la urmă consemnarea la curte pentr-un banchet continuu marcat de aventuri cu curtizane şi întrerupt (de către unii doar) pentru saloane sau ieşiri bucolice, putem zice că "soluţia finală" de centralizare a puterii aleasă de Ludovic al XIV-lea pentru nobilimea lui după Frondă, a fost chiar umană.  

Constatăm deci că manevrele politice ale unui monarh şi elite sunt la originea acestei religii, în forma ei azi bine-cunoscută, de monoteism. Iahve, sau Iehova, a fost un zeu dintr-un întreg panteon, care doar târziu şi extrem de gradual a început să capete trăsăturile pe care monoteismul contemporan i le alocă. Zeu creator şi în acelaşi timp creaţie compozită adunând prerogativele şi funcţiile altor zei din panteonul local sau naţional, Iahve era zeul furtunii, şi doar destinul istoric avea să-l transforme în mânioasa şi războinica divinitate unică pe care o găsim azi în Biblie. Acest zeu tribal "cerea" de altfel să fie adorat de aceeaşi manieră în care erau adoraţi în antichitate si preistorie toţi zeii, anume prin ritualuri sacrificiale, concretizate practic prin arderea pe altar a cărnii animalelor şau a altor produse alimentare. Biblia ne spune chiar ea că precum toţi ceilalţi zei ai acelor vremuri, Iahve şi el era un mare amator de mirosit carnea arsă pe altarul primitivului; sacrificiul animal, deşi iniţial izvorât din credinţa că Dumnezeu, ca orice şef de trib mănâncă, şi poate astfel fi îmbunat sau cumpărat cu merinde, s-a dovedit a fi un obicei care a făcut carieră în iudaism, pentru simplul fapt că era metoda de predilecţie prin care familia lui Moise (mai exact fratele acestuia numit Aaron şi toţi descendenţii lui până la distrugerea Templului de către romani în anii 70 e.n., îşi asigurau traiul parazitar. Evident, propensiunea spre câştig facil şi parazitism al unor indivizi sau a unei categorii sociale nu reprezintă decât o explicaţie incompletă a (apariţiei şi persistenţei) religiei, una dintr-o serie amplă, însă este clar că parşivenia profitorilor din clasa preoţească a fost şi este încă un factor important care pe de-o parte favorizează ceilalţi factori implicaţi cu rol de cauze şi promotori ai religiei, şi pe de alta inhibă tendinţele care merg în sensul diminuării amprentei acesteia asupra societăţii şi vieţii individului.

Panoplia de credinţe primitive ale evreilor nu se reducea doar la aceea a zeului-mirositor-de-ofrande-prăjite, însuşi fenomenul profeţiei care e adesea întâlnit la religiile Orientului fiind un astfel de exemplu: evreii credeau că visele pot constitui informaţii provenind de la zeul lor Iahve, de aceeaşi manieră în care zeul adorat poate comunica cu fanii lui şi pe alte căi, precum transa, viziunea în stare de veghe sau extaz. Profeţii, ca şi ghicitorii şi oracolele, erau expresia credinţei că ce se întâmplă în lume este legat în mod tainic de imaginarul domeniu al supranaturalului, şi în acelaşi timp ei îşi exprimau mesajul sub o formă orală şi literară clasică în regiune. De altfel cu cât mergem mai în urmă pe firul timpului, cu atât constatăm mai mult că o distincţie între religie şi magie nu mai este posibilă; de exemplu este fapt binecunoscut că în zorile religiei iudaice, între Iahve şi Satan nu se făcea o distincţie clară, aşa cum reiese din povestea din "Ieşire" (Exod) 4:24, unde Moise este pe punctul de a fi omorât de Dumnezeu. Acest pasaj introdus în textul Ieşirii este un fragment narativ vechi, din perioada în care Iahve era perceput ca un soi de demon nocturn ostil. Ca tot textul Bibliei (şi în special al Vechiului Testament), şi forma actuală a cărţilor cu conţinut profetic sunt rezultatul unei lungi prelucrări care presupune adausuri ulterioare, modificări şi îndepărtarea unor porţiuni (aşa cum arată citatul de mai sus din lucrarea The Cambridge History Of The Bible (Vol.1). Profitând de analfabetismul endemic al timpului, elitele politice şi religioase îşi puteau permite cu mare uşurinţă aceste manevre de ajustare ideologică "din mers", de unde prezenţa fenomenului de vaticinium post eventum în Biblia evreiască. Falsificările privitoare la porţiunile profetice ale Bibliei sunt însă de natură variată, ele nefiind reduse doar la scrierea unei cărţi despre nişte evenimente care au avut deja loc, pretinzând mai apoi că textul a fost compus cu secole înainte, aşa cum e cazul cu cartea lui Daniel. Cum am arătat deja mai sus, modificări (adausuri şi ştergeri) târzii ale unor termeni în textul profetic al lui Isaia schimbă total înţelesul şi semnificaţia spuselor acestuia, aceste schimbări având rolul de a obţine acelaşi efect falsificator gen profeţie postfactum, ca şi în cazul lui Daniel, dar cu alte mijloace. Lucrul acesta nu trebuie să mire câtuşi de puţin, cât timp Biblia (evreiască), "Vechiul Testament" adică, a fost un text sacru a cărei redactare a fost opera unor numeroşi indivizi din diverse epoci, munca începând la un moment dat pentru a se finaliza peste… aproape 3 sferturi de mileniu de compilare şi editare (modificare), asta dacă vrem să includem în colecţie şi ultimele ei cărţi sau pasaje, precum Daniel, Ecleziastul şi anumiţi Psalmi, sau după "numai" circa jumatate de mileniu de compilare şi editare (modificare), dacă ne limităm doar la Pentateuc. "Cartea lui Isaia", şi ea, de ex., a fost scrisă (sau editată, modificată) înainte de forma finală pe care o cunoaştem acum, de multiple mâini, şi asta timp de jumătate de mileniu

Dumnezeul în care cred încă mulţi trăitori ai mileniului trei, anima o religie ale cărei imbecilităţi nu se reduceau însă doar la credinţele amintite aici mai sus: aşa cum ne-am fi aşteptat să fie cazul cu nişte baliverne pentru fraierit naivii, inventate în acest scop de către nişte paraziţi, adică de către o clasă preoţească în permanentă căutare de a-şi garanta privilegiile şi câştigurile facile, viziunea despre lume a religiei iudaice era cu nimic mai inteligentă decât erau cei care au inventat-o, adică nişte oameni ai bronzului târziu sau fierului recent. Cei care au inventat-o aveau deci o cosmologie în acord cu convingerile vremii, drept pentru care Biblia consideră că pământul este plat iar cerul un tavan rigid şi boltit, peste care e cocoţat tronul domnului Iahve, sprijint pe niste stâlpi, ori nişte munţi, sau în orice caz având măcar niscaiva "porţi de acces", başca niste orificii pe unde cade apa din ceruri pe pământ. O serie de imagini din diferite lucrări erudite despre viziunea biblică despre cosmos sunt reproduse în lucrarea "The Early History Of Heaven" a lui J. Edward Wright publicată la "Oxford University Press" în 2000. În lucrarea "Judaism - History, Belief And Practice", Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Routledge 2003 (Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group), în partea întâi (History) în capitolul 2 (intitulat "The Bible and Ancient Near Eastern civilization"), la p. 9, se repetă acelaşi lucru privitor la credinţa scriitorilor Bibliei într-un Pământ plat, peste care se află un cer boltit şi rigid, deasupra căruia se află apă.

 

Cosmologia unei populaţii este unul dintre factorii care influenţează teologia acesteia; nu altfel stau lucrurile cu evreii, care şi-au conceput religia pornind de la premiza oferită de o cosmologie geocentrică şi tripartită ca aceea amintită mai sus, pentru a evolua, sub influenţa culturilor indoeuropene (persane şi greceşti) mai puternice şi mai avansate, spre o cosmologie amplu stratificată şi o teologie adaptată în consecinţă.

 

Iniţial, evreii (ca şi rudele lor din Canaan, şi în definitiv ca şi populaţiile mesopotamiene) credeau că după moarte indivizii continuă să ducă o existenţă subpământeană, de unde pot influenţa (în rău sau în bine) soarta celor încă în viaţă. Aceste credinţe primitive au generat un amplu set de ritualuri a căror manifestare se concretiza într-un cult al morţilor şi în numeroase practici necromanţiale. Astfel o serie de preoţi, "medium-uri", oracole şi magicieni îşi duceau traiul de pe urma acestor credinţe, peste tot pe teritoriul populat pe atunci de evrei.

 

Această activitate de venerare, contactare şi influenţare a răposaţilor deranja însă elita preoţească a Templului din Ierusalim (şi care sunt autorii ai textelor care editate şi compilate mai târziu, formează azi Biblia evreiască), preoţi care vedeau în aceşti adepţi ai spiritismului, "comunicatori cu morţii", doar nişte concurenţi pe o piaţă şi aşa destul de aglomerată (ne aducem aminte că preoţii din Ierusalim au manevrat monarhia şi au editat scripturile pentru a demoniza şi interzice activităţile preoţilor din provincie, care în temple şi sanctuare plasate pe înălţimi (şefela) oficiau ritualuri pentru Iahve şi alţi zei pe care populaţia evreiască îi adorau; mai mult, atunci când aceste elite sacerdotale din regiuni au fost abandonate în mâinile invadatorului, care fie i-a masacrat fie i-a deportat, aaroniţii din Ierusalaim afirmau că aceştia îşi merită soarta, fiind pedepsiţi pentru idolatria lor). Nu poate fi deci de mirare că preoţimea din gruparea minoritară a iahvismului a condamnat viguros practicile necromanţiale, iniţial acceptând eficacitatea lor, pentru ca ulterior să le condamne, respingând însăşi posibilitatea ca un individ viu să poată comunica cu persoane decedate.

Într-o astfel de conjunctură de luptă ideologică (motivată însă şi de o luptă pentru impunerea pe piaţă), iahvismul a definit Şeol-ul (tărâmul subpământeam al morţilor, despre care textele biblice pre-exilice NU spun nimic, dovadă a curăţării lor de către tabăra iahvistă, care prezintă acest tărâm în culori nefavorabile şi pesimiste) în culori mai sumbre decât "spiritiştii" şi decât convenea populaţiei în general, iahviştii mergând până la a nega că după moarte indivizii posedă o conştinţă de sine şi a lumii exterioare, sau că mai pot gândi. Astfel se explică că în porţiunile veterotestamentare ale Bibliei moartea este descrisă în culori sumbre, ea nefiind pentru nimeni, virtuoşi sau păcătoşi, bogaţi sau săraci, o stare plăcută, asta cel puţin atât timp cât vii nu hrăneau aceşti morţi; iahvismul, ca şi credinţele populare şi ale spiritiştilor, considera că nici Iahve şi nici vreun alt zeu nu domneşte peste sau nu se interesează de cei morţi, şi că oricum, "cerurile" lui Iahve (sau ale zeilor) nu sunt o zonă în care, vii sau morţi, oamenii pot ajunge. Dacă Biblia evreiască menţionează totuşi că, în mod excepţional, unii oameni pot merge în ceruri alături de Iahve (Enoh şi Ilie), asta nu are loc după moartea acestor indivizi, ci cât timp aceştia se mai află încă în viaţă. Locul şi destinul omului, în viziunea biblică, este deci pe sau în pământ, nu în ceruri. Cerurile sunt ale lui Iahve, pământul oamenilor, cum explică Edward J. Wright în a sa Istorie timpurie a cerurilor. Astfel că Biblia nu ne raportează despre nici un patriarh, nici despre Avraam, nici despre Isac, nici despre Iacob, nici despre vreun ilustru monarh ca Saul, David sau Solomon, nici măcar despre Moise, că "a mers după moarte în cerurile lui Iahve"; nu, nici vorbă, tot ce ni se spune e doar că "merg să doarmă cu strămoşii"

Cea mai lungă parte din perioada sa de redactare şi editare deci, Biblia a menţinut o poziţie sobră privitoare la soarta omului după moarte (individul nu mai este mare lucru după moarte, nemaiavând nici conştinţă, nici putinţă), antropologia acesteia susţinând o viziune materialistă (sau "fizicistă", care enunţă persoana ca fiind o unitate psihofizică, cum o defineşte Nancey Murphy), monistă (adică opusă dualismului trup-suflet, materie-spirit, infiltrate doar mai târziu şi ca urmare a unor influenţe străine (greceşti şi persane) în textul sacru iudaic). Această tradiţie de mare luciditate filozofică indiferent de motivaţiile meschine ale adoptării ei, şi-a manifestat influenţa permanent în iudaism, asta chiar şi atunci când tendinţele sincretice din epoca elenistă şi romană au orientat teologia iudaică spre puncte de vedere diametral opuse, fapt rămânând că şi azi o bună parte dintre evrei împărtăşesc un scepticism sănătos în ce priveşte posibilitatea vieţii după moarte, fie ea pură existenţă spirituală (suflet fără trup), fie reîncarnare survenind într-un viitor neprecizat.

Persistenţa credinţelor populare din cultul morţilor în ciuda tuturor eforturilor brutale de eradicare a acestor superstiţii, ca şi dezastrele politice şi sociale din secolele VIII-VI î.e.n. (precum cucerirea regatului Iuda (de astă dată capitala Ierusalim inclusiv) şi deportarea unei părţi importante a elitelor Templului, elite care altă dată explicau o astfel de soartă crudă ca fiind "o pedeapsă a lui Iahve pentru idolatrii" - să ne aducem aminte cum au interpretat iahviştii din Ierusalim deportarea elitelor de provincie, pe când Sanherib cucerise tot regatul Iuda dar doar împresurând Ierusalimul; dezastrul intervenit în propria tabără a necesitat o amplă reajustare teologică, în primul rând pentru a explica cum "poporul ales" al "zeului-zeilor", "unicul Iahve", "stăpânul tuturor celorlalţi zei" şi "creatorul Universului", a putut fi înfrânt şi cucerit, şi pe de altă parte pentru a explica cum bunul şi piosul rege Iosia, lăudat de Biblie pe toate vocile pentru că era un partizan înfocat al facţiunii iahviste din religia evreilor, a putut muri atât de stupid şi puţin glorios, iar regatul lui aneantizat, supuşii cei mai de soi fiind deportaţi la mama-dracu'), dar mai ales contactul cu ideile teologice şi filozofice ale perşilor (dualismul, credinţa într-o judecată de apoi) şi mai târziu ale grecilor (credinţa în viaţă dupa moarte, în dualismul suflet corp şi deci în existenţa esenţei imateriale (idealism) şi nemuritoare care e sufletul), au făcut ca în perioada imediat dinaintea exilului babilonian şi aceea post-exilică şi elenistă, în facţiunea iahvistă să apară voci care militau pentru adoptarea ideilor dualiste greceşti despre o viaţă după moarte, existenţa unui suflet şi viziunea dualistă persană despre lupta finală dintre Bine şi Rău, cu Judecata ei de apoi. Din acest sincretism operat doar gradual şi niciodată complet adoptat, a rezultat ideea că deşi realitatea demonstrează că cei buni nu sunt răsplătiţi în timpul vieţii iar cei răi nici ei pedepsiţi, într-o imaginară existenţă ulterioară totuşi, zeul Iahve judecă faptele fiecăruia şi răsplăteşte în consecinţă (pe cei buni luându-i lângă el în ceruri şi pe cei răi trimiţându-i spre tortură veşnică pe mâna "Satanei"), restabilind astfel justiţia pe care cei mai mulţi evrei n-o mai vedeau nicăieri în această epocă tristă de succesive înrobiri şi revolte înăbuşite; practic, în condiţiile date, o astfel de tendinţă teologică era atât politic cât şi logic necesară pentru a menţine credinţa maselor în zeitatea naţională. Prima atestare biblică clară a acestei schimbări teologice apare în cartea lui Daniel, lucare târzie, din epoca elenistă.  

Rezumând, se poate afirma că dacă iahvismul timpuriu considera moartea a fi practic (în Şeol conştinţa indivdului pălea treptat pentru a sfârşi în nefiinţă) punctul final al existenţei, sau în orice caz al unei existenţe care să-şi merite numele şi atenţie din partea redactorilor textelor biblice timpurii (despre stingerea asta graduală a conştinţei şi gândirii, vezi asta şi asta), mai târziu, în perioada persană şi elenistă şi ca urmare a dezastrelor politice şi sociale din perioada cuprinsă între secolele VIII şi VI î.e.n., aceştia vor adopta şi ei, în bună parte (însă tranziţia n-a fost niciodată completă, unii istorici evrei ai religiei negând chiar că aceasta a afectat vreodată o majoritate a evreilor înainte de distrugerea Templului şi ridicarea iudaismului rabinic al fariseilor) o viziune mai optimistă (dar în acelaşi timp şi mai puţin sobră şi realistă…) decât aceea a iudaismului clerical al Templului din Ierusalim din perioada timpurie, noua tendinţă din iudaism susţinând conform modelului religios grecesc că moartea este momentul în care o esenţă imaterială şi nemuritoare a individului, esenţă numită "suflet", se desparte de trup, pentru a migra spre ceruri alături de zei, unde duce o existenţă fără sfârşit şi griji, asta eventual după o judecată a meritelor lumeşti ale posesorului.

 

Pentru a dovedi parcă că religia - orice religie - reprezintă un set de credinţe ale momentului aflate la intersecţia între tradiţie şi spiritul epocii ("contemporaneitate"), teologia creştină din ţările civilizate ale Vestului suferă în prezent un proces de adaptare la noile date ştiinţifice din neurobiologie. Cauzele nu-şi găsesc originea exclusiv în reacţia asta la cuceririle biologiei moderne, ci şi ca reacţie la progresele în istorie şi istoria religiei, care nuanţează de decenii bune vechile teze ale teologiei privitoare la înţelesul pe care îl dădeau autorii şi editorii textelor biblice acelor termeni folosiţi în definirea viziunii lor despre lume şi despre om. Astfel că o parte dintre teologii occidentali (creştini şi evrei) au şi elaborat deja de ani buni noua paradigmă, menită să integreze concluziile acestor progrese ştiinţifice, în special pe acelea din neurobiologie, ei revenind asupra textelor sacre pentru a face dreptate citirii şi traducerii corecte din ebraică, şi pentru a îmbrăţişa astfel materialismul, care e unica poziţie veritabilă a Pentateucului (Torei); ei abandonează astfel ideea de suflet şi întreg dualismul conex, devenite (în ochii lor) acum imposibil de susţinut din punct de vedere ştiinţific. Din această categorie fac parte teologi creştini precum Nancey Murphy, Joel B. Green şi David Hulme. Astfel, ceea ce istoricii, istoricii religiei, antropologii, sociologii şi psihologii practic afirmau de mult timp deja în lucrările lor şi în enciclopedii privitor la antropologia veterotestamentară, şi ceea ce spun neurobiologii, a început să fie adoptat ca discurs şi de către cei mai educaţi şi perspicace teologi creştini, care realizează că dacă vor continua să susţină vechile idei neoplatoniciene ale Sfinţilor Părinţi ai Bisericii, la un moment dat, într-un viitor nu prea îndepărtat, creştinismul (ca şi celelalte monoteisme) se va confrunta cu o criză comparabilă cu aceea provocată de Galilei după ce acesta şi-a întors luneta către Jupiter.

Aceştia văd pericolul profilându-se la orizont, şi simt urgenţa unei reajustări, însă, evident, se lovesc de conservatismul altora din tagma lor parazitară, care sunt mult mai puţin înclinaţi să se avânte într-o astfel de aventură teologică riscantă cum e abandonarea ideii de suflet şi îmbrăţişarea materialismului biblic şi ştiinţific. (ca să fiu sincer, după ce am citit 3 lucrări recente dedicate subiectului aşa cum este el perceput de către "noua şcoală" de teologi, autorii n-au reuşit să mă convingă că dacă materialismul este adevărat - şi nu încape îndoială că este adevărat! - el este şi complet inofensiv d.p.d.v. moral şi etic; mi-e teamă că adoptarea lui pe scară largă, în societate, riscă să producă în afară de efectele pozitive de mult timp aşteptate de către elitele intelectuale şi scepticii dintotdeauna, şi o degradare morală dacă această schimbare de optică nu e însoţită de o înnoire etică la scara întregii populaţii, fapt care este extrem de greu realizabil).

Revenind la noua paradigmă, constatăm că aşa cum au procedat iahviştii epocilor persane şi eleniste, creştinii contemporani vor integra şi ei în teologia lor, lent (şi în orice caz incomplet), noile date; biserica cu caracterul ei dogmatic recunoscut este în general instituţia care adoptă ultima noul. Mai devreme sau mai târziu, dacă nu va dispare datorită concurenţei altor religii, creştinismul va sfârşi deci prin a-şi modifica viziunea despre om, el apelând ca întotdeauna când au intervenit astfel momente de criză între cunoaşterea ştiinţifică şi credinţele şi dogmele lui, la interpretări oricât de forţate şi metaforice, simple şi ridicule esprit de l'escalier aflate la mile distanţă de sensul original voit de autorii Scripturii, şi asta doar pentru a-şi salva de bine de rău faţa, care ea e atât de necesară pentru a perpetua o categorie socială parazită... 

 

Istoric vorbind, iudaismul este religia care a reuşit să impună monoteismul, o ideologie care s-a dovedit prea des periculoasă prin intoleranţa inerentă pe care o presupune ideea ca nu există decât un unic dumnezeu şi acela se întâmplă, evident, să fie cel venerat de cel care aderă la această ideologie religioasă; în viziunea monoteistă, toţi cei care nu aderă la aceasta sunt nişte "rătăciţi", nişte "fiinţe vinovate de idolatrie" şi astfel demne de a fi ucise, discriminate, deposedate de bunuri şi pământuri, aşa cum în mod insistent recomandă textual Biblia.

Filozoful canadian (de origine franceză) Hervé Fischer, spunea că "monoteismul constitue una dintre cele mai mari tragedii ideologice din istoria umanităţii", (Hervé Fischer, "Vom Fi Zei" (Nous Serons Des Dieux), ed. VLB, o lucrare care demolează mitul suferinţei salvatoare şi a dolorismului creştin). Marele scriitor Gore Vidal avea o opinie similară celei a lui Fischer, când spunea:

 

"Marele flagel aflat în chiar inima culturii noastre, un flagel despre care nu îndrăznim să vorbim, este monoteismul. Plecând de la un text barbar al epocii bronzului cunoscut sub numele de Vechiul Testament, au derivat trei religii antiumane: iudaismul, creştinismul şi islamul." (citat din Richard Dawkins, "Pour en finir avec Dieu" (titlul original "The God Delusion", 2006), éditions Robert Laffont, Paris, 2008, p.45). 

 

Nu e de mirare că în cazul evreilor, credinţa asta lipsită de orice nuanţă în atributul de "aleşi" ai unicului "Creator", a venit astfel cu o seamă de neajunsuri. Religios vorbind, evreii sunt acei oameni din care Dumnezeu însuşi "ridică regi", aşa cum Iahve declară în Biblie. Daca seminţii întregi au trăit şi trăiesc cu "complexul inferiorităţii", evreii credincioşi dimpotrivă, sunt printre puţinii indivizi care trăiesc cu un marcat complex al superiorităţii, şi asta pentru că în mod repetat "Domnul Savaot" (adică "Domnul mulţimilor cereşti", formulă reziduală din vremurile politeiste)  le spune că "vor deveni foarte numeroşi", că "vor fi un popor de stăpâni", "un popor ales şi neam sfânt", "un popor al lui Dumnezeu", etc. (Facere, Ieşire, Deuteronom). Tot Biblia evreiască ne mai raportează că întru ocrotirea evreilor, Dumnezeu nu se dă înapoi de la nimic, nici măcar de la masacru: hetei, gherghesei, amorei, canaanei, ferezei, hevei, iebusei, toţi sunt daţi pe rând pe mâinile evreilor spre nimicire, iar zeul crud al acestora îi avertizează: "Fără milă!" (Deut. 7:2) Oricine citeşte şi crede Biblia a absolvit deja o abominabilă şcoală a crudităţii şi barbariei. Dacă e să credem afirmaţiile Bibliei, atunci, aşa cum spunea renumitul Étienne Gilson,

 

"poporul evreu a rămas credincios acestei obligaţii, iar războaiele pe care le-a purtat împotriva duşmanilor au fost adesea războaie de exterminare." (Étienne Gilson, "Filozofia în Evul Mediu", editura Humanitas, 1995, p.145/146)

 

Biblia relatează o serie de astfel de războaie totale, "de exterminare", numite de evrei "războaie sfinte" (termenul nu e inventat de musulmani, aşa cum s-ar crede, evreii fiind şi în această privinţă pionieri!) sau "herem"-uri, nişte războaie în care absolut totul este sortit distrugerii, femei, copii, bătrâni, bolnavi, dobitoace, obiecte. (Britannica online 2008, articol "biblical literature", p.112 din 334:   

 

Aşa cum remarcă "Enciclopedia Britannica",

 

"iudaismul are trăsături războinice, evreii fiind organizaţi ca o armată (numită "oştile lui YHWH" în Ieşire 12:41), dumnezeul lor fiind chiar uneori numit "luptătorul". (Britannica online 2008, Judaism, p.8 din 213).

 

Edmond Jacob în lucrarea "Noul Testament" vine şi el să întărească ideea aceasta de "război sfânt" al evreilor, spunându-ne că "războiul a fost vreme de multe secole principala îndeletnicire a evreilor" (p.32 şi 33), el adăugând:

 

"[..] cântecul de război, în schimb, are în mod permanent o rezonanţă religioasă, căci războiul era întotdeauna unul sfânt, purtat de către Iahve însuşi în fruntea oştirilor sale, el fiind prezent în chivotul sacru [..]. E de asemenea semnificativ faptul că una dintre cele mai vechi colecţii poetice e Cartea Războaielor Domnului, din care avem un scurt extras în Numeri 21,14."

 

Filozoful creştin Étienne Gilson spune în monumentala lucrare deja citată mai sus că poporul lui Israel era

 

"întărit de această făgăduinţă, Israel a pornit aşadar să cucerească celelalte popoare, mult mai preocupat să subjuge seminţiile cucerite, sau chiar să le nimicească, decât să le primească alături de el într-o comunitate religioasă tot mai largă, în care să intre toţi cei care îl iubesc pe Dumnezeul adevarat." (Étienne Gilson, "Filozofia în Evul Mediu", editura Humanitas, 1995, p.146)

 

El adaugă că în contrast cu zeii astrali ai politeismului, primitori şi universali,

 

"ceea ce carcterizează Dumnezeul evreilor şi gândirea religioasă iudaică este opoziţia ireductibilă faţă de orice sincretism: Dumnezeul adevărat nu-i câştigă pe ceilalţi şi nici măcar nu încearcă să-i asimileze, pur şi simplu le neagă existenţa şi îi elimină" (Étienne Gilson, "Filozofia în Evul Mediu", p.146, editura Humanitas, 1995).

 

La o importantă sărbătoare evreaiscă, ritul include şi azi consumul de sfeclă roşie (silqa', care mai înseamnă şi "a vâna"), praz (karate, care mai înseamnă şi "tăiat") şi curmale (tamarim, care mai înseamnă şi "terminaţi"), ei ritualizând dublul înţeles al cuvintelor: "Să-i placă lui Dumnezeu ca vrăjmaşii noştrii să fie vânaţi, tăiaţi şi terminaţi." (Mircea Eliade, Ioan Petru Culianu, "Dicţionar al religiilor", editura Humanitas, 1993, p.212)

 

Spiritul acesta răzbunător şi de împărţire arbitrară între indivizi este bine surprins de profesorul Elie Barnavi, care spune:

 

"Religia, orice religie, ridică nişte ziduri între două entităţi schimbătoare dar totuşi întotdeauna definite cu scrupulozitate ca fiind un "noi" şi "ceilalţi": ziduri între credincioşi şi lumea exterioară a necredincioşilor, iar în sânul monoteismelor între ortodocşi şi eretici, sau între ortodocşi şi sectanţi. Funcţie de spiritul timpului, adică de condiţiile sociale şi culturale la originea ideologiei dominante, aceste ziduri ridicate de religie sunt mai mari sau mai mici, mai etanşe sau mai poroase, dar ele au existat întotdeauna şi vor exista cât timp religia va exista şi ea. Ele nu se vor prăbuşi decât atunci când toată lumea va fi văzut lumina. Oricare dintre religiile revelate este o religie de luptă, numai armele se schimbă şi eventual ardoarea cu care credincioşii se servesc de ele." (p.28/29)

 

"[…] toate religiile, cele mai irenice (pacifiste) inclusiv, poartă violenţa în sânul lor precum norul furtuna : deîndată ce condiţiile sociale se pretează, acestea dau frâu liber violenţei." (p.56)

 

(pasaje extrase din lucrarea lui Elie Barnavi numită "Religiile ucigaşe" ("Les religions meurtrières"), Flammarion 2006, colecţia "Champs actuel", ISBN: 978-2-0812-1305-0.

Elie Barnavi este profesor de istoria civilizaţiei occidentale moderne la Universitatea

din Tel-Aviv, fost ambasador al Israelului în Franţa în perioada 2000 - 2002. În prezent este directorul "Comitetului ştiinţific al Muzeului Europei" din Bruxelles.)

 

Congenital intolerant, el fiind definit ca reprezentând "respingerea radicală a existenţei zeilor vecinilor şi afirmarea unicităţii statutului divin pentru propriul zeu", monoteismul, atât timp religia n-a fost despărţită de stat, n-a permis apariţia nici a toleranţei tipice sincretismului păgân (cum a fost aceea a romanilor, mereu dispuşi să mai adauge un zeu asiatic, străin, în panteonul lor), şi nici a ideii de "neutralitate" a autorităţilor vis à vis de cultele practicate de subiecţii lor. Din acest punct de vedere , în relaţia religii-semite/religii-europene, însuşi termenul "religie" când îi compari înţelesul nu se pretează la o simplă traducere (de termen), fiind necesară mai degrabă o translaţie (de sens), şi asta în ambele direcţii, căci ceea ce europenii înţeleg prin religie nu e ceea ce semiţii (evreii şi arabii, şi prin ei toţi musulmanii) înţeleg prin acest termen; istoricul israelian Elie Barnavi, în "Religiile ucigaşe" (Flammarion 2006), la p.23-25 scrie:

 

"Termenul religie nu are sens decât în contextul civilizaţiei occidentale, el trimiţând la o specificitate occidentală, anume definirea unui domeniu al sacrului distinct de celelalte activităţi sociale. Este crucială observaţia că această opoziţie nu între sacru şi profan (căci aceasta este o opoziţie prezentă în toate civilizaţiile), ci între religie şi alte forme de organizare socială, în special statul, este atât de fundamentală pentru spiritul occidental, că acesta nici nu poate concepe că îi este proprie şi că ea are sens doar în propria lui cultură. [...] În limba arabă religie se spune "din", adică "Legea", ceea ce nu înseamnă acelaşi lucru cu ce înţeleg creştinii prin "religie"; ebraica a trebuit să împrumute un concept persan, anume "dat", care are acelaşi sens ca şi termenul arab "din". Nu este semnificativ că cele 2 sisteme de credinţă care sunt considerate ca fiind cele mai dure, cele mai exigente, n-au un termen pentru a numi religia? Explicaţia stă în faptul că nici islamul şi nici iudaismul nu concep religia ca fiind un domeniu distinct de celelalte forme de activitate socială, căci ambele constitue sisteme totale, structurate de la bun început de către o relaţie particulară cu sacrul. În cazul lor nu a existat un stat care să le preceadă, cum a fost cazul creştinismului, ci o religie care a inventat statul pentru a o servi şi care în fapt se confundă cu el." 

 

 

Tot Elie Barnavi avertizează:

 

"Ce ştiu, pe de altă parte, este că e urgentă reafirmarea regulilor indispensabile domesticirii numinosului, cum ar spune savanţii, şi a menţinerii lui în limite civilizate. Aceste reguli există; ele se numesc laicitate. Această laicitate fără de care nici o democraţie nu este posibilă, trebuie să ţineţi de ea cu ghiarele şi dinţii, s-o apăraţi fără nuanţe şi fără slăbiciune. ("Religiile ucigaşe", Flammarion 2006, p.167.)

 

Intoleranţa exclusivismului monoteist nu putea să se limiteze doar la rasismul iudaismului cândva reformat de fanaticii Ezra şi Neemia, întrucât iudaismul este, ca orice religie cu rădăcini patriarhale, şi misogin: evreul credincios recită şi azi zilnic rugăciunea în care îi mulţumeşte lui Dumnezeu că nu l-a făcut femeie! Cum spune Rosa Perez în articolul "Iudaismul" din "Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Culture Society History",

 

"Evreii, consideraţi a fi ’oamenii Cuvântului’, au interzis utilizarea cuvântului de către femei: istoria nu consemnează nici o femeie recunoscută a fi un învăţat în ale scrierilor canonice; din contră, cum remarca Judith Baskin (1994), textele clasice ale iudaismului desemnează femeia ca obiect al exercitării puterii de către masculi."

 

Este imposibil să tratezi istoria iudaismului fără a atingi fie şi superficial, chestiunea antisemitismului. Am să mă limitez doar la a enunţa un scurt istoric al acestei atitudini, un istoric care să lege logic dpdv cauzal credinţele religioase de atitudinile antisemite.

Ostilitatea faţă de evrei provine din Antichitate, încă din timpuri biblice, când evreii erau criticaţi şi pedepsiţi pentru că nu voiau să se integreze ca grup şi să adopte valorile, obiceiurile şi religia popoarelor în mijlocul cărora trăiau, preferând să rămână separaţi social şi religios ("The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism: From Ancient Times to the Present Day", Walter Laqueur, Oxford University Press 2006, p.40. Aceeaşi idee reia şi enciclopedia Britannica). Ecouri ale acestor fricţiuni ne parvin din chiar textele religioase evreieşti, cum este de exemplu "Cartea Esterei" din Vechiul Testament (Laqueur, p.39). Textul religios nu poate fi considerat simplu document istoric, de aceea astfel de probe trebuie tratate cu prudenţă. Avem însă ca primă dovadă istorică a antisemitismului antic mărturiile egiptene care relatează distrugerea templului de la Elephantine în 410 î.e.n. (Laqueur, p.40) Din păcate nici în acest caz nu ştim cu siguranţă motivele exacte ale atacului, deşi unii autori au avansat anumite explicaţii; se consideră că a fost vorba despre un conflict între clerul egiptean şi cel evreiesc pe tema "arderilor de tot", ritual detaliat amplu în Vechiul Testament şi subiect abordat şi în acest text. Alţii notează simpatia reciprocă binecunoscută între perşi şi evrei, fapt ce pare a fi provocat resentimente în rândul populaţiei egiptene (Laqueur, p.41). Nu putem exclude nici conflictele de natură materială, pe tema proprietăţii, de ex.

În relaţia lor cu vecinii lor, evreii par a fi avut probleme legate tot de ritualurile lor, care iritau pare-se, aşa cum ne dovedeşte mărturia scrisă a grecului Teofrast, care critică sacrificiul animalelor vii de către evrei (Laqueur, p.39). Şi de la Maneto, un preot egiptean, avem ecouri ale iritării pe care religia evreilor o provoca în rândurile egiptenilor. Ştim însă şi faptul că aceste surse nu sunt foarte sigure, Maneto depunând mărturie scrisă la …700 de ani după evenimentele relatate, iar cartea lui, pierdută de mult timp, fiind doar citată de Iozefus Flavius la mai bine de 300 de ani de la redactarea iniţială.

În perioada elenistică antisemitismul a fost mai mult intelectual decât faptic, şi el se reducea la dispreţul care transpare în scrierile filozofilor şi scriitorilor romani sau greci în ce priveşte religia iudaică şi riturile ei bizare (Laqueur, p.41). Aceste scrieri ne arată că iudaismul era însă şi tare puţin cunoscut de cei care totuşi îl judecau, căci vedem adesea descrise legende ridicule şi incredibile, în contrast cu scrierile precedente care vorbeau despre detalii rituale precise.

Faptul că iniţial romanii i-au tratat pe evrei mai bine decât pe egipteni, a provocat din nou resentimente în rândul acetora din urmă, fapt care în 38 e.n. s-a soldat cu câteva pogroame la Alexandria, un oraş antic care avea o importantă populaţie evreiască. Anumiţi învăţaţi, precum Apolonie Molon, profesorul lui Cezar şi al lui Cicero, făceau încă de pe atunci observaţia corectă că evreii nu participaseră cu mare lucru la civilizaţia omenească (Laqueur, p.42). Observaţie corectă însă tare puţin relvantă totuşi, căci câte alte popoare ale vechimii nu rămăseseră până la acel moment fără nici o contribuţie la propăşirea civilizaţiei omeneşti?

Cicero, elevul lui Molon, la rândul lui considera că influenţa evreilor este nejustificat de mare în raport cu valoarea culturii şi religiei lor, el văzând un pericol în asta, şi obsevând că valorile iudaismului încărcat de intoleranţă nu erau compatibile cu valorile romane, el temându-se de o degenerare (Laqueur, p.42), care din punctul meu de vedere, din păcate chiar a avut ulterior loc, odată cu câştigarea puterii politice de către creştinism, care rămâne istoric vorbind o sectă iudaică. Există şi forme de antisemitism amuzante, precum aceea a umoristului Petronius, care batjocorea ritualul circumciziei şi părul lung la barbaţii evrei, concluzionând că aceştia se roagă la un zeu porc. (Laqueur, p.43).

Critici ceva mai seriosi din rândurile romanilor observau că monoteismul care caracterizează religia evreilor este o formă de credinţă intolerantă şi agresivă (Laqueur, p.44). Tacitus observa că evreii se comportă bine unul cu altul, însă rău cu cei care nu sunt de o religie cu ei. El vorbea despre tribalismul, exclusivismul etnico-religios ("clannishness") al everilor, şi despre faptul că deşi stricaţi, evreii nu se culcau cu femei de altă religie decât a lor (Laqueur, p.44).  

Odată cu instituţionalizarea creştinismului şi ridicarea lui la rangul de religie de stat, creşte şi ura faţă de evrei, aceştia fiind percepuţi a fi "cei care l-au crucificat pe Isus" (acuza de "deicid") şi ca poporul care îi respinge învăţăturile. Aceste idei cu origine în Noul Testament, vor avea o lungă şi lugubră carieră întinsă pe mai bine de un mileniu de istorie creştină.

Înainte de apariţia naţionalismeor în Europa, forma cea mai răspândită de antisemitism îşi trăgea deci seva din învăţăturile religioase ale Noului Testament; Iustin-Martir, de exemplu susţinea că distrugerea Templului de la Ierusalim este o bine-meritată pedeapsă pentru păcatele (Matei 27 :24-25, Apocalipsa cu sintagma ei de "sinagoga Diavolului", ) şi perfidia evreilor (Laqueur, p.47). Cu astfel de idei în evanghelii, nici o mirare că Sfinţii Părinţi ai Bisericii au avut o contribuţie importantă la dezvoltarea antisemitismului! (Laqueur, p.47). 

Un alt astfel de exemplu de antisemitism motivat religios sunt predicile (Omiliile) (Sfântu-)lui Ioan Gură-de-Aur (Hrisostom), în care acesta instigă sau citează pe cei care instigă la ură religioasă contra evreilor. Pentru el evreii sunt năpârci, sinagoga un birt sau un bordel, un templu al Satanei, un bârlog al fiarelor sălbatice, o adunătură de ucigaşi ai lui Hristos, el declarând finalmente că îi urăşte pe evrei. De altfel Sfântul Ioan-Gură-de-Aur a fost amplu republicat în Germania nazistă (Laqueur, p.48)...  Sfântul pe care ortodocşii de azi şi de ieri îl adoră cu atâta patimă, este clasat de către Walter Laqueur a fi fost cel mai agresiv predicator antisemit (Laqueur, p.49) printre teologii creştini ai primelor secole!!! 

 

Sfântul Augustin nu se lasă deloc mai prejos, el scriind că ar dori să-i vadă pe toţi evreii asasinaţi de către Hristos, în aşa fel încât nici unul să nu mai i se opună acestuia. (Laqueur, p.48) El adăuga că evreii vor purta etern vina uciderii lui Iisus, simbolul lor perfect fiind Iuda Iscariotul. Pentru Petru Venerabilul, evreii nu erau fiinţe umane, ci fiare sălbatice (Laqueur, p.50). Martin Luther, părintele reformei protestante, scria în "Evreii şi minciunile lor" că evreii sunt otrăvitori de fântâni şi ucigaşi de copii furaţi. Şi această aleasă lucrare a marelui teolog avea să fie publicată frecvent în Germania lui Hitler. El avea de altfel nişte sfaturi practice extrem de utile pentru un nazist: recomanda ca atât sinagogile cât şi locuinţele evreilor să fie arse până la temelii, cărţile de rugăciuni ale evreilor trebuind să fie confiscate, rabinii trebuind şi ei să fie ameninţaţi cu moartea pentru a nu mai transmite infama credinţă. Trebuia făcut totul, pentru ca lumea să scape de această ciumă a lumii, această povară insuportabilă a umanităţii, care este evreimea şi religia iudaică. Asta, pe mine unul, dacă aş fi fost născut sau de tradiţie protestant, ar fi fost suficient să mă îndepărteze de bisericile şi sectele Reformei, dar în fine, unora poate Luther le apare, nu înţeleg cum, într-o cu totul altă lumină.

În Evul Mediu creştinii au creat ghettouri în care îi forţau pe evrei să locuiască. În materie de ghetto-uri, printre primele şi cu existenţa cea mai îndelungată, se distinge renumitul ghetto creat de Papa Paul al IV-lea (în 1555), papalitatea menţinându-l mai apoi timp de secole şi asigurându-i posteritatea istorică sub numele de "ghetto-ul roman"; acesta avea să fie ultimul ghetto desfiinţat; el a reprezentat un model precursor al planurilor de segregare şi discriminare nazistă; a fost desfiinţat doar odată cu ocuparea Romei de către armata populară sprijinită de trupele lui Napoleon în 1870 (Laqueur, p.62/63). În Evul Mediu, acuzaţii obişnuite contra evreilor erau otrăvirea fântânilor şi a rîurilor (Laqueur, p.60/61), uciderea de copii creştini în scopul preparării de azime pascale cu sângele lor (acuza de "omor ritual"), transformarea în diavoli, vrăjitoare si alte fiinţe satanice. O credinţă extrem de răspândită şi persistentă, pe cât este de absurdă şi ilogică de altfel, era şi aceea exprimată de ideea "evreului rătăcitor" (der ewige Jude, le Juif errant, the wandering Jew), care fusese blestemat chipurile să strabată în continu pământul în lung şi-n lat, aşa cum evreii au fost obligaţi să meargă în exil după distrugerea Templului de către romani, asta probabil din nou din cauza "vinei" lor enorme de a fi crucificat mântuitorul creştinilor, Iisus Hristos (alias "Ioşua Ben Iosef", şi care se întâmplă să fi fost întreaga lui viaţă, şi el tot un evreu). Ce este şi mai amuzant e că ideea însăşi că evreii au fost expulzaţi sau deportaţi de către romani e un mit creştin şi nu unul evreiesc; prima dată, ideea aceasta apare la un propagandist creştin al celui de-al doilea secol, anume Iustin Martirul. (vezi numarul 343 al revistei "L'Histoire" (juin 2009) care are ca dosar lunar o anchetă dedicată poporului evreu. Editorialul semnat de colectivul de redacţie îşi pune intrebarea "Ce este evreul?" şi pentru a răspunde se referă la lucrarea lui Shlomo Sand (profesor de istorie contemporană la Universitatea din Tel-Aviv), intitulată "Cum a fost inventat poporul evreu?" (Fayard 2008, carte premiată cu "Aujourd'hui"). Ideile principale ale editorialului şi anchetei (anchetă care cuprinde opiniile succesive a 4 istorici printre care şi Sand, ceilalţi fiind Esther Benbassa, Maurice Sartre şi Michel Winock) sunt:
- Ideea că romanii i-au expulzat pe evrei după distrugerea Templului este un mit. în realitate romanii n-au putut deporta un popor sau o întreagă populaţie, şi nici măcar o majoritate; nici măcar nu era în practica lor, în contrast cu obiceiurile asiriene şi babiloniene, care adesea foloseau deplasările masive de populaţie pentru prevenirea revoltelor. Ceea ce evreii şi alte victime ale unei propagande creşgine numesc "exilul" şi "diaspora", e în principal o creaţie apărută prin conversie şi prozelitism; cei 4 istorici citaţi se pun de acord asupra acestor lucruri, mai putin a ordinei importanţei acestor fenomene: "conversie şi prozelitism", sau "prozelitism şi conversie"? Disputa n-are loc asupra cauzei apariţiei de comunităţi în afara Palestinei, ci asupra naturii iudaismului epocii: o parte dintre istorici continuă să vadă iudaismul ca pe o religie particulară, etnic centrată şi neprozelitizantă sau universalistă, în timp ce alţii consideră că au existat totuşi ample mişcări de prozelitism.
- Ca urmare a devastării masive produse de războiul dintre romani şi patrioţii evrei, ca şi acelora produse de îndelungatul război civil între facţiunile iudaismului, evreii din Palestina au migrat local în următoarele secole după distrugeri (din Iudeeea până-n Galileea...) şi cea mai mare parte a lor s-au creştinat; după apariţia islamului, aceştia au trecut la mahomedanism; actuala populaţie palestiniană locală, în opinia lui şlomo Sand (şi ceilalti 3 istorici nu-l contrazic în această chestiune), sunt urmaşii evreilor primelor 2 secole (Ben Gurion însuşi era conştient şi a declarat public asta), evreii diasporei fiind de fapt un amestec de etnii unite doar prin aderarea liberă la iudaism. 
- în astfel de condiţii, ideea că există un popor (în sensul etnic al termenului) evreu e chiar mai iluzorie decât e să vorbim despre "poporul francez", "poporul german", "poporul englez", etc. (toate, cum bine se ştie, sunt creaţii ideologice ale naţionalismelor ultimelor secole) - istoricii se înţeleg asupra acestui punct, anume că precum toate celelalte popoare, şi poporul evreu este în primul rând o creaţie culturală.
- Winock şi Sand spun că în contrast cu modul în care se predă istoria în marile democraţii occidentale, în Israel statul continuă să ferească istoria mitică de critica ştiinţifică, predându-se o istorie aşa cum se preda ea în Franţa acum un secol, bazându-se pe mituri. De aceea şi azi copii evrei din Israel învaţă la şcoala primară Biblia pe post de carte de istorie (ori istoricii ştiu de mult timp că Biblia este o sumă de mituri brodate pe foarte subţire fond de fapte istorice. Faptul acesta trist întreţine un naţionalism exacerbat, şi aşa aţâţat de permanentul război în care statul evreu se află practic de la înfiinţarea lui în epoca modernă. Nu poate fi de mirare că în astfel de condiţii nivelul moral al tinerilor israelieni se află nu departe de acela al populaţiei din ţările arabe musulmane din regiune, adică la mile distanţă de cel al copiilor occidentali, aşa cum a dovedit-o cercetătorul israelian George Tamarin deja acum mai bine de o jumătate de secol. În deja clasicul său studiu, p
sihologul israelian George Tamarin a pus un set de întrebari unui grup de mai bine de o mie de elevi israelieni cu vârste cuprinse între 8 şi 14 ani în legătură cu asediul Ierihonului de către Iosua. Legenda "luptei Ierihonului" din Biblie face parte din ciclul de povestiri ale Ieşirii din Egipt şi cuceririi eroice a "ţării promise" ("promise" dar nu şi dăruite pesemne, dacă evreii au trebuit s-o dobândească masacrând alte populaţii care o locuiau deja…); cartea lui Iosua povesteşte cum toţi locuitorii acestei aşezări au fost masacraţi (mai puţin trădătoarea (Rahav) care a permis spionilor evrei să adune informaţii militare asupra oraşului), întrucât evreii duceau la acel moment un război sfânt ("herem") în care zeul evreu cere ca tot ce suflă să fie ucis de fanii lui. Testul lui Tamarin punea o întrebare morală simplă: "Credeţi că Iosua şi oamenii lui au acţionat corect, sau nu?" 92 procente dintre elevii interpelaţi aprobau total (66 procente) sau parţial (26 procente) faptele lui Ioşua, ei răspunzând că banda lui a acţionat corect. Argumentaţia lor era religioasă: evreilor li se promisese acel pământ de către zeul lor, drept pentru care Dumnezeu însuşi i-a ajutat să-l cucerească. Ei transferau astfel vina pentru crimele bandei lui Iosua pe umerii zeităţii fictive, care evident, în opinia oricărui credincios evreu este oricum imposibil de criticat, pedepsit şi judecat. Altă argumentaţie era aceea că banda lui Iosua a acţionat corect masacrându-i pe ierihoniţi, întrucât aceştia erau de o altă religie decât evreii, asta fiind o altă justificare cu referinţă religioasă. Optica fantaticilor Neemia şi Ezra se pare că filtrează astfel până şi-n creierele tinerelor generaţii de peste aproape 2 milenii şi jumătate... şi încă o altă argumentaţie justificativă a masacrului operat de oamenii lui Iosua era aceea că evreii nu puteau să-i lase în viaţă pe citadini, întrucât acest fapt putea conduce la "asimilare": bieţii evrei riscau astfel să fie asimilati de către "goy". Diferenţa între grupuri este referită strict religios. O altă argumentaţie în sprijinul masacrului era ceva de genul: "ierihoniţii erau impuri şi lăsându-i în viaţă ei îi făceau impuri şi pe evrei, aceştia din urmă împărtăşind astfel soarta nefericită a ierihoniţilor (zeului evreu nu-i plăceau impurii, de unde credinţa că aceştia îşi vor atrage necazuri). O altă justificare de ordin religios deci…

O parte dintre cei, puţini, care declarau a nu aproba gestul lui Ioşua, o facea argumentând că evreii nu trebuiau să fi ucis şi animalele ierihoniţilor, cum nu trebuiau nici să distrugă oraşul acestora, întrucât aceste bunuri ar fi putut fi folosite de către cuceritori. Aceasta deja este o raţionalizare capitalistă a masacrului.

Testul lui Tamarin continuă cu o întrebare în care este descrisă aceeaşi situaţie, doar numele protagoniştilor fiind schimbate (anume "Iosua" este înlocuit prin "generalul chinez Lin" iar "Israel" printr-"un regat chinez de acum 3000 de ani"); rezultatele statistice de această dată sunt inversate: doar 7 procente dintre elevii israelieni interogaţi au aprobat integral comportamentul generalului Lin, 75 procente dezaprobându-l. Asta dovedeşte cât se poate de limpede că morala natural sădită la specia socială care este omul este adormită şi mutilată de către religie prin exacerbarea indentităţilor artificiale, faptul suplimentar că elevii israelieni nu sunt nici azi expuşi tezelor critice ale ştiinţei istoriei nefiind decât, pe lângă religiozitatea răspândită în populaţie, un alt factor care scoate intoleranţi pentru care morala şi altruismul se aplică selectiv celor din "gaşcă" (adică celor de aceeaşi religie, clan, naţie sau etnie). Astfel absurdităţile religioase ale Antichităţii orientale sunt şi azi motive cu care se explică acte nejustificabile de cruzime şi violenţă extremă. Se poate pune întrebarea ce s-a schimbat de fapt în tot acest timp scurs între scrierea Biliei şi epoca actuală, în afară de faptul că am înlocuit măciuca lui Samson cu rachetele Pershing, şi predica la colţul străzii (sau Templului) cu demagogia religioasă la TV sau pe internet (vezi tele-evanghelismul în SUA, şi statisticile care arată că cele mai populare canale în Lumea arabă sunt cele cu tematică religioasă); moralmente vorbind, a avansat omenirea măcar un milimetru? Sau poate că avea dreptate antropologul Pascal Picq ("Noua istorie a omului" (Nouvelle Histoire de l'Homme), Perrin, 2007, p. 41) când scria :

 

"Papa Grigore al VI-lea spunea că vitraliile catedralelor sunt Bibliile idioţilor; nimic nu s-a schimbat de atunci, cu excepţia că lansatoarele de rachete au luat locul săgeţilor catedralelor, iar ecranele catodice pe cel al vitraliilor."

 

Revenind la dosarul lunar al revistei "L'Histoire", acesta cuprinde şi-un extras din memoriile lui Raymond Aron, un evreu care acum mai bine de 4 decenii afirma că :

  
"obiectiv vorbind, conform criteriilor utilizate de obicei pentru a identifica un popor, evreii din    diaspora nu sunt unul. Evreii rusi, englezi, germani şi francezi, chiar şi când recită aceeaşi rugăciune n-o fac în aceeaş limbă şi se înţeleg greu, puternic marcaţi fiind mai mult de culturile lor naţionale respective, decat de referinţa la o ascendenţă mai mult mitică decât autentică d.p.d.v. istoric."

Iluzia răspândită încă de a vedea evreul prin ochelarii atât de simplişti ai esenţialismului etnic denotă influenţa durabilă  a obsesiei catolice a "limpieza de sangre".

Referitor la tema antisemitismului, acesta nu trebuie confundat cu respingerea acelor idei religioase sau politice condamnabile care antrenează atitudini intolerante şi discriminatorii. Faptul că elitele SUA au ales să devină în ultimele 4 decenii un susţinător necondiţionat al statului evreu, le fac responsabile pentru actuala stare de fapt fără ieşire din Orientul mijlociu, unde şi la această oră sunt sacrificate multe vieţi omeneşti, resurse economice colosale, başca o grămadă de resurse diplomatice (dealtminteri sterile), ca şi cum întreaga omenire n-are nimic mai bun de făcut decât să împace "evreii" lui Herzl cu evreii lui Ben Gurion (veritabilii evrei, acei despre care vorbea Ben Gurion când zicea că "urmaşii evreilor sunt felahii palestinieni")! Un alt fapt inadmisibil, de această dată d.p.d.v academic, este frecventa credinţă că insignifianta religie care este iudaismul actual, face parte din categoria "marilor religii", asta cât timp în întreaga lume sunt doar vreo 13 milioane de evrei iar veritabilele mari religii îşi numără aderenţii în miliarde de oameni!!! (vezi Elie Barnavi, "Les religions meurtrières", Champs actuel, Flammarion 2006, p.13). O bună parte din actuala adversitate faţă de iudaism îşi are originea în aceleaşi fenomene ca şi în cazul islamului: ambele sunt religii care văd statul ca fiind un simplu instrument inventat şi utilizat de către religie (Barnavi, deja citat, p.24/25).  

 

R.O.M., 20 Ianuarie 2010.

prima revizie 23. Ianuarie 2010. 

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Referinţe:

 

înapoi

 

"Here Peter Berger has put it wonderfully. In the course of studying the relative levels of religious belief in the world's countries, sociologists determined that the least religious nation in the world was Sweden, while the most religious was India. Berger, speaking of the United States, said that what we have in America is a nation of Indians ruled over by an elite of Swedes. As Berger has explained, the secularized global intelligentsia is in all nations a minority of the population, "but a very influential one.""

 (citat din lucrarea "Atheism Remix: A Christian Confronts the New Atheists", autor R. Albert Mohler Jr., Crossway Books (a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers), 2008, p.35.).

 

 

înapoi

Astronomy and Cosmology: Geocentric and Heliocentric Models of the Universe. Anna Marie Eleanor Roos, Scientific Thought: In Context, Eds. Brenda Lerner and K. Lerner, Vol.1, Detroit, 2009. p32-42, 3 vols. Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning.

How To Cite: Eleanor Roos, Anna Marie. "Astronomy and Cosmology: Geocentric and Heliocentric Models of the Universe", Scientific Thought: In Context, Eds. Brenda Lerner and K. Lerner, Vol.1, Detroit, Gale, 2009. p.32-42, 3 vols, Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale Document Number: CX3058900015.

[…]

Primary Source Connection

The Copernican Revolution changed Western cosmology. The universal scientific consensus is that Earth orbits the sun—a fact backed up by the modern laws of physics and substantial observational evidence. However, in the United States today about one-fifth of residents think the sun goes around Earth. The following article puts that statistic in its social context, citing lack of consistent science education as a predominant factor. ^

SCIENTIFIC SAVVY? IN U.S., NOT MUCH

CHICAGO—When Jon D. Miller looks out across America, which he can almost do from his 18th-floor office at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, he sees a landscape of haves and have-nots—in terms not of money, but of knowledge.

Dr. Miller, 63, a political scientist who directs the Center for Biomedical Communications at the medical school, studies how much Americans know about science and what they think about it. His findings are not encouraging.

While scientific literacy has doubled over the past two decades, only 20 to 25 percent of Americans are "scientifically savvy and alert," he said in an interview. Most of the rest "don't have a clue." At a time when science permeates debates on everything from global warming to stem cell research, he said, people's inability to understand basic scientific concepts undermines their ability to take part in the democratic process.

Over the last three decades, Dr. Miller has regularly surveyed his fellow citizens for clients as diverse as the National Science Foundation, European government agencies and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. People who track Americans' attitudes toward science routinely cite his deep knowledge and long track record.

"I think we should pay attention to him," said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, who cites Dr. Miller's work in her efforts to advance the cause of evolution in the classroom. " " "We ignore public understanding of science at our peril."

Rolf F. Lehming, who directs the science foundation's surveys on understanding of science, calls him " " " "absolutely authoritative."

Dr. Miller's data reveal some yawning gaps in basic knowledge. American adults in general do not understand what molecules are (other than that they are really small). Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a key to heredity. Only about 10 percent know what radiation is. One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth, an idea science had abandoned by the 17th century.

At one time, this kind of ignorance may not have meant much for the nation's public life. Dr. Miller, who has delved into 18th-century records of New England town meetings, said that back then, it was enough "if you knew where the bridge should be built, if you knew where the fence should be built."

"Even if you could not read and write, and most New England residents could not read or write," he went on, "you could still be a pretty effective citizen."

No more. "Acid rain, nuclear power, infectious diseases—the world is a little different," he said.

It was the nuclear power issue that first got him interested in public knowledge of science, when he was a graduate student in the 1960's. "The issue then was nuclear power," he said. "I used to play tennis with some engineers who were very pro-nuclear, and I was dating a person who was very anti-nuclear. I started doing some reading and discovered that if you don't know a little science it was hard to follow these debates. A lot of journalism would not make sense to you."

Devising good tests to measure scientific knowledge is not simple. Questions about values and attitudes can be asked again and again over the years because they will be understood the same way by everyone who hears them; for example, Dr. Miller's surveys regularly ask people whether they agree that science and technology make life change too fast (for years, about half of Americans have answered yes) or whether Americans depend too much on science and not enough on faith (ditto).

But assessing actual knowledge, over time, "is something of an art," he said. He varies his questions, as topics come and go in the news, but devises the surveys so overall results can be compared from survey to survey, just as SAT scores can be compared even though questions on the test change.

For example, he said, in the era of nuclear tests he asked people whether they knew about strontium 90, a component of fallout. Today, he asks about topics like the workings of DNA in the cell because "if you don't know what a cell is, you can't make sense of stem cell research."

Dr. Miller, who was raised in Portsmouth, Ohio, when it was a dying steel town, attributes much of the nation's collective scientific ignorance to poor education, particularly in high schools. Many colleges require every student to take some science, but most Americans do not graduate from college. And science education in high school can be spotty, he said.

"Our best university graduates are world-class by any definition," he said. "But the second half of our high school populationit's an embarrassment. We have left behind a lot of people."

He had firsthand experience with local school issues in the 1980's, when he was a young father living in DeKalb, Ill., and teaching at Northern Illinois University. The local school board was considering closing his children's school, and he attended some board meetings to get an idea of members' reasoning. It turned out they were spending far more time on issues like the cost of football tickets than they were on the budget and other classroom matters. "It was shocking," he said.

So he and some like-minded people ran successfully for the board and, once in office, tried to raise taxes to provide more money for the classroom. They initiated three referendums; all failed. Eventually, he gave up, and his family moved away.

"This country cannot finance good school systems on property taxes," he said. "We don't get the best people for teaching because we pay so little. For people in the sciences particularly, if you have some skill, the job market is so good that teaching is not competitive."

Dr. Miller was recruited to Northwestern Medical School in 1999 by administrators who knew of his work and wanted him to study attitudes and knowledge of science in light of the huge changes expected from the genomic revolution.

He also has financing—and wears a yellow plastic bracelet—from the Lance Armstrong Foundation, for a project to research people's knowledge of clinical trials. Many research organizations want to know what encourages people to participate in a trial and what discourages them. But Dr. Miller said, "It's more interesting to ask if they know what a clinical trial is, do they know what a placebo is."

The National Science Foundation is recasting its survey operations, so Dr. Miller is continuing surveys for other clients. One involves following people over time, tracing their knowledge and beliefs about science from childhood to adulthood, to track the way advantages and disadvantages in education are compounded over time and to test his theory that people don't wait until they are adults to start forming opinions about the world.

Lately, people who advocate the teaching of evolution have been citing Dr. Miller's ideas on what factors are correlated with adherence to creationism and rejection of Darwinian theories. In general, he says, these fundamentalist views are most common among people who are not well educated and who "work in jobs that are evaporating fast with competition around the world."

But not everyone is happy when he says things like that. Every time he goes on the radio to talk about his findings, he said, "I get people sending me cards saying they will pray for me a lot." [DEAN, CORNELIA. "SCIENTIFIC SAVVY? IN U.S., NOT MUCH," NEW YORK TIMES, (AUGUST 30, 2005)]. 

Cornelia Dean

 

înapoi  Public Opinion About Life and Death, Death and Dying: End-of-Life Controversies, Detroit: Gale, 2009, p149-154, Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning, Page 149, Public Opinion About Life and Death.

How to Cite: "Public Opinion About Life and Death", Death and Dying: End-of-Life Controversies, Detroit: Gale, 2009, p.149-154, Gale Virtual Reference Library, Gale Document Number: CX3232300017.

 

LIFE AFTER DEATH

[…] Between 1972 and 1982, when the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research asked the American public, "Do you believe there is life after death?", 70% said they believed in an afterlife (http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/). In 1996, when the Roper Center asked the same question, 73% of respondents said yes. The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago revealed similar results in its General Social Survey 2002 (http://www.cpanda.org/cpanda/getDDI.xq?studyID=a00079). Seventy-two percent of those polled said they believed that there is a life after death. More recently, the article "Poll: Majority Believe in Ghosts" notes that 78% of adult Americans believe in life after death (CBSNews.com, October 30, 2005).

^ These data suggest that the proportion of the U.S. population believing in an afterlife is growing, from about 70% between 1972 and 1982 to about 78% in 2005. Data from the General Social Survey agree.  ^  (See Figure 11.1.) These data show that the percentage of Jewish Americans who said they believed in an afterlife rose dramatically between 1973 to 2004. In 1973, 16.7% of Jewish Americans believed in an afterlife, but by 2004 the percentage was 35.1%. The percentage of Protestant and Catholic Americans believing in an afterlife rose as well during this period. The percentage of Catholics who believed in an afterlife rose from 68.8% in 1974 to 77.3% in 2004. The percentage of Protestants who believed in an afterlife rose from 75.6% in 1973 to 77.7% in 2004.

Are there differences between those who attend religious services and those who do not? The article “Poll: Majority Believe in Ghosts” indicates what the most and the least religiously observant Americans said on the subject of afterlife. About 90% of those who attended religious services weekly or almost every week believed that humans transition to an afterlife after the physical body dies. About 70% of those who rarely or never attended religious services believed in an afterlife. […]

 

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Pentru ca academia occidentală să admită acest fapt banal, a trebuit însă ca evidenţele să se acumuleze într-o cantitate pur şi simplu strivitoare; în mod ideal, dacă elitele occidentale ar fi judecat fără părtinire propria lor religie (sau mai exact religia din care aceasta a derivat la un moment dat), acest fapt putea fi admis încă din secolul al XIX-lea, de atunci când au avut loc marile descoperiri arheologice ale epocii coloniale, descoperiri care aduceau la lumină tradiţiile religioase şi literare ale civilizaţiilor care au influenţat şi inspirat evreii şi religia lor. Însă ştiinţa occidentală e şi ea doar o reflexie şi creaţie a unei epocii. Ori epoca asta a fost până de curând încă departe de a fi prea "luminoasă" din acest punct de vedere, astfel că prejudecata religioasă răzbătea până şi acolo unde în mod normal pur şi simplu ea n-avea ce căuta. Ar fi injust însă să nu fie recunoscut că occidentalii au fost primii şi rămân din păcate cam singurii care, măcar sporadic, pot să se detaşeze de subiectivismul clanic şi să scape astfel de cecitatea etnocentrică, făcând o ştiinţă care să-şi merite numele.

 

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Religion of Israel, The Oxford Companion to the Bible

Ancient Israel and Its Ancient Near Eastern Setting

[…]

Most scholars of ancient Israelite religion argue that we should no longer refer to the Bible and the ancient Near East, as if the former were not a part of the latter. By affirming Israel's cultural and material solidarity with its neighbors, scholars have underscored that the study of ancient Israelite religion must be anchored in its historical ancient Near Eastern moorings. This need not prevent us from affirming that ancient Israel developed uniquely; by definition, all societies form cultural configurations that are distinct. The belief system that emerged from ancient Israel, especially in its conception of the divine, was indeed radical in its context. […]

Theodore J. Lewis

How to cite this entry: Theodore J. Lewis, "Religion of Israel", The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, eds. Oxford University Press Inc. 1993, Oxford Reference Online, Oxford University Press, Copyright © Oxford University Press 2009. All Rights Reserved.

 

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Monotheism

[…]

Israelite Monotheism

The ancient Israelites did not originally practice a pure form of monotheism. According to the Hebrew BIBLE, they worshiped their god YAHWEH in various manifestations of the Canaanite god EL. After MOSES led the Israelites out of Egypt, they entered into a special covenant, or agreement, with the god Yahweh. Even then, however, Yahweh was not seen as the only god but rather as the supreme god. When the Israelites settled in CANAAN, some of them began to worship other local gods, such as BAAL. Eventually, however, they came to see Yahweh as not only their supreme god but as the only true god and the creator of the universe. […]

 

Monotheism, The Ancient Near East, Eds. Jack Sasson and Ronald Wallenfels, Vol. 3, New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2000. p.113-114. 4 vols. Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2000 Charles Scribner's Sons, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale.

How to Cite: "Monotheism", The Ancient Near East, Eds. Jack Sasson and Ronald Wallenfels, Vol. 3, New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2000, p.113-114, 4 vols, Gale Virtual Reference Library, Gale Document Number: CX2897300266.

 

Vezi si "Judaism" de Reuven Firestone în Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History

 

În plus, cu greu se poate vorbi despre o religie a cărei Scriptură admite că dumnezeul creator a zămislit în afară de muritori tot felul de entităţi supranaturale, oricum s-ar numi ele ("îngeri", "oştile Domnului", "mulţimile Domnului", "Fiii lui Dumnezeu", etc. Ca orice religie politeistă şi-n iudaism se admite existenţa unor astfel de divinităţi secundare, de eroi legendari şi semizei, aşa cum arată Biblia în Facere 6:1-4:

 

"Iar după ce au început a se înmulţi oamenii pe pământ şi li s-au născut fiice, Fiii lui Dumnezeu, văzând că fiicele oamenilor sunt frumoase, şi-au ales dintre ele soţii, care pe cine a voit. Dar Domnul Dumnezeu a zis: "Nu va rămâne Duhul Meu pururea în oamenii aceştia, pentru că sunt numai trup. Deci zilele lor să mai fie o sută douăzeci de ani!" În vremea aceea s-au ivit pe pământ uriaşi, mai cu seamă de când fiii lui Dumnezeu începuseră a intra la fiicele oamenilor şi acestea începuseră a le naşte fii: aceştia sunt vestiţii viteji din vechime."

 

Paul Veyne spune şi el că monoteismul e rezultatul unui proces lung şi gradual; el face o sinteză a cunoştinţelor actuale în materie în "Apendicele" la ultima lui lucrare ("Când lumea noastră a devenit creştină, 312 - 394", publicată la Albin Michel în 2007). Şi el prezintă puzderia de pasaje biblice care demonstrează că evreii au fost monolatrii (henoteişti), ba chiar şi politeişti în măsura în care au adorat lungi perioade mai mulţi zei, explicând de ce "partidul iahvist" a avut câştig de cauză finalmente. Mai jos câteva citate:

 

"[…] trebuie recunoscut ca Israelul a început cu o monolatrie." (p.278)

 

"Putem vorbi de asemenea de politeism primitiv, căci ceilalţi zeii, despre care "Zeul gelos" cere să nu fie adoraţi există foarte bine şi ei" (On peut cependant prononcer aussi les mots de polythéisme primitif, puisque les autres dieux que le Dieu Jaloux de son peuple lui interdit d’adorer existent bel et bien. -  p.279).

 

"Iahve e înconjurat de o întreagă curte, compusă de astfel de elohimi. Sunt atâţi zei că nu le cunoaştem nici numele. […] Ca monoteismul să fie salvat, acesti elohimi vor fi consideraţi mai târziu îngeri ai Domnului" (p. 282/283)

 

"Pentru creştinii primelor secole, zeii păgânismului existau în mod cert, doar că erau demoni care se pretinseseră zei." (p. 287)

 

 

 

 

 

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Monotheism

[…]

Monotheism, Yehezkel Kaufmann observed, postulates multiple deities, subordinated to the one; it tolerates myths of primordial struggle for cosmic supremacy. Two elements distinguish it from polytheism: a conviction that the one controls the pantheon, and the idea of false gods. ^ 

Ancient Israel and Its Immediate Neighbors

From the outset, Israelites identified themselves as “the people of YHWH” (Judg. 5.13). The expression implies a societal commitment to a single, national god. Israelite personal names offer confirmation: these include either the name of a god or a divine epithet. Almost uniformly, the god in Israelite personal names is YHWH or an epithet of YHWH, such as “god” (el), “lord” (baal), or “(divine) kinsman”.

This practice resembles that of the Transjordanian nations of Ammon, Moab, and Edom, Israel's nearest neighbors and, in the folklore of Genesis 12–25, closest relations. Conversely, in Canaanite and Phoenician city-states, personal names include the names and epithets of a variety of gods and goddesses. The ethnic nations that emerged in Canaan in the thirteenth–twelfth centuries BCE, unlike the states of Syria and Mesopotamia, are early tied to national gods.

None of these cultures, however, denied the existence of divinities other than the high god. The ninth-century Moabite Stone, though treating the national god, Chemosh, as Israel treated YHWH, nevertheless mentions sacrifice to a subordinate of his. An eighth-century inscription from Deir All, in the Israelite-Ammonite border area, mentions a pantheon, or group of gods, called Shaddayin. Similarly, many biblical texts, from the twelfth century down to the Babylonian exile, describes the divine court over which YHWH presides as the council of the gods: these report to and suggest strategy to YHWH, praise YHWH, and are assessed by YHWH (Deut. 32.43b [with 4QDeuta]; 1 Kings 22.19–23; Isa. 6; Pss. 29.1–2; 82.1, 6; Job 1.6–2.10). In monarchic theologies, the subordinate gods administered other nations for YHWH (Deut. 32.8–9 [LXX]; Mic. 4.5; 1 Sam. 26.19). But they also received Israelite homage—the sun, moon, and host of heaven, the stars who fought as YHWH's army against Canaan (Deut. 33.2–3; Josh. 5.13–14; cf. 10.12–13; Judg. 5.20; 1 Kings 19.19–23): the host was YHWH's astral army, and YHWH was regularly represented through solar imagery.  The astral gods—the host of heaven—figure prominently in early sources. The meaning of YHWH's name has long been in dispute. However, the name associated with the ark of the covenant, and prevalent throughout the era of the monarchy, is YHWH Sebaot ("Lord of Hosts").  ^  

On the most common interpretation of the name YHWH, this means, “He [who] summons the hosts [of heaven] into being.” If so, the full name of Israel's god in the Pentateuch's Yahwistic source ( J), YHWH Elohim, means, “He [who] summons the gods into being.” And before the revelation of the name YHWH to Moses, the Priestly ( P) source calls the high god El Shadday: originally, this, too, associated YHWH with sky gods, Shaddayin, known from the Deir All inscription. (See Names of God in the Hebrew Bible.)

The Israelite cult also embraced the ancestors. Israelites invoked the ancestors for aid in matters familial, agricultural, and political. The ancestral spirits could intervene with YHWH, to the benefit of the family, the landholding corporation that inherited its resources from the fathers. (See Israel, Religion of.)

The Emergence of Monotheism

Starting apparently in the ninth century BCE, Israelites began to distinguish YHWH starkly from other gods. It is unknown whether the distinction originated from the opposition between YHWH and foreign high gods or between YHWH and local ancestral gods. Still, the alienation of the local gods from YHWH ensued, as subordinate gods were identified as foreign.

Our first indications of the cleavage come from a ninth-century nativist revolution against the house of Omri, the ruling dynasty of the northern kingdom of Israel. Solomon had earlier constructed a Temple in Jerusalem. This Temple incorporated representations of cherubim (1 Kings 6.23–29) and, judging from later developments, probably of YHWH's asherah, or consort, Ashtoret ( Astarte). Opposite the Temple, Solomon also consecrated shrines to YHWH's subordinates - Ashtoret, Milkom, and Chemosh (1 Kings 11.7; 2 Kings 23.13–14). After seceding from Jerusalem under Jeroboam I, the kingdom of Israel had maintained a more conservative separation of state shrines from the capital. Ahab, however, installed a new temple in Samaria (1 Kings 16.32); in the Near East, a temple in the capital signified a divine grant of dynasty. Jehu's revolt, however, destroyed the temple and reaffirmed Jeroboam's cultic policy (2 Kings 10.18–29; cf. Hos. 1.4). (See Kingship and Monarchy.)

The earliest biblical writer to contrast YHWH with his subordinate deities is Hosea. This eighth-century prophet rejects calling YHWH Israel's “baal” (lord) and claims that attention to the “baals” (YHWH's subordinate gods) deflects attention from the deity responsible for their ministrations (see especially Hos. 2). The alienation of the subordinates (who in the traditional theology administer other nations for YHWH) from YHWH, who administers Israel, permits Hosea to identify pursuit of the “baals” with foreign political alliances. Intellectually, the same alienation was part of a critique of traditional culture leveled by the “classical,” that is, the literary, prophets.

In the eighth century, Israel enjoyed a trading network embracing the Assyrian empire in western Asia and Phoenician trade outposts around the Mediterranean. As a bridge on the spice trade route to the south, and as a producer of cash crops such as olives and grapes, Israel underwent incipient industrialization, developing capital reserves. Foreign goods, texts, and practices became increasingly familiar to a growing middle class. In reaction, the elite was impelled to define distinctively Israelite values and culture. Groping for its identity, the elite discovered the gap between the elite theology, in which YHWH was completely sovereign, and popular practice, with its devotions to subordinate deities and ancestors; between theology, in which repentance was increasingly individuated, and ritual repentance, a matter of behavior, not attitude; between theology, in which one worshiped an unseen god, and a cult employing icons. The critique by the literary prophets thus predicated that the symbol or manifestation - the icon, the ritual, the subordinate god - was alien from, and not to be mistaken for, the Reality - the high god, or one's own inner essence. (see Graven Image.)

Ahaz of Judah first implemented this critique, removing plastic imagery from the Temple nave (2 Kings 16.17). In preparation for the Assyrian invasion of 701, his successor Hezekiah concentrated the Judahite population in fortified towns;  ^   his ideologians articulated attacks on the high places, the centers of traditional rural worship, and on the ancestral cult, linked to the agricultural areas he planned to abandon to the aggressor (Isa. 28). Assyria then deported most of the population outside of Jerusalem; Hezekiah's spokesmen took this as YHWH's judgment on the rural cult, which they interpreted to be identical with the cult of the northern kingdom (Isa. 1–5) - Samaria had fallen prey to total deportation in 720. Jerusalem's survival, by contrast, represented YHWH's imprimatur on the state cult.

Some scholars hypothesize that Israelite monotheism was husbanded by a small, “Yahweh-alone” party until the time of Hezekiah or even Josiah. However, no text indicates such a doctrine before Josiah's reign, and the chief indices suggest its gradual development rather than some perpetual keeping of a flame. Solomon's high places, for example, survived Hezekiah's reform, although the “Mosaic” snake-icon, Nehushtan, did not (Num. 21. 5–9; 2 Kings 18.4). Child sacrifice continued in the Jerusalem Topheth—an activity directed toward the host of heaven (Jer. 19.13). Personal seals continued to include astronomical imagery, though this was increasingly astral rather than solar as earlier.

In the seventh century, however, Josiah destroyed Solomon's shrines to gods now identified as foreign and dismantled state shrines in the countryside. Josiah's campaign against the ancestral cult included tomb desecration and the exposure of bones for the first time in Israelite history. A term previously reserved for the ancestors, Rephaim, was now applied to the Canaanite aborigines allegedly proscribed by YHWH. Deuteronomy, the legal program of Josiah's court or of a later extension of it, enjoined the worship of YHWH alone. Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and Zephaniah explicitly identified the host of heaven as foreign, as objects of apostasy. The Priestly source of the Pentateuch rewrote the traditional ancestral lore, suppressing all references to superhuman agencies other than YHWH; it forbids any imagery in the cult—correspondingly, seals are increasingly aniconic.

Sennacherib's deportations and the processes of industrialization and cash cropping had destroyed the effectiveness of the old kinship groups among whom the traditional religion, with its multiple divinities, was rooted. The imposition of state dogma of exclusive loyalty to the state god reflects the state's ambition to deal directly with the individual, bypassing the centers of resistance, the lineages. Thus, Deuteronomy 13.6–11 instructs the Israelite to inform on brothers, children, or wives who worship other gods, such as the host of heaven.

In this period, not in the exile as earlier scholars claimed, the notion of reliance on a single god took root. That idea survived, as a doctrine distinguishing Israel from other, polytheistic nations, through the exile and over the course of the restoration. Some of the elite, such as Second Isaiah, accepted the implications of philosophical monotheism, identifying YHWH as the source of evil as well as good (Isa. 45.7). Yet even in sources that accept the activity of subordinate deities, such as Job 1–2, the concept of exclusive loyalty to the state god had taken hold. Affirmation of the cult of the one god—the ultimate cause of events—could persist despite the assumption that other divinities existed, too. The doctrine of a Trinity, or of angels in heaven, or of a devil, coexisted happily with the idea in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam of an enlightened community distinguished from others by its monotheism.

Baruch Halpern

How to cite this entry:

Baruch Halpern "Monotheism", The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, eds. Oxford University Press Inc. 1993. Oxford Reference Online, Oxford University Press. Copyright © Oxford University Press 2009. All Rights Reserved.

 

În acelaşi sens ca Yehezkel Kaufmann merge şi explicaţia lui Theo. van Baaren din Enciclopedia Britannica:

 

 

"There may be some reason to speak of the Old Testament conception of God as monolatry rather than as monotheism, because the existence of other gods is seldom explicitly denied and many times even acknowledged. The passionate importance given to the proclamation of Yahweh as the one god who counts for Israel and the equally passionate rejection of other gods, however, make it truer to speak of the monotheism of Israel; as in what became the Judaic affirmation of faith, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, one Lord” (from New English Bible) (Deut. 6:4). The eminent Dutch Old Testament scholar Theodorus C. Vriezen writes: “It is striking how the whole life of the people is seen as dominated by Yahweh and by Yahweh alone. Even if one cannot speak of a strictly maintained monotheistic way of thinking, it is yet clear that faith in Yahweh is the foundation of life for the Israelite.” Monotheism is not a matter of mathematics—of opting for the number one as against other numbers—but the conscious choice of a person or group committing himself or themselves to one god rather than to any other ones and putting their faith in that one god; Joshua proclaims: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). In Israel the ethical aspect was as important as the exclusiveness of their one god; the prophets stressed the ethical elements of an essentially exclusive God. The God of Israel was a jealous god who forbade his believers to worship other gods. In this respect he differed from other gods in the ancient Near Eastern religions who, as a rule, did not put such exclusive obligation on their adherents. In later times—beginning in the 6th century BC and continuing into the early centuries of the Christian Era—Judaic monotheism developed in the same direction as did Christianity and also later Islam under the influence of Greek philosophy and became monotheistic in the strict sense of the word, affirming the one God for all men everywhere." (Enciclopedia Britannica on line, articol Monotheism (Monotheism in the world religions, Classical monotheism, Religion of Israel and Judaism), autor Theodorus P. van Baaren, Page 13 of 20)

 

 

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Monotheism

[…]

Many scholars, though, find evidence for early forms of monotheism not influenced by the Hebrew biblical tradition. The consensus, therefore, is that monotheism cannot be traced, in a unilinear manner, to a single historic source. Instead, the concept of a single God emerges from an underlying perception of unity or the postulation of an original cause of the cosmos. Monotheism, therefore, is understood as a natural structuring of reality by the human mind rather than a concept demanding supernatural revelation.

MONOTHEISM IN THE NON-ABRAHAMIC RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD

The religion of ancient Egypt was polytheistic, but in the fourteenth century BCE the pharaoh, Amenhotep IV (reigned c. 1364–1347 BCE), changed his name to Akhenaten (servant of Aten) and affirmed Aten (or Aton) as the one true God, symbolized by the solar disk. Akhenaten suppressed the cults of other Egyptian gods, and he referred to Aten as the "sole God, other than whom there is no other."  ^  

Akhenaten’s endorsement of monotheism, though, did not persist. After his death, devotion to the other Egyptian gods was restored. In his 1939 book Moses and Monotheism, Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) theorized that Moses (c. 1300–1200 BCE) borrowed his monotheism from Akhenaten. Most scholars, though, dispute this claim.

[…]

The Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, named after the prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathustra; c. 900s–800s BCE), was monotheistic in its original form. Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord, is the supreme Creator of the material world, and from him came forth the twin spirits: Spenta Mainyu (the Holy Spirit who chose the good) and Angra Mainyu (the Evil Spirit who chose "the lie"). The "Holy Immortals" (e.g., Good Thought, Immortality, etc.) are not other gods but eternal forms or attributes of Ahura Mazda.

The original monotheism of Zoroastrianism, however, was obscured by the rise of the cult of Mithra (c. second century BCE) and by the later tendency to depict Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu as competing gods. Zoroastrianism, however, completely rejected the matter/spirit dualism taught by Mani (c. 216–276 CE).

Hinduism originated as a polytheistic religion with virtually millions of gods (devas). As the tradition developed, some hints of monotheism or monism emerged. Even in the early Hindu scriptures known as the Vedas (c. 1200–900 BCE), there was the recognition that: "The real is one, though the sages name it variously" (Rig-Veda I, 169). By the time of the mystical writings called the Upanishads (c. 800–500 BCE), some Hindu thinkers began to understand the many gods as expressions or manifestations of the one supreme reality known as Brahman. When the Hindu sage Yājñavalkya (c. 800s BCE) was asked how many gods there really are, he answered, "One."

Hindu monotheism, however, sometimes lapsed into monism when Brahman was considered the only true and permanent reality. By contrast, devotional Hinduism tended to concentrate all the attributes of the divine into one personal manifestation of Brahman. Thus, in the Bhagavad Gita (c. 200s BCE), Krishna states: “By me, un-manifest in form, this whole universe was spun: in me subsist all beings, I do not subsist in them” (IX, 4).

Although differing forms of monotheism or monism can be found in Hinduism, the many gods mentioned in the Vedas could never be denied without repudiating the authority of the Vedas themselves. Thus, in Hinduism, polytheism on a popular and mythological level has continued to coexist with various forms of mystical monism and philosophical monotheism.

In original Buddhism, the focus was on achieving detachment from craving in order to reach a state of liberation called nirvāna. In later Mahayana Buddhism, the ultimate reality was identified variously as emptiness (śūnyatā), consciousness, or the Buddha-nature. There was, therefore, a single absolute reality.

In some forms of devotional Buddhism, the Buddha became deified, and there emerged the doctrine of the three “bodies” or aspects of the Buddha: (1) the Transformation Body, which was the body of the Buddha on earth; (2) the Bliss or Enjoyment Body assumed by the various celestial Buddhas; and, (3) the Truth-Body, which is the ultimate reality of the Buddha-essence. Devotional Buddhism, therefore, developed a belief in a unified supreme reality behind all things, which can be understood, at least analogously, as a form of monotheism.

Ancient China was originally polytheistic, but aspects of monotheism emerged in the concept of Heaven (T’ien), taught by Confucius (c. 551–479 BCE), and in the Tao of the Tao Te Ching, the mystical treatise attributed to Lao-Tzu (c. sixth–fifth century, BCE). In his Analects, Confucius speaks of Heaven as the transcendent source of order and morality, a reality somewhat analogous to a personal God.

The Tao also is analogous to God, because it is “the mother of the myriad creatures” (I, 2) and “the genesis of all things” (I, 4). As the all-pervasive source of things, the Tao is like a divine principle guiding the universe (i.e., a type of pan-en-theism).

Native American religion is multifaceted, and various gods or spirits are acknowledged. There is, however, a deep sense of a “Great Spirit” who pervades nature and is expressed in the numerous powers of animal and human life. In a certain sense, the universe is the dwelling place or body of the Great Spirit, and, therefore, a form of pan-entheism is present.

CONCLUSION

The religions of the world incorporate different forms of monotheism: from the strict monotheism of Islam to the mystical monotheism of Hinduism (coexisting with popular polytheism). Because Christians and Muslims combine to make up over half of the world’s population, a case can be made that monotheism resonates well with basic human needs for order, meaning, and direction.

Robert Fastiggi

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Armstrong, Karen. 1993. A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. New York: Ballantine Books.

Ellwood, Robert S., Jr. 1977. Words of the World’s Religions: An Anthology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Kramer, Kenneth. 1986. World Scriptures: An Introduction to Comparative Religion. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Ludwig, Theodore M. 2005. In The Encyclopedia of Religion, 2nd ed., Vol. 9, ed. Lindsay Jones, 6155–6163. Detroit, MI: Thomson Gale.

Pereira, José, ed. 1991. Hindu Theology: Themes, Texts, and Structures. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers.

Smart, Ninian. 1989. The World’s Religions. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Smart, Ninian. 1991. The Religious Experience. 4th ed. New York: Macmillan.

Smith, Huston. 1991. The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions. San Francisco: HarperCollins.

Smith, Mark S. 2002. The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans.

Monotheism, International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Ed. William Darity Jr., Vol.5, 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2008, p.268-271, 10 vols, Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. 

How To Cite: "Monotheism", International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Ed. William Darity, Jr. Vol.5, 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2008, p.268-271, 10 vols, Gale Virtual Reference Library, Gale Document Number: CX3045301615.

 

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"La data de 3 decembrie 1872 Biblia a pierdut pentru totdeauna prerogativa ei imemorială de a fi "cea mai veche carte cunoscută", "o carte ca nici o alta", "scrisă sau dictată de Dumnezeu". În acea zi, în faţa blândei Societăţi de Arheologie Biblică din Londra, G. Smith, unul dintre primii asiriologi, anunţa lumii o descoperire extraordinară:  fusese găsită şi descifrată o tăbliţă ce conţinea o poveste similară, foarte asemănătoare în detaliile ei cele mai semnificative, povestii biblice a Potopului, dar care îi era acesteia anterioară şi care în mod vădit o inspirase." (Jean Bottéro, "Naşterea lui Dumnezeu - Biblia şi istoricul")

 

în original:

 

"C'est le 3 décembre 1872 que la Bible a perdu à jamais sa prérogative immémoriale d'être « le plus ancien livre connu », « un livre pas comme les autres », « écrit ou dicté par Dieu en personne ».

Ce jour-là, devant la débonnaire Society of Biblical Archaeology de Londres, G. Smith, l'un des premiers assyriologues, lesquels, après cinquante années d'acharnement et de génie à déchiffrer l'écriture cunéiforme, commençaient à inventorier le trésor des tablettes sorties du sol de l'antique Mésopotamie, annonça une extraordinaire découverte qu'il venait d'y effectuer : il y avait trouvé une histoire fort proche, même par les détails les plus significatifs, du récit biblique du Déluge, mais qui lui était antérieure et l'avait manifestement inspiré1. Du coup, la Bible rentrait dans le courant de la littérature universelle et prenait place parmi la chaîne sans fin des œuvres rédigées par les hommes, avec cet enchevêtrement de création originale et de dépendance à l'égard de sources préalables, de faillibilité et de clairvoyance, qui marque tout l'avancement de la pensée humaine.

1.Ce récit, nous le savons aujourd'hui, composait la XIe et dernière tablette de la célèbre Épopée deGilgamesb dans sa version « classique » de la fin du IIe millénaire, et les auteurs de cette Épopée l'avaient tiré d'une composition tout aussi fameuse, dont les plus vieux manuscrits."

(citat din: "Naissance de Dieu - La Bible et l'historien", Jean Bottéro, folio histoire, éditions Gallimard 1986 et 1992 pour la nouvelle édition, p. 27 et 28) ; Jean Bottéro est né en 1914. Il est depuis 1958 directeur d'études à l'École pratique des hautes études (section des sciences philosophiques et historiques, chaire d'assyriologie). Il a publié récemment "Mésopotamie. L'Écriture, la raison et les dieux" (Gallimard, 1987), "Lorsque les dieux faisaient l'homme. Mythologie mésopotamienne", en collaboration avec Samuel Noah Kramer (Gallimard, 1989), ainsi que le chapitre «La religion de l'ancienne Mésopotamie » dans le volume "L'Orient ancien" (Bordas, 1992), traduction de "Der alte Orient" (Bertelsmann, Munich, 1991).

 

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Evreii adorau diverşi zei canaaneeni alături de Iahve şi tradiţia iudaică a recunoscut dintotdeauna fiinţe cereşti roind în jurul zeităţii supreme: J. R. Porter (profesor emerit de teologie la Universitatea Exeter, fost membru al Sinodului Bisericii Angliei, fost membru al Oriel College (Universitatea Oxford)), în lucrarea "Biblia" editată de Evergreen (Taschen GmbH) în 2007 pentru colecţia Istorie Universală, la p. 119 spune:

 

"Tradiţia iudaică a descris dintotdeauna fiinţe cereşti roind în jurul lui Iahve, purtători de mesaje sau acţionând în numele lui."

 

Asta cu greu poate face din iudaismul biblic un monoteism absolut. Porter explică că după exilul babilonian, acest panteon evreiesc devine ierarhic, îngerii fiind structuraţi pe 6 sau 7 nivele care amintesc de emanaţiile zeului Ahura Mazda. (J. R. Porter, "Biblia", p. 119).

De altfel Biblia (Ieşire 15:11) îl citează chiar pe Moise spunând:

 

"Cine e ca Tine între dumnezei Doamne?"

 

Psalmul 86:8 reia ideea:

 

"Nimeni nu e ca tine între dumnezei, Doamne."

 

În alţi psalmi (82:1, de exemplu), dumnezeul evreilor ni se spune că stă de vorba într-o "adunare de dumnezei" ("[. . .] El judecă în mijlocul dumnezeilor.") sau "alţi dumnezei se închină Lui" (Psalm 97:7 - 9). Ca în orice religie monolatră sau politeistă, în afara membrilor acestor adunări de dumnezei menţionaţi (J.R. Porter face ipoteza că membrii acestor adunări de dumnezei erau îngeri), există şi eroi legendari şi semizei, aşa cum arată Biblia în Facere 6: 1-4:

 

"Iar după ce au început a se înmulţi oamenii pe pământ şi li s-au născut fiice, Fiii lui Dumnezeu, văzând că fiicele oamenilor sunt frumoase, şi-au ales dintre ele soţii, care pe cine a voit. Dar Domnul Dumnezeu a zis: "Nu va rămâne Duhul Meu pururea în oamenii aceştia, pentru că sunt numai trup. Deci zilele lor să mai fie o sută douăzeci de ani!" În vremea aceea s-au ivit pe pământ uriaşi, mai cu seamă de când fiii lui Dumnezeu începuseră a intra la fiicele oamenilor şi acestea începuseră a le naşte fii: aceştia sunt vestiţii viteji din vechime."

 

De aceea citită cu ochii minţii fie doar şi un pic întredeschişi, în mod normal cineva înţelege repede în ce categorie literară (anume "basme nemuritoare") trebuie clasată Biblia…

 

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"[…], iar în trecut, reprezentările religioase au exersat asupra umanităţii, în ciuda lipsei lor incontestabile de plauzibilitate, cea mai mare influenţă. [...] Vom găsi răspunsul dacă vom lua în considerare geneza psihică a reprezentărilor religioase. Acestea, dându-se ca dogme, nu sunt precipitate ale experienţei sau rezultatul ultim al gândirii ci iluzii, împliniri imaginare ale celor mai vechi, mai intense şi urgente năzuinţe ale umanităţii. Secretul forţei acestor reprezentări religioase este chiar forţa cu care oamenii îşi doresc ca ele să fie adevărate." (Sigmund Freud, "Viitorul unei iluzii")

 

«[…] dans les temps passés, les représentations religieuses ont exercé sur l'humanité, malgré leur manque incontestable d'accréditation, la plus forte des influences. [. . .] Celles-ci, qui se donnent comme des dogmes, ne sont pas des précipités de l'expérience ou des résultats ultimes de la pensée, ce sont des illusions, accomplissements des souhaits les plus anciens, les plus forts et les plus pressants de l'humanité; le secret de leur force, c'est la force de ces souhaits.»  -  Sigmund Freud, ‘L'Avenir d'une illusion’  [VI, trad. A. Balseinte, J.-G. Delarbre et D. Hartman, coll. "Quadrige", PUF, p. 30].

 

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How to Cite

Text Citation: Skeen, Bradley, "Religion And Cosmology In Ancient Mesopotamia", Bogucki, Peter, ed. Encyclopedia of Society and Culture in the Ancient World, New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2008, Ancient and Medieval History Online, Facts On File, Inc., Copyright © 2009 Facts On File. All Rights Reserved. 

Religion And Cosmology In Ancient Mesopotamia

[…]

The Levant

The Levant (including parts of modern-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel-Palestine), received many cultural influences from Mesopotamia and Egypt. Libraries from cities on the border of the Levant and Mesopotamia, such as Ebla (destroyed ca. 2225 BCE) and Mari (destroyed 1759 BCE), tell us something about communication between the two areas. But the peoples of the Levant nevertheless made some of their own contributions as well. The Levantine storm god was a model for the Babylonian Marduk. The Levant was especially important for transmitting Near Eastern ideas and practices to Greece and to modern religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

^ One distinctive feature of the religion of the Levant was the role of the storm god. While the fertility of the land in Mesopotamian came from the two great rivers, the Mediterranean coast was dependent on rain from thunderstorms coming in off the sea during the winter. Crops could then be planted and harvested in the spring. Summer was a dead time of the year when crops would not grow. As a consequence, the storm god was the most important figure in the Levantine pantheon, whether called, Hadad (Syrian), Yahweh (Israelite), by any other local name, or simply Lord (Baal).  ^

Baal/Hadad's myth must have varied tremendously from city to city and tribe to tribe. We are fortunate to know it in detail from the version current in Ugarit, a city on the northern coast of present-day Syria. The city was destroyed about 1200 BCE, preserving the library of Ilimiku, the chief priest. The myth's three parts concern Baal's struggle for cosmic supremacy in succession to his grandfather El, who created the universe but no longer took a very active role in its governance. In the first part Baal defeats Yam, the god of the sea, together with his sea monsters Leviathan and Behemoth. Compare this to the winter thunderstorms to be seen at night over the Mediterranean from the Syrian coast.

The second part of the myth concerns the building of Baal's house. First, Baal must obtain permission from Asherah, El's wife. Then the house is built in the sky by the craftsman god Kothar-wa-Hasis. This "house" corresponds both to Baal's temple in Ugarit and to his dwelling place on Mount Saphon just outside the city.

In the third part of the myth Baal is dragged down to the land of the dead by its ruler Mot, but he is rescued by his sister, the virgin warrior Anat. She defeats Mot by a process identical to harvesting grain: she reaps him, winnows him, grinds him, and sows him back into the ground. Baal then returns triumphantly to heaven. It is not hard to see this episode in relation to the agriculturally dead Mediterranean summers, whose drought is defeated by the return of the winter thunderstorms. 

In later times the traditional gods were worshipped under Greek and Roman names at prominent temples in the Levant, and their cults also spread throughout the Roman Empire. Local Levantine gods continued to thrive until the time of the Islamic conquest of the Near East in the seventh century CE.

[…]

Israelite Religion and Judaism

The Hebrew Bible is the religious scripture of Judaism, which has survived continuously from its origins in the Bronze Age (before 1000 BCE) into the modern world. It is also the foundation document of Christianity and Islam, the two most widespread religions in the modern world. As a literary text it is an incomparable world classic with vast influence.

Judaism began within the matrix of Levantine religion but made a radical new interpretation of tradition. The Hebrew Bible has a great deal of mythology related to other Near Eastern myths, for example, Yahweh as a storm god living on a mountaintop, his slaying of Leviathan and Behemoth, and his creation of humankind from clay (the name Adam means "clay"). There is also nothing exceptional in terms of cult. Yahweh had a temple on one of his home mountains - Zion in Jerusalem - and received there the sacrifice of animals according to a fixed cultic calendar.  

But while Baal/Hadad had been the chief god worshipped in the Levant (polytheism) and Marduk had transcended his fellow deities to become a national god in Babylon (henotheism), the Bible introduces something quite new to Semitic religion—monotheism, the belief that there is only one god. The cult of other deities was characterized as idolatry, the worship of statues devoid of life and a terrible affront to Yahweh.

In the ancient Near East a common explanation for misfortune was that something had been done wrong in the worship of the gods: In order to counteract the misfortune, the gods must be worshipped again in the proper manner. Many scholars believe that this is how Jewish monotheism, the belief that Yahweh is the only god, developed, in reaction to the national catastrophe of the Babylonian captivity (587–537 BCE), when the Israelite state was conquered by the Babylonians and its ruling elite transported to Babylon. Another factor may be the essentially monotheistic beliefs of the Persian patrons of the restoration (when the Jews were allowed to return to Israel). In any case, monotheism became the principal feature of all later Judaism and eventually of Christianity and Islam.

 

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http://www.princeton.edu/~bogucki/AWcover80.jpg 

Peter Bogucki (pronounced bow-good'-ski) is Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs at the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton University, where he had previously served as Director of Studies of Forbes College. He received his B.A. (1974) from the University of Pennsylvania and his A.M. (1977) and Ph.D. (1981) in anthropology from Harvard University. Since 1976 he has studied early farming societies in Europe (ca. 6000 - 3000 B.C.), specifically in Poland with excavations at the sites of Brześć Kujawski and Osłonki.

 

 

How To Cite

Cook, James Wyatt, "Hebrew Bible", Encyclopedia of Ancient Literature, New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2008, Ancient and Medieval History Online, Facts On File, Inc. (accessed July 25, 2009). 

Hebrew Bible

Date: ca. 10th–first centuries BCE

[…]

The most notable and at the same time the most complex of the prophets of the seventh century BCE is Jeremiah. Scholars believe that his secretary, Baruch, probably wrote the work that bears his name, which first details Jeremiah's call to become a prophet, then records his early prophetic utterances. Such material continues with the addition of his assertion that a drought is a mark of Jehovah's anger.  ^ 

 

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"Judaism", Reuven Firestone, Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History, Eds. William McNeill, Jerry Bentley, and David Christian, Vol.3, Great Barrington, Massachusetts: Berkshire, 2005. p1058-1065, 5 vols. Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2005 Berkshire Publishing Group.

How to Cite: Firestone, Reuven, "Judaism", Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History, Eds. William McNeill, Jerry Bentley and David Christian, Vol.3, Great Barrington, Massachusetts: Berkshire, 2005, p.1058-1065, 5 vols, Gale Virtual Reference Library, Gale Document Number: CX3455000302.

Judaism

Starting from the Hellenistic period, when outside observers first attempted to write about the "other" in a dispassionate manner, Greek writers observed the unique monotheism of Judaism, noting how this aspect of their religion singled out Jews from all other peoples that the Greeks had encountered. The reports that reached philosophers such as Theophrastus and Megasthenes (c. 300 BCE) led them to consider the Jews a nation of philosophers. The Jews, they wrote, were stubborn believers in a singular god who was both the god of Israel and the god of the world. Other writers noted that the Jews insisted on certain practices that were strange to the Greeks: circumcision, abhorrence at consuming pork, and a kind of insular culture that was at odds with what the Greeks believed to be their own open-mindedness. Such traits were considered by some observers as both peculiar and the reason for what they called—perhaps unconsciously describing their own elitism—Jewish misanthropy, lack of patriotism (toward Greek culture), and general disregard for humankind outside of their own nation.

The Greeks thus articulated both a kind of attraction and repulsion toward Judaism. Despite such ambivalence, however, many Romans (to the dismay of their ruling classes) were fascinated by this religious civilization. Large numbers either converted or "Judaized," meaning that they adopted Jewish customs such as holiday observance and food habits without enduring the circumcision that was required for full conversion. Roman writers noted that Judaism's popularity was based on its great antiquity, its written scriptures, its deep sense of morality, and its monotheism.

Thus both impact and controversy have been associated with Judaism from the period of antiquity. What is absolutely clear is that Judaism had an overwhelming influence on the premodern history of the world west of the Indus River, and an enduring impact on the entire world in the modern period. The impact of Judaism on world history is both direct and felt through its relationships with the conquering religious civilizations, first of Christianity and then Islam.

Impact of Origins

Judaism emerged out of a religious civilization based on what is often referred to by scholars as "biblical" or "Israelite" religion. As such, what we today call Judaism must be distinguished from its older forms. In fact, Judaism is only one of the heirs of biblical religion, as are all the faiths in the family of religions referred to as Christianity. Biblical religion itself is multifaceted, since it evolved for centuries during the historical period represented in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). It has become evident to scholars that biblical religion was not always purely monotheistic, for it reflects tensions between those who would allow rituals associated with figurines representing other powers or deities and those who would accept nothing other than the one god, the God of Israel (1 Sam. 26:19, 1 Kings 11, 2 Kings 23).

[…]

From Israelites to Jews

^  The true origin of the Israelites remains uncertain. While some have suggested that it lies in Mesopotamia or Egypt, recent scholarship places it within Canaanite society, suggesting that Israel symbolizes a monotheistic trend in Canaanite culture originating perhaps as early as the second millennium BCE that eventuated in an independent identity.  ^  The danger of assimilation back into the old and familiar ways of Canaanite culture is a constant theme of biblical literature, and the nations "here at hand" (Deut. 20:15) in the land of Canaan always represent the most dangerous threat to Israel's distinctive identity and existence.

But the tribes of Israel were not always purely monotheistic, and the journey into the kind of theology we would recognize today as monotheism did not end until the exilic or post-exilic periods after the destruction of the first Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE. Prior to that time, such seminal statements as "Who is like you among the gods" (Exod. 15:11) suggest that while ancient Israelite theology required obedience to the God of Israel, it did not deny the possibility of other gods existing as well. It may have been the realization that the God of Israel could be worshipped even in Babylonian exile that solidified the tendency toward monotheism and convinced the exilic community that there was one God who created the universe, and that the same one God maintained it. […]

 

O altă referinţă care merge în acelaşi sens:

 

Hebrews and Israelites, The Ancient Near East, Eds. Jack Sasson and Ronald Wallenfels, Vol.2, New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2000, p155-158, 4 vols. Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2000 Charles Scribner's Sons, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale.

How to Cite: "Hebrews and Israelites", The Ancient Near East, Eds. Jack Sasson and Ronald Wallenfels, Vol. 2, New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2000, p.155-158, 4 vols, Gale Virtual Reference Library, Gale Document Number: CX2897300176.

[…]

What Modern Historians Believe

No contemporary archaeological* evidence exists to support the story of the patriarchs and early Israelites as told in the Bible. Historians are divided on the accuracy of biblical accounts because this text was compiled many centuries after the events occurred. Moreover, it was compiled by editors whose intentions may have been to strengthen national and religious unity by emphasizing the shared past of the Israelite people. Notwithstanding its problems, the Bible is considered a starting point for discussing the early history of the Israelites and for archaeological investigations.

Although historians know that the Israelites were a Semitic* people, they know little of their history before 1100s B.C. At the time, the Levant* was undergoing social and political change, perhaps caused by population movements and invasions of the "sea peoples". City-states* were falling, urban culture was weakening, and people were on the move. Some historians believe that the Israelites settled in the thinly occupied highlands of Canaan during this period. Others, however, have suggested that the Israelites may have originated among segments of the Canaanite population.

After arriving in Canaan, the Israelites began to shift from a nomadic lifestyle to permanent settlement and agriculture. At first, they occupied the northeast region of present-day Israel, but they eventually moved down the hills and into more fertile regions. They tended to form new settlements in areas outside the territories of the old city-states. Archaeological evidence from the region does not easily support the idea of the sudden or violent changes resulting from the battles with other groups as described in the Bible. Instead, the Israelite expansion may have involved gradual blending with other groups as well as conflict. Over time, the Israelites came to share many customs, traditions, and cultural elements with their Canaanite neighbors, although they maintained a separate identity.

Some historians also think it is unlikely that the empire of David and Solomon existed as described in the Bible. The lack of historical evidence about David and Solomon suggests to some scholars that their achievements may have been more modest than described in the Bible. A few others even question whether the united monarchy existed. Instead, they suspect that the kingdoms of Israel and Judah emerged separately between 900 and 800 B.C. and that later Jewish historians claimed there had been a united kingdom in order to link the people of the two kingdoms to a common heritage. […] 

 

Aceeaşi origine locală (canaaneană) a evreilor o susţin şi istoricii Israel Finkelstein şi Asher Silberman în "Bible Unearthed".

 

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Evreii aveau ritualuri de sacrificiu cât se poate de obişnuite atât pentru regiunea în care locuiau, cât şi pentru întreaga istorie a religiilor primitive. Biblia enumără astfel în Levitic cu mare lux de amănunte tot felul de jertfe (de mulţumire, de pârgă, de ispăşire, pentru vină, pentru daruri de mâncare) şi arderi pe altar. Termenul ebraic "olah" (traducerea acestuia în Biblia scrisă în limba greacă fiind "holókauston") înseamnă ardere de tot, această practică evreiască fiind un străvechi ritual sacrificial al religiei iudaice în care (bucăţi de) animale sau plante erau arse complet pe altarul primitiv în onoarea zeului Iahve (sau "Elohim"), care pesemne găsea tare plăcută, dacă e să credem "A treia carte a lui Moise" (adică "Leviticul"), această "mireasmă" de carne (dar nu numai carne) arsă. În Biblie sintagma "ardere de tot" abundă, ea fiind folosită de zeci de ori începând chiar cu cartea "Ieşirii" ("Exodul"), pentru a deveni parte dintr-o lungă şi des-repetată epiforă în Levitic, Levitic care e numit în glumă de către unii biblişti "cartea de bucate a Bibliei". Iahve, dumnezeul Bibliei şi a celor care cred în ea, zice: "Să-i frângă aripile, fără să le deslipească; şi preotul să ardă pasărea pe altar, pe lemnele de pe foc. Aceasta este o ardere de tot, o jerfă mistuită de foc, de un miros plăcut Domnului." (Levitic 1:17; aceeaşi idee de dumnezeu care se dă-n vânt pentru mirosul de carne prăjită de primitivul care încearcă astfel să-l îmbune, e repetată pentru alte animale (viţei, miei, capre) şi-n Levitic 1:9 şi Levitic, 1:13). Evreii (şi creştinii) ar trebui să le fie extrem de recunoscători romanilor politeişti, care plictisiţi de fanatismul şi atmosfera continuă de război civil care domnea în Palestina, au sfârşit prin a distruge la un moment dat Templul lui Iahve, şi a scoate astfel iudaismul (şi derivatele lui tardive, creştinismul şi islamul) din starea de religie primitivă, unde nişte "preoţi-bucătari" ard carnea animalului sacrificat pe un altar, ca să gâdile plăcut (aşa cum scrie în Biblie) nările zeului adorat! încerc să-mi închipui numai evreii şi creştinii de azi, mergând cu oile, vacile şi caprele lor la sacrificat şi prăjit pe altar, plătind preotul în natură, cu carnea animalului adus, şi plecând acasă cu sacoşa plină de friptură şi mulţumit că l-a îmbunat pe Iahve...

 

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World Religions, LARRY D. SHINN, Encyclopedia of Sociology, Eds. Edgar F. Borgatta and Rhonda J.V. Montgomery, Vol.5, 2nd ed. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2001, p.3277-3290, 5 vols, Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2001 Macmillan Reference USA, COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning.

How to Cite: SHINN, LARRY D., "World Religions," Encyclopedia of Sociology, Eds. Edgar F. Borgatta and Rhonda J.V. Montgomery, Vol.5, 2nd ed. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2001, p.3277-3290, 5 vols, Gale Virtual Reference Library, Gale Document Number: CX3404400416.

[…]

Myth And Ritual

Beyond the community's social embodiment of the sacred story of Israel's encounter with Yahweh in a festive and communal sacrificial ritual of the Passover, the social aspects of both the myth and the ritual are evident. Sacrifices were the common mode of worship for the pre-Mosaic tribal religions as well as for the contemporary cults in Moses' day. It is very likely that the Passover ritual described in Exodus 12 derives from a combination of a nomadic animal sacrifice and an agricultural feast of unleavened cakes, both of which predate the exodus event. While the Hebrews' experience of Yahweh in the exodus journey reshapes both the story and the ritual as a liberation event, both the Hebrew myth and the ritual have antecedents in the social and religious world of which they were a part.  ^ 

 

înapoi

Rituals and Sacrifice, The Ancient Near East, Eds. Jack Sasson and Ronald Wallenfels, Vol. 4, New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2000. p.36-38, 4 vols. Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2000 Charles Scribner's Sons, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale.

How to Cite: "Rituals and Sacrifice", The Ancient Near East, Eds. Jack Sasson and Ronald Wallenfels, Vol. 4, New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2000, p.36-38, 4 vols, Gale Virtual Reference Library, Gale Document Number: CX2897300333.

 

Rituals and Sacrifice

[…]

Sacrifice

Sacrifices in the ancient Near East often served simply as food for the gods. This was not their only purpose, however. They might also have been intended as a gift for the gods—often a form of thanks for divine help—or as a means of honoring the deities. Sacrifices might also have been performed to get the attention of the gods, to earn their goodwill, or to ask a favor.

Sacrifices consisted of offerings such as grain, wine, oil, and other items of food or drink. ^ The daily offerings were intended for the gods, but priests and worshipers who presented them partook from the food once it was consecrated. In fact, ritual offerings were an important source of food for temple staff. Ritually slaughtered animals were also a common sacrifice in the ancient Near East. The animals most commonly sacrificed included lambs, sheep, and goats, although bulls, cattle, dogs, and other animals were sometimes offered as sacrifices as well. In ancient Greece, for example, dogs were sacrificed to the goddess Hecate because it was believed that she traveled with dogs through the underworld. In Syria during the second millennium B.C., donkeys were sacrificed at the conclusion of treatymaking ceremonies.

Eating meat was relatively rare in the ancient Near East and a blood sacrifice—an offering of a ritually slaughtered animal—was usually followed by a feast. Among the Elamites of southwestern Iran, rams were the most common sacrificial animal, and the most important sacrificial feast was one for the "Lady of the City." During the Israelite sacrificial feast called zebah shelamim, the person offering the blood sacrifice would invite family members to the temple to share the rare treat of a meal with meat. Israelites were allowed to sacrifice ruminants, that is, animals that chew their cud, such as goats, sheep, and cattle. Nonruminants, such as pigs and camels, were forbidden as sacrificial animals; hence, they could not be eaten.

 

Vezi şi comentariile lui Shaye I.D. Cohen pe site-ul televiziunii publice americane (PBS):

 

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/portrait/temple.html

Temple Culture

Why the Temple symbolized the nation of Israel and, collaboration with Rome.

 

Shaye I.D. Cohen: Samuel Ungerleider Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies Brown University

 

THE TEMPLE AT JERUSALEM AND ITS CULTURE

In the Temple itself, we have priests, all descending from Aaron, the High Priest, back in time, brother of Moses - the tribe of priests who officiated at the altar. They slaughtered animals, they took the animal carcasses on the altar, roasted the animals, spattered the blood on the corners of the altar, dispensed the meat, and the bones and the blood and so on, and performed other similar tasks inside the Temple. Only the priests were actually able to penetrate the innermost areas of the Temple. Even full blooded religious pious Jews could only go near, just get to the outskirts of the Temple. Further back, even gentiles could attend....

 

Even though the actual religious rituals of the Temple were solely in the hands of the priests, that is, if you brought your sacrifice to the Temple because say, your wife had a baby, say a child recovered from illness, or say you're at a pilgrimage festival and you're celebrating at the pilgrimage. So, you bring your animal offering to the Temple, the priest takes it away from you and brings it back, brings you back roast beef or roast lamb in a little while where you and your family sit and eat. So, even though the actual doing, the actual performing [of rituals] were in the hands of the priests, nonetheless, the Temple played a large role in a collective religious mentality and a collective religion of the people, as a whole. Everybody realized that this was the one most sacred place on earth, the one place on earth where somehow heaven and earth meet, where somehow there is a telephone connection, perhaps we would say, between heaven and earth, where the earth rises up and heavens somehow descend just enough, that they just touch.... So, even though it was a small institution, entirely run by a small caste of people and even though most people can never ever get in, get inside the innermost precincts, nonetheless, the Temple as a whole, the institution, the values and the structure played a very important role in the society at large.

 

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"Oracles and Prophecy", "The Ancient Near East", Eds. Jack Sasson and Ronald Wallenfels, Vol.3, New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2000, p.154-157, 4 vols. Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2000 Charles Scribner's Sons, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale.

How to Cite: "Oracles and Prophecy", "The Ancient Near East", Eds. Jack Sasson and Ronald Wallenfels, Vol.3, New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2000, p.154-157, 4 vols, Gale Virtual Reference Library, Gale Document Number: CX2897300295. 

 

Oracles and Prophecy

In the ancient Near East, RELIGION and MAGIC were two closely related expressions of the relations between people and the supernatural world. Both were concerned with obtaining certain types of knowledge: those that interpreted the will of the gods and foresaw the future. Many Near Eastern peoples believed that with the right methods and the aid of a trained priest, magician, or other practitioner, they could uncover the hidden knowledge that was all around them, waiting to be revealed.

Oracles, which are communications from the gods in answer to questions, and prophecies, which are messages from the gods that may predict future, were two avenues by which supernatural or divine knowledge reached humans. The term oracle also refers to people who deliver the communications from the gods and who operate within the religious, royal, or social structures of society. They included priests or priestesses at temples and shrines. Prophets, in contrast, believed they were called—or commanded—to prophecy by their gods. They were driven by strong feelings to share their prophecies, which could be unexpected or even un-welcome. Like oracles, many prophets also worked for the temple or state, although some prophets appeared outside these establishments, driven by the urgency of their messages.

DIVINATION AND ORACLES

Many ancient Near Eastern societies practiced divination, or the technique of interpreting signs to tell the future. Oracles often served as diviners because they could respond to people's questions about the future or about the meaning of certain occurrences.

Types of Divination

Diviners in the ancient Near East helped explain the meaning of signs, including OMENS, or indications of coming events, either good or bad, and DREAMS. In ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, diviners looked for omens using ASTROLOGY, in which the movements of the sun, moon, visible planets, and stars were thought to correspond to events or conditions in earthly life.

Almost all cultures practiced divination through dreams. People regarded dreams as a channel through which the gods or dead ancestors communicated with individuals in the living world. However, the person who received the dream could not be the one who interpreted it; the process required separate individuals. Kings could receive divine commands through dreams. People sometimes slept in temples in the hope that the gods would appear in their dreams to give advice, a practice called incubation. Hittite texts contain descriptions of dreams along with omens and oracles. For example, one text describes how King Murshili II asked the gods to send a dream that would explain why his people were dying of a plague*. The Israelites also believed that dreams could contain communications from their god, YAHWEH.  ^

Oracular Process

An omen or a dream could appear on its own, but an oracle could be heard only when someone posed a specific question to the gods about the future or the meaning of events or things. Records of consultations with oracles provide the best documentation for Egyptian divination. According to these records, the general procedure was to present a prepared question that could be answered yes or no. The process of presenting the question was called "reaching the god." The subjects of questions varied widely and included such matters as nominations for offices and accusations of theft. The methods of acquiring the answer also differed from place to place.

The Hittites relied on oracles to predict the success of almost all important undertakings in public and private life. Hittite texts contain references to oracular inquiries about such matters as the course of a military campaign and illnesses in the royal family.

PROPHETS AND PROPHECIES

Prophecy in the ancient Near East was associated mainly with Israel, although prophets lived in other places as well. A prophet believed that a deity* had chosen him to communicate important information to an individual or a community. The prophet could obtain that information from his or her deity or from other supernatural beings—in the case of the Jewish prophet Zechariah, an angel—through a dream, a vision, or ecstasy. Prophets are described as inspired, sometimes even frenzied by the urgency with which divine messages are conveyed.

The Prophecy of Neferti

Composed during the reign of King Amenemhet 1 of the Twelfth Dy-nasty, The Prophecy of Neferti psrais the king and celebrates his success in ending a chaotic period in Egyptian history. Set fictitiously in the court of Fourth Dynasty king Sneferu, Neferti, a skilled scribe, sage, and priest, predicts the future. He foretells calamities for Egypt until a king from the south—Ameny (Amenemhet)—takes the two crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt and establishes stability and joy.

In Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Iran

Texts unearthed at the Mesopotamian city of MARI include prophecies from the reign of ZIMRI-LIM, around 1760 B.C. Prophets claimed to be speaking for the god Dagan, who at the time had a broad regional appeal. Some of the prophecies deal with the safety of the king and military affairs, while others relate to the temple. Men and women could be prophets, but their message was conveyed to the king through intermediaries, such as the queen or governors.

In Egypt

Very little evidence exists for prophecy in ancient Egypt. Several narratives dating back to the Old Kingdom and First Intermediate periods (ca. 2675-1980 B.C.) contain prophecies, but they are all set after the predicted event had occurred. Although these documents contain messages and predictions, they do not attribute their statements to the gods.

In Iran

In Iran, the religion called Zoroastrianism was founded by the prophet Zoroaster around 600 B.C. Zoroaster spoke out against the priests and religious practices of his time and declared that the god AHURA MAZDA had revealed sacred truths to him.

In Israel

The largest surviving collection of prophetic writings and stories about prophets is in the Hebrew BIBLE. The prophets of the Israelites received messages from Yahweh in dreams, in trances, or while awake. Among the best-known biblical prophets are ISAIAH, JEREMIAH, and Ezekiel, who left records of their utterances, while others, such as Elijah and Elishah, are known mostly through stories that involved them. There were also women prophets, such as Miriam, Huldah, and Deborah. Like Zoroaster, some of the prophets of ISRAEL AND JUDAH criticized the religious establishments of their eras for wandering from the path of true and righteous worship. They claimed to be speaking for Yahweh and often began their prophecies with the words "Thus says the Lord."

The Israelite prophets may have answered a divine call, but they also fulfilled earthly functions. They advised kings on matters of foreign policy and directed their oracles at enemy nations. In the biblical Book of 2 Kings, prophets are even credited with initiating revolutions and appointing rival kings to the throne. They also analyzed and criticized royal actions from the point of view of the common people, helping to keep kingly power within limits. The prophets, like all diviners and oracles, gave expression to the universal belief that the affairs of this world were linked to higher levels of existence. (See also Witchcraft.)

Definitions

*plague - contagious disease that quickly kills large numbers of people

*deity - god or goddess

 

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"Bible", J. R. Porter (profesor emerit de teologie la Universitatea Exeter, fost membru al Sinodului Bisericii Angliei, fost membru al Oriel College (Universitatea Oxford)), lucrare editată de Evergreen (Taschen GmbH) în 2007, în colecţia "Istorie Universală", p. 55:

 

"Moïse et sa famille sont sur le chemin qui les ramène en Egypte (Ex. 4,20) lorsqu'ils font halte pour la nuit. Là a lieu un événement énigmatique: Moïse rencontre Yahvé qui «tente de le faire mourir». Ce passage (Ex. 4,24-26) est difficile à interpréter, sans doute parce que l'auteur du texte biblique n'en connaissait plus la signification véritable. Il semble s'agir là de l'insertion d'un fragment de narratif ancien. Yahvé y apparaît comme une sorte de démon nocturne et hostile, tandis que la circoncision évoquée est pratiquée à l'aide d'un silex tranchant."

 

Sugerând acelaşi lucru, se poate observa în porţiunea centrală a cărţii lui Iov că toate necazurile care îl lovesc pe acesta sunt provocate de Dumnezeu însuşi. Această opinie reflectă tradiţia evreiească conform căreia totul e cauzat de o entitate spirituală unică, atât binele cât şi răul. În prologul cărţii lui Iov însă nu mai este Dumnezeu autorul necazurilor, ci "Satana", care aici apare nu ca o încarnare a răului, ci ca un membru al curţii cereşti (Iov 1:6), el acţionând cu permisiunea lui Iahve. În Biblie poate fi de altfel urmărită evoluţia lui Satan: în Samuel 2, Dumnezeu îl incită pe David să numere poporul (2 Sam. 24:1). Însă referitor acelaşi episod relatat în Cronici (1 Cron. 21:1), ni se spune că de fapt nu Dumnezeu, ci Satan, este acela care îi sugerază lui David recensământul cauzator de ciumă. (J.R.Porter, Bible, p.128).  

 

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Onomastica lui Dumnezeu poate fi considerată a fi cel puţin bizară prin amplitudinea şi diversitatea ei, asta cel puţin dacă nu iei în considerare sincretismul natural în orice religie şi astfel şi în iudaism; pe cât de unic vor evreii (şi cei din celelalte religii care încă le mai adoră zeitatea evreilor) să fie acesta, pe atât de multe nume a purtat el de-a lungul istoriei fanilor lui. Astfel evreii l-au numit pe YHWH felurit, funcţie de perioada istorică.

În Mesopotamia, locul lor de origine al evreilor potrivit Bibliei, patriarhii au adorat zeităţi locale, nu ştim care. Biblia e laconică aici. Ajunşi în Canaan, evreii au luat cunoştinţă de zeitatea supremă locală, anume "El", şi au adoptat-o. Astfel începe perioada de monolatrie a religiei evreieşti, El devenind un zeu personal şi tribal :

 

"As noted before, in Mesopotamia the patriarchs worshiped "other gods." On Canaanite soil, they met the Canaanite supreme god, El, and adopted him, but only partially and nominally, bestowing upon him qualities destined to distinguish him and to assure his preeminence over all other gods. He was thus to become El 'Olam (God the Everlasting One), El 'Elyon (God Most High), El Shaddai (God, the One of the Mountains), and El Ro'i (God of Vision). In short, the god of Abraham possessed duration, transcendence, power, and knowledge. This was not monotheism but monolatry (the worship of one among many gods), with the bases laid for a true universalism. He was a personal god too, with direct relations with the individual, but also a family god and certainly still a tribal god. Here truly was the God of our fathers, who in the course of time was to become the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." "Encyclopaedia Britannica" (Britannica on line 2009), articolul "Abraham", p. 4 din 5).

 

Varianta "Elohim" poate fi interpretat ca un plural de politeţe al lui "El" sau "Eloah" ("Eloah" apărând în Biblie în special în "cartea lui Iov".), el intrând în diverse sintagme de adoraţie ("El Elion" (supremul), "El Olam" (eternul) etc.) sau de particularizare ("El Elohe Israel" - "El, dumnezeul lui Israel"). Este dificil a se face distincţie între sensul "zeul evreilor" şi sensul "zeitate canaaneană". De exemplu este incert dacă "El-berith" ("Dumnezeul legământului") în Judecători 9:46 se referă la Iahve, întrucât această zeitate pare a fi identică cu "Baal-berith" din versetele 8:33 şi 9:4, putând fi o zeitate canaaneană: 

 

"It is uncertain whether El-berith ("God of the covenant") in Judges 9:46 refers to Yahweh, for this deity seems to be the same as Baal-berith in 8:33; 9:4, and may be a Canaanite god."  (J. A. Emerton, "Names of God in the Hebrew Bible", "The Oxford Guide to People and Places of the Bible", Ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, Oxford University Press, 2001. Oxford Reference Online)

 

Dar chiar în ce priveşte revelarea numelui său (acela de "Iahve"), tradiţiile biblice diferă şi se contrazic: astfel, conform acelor porţiuni de text ale Pentateuhului atribuite de cercetători "Iahvistului" ("sursei iahviste"), numele este cunoscut şi adorat de pe vremea lui Adam, în timp ce alte texte din Pentateuh, şi anume cele atribuite "sursei preoţeşti" ("sursei P"), numele Iahve îi este revelat prima oară lui Moise, ceea ce duce la concluzia că zeul pe care patriarhii l-au adorat era zeitatea din Canaan, "El":

 

"It is known that, on the matter of the revelation of Yahweh to man, the biblical traditions differ. According to what scholars call the Yahwistic source (J) in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), Yahweh had been known and worshiped since Adam's time. According to the so-called Priestly source (P), the name of Yahweh was revealed only to Moses. It may be concluded that it was probably El whom the patriarchs, including Abraham, knew". ("Encyclopaedia Britannica", art. "Abraham", p.4).

 

Se remarcă prin semnificaţia ei formularea "El Şadai", cu sensul "Dumnezeu atotputernic". Importanţa ei constă în faptul că Biblia (textele din "sursa P", preoţească) spune că acesta a fost primul nume cu care zeul evreilor li s-a anunţat acestora prima dată, înainte chiar de a-şi fi revelat numele de "YHWH":

 

"Another name is El Shaddai, usually translated "God Almighty," and the Priestly writer in the Pentateuch maintains that God first made himself known by that name before revealing his name Yahweh." (J. A. Emerton, "Names of God in the Hebrew Bible", Oxford University Press, 2001). "Şadai" este un termen înrudit cu cuvântul akkadian cu sensul "munte". Se ştie că toţi redactorii Pentateuhului s-au inspirat din tradiţiile sumero-akkadiene. În acest sens, Edmond Jacob afirmă în lucrarea "Vechiul Testament", ed. Humanitas 1993, p. 52), referindu-se la un alt autor al Pentateucului, şi anume la "Iahvist": "Voind să alcătuiască o istorie universală, el retrasează perioada de la creaţie până la constituirea umanităţii în neamuri. În acest scop el se inspiră din plin din tradiţiile sumero-acadiene, mai cu seamă în privinţa creaţiei şi a potopului”. O traducere mai exactă a formulei "El Şadai" ar fi aşadar "Dumnezeu, unicul munţilor". (Encyclopaedia Britannica, art. "Abraham", p.4: "[...] El Shaddai (God, the One of the Mountains) [...]."

 

Un alt termen folosit de evrei este "Baal", fie prin identificare cu binecunoscuta zeitate omonimă canaaneană, fie datorită sensurilor de "domn", "stăpân". Această a doua posibilitate este însă tare nesigură, întrucât e fapt bine-cunoscut că Biblia manifestă o aversiune pentru numele "Baal", utilizarea lui fiind considerată explicit manifestare de idolatrie, fapt vădit şi din modificările intervenite în textele ulterioare (anume 2 Samuel) pentru numele fiului lui Saul (care în Cronici apare ca fiind "Eşbaal"), acesta devenind la Samuel "Eşboşet".  Aceeaşi situaţie cu fiul lui Ionatan, numit "Meribaal" ("iubit de Baal"), care în 2 Samuel devine "Mefiboşet". 

Începând cu perioada de după exil (sec. 6 î.e.n.), îndeosebi după secolul 3 î.e.n., evreii nu au mai folosit numele "Iahve", înlocuindu-l în sinagogă cu "Domnul" ("Adonai", termen înrudit cu grecescul "Adonis") - Encyclopaedia Britannica, art. "Yahweh".

 

Prima utilizare a tetragramei IHVH apare în perioada politeistă (evreii adorau alături de zeul lor tribal YHWH diverse alte zeităţi locale precum El, Milkon, Anat, Aşera, Baal, Kemoş) şi de tranziţie spre monoteism, YHWH fiind numele zeităţii masculine, aşa cum atestă mărturiile epigrafice găsite la Kuntilet Ajrud (ostrace cu invocaţii spre "Iahve şi a sa Aşera") şi cele găsite la Şefela (tăbliţe cu inscripţia "Iahve şi a sa Aşera", ca şi numeroase statuete care demonstrează că partenera divină a lui YHWH era adorată de evreii timpului atât la Templu cât şi în case).

Ulterior, odată cu statornicirea monoteismului, tetragrama a desemnat zeul unic al iudaismului, "Dumnezeu". Trecerea a început la nivel oficial (al statului) în secolul al VIII-lea î.e.n. şi a durat mai multe sute de ani, perioadă în care a cunoscut progrese şi eşecuri succesive. În secolul al VII-lea î.e.n., după reforma lui Iosia, populaţia încă nu era sub influenţa monoteismului şi nici măcar a henoteismului (monolatriei), întrucât în casele evreilor se găseau încă statuete ale adoratei soţii a lui YHWH, Aşera. La sfârşitul secolului V î.e.n. chiar, evreii din diaspora încă ezitau să adopte monoteismul absolut al taberei iahviste, după cum atestă papirusurile evreilor de pe insula Yeb (Elephantine), refugiaţi în Egipt din faţa invaziilor asiriene şi babiloniene din regatul Iuda: templul local era dedicat mai multor zeităţi canaaneene, între care Iahve şi Anat. Templul a fost distrus de egipteni la cererea preoţilor lor, care vedeau probabil în apariţia unei noi religii şi a unor noi zeităţi în Egipt o ameninţare pentru propriile credinţe. (J. R. Porter (profesor emerit de teologie la Universitatea Exeter, fost membru al Sinodului Bisericii Angliei, fost membru al Oriel College (Universitatea Oxford)), lucrarea "Biblia"  editată de Evergreen în 2007, colecţia Istorie Universală, p. 117.)

 

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Firmamentul, termen a cărui etimologie chiar sugerează natura sa rigidă, era considerat de către evreii care au scris Biblia ca un fel de tavan separator care ţine "apa cosmică" să nu cadă pe pământ (Facere 1:6-8); Cosmologia ebraică prezenta un pământ plat peste care era situat un firmament în formă de cupolă, sprijinit pe crestele munţilor şi înconjurat de ape. Găuri sau fante dotate cu capace (Facere 7:11) permiteau uneori apei să cadă sub formă de ploaie pe pământ. Firmamentul era în acelaşi timp şi suportul pe care Dumnezeu a pus Soarele (Psalmi 19:4) si stelele (Facere 1:14) în cea de-a patra zi a creaţiei. Evreii mai credeau că pământul de formă plată pluteşte pe o altă imensă cantitate de apă (Facere 1 :7) şi că în timpul miticului Potop al lui Noe aceste oceane s-au unit pentru a acoperi pământul.

 

"firmament - The division made by God, according to the P account of creation, to restrain the cosmic water and form the sky (Gen. 1: 6–8). Hebrew cosmology pictured a flat earth, over which was a dome-shaped firmament, supported above the earth by mountains, and surrounded by waters. Holes or sluices (windows, Gen. 7: 11) allowed the water to fall as rain. The firmament was the heavens in which God set the sun (Ps. 19: 4) and the stars (Gen. 1: 14) on the fourth day of the creation. There was more water under the earth (Gen. 1: 7) and during the Flood the two great oceans joined up and covered the earth; sheol was at the bottom of the earth (Isa. 14: 9; Num. 16: 30)."  ^

How to cite this entry: "firmament", "Dictionary of the Bible", W. R. F. Browning, Oxford University Press, 1997. Oxford Reference Online.

 

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Conquest of Canaan

The biblical story of the conquest of Canaan is found in Joshua 1–11 and Judges 1. The Joshua account continues the story of the conquest of the Transjordan given in Numbers 21; it depicts the conquest as quick and complete. The Israelites cross into Canaan and capture Jericho (Josh. 6) and Ai (Josh. 8). Although tricked into an alliance with the Gibeonites (Map 3:X5; Josh. 9), they defeat a coalition of cities led by Jerusalem (Josh. 10.1–27) and sweep through the southern part of the country, destroying everything in their path (Josh. 10.28–42). This southern campaign is followed by a victory over an alliance of northern cities led by Hazor (Josh. 11.1–5). The subjugation of Canaan takes only five years (see Josh. 14.7, 10), and most of the indigenous population is destroyed (Josh. 11.16–20). Judges 1, however, gives the impression that the conquest was a matter of individual tribal actions occurring over an extended period and often with inconclusive results.

Modern historians have attempted to describe the process by which Israel came into control of Canaan. It seems to have had two phases, one of peaceful settlement in the hills and one of conflict with the cities of the lowlands. Surveys of Israel and Jordan show that the central highlands were sparsely populated before 1200 BCE, when a marked expansion began. Most of the newcomers were agriculturalists, not nomads. They seem to have been of mixed origin, arriving from several directions and settling in villages. Certain continuities in material culture, including pottery and architecture, suggest that a substantial number came from the Canaanite cities of the lowlands. These peoples made up the bulk of the population of later Israel. They aligned themselves with an existing group called Israel, who were already living in the region, as shown by a reference made to them in about 1207 BCE by the Egyptian king Merneptah. The resulting larger community developed a strong sense of ethnic identity, sharply separating themselves from the peoples of the neighboring lowland cities, whom they eventually grew strong enough to conquer or assimilate in a process that was not complete until David's capture of Jerusalem in the tenth century BCE. It was probably the memory of this process that gave rise to the tradition of Joshua's conquest.     ^

Archaeology has cast doubt on the historicity of many of the specific victories described in Joshua, including especially the battle of Jericho, which was not fortified at the time of the Israelites' arrival. The story of the crossing of the Jordan and the first victory serves the theological purpose of presenting the conquest as a part of Yahweh's plan for Israel, the means by which the land promised to the ancestors was acquired. The crossing into the sacred realm and siege of the first Canaanite city are presented in ritual terms, while the divine participation in the war is made clear (Josh. 5.13–15; cf. 10.12).

See also: Joshua, The Book of.

P. Kyle McCarter, Jr.

How to cite this entry: P. Kyle McCarter, Jr. "Conquest of Canaan", The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, eds. Oxford University Press Inc. 1993. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  

 

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Names of God in the Hebrew Bible

The Oxford Companion to the Bible    

[…]

Yahweh is frequently described as melek, "king" (e.g., Deut. 33.5; Pss. 29.10; 98.6), "a great king over all the earth" (Ps. 47.2; cf. 47.7; 48.2) or "above all gods" (Ps. 95.3), "my" or "our king" (Pss. 5.2; 47.6; 68.24; 74.12), or "the King of glory" (Ps. 24.7–10). He "reigns" or "has become king" (Pss. 47.8; 93.1; 96.10; 97.1; 99.1; Isa. 52.7), and he "will reign forever" (Exod. 15.18). Personal names include Malchiel (Gen. 46.17; Num. 26.45; 1 Chron. 7.31) and Malchiah (Jer. 21.1; 38.1, 6), meaning "El" or "Yah is king." Isaiah sees a vision of "the King, Yahweh of hosts" (6.5).

[…]

His relationship with people is also shown by names containing the element ab, "father," such as Abijah, Abiel, and Abra(ha)m. Yet although God was viewed thus (Jer. 31.9; Mal. 2.10; cf. 1.6), and could be addressed as "my (or our) Father" (Jer. 3.4; Isa. 63.16; 64.8), it is doubtful whether the evidence suffices to justify the claim that "Father" was a title, let alone a name.

See also: Jehovah.

J. A. Emerton

How to cite this entry: J. A. Emerton, "Names of God in the Hebrew Bible", The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, eds. Oxford University Press Inc. 1993. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Copyright © Oxford University Press 2009. All Rights Reserved.  

 

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În secolul 1 î.e.n. apare prima formă de şcoală generală, şi aia alfabetizând (fie doar teoretic) doar jumatate din populaţie (educaţia femeilor n-a fost niciodată partea tare a iudaismului…):

In Judah Simon ben-Shetah introduced elementary education for all boys in 75 B.C.

(THE CAMBRIDGE HISTORY OF THE BIBLE, VOLUME 1 - FROM THE BEGINNINGS TO JEROME, EDITED BY P. R. ACKROYD (Samuel Davidson Professor of Old Testament Studies University of London, King's College) AND G F. EVANS (Professor of New Testament Studies University of London, King's College), CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS, Cambridge Histories Online, © Cambridge University Press, 2008, p.38.)

 

 

 

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Edmond Jacob, "Vechiul Testament", Traducere de CRISTIAN PREDA, HUMANITAS, BUCUREŞTI 1993, titlul original L'ANCIEN TESTAMENT, ediţia a Vl-a, 1991, © Presses Universitaires de France, 1967, Colecţia „Que sais-je?", © HUMANITAS, 1993 pentru prezenta versiune românească. ISBN 973-28-0408-4. 

 

O apocalipsă profetică: Daniel

Apocalipsa e fiica profeţiei. Semnificaţia termenului, aceea de "descoperire", vădeşte descendenţa apocalipsei din profeţie, întrucît şi profeţii voiau să-l revele pe Dumnezeu, omul şi sensul istoriei. Această orientare teleologică introduce în profeţie - încă de timpuriu - un element eshatologic care e însă întotdeauna legat de istorie, în funcţie de care se şi modifică. în cazul ultimilor profeţi, elementul eshatologic ajunge să-l domine pe cel istoric; motivele acestei mutaţii sînt felurite: cursul evenimentelor nu favorizase credinţa în revelarea lui Dumnezeu în istorie şi în triumful împărăţiei sale; nici promisiunile lui Isaia despre rolul universal al Ierusalimului şi nici viziunile pline de măreţie ale lui lezechiel nu se realizaseră în mod concret; domnea o mediocritate cvasigenerală: pierderea independenţei naţionale, diminuarea evlaviei la marea majoritate a poporului, persecutarea celor rămaşi credincioşi. Profetismul se află în declin şi se afima chiar că "Nu mai este profet" (Ps. 73, 10). Speranţa însă nu dispare, ea fiind purtată de aşa-numiţii apocalipticieni. Cu noi mijloace, adaptate situaţiei nou create ei încearcă să arate atît că planul

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divin se împlineşte, cît şi cum se împlineşte. Pentru ei, cursul istoriei e hotărît nu numai în linii mari, ci pînă în cele mai mici amănunte; ceea ce se petrece nu constituie deci un accident, ci o secvenţă a planului divin; acest plan capătă realitate potrivit schemei mai multor perioade sau vîrste, schema împrumutată de către Israel din eshatologia iraniană. Apocalipticienii sînt desigur succesorii profeţilor, dar se poate admite că ei deţineau şi o experienţă şi o cunoaştere a lui Dumnezeu, nefiind deci nişte simpli imitatori savanţi ai modelelor profetice. Spontaneitatea şi inspiraţia lor sînt însă mai puţin accentuate decît în cazul profeţilor. Apocalipsele ar putea fi definite ca un profetism foarte bine strunit de către înţelepciune.

Elementele apocaliptice extinse la dimensiunile cosmosului se regăsesc în cărţile profetice, în Isaia 24, 27 şi 34, 35 şi în Iezechiel 38, 39.

Toate aceste trăsături pot fi întîlnite în cartea lui Daniel care cuprinde două părţi, în aparenţă total diferite; capitolele 1-6 includ mai multe relatări despre Daniel şi prietenii săi, în timp ce 7-12 ne prezintă patru mari viziuni avute de Daniel. Deportaţi în Babilonia pe vremea lui Ioiachim, Daniel şi ceilalţi captivi sînt bine trataţi de către

122

 Nabucodonosor, care caută să îi determine să asimileze cultura babiloniană; tinerii acceptă în măsura în care nu intră în contradicţie cu legile lui Israel. Daniel îşi dovedeşte înţelepciunea tîlcuind vise şi descifrînd inscripţia misterioasă de pe zidul palatului; refuzînd însă să recunoască divinitatea regelui, el e dus la cuptorul de foc şi la groapa cu lei. Ansamblul acestor povestiri, mai mult sau mai puţin legendare, a luat naştere, ca şi relatările oarecum analoage despre losif, în mediile înţelepţilor. E posibil ca fidelitatea, împinsă uneori pînă la martiriu, a unor evrei care trăiseră în timpul exilului să fi furnizat autorului cărţii unele elemente istorice; în general însă, apocalipsele îşi plasează eroii într-o epocă ante-istorică (Noe, Enoh, chiar Adam). Iezechiel vorbea şi el de un Daniel, pomenit alături de Noe şi Iov, care era neprihănit şi înţelept (lez. 14, 14; 14, 20; 28, 3); cum nu poate fi vorba despre un contemporan al profetului, e posibil ca Iezechiel să facă aluzie la un anumit Daniel, eroul unui text mitologic din Ugarit, sau la un alt Daniel, menţionat de Cartea Jubileelor ca socrul lui Enoh. Se poate trage de aici concluzia că numele eroului nu lămureşte circumstanţele în care a fost alcătuită cartea. ^  Aşa cum afirma încă din secolul al III-lea neoplatonicianul Por-

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phirio din detaliile viziunilor reiese că ea a fost alcătuită în epoca macabeană, mai exact, între 168 şi 165 a. Chr., în momentul în care Antioh al IV-lea Epifaniu a instalat la Ierusalim „urîciunea pustiirii" (Dan. 11,31), adică statuia lui Zeus Olimpianul. Evenimentele domniei acestui rege se regăsesc cu mare precizie în predicţiile cărţii lui Daniel, în timp ce relatările despre epocile mai vechi sînt mai puţin exacte. Avem deci de-a face cu evenimente trecute sau contemporane prezentate ca o profeţie, fenomen desemnat prin sintagma vaticinium post eventum. ^ Cartea îşi propunea să răspundă la întrebarea "Cît vor mai ţine suferinţele poporului ales?" Tradiţia biblică dădea un răspuns prin Ieremia: acesta (Ier. 25, 11-14; 29, 10) vestise o robie de 70 de ani, cifră interpretată ca săptămîni de ani (deci 490 de ani). E adevărat că această perioadă depăşeşte epoca dintre distrugerea Ierusalimului şi războaiele macabeene, dar autorul foloseşte o cifră rotundă pentru a arăta cititorilor săi că timpul se apropie de soroc. Autorul cărţii lui Daniel voia să vestească neamului său apropierea eliberării pentru ca astfel credinţa acestuia să nu slăbească în faţa ultimei puneri la încercare. Acest mesaj e transmis prin relatările şi viziunile sale; dacă unitatea literară a cărţii rămîne

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discutabilă, trebuie  să se sublinieze cel puţin unitatea mesajului.

Cartea e scrisă în aramaică şi în ebraică; partea în aramaică (2, 4-7, 28) e probabil cea mai veche, fiind scrisă de autor pentru a-şi întări fraţii ce vorbeau curent aramaică; viziunile sînt redactate în ebraică, limba sacră, pentru a avea mai multă greutate; e foarte probabil ca primul capitol să fi fost tradus din aramaică în ebraică, pentru a da ansamblului cărţii o mai mare aparenţă de unitate. Importanţa acordată, în unele secte, calculului zilelor şi perioadelor, prin interpretarea ad litteram a datelor oferite de Daniel, nu trebuie să umbrească celelalte aspecte ale cărţii. Am arătat deja care e concluzia relatărilor din prima parte, în capitolul 7 (versetul 13) se află prima menţiune a Fiului Omului, coborît din ceruri pentru a-i readuce pe oameni la adevărata lor umanitate şi pentru a-i include într-o nouă comuniune cu Dumnezeul transcendent. Pe de altă parte, Daniel vesteşte în chip explicit învierea morţilor (cap. 12), care constituie în ochii săi răspunsul dat problemei răsplătirii, de care cei drepţi, morţi ca martiri, nu putuseră beneficia, şi care se va realiza după moarte. Deschizînd această perspectivă, Daniel a adăugat religiei lui Israel o nouă dimensiune, în faţa căreia stătea un destin măreţ (cf. fariseismul).

 

 

Citatul de mai sus este un pasaj din lucrarea "Vechiul Testament" de EDMOND JACOB ( traducere de CRISTIAN PREDA, Ed. HUMANITAS, BUCUREŞTI 1993. EDMOND JACOB, "L'ANCIEN TESTAMENT", ediţia a VI-a, 1991, © Presses Universitaires de France, 1967. 108, boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris, Colecţia "Que sais-je?", © HUMANITAS, 1993 pentru prezenta versiune românească. ISBN 973-28-0408-4.)

 

Reproduc mai jos şi Cuvântul înainte al autorului, întrucât îl găsesc instructiv pentru orice lector novice în ale istoriei religiei:

 

CUVÎNT ÎNAINTE CĂTRE CITITORUL ROMÂN

Cartea de faţă îşi propune să-i introducă pe nespecialişti în lectura Vechiului Testament, lectură care, aşa cum se indică şi în Concluzia lucrării, poate fi făcută din puncte de vedere multiple şi complementare. Am avut în vedere în principal forma în care ni se înfăţişează Vechiul Testament, aceea de document literar, rezultat al unui proces îndelungat în care şi-au dat mîna creaţia şi tradiţia. Ca document literar, Vechiul Testament se integrează în literatura antică a Orientului Apropiat, începînd din al treilea mileniu p. Chr., această literatură a înflorit în solul fertil al mai multor civilizaţii situate în spaţiul cuprins între Sumer şi Egipt. Datorită trudei istoricilor şi arheologilor, dispunem în momentul de faţă de texte aparţinînd unor genuri foarte diferite: anale şi cronici, documente juridice ori epice (ca Epopeea lui Ghilgameş), maxime filozofice şi morale (desemnate în mod curent cu ajutorul termenilor de înţelepciune sau rugăciuni de proslăvire şi de îndurare). Această literatură este, în mare parte, anterioară textelor biblice care s-au inspirat deseori din ea, mai ales în privinţa relatărilor referitoare la originile lumii şi ale umanităţii. Spre deosebire de ceea ce s-a petrecut în cadrul marilor culturi mesopotamiană şi egipteană, Biblia (devenită canon, adică normă învestită cu autoritate pentru credinţa şi viaţa israeliţilor şi a creştinilor) a reunit partea cea mai importantă a corpusului său literar într-o singură cane. Acest fapt i-a asigurat conservarea şi răspîndirea de-a lungul timpului, fenomene înlesnite de altfel de tipul de scriere adoptat şi anume, cel alfabetic.) ^

 

 

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How To Cite: Text Citation: Cook, James Wyatt, "Hebrew Bible", Encyclopedia of Ancient Literature, New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2008, Ancient and Medieval History Online, Facts On File, Inc. (accessed July 25, 2009). 

Hebrew Bible

Date: ca. 10th-first centuries BCE

From: Encyclopedia of Ancient Literature. 

A useful way to think of the Bible as a literary document involves considering the text from the point of view of the genres that characterize the writing it contains. In doing so, I follow with some additions and modifications the generic scheme proposed by William Owen Sypherd. While many books of the Bible contain representatives of several literary types, certain genres prevail in specific books.

The first books of the Hebrew Bible - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, which are grouped together as the Torah or Pentateuch - can be thought of as the earliest form of Hebrew Scripture. These books are the work of composite authorship and editing, and they were likely in process of creation from about 900 to 400 BCE.  ^ 

[…]

Isaiah enjoys a reputation as the greatest of the prophets. At the same time, it is clear that all the works assembled under his name do not belong to him and that their composition spans a period of about 500 years. It is possible, however, to separate out much that is confidently attributable to Isaiah. He was an intellectual living in the city of Jerusalem under the reigns of the Hebrew kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.

 

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Figure 3.20 from Sarna, Understanding Genesis: The Heritage of Biblical Israel (New York: Schocken Books, 1966), p. 5. A depiction that has many features in common with Sarna's but which is a bit more animated is that offered by F. E. Deist, "Genesis 1:1-2:43: World View and World Picture," Scriptura 22 (1987): p. 1-17; presented also in Izak Cornelius, "The Visual Representation of the World in the Ancient Near East and the Hebrew Bible," JNWSL 20:2 (1994): 211.

 

Figure 3.21 by Alexandra Schober, in T. Schwegler, Probleme der biblischen Urgeschichte (Munich: 1960), plate 1.

 

Figure 3:22 from Victor H. Matthews and Don C. Benjamin, Old Testament Parallels: Laws and Stories from the Ancient Near East (Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1991), 22, fig. 10.

 

Figure 3.23 from Keel and Uehlinger, Altorientalische Miniaturkunst, p.15, fig. 6; cf. "Das sogenannte altorientalische Weltbild," Bibel und Kirche 40:4 (1985): 160-61, fig. 1. For other depictions see Keel, Symbolism, 56-57 figs. 56, 57.

 

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Malachi condemns insincere worship and divorce, encourages payment of tithes and offerings, and predicts that the faithful will prosper.

How To Cite: Cook, James Wyatt, "Hebrew Bible", "Encyclopedia of Ancient Literature", New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2008, Ancient and Medieval History Online, Facts On File, Inc. (accessed July 25,

2009). 

 

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"Voltaire spunea: «Când s-a inventat religia? Când primul escroc a-ntâlnit un imbecil.»"

("Voltaire disait «qui fut celui qui inventa la religion? Ce fut le premier fripon qui rencontra un imbécile»" - Denis Huisman et André Vergez, "Philosophie", tome 1 (L'action), Marabout 1994, Alleur (Belgique), p.26, în nota de subsol).

 

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"Ritual and Rhetoric in Leviticus", James W. Watts, Syracuse University, Cambridge University Press, The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK, Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York, © James W. Watts 2007.

 

"Ritual and Rhetoric in Leviticus: From Sacrifice to Scripture" uses rhetorical analysis to expose the motives behind the writing of the central book of the Torah/Pentateuch and its persuasive function in ancient Judaism.

The answer to the question "Who was trying to persuade whom of what by writing these texts?" proves to be quite consistent throughout Leviticus 1-16: Aaronide high priests and their supporters used this book to legitimize their monopoly over the ritual offerings of Jews and Samaritans.  ^

With this priestly rhetoric at its center, the Torah supported the rise to power of two priestly dynasties in Second Temple Judaism. Their ascendancy in turn elevated the prestige and rhetorical power of the Torah, making it the first real scripture in Near Eastern and Western religious traditions. Rhetorical analysis of Leviticus therefore has implications not only for the form and contents of that book, but also for understanding the later history of the rhetoric of priesthood, of sacrifice, and, especially, of scripture.

 

James W. Watts is Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. He is the author of "Psalm and Story: Inset Hymns in Hebrew Narratives" (1992) and "Reading Law: The Rhetorical Shaping of the Pentateuch" (1999) and editor of "Persia and Torah:

The Theory of the Imperial Authorization of the Pentateuch" (2001). 

 

Preface

[…]

The systematic and didactic tendencies of the first half of Leviticus have not led many interpreters to explain its form and contents in terms of persuasion. These characteristics of the book, however, make it the perfect place to test the thesis that the Torah, as a whole, was shaped for purposes of mass persuasion.

 

(p.71)

3 - The Rhetoric of Burnt Offerings

[…]

Explanations for the Olah's Priority

[…]

Milgrom implied, however, that it is the olah's character as a whole offering, donated entirely to God (except for the hide, which goes to the priest: Lev 7:8), that singles it out for special treatment.

[…]

Therefore the olah exemplifies the temple cult of the priests, apart from the lay people's participation in it, as pure gift to the deity devoid of almost any profit to the priests. The implication of its rhetorical prominence then is that the olah represents the purist form of divine service.

[…]

That point is underscored by biblical stories of human sacrifice. The stories of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22), Jephthah and his daughter (Judg 11:29-40), and King Mesha of Moab and his son (2 Kings 3:27)

all describe the offering of one's child as an olah. Though the stories' evaluations of such acts are mixed, they underscore the idea that to offer an olah is to give up something of great value. The prominence of the olah in biblical rhetoric emphasizes this ideal of self-denial, even though it prohibits the specific act of child sacrifice (Exod 13:13; Lev 18:21; 20:3-5; Deut 18:10). The child sacrifice stories suggest that offering an olah indicates a willingness to give God much more than just an animal.

 

The Rhetorical Effect of the Olah's Priority

This ideal of selfless devotion to YHWH could not, however, dictate the actual functioning of the cult because it would have starved the

 

71                                                        The Rhetoric of Burnt Offerings

 

priests and impoverished the laity. The economic backbone of the system had to be the selamim, whose meat was shared by priests and the lay worshippers, and the grain of the minhah, which also provided food for the priests (as frequently did the hattat and the asam according to Lev 6:18 [LXX 6:24]-7:10; see Chapters 4 and 5). Of these offerings, the deity received only the blood, the fat, and a token portion of the meat or grain. In terms of quantity, the selamim and minhot had to provide the bulk of the priests' livelihood, and their regularity was ensured by mandating that firstborn and firstfruits offerings be brought to the sanctuary at various times during the year, as well as tithes to support the Levites (Num 18:8-32). As these texts from Leviticus and Numbers show, the P writers were quite concerned to claim divine authority for the system of priestly and Levitical income.  ^

Thus the rhetorical priority of the olah in the Bible did not represent the relative economic importance of the kinds of offerings, but in fact inverted it. The olah came first to emphasize the religious ideal of selfless devotion to God. The biblical and especially the priestly writers did not place the ideal of selfless devotion in opposition to the economic necessities of the temple cult, but they did emphasize the former, which had the effect of downplaying the latter.  ^ The prominence given the olah disguised the priests' self-interest in promulgating these regulations, just as depicting them as divine commands to Moses disguised the priestly authority behind the writing of these texts. Leviticus and Numbers authorized the economic claims and religious authority of Aaronide priests, but they hid this reality by foregrounding the selfless ideal represented by the olah. They therefore pictured the regular priestly services as consisting mostly of olot offerings (Num 28-29), though their days must actually have been spent dealing mainly with the people's selamim.  ^   

I do not mean to depict the P writers as especially devious or underhanded, but only to explain how the priority and emphasis that they

 

72                                            The Priority of the Olah in the History of Religion

 

put on the olah supported the persuasive goals behind Leviticus 1-7 in particular and the P legislation in general. Their strategy resembles the fund-raising appeals of modern congregations: though the bulk of the budget inevitably goes to the payroll and much of the rest to maintaining the buildings and grounds, their appeals usually emphasize the congregation's community and charity programs, because these best represent the congregation's goals and ideals and are most likely to motivate people to provide financial support. Similarly, though P wrote detailed instructions about the priests' income and the selamim offerings of the people, it began its instructions with the olah and returned to the olah repeatedly to emphasize the ideal of selfless devotion to God and to portray the priests as exemplifying that ideal through their service. The P writers did not invent this strategy. The convention of the olah's priority throughout biblical texts demonstrates that it was a commonplace, even a cliché, of Israel's religious rhetoric to give pride of place to the olah. In adopting and amplifying this convention, the P writers enhanced the persuasiveness of their instructions and the likelihood that they would be accepted as normative torah for Israel's worship, as indeed they were. They also obscured their innovations and drew attention away from how their legislation served priestly self-interests.

 

===============================

 

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"Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know - and Doesn't", Stephen Prothero, HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022, United States. Copyright © 2007 by Stephen Prothero.

 

Cover:

The United States is one of the most religious places on earth, but it is also a nation of shocking religious illiteracy.

• Only 10 percent of American teenagers can name all five major world religions and 15 percent cannot name any.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that the Bible holds the answers to all or most of life's basic questions, yet only half of American adults can name even one of the four gospels and most Americans cannot name the first book of the Bible. ^  

Despite this lack of basic knowledge, politicians and pundits continue to root public policy arguments in religious rhetoric whose meanings are missed - or misinterpreted - by the vast majority of Americans.

"We have a major civic problem on our hands," says religion scholar Stephen Prothero. He makes the provocative case that to remedy this problem, we should return to teaching religion in the public schools. Alongside "reading, writing, and arithmetic," religion ought to become the "Fourth R" of American education.

Many believe that America's descent into religious illiteracy was the doing of activist judges and secularists hell-bent on banishing religion from the public square. Prothero reveals that this is a profound misunderstand­ing. "In one of the great ironies of American religious history," Prothero writes, "it was the nation's most fervent people of faith who steered us down the road to religious illiteracy. Just how that happened is one of the stories this book has to tell."

Prothero avoids the trap of religious relativism by addressing both the core tenets of the world's major religions and the real differences among them. Complete with a dictionary of the key beliefs, characters, and stories of Christianity, Islam, and other religions. Religious Literacy reveals what every American needs to know in order to confront the domestic and foreign challenges facing this country today.

 

Introduction

 

A few years ago I was standing around the photocopier in Boston University's Department of Religion when a visiting professor from Austria offered a passing observation about American undergraduates. They are very religious, he told me, but they know next to nothing about religion.

Thanks to compulsory religious education (which in Austria begins in elementary schools), European students can name the twelve apostles and the Seven Deadly Sins, but they wouldn't be caught dead going to church or synagogue themselves. American students are just the opposite.

Here faith without understanding is the standard; here religious ignorance is bliss.

The religious differences between Europe and the United States are typically described in terms of beliefs and practices: Europeans are far less likely than Americans to join and attend houses of worship or to believe in heaven and hell. This book, however, focuses on religious knowledge.

It begins with a paradox I had been wrestling with for some time when my Austrian colleague helped to clarify it for me. That paradox is this: Americans are both deeply religious and profoundly ignorant about religion.    ^    

They are Protestants who can't name the four Gospels, Catholics who can't name the seven sacraments, and Jews who can't name the five books of Moses. Atheists may be as rare in America as Jesus-loving politicians are in Europe, but here faith is almost entirely devoid of content.

One of the most religious countries on earth is also a nation of religious illiterates.

 

1 Bible Babble

 

The civic implications of this paradox began to dawn on me on February 25, 1993, the day the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF)

 

2                                                                                  Introduction

 

raided the Waco, Texas, compound of an obscure religious sect called the Branch Davidians. I was at the time the proud owner of a freshly minted PhD trying to hold onto my first teaching job. My specialty was (and is) American religions, but I had no real expertise in new religious movements, and certainly no close encounters of the apocalyptic kind. Still, as I watched television coverage of the raid (which left six Branch Davidians and four BATF officials dead) and followed subsequent events in the media, I felt I knew how it was going to go down. The FBI, which took over the case from the BATF after the botched raid, thought it was calling the shots. But as I saw it, the Branch Davidians' leader, David Koresh, was luring FBI agents into playing roles he had assigned to them in an end game of his own imagining-an end game whose logic derived not so much from FBI profiles or SWAT team tactics as from Koresh's own idiosyncratic interpretation of the biblical book of Revelation.

"It's going to burn," I told myself, and I remember thinking that I should pick up the phone and call the FBI, tell them what Koresh must be thinking, tell them to give him the time he had requested to unlock the cryptic meanings of the book of Revelation's Seven Seals, show them how perfectly, how eerily, they were playing the parts he had assigned to them, let them know that, if they persisted, the whole thing would end in fire. But how do you call the FBI? (Do they have an 800 number?) And why would they listen to a thirty-something like me? I did not call. I hoped instead. I hoped that the federal government knew what it was doing-that President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno were getting good advice from people far more knowledgeable than I about end times theology. Unfortunately, no such counsel was forthcoming. And so the siege did end in fire. As the FBI attacked the compound with tear gas and combat vehicles on April 19, 1993, flames engulfed the buildings, and Koresh and about seventy-five followers (including twenty-one children) perished.

Waco was a case of death by religious ignorance. Perhaps the outcome was fated; perhaps the Branch Davidians were, as many believed, an incendiary cult and Koresh a megalomaniac hell-bent on death and destruction. Still, it might have ended differently if there had been someone, anyone, in the White House or the FBI who knew something, anything, about apocalyptic Christianity, if federal officials had not blithely dismissed Koresh's theology as "Bible babble" unworthy of engagement.2

Religious ignorance proved deadly again in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, when an Indian American man was shot and killed at an Arizona gas station by a vigilante who believed the man's turban marked

 

Introduction                                                                           3

 

him as a Muslim (and therefore for assassination). But what killed Balbir Singh Sodhi, who was actually a Sikh, was not simply bigotry. It was ignorance: the vigilante's inability to distinguish a Muslim from a Sikh.

The moral of this story is not just that we need more tolerance. It is that we need better education - and not because it is nice to be multicultural but because the world's religions, no longer quarantined in the nations of their birth, now live and move among us: yoga in our church halls, nirvana in our dictionaries, and Sikhs at our gas stations.

Religious ignorance was also rife after 9/11 in Washington DC, where, I soon learned to my dismay, hardly anyone spoke Arabic or understood the basics of Islam. And so the nation was treated for months to theology by sound bite. "Islam is peace," President Bush stated repeatedly, as if that mantra were all Americans needed to know about the Islamic tradition.

Meanwhile, the televangelist Jerry Falwell denounced Muhammad as "a terrorist," and Paul Weyrich and William Lind, prominent voices in American conservatism, called Islam "a religion of war."3 Who was right? Unfortunately, Americans had no way to judge, because, when it comes to understanding the Islamic tradition, most Americans are kindergarteners at best.

 

Cultural Literacy

 

Cultural literacy has been hotly debated ever since E. D. Hirsch's best seller of that name injected the term into the culture wars in 1987. In Cultural Literacy, Hirsch, a University of Virginia English professor, argued that much of our common cultural coin had been drastically devalued. ("Remember the Alamo"? Um, not really.) Hirsch traced this problem to John Dewey and other Progressive-era education reformers, who gave up in the early twentieth century on content-based learning in favor of a skills-based strategy that scorned "the piling up of information." This new educational model produced, according to Hirsch, "a gradual disintegration of cultural memory," which caused in turn "a gradual decline in our ability to communicate." Hirsch rightly understood that there are civic implications of this descent into cultural ignorance, particularly in a democracy that assumes an informed citizenry. "Having the right to vote is meaningless," he observed, "if a citizen is disenfranchised by illiteracy or semiliteracy." So Hirsch called for a return in America's schools to "core knowledge," beginning with his book's appendix of five thousand or so names, dates, concepts, and phrases essential in his view to cultural literacy.4  ^     

 

4                                                                      Introduction

 

When I first began teaching in the early 1990s I was a follower of Dewey and the Progressives. In high school I had come to see the subject of history as nothing more than the mindless accumulation of names and dates, and I vowed upon entering college in the late 1970s that I would study every subject I could manage except history. Happily, I came across a professor who taught me that the vocation of history is not about memorizing names and dates but about forming judgments and contributing to debates about what happened in the past. So when I finished graduate school and became a professor myself, I told students that I didn't care about facts. I cared about having challenging conversations, and I offered my quiz-free classrooms as places to do just that. I soon found, however, that the challenging conversations I coveted were not possible without some common knowledge-common knowledge my students plainly lacked. And so, quite against my prior inclinations, I began testing them on simple terms. In my world religions classes I told my students that before we could discuss in any detail the great religious traditions of the world, we would need to have some shared vocabulary in each, some basic religious literacy. In this way I became, like Hirsch, a traditionalist about content, not because I had come to see facts as the end of education but because I had come to see them as necessary means to understanding.

Today religious illiteracy is at least as pervasive as cultural illiteracy, and certainly more dangerous. Religious illiteracy is more dangerous because religion is the most volatile constituent of culture, because religion has been, in addition to one of the greatest forces for good in world history, one of the greatest forces for evil. Whereas ignorance of the term Achilles' heel may cause us to be confused about the outcome of a Super Bowl game or a statewide election, ignorance about Christian crusades and Muslim martyrdom can be literally lethal. When Madeleine Albright was secretary of state in the Clinton administration, she had an "entire bureau of economic experts" at her disposal but only one adviser with any expertise in religion. In The Mighty and the Almighty (2006) she notes that currently US ambassadors to Muslim-majority countries don't have to have any training in Islam. That is not only foolhardy, it is dangerous. The same goes for ambassadors to India who don't know anything about Hinduism or to China who don't know anything about Confucianism.5  

 

 […]  

According to recent polls, most American adults cannot name one of the four Gospels, and many high school seniors think that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A few years ago no one in Jay Leno's Tonight Show audience could name any of Jesus' twelve apostles, but everyone, it seemed, was able to list the four Beatles. No wonder pollster George Gallup has called the United States "a nation of biblical illiterates."8 One might imagine that ignorance of Christianity and the Bible is restricted to non-Christians or at least to non-evangelicals. But born-again Christians do only moderately better than other Americans on surveys of religious literacy. In a 2004 study of Bible literacy among high school students, most evangelical participants were not able to identify "Blessed are the poor in spirit" as a quote from the Sermon on the Mount.9 When it comes to religions other than Christianity, Americans fare far worse. One might hope that US citizens would know the most basic formulas of the world's religions: the Five Pillars of Islam, for example, or Buddhism's Four Noble Truths. But most Americans have difficulty even naming these religions. In a recent survey of American teenagers, barely half were able to come up with Buddhism and less than half with Judaism when asked to list the world's five "major religions." Far fewer could name Islam or Hinduism. According to Harvard religious studies professor Diana Eck, "Christians in the United States are pretty abysmally ignorant about the religious traditions of the rest of the world."10 (p.6)

 

[…]

 

A Civic Problem

 

I am by training a professor of religious studies. That means, among other things, that just about every time I step onto a plane or attend a party I have to explain to someone that, no, I am not a minister, no, I do not teach theology, and, no, I do not work in a divinity school. Theology and religious studies, I often say, are two very different things-as different as art and art history. While theologians do religion, religious studies scholars study religion. Rather than ruminating on God, practitioners of religious studies explore how other human beings (theologians included) ruminate on sacred things. Scholars of religion can be religious, of course, but being religious is not our job. Our job is to try to understand what religious people say, believe, know, feel, and experience. And we try to do this work as fairly and objectively as possible.

Working as a religious studies professor also means being committed to seeing the study of religion as an indispensable part of a liberal education- to viewing religious literacy as a key component, perhaps the key component, of what Hirsch called cultural literacy. So I share with philosopher Warren Nord the conviction that our current inattention to religion in secondary and higher education today is a failure of the highest order - that "current American education is profoundly illiberal in its refusal to take religion seriously."16 In this book, however, I write more as

 

Introduction                                                                                       9

 

a citizen than as an educator. I am convinced that one needs to know something about the world's religions in order to be truly educated. And I will admit to a sneaking suspicion, likely rooted in my Episcopal upbringing, that faith without knowledge is dead. However, the argument of this book is neither that liberal education needs religious studies nor that real faith requires religious knowledge. The argument is that you need religious literacy in order to be an effective citizen.

[…]

Today, when religion is implicated in virtually every issue of national and international import (not least the nomination of Supreme Court justices), US citizens need to know something about religion too. In an era in which the public square is, rightly or wrongly, awash in religious reasons, can one really participate fully in public life without knowing something about Christianity and the world's religions? Without basic religious literacy? How to decide whether intelligent design is "religious" or "scientific" without some knowledge of both science and religion? How to determine whether the effort to yoke Christianity and "family values" makes sense without knowing what sort of "family man" Jesus was? How to adjudicate the debate between President Bush's description of Islam as a religion of peace and the conviction of many televangelists that Islam is a religion of war without some basic information about Muhammad and the Quran? How to determine whether the current Supreme Court's First Amendment jurisprudence discriminates against minority religions without knowing what Sikhs and Buddhists hold dear? Unfortunately, US citizens today lack this religious literacy. As a result, they are too easily swayed by demagogues on the left or the right. Few Americans are able to challenge claims made by politicians or pundits about Islam's place in the war on terrorism or what the Bible says about homosexuality. This ignorance imperils our public life, putting citizens in the thrall of talking heads and effectively transferring power from the third estate (the people) to the fourth (the press). (p.10)

 

 

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"Judaism - History, Belief And Practice", Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Routledge 2003 (Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group), Part 1 (History), Chapter 2 (The Bible and Ancient Near Eastern civilization), p. 6:

 

"The Canaanite religious structure as well as the earlier Sumerian and Akkadian religions set the backdrop for the emergence of the religion of the ancient Israelites. The earliest stories in the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) contain centuries-old legends, composed in the light of Mesopotamian myths. Jewish civilization thus did not emerge in a vacuum. Rather it was forged out of the essential elements of an extensive Mesopotamian cultural heritage."

 

 

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Finkelstein şi Asherman expun (în Bible Unearthed) şi argumentează pe larg faptul că textele scripturale vechi au fost revizuite în secolele 7-5 î.e.n. pentru a se conforma unei teologii şi ideologi centralizatoare, mai ales sub domnia lui Iosia. Halpern şi el vorbeşte despre asta în lucrările lui ca şi în articolul de enciclopedie deja citat. Levinson, ca şi "Cambridge History of the Bible" spun acelaşi lucru; iată mai jos un scurt pasaj dintr-o lucrare a lui Levinson:

 

"Legal Revision and Religious Renewal in Ancient Israel", Bernard M. Levinson, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York, © Bernard M. Levinson 2008, p.97:

 

"Wellhausen prepared the classical, brilliantly argued model of "the Documentary Hypothesis" by comparing the legal collections of the Pentateuch both with one another and with the narrative works of the Deuteronomistic History (Josh, Judg, 1-2 Sam, 1-2 Kgs) and Chronicles.

He began with the recognition by previous scholars that Deuteronomy's call for the restriction of all sacrificial worship of God to one exclusive sanctuary (Deut 12) ties that law corpus closely to Josiah's reform of 612 b.c.e. (2 Kgs 22-23) as the logical time of its composition. From that perspective, Deuteronomy's requirements were actually a departure from tradition and not simply a reform in which the nation returned to older norms. This conclusion suggested itself because the requirement for cultic centralization contradicted the sanction for the worship of God at multiple altar sites evident in both law (as at Exod 20:24) and narratives like Genesis 12, 1 Samuel 1, and 1 Kings 18. He therefore dated the Covenant Code prior to Deuteronomy and maintained that the priestly laws of the Holiness Code assumed centralization and therefore came after Deuteronomy, dating to the postexilic period (fifth century b.c.e.). Wellhausen's model was rooted in European Romanticism and consequently assumed the "spontaneous" religious spirit to be more creative and meaningful than one that consciously employs literary activity and the intellect. The movement to law and to text was therefore seen as a "fall": one in which the alleged creative originality becomes fossilized. This model carried with it an ill-conceived hierarchy that stigmatized cultic law and postexilic Judaism as declines from the heights of Israelite religion, which found its glory in the prophets.

In fact, the extensive literary remains of the ancient Near East, already beginning to emerge as Wellhausen wrote, with their evidence for the antiquity of literacy and law, and their attention to cultic regulations, preclude such an approach.1 Paradoxically, however, with its textual focus, Wellhausen's method comes much closer to the scribal culture of both Sumero-Akkadian literature and formative Judaism than many of the later developments within biblical scholarship for nearly a century (including that of classical form-criticism). With its scrupulous attention to how the laws and narratives of the Hebrew Bible relate to

 

1 Note the powerful critique of Wellhausen by Jon D. Levenson, The Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, and Historical Criticism: Jews and Christians in Biblical Studies (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster/John Knox, 1993), 10-15, 41-43. Taking a different approach, Karl Rudolf, "Wellhausen as an Arabist," Semeia 25 (1982): 111-55; Bernard M. Levinson, "Goethe's Analysis of Exodus 34 and Its Influence on Julius Wellhausen: The Pfropfung of the Documentary Hypothesis," ZAW 114 (2002): 212-23; Reinhard G. Kratz, Reste hebr¨aischen Heidentums am Beispiel der Psalmen (Nachrichten der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu G¨ottingen, I. Philologisch-Historische Klasse 2; Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2004); and Peter Machinist, "The Road Not Taken: Wellhausen and Assyriology" (in preparation).

 

98                                            LEGAL REVISION AND RELIGIOUS RENEWAL

 

and engage one another, his volume models a powerful way to read and understand ancient Israelite textuality.

 

Wellhausen, Julius, "Prologomena zur Geschichte Israels" (2d ed.; Berlin: GeorgReimer, 1883).Reprinted from the 6th ed. (1927), with an index of biblical references (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2001).

English translation of the German original of 1878 by J. Sutherland Black and Allan Menzies, "Prolegomena to the History of Israel". Preface by W. Robertson Smith. Edinburgh: Adam & Charles Black, 1885. Reprinted, with new preface by Douglas A. Knight. Scholars Press Reprints and Translation Series 17. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1994."

 

 

 

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Les deux versions de l'histoire tardive d'Israël

 

Les quatre premiers livres de la Bible - la Genèse, l'Exode, le Lévitique et les Nombres - résultaient semblait-il  d'un habile amalgame des sources J, E et P.  Il n'en était pas de même, en revanche, pour le cinquième livre, le Deutéronome.  Il emploie une terminologie particulière, qu'il ne partage avec aucune autre source ; il condamne sans appel le culte d'autres divinités  ; Dieu y apparaît sous une vision nouvelle et transcendante; il prohibe absolument l'offrande de sacrifices au Dieu d'Israël en d'autres lieux que le Temple de Jérusalem. Depuis longtemps, les savants envisageaient la possibilité d'une relation entre le Deutéronome et le très mystérieux « livre de la Loi  », découvert par le grand prêtre Hilqiyyahu dans le chantier de rénovation du Temple, sous le règne de Josias, en 622 av. J.-C.   Selon les Rois (2 R 22, 8 - 23, 24), ce document aurait inspiré une réforme religieuse d'une sévérité sans précédent.  

L'influence du Deutéronome sur le message ultime de la Bible hébraïque déborde largement le cadre strictement légal.  Le fil conducteur historique qui relie les livres qui suivent le Pentateuque  -  Josué, les Juges, 1 et 2 Samuel, 1 et 2 Rois - est si étroitement lié au Deutéronome, tant sur le plan linguistique que théologique, que, depuis le milieu des années 1940, les savants l'appellent l'« histoire deutéronomiste   ».  Elle forme le deuxième grand volet de l'histoire d'Israël dans la Bible.  Poursuivant le récit avec la description de l'évolution d'Israël depuis la conquête de la Terre promise jusqu'à l'exil à Babylone, elle exprime l'idéologie qui se profile derrière un nouveau mouvement religieux qui émerge au sein du peuple d'Israël à une période relativement tardive.  Cette oeuvre a fait, elle aussi, l'objet de plus d'un remaniement.  Certains savants affirment que sa compilation eut lieu pendant l'exil et qu'elle s'inscrivait dans une tentative désespérée de préserver l'histoire, la culture et l'identité de la nation vaincue après la destruction de Jérusalem.  D'autres savants suggèrent que le plus gros de l'histoire deutéronomiste aurait été composé sous le roi Josias, pour servir son idéologie religieuse et ses ambitions territoriales, et qu'elle fut révisée et achevée en exil quelques décennies après.  ^  

Les Chroniques - le troisième volet historique de la Bible, consacré à l'Israël préexilique - furent composées seulement vers le Ve ou le IVe siècle av. J.-C., donc plusieurs siècles après les événements qu'elles décrivent. Soucieuses de mettre en valeur les prétentions historiques et politiques de Jérusalem et de la dynastie davidique, elles passent quasiment sous silence les événements relatifs au royaume du Nord.  Sous bien des aspects, les Chroniques reflètent essentiellement l'idéologie et les espérances du Second Temple de Jérusalem; elles se contentent de reformuler une saga historique qui avait déjà été couchée par écrit.  Par conséquent, dans cet ouvrage, nous ferons rarement référence aux Chroniques.  Nous nous concentrerons essentiellement sur les débuts du Pentateuque et sur l'histoire deutéronomiste, d'origine plus ancienne.  

Nous verrons, au cours des prochains chapitres, que l'archéologie propose un nombre suffisant de preuves qui étayent l'assertion que le noyau historique central du Pentateuque et de l'histoire deutéronomiste fut composé, dans ses grandes lignes, au cours du VIIe siècle av. J.-C.   

Pour ce faire, nous nous pencherons sur le royaume de Juda, de la fin du VIIIe siècle à la fin du VIIe siècle.  Cette époque fut témoin des débuts enthousiastes de cet élan littéraire.  Nous démontrerons que, pour l'essentiel, le Pentateuque fut une création de la monarchie tardive, destinée à propager l'idéologie et les besoins du royaume de Juda, et qu'il est, de ce fait, étroitement lié à l'histoire deutéronomiste.  Nous soutiendrons les savants qui affirment que l'histoire deutéronomiste fut compilée, en grande partie, sous le règne de Josias, afin de servir de fondement idéologique à des ambitions politiques et à des réformes religieuses particulières. (Bible Unearthed, Israel Finkelstein şi Neil Asher Silberman, Bayard 2002, p. 33-35.)

 

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"Judaism" ("Ancient Greece and Rome"), Ed. Carroll Moulton, Vol.2, New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998, p.174-176, 4 vols, Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1998 Charles Scribner's Sons, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale.

How to Cite: "Judaism", Ancient Greece and Rome, Ed. Carroll Moulton, Vol.2, New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998. p.174-176, 4 vols., Gale Virtual Reference Library, Gale Document Number: CX2897200251.

 

Judaism

Judaism is the religion, thought, and way of life of the Jews, a people who lived in the ancient Near East, and who were ruled by the Romans after A.D.6.

Judaism was characterized by monotheism*, observance of the Sabbath*, purity laws that govern the ritual use of holy objects, and a strict prohibition against intermarriage with non-Jews.

Judaism's requirement that people worship only one God is what initially set it apart from other religions of the ancient world. Although there were many temples in which the Jews worshiped, the Temple in the city of JERUSALEM was the most important one and the central focus of Jewish religious observances. Before 587 B.C., intermarriage between Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) had been accepted.  ^ Then, in 458 B.C., the Babylonian-Jewish priest Ezra demanded that Jews divorce their non-Jewish wives. This proposal greatly angered wealthy Jews (including priests), and Ezra was removed from office. Several years later, however, Nehemiah, who governed JUDAEA from the mid-400s B.C., enacted and enforced the proposal that Jewish men divorce their Gentile wives.  ^ He furthermore closed markets on the Sabbath and imposed his ideas of ritual purity on the priesthood. Nehemiah’s reforms strengthened the Jewish community, and Judaism became the religion of Judaea, as well as of Jews living abroad. 

The first great work of Jewish religious thought appeared around 400 B.C. This was the final edition of the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Old Testament, originally ascribed to Moses. The Pentateuch consists of the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, and it relates the history of the Jews from the creation of the world to the death of Moses. The main theme of the Pentateuch is the migration of the Jews, their captivity in and their deliverance from Egypt, and their entrance into the Promised Land.

During the Hellenistic* period, Jewish writers and scholars debated the permissibility of relations with surrounding non-Jewish peoples, the observance of Jewish law, and the special holiness and significance of the Temple of Jerusalem. Several writings from this period emphasize the strict observance of the ancient Jewish law and warn against mixing with non-Jews. The Book of Daniel, which dates from around 165 B.C., contains prophecies regarding the course of world history. […]

 

 

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"Judaism - History, Belief And Practice", Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Routledge 2003 (Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group), Part 1 (History), Chapter 2 (The Bible and Ancient Near Eastern civilization), p. 9-11:

 

"From what is known of the religion of the ancient Near East, we can see that the Bible reflects various aspects of Mesopotamian culture. The physical structure of the universe as outlined in Genesis parallels what is found in Near Eastern literature: the earth is conceived as a thin disk floating in the surrounding ocean; the heavens are a dome holding back the upper waters; under the earth is located the domain of the dead.

Like the gods of ancient literatures, the God of Israel is conceived anthropomorphically. As with other peoples, the Israelites accepted magical procedures (Exodus 7:9-12), recognized the power of blessings and curses (Numbers 22-24), and believed that God's will can be known through dreams, dice and oracles.

Further, as in other cultures, holy men, kings and priests were revered, and there was a preoccupation with ritual uncleanliness and purity as well as priestly rites.

In addition to these similarities, there are strong parallels between the Hebrew Bible and the literature of the ancient Near East. Genesis, for example, appears to borrow details from the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh in connection with the legend of the flood.

Biblical law bears a striking resemblance to ancient legal codes, in particular the Assyrian treaties between a king and his vassals which are very like the covenantal relationship between God and Israel. Yet despite such parallels, Israelite monotheism transformed these mythological features - themes retained in the Bible (such as the marriage of divine beings with women) are only briefly mentioned; Biblical heroes are not worshipped; nor is the underworld a subject for speculation.

The cult is free of rites to placate ghosts and demons, and there is no ancestor worship. Further, divination (such as investigating the livers of sacrificial animals) is forbidden. In essence, the Biblical narratives are simplified and demythologized. There are no myths of the birth of gods, their rivalries, sexual relations or accounts of death and resurrection. Moreover, there is no mention of fate to which both men and gods are subject. Rather, the Hebrew Bible concentrates on the moral condition of humankind within the context of divine providence.

Such demythologization is a particular feature of the Biblical narratives. According to modern scholarship, the priestly editors composed a creation account (Genesis 1-2:4) markedly different from the Babylonian narrative. In the Enuma Elish - a reworking of old Sumerian themes - the primordial powers Tiamat (salt water) and Apsu (sweet water) gave birth to a pair of forces which engendered other gods such as Anu (the god of heaven) and Ea (the god of running waters). Later Tiamat with her second husband and an army of gods and monsters attack the younger gods.

Marduk, the god of Babylonia, however slaughters Tiamat and from her corpse fashions the cosmos and from the blood of her consort Ea makes man.

Though there are echoes of this mythology in the Bible, Genesis decrees that God created the universe without any struggle against other gods. The entities created by God's fiat have no divine aspect. Further, the abyss (in Hebrew tehom which is etymologically related to Tiamat) simply refers to the original state of the universe after a primary substance - an unformed and watery chaos - came into existence. Turning to the flood story - a central element of Mesopotamian myth - the Bible ignores such details as the gods' terror at the cataclysms accompanying the flood. In the Epic of Gilgamesh the flood is seen as the god Enlil's remedy to reduce the level of human noise in the world. The Bible, however, proclaims that man's wickedness is its cause; and when the flood comes, God gives laws to restrain future human evil and promises that this devastation will never happen again. A comparison of texts from the Babylonian flood story and the Hebrew Bible forcefully illustrates the demythologizing intention of the Biblical authors:[…]"

 

 

 

 

 

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How to cite this entry: Wayne T. Pitard, Sidnie Ann White, "Afterlife and Immortality", The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, eds. Oxford University Press Inc. 1993, Oxford Reference Online, Oxford University Press. Copyright © Oxford University Press 2009. All Rights Reserved.

 

Afterlife and Immortality

Ancient Israel Israelite views of the afterlife underwent substantial changes during the first millennium BCE, as concepts popular during the preexilic period eventually came to be rejected by the religious leadership of the exilic and postexilic communities, and new theological stances replaced them. Because many elements of preexilic beliefs and practices concerning the dead were eventually repudiated, the Hebrew Bible hardly discusses preexilic concepts at all; only scant and disconnected references to afterlife and the condition of the dead appear in the texts. A few passages from late-eighth through sixth-century sources are illuminating, however, because they attack various aspects of the popular notions about the dead during that period. With these data, a general though sketchy picture of Israelite views can be proposed.

Like all cultures in the ancient Near East, the Israelites believed that persons continued to exist after death. It was thought that following death, one's spirit went down to a land below the earth, most often called Sheol, but sometimes merely "Earth," or "the Pit" (See Hell). In the preexilic period, there was no notion of a judgment of the dead based on their actions during life, nor is there any evidence for a belief that the righteous dead go to live in God's presence. The two persons in the Hebrew Bible who are taken to heaven to live with God, Enoch (Gen. 5.24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2.11), do not die. All who die, righteous or wicked, go to Sheol (see Gen. 42:38; Num. 16.30–33).  ^

The exact relationship between the body of a dead person and the spirit that lived on in Sheol is unclear, since the Bible does not discuss this issue. Many scholars assume that the Israelites did not fully distinguish between the body and the spirit, and thus believed that the deceased continued to have many of the same basic needs they had when they were alive, especially for food and drink. Unless these needs were met, the dead would find existence in Sheol to be unending misery.  ^  Such a close connection between feeding the dead through funerary offerings and their happiness in the afterlife is well attested in Mesopotamia and Egypt. It is assumed that Israelite funerary practices were similar and included long-term, regular provision of food and drink offerings for the dead. 

Other scholars have pointed out the lack of evidence in the Bible for such funerary offerings. Two passages often quoted in reference to such offerings, Deuteronomy 26.14 and Psalm 106.28, are ambiguous and can be interpreted in different ways. Archaeological evidence from Iron Age tombs suggests that food and drink were provided at the tomb only when the burial took place. There is no evidence for regular post-funeral offerings of food at tombs in Israel. It is possible that the Israelites assumed that Sheol had its own food supply, and that the food placed in the tomb was conceived as provisions for the journey of the deceased to Sheol, but this is speculative.

Virtually no discussion of what existence in Sheol was thought to be like, is preserved in preexilic literature. The few datable texts in the Bible that describe Sheol tend to be late and belong to authors who opposed important aspects of the popular view. They present Sheol in negative terms, as a place of darkness and gloom, where the dead exist without thought, strength, or even consciousness (Ps. 88.3–12; Isa. 38.18–19; Job 10.21–22; Eccles. 9.10).  ^ 

 

These texts appear to be reactions against a considerably more positive view of existence in Sheol that was held in the preexilic period. There is evidence that many Israelites thought that the dead continued to play an active role in the world of the living, possessing the power to grant blessings to their relatives and to reveal the future. This was done through the process of necromancy, the consultation of the dead by a medium, and related practices, which appear to have been quite popular in Israel. Evidence for this is found in the substantial number of vehement denunciations of necromancy in the prophetic and legal literature of the eighth through sixth centuries BCE (e.g., Lev. 19.31; 20.6, 27; Deut. 18.10–14; Isa 8.19–20). Only one narrative account of a necromantic session has been preserved in the Bible - the story of Samuel's ghostly consultation with Saul at Endor (1 Sam. 28), and Saul is roundly criticized by the seventh-century editor of the books of Samuel for having resorted to this practice (See Witch).

Necromancy was particularly opposed by the religious group that supported the worship of Yahweh alone. This group argued that blessings and the telling of the future were prerogatives of Yahweh, not of the dead, and that consultation with the dead for such purposes was an abomination against Yahweh. The popular views of afterlife and the dead came under increasing attack during the late eighth and seventh centuries. The laws against necromancy date to this period, and a number of outright attacks and satires on the older ideas about the nature of existence in Sheol appear in the literature of the time (e.g., Isa. 8.19–22; 14:9–11). It is interesting to note, however, that the laws against necromancy in Deuteronomy and Leviticus still assume not that it was impossible to summon the dead from Sheol but that it was inappropriate.  ^   

These laws apparently did not have the desired effect on the Judean population. During the exile, when the "Yahweh alone" party finally came to control the religious leadership of Judah, a further step was taken. Several texts appearing to date from the exilic and postexilic periods suggest that it is not only improper to consult the dead but actually impossible to do so. A new theology developed that argued there is no conscious existence in Sheol at all. At death all contact with the world, and even with God, comes to an end. This notion explicitly appears in several late Psalms (6.5; 30.8–10; 88.3–12; etc.), Job (3.11–19; 14.10–14; 21.19–21), and Ecclesiastes (9.3–10).  ^  This startling idea was not new in the Near East. Skepticism about the afterlife is found in some Egyptian texts as early as the Middle Kingdom (ca. 2000–1750 BCE), but such notions were never adopted as an official doctrine there. In postexilic Judah, however, this became the authoritative stance of the religious leadership, though it was probably not widely held by most Judeans.

Wayne T. Pitard

 

 

 

 

How to cite this entry: James L. Crenshaw, "Death", The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, eds. Oxford University Press Inc. 1993, Oxford Reference Online, Oxford University Press. Copyright © Oxford University Press 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Death

The biblical concept of death is complex, like the reality it seeks to describe. Death is both natural and intrusive; it occasions no undue anxiety except in unusual circumstances such as premature departure, violence, or childless demise, and it is the greatest enemy facing humankind. In Genesis 3, death acts as punishment for primeval rebellion (see Fall, The). In the New Testament, one special death, that of Jesus, cancels every claim against guilty persons; hence each negative feature regarding death is balanced by its opposite. Ultimately, death is robbed of its power, and its elimination is anticipated (see Hos. 13.14; 1 Cor. 15.55–56).

Belief in the solidarity of the family enabled ancient Israelites to accept death calmly, for in death a person simply slept with one's ancestors.  ^ Nevertheless, this sleep was subject to disturbance, prompting a cult of the dead and the effort to contact the departed. Official Yahwism condemned both activities (Lev. 19.31; 20.27; Deut. 18.11), while implicitly acknowledging their efficacy (1 Sam. 28; cf. 1 Chron. 10.13). The conviction that a deed was met with an appropriate consequence gained ascendancy, particularly in prophetic and wisdom literature. This popular notion eventuated in an understanding of death as punishment (Gen. 2–3), theoretically implying that humankind could have lived forever. A Ugaritic text, Aqhat, denies the seductive suggestion that a mortal could live forever. Such reflection about death, though rare, does occur elsewhere, especially in 2 Esdras 7 and in Paul (Rom. 5.12–21). A mythological idea of Death as combatant lies behind this development. Yahweh does battle with Mot, the Canaanite name for this foe, and subjugates the enemy. Henceforth death acts on orders from Israel's God, the ultimate source of good and evil. The result is a problem of monumental proportions, that of theodicy.

References to death in the Bible presuppose a worldview that differs from modern concepts. Life consists of well-being, and death signifies diminished life. Consequently, one must speak about degrees of death. A sick person, or a persecuted one, described the peril as death and characterized deliverance as emergence from death's grip; this convention clarifies much of the languages of the Psalms. A symbolic meaning of death thus developed. The Deuteronomist urges Israel to choose life, not death (Deut. 30.19), and Ezekiel denies that God desires death for anyone (Ezek. 18.31). This powerful imagery for death carries over into the New Testament, where baptism (Rom. 6.3) and discipleship are illuminated by speech about dying (2 Cor. 4.11; 1 Pet. 2.24; Rev. 12.11). 

At first Israelites assumed that death was the end, at least of life as we know it. This somber message underlies the epic of Gilgamesh, a story about a heroic king's efforts to obtain eternal life. Once water was spilled on the ground, none could retrieve it, to use a metaphor employed by the woman of Tekoa (2 Sam. 14.14). Emerging individualism and harsh political realities forged a bold hope that a resurrection would take place, at least in rare instances (Isa. 26.19; Dan. 12.2, prefigured by Hos. 6.2 and Ezek. 37). Greek belief in body and soul as separate entities enabled this hope to become strong conviction by Roman times (see Human Person).  ^  

Israel's theologians believed that God alone had authority to terminate life; those responsible for executing criminals acted in God's behalf. Suicide is rarely mentioned in the Bible (1 Sam. 31.4; 2 Sam. 17.23; 1 Kings 16.18; Matt. 27.5; Acts. 1.18), in contrast to texts from Egypt and Mesopotamia, in which suicide occurs in dire straits occasioned by shame or impending torture. In his misery Job entertains thoughts of suicide (Job 3.21; 7.15), and the author of Ecclesiastes has a fascination for death (Eccles. 4.2–3), but neither opts for early departure. Sirach recognizes that personal circumstances determine one's attitude toward death (41.1–2). Occasional death wishes occur—Elijah (1 Kings 19.4), Tobit (3.6), Jonah (4.8)—and Paul confesses to having mixed feelings about death, which held many attractive features for him, in that he would then be with Christ (Phil. 1.23).

Apocalyptic thinking posits the dawn of a new age, a resurrection, and a final reckoning. The gospel of John views Jesus' presence as proof of the resurrection, and the book of Revelation proclaims the complete eradication of death (21.4), which Paul also declares (1 Cor. 15.54). Christians therefore need not fear the isolation of death, for nothing can separate the believer from God (Rom. 8.38–39). This attitude is not a denial of death, the plague of the human spirit, but a recognition of the sovereignty of the covenant of God despite the grim fact of death.

See also: Afterlife and Immortality; Burial Customs.

James L. Crenshaw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Cite: "Heaven", JEFFREY BURTON RUSSELL, Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying, Ed. Robert Kastenbaum, Vol.1, New York, Macmillan Reference USA, 2003, p.395-400, 2 vols, Gale Virtual Reference Library; Gale Document Number: CX3407200129. Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale, COPYRIGHT 2006 Thomson Gale, a part of The Thomson Corporation.

 

HEAVEN

Heaven is usually thought of as some sort of afterlife, a view provoking hopeful belief on the one hand and skepticism on the other. Yet heaven is much more complicated and diverse than that. Those influenced by Western civilizations generally think of heaven along Christian lines - or along caricatures of those lines, as in cartoons featuring harps, wings, and clouds. On a less crude level, heaven is often derided as part of a system of reward and punishment, a "pie in the sky" or "opiate" diverting people from attention to bettering their present, earthly lives. However, the essence of the word "heaven" worldwide is the transformation of chaos into order (from the Greek kosmos, meaning "ordered universe"), meaninglessness into meaning, and selfishness into compassion. Its attributes are usually joy, contentment, harmony, compassion, bliss, community, love, and a vision of God, or even union with God.

Judaism

The three great Western monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - together accounted for at least one-third of the earth's population at the beginning of the twentyfirst century. To treat them in roughly chronological order, ancient Hebrew religion (whose origins are at least as old as the thirteenth century B.C.E.) was founded on belief in a transcendent deity - Yahweh or Adonai (the Lord). Heaven was the dwelling place of the Lord, not a place in which humans lived; humans' only life was this earthly one. With extremely rare exceptions (such as the prophet Elijah) humans did not enter the transcendent plane.  ^  The "Kingdom of God," like human life itself, was worked out in this present, earthly existence. The essence of Hebrew religion was that the Lord had made a covenant (contract) with his chosen people, Israel. Only Israelites could participate in that covenant, and only those who were faithful to the covenant as expressed in Torah (the first five books of the Bible) could enter the Kingdom of God. Israel cemented morality into religion.

Death brought for most humans a shadowy existence in Sheol (similar to Greco-Roman "Hades"); for vicious violators of the covenant pain in the fires of the hellish Gehenna; for Israelites faithful to the covenant a blissful existence at the end of the world in the 'olam ha-ba, the kingdom of God on the earth.

Between 250 B.C.E. and 100 C.E., Hebrew religion shifted its focus. Incessant persecutions by Syrians, Romans, and other conquerors made justice and mercy seem remote or lacking in earthly life, so attention shifted to another sort of life where those qualities, which one expected of the Lord, ruled. Still, that life was not perceived as an afterlife for individuals but instead as the future coming of a Messiah establishing a Kingdom of the Lord at the end of time on this earth.  ^  The old division between the Qehel Adonai (those Israelites faithful to the covenant) and those violating the covenant came to imply a divine judgment on each person's life, either immediately at death or at the end of time. Those who lived at the time of the Messiah would live joyful lives together in the community of the Qehel. But what of the deceased? Justice seemed to require that the entire Qehel Adonai, including the dead, should live in the Kingdom when the Messiah came. And since this Kingdom would be a bodily existence on this earth, the dead would be resurrected at the end time, in Jerusalem, and in their own, personal, earthly bodies. This remains the teaching of Orthodox Jews, while the more "liberal" or "secular" tend not to look beyond the present life. In any Jewish scenario, a human being had only the one earthly life.

Christianity

Early Christian thought, based in Hebrew religion yet influenced by the ambient Platonism of the time, found itself affirming the resurrection of the body yet also allowing for some sort of immortal "soul." For Christian theology from Paul onward, however, "soul" did not mean pure spirit but rather a complete person, body and spirit inseparably together. The basic Christian idea of heaven derived from the Jewish idea of the Qehel Adonai, which Christianity translated and expanded into the salvation of the entire community (Jews and Gentiles together and alike) of those loyal to Christ. For Christianity, death became a moral matter more than a natural one, for the physical death at the end of one's present life meant almost nothing in comparison to the "second death" or "inner death" of those rejecting the Lord. At the end time, the dead would all rise in the very same body they have today and would rejoice in the Kingdom of God announced by the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would judge between those who love and those who reject love: the latter being in hell and the former in heaven. In some forms of Christianity, the Messiah would usher in and rule a thousand-year Kingdom of God on Earth before all time was dissolved. For Christians, like Jews, heaven meant essentially to be in the presence of the eternal God. Still, in popular belief Christians came to view it as a physical place other than on this earth.

Early Christian theologians bravely faced the problem posed by the undeniable delay between the physical death of an individual and the resurrection at the end of time. There seemed to be an interim period when spirit and body were separated while the spirit awaited resurrection. Once it was admitted that spirit and body could thus be separated even only temporarily, Christianity slid toward the concept (already promoted by Platonism) of an immortality of the "soul" defined as spirit. Even though theology always insisted on the resurrection of the body and downplayed the immortality of an incorporeal spirit, in popular Christian thought the latter idea gradually became prevalent.

Christian theology also seldom focused on reward and punishment. The hope was not to have God punish sinners, but to have them change their lives so that they could participate in the community of the saved, a heaven of mutual, selfless opening up in love between humans and God and among humans themselves. Again, popular, legend-creating, storytelling, picture-making Christianity preferred more colorful, concrete visions of immortal spirits being either delighted in heaven or else tormented in a hell of darkness and fire. From such popular vision, literature sprang the most celestial poem ever written, Paradiso, in Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321).

Islam

Founded in the 600s C.E., Islam was based upon the Qur'an (the written revelation to Prophet Muhammad). For Muslims the Qur'an was the dictated, "literal" word of God, yet influences of Judaism and Christianity were clearly present. Islam affirmed the judgment of individuals according to their deeds in this life and loyalty to the teachings of the Prophet, especially compassion and generosity. Islam focused on the formation of a just society on the earth, but the Qur'an was also explicit in affirming the resurrection of the body. At the end of the world, the resurrected dead were judged and then divided into the damned and the faithful, with the latter entering heaven. Heaven was another, better place than this earth, yet a distinctly physical one in its attributes, including elaborate gardens, carpets, banquets, cooling drinks, sex, and other bodily comforts. The Qur'an also permitted metaphorical readings, and al-Ghazali (Algazel) in the twelfth century C.E., along with other Muslim spiritual leaders and writers, such as the medieval Sufis, sensed a deeper reality, realizing that the human mind was incapable, even at its most sublime, of formulating concepts that, like heaven, were rooted in the ultimate and entire reality of the cosmos. For them, heaven meant being in the presence of the eternally just and merciful Allah ("the God").

 

Concepts of heaven are thus so diverse that skepticism on the overt (literal) level is natural. Yet statements about heaven can be true if they are taken, not as scientific or historical statements about space-time, but rather as metaphors for

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deeper and more diverse truths beyond that conceived by materialist reductionists (those maintaining that truth is exclusively to be found in the scientific observation of matter). Modern first-world affluence, encouraging faith in acquisition of objects and power, along with alienation from nature in huge urban conglomerations where the light of the stars and the green of the fields are blotted out, have caused heaven to fade. Yet it is the fulfillment of the deeply rooted human longing for meaning, for a greater understanding of the cosmos, of other people, and of the self, and for greater knowledge and love than are comprised in this present life. No human concept can possibly contain the fullness of reality, but truth is found more by opening out than by narrowing down. There is, and can be, no evidence against the existence of heaven, and hundreds of generations of wise, sensitive, and knowledgeable people have affirmed it and claimed to experience it. 

 

Jeffrey Burton Russell

 

 

 

 

 

Afterlife, The Ancient Near East, Eds. Jack Sasson and Ronald Wallenfels, Vol.1, New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2000, p.3-6, 4 vols. Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2000 Charles Scribner's Sons, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale.

How To Cite: "Afterlife", The Ancient Near East, Eds. Jack Sasson and Ronald Wallenfels, Vol.1, New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2000, p.3-6, 4 vols, Gale Virtual Reference Library, Gale Document Number: CX28973. 

[…]

Canaanite and Israelite Beliefs

Ideas about the afterlife underwent profound changes over time in CANAAN. The early Canaanites, like other peoples of the Near East, worshiped multiple deities and venerated* deceased kings. They lived alongside or over the tombs of ancestors and believed that every person's fate was to meet Mot, the god of death, and to follow him into a dusty netherworld.

The Israelite culture that later emerged in the region kept many aspects of the Canaanite religion. Israelites continued to maintain family tombs and to keep alive the memory of the dead. They believed that the dead lived a dim and ghostly existence in a netherworld called Sheol. They also shared the widespread belief that the dead possessed powers and could respond to prayers and requests from the living.

As Yahwism - the ancestor of the Jewish faith - developed, it rejected the idea of ancestor worship and communication with the dead. It focused on the living and declared that the dead were forever separated from their god, YAHWEH. However, there is evidence in the Hebrew scriptures that some people rebelled against this abandonment of the dead, and gradually Yahwism recognized the idea of a resurrection from death. By the 100s B.C., resurrection was recognized as an element of Yahwist faith.   ^ 

 

 

 

 

How to cite: KASTENBAUM, ROBERT, "Immortality", Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying, Ed. Robert Kastenbaum, Vol. 1, New York, Macmillan Reference USA, 2003, p. 456-461, 2 vols., Gale Virtual Reference Library, Gale Document Number: CX3407200150.

"Immortality", ROBERT KASTENBAUM, Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying, Ed. Robert Kastenbaum, Vol. 1, New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2003. p456-461. 2 vols. Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale, COPYRIGHT 2006 Thomson Gale, a part of The Thomson Corporation.

 

"Immortality"

Types of Afterlife Belief

This entry (1) surveys a variety of afterlife beliefs; (2) considers their foundation in faith, reason, and fact; and (3) explores some of the meanings and uses associated with these beliefs. Survival of death is not identical with immortality, and immortality is not identical with a continuation of personality or individuality. These distinctions become clearer as several types of survival are identified and explored.

"Afterflash": […]

"Fade away": One of the most prevalent views of the afterlife in the ancient world was a gradual dimming of the departed spirit, known as a "fade away." In pre-Christian Mesopotamia, for example, the souls of the dead dwelled in a gloomy underworld. There they became dulled, miserable remnants of their former selves. Early Hebrew belief inherited this tradition. Yahweh (the Hebrew word for "God") kept watch over the living; the shades of the dead were abandoned. Within this belief system, the fade-away type of survival did not preserve individual personality. According to some accounts, the piteous dead continued to become even weaker until the end of creation; others are inclined to believe that the spirits dissolved as their vital essence eventually gave way.    ^ 

"Cosmic melding": […]

"Reincarnation and rebirth": […]

"Conditional survival": […]

"Symbolic immortality": […]

"Personal immortality": […]

"Data File concept": […]

 Robert Kastenbaum

 

 

 

 

"Death: IV. Western Religious Thought", Lonnie D. Kliever, Encyclopedia of Bioethics, Ed. Stephen Post,  Vol. 2, 3rd ed. New York, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. p. 578-587, 5 vols. Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2004 Macmillan Reference USA, COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning.

How to cite: Kliever, Lonnie D., "Death: IV. Western Religious Thought.", Encyclopedia of Bioethics, Ed. Stephen Post, Vol. 2, 3rd ed. New York, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, p. 578-587, 5 vols. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale Document Number: CX3402500133.

IV. WESTERN RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

 

 

Death in Biblical Thought

There is no "biblical view of death" as such. This lack of a single scriptural understanding of death is hardly surprising, given the fact that the Bible is sacred scripture for three world religions and that its contents were written and compiled over a period of a thousand years or more. But the history of literary and religious development embedded within the Bible itself does allow for a kind of "archaeology" of death in biblical thought. Though admittedly vastly over-simplified, the following narrative of the Bible's evolving views on death can be traced backward through their random branchings and read forward toward their studied convergences.

Put in its simplest terms, an ancient desert god named Yahweh came to be regarded not only as the national god of a holy nation, but ultimately as the one and only God of the universe. These momentous shifts in the biblical understanding of God were paralleled by remarkable changes in biblical views of death, beginning with the denial and concluding with the affirmation of individual postmortem existence.   ^   

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THE HEBREW BIBLE

Hebrew religion emerged out of the tribal polytheisms of ancient Mesopotamia. ^ The protagonists of Yahwism only gradually succeeded in establishing their deity as the national god of the various Semitic tribes that were finally welded together, during the latter half of the second millennium B.C.E., into the people known as the Israelites. A key weapon in their struggle to establish Yahweh's supremacy was the suppression of prevailing beliefs and practices dealing with death. In two very different responses to death, Mesopotamian culture had preserved primitive notions of life after death as a continuation of the life before death. On the one hand, mortuary cults affirmed a significant afterlife for the powerful and privileged who commanded the worship and fealty of the living. On the other hand, postmortem existence was limited to an awful under-world where the departed dead were shrouded in darkness and subsisted on clay. In either case, the realm of the dead was under the control of the gods of the underworld. For that reason, the champions of Yahwism denounced the polytheistic beliefs and practices of both the mortuary cults and the "house of dust." 

Against the mortuary cults, the Yahwists presented a view of human nature and destiny that undercut all ancestor worship and necromancy. In the Yahwist creation myth, the protohuman couple was created from the soil and destined to return to the soil (Gen. 3:19). Human beings are material bodies animated by a life force (nephesh or ruach) residing in the breath or the blood. Death comes when the life force leaves the body and returns to Yahweh. Thus, a common fate awaits all persons upon death - master and slave, rich and poor, good and bad - all descend beneath the earth to the place of the dead called She'ol, where they continue a shadowy existence, but only for a brief period of time. ^ This land of the dead was variously described as an awful pit shrouded in darkness or a walled city covered with dust. Although reminiscent of the Mesopotamian underworld, the Yahwist notion of She'ol excluded any divine ruler of the infernal regions. Neither a god of the underworld nor Yahweh himself was involved with the denizens of She'ol. Yahweh reigned supreme over the community of the living, meting out collective rewards and punishments only in the present life. In other words, mortality was accepted as a fact of life. Premature and violent deaths were feared as great evils and regarded as punishments for sin. As such, the untimely or agonizing death remained under the control of Yahweh (Isa. 45:7). But death at the end of a long and happy life was accepted, if not welcomed (Gen. 25:8; Job 5:26). What mattered were those things which survived the mortal individual: a good reputation (Prov. 10:7), male offspring (Isa. 56:3–5), the promised land (Gen. 48:21), and the God of Israel (Ps. 90).

Precisely this emphasis on present existence contributed to the eventual transformation of Yahwism. The naive assumption that Yahweh rewards the pious with prosperity and a long life while punishing the wicked with misfortune and a brief life was obviously contradicted by communal and individual experience. Especially the disasters that befell Israel between the eighth and the sixth centuries B.C.E. raised radical doubts about Yahweh's justice and omnipotence, because the entire social and religious order of Israel was disrupted and eventually destroyed.    ^    

This massive destruction evinced two distinctive responses. On the one hand, most of the great prophets of Israel responded to these dire circumstances by reaffirming collective retribution and promising collective restoration (Isa. 11:10–16; Ezek. 36:16–36). Some prophets moved beyond communal responsibility and punishment (Jer. 21:3), but their new emphasis on the individual only heightened the tension between divine power and justice in the face of innocent suffering (Job 10:2–9). On the other hand, an apocalyptic school of thought slowly emerged that anticipated a miraculous deliverance of the faithful living and dead at the end of time. Envisioned in this apocalyptic outlook was the final defeat of death itself, which had increasingly been personified as a destructive evil force. Thus, by the end of the second century B.C.E., two sharply contrasting views of death dominated the Hebraic worldview. The older notion that death marked the end of life remained the traditional view among those who came to be known as the Sadducees. The newer view that affirmed postmortem divine judgment and human resurrection flourished among such sectarian movements as the Pharisees and the Essenes. For these sectarians, the powers of death would eventually be overcome by the power of God.

THE INTERTESTAMENTAL LITERATURE

This sectarian transformation of the Hebraic view of death during the so-called intertestamental period was immense (ca. 200 B.C.E. to 50 C.E.). A number of disparate ideas were combined into a dramatically new eschatology. The Book of Daniel marked a watershed in Hebrew religious thought by promising Yahweh's final intervention in history to rescue his people from their enemies and to resurrect past generations from the dead to participate in this ultimate restoration. To be sure, this final restoration was limited to the nation of Israel. But, under the impact of speculative thought and foreign influences concerning life after death, the prospect of a final resurrection and judgment for all humankind appeared in the later apocalyptic literature, much of which is contained in the Apocrypha. In this apocalyptic literature, human consciousness and the life force were fused into an entity ("psyche" or "pneuma") which, unlike the earlier conceptions of "nephesh" or

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"ruach", survived the cessation of bodily functions in some spiritual fashion. She'ol was reconceived as a holding place for the dead until their ultimate fate was decided at a final judgment. More significantly, She'ol was divided into compartments reflecting the moral character of the dead, wherein rewards and punishments were already meted out in anticipation of the catastrophic end of the existing world order (Enoch 22:9–14). Thus, death held no terror for the righteous. In fact, death through martyrdom was seen as a seal of divine favor (2 Macc. 6:3031) and even premature death from serious illness freed the righteous from further suffering (Wisd. of Sol. 4:11). Death was only a threat and curse to the wicked. Reminiscent of the older Yahwist traditions, the apocalyptic emphasis remained largely on the collective aspects of human destiny, for it is the nations that are arraigned for the final judgment (2 Ezd. 7:32–38). The postmortem survival of the individual became an affirmation of faith within certain Jewish circles only following the shattering of the Jewish state in 70 C.E.

THE NEW TESTAMENT

Primitive Christianity emerged out of Jewish apocalyptic expectations of the catastrophic end of the existing world order and the final judgment of the living and the dead. These apocalyptic expectations had been joined in the popular imagination with the older prophetic Messianic traditions in which a divinely appointed and endowed figure would crush the enemies and restore the glories of Israel. So far as the New Testament Gospels allow for historical reconstruction, the message of Jesus centered in the nearness of the Day of the Lord, when the chosen people of Yahweh would be vindicated before the nations of the world. Jesus called his compatriots to prepare themselves for the Coming Judgment through repentance and obedience to the written and oral Law of God. But, unlike the earlier nationalistic preoccupations of Jewish apocalypticism, this newer eschatology emphasized the eternal destiny of individuals in accordance with their moral achievements (Matt. 25:40–46). After his death and resurrection, the followers of Jesus identified him as the promised Messiah who would restore the righteous and judge the wicked. This same "Christianized" apocalyptic tradition informs the Revelation to John, which so profoundly influenced later Christian views of human death and destiny. Here the "end of the world" was described in elaborate detail as a cataclysmic establishment of the millennial reign of Christ and the saints on earth, after which the righteous are rewarded with eternal life and the wicked are punished with eternal death. Thus, the earliest Christian view of life after death was heavily influenced by, but not identical with, Jewish apocalypticism. Jesus was heralded by his early followers as their resurrected Lord who would shortly return in supernatural power and glory to preside over the Final Judgment of the living and the dead.

A somewhat different interpretation of the message and mission of Jesus was offered by Paul in his outreach to a Gentile audience. Paul regarded the death of Christ as a divinely planned event to rescue humankind from enslavement to the demonic powers of evil and death that ruled the world. Although influenced by apocalyptic thought, Paul's interpretation of a divine Savior's death and resurrection involved an eschatology very different from the apocalyptic scheme of things. No longer was obedience to the Twofold Law the basis on which the living and the dead would be judged; instead, faith in the crucified and risen Lord became the crucial factor. The ritual of baptism, which reenacted the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, initiated believers into immortal life while still living in their material bodies. The baptized Christian, having become a new creation in Christo, had already passed from death to life. Thus, the imminent return of Christ and the end of the world held no fear for baptized believers, for their final judgment and destiny had already been settled.

With the Roman overthrow of the Jewish state in 70 C.E., the Mother Church of Jerusalem disappeared and eventually Pauline Christianity became the normative interpretation of Christ. Elements of the earlier apocalyptic eschatology were carried over into this form of faith. Christianity became a salvation religion centered in a Savior God who would shortly return to bring the existing world to a catastrophic end and to judge those who had oppressed the faithful. But the continuing delay of the second coming of Christ forced the Church to rethink its notions of eschatological fulfillment. The Church could no longer think of itself as an eschatological community awaiting the imminent return of their Lord. Rather, the Church developed a hierarchical structure and a sacramental system to shepherd believers through the perils and pitfalls of life from birth to death. Accordingly, Christ was reconceived as the heavenly mediator between God and humankind. Despite these doctrinal and ecclesiological developments, the apocalyptic vision of the catastrophic end of the world was retained, raising anew all sorts of problems about the status of the dead before the final day of resurrection and judgment. Over time, these problems were resolved in ever more vivid and complicated schemes of postmortem paradisal bliss for the saints and purgatorial torment for the sinners until the day of Final Judgment (Luke 16:19–26).

ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS

As noted above, the Bible is a diverse literature containing a variety of religious perspectives on death. Religious affirmation of the triumph of life over death is a common theme running through the whole

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of scripture, but how, where, and when this victory is won differs dramatically among biblical perspectives. For that reason, the Bible offers no consensus of direct guidelines on death and dying. Nevertheless some application of the biblical tradition to modern "end of life" ethical issues can be ventured.

1. Biblical views of death are greatly influenced by the wider cultural milieu. As human conditions and needs changed, so did prevailing religious beliefs and practices concerning death. Thus, the Bible itself seems to allow for changing definitions and responses to death in the light of new social conditions, scientific knowledge, and religious insights.

2. The biblical tradition's intimate connection between body and spirit is not only a mandate for medical care as treatment of the whole person but also grounds for regarding human life as more than biological functioning. While the Bible does not authoritatively establish when death occurs, it defines death as the separation of the spirit from the body. Thereby, the Bible provides indirect warrants for withholding or withdrawing extraordinary means of life support when the vital bond between body and spirit has been dissolved or destroyed.

3. The biblical tradition never accords absolute power or independent status to death. Death, whether viewed as a natural event or an evil force, is always subordinated to the power and purposes of God. While the Bible speaks of sin as both a cause and a consequence of death, even the death of the sinner remains under divine control and serves the divine will. God's sovereignty over death serves as a caution against simplistic religious warrants for directly or indirectly terminating the lives of the suffering.

4. Biblical support can be found both for death as a natural part of life and death as an evil power opposed to life. Those who regard death as an "enemy" that must be battled at all costs will find more support for their view in the New Testament. Those who see death as a "friend" that can be welcomed at the end of life will feel more kinship with the Hebrew Bible. But both Jewish and Christian scriptures regard untimely and violent deaths as evils to be avoided and enemies to be combatted by all legitimate means that do not compromise religious or moral duties. Of course, death by coercive martyrdom can be affirmed as a seal of great faith, and even premature death from debilitating illness can be welcomed by the believer as a deliverance from great suffering.

5. Taken as a whole, the Bible does not unambiguously affirm individual life after death. But where postmortem existence is affirmed in the Bible, the grounds are theological rather than anthropological. The individual's survival beyond death is a divine possibility rather than a human certainty. Immortal life is a "supernatural" endowment rather than a "natural" attribute. In other words, a belief in life after death is neither a given of human nature nor a constant of human culture. Thus, the idea of life after death cannot become an explicit warrant for public policies or ethical decisions regarding "end of life" issues in a pluralistic society.

Death in Systematic Religious Thought

The classical doctrines and rituals of Judaism and Christianity are no less complicated and diverse than their biblical backgrounds. Neither the Judaic nor the Christian tradition is monolithic. Both faiths have been developed over extended periods of time in response to changing historical circumstances and cultural influences. But these theological complexities can be simplified for purposes of comparing and contrasting their respective views of death. Just as there are elements of continuity and mutuality within the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, so are there broad similarities between Judaism and Christianity in their traditional beliefs and practices regarding death.

POSTBIBLICAL JEWISH BELIEFS AND PRACTICES

A long and slow transformation took place from the completion of the Hebrew Bible (ca. 200 B.C.E.) to the completion of the Talmud (ca. 500 C.E.), during which time biblical Hebraism emerged as rabbinic Judaism. The Talmud brought together eight hundred years of rabbinic commentary on scripture that was broadly categorized as halakhah (law) and haggadah (story), the former describing the obligations, the latter explaining the meaning of God's covenant with Israel. This massive compendium of rabbinic thought explicated the scripture's "moralization" of life and death in vast and vivid detail. For example, heaven (Gan Eden) and hell (Gehinnom) were each divided into five separate chambers, reflecting different levels of eternal rewards for the righteous and punishments for the wicked. Similarly, the rabbis described 903 forms of death. The hardest way of dying is by asthma and the easiest, which is reserved for the righteous, is "like drawing a hair from milk." Death following five days of illness was considered ordinary. Death after four days or less indicated increasing degrees of divine reprimand. Those who died before fifty were "cut off," sixty years was "ripe age," and above seventy was "old age." Despite all this moralizing about death, comparatively few rabbis held that death as such was the wages of sin. Against those who taught that Adam's sin brought death into the world, the majority of rabbis taught that Adam's mortality was given with his creation. Death was an integral part of the good world that God created in the beginning. Thus, sin hastens death but does not cause it in the first place.

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In other words, only the timing and manner of death are affected by moral conditions. Acts of benevolence and confessions of sins can delay the hour of death as surely as sins of impurity and injustice can speed it. But there is no avoiding death once the angel of death receives the order from God. Given God's permission to destroy, the angel of death makes no distinction between good and bad, but wields the sword against royalty and commoner, old and young, pious and pagan, animal and human alike. While both the wicked and the righteous must die, their deaths are as different as their lives. The wicked perish to pay for their sins while the righteous die to be freed from their sins. Death is a punishment for the sins of the wicked but an atonement for the sins of the righteous. Put another way, the righteous are still alive even though dead, while the wicked are already dead though still alive.

When death occurs, the soul leaves the body with a silent cry that echoes from one end of the world to the other. The soul's departure from the body is marked by the absence of breathing, heartbeat, and pulse. The slightest sign of movement is an indication that death has not yet occurred. Where the soul goes was a matter of considerable dispute among the rabbis. Some taught that the soul sleeps until the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment. Others believed that the soul passes into an interim state of consciousness and activity. But they all agreed that the body that remains must be treated with dignity and given a proper burial. Desecration of the body, such as mutilation or burial with missing body parts, is forbidden, and burial must be before nightfall if possible. Interment must be in the ground to fulfill the biblical mandate ("Dust you are and to dust you shall return") and to complete the atoning process ("May my death be an atonement for all my sins"). A speedy and simple burial also accorded with widespread popular beliefs that the soul is free to complete its journey to the other world only when the body has decomposed.

These beliefs about death were reflected in a number of customs and rituals surrounding the dying and mourning process. A dying person (goses) was given special consideration by loved ones who gave support and comfort during the last hours. The dying person was never to be left alone. Last wishes and spiritual advice were to be faithfully observed. When nearing the end, the dying were encouraged to make a confession such as the following: "I acknowledge unto Thee, O Lord my God, and God of my fathers, that both my cure and my death are in Thy hands. May it be Thy will to send me a perfect healing. Yet if my death be fully determined by Thee, I will in love accept it at Thy hand. O, may my death be an atonement for all my sins, iniquities, and transgressions of which I have been guilty against Thee." This confession was followed with the traditional Jewish affirmation of faith: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is One" (Deut. 6:4).

When death had occurred, the eyes and mouth were closed by the eldest son or nearest relative. The arms were extended alongside the body, which was placed on the floor with the feet toward the door and covered by a sheet. A lighted candle was placed close to the head. Mirrors were turned to the wall or covered. Water in the death room was poured out, reflecting the ancient legend that the angel of death washes its bloody sword in nearby water. The windows of the death chamber were opened to allow the spirits to enter and depart. The dead body was never left alone, whether on weekdays or the Sabbath, until the funeral. Thus, the entire deathbed drama was structured to allow the dying to face the future realistically, yet within a reassuring framework of family and faith.

The theological and literary diversity of the talmudic period yielded two very different developments of the Jewish tradition during the Middle Ages (ca. 1100–1600). A mystical school emerged whose teachings concerning death and the afterlife went far beyond rabbinical Judaism. An emphasis on divine immanence and human transcendence lay at the heart of the Kabbalah, the most commonly used term for the esoteric teachings of medieval Judaism. Human life is the journey of the soul from God and back to God. During the interim period of life on earth and in the body, the soul must attain the "knowledge of the mysteries of the faith," which will purify and prepare it for its return to God. Since this esoteric knowledge is seldom learned in a single life, the soul transmigrates from one embodiment to another until all sins are purged and all duties fulfilled. In this mystical scheme of things, death is simply a threshold marking the passage from one life to another in the soul's ascent to God.

By contrast, a scholastic approach emerged, which codified talmudic beliefs and practices concerning death and dying. The greatest halakist of medieval Judaism was Rabbi Joseph Caro. His sixteenth-century work, Shulhan Arukh, became the authoritative code of Jewish law by synthesizing and reconciling the three giants of medieval halakhah—Isaac Alfasia, Moses Maimonides, and Asher B. Jehiel. Unlike Maimonides, who reinterpreted traditional Jewish teachings in Aristotelian terms, Caro did not subject Jewish law to speculative criticism. Rather, he brought order out of chaos by investigating each stage of development of every single law, finally arriving at a decisive interpretation and application of that law. His work has remained the indispensable guide to the development and interpretation of Jewish laws and customs for two millennia. Included in Shulhan Arukh are the detailed halakic rites and duties surrounding

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death, burial, and mourning observed throughout Orthodox Jewry to this day.

In the modern period, a variety of reform movements have modified many traditional Jewish beliefs and practices concerning death. Orthodox Jews have for the most part remained loyal to rabbinic eschatology, with its emphasis on the final resurrection, but they diverge on whether the resurrection awaits all humankind, the righteous of every age, or only the Jewish people. These otherworldly notions of Messianic redemption and divine judgment have largely faded into the background for Conservative Jewish thinkers. They interpret the Messianic Hope historically in terms of the restoration of the nation of Israel, and spiritually in terms of the immortality of the soul. References to the resurrection of the dead in Jewish rituals of death, burial, and mourning are retained, but the language of resurrection is assimilated to teachings about the immortality of the soul.

Reform Judaism has gone even further in rejecting doctrines of bodily resurrection and the Messianic Age. The "Pittsburgh Platform" of Reformed Judaism (1885) excluded all bodily notions of heaven and hell as abodes for everlasting punishment and reward. Indeed, some liberal Jewish thinkers have rejected the idea of individual immortality entirely, though they affirm the lasting value of each human life within the everlasting life of God. These reformulations of Jewish belief have also produced liberalizations in the areas of Jewish death, burial, and mourning rites. Curiously enough, this turn away from the otherworld and afterlife has fueled a profound concern for the salvation of humankind in the full reality of their historical existence. Thus, many Reformed Jews have returned full cycle to the essentially "humanistic" outlook of the great prophets of ancient Israel.

POSTBIBLICAL CHRISTIAN BELIEFS AND PRACTICES

The traditional Christian understanding of death developed largely in response to two challenges facing the Church at the close of the first century. Internally, the delay of the second coming of Christ forced Christian thinkers to deal with the state of the soul between death and resurrection. For the most part, primitive Christians believed that the dead slept until the Last Day, at which time they would be resurrected from the grave to receive their everlasting rewards or punishments. But, as this period of time lengthened, questions about the interim between individual death and universal judgment became ever more pressing. Externally, the pervasive view of death in Hellenistic religion and philosophy called for some theological response. The Greeks believed that the immortal soul is released from its bodily entrapment by death. This understanding of death was so widespread that some Christian assimilation of the soul's immortality and the body's inferiority was inevitable. Taken together over time, the delay of the return of Christ and the appropriation of Greek ideas of immortality fostered an elaborate system of Christian beliefs and practices concerning the active life of the soul during the period between one's death and the general resurrection at the end of the age. In time, this new eschatology displaced the apocalyptic vision of the Last Days, which vision survived for the most part in millenarian or chiliastic sects, who looked forward to the return of Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.

The church fathers adopted many of the categories of Greek philosophy but retained most of the substance of Pauline Christianity. They affirmed the immortality of the soul but rejected the ultimate separability of soul and body, along with all Hellenistic notions of reincarnation and immediate judgment. The soul is the vivifying principle and as such is incomplete without a body. Indeed, had Adam and Eve not sinned, humankind never would have experienced death. But all must suffer the separation of soul and body in death as punishment for their sins. Their souls, however, cannot perish because they are immortal. Therefore, these souls must eventually be reunited with "the dust of bodies long dead" (Augustine) in order to receive their final inheritance of everlasting salvation or eternal damnation. Surprisingly, there was little speculation among the church fathers about this interim between individual death and general resurrection. Since the soul is immaterial during this period, the dead could experience no sense of place or time, no awareness of comfort or pain, until the resurrection.

Given its finality, death thus became a decisive moment in the soul's destiny. The hour of death sealed the fate of the saved and damned alike. Those who died with their sins forgiven were destined for heaven's bliss. Those who died "while yet in their sins" were condemned to hell's agony. This emphasis on penance in relation to God's mercy and judgment fueled the more elaborate view of heaven, hell, and purgatory that characterized medieval Christianity. The materials for that view were already available in the earlier periods, but an adequate conceptual framework was lacking. The notion of a fire that cleanses the righteous and consumes the wicked at the final resurrection belonged to the earliest biblical traditions. Pushing this purgation of sins back from the final judgment into the interim period after death was encouraged by pietistic and penitential practices. Prayers to the saints and masses for the dead whose sins require expiation implied an active existence for souls following death and suggested a postmortem purgation of sins. But these implications were not fully worked out until the High Middle Ages (1200–1500).

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Drawing on Aristotelian philosophy, Thomas Aquinas worked out an eschatology that combined an active spiritual afterlife with the traditional biblical notions of a general resurrection and last judgment. While the soul actualizes the body as its matter, it contains within itself to a degree all the perfections of physical and spiritual existence. Thus, the infliction of punishment or the bestowal of reward on the soul begins immediately after its separation from the body. But neither ultimate happiness nor ultimate misery is possible for a disembodied soul and, therefore, both must await the reunion of soul and body at the resurrection. Moreover, the soul that is ultimately rewarded must be entirely purified, either during or after this life. In other words, the existence of purgatory was a logical correlate of the immortal soul and the sacrament of penance, which requires contrition and satisfaction for all sins committed after baptism.

This thirteenth-century theological synthesis ineluctably shifted the emphasis to the individual's judgment at death rather than the universal judgment of humankind at the final resurrection of the dead. The Church's official view retained the two judgments, but in popular belief and practice they were in effect merged into one. People simply went to heaven, hell, or purgatory at the moment of death. Accordingly, the hour of death became overloaded with urgency. Dying in a state of grace meant eternal salvation, in a state of sin, eternal damnation, while dying with unconfessed sin required purgatorial cleansing. Thus, dying became more important than living. This focus on death was most obvious in the medieval Ars moriendi, art of dying manuals that gave step-by-step advice to the dying and to the persons attending the dying to ensure a "good death." Of greater significance was the increasing importance of the sacrament of extreme unction, which was administered to the dying for all sins of sight, hearing, smell, speech, touch, and action. For those believers who died ill-prepared, there were masses for the dead and indulgences for the remission of sin for those in purgatory. In other words, a whole arsenal of beliefs and practices were mobilized against the terror of dying outside the state of grace.

What was developed in the thirteenth century as gifts of divine grace became in the fourteenth and fifteenth century marks of human folly. Or so the Protestant reformers claimed. Abuses surrounding the sacraments and indulgences for the dying were rife in the late medieval Church. These abuses were a precipitating cause of the sixteenth-century reform movements that swept both church and society. In point of fact, neither Luther nor Calvin broke with the fundamental worldview of medieval Christianity. Both challenged current beliefs and practices from within the medieval tradition. Thus, with regard to eschatology, the reformers retained the concept of the soul's immortality and eternal destiny. But they both undercut the entire penitential system with a different understanding of divine mercy and justice. The blood of Christ is the sole satisfaction for the sins of believers. Thus, medieval notions of a purgatorial state and a treasury of merits fell to the ground because these practices compromised the sole ground of salvation in Christ through faith. What remained for the reformers was an affirmation of the imperishable soul, which immediately enters its eternal reward or punishment upon separation from the body in death. The older idea of a general resurrection and judgment at the End of the Age was retained, but this last state of the soul only ratifies and perfects the fate of the saved and the damned at death.

In the modern world, mainline Catholic theologians have for the most part remained faithful to the position of Thomas Aquinas. The lurid images and frantic piety surrounding death and the afterlife in the Middle Ages have long since been rejected by educated Catholics. But the devout Catholic can still face the enemy of death armed with the traditional sacramental graces and doctrinal truths of life everlasting. To be sure, some contemporary Catholic theologians interpret these traditional beliefs and practices in symbolic rather than literal terms. For them, the experience of death is viewed as pilgrimage in faith rather than punishment for sin. Death is seen as "the law of human growth," whereby each stage of growth requires a tearing away from previous environments, which have become like so many prisons. In death, one's own body, like the mother's body at birth, is abandoned so that personal growth may continue. Alternatively, death allows the soul to enter into a new allembracing unity. At death the soul is freed from the limitation of being related to one particular human body and becomes related to the whole universe. The pouring out of the self at death leads to a pan-cosmic level of personal and communal existence. But for the most part, contemporary Roman Catholics simply "look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come," in the words of the Nicene Creed.

Modern Protestant theologians have been even more innovative than their Catholic counterparts. To be sure, mainline Protestants have followed the guidelines laid down by the Reformers. They have combined an emphasis on postmortem rewards and punishments for the soul at death with some notion or another of a Final Consummation of the Age. But a growing freedom from ecclesiastical authority and biblical literalism allowed for a wide range of Protestant theological innovations. These new theologies were usually developed in response to the challenges of modern science and in partnership with one or another modern philosophy.

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Beginning in the eighteenth century, the Christian faith was interpreted within such diverse philosophical frameworks as rationalism, romanticism, empiricism, existentialism, and process thought. Not surprisingly, each philosophical theology has dealt with the problem of death and the afterlife in its own distinctive way. These liberal theological experiments share certain convictions about life after death. They reject apocalyptic schemes of history and literalistic views of the afterlife. They empty the afterlife of all ideas of eternal torment, preferring instead to speak of either the total annihilation or eventual salvation of the wicked. But their concrete notions of eternal life run the gamut from the soul's immaterial existence in heaven to the self 's authentic existence while on earth. Despite these wide-ranging theological reflections on death, most present-day Protestants hold to the idea of death as the soul's passage to its immortal destiny, either in eternal communion with or eternal separation from God and the people of God.

ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS

The long histories of Judaism and Christianity reveal disagreements within as well as differences between these religious traditions. And yet there are striking parallels between the ways they deal with death over the centuries. Of course, both traditions come out of the same Hebraic background and confront the same broad cultural challenges. But of greater importance is the fact that both traditions are preoccupied with the issue of theodicy. There must be some ultimate justification of the brute fact that the righteous suffer and die along with the wicked. The stubbornly moral character of the Judaic and Christian traditions militates against either indiscriminate immortality or universal annihilation. Thus, for all their differences, Judaism and Christianity are bound together by their efforts to reconcile ethics and eschatology. Not surprisingly, Judaism and Christianity respond in similar ways to a number of "end of life" ethical issues.

1. For the most part, Judaism and Christianity traditionally define death as the moment the spirit leaves the body. The accepted signs of the spirit's departure are the absence of breathing, heartbeat, and pulse. But there is nothing in these theological traditions that directly rules out more precise empirical signs of death, such as a flat brain wave. Most Christian theologians, and many Jewish thinkers, have accepted a brain-oriented definition of death, but some, especially within Orthodox Judaism, oppose such a definition, focusing instead on breathing as the definitive indicator of life. Some contemporary theologians are openly embracing higher-brain oriented definitions of death as modern equivalents of the departure of the spirit from the body.

2. Regardless of the etiology of death, the Jewish and Christian traditions regard death as an evil to be endured rather than a good to be embraced. Though death is inevitable, it is an event to be held at bay by every possible and honorable means that is not excessively burdensome or morally ambiguous. Therefore, most traditional Jews and Christians are categorically opposed to suicide and active euthanasia, or "mercy killing." Since martyrdom is not considered suicide, choosing death over life in service to one's faith or for the sake of others is allowable if it cannot be avoided in an honorable way.

3. Although all must die, not all deaths are the same in the Jewish and Christian traditions. Clearly, there are better and worse ways of dying. The best of deaths is the death of a person at peace with God who is "full of years," relatively free of pain, and surrounded by loved ones. The worst of deaths is to die "before your time," in rebellion against God, and alienated from family and friends. Recognition of these different ways of dying lends at least indirect religious sanctions to modern-day concerns about the "good death." There are no clear-cut religious obligations to prolong the dying process by extraordinarily burdensome means of life support. Indeed, the moral permissibility of withholding or withdrawing heroic means of life support from the terminally ill enjoys wide support among contemporary Jews and Christians alike, even though some Jewish scholars, particularly among the Orthodox, prefer to provide support, whenever possible, until the patient is moribund.

4. For both Jews and Christians, death is a reality that cannot be ignored or wished away. Whether death comes slowly or suddenly, the worst time to deal with death is after it happens. Believers should be prepared to deal with the heartache and havoc it brings before illness or tragedy strikes. We are ready to live only when we are prepared to die. While such preparation need not require the cultivated preoccupation with death of the medieval Ars moriendi, it should include a recognition of human mortality and an acceptance of human limits. In principle, such preparation might include the execution of advanced directives regarding terminal care.

5. Although the soul is infinitely more valuable than the body, the bodies of the dead deserve to be treated with care and love. For traditional Jews, such respect for the human body ordinarily excludes mutilation of the body, although sanctions against autopsies and dissection may yield to the superior value of protecting life or punishing crime. Some contemporary Jewish thinkers extend this overriding obligation to preserve life to the justification of organ harvesting for transplantation. Despite centuries of theological opposition, traditional Christians have reconciled themselves to thePage 586 | Top of Article legitimacy of anatomical dissection and organ harvesting in the interests of science and medicine, perhaps reflecting the Christian view that the resurrected body is a new creation of God. But more liberal Jews and Christians are untroubled by any of these postmortem procedures, provided they do not disgrace the corpse or disturb the family.

6. Both the Jewish and Christian emphasis on death is, in reality, the obverse of an even greater emphasis on life. At best, death serves as a motive for a creative and responsible life. At worst, death looms as a menace to a courageous and generous life. Either way, death lends an urgency to life that would be utterly lacking without it. Death enhances rather than cheapens the value of life.

7. For both Jews and Christians, there is hope that death does not have the final word in human experience. For many, death is a corridor that leads to a life free of sorrow, suffering, and separation. For others, death is powerless to cut off the faithful from the life of the community and the life of God. On either reckoning, death is incorporated as a meaningful stage in the life cycle. Both the Jewish and Christian traditions, strengthened by centuries of suffering and surviving, provide a variety of ways of affirming life in the face of death.

Lonnie D. Kliever (1995)

 

 

 

 

"Judaism", ARYEH COHEN, "Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying", Ed. Robert Kastenbaum, Vol.1, New York, Macmillan Reference USA, 2003, p.499-502, 2 vols. Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale, COPYRIGHT 2006 Thomson Gale, a part of The Thomson Corporation. 

How to cite: COHEN, ARYEH, "Judaism", Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying, Ed. Robert Kastenbaum, Vol.1, New York, Macmillan Reference USA, 2003, p.499-502, 2 vols, Gale Virtual Reference Library, Gale Document Number: CX3407200163.  

JUDAISM

As a cultural and religious group with a historical connection to contemporary Jewish culture, Judaism, dates to the end of the first century of the C.E. The destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. was the event that both enabled and forced rabbinic Judaism to take its position as the preeminent contender as the representative of Judaism. The founding text of rabbinic Judaism is actually the third-century Mishnah, not the Torah. The Mishnah is the first compilation or code of Jewish law, which was edited in the early third century. However, it includes material that dates back to the first century and underwent editing and revision several times throughout the second century as the rabbinic academies in Palestine grew.

Some scholars see a smooth and direct link between the religion articulated by Ezra or the Pharisees and the religion that was articulated by the rabbis after the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. Most scholars, however, understand rabbinic Judaism as having developed at the same time as early Christianity. A small minority of scholars thinks that rabbinic Judaism developed after early Christianity. The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 caused such a break in the practice and consciousness of the Jews of Palestine and the Diaspora that it is all but impossible to directly connect pre-70 and post-70 Judaism. To be sure, the materials necessary for rabbinic Judaism to develop were present before the destruction of the Temple, but in a merely germinal form. Rabbinic Judaism is essentially a different religion than other pre-Temple Judaisms.

The Bible, which embodies a diversity of religious views, says very little about the afterlife. Impurity stemming from contact with the dead is a prominent feature of the Torah, as is capital punishment. The archaeological evidence seems to demonstrate that the Israelites in Biblical times were concerned with the afterlife. It is not until Daniel, written in third and second centuries B.C.E., that there is seemingly unambiguous reference to the afterlife and the end of days.  ^  By the time of Qumran literature - that is, texts discovered around the Dead Sea that date back to the first and second centuries B.C.E. and used by Jewish sectarians - there is a full-blown notion of an afterlife, which is both a reward for the righteous and a means for explaining the ultimate justice of God. Josephus, a Jewish commander in the war against Rome in the first century and who later defected to the Roman side during the war, points to an afterlife and the resurrection of the dead as sources of conflict between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. This description is supported by Matthew.

One of the ways of defining rabbinic Judaism and its descendants is by its textual tradition. Rabbinic Judaism claims the Torah as the cornerstone of the textual tradition. On the other hand, the canonization of Mishnah, the third-century compilation of rabbinic legal thought and ruling, meant the exclusion of much of post-Biblical literature. While Sirach is quoted in the sixth-century Babylonian Talmud, for example, it is not part of the Jewish canon, it is an extra-canonical book from the first century B.C.E. The Mishnah lays out its own apostolic genealogy in the beginning of the tractate, which is known as Chapters of the Fathers: "Moses received the Torah from Sinai and passed it on to Joshua, and Joshua to the Elders, and the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets to the Men of the Great Assembly" (Fathers 1:1).

The Men of the Great Assembly is the period that begins with the first exile in the sixth century C.E. and ends with the Pharisaic precursors of the rabbinic movement around the turn of the millennium. Rabbinic tradition numbers even legendary figures such as Mordecai (from the book of Esther) as one of the Men of the Great Assembly.

Mishnah purports to gather traditions from two centuries of rabbinic activity, laying out the boundaries of rabbinic Judaism. Within its sixty-three tractates, divided into six orders, there is legislation pertaining to all areas of life, from Sabbath law to torts to sacrificial law to proper beliefs. This material unfolded and developed at the same time that early Christianity was growing from a Palestinian movement of Jewish followers of Jesus to the official Christianity of the Roman Empire.

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If people judge by the quantity of material, Mishnah's central concern with death relates to issues of impurity. One complete order of Mishnah deals with purity issues and determining the minimum dimensions of a part of a corpse that will generate impurity when touched. A majority of the twelve tractates in that order deal with the impurity emanating from the dead. A dead person was considered an ultimate source of impurity, an attitude that arises directly from Torah teachings. It was obviously a central issue in Temple times because no impure person, including priests who had become impure, were allowed into the Temple. The centrality of the concept of impurity in the community is evident in the fact that almost a century and a half after the destruction of the Temple, when impurity no longer had any major significance in daily life, there were still extensive laws on this topic.

One of the so-called lesser tractates, euphemistically titled "Times of Joy," deals with burial and mourning. Another (mourning) deals with dying and suicide. Burying the dead is one of the commandments that supersedes others, and if there is a dead body with no one to bury it, even the high priest (who under normal circumstances is forbidden contact with the dead) must bury the body.

The third area, death as a punishment for sins and crimes, is divided into two types of death: death at the hands of the court and death at the hands of God. Death is also the last step in atonement for certain types of sins. This does not, however, imply anything about the status of a person postmortem.

There is also a passing but interesting reference to the afterlife and resurrection of the dead. "All of Israel have a place in the World to Come. […] These do not have a place in the World to Come: the one who says there is no resurrection of the dead." The afterlife is presented as a reward for the righteous but is not explored in much detail. Resurrection is presented in both the Gospels and Josephus as an ideological boundary dividing the Pharisees from other sects of Second Temple Judaism.

One type of death that occupied a significant amount of thought and energy among early Christians was martyrdom. There are two types of martyrdom. One is active martyrdom, in which the martyr willingly goes to his or her death to proclaim a belief in the one God (or in Jesus, for Christian martyrs). The second type of martyrdom is passive martyrdom, in which a believer is given the choice of abrogation of religious obligation or death. This latter, passive martyrdom was a part of rabbinic Judaism from its beginnings. When confronted with the choice of either having to abrogate one of the three core prohibitions (idolatry, murder, or illicit sexual unions) or be killed, the Rabbinic Jew must choose death. Scholars differ about the issue of active martyrdom. Some say that it became a desideratum for rabbinic Judaism hard on the heels of its widespread acceptance in Christianity. Others say that the debate was open until much later and might not have been settled even at the conclusion of the Babylonian Talmud in the seventh century.

These general categories were the boundaries for the discussion of death and dying throughout the rabbinic period and into the Middle Ages. The next layer of the rabbinic textual tradition consists of the Palestinian Talmud (edited in the fifth century) and the Babylonian Talmud (edited in the seventh century). The Talmuds engaged in more explicit discussions of what the world to come might look like and in more extended discussions of the punitive or expiatory efficacy of death. There is also more elaboration of the concept of martyrdom and the introduction of the "time of oppression," when martyrdom might be a more common obligation. On the whole, however, the bulk of the Talmudic discussions of death are concerned with issues of purity and impurity and capital punishment.

Death is seen as a normal part of the cycle of life, even as a necessary part of life. Death is not seen as punishment for original sin or punishment for sin in general; extraordinary death, however, is sometimes seen as punishment for sin. At times, this kind of death is the result of an inexplicable divine decree: "There are those who die without judgment." The dead are judged and rewarded or punished, although there are conflicting reports of what that reward or punishment is. It is also not clear whether the afterlife is corporeal or noncorporeal.

During the eleventh and twelfth centuries the crusades brought in their wake a renewed interest in martyrdom and even in the notion of suicide as

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an escape from transgression or forced conversion to Christianity. The biblical story of the binding of Isaac, wherein Abraham attempts to sacrifice his son, as told in Genesis 22, is often cited in justifications of the murder of one's spouse and/or children in the face of a Christian onslaught. Even the greatest of the medieval Talmudists attempted retroactively to find a way to justify these suicides and murders.

The notion that the soul's journey starts before life and continues after death is already found in the Talmud. Its most extensive treatment, however, ensued from the mystical speculations that started in the late rabbinic period and came to fruition with the production of the Zohar, the central text of the Jewish mystical tradition, in thirteenth century in Spain, and with the advent of the Kabbalistic teaching in the sixteenth century in northern Israel. Whereas the Judaism of the Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrash collections was vague and reticent about the nature of posthumous existence, the mystics were very explicit, discussing the source of souls in the upper realms, the resurrection of the dead to a corporeal existence at the end of time, and the transmigration or reincarnation of souls. The afterlife of the soul is part of a mystical theodicy in which God's justice is worked out over many lifetimes.

At the same time that the mystics were contemplating the journey of the soul and martyrs were lauded in France and Germany, Maimonides, the greatest Jewish philosopher and jurist, was codifying a much different approach to both martyrdom and the afterlife. In Maimonides' formulation, the only acceptable martyrdom was passive martyrdom. While one is obligated to accept death rather than transgression in certain cases, one who falters and transgresses under duress is not culpable. Further, Maimonides' conception of the afterlife is unclear and was contested even during his lifetime. There is support for an Aristotelian reading in which the soul or intellect cleaves to God (the active intellect) and in this way continues its existence after the death of the material body. When challenged on his belief in the afterlife and resurrection, however, Maimonides affirmed a belief in a corporeal resurrection.

The centrality of the communal obligation to the dead, which includes preparation of the body for burial (taharah) and the burial itself, was already evident in the rabbinic period. According to this law, after passing a certain period of residency, all citizens of a town must contribute toward the burial expenses of the town's destitute. In the early modern period this tradition gained greater visibility and authority. The so-called holy society (chevra kadisha), the communal body that is mandated to perform the death and burial rites, became a source of communal responsibility even for matters outside of its immediate purview (i.e., charitable pursuits). The society was supported by a communal tax and had a charter and a complicated acceptance procedure that included periods of probation and study. An actual membership organization called the chevra kadisha seems to be an innovation of the early modern period. There are still holy societies that perform the death and burial rites. These include guarding the dead body until it can be brought to the mortuary or cemetery, ritually cleansing the body, clothing the body in special death garments, and bringing the body to burial.

In the modern and contemporary periods the existence of an afterlife and the resurrection and reincarnation of the dead have become points of contention between the different movements within Judaism. On the whole, Reform Judaism does not believe in an afterlife, resurrection or reincarnation. Orthodox Judaism believes in all three, though there are some factions of Orthodoxy that do not believe in reincarnation. There are varying opinions in Conservative and Reform Judaism that span the gamut.

ARYEH COHEN

 

 

 

Temple Culture

Why the Temple symbolized the nation of Israel and, collaboration with Rome?

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/portrait/temple.html

L. Michael White: Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program University of Texas at Austin HEROD'S TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM

PHARISEES AND SADDUCEES

Who were the Pharisees and the Sadducees?

Among the other groups that would have circulated around the priesthood and around the Temple in Jerusalem, was an old group known as the Sadducees. The Sadducees are really also part of this old priestly aristocracy. They're the land holding group ... the descendants of the people who came back from the Babylonian exile. They were the old Jerusalem upper crust. And they were in charge of most of the political life of Jerusalem proper. They dominated the city council of Jerusalem, or what is called the Sanhedrin. But there were other groups as well. The Pharisees were a Johnny-come-lately group that had joined the political ranks of Jerusalem life, probably, sometime in the later Hasmonean Period. That is, just before the Romans came on the scene. The Pharisees have a political interest, but they, in some ways, constitute a kind of outside political faction over against the landed aristocracy - the Sadducees. As a result, we see both political tensions and also religious interests between the groups showing up in different ways.

One of the classic ways we differentiate the Sadducees from the Pharisees, is on the basis of religious beliefs and practices. The Sadducees are conservative. They only read the Torah, the five books of Moses. They don't read other things among the Scriptures as authoritative. And so as a result, they don't believe in certain ideas. For example, it's typically suggested that they do not believe in resurrection of the dead. Why? Because it's not in the Torah. The Pharisees, on the other hand, are, if anything, the religious liberals ... the progressives of their day. They want to reinterpret the Scriptures. They want to read more texts, all of which are the expression of this vibrant Judaism of the time. And as a result, they're willing to entertain new ideas, new beliefs, such as that of the resurrection of the dead.

 

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/portrait/temple.html

Temple Culture

Why the Temple symbolized the nation of Israel and, collaboration with Rome.

Shaye I.D. Cohen: Samuel Ungerleider Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies Brown University THE TEMPLE AT JERUSALEM AND ITS CULTURE

The crucial thing to remember is that nowadays, there are temples and synagogues everywhere you go. There is not a Jewish community in the world that doesn't have a synagogue, and many of them are called temples. In this period, however, we should always remember that there is only one Temple and that's the one Temple in Jerusalem. The building itself was very small. The actual building of the Temple could fit inside the infield of any baseball stadium. However, the large structure all around it, the large plaza, the porticos, the columns, the staircases, all of that, were built up by Herod the Great on a monumental scale, filling up, I think something like ten football fields.... So we have then a very large, very conspicuous, grandiose, grand... structure in the center of Jerusalem which attracted pilgrims from near and far, both Jews and gentile....

In the Temple itself, we have priests, all descending from Aaron, the High Priest, back in time, brother of Moses - the tribe of priests who officiated at the altar. They slaughtered animals, they took the animal carcasses on the altar, roasted the animals, spattered the blood on the corners of the altar, dispensed the meat, and the bones and the blood and so on, and performed other similar tasks inside the Temple. Only the priests were actually able to penetrate the innermost areas of the Temple. Even full blooded religious pious Jews could only go near, just get to the outskirts of the Temple. Further back, even gentiles could attend....

Even though the actual religious rituals of the Temple were solely in the hands of the priests, that is, if you brought your sacrifice to the Temple because say, your wife had a baby, say a child recovered from illness, or say you're at a pilgrimage festival and you're celebrating at the pilgrimage. So, you bring your animal offering to the Temple, the priest takes it away from you and brings it back, brings you back roast beef or roast lamb in a little while where you and your family sit and eat. So, even though the actual doing, the actual performing [of rituals] were in the hands of the priests, nonetheless, the Temple played a large role in a collective religious mentality and a collective religion of the people, as a whole. Everybody realized that this was the one most sacred place on earth, the one place on earth where somehow heaven and earth meet, where somehow there is a telephone connection, perhaps we would say, between heaven and earth, where the earth rises up and heavens somehow descend just enough, that they just touch.... So, even though it was a small institution, entirely run by a small caste of people and even though most people can never ever get in, get inside the innermost precincts, nonetheless, the Temple as a whole, the institution, the values and the structure played a very important role in the society at large.

 

 

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/portrait/judaism.html

Judaism's First Century Diversity

Far from uniform, Jews disagreed over the way to honor their traditions and practice their faith.

Shaye I.D. Cohen: Samuel Ungerleider Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies Brown University PHARISEES, SADUCCEES, REVOLUTIONARIES, AND PLAIN JEWS

In the first century of our era there were many sects and schools in Jewish society. We hear about the Essenes, of course, the Jews of Qumran, the Dead Sea Scrolls, who separated themselves from the community at large and clearly constituted a sect, a group which thought it alone possessed the truth. Whether there were other sects or not it's hard to tell. We know instead about other groups or schools or movements or parties... The most conspicuous of these parties or schools will be the Pharisees. The Pharisees are known to everybody from the New Testament where they enjoy a very negative press. They clearly are seen as the opponents of Jesus and "the bad guys." Who the Pharisees really were is a different question entirely, once we get past the Jewish polemic, the anti-Pharisee polemic of the gospels. And we realize the Pharisees were a conspicuous Jewish group. They seem to have been a scholarly group or a group of Jews who, as Josephus the historian says, had a reputation as the most meticulous observers of the ancestral laws. So here is a group which claim expertise [in] understanding the Torah of Moses and claimed expertise in the observance of the laws. And apparently most Jews were prepared to accept that claim.... Their opponents, of course, were the Sadducees, who were no less pious than the Pharisees, but the Sadducees did not believe in the authoritative nature of the ancestral laws. What did the Sadducees do then, exactly, we don't really know. Except the Sadducees apparently had a great deal of following among the well-to-do, among the priestly classes, and seem to have been characterized primarily by two things. One, they opposed the Pharisees and two, they denied belief in the resurrection of the dead, a belief that the Pharisees espoused and the Sadducees denied. And this, of course, made the Sadducees famous as we see very clearly in the New Testament passages where the only thing in the gospels you know about the Sadducees is basically that they deny the belief in the resurrection.

But aside from these groups that we may call schools or parties - the Pharisees appear to us to be a school and the Sadducees appear to us to be a party, a social-political party - there will have been a whole wide variety of other groups in Jerusalem and perhaps in the countryside as a whole. Some of these are political movements..., the revolutionary groups, Sicarii and the Zealots and what not, who took their religious understanding of what Judaism was, took their religious interpretations and turned that into a political agenda. "We must destroy the Roman Empire or we must destroy Jews who cooperate with the Roman Empire. We will kill all collaborators, no King but God," and other such slogans emerge from these religious thinkers.

And of course, the most important group of all are not the Pharisees, not the Sadducees, not the Essenes, not the revolutionaries, but the plain Jews. Plain simple folk who presumably live their Jewish lives by following the ways that they'd always done, whatever mother or father had taught them, that's what they do themselves. We may call [this] perhaps "simple piety." The Jews who observe the Sabbath, who observe the holidays, the festivals, who go with the pilgrimage to temple, who observe the Jewish food laws, the Jewish rituals, believe in the Jewish God, follow the ways by which to make the life holy, follow the dictates of the Torah in a kind of simple plain way, these are the plain folk and these are the folk who are not Pharisees, not Sadducees, but simply plain Jews. And we get a glimpse of some of them in the pages of the New Testament. But these are probably the most numerous of all and the most important of all.

 

Paula Fredriksen: William GoodwinAurelio Professor of the Appreciation of Scripture, Boston University

SADUCEES, PHARISEES, ESSENES, "INSURRECTIONISTS"

[Josephus' two books] are two of our prime sources for the history of this period. And Josephus gives a kind of catalog for what the major groups are within first century Judaism.... He talks about the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Essenes. He also mentions another group, [for whom] my label is Insurrectionists. That's not his term for it, but he attributes to this group of people the rebelliousness and weariness with Rome that ultimately led to the Great War against Rome in 66 to 70, eventuating in the destruction of the Temple. It's hard to tell exactly how close Josephus' descriptions are to what these groups actually believed and thought. The Sadducees are usually associated with aristocratic Priests, therefore they're in Jerusalem. They seem to not have thought that there was resurrection of the dead, which by this period is almost a normative belief in Judaism.  ^  And, since they were Priests, much of their religious interests focused on the smooth operation of the Temple, as is right, because that was their responsibility.

Pharisees, on the other hand, were a school of interpretation of Biblical text... Priests are family groups in Judaism. If you have a friend named Cohen, that means he's a priest. So one is born a priest. One can't choose to become a priest, unlike most other religious groupings in antiquity. But, if somebody is born a priest, he could decide to interpret the Bible according to a Pharisaic tradition, and that's what happened. These are not absolute boundaries. These are permeable identifications. Josephus, for example, this historian we have is from a Jerusalem-like, priestly, aristocratic family, but he aligns himself with the Pharisees, which is one of the reasons why he praises them so much in his books.

The Essenes are another group of people very concerned with purity. There is a lot of purity ritual associated with them. Josephus and another first century historian and writer, Philo, talk about the Essenes as being a philosophic community [with] communal property. There was a group within the Essenes who were celibate. What's interesting is that this is the community that's also represented by the Dead Sea Scroll library. And, given what we now know about them, as a result of finding that library, we can measure the distance between a respectful description by somebody who's not an Essene, and what the Essenes were actually up to. The Essenes, themselves, were very apocalyptic. They were very concerned with purity. They were so concerned about the holiness of the Temple that at least the ones in Qumran had a reputation of not going up there at all....

 

But how many people are we actually talking about?

 

... [W]e have no way of testing [Josephus'] numbers, but if they're like any other kind of guess done either by a modern newspaper or by an ancient historian, they're not absolute. He mentions ... I'm not absolutely certain. I think his figures are like 6000 Pharisees, 4000 Essenes...maybe there were 20,000 Priests. Of those Priests, how many were aristocrats and therefore Sadducees? I don't know ... but a fraction of that. So that doesn't give us very many Jews actually accounted for. But there were millions of Jews in antiquity, which means that most people belonged to none of these groups. Who were these people? What did they think? We don't know because we only have the evidence for the groups that have articulated ideologies. I think we have to assume that most Jews who did not associate with one group or the other did the best they could interpreting what they thought was leading a Jewish life according to how the Bible happened to be interpreted in their neighborhood. Again, this is the vast majority of Jews, and as is the case with most populations in history, it's a silent majority because we don't have written evidence from them.

 

 

L. Michael White: Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program University of Texas at Austin DIVERSITY OF JUDAISM

 

[At this time, is] Judaism a religious life that's unified and at peace with itself?

 

It would be a mistake to think of Judaism in this period as a state religion, even though the temple is the centerpiece of Jewish life and of Jewish worship. There's no such thing as a state church. It's not a monolithic religious or cultural entity at this time. Indeed, what we're seeing more and more through the research and the archaeological discoveries, is how diverse Judaism was in this period. So we see different groups, such as the Sadducees and the Pharisees. We also see a number of new religious texts and new practices starting to develop. .... For example, let's not forget that the Holy Day, the festival of Hanukkah, was a relatively new holiday celebration at the time of Jesus. It had only been around for something like a hundred years. But it shows some of the new ideas, the new experiences that Jews have had to overcome in that time. And so, we're watching a religious tradition that is itself still going through certain changes. Some of those changes were met with a view of optimism and progress. Some people, though, might not have liked them. And so, this sets the stage for what we see as some of the tension and some of the controversy that also surrounds the temple. So the interesting thing about the temple in the days of Jesus is that on the one hand, it's a grand, new place. It's the center of life and worship. It's the showpiece of Jewish tradition. And yet, it could also be a center of controversy and tension.

One of the best examples of the ...the kind of diversity and vibrantly different thought that's at work in Judaism in this period is, of course now, what we know from the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

 

Shaye I.D. Cohen:

ALL JEWS RELATE TO THE TEMPLE

 

What are some of the principal groups who were a part of Judaism during this time period? What were some of their differences?

 

The Jewish historian, Josephus, has a very memorable line. He says, "one temple, for the one God." The Jews saw themselves as a unique people, with the one God alone... there's one God of this one special people, one temple, and that's a very powerful idea, reflecting accurately, I think, the historical truth that the temple was a very powerful unifying source, within the Jewish community....

At the same time, the temple also serves as a source of division and a source of conflict in the Jewish community. Many, many Jews were unhappy with the way the priests ran the temple. The priests did not obey the purity laws properly. They didn't follow the right calendar. They didn't perform the sacrifices properly. The priests themselves were insufficiently pious. Their marriages were somehow illicit or improper. The priests used the office for self-aggrandizement, for self-advantage. They somehow were making themselves wealthier at the expense of the community and on and on and on. We hear a series of such complaints about the priests, many of the them in the Dead Sea Scrolls, many of them found in Rabbinic literature, but some of course, as anybody who reads the Bible knows, going back to the prophets, even in Biblical times, complaining about the priests of the temple... Nonetheless, it's clear among all the numerous groups within the Jewish community of the 1st century, that all of them, to justify themselves, have to some degree or other deal with the temple. They have to either explain why the priests are wrong and they are right, or they have to explain that the priests are correct but they're only correct, insofar as they agree with what this group itself believes... You can see that among virtually all the groups in Jewish society in the 1st century of our era.

 

SELF DEFINITION FOR JEWS IN THE SECOND CENTURY

The second century of our era was an age of definition not just for Christianity but also for Judaism. In Christianity, of course, the second century of the common era is a time of sects and heresies and divisions and splits and schools of all sorts as Christians try to figure out exactly what Christianity is and exactly what Christianity isn't. On the Jewish side of the fence, we don't hear much about conflicting sects or heresies. Most of them seem to have disappeared in the wake of his destruction of the temple in 70 C.E. So we don't hear about then conflicting parties the way we do on the Christian side. But nonetheless, I think we can still call the second century of our era an age of definition, even on the Jewish side. Because it is the second century of our era that marks the emergence for the first time into the light of history of a new group and a new culture and a new literature and a new way of thinking and writing. We call the people rabbis and we call their Judaism "Rabbinic" texts or "Rabbinic" literature... It is the rabbis who now emerge as a new kind of Judaism, and it is this Judaism that will endure from the second century of our era down to our own age.

 

 

================================

 

 

WHAT MAKES US HUMAN?

Edited by Charles Pasternak, A Oneworld Book (Published by Oneworld Publications 2007), Copyright © TBC 2007, p. 82. (Charles Pasternak is the Director of the Oxford International Biomedical

Centre (OIBC, UK). David Hulme has studied Psychology and Philosophy (University of Edinburgh), Theology (Ambassador College, UK) and International Relations (University of Southern California). He holds a doctorate from USC in International Relations, with an emphasis on Foreign Policy and the Middle East. A prolific article writer, his Identity, Ideology and the Future of Jerusalem, published by Palgrave Macmillan in September 2006 speculates on the role that current findings in neuroscience may contribute to social change in that troubled region. Hulme is currently publisher of the quarterly Vision and president of Vision Media Productions (VMP), based in Pasadena, California)

 

p. 82:

 

6: Material Facts from a Nonmaterialist Perspective

David Hulme, Ph.D.

[…]

 

What, then, of the separately originated Hebrew account of consciousness, self-awareness, and human uniqueness? The following discussion provides the opportunity to clarify the differences between the Greek and Hebrew mindsets on these issues and to examine the often misunderstood biblical record.

"For dust you are ..."

In another resource about origins or beginnings, the book of Genesis, the reader is invited to consider a very different perspective.7 In the second chapter's account of creation, we learn from the Jewish Publication Society's Tanakh translation that "the Lord God formed man from the dust of the earth. He blew into his nostrils the breath of life,

 

85                                                        Material Facts from a Nonmaterialist Perspective

 

and man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7).8 This differs from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, beloved of English-speaking Christians, whose translators rendered the Hebrew nephesh not as "a living being" but as "a living soul" (from the Latin solus, "sole" or "alone"). A better choice in Latin would have been anima from the Greek anemos ("air" or "breath").9 But in this verse, the King James Version's translators betrayed their bias toward the ancient Greek philosophers and their intellectual descendants, the early church fathers, for whom the soul was the essential part of the human being.

For example, according to Irenaeus,

 

... the prophetic word declares of the first-formed man, "He became a living soul," [Genesis 2:7] teaching us that by the participation of life the soul became alive; so that the soul, and the life which it possesses, must be understood as being separate existences.10

 

While most modern English translations have adopted the term "a living being," there are some that seem disinclined to let go of the ancient Greek notion of the immortal soul. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language reads, "God formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The Man came alive - a living soul!"11 Unfortunately, according to the Hebrew, the

"soul" of any person (even a translator!) can never be anything but material. But the availability of more accurate translations does not necessarily bring changes in established doctrine or popular belief.

The soul as immortal has not disappeared from theological discourse, liturgical practice, or everyday imagination.12 One scholar whose view differs is Jon D. Levenson, annotator of Genesis for The Jewish Study Bible. He comments on Genesis 2:7 that

 

"the human being is not an amalgam of perishable body and immortal soul, but a psychophysical unity who depends on God for life itself."13

 

What does he intend by a "psychophysical unity" that is not "an amalgam of perishable body and immortal soul?" Further, is this terminology consistent with the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures, and is it perpetuated in the Apostolic Writings of the early followers of Jesus? By setting this unity against the ancient Greek/traditional Christian conceptualization of the human being as temporary body plus eternal soul, Levenson draws attention to an entity that, although physical, is also mental. And by his definition both aspects are temporary.

To repeat, this is a far cry from Pythagoras, Empedocles, Plato,

 

86                                                                    What Makes Us Human?

 

Augustine, various church fathers, traditional Christianity, and the entire mindset of Western civilization, religious and secular.

Tracing this Hebrew conceptualization further, the book of Job, written as early as the patriarchal period (circa 2100-1900 bce),14 addresses the psychological part of this unity, when one of the suffering man's counselors explains that "it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand" (Job 32:8).15 Here is an obvious connection with Genesis 2:7, but now the psychological or mental part of the psychophysical unity is termed "the spirit in man." Its function, originating with God, is to provide the human being with the capacity to understand.

 

"... and to dust you shall return"

 

Thus far we have a nonmaterial, conscious, mentally empowering, physically bounded aspect of the human being that ceases at death.

This is confirmed in the book of Psalms, where we learn of man, "His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish" (146:4),16 and in the Hebrew wisdom book of Ecclesiastes,

"The living know they will die [self-awareness]. But the dead know nothing [no continuing post-death consciousness]; they have no more recompense, for even the memory of them has died. Their loves, their hates, their jealousies have long since perished" (9:5-6a).17

Solomon, the likely tenth-century-bce author of Ecclesiastes, explains that humans and animals meet the same fate: "as the one dies so dies the other" (3:19).18 What, then, becomes of this unique spirit in man at death? He writes, "The dust returns to the ground as it was, and the lifebreath returns to God who bestowed it" (12:7).19 Thus, according to this Hebrew perspective, there is no immortal soul and no immortal "spirit in man" either. The body decays and the spirit returns to God.

The Jewish Encyclopedia confirms, "The belief that the soul continues its existence after the dissolution of the body is a matter of philosophical or theological speculation rather than of simple faith, and is accordingly nowhere expressly taught in Holy Scripture."20 Despite the seeming finality of death for the psychophysical unity, termination of life was nevertheless understood by the ancient Hebrews as temporary and as a kind of sleep. Later there would come a time of awakening when the body would be reconstituted and the

 

87                                                                    What Makes Us Human?

 

spirit revived. This resurrection to life is of two kinds - physical and nonphysical. The prophet Ezekiel speaks of a resurrection of physical people to physical life: "Thus said the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you and you shall live again. I will lay sinews upon you, and cover you with flesh, and form skin over you. And I will put breath into you, and you shall live again. And you shall know that I am the Lord!" (Ezekiel 37:5-6).21 The prophet Daniel writes about people who are raised to live or die forever, "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2).22 Daniel himself is told that he will "rest [die] and will arise [be resurrected] ... at the end of the days" [far in the future] (Daniel 12:13).23 But none of these references speak about an immortal soul, only about the raising of previously physical people who have ceased to exist for some time.

 

20. The Jewish Encyclopedia, s.v. "Immortality of the Soul" (by Kaufman Kohler), http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid= 118&letter=I (accessed December 5, 2006).

 

 

înapoi

Vezi aici un recent interviu cu autorul pe BBC:

Author Barbara Ehrenreich lambasts 'positive thinking'

Page last updated at 00:37 GMT, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/8453345.stm

 

 

înapoi

Monotheism, Theodorus P. van Baaren, Encyclopædia Britannica on line, Page 2 of 20 (The spectrum of views: monotheisms and quasi-monotheisms, The basic monotheistic view):

 

"In monotheistic religions the belief system, the value system, and the action system are all three determined in a significant way by the conception of God as one unique and personal being. Negatively considered, the monotheistic conviction results in the rejection of all other belief systems as false religions, and this rejection partly explains the exceptionally aggressive or intolerant stance of the monotheistic religions in the history of the world. The conception of all other religions as "idolatry" (i.e., as rendering absolute devotion or trust to what is less than divine) has often served to justify the destructive and fanatical action of the religion that is considered to be the only true one."    ^

 

înapoi

"Dacă fratele tău, fiul mamei tale; sau fiul tău sau fiica ta, sau nevasta ta din braţele tale; sau prietenul tău care ţi-e scump ca sufletul tău, te incită pe ascuns spunând, haide să mergem şi să slujim alţi Dumnezei pe care nici tu nici părinţii tăi nu-i cunoscură; (7) adică Dumnezeii popoarelor care vă înconjoară, aproape de tine sau mai departe, de la un capăt al Pământului la altul (8) tu să nu accepţi şi să nu-l asculţi; şi nu trebuie să tăinueşti ce a zis (9) dar trebuie negreşit să-l omori; mâna ta să fie prima asupra lui ucigându-l, şi după aceea a tuturor celorlalţi; (10) şi trebuie să-l omori cu pietre; pentru că a căutat să te abată de la Domnul Dumnezeul tău, care te scoase din ţara Egiptului, din casa robiei." ^  (Deuteronom 13 : 6-10)

înapoi

David Novak (Professor of the Study of Religion, Professor of Philosophy, Chair of Jewish Studies, University of Toronto), articol "Judaism" (The Judaic tradition, Jewish myth and legend, Sources and development, Myth and legend in the Bible), Encyclopædia Britannica, Page 168  of  213:    

 Contemporary interpretations

The tendency to interpret biblical tales and legends as authentic historical records or as allegories or as the relics of solar, lunar, and astral myths is now a thing of the past. The modern folklorist is interested in the legends because they push back to remote antiquity several tales and motifs long known from later literature. For the theologian, however, they pose the deeper problem of distinguishing clearly between the permanent message of Scripture and the form in which it is conveyed. The process of "demythologization" is one of the central concerns of modern religious thought. It recognizes that the natural language of religious truth is myth; thus, the continuing relevance of ancient scriptures depends not on the total rejection of that vehicle but rather on the expansion and remodeling of it - i.e., on "remythologization" rather than demythologization. In the final analysis, the traditional portrayal of God himself is simply a mythical representation of ultimate reality, but that reality transcends the particular images in which it happens to be expressed. At the same time, it is important to note that, whereas in the modern world scriptural myths are generally understood as metaphors, in the ancient world they were accepted as literal statements of fact. Gods, for example, were not merely "personifications" of natural phenomena but rather the effective potencies of the phenomena themselves conceived from the start as personal beings.   ^

(autorul articolului: David Novak (Professor of the Study of Religion, Professor of Philosophy, Chair of Jewish Studies, University of Toronto), articol "Judaism" (The Judaic tradition, Jewish myth and legend, Sources and development, Myth and legend in the Bible), Encyclopædia Britannica, Page 168  of  213). ^        

 

 

 

înapoi

"Dacă fratele tău, fiul mamei tale; sau fiul tău sau fiica ta, sau nevasta ta din braţele tale; sau prietenul tău care ţi-e scump ca sufletul tău, te incită pe ascuns spunând, haide să mergem şi să slujim alţi Dumnezei pe care nici tu nici părinţii tăi nu-i cunoscură; (7) adică Dumnezeii popoarelor care vă înconjoară, aproape de tine sau mai departe, de la un capăt al Pământului la altul (8) tu să nu accepţi şi să nu-l asculţi; şi nu trebuie să tăinueşti ce a zis (9) dar trebuie negreşit să-l omori; mâna ta să fie prima asupra lui ucigându-l, şi după aceea a tuturor celorlalţi; (10) şi trebuie să-l omori cu pietre; pentru că a căutat să te abată de la Domnul Dumnezeul tău, care te scoase din ţara Egiptului, din casa robiei." (Deuteronom 13 : 6-10).

 

 

înapoi

Frederick Fyvie Bruce (Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis, Victoria University of Manchester), articol "biblical literature", "Encyclopædia Britannica", Page 112 of 334:  

 

"The introductory section of Joshua (chapters 1 and 2), in dealing with the Deuteronomist's view of the ideal man of faith - one who is full of courage and faithful to the law that was given to Moses - relates the story of spies sent to Jericho, where they were sheltered by Rahab, a harlot, whose house was spared by the Israelites when they later destroyed the city. In the Gospel According to Matthew, in the New Testament, Rahab is listed as the grandmother of Jesse, the father of David (the architect of the Israelite empire), which may be the reason why this story was included in Joshua. Also in the New Testament, in the Letter to the Hebrews, Rahab is depicted as an example of a person of faith. After the return of the spies, who reported that the people of Canaan were “fainthearted” in the face of the Israelite threat, Joshua launched the invasion of Canaan; the Israelite tribes crossed the Jordan River and encamped at Gilgal, where the males were circumcised after a pile of stones had been erected to commemorate the crossing of the river. ^ They then attacked Jericho and, after the priests marched around it for seven days, utterly destroyed it in a herem; i.e., a holy war in which everything is devoted to destruction. Prior to the Israelites' further conquests it was discovered that Achan, a member of the tribe of Judah, had broken the herem by not devoting everything taken from Jericho to Yahweh. Because he had thus sinned in keeping some of the booty, Achan, his family, and all of his household goods were destroyed and a mound of stones was heaped upon them. The Israelite tribes next conquered Ai, made agreements with the people of the region of Gibeon, and then campaigned against cities to the south, capturing several of them, such as Lachish and Debir, but not Jerusalem or the cities of Philistia on the seacoast. Joshua moved north, first conquering the city of Hazor - a city of political importance - and then defeating a large number (31) of the kings of Canaan, though the conquests of their cities did not necessarily follow." ^ 

 

înapoi

"Antisemitism", Britannica on line, page 2/7:

In the ancient Greco-Roman world, religious differences were the primary basis for anti-Semitism. In the Hellenistic Age, for instance, Jews' social segregation and their refusal to acknowledge the gods worshiped by other peoples aroused resentment among some pagans, particularly in the 1st century BCE–1st century CE. ^ Unlike polytheistic religions, which acknowledge multiple gods, Judaism is monotheistic - it recognizes only one god. However, pagans saw Jews' principled refusal to worship emperors as gods as a sign of disloyalty. Although Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples were practicing Jews and Christianity is rooted in the Jewish teaching of monotheism, Judaism and Christianity became rivals soon after Jesus was crucified by Pontius Pilate, who executed him according to contemporary Roman practice. Religious rivalry was theological. It soon also became political.

 

înapoi

"Judaism", Encyclopaedia Britannica on line 2007: tema despre acuza de omor ritual (blood libel) se află pe pagina 46 (din 213).

 

 

 

 

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Hans Kueng, "Le Judaïsme", Traduit de l'allemand par Joseph Feisthauer, Ouvrage traduit avec le concurs du Centre National du Livre, ÉDITIONS DU SEUIL, 27, rue Jacob, Paris, VIe. Titre original : "Das Judentum",  Éditeur original : R. Piper Verlag, Munich. © original : H. Kueng, © Stephan Schlensog pour les illustrations. ISBN original : 3-492-03496-9. ISBN : 2-02-020189-5. © Éditions du Seuil, février 1995, pour la traduction française.

 

[…]

Mais qu'est-ce donc que ce Dieu dont il est question dans ces récits relatifs aux patriarches? Il est frappant que ces légendes sont liées à des sanctuaires déterminés, surtout à Sichem, Béthel, Hébron et Beersheba. Aussi maints exégètes estiment-ils qu'il

 

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s'agit ici de légendes étiologiques, de légendes fondatrices donc, destinées à légitimer le culte Israélite dans des sanctuaires - peut-être déjà préisraélites, cananéens - parce que Dieu se serait manifesté en ces lieux aux patriarches. Mais une chose est claire : dès le début, le Dieu des patriarches était un Dieu non lié au ciel ni à un sanctuaire ; il est l'unique « Dieu du Père » (ancêtre) à qui il a fait part de ses révélations : le Dieu d'Abraham, le Dieu d'Isaac, le Dieu de Jacob, le Dieu des Pères. Mais, après la sédentarisation, ce Dieu a emprunté des traits au Dieu cananéen El (sous différents noms, comme El Shaddaï), si bien que le Dieu de la Genèse est tout à la fois le Dieu des Pères et El : il se présente et comme Dieu personnel et comme Dieu cosmique29. C'est pourquoi les exégètes critiques s'accordent aujourd'hui à reconnaître que le monothéisme strict ne remonte sans doute pas à l'époque des patriarches, pas plus que l'éthique élevée de la Bible. Historiquement, Abraham a certainement été un hénothéiste, pour qui l'existence de plusieurs dieux allait de soi, mais qui ne reconnaissait comme autorité suprême et obligatoire que son seul Dieu.  ^

Et la circoncision30 ? Ce n'est pas un rite totalement nouveau à l'époque. Elle correspond à un usage très ancien (elle s'effectue avec un couteau en pierre), répandu originellement non seulement en Canaan, chez les voisins sémites d'Israël et en Egypte, mais également en Afrique, en Amérique et en Australie, mais inconnu des Philistins, des Babyloniens et des Assyriens. Elle était pratiquée soit pour des motifs hygiéno-médicaux, soit pour des raisons sociales (rite d'initiation), soit en vertu de considérations religieuses. Chez les Israélites, elle allait de soi depuis la sédentarisation en Canaan, si bien qu'elle n'est même pas citée dans leurs plus anciens textes de lois, et qu'elle n'est mentionnée qu'une fois dans le Lévitique31, sans insistance particulière. Mais, après la chute des royaumes d'Israël et de Juda et l'exil parmi les Babyloniens - qui n'étaient pas circoncis -, cette circoncision (qui jadis allait de soi) devient un signe religieux caractéristique de l'appartenance au peuple d'Israël. C'est alors seulement qu'elle prend sa signification spécifique de marque ineffaçable de l'appartenance à Dieu et de signe de l'Alliance, qui, en Genèse 17, sera présentée sans plus comme prescription divine. […]

 

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Seul le sacrifice de la Pâque82 était sans doute originellement un rite sacrificiel et sanglant pour chasser les démons, tel qu'il était pratiqué à l'occasion de l'ancienne fête nomade du printemps,

 

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pour la protection des nouvelles vies dans les troupeaux...

Mais n'aurions-nous pas tout de même un repère historique dans la première mention, en dehors de la Bible, du nom d'« Israël », sur la célèbre stèle hiéroglyphique du pharaon Merenptah83, le fils et successeur de Ramsès II, qui régna de 1224 à 1204 ? Or elle ne dit rien, elle non plus, de la déconvenue du pharaon et de sa troupe lancés à la poursuite des Israélites, puis surpris par le retour de la mer, tandis qu'ils traversaient une lagune. Au contraire, il y est fait état de la victoire de Merenptah sur les Libyens et de ses répercussions sur « Israël » aussi qui, à en croire le texte de la stèle, était en friche et n'avait pas de semence... Rien d'autre. Il n'est pas davantage fait état d'un homme du nom de Moïse, sur la naissance84 de qui on a manifestement reporté une légende déjà connue des Suméro-Akkadiens, racontant la survie du jeune héros exposé. Cette légende apparaît pour la première fois à propos du roi Sargon Ier d'Akkad - dans la seconde moitié du IIIe millénaire av. J.-C.85 !

Que faut-il en conclure? Réponse : tout comme le récit du choix d'Abraham, d'Isaac et de Jacob, ceux de la sortie d'Egypte, de l'alliance conclue sur la montagne de Dieu et de l'entrée dans la terre promise n'ont d'abord été transmis qu'oralement. Puisque les autres peuples ne connaissent manifestement rien de ces événements et qu'en Israël même les traditions écrites ne prennent une réelle importance qu'au début de la période royale (au plus tôt), ces événements fondateurs de l'histoire des origines d'Israël ne peuvent guère faire l'objet de vérifications historiques. Dans ces conditions, pas très favorables, se pose la question fondamentale :

 

3. Comment manier les sources ?

Nous ne pouvons éluder la question : le lecteur d'aujourd'hui, que doit-il faire de ces récits? Oui, que peuvent bien faire aujourd'hui le juif, le chrétien ou le musulman avec leurs propres traditions, récits, légendes et mythes anciens? Les différentes attitudes possibles sont faciles à définir : […]

 

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traditions, de la rédaction et de l'effet produit ; et encore tous les résultats des fouilles archéologiques (surtout la stratigraphie) et des recherches de surface ; enfin, les résultats récents, très instructifs, des sciences sociales et de l'approche structuraliste. Il nous faut récuser tout monisme méthodologique.

Les laïcs l'ignorent souvent : ce que la science biblique moderne - suscitant ainsi d'autres sciences qu'elle a mises à contribution (philologie classique, égyptologie, assyriologie, etc.) - a réalisé en trois cents ans de travail scientifique minutieux fait partie des plus grandes conquêtes intellectuelles de l'humanité87. En dehors de la tradition juive et chrétienne, quelle autre grande religion du monde a entrepris des recherches aussi minutieuses et aussi objectives sur ses propres fondements et sa propre histoire ? Aucune, loin s'en faut. La Bible est de loin le livre le mieux étudié de toute la littérature mondiale. Pas une phrase qui ne fasse l'objet d'innombrables commentaires scientifiques modernes dans les langues les plus diverses. Pas un mot qui ne fasse l'objet d'explications dans de nombreux dictionnaires et manuels philologiques et historiques. Pas un nom au sujet duquel nous ne disposions d'études plus ou moins exhaustives. Pas un thème qui n'ait bénéficié des éclairages les plus divers - philologiques, historiques, psychologiques, sociologiques, théologiques. Des bibliothèques entières, dont on ne saurait prendre toute la mesure, ont été écrites sur ce seul livre, que l'on appelle tout simplement « la Bible » (du grec biblia, « les livres »)88.

Et en ce qui concerne spécialement la Bible hébraïque, appelée Tenak en hébreu - abréviation formée des premières lettres T = Tora (Loi) ; N = Newiim (Prophètes) ; K = Ketuwim (Écrits) -, Ancien Testament par les chrétiens, l'un des acquis de la recherche biblique chrétienne moderne très généralement admis est la distinction critique de différentes sources écrites du Pentateuque (appelé autrefois les « Cinq Livres de Moïse »), qui raconte l'histoire de la création du monde à la mort de Moïse. Le processus de formation du seul livre de la Genèse s'est probablement étendu sur un demi-millénaire89.

Sur fond de cette critique, qui ne cesse de s'affiner, il faut dire que la situation des sources est très défavorable pour l'époque précédant la création de l'État d'Israël, dans les deux à trois

 

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derniers siècles du IIe millénaire av. J.-C. - contrairement à l'histoire qui suit la création de l'État, au Ier millénaire av. J.-C. Israël n'était encore qu'un peuple en devenir, à peine pris en compte par ses grands voisins. […]

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[…] Mais Yehezkel Kaufmann, qui ne tient pas compte des résultats de la recherche historico-critique, ne répond pas à une question : en était-il ainsi dès le commencement? Ce sont surtout des chercheurs allemands comme Albrecht Alt, Martin Noth, Otto Eissfeld et Gerhard von Rad95, qui, à l'aide de la méthode historico-critique, au prix d'un travail aussi fastidieux que minutieux, ont dessiné et affiné l'image de la religion Israélite devenue classique. Leur critique historique, qui prenait déjà en compte les aspects littéraires et sociologiques, doit accepter de se laisser compléter non seulement par l'archéologie - surtout conduite par des chercheurs français, anglais, américains et israéliens -, mais aussi par des méthodes en usage dans les sciences littéraires et sociales (surtout développées en Amérique), qui prennent aussi la Bible au sérieux comme œuvre littéraire et comme document sociologique96.

Un résultat important de la recherche la plus récente : l'image du développement de la foi en Dieu en Israël s'est affinée. A partir de nombreuses indications indirectes dans les livres des Rois et des Chroniques, mais aussi à travers la polémique des prophètes, en prenant en compte les découvertes archéologiques (il existe partout, par exemple, de nombreuses représentations de dieux et de déesses) et certains noms de lieux (par exemple, Bet-Anat, « temple d'Anat »), la recherche actuelle tient pour acquis que le polythéisme était très répandu en Israël jusqu'à l'exil de Babylone.   ^  En d'autres termes (c'est surtout l'historien américain Morton Smith97 qui l'a mis en lumière), le strict monothéisme biblique n'a pu s'imposer qu'au terme de longues luttes et rivalités. Il nous faut notamment admettre, dans la perspective qui est la nôtre aujourd'hui, « une série de révolutions successives, se suivant relativement rapidement, dans le sens du

 

56

 

monothéisme » (O. Keel98). Bernhard Lang99, spécialiste allemand de l'Ancien Testament, a cherché à les définir plus exactement (mais ici il faut encore davantage faire la distinction entre l'existence d'autres dieux à l'intérieur ou à l'extérieur d'Israël).

 

- Au IXe siècle, au début de l'époque monarchique d'Israël, se mène la lutte contre le dieu de Tyr, Baal, au profit de l'unique dieu national Israélite, Yahvé : c'est Yahvé au lieu de Baal; dans le royaume du Nord c'est le fait des prophètes Élie et Elisée et - après le coup d'État - du nouveau roi, Jéhu ; dans le même temps, dans le royaume du Sud, nous avons les réformes des rois Asa et Josaphat.

- Au VIIe siècle, cette vénération du seul Yahvé s'impose. L'existence d'autres dieux en dehors d'Israël n'est toujours pas niée, mais en Israël, le seul peuple de l'Alliance, il s'impose de vénérer exclusivement Yahvé (et non pas Baal, ou, plus tard, Zeus), dans un culte divin exclusif. On aboutit au programme de réforme du roi Josias : purification et centralisation du culte, la nouvelle ordonnance du culte se voyant promulguée loi d'État

- Au vie siècle, enfin, cette vénération exclusive de Yahvé se développe en strict monothéisme qui en vient maintenant à nier l'existence d'autres dieux : la conquête de Jérusalem par les Babyloniens est interprétée comme châtiment des four voiements polythéistes et l'on entreprend la rédaction des anciennes écritures dans une ligne strictement monothéiste.

Il s'agit donc d'une évolution du polythéisme vers le monothéisme, en passant par la monolâtrie, mais pour Israël lui-même on attache très tôt une grande importance au lien exclusif à l'unique « Yahvé jaloux », ce qui excluait tout culte des dieux étrangers, des idoles ou des astres. […]  ^ 

 

 

 

 

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[…]

1. L'Exode : le peuple et l'élection

Le cycle de l'Exode2, qui témoigne d'un grand art littéraire, est tout sauf transparent, à maints égards3. Entre l'époque de Joseph, où, selon la tradition biblique, les onze autres fils de Jacob sont également descendus en Egypte avec leur père, et l'époque de Moïse, où les Israélites ont quitté l'Egypte, quatre générations seulement se sont écoulées selon la tradition biblique4. Mais on ne voit pas bien comment Israël aurait pu devenir un grand peuple en si peu de temps. Certains indices laissent aussi penser que quelques tribus ou peuples, que la Genèse fait descendre des patriarches, existaient déjà à l'époque des patriarches. C'est pourquoi les exégètes contemporains supposent que les noms des douze fils de Jacob étaient originairement les noms de douze tribus, d'où l'on a conclu plus tard à l'existence de douze aïeux portant les mêmes noms5. Ce qui aurait pour conséquence qu'il ne serait guère possible de faire remonter historiquement la fédération des douze tribus à un ancêtre commun.

Par ailleurs, les spécialistes s'accordent pour reconnaître que toutes les futures tribus d'Israël n'étaient certainement pas en Egypte avant l'entrée en Palestine. Ce ne peut avoir été le cas que de certaines familles ou groupes de familles, appelés groupe de l'Exode, troupe de Yahvé ou troupe de Moïse. Ce sont eux qui ont fait, dans le nord ou le nord-est de la presqu'île du Sinaï, des expériences singulières concernant un Dieu Yahvé, qui était inconnu en Canaan. Ce sont eux qui l'ont fait connaître en Palestine. La foi en Yahvé, devenue si déterminante pour tout Israël, repose donc sur les expériences d'un groupe à l'origine relativement réduit.

Mais qu'est-ce qui s'est passé exactement sous Ramsès II et sous son fils et successeur, en relation avec la construction de villes dans le delta du Nil? Nous n'en savons rien. Les circonstances plus précises de l'Exode, la route suivie exactement (une ou plusieurs ?) et les événements en relation avec une Mer des Roseaux, tout cela nous reste inaccessible dans sa teneur historique véritable. Les différentes sources du Pentateuque

 

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rapportent d'ailleurs de façon très différente les mêmes événements. Et en ce qui concerne ces époques anciennes, les récits bibliques ont été l'objet de remaniements successifs, et donc aussi de réinterprétations théologiques, jusqu'après l'Exil. La tradition d'abord seulement orale et les sources écrites relativement tardives, qui apparaissent peu fiables antérieurement à l'Exil, ne permettent que très difficilement de déterminer ce qui est histoire et ce qui est poésie, ce qui n'est éventuellement qu'interprétation ou construction théologique tardive. Mais c'est là, précisément, que devrait faire ses preuves une recherche prenant en compte les méthodes littéraires, archéologiques et de sociologie culturelle.

Si nous nous en tenons d'abord simplement aux données qui se sont avérées porteuses d'histoire, à ce qui est devenu le fondement de la façon dont le futur peuple d'Israël s'est compris lui-même, une chose est parfaitement claire : outre la promesse aux patriarches et l'alliance avec Abraham, le souvenir d'une libération du peuple de la servitude d'Egypte, souvenir qui n'a cessé de s'enrichir et de s'approfondir, est absolument déterminant. Quelle qu'ait été la réalité historique sous-jacente, Israël a compris plus tard sa naissance en termes d'élection, de salut et de libération du peuple, qu'il attribue au Dieu un. du nom de Yahvé.

Un mot à propos de ce nom de Dieu : dans la Bible hébraïque, on le sait, le nom propre de Dieu est noté par les quatre consonnes, le tétragramme YHVH (Yahvé(h), forme abrégée Yah)6. Mais dans les derniers siècles avant notre ère, par crainte respectueuse, les juifs ne prononçaient plus ce nom. Il fut remplacé le plus souvent par le mot Adonai (Seigneur), dont on superposa les voyelles aux quatre consonnes YHVH : c'est ainsi que les théologiens du Moyen Age (et les « Témoins de Jéhovah » aujourd'hui encore) ont lu de façon erronée « Jého-vah ». Je prie le lecteur juif de bien vouloir me comprendre si je m'en tiens ici à la consigne originelle qui interdisait, certes, de représenter Yahvé, mais non de prononcer son nom, que les juifs se refusent toujours à prononcer, le remplaçant le plus souvent par Adonai (Seigneur) ou Hachem (le Nom).

Mais que signifie ce nom qui revient plus de 6 800 fois dans la Bible hébraïque ? Lors de sa vocation, devant le Buisson ardent, […]

 

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2. Le Sinaï : Alliance et Loi

« Et maintenant, si vous entendez ma voix et gardez mon alliance, vous serez ma part personnelle parmi tous les peuples - puisque c'est à moi qu'appartient toute la terre - et vous serez pour moi un royaume de prêtres et une nation sainte10.

Qu'est-ce qui se cache derrière le cycle du « Sinaï », qui ne figure pas dans certains résumés bibliques des actions salvifiques de Dieu et a donc pu constituer originellement une tradition indépendante ? Qu'est-ce qui se cache surtout derrière les récits de la théophanie de Yahvé, le Décalogue11 et la conclusion de l'Alliance12?

Là encore, historiquement, il n'y a pas grand-chose de certain. Pas plus que la route suivie dans la marche vers la montagne de Dieu, cette montagne de Dieu elle-même ne peut être identifiée de façon certaine : s'agit-il effectivement du mont Sinaï, situé dans la presqu'île du même nom, au sud d'Israël, comme cela semblait aller de soi, surtout pour la tradition chrétienne postérieure ? Ou s'agit-il, au contraire, du mont Horeb, au nord-est d'Israël, ou d'un autre encore comme d'aucuns l'ont aussi suggéré ? Et en ce qui concerne la montagne de Dieu : devons-nous conclure de ce récit que Yahvé était peut-être au départ un dieu de la montagne du désert? Celui qui se révèle ainsi dans le feu et le tremblement de terre aurait-il quelque rapport avec une montagne volcanique ? Toutes questions qui soulignent simplement que nous ne savons rien de certain sur le lieu d'origine de la révélation de Dieu. A strictement parler nous devrions toujours mettre « Sinaï » entre guillemets.

Que reste-t-il donc? Ce qui m'apparaît toujours le plus convaincant, c'est qu'à l'origine la tradition de la montagne de Dieu était une tradition autonome, destinée à illustrer la relation particulière entre Yahvé et Israël13. L'important, en effet, c'est

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que, sur cette montagne de Dieu, quelle qu'en soit la localisation exacte, s'est instaurée une relation particulière entre Yahvé et la troupe de Yahvé, l'Israël originel. Et si l'on n'entend pas refuser tout noyau historique à la tradition de la montagne de Dieu dans sa forme originelle, il faut accepter ce point de départ : entre la sortie d'Egypte et l'entrée en Palestine, on en est venu à une relation particulière, exclusive, entre le peuple - sous la forme, d'abord, de la troupe de Moïse ou du groupe de l'Exode - et ce Dieu - c'est pourquoi nous l'appelons précisément la troupe de Yahvé.

Il est assez improbable que cette troupe de Yahvé ait déjà elle-même compris explicitement cette expérience de Dieu comme « alliance ». Mais nous pouvons affirmer, en tout cas, que cette expérience de l'Exode et du « Sinaï » fonde ce qui s'appellera ultérieurement « alliance ». La réalité de l'Alliance existait longtemps avant que le mot « alliance » (utilisé 287 fois) ne soit utilisé pour la signifier. La réalité - ce qui attache définitivement ce peuple à Yahvé et institue donc une communion, une solidarité - précède le concept. Puis, à l'époque du « Deutéronome », au VIIe siècle, une époque de crise, sous l'impulsion des prophètes, de la réaction anticananéenne et du mouvement de libération nationale, le mot hébreu berit (qui, dans le domaine profane, désigne simplement une relation juridique entre deux parties, à égalité de droits ou non) deviendra le concept central d'une théologie de l'Alliance14. « Alliance » signifie maintenant choix plénier de Dieu, seigneurie de Dieu et solidarité durable de Dieu avec son peuple. Cette alliance est maintenant le pacte exclusif, indissoluble, obligeant les deux parties, entre Dieu et ce peuple. Par cette alliance, qui témoigne sans ambiguïté que le Dieu un s'est penché de façon incomparable, irrévocable, vers son peuple, Israël se différencie on ne peut plus nettement des religions polythéistes, mythiques, déifiant les forces de la nature, des peuples qui l'entourent. C'est ainsi qu'Israël comprend maintenant, rétrospectivement, toute son histoire : après l'« alliance » avec Abraham15, un simple particulier, alliance confirmée avec son fils Isaac16 et avec le fils de ce dernier, Jacob17, voici maintenant l'alliance avec tout le peuple, qui passe manifestement avant l'individu. Yahvé est le Dieu d'Israël et Israël est son peuple. […]

 

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Bien qu'ils aient fait l'objet des recherches littéraires, archéologiques et sociologiques les plus intenses, il est bien difficile, là encore, de tirer au clair ce qui se cache historiquement derrière les récits de la « prise du pays » (pour garder une formule neutre). Deux affirmations pourraient faire l'objet d'un assez large consensus parmi les spécialistes :

1. Le théâtre de l'histoire biblique, la terre de Palestine, avait déjà une histoire millénaire quand les Israélites commencèrent à coloniser le pays : à l'époque du bronze tardif, 1500-1250 av. J. C. - sous la suzeraineté nominale de l'Egypte -, elle semble avoir été recouverte d'un tissu de villes-États agricoles, chacune sous les ordres d'un « roi ». C'était un pays dont la culture était loin d'être insignifiante. Bien que de population très mêlée, il était sans doute habité surtout par des cananéens sémites, mais aussi, dans la plaine côtière du Sud, par des Philistins, un « peuple de la mer » venu d'Agaïs (la Crète), qui donnera son nom au pays : « Palestine » - dénomination gréco-romaine de la province, dérivée de « philistin », en araméen Pelista'im26.

2. Israël ne constituait pas encore une unité politique autonome : malgré les récits bibliques du livre de Josué, chap.1-12, la prise de possession du pays par les Israélites ne peut pas avoir été le fait de l'action guerrière, relativement rapide, d'une fédéra tion des douze tribus (qui n'existait sans doute pas encore à cette époque sous cette forme unifiée). Elle aura plutôt été le fait d'un processus complexe, bien plus long, se situant aux XIIe-XIe siècles, peut-être déjà au XIIIe siècle (du point de vue archéologique, le bronze tardif, éventuellement le fer ancien). Mais - telle est la question historique - comment cette « prise du pays » s'est-elle faite ? Aucun autre problème de l'histoire d'Israël n'est aussi discuté entre spécialistes que celui-là. Nous aurons l'occasion de

 

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revenir, dans des perspectives historiques, sur les différents modèles proposés. […]

 

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1. La prise de possession du pays - trois essais de reconstruction

Comment se présentait - selon l'état actuel des recherches - le premier paradigme, la constellation originelle d'Israël, qui devint et reste fondatrice pour toute l'histoire? Une brève esquisse suffira. Nous prenons en compte, d'abord, toutes les contestations, au plan historique, dont nous avons fait état dans les chapitres précédents : sont contestés le séjour en Egypte de l'ensemble des futures douze tribus, puis leur « départ » et leur présence à la montagne de Dieu. Sont contestées la migration à travers le désert, et donc la représentation de tout Israël comme « peuple de Dieu émigré » - représentation importante jusque dans la future Lettre chrétienne aux Hébreux. Est évidemment contestée aussi la durée de cette « errance » - prétendument quarante ans (chiffre si souvent symbolique !), en signe de châtiment, jusqu'à extinction de la génération rebelle. Mais sont contestées aussi la plupart des données relatives à la « prise de possession du pays ». Selon Roland de Vaux, pendant de longues années directeur de l'École biblique de Jérusalem et l'un des meilleurs connaisseurs de cette histoire, la prise de possession du pays est « le problème [...] le plus difficile de toute l'histoire d'Israël3».

Les spécialistes ne s'accordent aujourd'hui que sur un seul

 

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point : la prise de possession du pays n'a sans doute pas été le fait d'une sorte de « guerre éclair », comme le racontent les douze premiers chapitres du livre de Josué, où il n'est de toute façon question que de la conquête du centre de la Palestine. ^ Il faut toujours se souvenir que dans tous ces récits bibliques il ne s'agit jamais simplement dhistoire » (history), mais dhistoires » (stories).  ^

Pour l'essentiel, les spécialistes font état de trois modèles de reconstruction historique de la prise de possession du pays, mais ils gardent tous un caractère plus ou moins hypothétique4.

 

- Le modèle de la conquête (immigration par vagues) 

Ce modèle, qui repose surtout sur les données archéologiques, fait l'hypothèse d'une prise de possession du pays s'étalant sur une longue période, qui serait le fait de plusieurs vagues de nomades guerriers en provenance du désert - il est surtout représenté par les archéologues américains, W. F. Albright et G. E. Wright5. Mais aujourd'hui ce modèle n'a plus guère d'adeptes, parce que les découvertes ultérieures l'ont contre dit. Des villes comme Jéricho et Aï étaient sans doute déjà en ruine depuis longtemps à l'époque de la conquête et ne

peuvent donc pas avoir été conquises, comme le rapporte Jos 6-8. Nombre de lieux évoqués dans la Bible ne présentent aucun reste de l'époque du bronze tardif et nombre de régions cananéennes n'offrent aucun témoignage d'une colonisation antérieure au xe siècle.

 

- Le modèle de l'immigration  (infiltration progressive) 

Ce modèle, qui prend appui sur l'histoire des traditions, ébauché par A. Alt et M. Noth6, et développé par beaucoup d'autres, suppose une sédentarisation pacifique successive de nomades éleveurs de petit bétail, dans les steppes et en bordure du désert, à l'occasion de la « transhumance », de la migration saisonnière (été sans pluie). Cette hypothèse a été récemment l'objet de critiques d'ordre sociologique surtout, parce qu'avant la domestication du chameau - dont la datation diffère, il est vrai, de plusieurs siècles, selon les experts ! - la vie dans le désert même n'a sans doute guère été possible : les bergers ou les nomades n'auraient donc pas pu venir de l'intérieur du désert.

 

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- Le modèle du bouleversement social (révolution ou évolution intrapalestinienne)

Ce modèle sociologique, d'abord proposé par G. E. Mendenhall7, puis développé et « politisé » par N. K. Gottwald, comme « modèle révolutionnaire8 », enfin modifié pour devenir pratiquement un « modèle évolution-niste9», a d'abord été le mieux accueilli, au moins en Amérique. Gottwald - d'abord marqué trop unilatéralement par la théorie sociale marxiste - ne parle plus aujourd'hui d'un bouleversement soudain, mais plutôt d'une évolution lente et progressive. La prise de possession du pays devrait ainsi se comprendre dans le cadre non d'une invasion par des nomades venus de l'extérieur, mais d'un processus d'évolution de la population, à l'intérieur, à l'époque du bronze tardif, autour de 2000. Les discussions continuent pour savoir:

 

• s'il s'est agi d'un mouvement pacifique de décrochage des fermiers et métayers non libres, qui se seraient soustraits à l'exploitation par les villes-États cananéennes en allant s'installer dans des villages nouvellement créés de la région montagneuse (Mendenhall),

• ou bien s'il s'est agi d'un combat plus politique et d'une révolte directe de fermiers organisés en tribus, mais aussi de nomades pasteurs, de mercenaires et de « hors-la-loi » (apiru), qui se seraient retournés directement contre les villes cananéennes, très mal gérées à cette époque, et contre leurs couches dominantes (Gottwald).

 

Mais des objections de poids ont également été soulevées contre ce modèle sociologique, dont l'archéologue israélien Finkelstein donne une présentation d'ensemble10. Les recherches archéologiques les plus récentes, ainsi que d'importantes données démographiques et ethnographiques, « contredisent la théorie selon laquelle les Israélites auraient été des mécontents fuyant la collectivité cananéenne » ; les données les plus récentes suggèrent plutôt « que les nouveaux colons qui s'installèrent dans les régions montagneuses au début de l'âge du fer étaient issus d'un contexte pastoral (« pastoralist background ») (p. 352). Finkelstein en déduit, avec quelques modifications importantes11, qu'en fin de compte « l'hypothèse d'Alt, qui voit dans la prise de possession du pays par les Israélites une installation pacifique dans

 

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les régions moins peuplées du pays, concorde le mieux avec les résultats des études sur le terrain entreprises plusieurs décennies après lui12 ».

Tel est, pour l'essentiel, l'état actuel de la discussion, qui n'est pas close. Mais dans toute cette affaire ne faudrait-il pas prendre plus au sérieux les témoignages littéraires bibliques ? […]

 

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[…]

Et le nom d'« Israël » ? Désormais, Juda, le royaume du Sud, qui survit, le revendiquera pour lui seul. Bien que Juda soit de loin la partie la plus faible de l'héritage davidique, politiquement et économiquement, on voit maintenant en lui le seul héritier non seulement de l'État davidique et de son idéologie, mais aussi de la tradition religieuse de l'État d'Israël et de son culte. Dès le début, en effet, on ne s'était pas résigné, à Jérusalem, à la division de l'État et on continuait à rêver d'une récupération de la Samarie, l'État du Nord. Mais y avait-il place pour une troisième grande puissance entre l'Egypte et la Mésopotamie ? L'appel au secours du roi de Jérusalem Achaz à l'Assyrie eut aussi des conséquences pour son État de Juda. Juda s'était placé volontairement, même si ce n'était pas sans nécessité, sous la dépendance des Assyriens, et quand on tenta, là aussi, de se soulever, il n'en devint que plus inexorablement un vassal de l'Empire assyrien. Les divinités et les cultes assyriens étaient aussi maintenant partout présents en Juda, jusque dans le Temple de Jérusalem. Le déclin puis la chute de la puissance assyrienne au VIIe siècle valut une nouvelle fois un certain répit au royaume de Juda. C'est ce répit que chercha à mettre à profit le roi Josias (639-609), en qui certains voient le seul roi vraiment de la race de David, qui monta sur le trône dès l'âge de huit ans et qui estimera le temps venu d'une réforme fondamentale du culte106. Comment se présentait-elle ? Au VIIe siècle av. J.-C. se manifestèrent partout, de l'Egypte à la Mésopotamie, des tendances à la restauration : restauration de temples, d'écrits anciens, de littérature ; un retour, donc, aux temps anciens, y compris dans la religion et dans la politique107. Vers la fin du siècle - après une première tentative de réforme religieuse entreprise par le roi Ézéchias, au début du siècle -, un événement fit sensation à Jérusalem : en 621, à l'occasion des travaux de rénovation du Temple de Salomon, dans des circonstances qui restent assez obscures, on découvrit un livre qui y avait été entreposé, dont on ne connaissait pas l'origine : une mouture ancienne du « Deutéronome » - « la deuxième Loi » -, comme on l'appellera ultérieurement108. Il s'agissait d'un code de lois, qui avait sans doute été rédigé peu de temps auparavant (peut-être dans le royaume du Nord, puis apporté à Jérusalem où on l'aurait retravaillé) sous influence sacerdotale et

 

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prophétique, mais qui se faisait passer pour le grand discours d'adieu de Moïse avant l'entrée dans le pays et que l'on considéra donc généralement comme tel109. Le livre originel (le « Deutéronome primitif » découvert à cette occasion, et donc aussi la réforme qui y était annoncée) était sans doute plus court que le livre biblique actuel.

À l'époque du roi Josias on crut en tout cas y entendre la parole immédiate de Yahvé, qui exigeait donc une obéissance inconditionnelle. Le roi lui-même - après avoir pris conseil auprès de la prophétesse Houlda - fut le premier à considérer sérieusement le message de Moïse : il en fit la lecture publique lors d'une réunion dans le Temple et conclut solennellement une nouvelle alliance entre Yahvé et son peuple, alliance qui signifiait pour le roi lui-même une sorte d'engagement à observer une constitution.

C'est ainsi que Josias apparaît dans la Bible hébraïque comme le réformateur. Quelles furent les conséquences de cette « réforme deutéronomiste » ? Le Temple était considéré depuis longtemps comme la résidence de Dieu et donc saint. Progressivement, cette sainteté s'étendit à la colline du Temple, puis à toute la ville de Jérusalem - ou de « Sion », son nom poétique. Selon le Deutéronome, le Dieu qui est au-dessus de l'univers fait «habiter son nom110» dans le saint des saints du Temple. « Chekhina », l'« habitation », signifie qu'en ce lieu le rayonnement de Dieu se manifeste souverainement et dangereusement pour quiconque n'est pas autorisé à s'en approcher - c'est un « mysterium tremendum et fascinosum ».

C'est alors seulement que le culte sacrificiel se concentre entièrement sur Jérusalem et sur son Temple, que tous les prêtres de Yahvé du pays sont appelés à Jérusalem (où ils deviennent une sorte de clergé de second ordre, qui n'a pas accès au service sacrificiel).  ^  On procède en même temps à une « purification » des cultes païens et syncrétistes, de leurs autels, ustensiles, représentations et symboles - dans le Temple, dans la ville sainte, dans tout le pays de Juda et même dans certaines régions du royaume du Nord. On procède à une réorganisation de tout l'édifice cultuel israélite - un renouvellement surtout de la fête de la Pâque -, qui ne se réduisait pas à une « restauration » de l'ancien. Le programme d'unité et de pureté cultuelle ainsi mis en œuvre était en fait nouveau et orienté vers l'avenir. Il

 

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s'agissait d'une réforme politico-religieuse - toujours dans l'espérance, il est vrai, de la nouvelle unité « davidique » entre royaume du Nord et royaume du Sud -, sous le signe de l' « élection » et de l'« Alliance » (berit) ; c'est alors seulement - nous l'avons vu - que ce mot devient un concept clé central de la pensée religieuse en Israël et Juda. Il ne faudrait pas oublier que l'« élection » se situe dans une perspective fortement religieuse-nationale et exclusive, contre les autres peuples, mais que le caractère obligatoire de l'Alliance se traduit maintenant dans un livre de codification des lois, manifestement porteur aussi de tendances humanitaires.

La réforme de ce roi si prometteur, si doué et si énergique se terminera néanmoins tragiquement. Entre-temps, en effet, au terme d'âpres combats, Assur (614) et Ninive (612) avaient été conquises et totalement détruites par une coalition des Mèdes et des Babyloniens (le prophète Nahum l'avait annoncé). Trois ans plus tard, le pharaon Néchao II part en campagne en direction du nord - pour intervenir en Mésopotamie aux côtés de ce qui reste de l'armée assyrienne à Haran. Le roi Josias eut l'audace de barrer la route au pharaon, à Megiddo. Les Égyptiens s'emparèrent de lui dans des circonstances obscures - avant même le début de la bataille - et l'exécutèrent sur-le-champ - il n'avait que quarante ans. C'en était fait de la réforme en Juda. Et pourtant les événements qui avaient entouré la réforme de Josias s'étaient profondément gravés dans la mémoire du peuple. Le « livre de la Loi » - c'est la première fois dans l'histoire de la religion israélite qu'un livre révélé, considéré dès l'abord comme « saint », a joué un rôle décisif! - ne sera pas sans avenir, mais seulement après la catastrophe.

Le pays se retrouvait sous la souveraineté égyptienne, qui ne tardera pas à être relayée elle-même par une autre puissance : l'Empire néobabylonien, aussi appelé chaldéen, en raison de l'origine araméenne de Nabopolassar, son fondateur. Politiquement, après Josias, nous n'assistons plus qu'à l'épilogue de la royauté. Il n'y avait pas place pour un État-tampon entre les deux grandes puissances qui louvoyaient politiquement au nord et au sud. La fin du royaume du Sud était aussi arrivée - à peine un siècle et demi après la disparition du royaume du Nord. Quand le roi Joiaqîm chercha à se libérer de la suzeraineté de

 

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Babylone, les troupes babyloniennes occupèrent le pays et assiégèrent Jérusalem - en 598-597. Seule l'ouverture des portes par le roi Joiakîn, qui avait succédé à son père Joiaqîm pendant le siège, permit d'éviter la destruction. Les Babyloniens pillèrent la ville et le Temple, emportant à Babylone les trésors de ce dernier, et ils déportèrent le jeune roi, son harem et tous ceux qui appartenaient aux couches dirigeantes (officiers, princes, prêtres, artisans) - la proverbiale «élite des dix mille111», parmi lesquels le futur prophète Ézéchiel.

Mais quand, dix ans plus tard, sous l'influence de courtisans favorables à l'Egypte, le roi Sédécias, nouvellement installé par les Babyloniens, croit pouvoir une nouvelle fois se révolter contre l'empire néobabylonien - en dépit des mises en garde incessantes du prophète Jérémie, dont la vocation prophétique remontait à la treizième année du roi Josias -, les Babyloniens reviennent, cette fois sous la conduite du prince héritier Nabuchodonosor II, le fils de Nabopolassar. Nous sommes en l'année 587-586 : la ville est à nouveau assiégée, puis prise d'assaut et pillée - sans que les Égyptiens interviennent. Le Temple de Salomon est détruit par les flammes et avec lui sans doute aussi la vieille Arche d'alliance, qui ne présentait aucun intérêt pour les Babyloniens.

Cette fois, les conquérants vont jusqu'au bout : ils rasent la ville et « déportent le reste du peuple qui demeurait encore dans la ville » ; ils crèvent les yeux de Sédécias, après avoir égorgé sous ses yeux ses fils et quelques-uns de ses courtisans ; enchaîné, il est traîné à Babylone112, où il trouvera la mort113. Quant au prophète Jérémie, que Sédécias avait jeté en prison pour haute trahison, il est libéré par les Babyloniens. A l'inverse des Assyriens dans le royaume du Nord, les Babyloniens n'installent pas de colons étrangers en Juda. L'ami de Jérémie, le Judéen Godolias, est nommé gouverneur du pays : il gouverne intelligemment, mais trois ans après il est assassiné dans sa résidence de Miçpa par un fanatique de la maison royale. Par peur des représailles, Jérémie, en compagnie des habitants de Miçpa, fuit en Egypte, où il meurt - sans que nous sachions quand et comment.

Ce fut la fin de la royauté davidique, et donc de l'organisation politique-étatique qui avait été celle d'Israël jusque-là. Ce fut la

 

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fin - abstraction faite de l'intermède des Maccabées - de l'indépendance de l'État politique du peuple juif - pour deux millénaires et demi, jusqu'au milieu du xxe siècle. On comprendra que le neuf du mois d'Av (juillet-août) soit resté un jour de deuil national, mais aussi que nombre de juifs aient vu revivre dans l'Etat d'Israël, sous David Ben Gourion, le royaume davidique et salomonien de jadis - l'âge d'or d'Israël. […]

 

III.  LE PARADIGME THEOCRATIQUE DU JUDAÏSME POSTEXILIQUE

Il est plus qu'étonnant que le peuple juif ait survécu à la disparition de toutes les institutions étatiques. S'agit-il d'un simple fait biologique, ou plutôt d'un continuum à fondement psychologique, ou même d'un miracle historique ? Non, la survie du peuple juif renvoie à la survie de la religion juive : la foi dans le Dieu unique de ce peuple.

 

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1. Exil et nouvelle espérance

C'est à une crise proprement abyssale qu'avait conduit l'effondrement du paradigme royal davidique : le Temple réduit en cendres, les murs de la ville détruits, la fin du royaume davidique dont on pensait qu'il avait reçu promesse d'éternité, Juda occupé par des troupes étrangères, l'élite judéenne exécutée ou déportée. La condition de l'élection du peuple et de la promesse du pays avait été l'accomplissement, par Israël, des obligations de l'Alliance114 ! Les menaces des grands prophètes, des prophètes authentiques, si gênants, s'étaient donc réalisées, et ils n'avaient plus à se soucier, maintenant, de leur légitimation (personne ne parlait plus des prophètes de cour, qui se conformaient au système, et nul ne songeait à recueillir leurs paroles) : le royaume des dix tribus avait sombré, et un si grand nombre de Judéens avaient été déportés à Babylone ! Qu'il était difficile de « chanter un chant du Seigneur en terre étrangère, au bord des fleuves de Babylone115 » ! Aussi beaucoup doutèrent-ils de la puissance de Yahvé et se tournèrent-ils vers les anciens dieux cananéens ou les nouveaux dieux babyloniens - en Palestine et à Babylone ! Les cultes étrangers, les cultes syncrétistes, la superstition, la magie étaient omniprésents, aux côtés du culte de Yahvé.

L'exil babylonien (en hébreu, gola, la « condition de déporté »116) allait durer près de cinquante ans (586-538), et nombre d'Israélites - surtout ceux qui avaient fui en Egypte - ne pensaient plus à retourner en Israël. C'est le début de la dispersion d'Israël, de la diaspora, qui restera une réalité historique jusqu'à nos jours. Depuis lors, Israël vit une tension entre la patrie et la diaspora. Mais de cette diaspora sont toujours venues des impulsions nouvelles des plus importantes. Dès cette date, il apparaît clairement que la patrie et la terre étrangère sont toutes deux authentiquement porteuses des traditions israélites plus anciennes.

Une chose est claire : la fin du royaume davidique n'a pas marqué la fin du peuple d'Israël. Au contraire, le temps de l'exil babylonien fut précisément l'occasion pour ce peuple de faire

 

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preuve d'une indépendance intérieure étonnante, et pour ses forces vives de témoigner d'une créativité spirituelle stupéfiante. À Babylone - contrairement à ce qui s'était passé jadis avec les Assyriens, qui dispersaient les déportés dans tout le pays, pour liquider ethniquement et politiquement l'élite du peuple -, les exilés étaient autorisés à vivre ensemble dans de petites colonies fermées. Ils se considéraient comme la meilleure partie d'Israël, le « reste saint » annoncé par les prophètes. Ils ne se mélangèrent guère à la population babylonienne autochtone. Ne nous faisons pas une image erronée de la vie des déportés à Babylone : l'ancien roi Joiakîn et sa cour menaient une vie relativement agréable à Babel, la capitale du monde d'alors. Et ceux qui s'étaient fixés dans les provinces n'étaient pas davantage astreints à des corvées, mais avaient une existence de sujets relativement libres - ils avaient leurs propres maisons, leurs plantations, leurs commerces, et parfois un revenu confortable. Ils bénéficiaient d'une autonomie administrative, et vivaient dans le cadre de la grande famille sous l'autorité des « anciens ». Cette vie en vase clos maintint vivant, chez une bonne partie des exilés, l'espoir du retour dans l'ancienne patrie : plusieurs psaumes chantent cette nostalgie de Jérusalem, en dépit de toute leur tristesse117. On se représentait en effet que Yahvé ne pouvait pas être honoré comme il se devait sur cette terre étrangère, impure, mais seulement à Jérusalem. L'impôt du Temple payé chaque année et apporté de Babylone à Jérusalem était le lien permanent de la solidarité. La nouvelle ordonnance du culte fixée par le Deutéronome et la réforme cultuelle du roi Josias produisent à nouveau leurs effets. À Babylone on assiste, à vrai dire, aux débuts de la religion de la Tora - avec les écoles religieuses où on l'enseigne - et peut-être aussi déjà des synagogues et du culte de la simple parole de Dieu. La circoncision (qui n'était pas en usage à Babylone), le commandement du sabbat, les règles de pureté et les prescriptions alimentaires prennent toute leur importance, comme signes de l'appartenance au peuple de Yahvé - signes distinctifs des juifs par rapport aux autres peuples. On voit naître les métiers de scribe et de docteur de la loi : ceux qui les exercent expliquent la Tora pour la vie quotidienne. Puisqu'il n'y a plus d'État - et que le Temple et le culte du

 

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Temple eux-mêmes ne sont plus là - on cherche quelque chose à quoi l'on puisse s'accrocher : ce seront les traditions orales, mais aussi, pour une part, déjà écrites. On dispose, en provenance de temps immémoriaux, d'une part d'histoires (en hébreu, haggada, « récit ») qui illustrent l'identité du peuple : « Qui sommes-nous? », et d'autre part de lois (en hébreu, halakha, littéralement « aller en avant », « précéder », ce qui « montre le chemin »), qui règlent le comportement du peuple : « Comment vivons-nous ? » Les traditions mises par écrit seront plus importantes pour le peuple d'Israël qu'elles ne le seront jamais pour aucune autre nation, pour préserver son identité, même sans État. Dans les cercles des exilés cultivés de Babylone, on se met à recueillir, transcrire et rédiger nombre de ces traditions.

C'est donc l'observance de la Loi (qui distingue les Israélites des « païens ») et le culte de Yahvé, conçu maintenant comme exclusif et centralisé, qui ont assuré la cohésion spirituelle des colonies d'exilés. C'est là que se mettent en place les conditions d'un nouveau changement de paradigme d'une très grande portée, qui se prépare pendant l'Exil et s'accomplira après le retour. L'influence babylonienne - calendrier mésopotamien, noms babyloniens, vision du monde babylonienne - est incontestable, et surtout l'araméen est devenu maintenant la langue véhiculaire de toute la région : Israël lui emprunte l'alphabet quadratique, toujours utilisé aujourd'hui, qui vient remplacer l'alphabet phénicien.

Face à cette catastrophe qui marque la fin d'une époque, les deux grands prophètes de l'Exil, Ézéchiel et le Deutéro-Isaïe, fortifient dans leur foi les exilés et leur insufflent une nouvelle espérance.

 

- Ézéchiel, qui débute en 593, en Babylonie, ne vit d'abord dans l'Exil qu'un châtiment du peuple qui s'était détourné de Yahvé, en « prophète de malheur » qu'il était. Mais, à partir de 587-586, il en vient à exprimer aussi toujours plus clairement l'espérance d'un renouveau de l'homme, d'un rétablissement du royaume israélite unifié et d'une reconstruction du Temple. Il suffit de lire sa grandiose vision de la résurrection des ossements118, capable aujourd'hui encore de faire fondre en larmes de nombreux juifs. Ézéchiel s'adresse

 

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d'une façon toute nouvelle à l'homme individuel et à sa responsabilité personnelle. Il attend sa transformation par le pardon des péchés, le renouvellement du cœur et le don de l'Esprit de Dieu.

- Le Deutéro-Isaïe est un prophète anonyme des dernières années de l'Exil, avant l'effondrement de l'Empire babylonien, dont le message est consigné dans les chapitres 40-55 du livre d'Isaïe. Il annonce, avec une force de persuasion sans pareille, la libération et le retour des déportés, qu'il compare à un nouvel exode : une nouvelle marche - une marche à travers le désert - vers Jérusalem, pour la reconstruction du Temple. Le Deutéro-Isaïe est le premier prophète porteur d'un message de fin des tempseschatologique »), annonçant des temps nouveaux, tout à fait différents, des temps éternels, qui relaieront les temps présents après le Jugement. Et ce prophète est aussi le premier qui représente non seulement le monothéisme pratique, à l'égard duquel Israël se sent obligé tout en reconnaissant l'existence d'autres dieux, mais bien un monothéisme fondamental, théorique, qui nie l'existence d'autres dieux sous quelque forme que ce soit119.

Mais qu'en est-il de la Palestine? Là aussi, où était restée la plus grande partie de la population pour s'occuper des champs et des vignes, on assiste à un renouveau spirituel. Les Babyloniens avaient partagé les terres, s'assurant ainsi de nombreux sujets loyaux. Les ravages de la guerre, les corvées et les impôts élevés étaient évidemment des sujets de mécontentement. Et pourtant, les cinq Lamentations (threni; seule la cinquième est une complainte collective) attribuées par la suite à Jérémie, ces poèmes alphabétiques, ne décrivent pas sans plus la situation en Palestine à l'époque de la « captivité babylonienne ». Composées à Jérusalem ou en exil, en tout cas sous le coup immédiat des événements dramatiques, elles portent en premier lieu sur l'abandon et la destruction de la ville sainte. Elles déplorent, ainsi que quelques psaumes, la catastrophe comme le juste châtiment de Yahvé contre le peuple qui s'est rendu coupable. Mais en Palestine aussi la situation s'est sans doute lentement normalisée. Nombre d'auteurs contemporains pensent que c'est là que s'est constitué, sous sa première forme, l'ensemble

 

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historique « deutéronomique », composé par un ou plusieurs rédacteurs sous l'influence du livre du Deutéronome ; leur œuvre devait être de la plus haute importance pour l'histoire ultérieure. Sous sa forme définitive, avec de nombreux remaniements, cet ensemble constituera les livres de Josué, des Juges, de Samuel et des Rois, un ensemble dans lequel on a aussi incorporé le livre du Deutéronome (en y ajoutant les chapitres introductifs, 1-4). C'est ainsi que l'on peut se représenter la chronologie de l'historiographie israélite120. La conséquence? C'est maintenant seulement que s'impose l'orientation monothéiste cohérente et conséquente en Palestine

- représentée par les grands prophètes Jérémie et Ézéchiel, ainsi que par l'auteur des écrits sacerdotaux et les historiographes deutéronomistes. On avait appris que l'unique Dieu d'Israël pouvait être honoré partout sur terre. Le message fondamental se caractérise maintenant par son exclusivisme : Yahvé est le seul et unique Dieu, le créateur et le seigneur de l'univers, en face de qui tous les autres dieux ne sont que néant. Et Israël est son peuple choisi. C'est ainsi qu'au cœur de l'expérience du bannissement, dans ces heures d'opprobre et souvent de désespoir, est posé le fondement d'une nouvelle espérance. La crise de l'exil babylonien donnera finalement naissance à une constellation globale toute nouvelle, à un paradigme très différent de celui qui l'a précédé. Venons-en à cette nouvelle constellation d'ensemble, qui se situe d'abord sous le signe de la souveraineté perse121.

 

2. Consolidation postexilique : le Temple et la Loi

Il avait été salué comme le Juste122, le Berger123, le Messie même124 : Cyrus II, de la dynastie perse des Achéménides, que l'on appela le Grand, devint pour le monde entier - même pour les Grecs (cf. la Cyropédie de Xénophon) - l'incarnation du souverain idéal. Après s'être affranchi de la suzeraineté mède et avoir conquis la Médie et la Lydie (le royaume de ce Crésus à la richesse proverbiale), il entra triomphalement à Babylone en 539, assurant ainsi l'hégémonie mondiale de la Perse pour deux bons siècles. Cyrus reste pour de nombreux Iraniens le Père de la

 

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Patrie ! La Syro-Palestine (et plus tard l'Egypte) tombe, elle aussi, sous la domination perse. Sous Cambyse, le fils de son fondateur (530-522), l'Empire perse, le plus étendu que l'histoire ait connu jusque-là, s'étendait de l'Indus à la côte ionienne, en Asie Mineure, et jusqu'à la première cataracte du Nil. Sous Darius le Grand (522-486), le deuxième successeur de Cyrus, génial organisateur, l'empire compte vingt provinces ou satrapies, dont chacune a ses propres impôts et son propre système monétaire ; suivront un réseau de voies de communication et l'organisation de courriers. On construisit des villes comme Persépolis, Suse et la célèbre route royale de Suse à Sardes, en Asie Mineure occidentale, et la Thrace et la Macédoine furent, elles aussi, incorporées à l'empire... Qu'en était-il d'Israël, qui n'était pas de moindre importance stratégique et militaire pour les Perses ? L'accession au pouvoir de Cyrus représentait une chance nouvelle pour le petit Israël ! Tandis que le système de domination assyrien, et aussi babylonien, reposait sur la puissance militaire (pillage, destruction, déportation, taxes) et sur la mise au pas administrative des régions occupées, le système de souveraineté de Cyrus, puis des autres Achéménides, reposait sur une tolérance étonnante, qui avait le souci de ménager l'adversaire et d'encourager la diversité religieuse et culturelle des différentes régions de l'empire. Le nationalisme fait place à l'universalisme. La langue officielle ne sera pas le perse mais l'araméen, déjà répandu dans tout l'ancien Orient sous l'Empire néobabylonien chaldéen (c'est laraméen impérial ») ; l'araméen biblique en représente une branche. Certes, cette stratégie politique de la tolérance - très réaliste au vu de l'échec de la politique impériale assyrienne et babylonienne - n'est pas le fait d'un idéalisme voire d'un relativisme modernes, mais d'un froid calcul politique et économique des souverains perses qui savaient par ailleurs imposer leur volonté de façon despotique : ils avaient en vue la stabilité politique et la motivation au travail des différents groupes. Il n'en reste pas moins que nous avons là une réalisation historique de tout premier plan, du point de vue de l'époque et de notre point de vue à nous.

Dans le contexte d'une telle politique - c'est du moins ce que rapporte le livre d'Esdras -, Cyrus publie un édit125 dès la

 

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première année de son règne, en 538. Il autorise la reconstruction du Temple de Jérusalem aux frais de l'État et la restitution des objets sacrés confisqués par Nabuchodonosor. Cyrus a-t-il autorisé en même temps le retour des exilés, comme le laisserait penser une version hébraïque de ce même décret126 ? Les spécialistes en discutent127. Mais célébrerait-on en Cyrus le Messie s'il n'avait pas autorisé ce retour dans la patrie128 ? Ce retour ne s'est fait que lentement, bien sûr129 : c'est seulement douze ans après l'édit de Cyrus, en 520 av. J.-C., qu'a pu commencer la construction du « second Temple » - à laquelle s'opposaient d'ailleurs la capitale provinciale de Samarie et ses gouverneurs. Cela s'est fait sous le gouverneur judéo-perse Zorobabel - et sur l'injonction énergique des prophètes Aggée130 et Zacharie131. En signe de reconnaissance, ils proclamèrent aussi Messie le davidide Zorobabel - pour la première fois dans l'histoire du messianisme juif, un personnage de l'histoire contemporaine132 ! Et il est remarquable qu'à cette première figure messianique le prophète Zacharie en ajoute une seconde : le prêtre Josué133. C'est ainsi que ces tout premiers débuts de la période postexilique se caractérisèrent manifestement par une attente eschatologique intense, qui escomptait un âge totalement nouveau, un gouvernement messianique ou la souveraineté immédiate de Dieu.

Mais cette tension eschatologique ne tarda pas à tomber. En effet, en l'an 515 av. J.-C. - sous le roi des rois Darius qui, à la suite du soulèvement des Grecs d'Asie Mineure (révolte des cités grecques d'Ionie en 499), allait se lancer dans les guerres funestes contre les cités grecques (victoire d'Athènes près de Marathon en 490) -, le « second Temple » est solennellement consacré134. On pense que cette construction était de dimensions plutôt modestes, comparée au Temple de Salomon135. Il ne contient plus d'arche, mais un « chandelier » à sept branches, en hébreu la Menora, qui devient dès lors l'un des principaux motifs de l'art religieux juif et qui sera plus tard le symbole du nouvel État d'Israël.

Avec le second Temple sont réunies les conditions d'une importance rapidement croissante des institutions restaurées. C'est surtout la ligne sacerdotale et théocratique qui s'impose et nombre d'anciennes traditions revivent. Maintenant, après la chute de la monarchie, le Temple n'est plus propriété royale et

 

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temple de l'État : financé par le peuple, il est un temple du peuple. Mais il est clair aussi que, de ce fait, le sacerdoce a pris une importance nouvelle. À la tête du peuple il n'y a plus de roi, auquel le chef des prêtres devait obéissance, mais un grand prêtre, qui est lui-même le représentant de Yahvé et dont l'importance augmentera encore considérablement par la suite.

Mais la situation politico-religieuse restera longtemps tendue à Jérusalem et en Juda. Soixante-dix ans après le retour d'exil, vers 465 av. J.-C., un prophète anonyme, connu sous le nom de Malachie («mon messager136»), se plaint à nouveau de la perversion du culte, de la cupidité des prêtres, de l'infidélité du peuple et des mariages mixtes ; la tradition juive voit dans ce Malachie le dernier - le sceau - des prophètes. Les grands rois de Perse, quant à eux, attachaient la plus grande importance à la tranquillité et à l'ordre en Syrie-Palestine, d'autant plus qu'ils avaient besoin de s'assurer la liberté de passage suite à une révolte en Egypte (460). En tout cas, le roi des rois de Perse, sans doute sous l'influence de cercles juifs de Babylone, se laissa persuader d'envoyer à Jérusalem deux fonctionnaires issus des services perses, à titre de commissaires du roi (avec leur suite) pour réorganiser la communauté juive postexilique ; cette tâche s'imposait de façon urgente et bénéficiera ainsi du soutien de l'État : les deux réformateurs étaient Néhémie et - avant lui, à ses côtés ou après lui ? - Esdras.

Bien qu'issu d'une famille d'exilés juifs, Néhémie avait réussi à s'élever jusqu'à la dignité d'échanson du roi des rois. Qu'avait-il en tête quand, en 445 av. J.-C., il arriva dans Jérusalem toujours désolée - comme « gouverneur dans le pays de Juda137 » ? Réponse : de façon totalement désintéressée (sans chercher à devenir propriétaire et sans autre rétribution qu'un paiement en nature), il se soucia surtout de la sécurité extérieure et de la réorganisation intérieure de la ville :

 

- d'abord la reconstruction des murs de la ville, en cinquante deux jours, à laquelle s'opposa à nouveau violemment la capitale provinciale de Samarie ;

- puis une rémission des dettes pour les citoyens ruinés, qui s'imposait face  aux opérations usuraires de  l'aristocratie terrienne juive ;

 

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  - en même temps, réorganisation des conditions d'accession à la propriété et installation de ruraux dans la ville, qui manquait d'habitants ;

- enfin, mesures contre la profanation du sabbat et contre les mariages mixtes, qui menaçaient la survie de la communauté juive relativement réduite en nombre.

Ces mesures introduisent aussi, de fait, une autoségrégation de la communauté juive, qui allait avoir des conséquences historiques à l'échelle du monde.   ^  Au terme de douze ans, en 433, Néhémie lui-même retourna à la cour du roi de Perse ; peut-être Juda était-il déjà devenu sous sa juridiction une province autonome, ce qui allait accélérer le processus d'éloignement entre le Sud et le Nord, entre Juda et la Samarie, un processus surtout politique, mais qui prendra de plus en plus un caractère religieux.

Et quelle fut la volonté d'Esdras? Prêtre d'une famille, les sadocides, déportée à Babylone, soit il arriva aussi à Jérusalem dès 458 av. J.-C., sous Artaxerxès Ier, avec une nouvelle vague de rapatriés, soit (selon l'hypothèse de A. von Hoonacker, admise par de nombreux spécialistes138) seulement en 398 av. J.-C. « Scribe de la loi du Dieu des cieux139 », il visait, lui aussi, à une réforme religieuse et cultuelle, ce qui intéressait les Perses pour des motifs d'ordre politique. Avec fanatisme et une impitoyable brutalité, il prit des mesures contre les mariages mixtes et proclama, dans le cadre d'une réunion solennelle, « la Loi » que le peuple devait s'engager à observer, en renouvelant l'Alliance140.   ^  Nous ne savons toujours pas - les spécialistes en discutent - s'il s'agissait, dans cette « loi », de tout le Pentateuque, seulement du Code sacerdotal, ou du Deutéronome, ou encore - ce qui est moins probable - du droit royal perse141. À en juger par les effets, il s'agissait sans doute de la masse principale des traditions du Pentateuque, qui se voient maintenant élevées au rang de règle de droit à caractère obligatoire. Ce que viendrait confirmer le fait qu'au IVe siècle les Samaritains ont adopté le Pentateuque - qui devait donc déjà être l'œuvre de la diaspora babylonienne - comme fondement officiel de leur religion.

Tout cela montre d'emblée dans quel sens penchait, en cette

 

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heure, la balance de l'histoire : dans le sens d'une concentration sur la Loi, concentration dont les fondements avaient été posés dès le temps de l'Exil, dans l'esprit du Deutéronome : obtenir la grâce en observant la Loi ! Le code contenu dans le livre du Lévitique, la « loi de sainteté142 », avait sans doute déjà pris sa forme définitive à cette époque. À côté de directives religieuses et éthiques, nous y trouvons surtout des prescriptions cultuelles : réglementant l'abattage des animaux et la consommation de la viande ; relatives aux relations sexuelles et aux manquements sexuels, à la sainteté du Temple, aux prêtres, aux sacrifices, aux impôts et aux fêtes ; concernant l'année sabbatique et le jubilé... En somme, une Magna Carta pour le renouveau de la vie du peuple d'Israël, « cependant non pas dans le sens prophétique d'un renouvellement dans l'esprit, mais d'une reconstruction par l'organisation et la loi », comme le fait observer à juste titre l'exégète juif Georg Fohrer143.

Mais c'est dire aussi qu'on ne peut pas ne pas voir l'ambivalence de cette évolution.

 

- D'un  côté,  après les débuts du mouvement réformateur deutéronomique, nous avons maintenant une « attitude existentielle légale et une religion de la Loi » à laquelle - pour reprendre l'expression de Fohrer - « on ne saurait dénier un profond sérieux ni la disposition à obéir à la volonté divine ».

On perçoit même un « assentiment intérieur à la Loi144 ».

- Mais, d'un autre côté, la vie se trouve « enfermée, réglée et schématisée dans les limites du droit » : « ce qui compte, c'est le comportement extérieur adéquat, ainsi qu'il en va nécessairement pour une attitude existentielle qui trouve sa justification dans la Loi. Est juste et religieux celui qui satisfait aux obligations divines consignées dans la Loi145. » En fait, nous voyons déjà se préparer ici ce que l'on appellera plus tard l'« orthodoxie juive ».

Comme toujours, les « sources » bibliques ne voient évidemment que les aspects positifs de cette évolution. C'est le cas, par exemple, du Chroniste, qui était probablement un lévite faisant partie du personnel attaché au culte de Jérusalem. Il est l'auteur de l'œuvre historique dite du Chroniste, qui magnifie David, et

 

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dont faisaient aussi originellement partie, à titre de suite des deux livres des Chroniques, les livres de Néhémie et d'Esdras. Nous lui devons la conservation du rapport d'Esdras (rédigé pour le gouvernement perse ou pour les juifs de Babylone145, ainsi que des Mémoires de Néhémie147, dans un texte sans doute rédigé aux environs de 300, qui stylise fortement l'histoire religieuse d'Israël. Et la place faite par la communauté juive (surtout les pharisiens) aux livres de Néhémie et d'Esdras parmi les saints livres canoniques montre combien on vénéra par la suite la mémoire des deux grands réformateurs. Esdras surtout, souvent comparé à Moïse, est considéré comme le fondateur du judaïsme primitif, défini par le culte et la Loi - qui, en ce sens, s'éloigne du message prophétique. Certes, après l'Exil, on n'a pas introduit une « nouvelle religion » (comme le pense même un interprète aussi compréhensif que Georg Fohrer148). Mais c'est bien un nouveau paradigme temporel de la religion israélite qui s'est fait jour, paradigme qu'il nous revient d'analyser de plus près.

La communauté de Samarie, qui a toujours lié la rupture religieuseschisme samaritain ») au nom d'Esdras, le zélateur de la Loi, s'en est tenue par la suite au seul Pentateuque. La Samarie n'a jamais fait sienne la glorification politico-religieuse de David, de Jérusalem et du Temple et a persisté à affirmer l'autonomie du Nord samaritain. À partir du IVe siècle, on peut considérer que la séparation d'avec le Sud est définitivement consommée.    ^  Il ne nous est plus possible de fixer la date exacte où la Samarie a construit son propre sanctuaire sur le mont Garizim, près de Sichem (en hébreu, Chekhem149). En tout cas, désormais, l'histoire d'Israël se réduit pour nous à l'histoire de Juda : ce sera donc l'histoire judaïque et en ce sens aussi l'histoire spécifiquement juive.

 

3. Le nouveau paradigme, le paradigme juif : la communauté théocratique

Quatre-vingt-dix ans après l'édit de Cyrus - vers 450 -, la nouvelle constellation s'était donc définitivement installée, le

 

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nouveau paradigme s'était imposé. Les critères d'un changement de paradigme sont facilement reconnaissables.

- Il y avait d'abord eu la crise fondamentale du paradigme royal, davidique, qui avait précédé : la chute des royaumes d'Israël et de Juda, puis l'exil à Babylone.

- Le nouveau paradigme avait déjà été préparé dans le cadre de l'ancien, par la réforme cultuelle du roi Josias.

- Il avait été inauguré par les prophètes et les auteurs deutéronomistes d'après l'Exil d'une part, avec la reconstruction du Temple d'autre part.

- Il s'imposa par l'entremise du sacerdoce, devenu maintenant la première force dans le pays.

Quelles sont donc les caractéristiques les plus marquantes de cette nouvelle constellation? La Palestine est maintenant une partie de la cinquième satrapie perse, la « Transeuphratène », au-delà du fleuve ; plus tard, elle sera probablement une province autonome, indépendante de la Samarie, où les prêtres, sous l'autorité de leur « grand prêtre », assument la direction spirituelle et politique, dans une relative indépendance à l'égard du pouvoir central perse.

- Le modèle fondamental, ce n'est donc plus le royaume, l'empire et la puissance politique, qui resteront encore un bon siècle aux mains des Perses, pour passer ensuite à Alexandre le Grand et à ses successeurs, des Grecs, et enfin aux Romains.

- Le modèle fondamental, c'est d'une part le Temple et la hiérarchie du Temple de la ville sainte de Jérusalem, qui est désormais un centre exclusivement religieux, d'autre part les saintes Écritures, qui deviennent la Loi ; celle-ci prend caractère obligatoire.

- Le mode de gouvernement est donc celui de la théocratie, où Dieu lui-même détient le pouvoir, non sur l'État, il est vrai, mais sur la communauté de ceux qui croient en Yahvé - par l'entremise du sacerdoce (hiérocratie) et de la loi divine (nomocratie) : nous n'avons donc plus affaire au paradigme

 

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d'un État monarchique, mais à celui d'une communauté théocratique.

Certes, le Temple et la Loi s'accompagnent de nombreux chants et prières, que nous retrouvons dans le psautier, mais on se tromperait, là aussi, à ne considérer la réalité que sous son aspect religieux. Avec le temps, en effet, le Temple lui-même est devenu un facteur de puissance économique, dont il ne faudrait pas sous-estimer l'influence politique. Certes, politiquement, Juda est désormais un pays dirigé par divers gouverneurs des différentes puissances occupantes. Mais, d'un autre côté, le Temple est précisément - comme l'écrit à juste titre J. A. Soggin :

 

le seul endroit où Juda peut encore exercer une certaine forme d'autodétermination, quelque réduite qu'elle soit; à cet égard aussi, la tolérance religieuse des Perses se révèle utile. Mieux encore, le Temple a pris une réelle importance économique du fait des redevances en provenance de la diaspora qu'il encaisse régulièrement dans sa propre monnaie (lobole »), et parce qu'il remplit des fonctions que l'on pourrait comparer à celles d'une banque. Il n'est donc pas étonnant que les autorités religieuses prennent une importance croissante aux côtés du pouvoir civil, non seulement dans la sphère du culte et de la foi, mais aussi dans la vie quotidienne151).   ^   

 

Le trésor du Temple de Jérusalem excitera souvent la convoitise des souverains étrangers...

L'époque du second Temple et des saintes Écritures ne correspond pas seulement, comme on le prétend souvent, à une restauration ; c'est aussi une instauration, avec de nouveaux éléments structurels et une nouvelle concentration, rien de plus et rien de moins qu'une constellation globale, postexilique et réellement nouvelle, un paradigme théocratique spécifiquement juif (paradigme III, PIII), faisant suite au paradigme préétatique des tribus et au paradigme royal davidique.

Pour que les choses soient bien claires, là aussi : il s'agit toujours du même message originel, du même Dieu Yahvé et de son peuple choisi (et de son pays). Voilà qui reste le noyau constant et le fondement, la substance de la foi de ce troisième

 

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paradigme Israélite. Mais tout le cadre social, la « constellation d'ensemble des convictions, des valeurs et des comportements », le macroparadigme donc, est différent : Yahvé ne règne pas une nouvelle fois de façon immédiate, comme à l'époque préroyale. Non, en cette époque postroyale, Yahvé règne de façon médiate et institutionnalisée - à travers le Temple et les saintes Écritures. Et « Israël » - le sens exact du mot change avec le paradigme ! - n'est plus maintenant un royaume, mais avant tout une communauté religieuse, que Dieu lui-même s'est choisie, pour qu'elle le serve à travers le culte du Temple et l'observance de la Loi. Au lieu d'un roi, c'est le grand prêtre qui fait maintenant fonction de représentant de Dieu, et la hiérarchie du Temple lui sert d'intermédiaire, tandis que la Tora est maintenant la volonté de Dieu faite écriture. En ce sens, à la place de la monarchie, nous avons maintenant une théocratie, une hiérocratie et une nomocratie.

Mais alors, on l'aura déjà compris, les singuliers débats d'exégètes chrétiens relatifs à la fin de l'histoire d'Israël sont oiseux. L'histoire du peuple d'Israël continue ! Par-delà tous les changements, il a toujours su préserver son identité spirituelle-religieuse, qui, à certains égards, se trouve même renforcée aujourd'hui. Il ne s'agit donc pas d'une rupture totale qui aurait dissous la substance de la foi israélite, mais d'un changement de paradigme. Ce qui change, c'est la constellation d'ensemble des convictions, des valeurs et des comportements communs de la communauté israélite, qui portent cette substance en même temps qu'ils la marquent de leur empreinte : « Israël » s'identifie maintenant au « judaïsme », et cela non seulement sous l'angle ethnique et politique, mais aussi spirituel et religieux. Les conséquences sont décisives. Regardons encore les choses d'un peu plus près.

 

4. La constitution de la religion juive du Livre

La seconde moitié de la souveraineté perse - une bonne centaine d'années entre Néhémie et Alexandre le Grand - a été qualifiée de « siècle obscur151 », non parce que rien d'important

 

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ou de terrible ne se serait passé en cette période allant du milieu du Ve au milieu du ive siècle av. J.-C., mais parce que nous ne disposons pas de documents écrits directs sur elle. Nous devons pourtant à cette époque des textes aussi grandioses que le Cantique des Cantiques. Le processus de canonisation des Écritures hébraïques, qui trouve son fondement dans le Deutéronome et qui a été ensuite mis en œuvre, pendant et après l'Exil, s'achève progressivement. Comment cela s'est-il fait?

A la différence des Grecs, par exemple, qui s'intéressaient surtout à la physique et à la métaphysique, les Israélites s'intéressaient surtout à leur histoire, à la façon dont le Dieu vivant en prend l'initiative et la conduit avec des hommes vivants. Toutes les histoires (haggada) et toutes les directives (halakha) ne traitent de rien d'autre. Ces traditions très différentes, d'époques différentes, auxquelles nous avons déjà fait appel dans le premier chapitre, sont fixées définitivement par écrit au plus tard maintenant, après l'Exil - et ce par différents rédacteurs, dans un esprit strictement monothéiste. Tout devait apparaître comme une histoire du peuple d'Israël avec son Dieu, Yahvé, histoire progressant du début à la fin, témoignant d'une cohérence d'ensemble, histoire humaine et dramatique, et cependant porteuse de sens en elle-même :

- toutes les anciennes traditions, les fables et les légendes de la création du monde et de la chute de l'homme, du Déluge et de l'alliance de Dieu avec l'humanité sous Noé, des patriarches Abraham, Isaac et Jacob, des douze fils de ce dernier, de la libération d'Egypte, de la conclusion de l'Alliance sur la montagne de Dieu et de l'entrée dans la terre promise ;

- le grand complexe du matériau concernant la Loi constitué au long des siècles ;

- les écrits des prophètes (leur incorporation dans le canon renforce l'impression que toute prophétie est définitivement close) ;

- mais aussi les Chroniques, l'œuvre historique de sens deutéronomique, à laquelle vient s'ajouter celle du chroniste (sans doute au ive-IIIe siècle)152.

 

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Peut-être déjà pendant l'Exil, en tout cas au plus tard au tournant du Ve au IVe siècle, la « Tora » a pris sa forme définitive, et les « Prophètes » au plus tard à la fin du IIIe siècle. Un troisième groupe, que les rabbins appelleront les « Écrits », a sans doute trouvé sa forme définitive relativement tard. L'ensemble ainsi constitué est appelé, on le sait, Tenak par les juifs (des premières lettres des trois parties - Tora - Newiim - Ketuwim), et Ancien (non « désuet » !) Testament par les chrétiens. Les juifs y distinguent les trois parties suivantes153 :

- Loi/Sagesse ou Tora : le Pentateuque ou les « Cinq Livres de Moïse » (la Genèse, l'Exode, le Lévitique, les Nombres, le Deutéronome) ;

- Prophètes ou Newiim : les grands prophètes écrivains (Isaïe, Jérémie, Ézéchiel) et les douze « petits » prophètes, aux quels s'ajoutent Josué, les Juges, les livres de Samuel et des Rois;

- Écrivains ou Ketuwim : les Psaumes, les Proverbes, Job, le Cantique des Cantiques, Ruth, les Lamentations, Qohélet, Esther, Daniel, Esdras, Néhémie et les livres des Chroniques.

Ces trois groupes de livres constituent les Biblia (originellement au pluriel : « les livres »), le Livre par excellence, qui englobe tous les écrits « canoniques »(« normatifs »), et contient la révélation de Dieu, « la sainte Écriture », parce que Dieu lui-même est considéré comme son auteur. Directement ou indirectement, aux yeux de la foi, c'est la parole et la volonté de Dieu qui y trouvent leur expression : très directement dans la Tora; plus indirectement, avec la collaboration humaine, dans les Prophètes ; avec une participation humaine encore plus importante à travers les autres écrits. Il faut étudier tous ces textes et lire aussi les plus importants dans le cadre du culte.

C'est ainsi qu'à côté du culte sacrificiel s'impose aussi de plus en plus fortement le service de la parole de Dieu, indépendant des sacrifices, qui trouve un écho jusque chez les prêtres du Temple. Et à côté du Temple se pose aussi toujours plus fortement la synagogue, dont les débuts, nous l'avons vu, pourraient bien remonter à l'exil à Babylone, quand il n'y avait plus de Temple.

 

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Mais c'est dire que dans le judaïsme non plus ce n'était pas le Livre qui était au commencement. C'est à partir de cette époque seulement que l'on peut parler d'une religion juive du Livre - à côté de la religion centralisée du Temple.

Mais une religion du Livre sécrète ses propres formes, avec des conséquences pour le culte. A l'époque de David, le judaïsme connaît déjà des prières personnelles incomparables : des psaumes porteurs des émotions humaines les plus profondes, expressions du désespoir, de la confiance, de l'angoisse, du repentir et de l'espérance. Mais c'est maintenant seulement qu'à côté de la prière personnelle on trouve aussi dans le judaïsme des prières communes du peuple fixées par écrit : des hymnes (psaumes), des confessions des péchés et des prières d'intercession, qui constituent le service de la parole de Dieu et qui accompagnent aussi le culte sacrificiel. Avec l'éminent spécialiste de la liturgie juive Ismar Elbogen, on peut en effet parler sans exagération d'« innovation radicale de la période du second Temple154 » à propos de l'institution de prières communautaires dont le texte est définitivement fixé. Ou, comme l'écrit un autre spécialiste éminent, Joseph Heinemann : « Les prières au texte fixé, constituant par elles-mêmes et en elles-mêmes la totalité du culte, représentaient une innovation étonnante dans le monde antique, que le christianisme et l'islam hériteront du judaïsme155. »

Les changements concernant la vie religieuse juive, collective et individuelle, sont essentiels, et l'érudit juif américain Jacob Neusner définit avec précision ce qui est ici décisif : que signifie, jusqu'à nos jours, vivre sous la Loi ? « Vivre sous la Loi signifie prier - le matin, à midi et le soir, au moment des repas, de façon habituelle, mais aussi à l'occasion d'événements exceptionnels. Le juif [...] vit [...] en permanence dans la conscience de la présence de Dieu et il est toujours prêt à louer et à glorifier Dieu. Le chemin de la Tora est le chemin d'une disponibilité constante à Dieu156. »

Résultat : la fixation canonique de l'Écriture s'accompagne d'une sorte de fixation canonique de la liturgie : on assiste, comme l'a montré l'exégète protestant James Charlesworth, « au double processus d'une fixation canonique de l'Écriture et d'une fixation canonique de la liturgie157 ». Il en résulte une religion

 

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bien plus homogène, plus conformiste, qui rend de plus en plus suspecte la parole prophétique individuelle. Pourquoi cela?

 

5. L'extinction de la prophétie et ses conséquences jusqu'à nos jours

Comment ne pas voir, en effet, que tout ce processus - touchant l'Écriture, la liturgie et aussi les structures du pouvoir - signifiait un gel et un assèchement de la religion qui ne sont pas sans danger ?

Je l'ai déjà suggéré, en me référant à G. Fohrer :

- la focalisation du judaïsme sur la Loi, qui doit garantir l'unité de la foi et de l'agir, peut conduire au légalisme ;

- la surestimation du Temple, du lieu de la présence de Dieu, peut conduire au ritualisme ;

- le pouvoir accru des prêtres, qui se prétendent les médiateurs entre les hommes et Dieu, peut conduire au cléricalisme.

Comme dans toutes les religions, gel et dessèchement se retrouvent tout au long de l'histoire de la religion d'Israël. Quelle est la différence maintenant, après l'Exil? Il n'y a pratiquement plus de prophétisme pour faire contrepoids à l'institution. Il n'y a plus de protestation charismatique contre les pétrifications en tout genre au nom de la souveraine liberté de Dieu même ! Le prophétisme lui-même est marqué par le changement de paradigme postexilique.

Certes, il subsiste quelques prophètes, après la disparition des prophètes attachés à la cour et au sanctuaire. Mais, au lieu de se dresser en messagers charismatiques de Dieu, comme à l'époque classique, après l'Exil ils sont devenus de plus en plus des interprètes mandatés de la tradition, des prophètes scribes ou des scribes prophétiques - que l'on songe au « Trito-Isaïe158 » et au « Deutéro-Zacharie159 ». Et c'est très compréhensible. Dès lors qu'un ordre légalisé et une écriture fixée déterminent tout, les dits des prophètes ne peuvent plus guère être autre chose qu'une récupération de l'ancienne prophétie. On en vient maintenant à une extension remarquable, mais du même coup aussi à une

 

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dilution du concept de « prophète ». Tous les auteurs des saintes Écritures, y compris Moïse et David, sont maintenant considérés comme écrivains sacrés et, en ce sens, méritent directement le titre de « prophètes ». Et le judaïsme dans son ensemble peut maintenant être appelé une religion « prophétique », dans un sens englobant, mais aussi minimisant. « II n'y a plus de prophètes... », se plaint aussi un psalmiste... 160. Et les rabbins diront plus tard qu'après la mort des prophètes Aggée, Zacharie et Malachie, l'Esprit Saint a quitté Israël161. Comment ne pas voir que la religion de la Loi se nourrit du recul de l'influence prophétique ?

Il faut nous arrêter ici un instant : nous avons affaire à un processus lourd de conséquences, qui a aussi ses parallèles dans les deux autres religions prophétiques. Comment ignorer, en effet, que dans le christianisme aussi le déclin et l'extinction du prophétisme, après une période de floraison, posent un problème? Jésus-Christ, qui vient après le précurseur Jean, est considéré comme le prophète de la fin des temps162, en qui s'accomplissent les prophéties de l'Ancien Testament ; l'Esprit est répandu sur tous, et les prophètes et prophétesses, d'abord fortement représentés dans la communauté primitive, disparaissent néanmoins vers la fin du IIe siècle. Chez Paul, les prophètes viennent encore immédiatement après les apôtres dans la hiérarchie des charismes163. Que sont-ils donc devenus, les prophètes, qu'est devenue la parole prophétique, qu'est devenu cet important charisme164 ? Paul invite tous les chrétiens à « prophétiser », dans les assemblées liturgiques165, toujours en accord avec la foi chrétienne, bien sûr166. Selon la Lettre aux Éphésiens, l'Église est fondée sur les apôtres et les prophètes (de la Nouvelle Alliance)167. Mais quelle fut l'évolution historique ? À la façon des scribes dans le judaïsme pos-texilique, les évêques dans l'Église après le Ier siècle - face à de nombreux faux prophètes, il est vrai, et face surtout à la crise montaniste - ont commencé à intégrer la fonction prophétique dans leur « charge » apostolique. Au fil du temps, ils se sont sentis de plus en plus non seulement les successeurs des apôtres, mais aussi des prophètes et des maîtres. Le droit ecclésiastique et hiérarchique prend de plus en plus le pas sur la libre prophétie. Que sont donc devenues dans le christianisme les forces vives prophétiques ?

 

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Et cette extinction de la prophétie n'est-elle pas aussi un problème dans l'islam? Certes, les prophètes antérieurs à Muhammad, considérés comme des précurseurs, sont l'objet de la plus haute considération : à côté des bénéficiaires d'une révélation sous forme de livre, il y a bien d'autres nabi (prophètes ordinaires, 313 d'après la tradition, 124000 d'après la tradition mystique168!). Mais après Muhammad, qui a proclamé à nouveau le message des anciens prophètes dans sa pureté originelle et, du même coup, l'a clos, les impulsions prophétiques semblent exclues pour les millénaires à venir. Muhammad est précisément le « sceau » de toute prophétie ! Si, dans l'islam aussi, la Loi, la shari'a, a aujourd'hui largement supplanté le message prophétique originel du Coran, c'est sans doute dû, pour une large part, à cette « exclusive » - bien des musulmans le reconnaissent eux-mêmes, si bien qu'aujourd'hui la plus haute autorité revient moins au message du Prophète lui-même qu'à la loi religieuse développée plusieurs siècles après lui. Que sont donc devenues les impulsions prophétiques dans l'islam ?

Il devrait donc être clair que l'extinction de la prophétie pose aujourd'hui une question aux trois religions « prophétiques ». Quelles difficultés le christianisme n'a-t-il pas rencontrées et rencontre-t-il toujours avec des figures prophétiques comme François d'Assise, Martin Luther, les frères Wesley ou aussi les Noirs africains Hendrik Witbooi (Namibie) et Simon Kimbangu (Congo) ! Quels problèmes ont posé au judaïsme le kabbaliste médiéval Abraham Aboulafia, puis Franz Rosenzweig ou Martin Buber! Et quelles difficultés ont représenté pour l'islam des réformateurs modernes comme al-Afghani, Ahmad Khan et Mahmoud Taha (Soudan) ! Et le prophétique doit-il rester charisme individuel, ne devrait-il pas constituer, sous l'inspiration des prophètes, une dimension de tout le peuple de Dieu ? Les religions prophétiques satisfont-elles encore aujourd'hui à leur prétention à être précisément des religions prophétiques? Ou alors le concept de religion « prophétique » n'est-il qu'une catégorie classificatrice, à l'usage des spécialistes en histoire des religions, inapte à rendre compte de la réalité vécue, concrète, des religions ? Nous sommes en droit de poser ici des questions critiques portant sur l'avenir, en nous réclamant du passé !

 

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Questions pour l'avenir

Les trois religions abrahamiques s'acquittent-elles suffisamment de leur mission prophétique d'être la conscience de la société ? Contribuent-elles suffisamment à dénoncer et à abolir les situations et les oppositions sociales intenables, à combler l'abîme entre les pauvres et les riches, entre les possédants et les exploités, entre les privilégiés et les laissés-pour-compte ? Qu'en est-il donc de leur critique sociale ?

Les religions prophétiques s'acquittent-elles suffisamment de leur mission prophétique de rappeler aux États leur responsabilité éthique pour le bien de toute l'humanité, de condamner la guerre comme recours politique, de fustiger les errements intérieurs et extérieurs des États, sans épargner les autorités en place ? Qu'en est-il donc de leur critique politique ?

Les religions prophétiques s'acquittent-elles suffisamment de leur mission prophétique de faire confiance au pouvoir de la parole de Dieu et de critiquer sans se lasser toutes les idéologies au nom de l'unique Dieu : d'exercer leur critique à l'égard des faux dieux, des puissances et des puissants de ce monde (y compris dans la synagogue, l'église et la mosquée), quelque inconfortable que cela puisse être pour d'importantes fractions du peuple et pour l'élite dominante ? Qu'en est -il donc de leur critique théologique ?

Ils sont innombrables, à coup sûr, ceux qui, au sein des religions prophétiques, aspirent à voir leurs religions devenir plus prophétiques, pour qu'ils puissent accorder davantage foi à leur message prophétique ! Mais, se demandera-t-on, comment les choses ont-elles évolué en Israël après l'extinction du prophétisme sous sa forme classique? Qui, en Palestine, avait pris la place des prophètes?

 

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6. La culture mondiale hellénistique : l'âge des sages

à la place des prophètes, nous avons d'abord les maîtres de sagesse, entièrement orientés vers la vie pratique. Ces sages ne sont plus des figures individuelles charismatiques, ils relèvent d'une école. Ils ne proclament plus la révélation et la libération de Yahvé, ils attachent la plus grande importance à des observations portant sur l'organisation de la vie, à des applications pédagogiques dans la vie quotidienne. Ce n'est pas Dieu et son agir historique qui est au centre. C'est l'homme qui est au centre, avec son comportement dans les divers secteurs de la vie. La théologie de la sagesse ne présuppose pas la reconnaissance de hauts faits de l'« histoire du salut » de Dieu (Exode et prise de possession du pays ne jouent pas ici un rôle théologique constitutif). Ce qui importe, en revanche, c'est de croire en toute confiance que la création en son entier repose sur un ordre sage, que l'homme, en observant cet ordre établi par Dieu, est capable d'un comportement juste, et de prendre ainsi place dans l'ordre divin du monde. A l'inverse du prophète, le sage, en Israël, est essentiellement un empiriste, un observateur à distance, qui sait habilement se situer loin des extrêmes, dont le travail vise à transmettre des expériences de la vie et du monde.

Quelles sont les origines de l'enseignement sapientiel israélite, enseignement que l'on retrouve dans tout le Proche-Orient à cette époque? Certaines sentences isolées pourraient bien remonter à l'époque du roi Salomon. On parle ainsi de « sagesse ancienne » : tout au long de la période royale il y a eu des maîtres de sagesse isolés, et le prophète Jérémie mentionne déjà explicitement le groupe des sages, à côté du roi et de sa cour, des prêtres et des prophètes169. Mais, au temps de l'Exil, les déportés, en Mésopotamie comme en Egypte, furent exposés à une culture sapientielle internationale : on ne s'étonnera donc pas de voir fleurir aussi en Israël, après l'Exil, cette littérature sapientielle. On parle aujourd'hui de « sagesse tardive » : on recueille maintenant ou on crée de toutes pièces des proverbes, des exhortations et des instructions, et on les rassemble dans des livres. En prenant en compte tout à la fois la Création et la

 

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Révélation, on bâtit une synthèse théologique, la théologie de la sagesse : la sagesse divine devient préceptrice des hommes, pour leur enseigner la sagesse.

La crise de la sagesse, qui a trouvé son expression dans des livres comme Job et Qohélet, montre combien la religion juive, en dépit de toutes les tentatives de restauration, en dépit de toute l'institutionnalisation et canonisation, était peu consolidée. Une bonne centaine d'années après le retour d'exil, une des doctrines fondamentales de la foi juive en Dieu, la doctrine de la rétribution, de la justice de Dieu qui récompense et châtie, doctrine défendue et par la théologie de la sagesse et par la religion de la Loi, volait en morceaux : la théorie, donc, d'une relation, reconnaissable par l'homme, entre ce que nous faisons et ce qui en résulte pour nous. Chacun moissonne-t-il effectivement ce qu'il a semé ? Voilà ce que conteste violemment le livre de Job, et plus encore un livre comme Qohélet, qui n'a sans doute été reçu dans le canon que parce qu'il était attribué à Salomon. Pour Qohélet, qui avait plus du philosophe sceptique que du théologien, la rupture avec la croyance des Pères dans la rétribution est déjà devenue le problème fondamental. Qohélet incarne une pensée « à une croisée des chemins, à cheval sur deux époques », où, « sous l'effet de la crise spirituelle de l'hellénisme [...] on ne pouvait plus reconnaître une grande signification à la sagesse traditionnelle et [...] à la dévotion et au culte traditionnels ». Mais Qohélet lui-même, de tempérament plutôt socratique-conservateur, évita de « rompre avec la religion des Pères et d'identifier à peu près Dieu avec le destin imprévisible 170 ». Face à cette crise de la sagesse, le livre des Proverbes tout comme celui de Jésus Ben Sira (le livre de l'Ecclésiastique) essaient de fonder une nouvelle confiance dans l'ordre divin, dans la sagesse du Dieu des Pères, dans l'universalité et la fiabilité du plan de Dieu. En ce sens, ce sont des livres de la restauration, du rétablissement de la foi traditionnelle en Yahvé171.

La crise de la sagesse n'est que le reflet d'une crise structurelle plus profonde de cette époque. Pour la comprendre dans son développement politique, il nous faut tourner nos regards vers la Grèce du Nord, d'où pointe maintenant la plus grande menace contre l'empire du grand roi de Perse. Le roi de Macédoine

 

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Philippe II (359-336) avait, en effet, réussi une chose étonnante : cent cinquante ans après la bataille de Marathon, il était parvenu à liguer contre la Perse (dans la « Ligue de Corinthe ») les États grecs, qui oublièrent un temps leurs rivalités incessantes. Il avait aussi su former une nouvelle unité militaire, la phalange, pour en faire une formation redoutable au combat. Le centre de gravité de l'histoire mondiale commence à se déplacer de l'Orient vers l'Occident : c'est la première fois qu'une grande puissance européenne prend place dans l'histoire mondiale172 !

Mais c'est le fils de Philippe qui, après l'assassinat de son père en 336, remporta la victoire décisive contre les Perses : Alexandre « le Grand », âgé de vingt ans, élève du génial Aristote, en l'espace de treize ans seulement changea la face du monde - politiquement et culturellement. Alexandre, stratège de haute volée, mena à bien la première invasion européenne de l'Asie. Après avoir conquis l'Asie Mineure il se tourne, en 334, vers le sud, occupe les villes côtières phéniciennes (après un siège de sept mois il prend en particulier Tyr, la ville mère de Carthage), la Palestine, puis l'Egypte où, porteur de la double couronne des pharaons, il fait construire la ville qui porte toujours son nom - Alexandrie. Et Jérusalem ? Jérusalem - à l'inverse de Samarie, qui tenta encore par la suite de se révolter - semble s'être rendue spontanément lors du passage d'Alexandre en route vers l'Egypte.

De retour d'Egypte, Alexandre se tourne vers le nord, remporte la victoire sur le dernier grand roi perse, Darius III, à la bataille de Gaugamèles, en 331, et entre sans coup férir dans Babel (Babylone en grec). Après avoir conquis également Suse, Persépolis, Ecbatane, et après l'assassinat de Darius III par un de ses satrapes, Alexandre est arrivé à ses fins : il recueille l'héritage des Achéménides, mais il pousse immédiatement plus loin jusqu'aux « frontières du monde », jusqu'au pied de l'Himalaya. Cependant, Alexandre veut plus qu'une simple conquête militaire. Il pousse Grecs et Orientaux au mariage entre le sang, le rite et la culture. A Suse, il célèbre une sorte de mariage collectif de dix mille officiers et soldats grecs avec des femmes perses. Une fièvre l'emporte inopinément en 323, à Babylone - il n'a que trente-trois ans et il est sans héritier capable de prendre le pouvoir après lui. Il n'en inaugure pas moins, de façon

 

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imposante, un âge nouveau : après l'époque perse, l'époque hellénistique commence.

Cet « hellénisme » grec et cosmopolite, consciemment encouragé par Alexandre, cette interpénétration entre cultures grecque et orientale dans les États qui hériteront de l'empire d'Alexandre et l'universalisme et le syncrétisme religieux qui en résulteront lancent un formidable défi à la religion juive. N'est-ce pas un nouveau changement de paradigme qui s'annonce ici ? En rencontrant la culture mondiale universaliste de l'hellénisme, le judaïsme va-t-il devenir lui-même une religion mondiale à orientation universaliste, d'autant que son monothéisme éthique exerce déjà partout une forte fascination sur nombre de non-juifs et que, du coup, la mission juive rencontre un succès grandissant173?

Nous constatons plutôt une évolution en sens contraire. Il y a, certes, une littérature judéo-hellénistique qui n'est pas sans importance : à côté de l'historiographe Jason de Cyrène et du philosophe Aristobule, au IIe siècle av. J.-C., il y a surtout, les dépassant tous, le philosophe Philon d'Alexandrie (15/10 av. J.-C.-40/50 apr. J.-C.), un contemporain de Jésus de Nazareth donc, qui aspirait à concilier la religion juive avec la philosophie grecque, en cherchant, dans ses commentaires, à interpréter le Pentateuque selon la méthode allégorique des stoïciens et à traiter systématiquement, dans l'esprit hellénistique, le récit de la Création, le don de la Loi à Moïse et l'histoire des patriarches. Mais tous ces efforts restèrent finalement sans lendemain. A moyen et à long terme, la rencontre avec l'hellénisme eut plutôt pour effet de consolider la dévotion juive traditionnelle centrée sur le Temple et la Tora !

Est-ce à dire que « tout ceci ne relève plus de la thématique d'une histoire du peuple d'Israël174 »? Non, l'histoire du peuple ne se termine pas ici ! Mais elle affronte une crise fondamentale durable qui aboutira finalement à un nouveau changement de paradigme.

 

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7. Crise de la théocratie : de la révolution à l'« État-Église »

L'influence de la culture mondiale hellénistique se fait puissamment sentir en Palestine aussi, surtout à partir du IIe siècle avant notre ère, principalement dans les villes de plus en plus nombreuses, dans les classes cultivées et fortunées, notamment à Jérusalem, où vivent les riches familles sacerdotales aristocratiques. L'essor des activités de construction et des réalisations artistiques, une plus grande efficacité dans les secteurs de l'économie, de l'administration et de l'armée témoignent suffisamment de cette culture hellénistique et conduisent à une élévation générale du niveau de vie. On se dit éclairé, sans préjugés. Les grands prêtres eux-mêmes portent de plus en plus souvent des noms hellénistiques. à l'inverse, non seulement dans la diaspora, mais aussi en Juda, des cercles puissants, fidèles à la Loi, se barricadent contre l'influence hellénistique, au moins dans le domaine proprement religieux. C'est déjà vrai pour les cent ans tout rond (300-200/198 av. J.-C.) de domination égyptienne des Ptolémées sur la Palestine (xxxie et dernière dynastie égyptienne) - après les premières luttes mouvementées entre les « diadoques » (successeurs), les généraux d'Alexandre.

Le centre est maintenant la nouvelle ville d'Alexandrie à la croissance rapide. Et c'est dans cette ville d'Alexandrie que l'hellénisation du judaïsme allait trouver son expression la plus éclatante. En effet, parce que la connaissance de l'hébreu et de l'araméen avait fortement régressé dans la grande communauté juive d'Alexandrie, on en vient successivement à traduire en grec d'abord le Pentateuque, puis toute la Bible hébraïque. La légende, on le sait, attribue cette version à « soixante-dix » traducteurs, d'où le nom de « Septante » qu'elle porte toujours.

L'harmonie et l'interaction culturelle ne dureront pas, il est vrai : les Séleucides, venus de la sphère mésopotamo-syrienne, chasseront les Ptolémées de Palestine. Au terme de « cinq guerres syriennes » pour la conquête de la Syrie-Palestine, les Séleucides sont maîtres de la Palestine. Et, après la tolérance des débuts, on assiste à une hellénisation systématique de la Palestine de plus en plus poussée (langue, constitution, théâtre, stade,

 

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gymnase grecs...). Dès lors, un judaïsme réformé, adapté aux temps nouveaux, ne représentait-il pas un choix judicieux? Maints réformateurs juifs de l'époque le pensaient.

Mais pour ceux qui se veulent fidèles à la Loi, toute réforme est apostasie. Le peuple manifeste une opposition croissante contre cette hellénisation. La situation devient explosive quand, en 169, le roi séleucide Antiochos IV Épiphane met la main sur le trésor du Temple de Jérusalem pour assainir les finances de l'État mises à mal par une campagne en Egypte. Il lui faut maintenant conquérir Jérusalem à deux reprises. Mais du coup il fait de la ville une colonie militaire hellénistique, ce qui aboutit, en fait, à une hellénisation forcée d'Israël : en 167, le culte fidèle à la Loi, la circoncision et l'observance du sabbat sont interdits, les juifs fidèles à la Loi sont persécutés et le culte païen est imposé au peuple. On aboutit à ce que le livre de Daniel appelle « l'abomination de la désolation175 » : un autel de Zeus sur l'autel des holocaustes dans le Temple !

Le conflit entre la culture juive traditionnelle et la culture hellénistique est à son comble et l'heure de la révolte de la population du pays attachée à la foi ancienne a sonné - inspirée et conduite par le prêtre Mattathias et ses cinq fils de la famille d'Asmon, les Asmonéens176. Le troisième fils, Judas, appelé Maccabée (en araméen, Maqqbay, « homme marteau »), réussit, en trois batailles, à remporter la victoire sur les troupes syriennes des Séleucides. En 164 il entre à Jérusalem et fait disparaître les horreurs païennes - sans attaquer la garnison dans la citadelle (Acra) de Jérusalem, signe de la souveraineté syrienne. Le 14 décembre de la même année, le Temple profané est solennellement reconsacré et les juifs du monde entier célèbrent toujours cet événement : c'est la fête de Hanoukka (« purification » du Temple), qui, en tant que « fête des lumières » (avec le chandelier de Hanoukka, à huit branches), est devenue une sorte de Noël juif.

Mais comment les choses vont-elles évoluer politiquement? Le peuple est partagé. Le groupe des « pieux » (hassidim), qui donnera naissance, plus tard, aux « pharisiens », se contente de l'autonomie spirituelle et religieuse sous la souveraineté syrienne des Séleucides. Il en va de même, à plus forte raison, d'un groupe de juifs pieux radicaux, appelés les « esséniens », qui

 

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commencent sans doute dès cette époque à s'isoler, à titre de protestation, allant jusqu'à s'installer, pour une part, dans le désert. à l'inverse, le mouvement des Maccabées vise à l'autonomie politique de la Judée - en concluant notamment, en 161, un dangereux pacte d'assistance avec Rome, nouvelle grande puissance montante -, d'où des luttes sans fin.

Le troisième parti, les « sadducéens » hellénisants, appartenant aux familles sacerdotales et aristocratiques, assailli des deux côtés, finira par solliciter l'aide des Séleucides, qui commencent par vaincre les Maccabées ; Judas trouve la mort. Mais son frère Jonathan continue la lutte, d'abord comme chef de guérilla, puis comme grand prêtre, et, deux ans après, aussi comme « stratèges (commandant en chef) de Judée » (150 av. J.-C.). Pour la première fois depuis plus de quatre siècles, un même homme détient donc à nouveau le pouvoir spirituel et le pouvoir politique en Judée. Le frère aîné et successeur de Jonathan, Simon - reconnu en 142 par les Séleucides comme grand prêtre et souverain autonome -, conquiert aussi, en 141, la Citadelle de Jérusalem et contraint la garnison syrienne à évacuer la place. Un an après, le peuple lui confère les dignités héréditaires de commandant en chef, de prince et de grand prêtre. Après son assassinat, ces titres passent à son fils Jean, qui prend le nom d'Hyrcan Ier (135/134-104), devenant ainsi, de fait, le premier roi (et grand prêtre) de la dynastie des Asmonéens. Sous son règne, la Judée devient pratiquement indépendante : la souveraineté des Séleucides n'est plus que nominale. Avec Simon et Jean, les Maccabées ont donc atteint leur grand objectif : l'autonomie non seulement religieuse, mais politique ! Mais qu'en est-il du renouveau religieux ?

Avec un tel grand prêtre, la théocratie paraissait avoir trouvé son expression la plus forte. Et pourtant, dans le pays d'Israël, on était bien loin d'être satisfait des Asmonéens. L'opposition se faisait entendre de plus en plus fort, à savoir celle des « pieux », des populaires « pharisiens » (de l'araméen perichayya, de l'hébreu peruchim, les « séparés » par leur piété). Pour eux, l'observance de la Loi, dont l'interprétation par la tradition orale avait caractère obligatoire, était plus importante que tout nationalisme. Pour ce groupe, la nouvelle royauté sacerdotale s'était depuis longtemps montrée trop laïque, pas assez religieuse.

 

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Pour contrer cette opposition des pieux, Jean Hyrcan fut contraint de s'appuyer entièrement sur le parti hellénistique des sadducéens, pour qui le Pentateuque seul - et non toutes les traditions possibles et imaginables - avait caractère obligatoire. Il réussit à se maintenir au pouvoir, mais son fils et successeur, Alexandre Jannée (103-76), qui avait aussi pris en bonne et due forme le titre de roi - réservé aux seuls davidides selon la conception orthodoxe ! -, ne put se maintenir au pouvoir qu'au prix d'une terreur sanglante. Alexandre mit fin à une révolte pharisienne, qui durait depuis plusieurs années, en faisant crucifier huit cents insurgés177. Les guerres de religion étaient depuis longtemps devenues guerres de conquêtes. On avait conquis non seulement les villes de la côte et la Galilée, mais aussi de vastes territoires situés à l'est du Jourdain.

Les deux livres des Maccabées - non admis dans le canon juif - racontent l'histoire de la révolte et de la domination des Maccabées de 175 à 135, une histoire qui est redevenue de nos jours un symbole de la volonté d'autodétermination des juifs. Il n'est pas nécessaire pour autant de l'idéaliser ni de la minimiser178. Ironie de l'histoire, comme l'écrit à juste titre N. K. Gottwald : « Judas, le premier Maccabée, avait pris la tête d'une majorité de juifs contre un groupe peu nombreux, mais puissant, d'hellénistes juifs et de leurs auxiliaires séleucides. A l'inverse, Alexandre Jannée, un successeur des Maccabées, à la tête d'un groupe peu nombreux, mais puissant, de fidèles au roi, a mené un combat désespéré contre une majorité des gens du pays, qui voyaient en lui l'incarnation de la corruption et de l'agression hellénistiques179. »

L'indépendance juive sous les Asmonéens, qui dura près de quatre-vingts ans (142-63), resta un intermède - le temps de la vacuité du pouvoir en Palestine. Cette vacuité ne dura pas. L'Imperium Romanum avait depuis longtemps poussé des frontières orientales jusqu'en Grèce et en Asie Mineure, et Pompée, le rival de César, commandant en chef en Asie, visait à établir un ordre nouveau au Proche-Orient180. Appelé comme arbitre par les prétendants à la succession des Asmonéens, Hyrcan et Aristobule, Pompée répondit néanmoins à la demande des envoyés du peuple juif qui en avait plus qu'assez de toute royauté asmonéenne et demandait à nouveau une séparation entre

 

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pouvoir religieux et pouvoir politique. En clair, ils demandaient la restauration du pouvoir sacerdotal, mais limité au domaine religieux et cultuel, avec cession du pouvoir politique à la nouvelle puissance mondiale, Rome. « Les partisans de Hyrcan acceptèrent cette solution et livrèrent Jérusalem à Pompée. Aristobule se retrancha sur la colline du Temple, qui fut prise au terme d'un siège de trois mois. Au terme d'un petit siècle de luttes, de liberté politique transitoire, avec l'existence d'un État juif, le mouvement des Maccabées échouait définitivement, mis à mal par l'arbitraire des souverains asmonéens issus de ses rangs181. »

Résultat de cette politique : la Judée est maintenant un État vassal de Rome - État très réduit, sans les villes côtières et sans accès à la Méditerranée ! Le grand prêtre est privé de tout pouvoir : on ne lui reconnaît plus le titre de roi ni le droit de prélever des impôts. Il n'a plus autorité que sur la communauté des croyants de Jérusalem, par moments il fait aussi fonction d'ethnarque au nom de Rome. Et les Asmonéens ? En raison de leurs liens politiquement dangereux avec les Parthes - les plus grands adversaires de Rome en Asie Mineure -, les Romains laisseront exterminer toute la famille. Le « mérite » de cette boucherie revient à un Iduméen judaïsé, un gouverneur du district de Galilée qui avait cherché refuge à Rome, un fils d'Antipater Hyrcan II et de la fille d'un prince arabe, qui venait d'être établi « roi allié » (rex socius) par le Sénat romain, c'est-à-dire roi de Judée, vassal des Romains : Hérode, qui sera appelé le Grand182. En 37, avec l'aide de Rome, il s'empare de Jérusalem et, cruel et sachant ce qu'il veut, il constitue un État qui reste dépendant de Rome (directement sous l'autorité du Sénat), mais néanmoins relativement indépendant et aussi étendu que le royaume des Asmonéens.

Bien qu'à Jérusalem Hérode souligne sa judéité, qu'il ne touche pas au culte juif et qu'il soutienne le judaïsme de la diaspora, bien qu'il reconstruise, avec magnificence, Jérusalem et le Temple, et que, grâce à la Pax Romana, il garantisse la paix à la ville et à tout le pays, le peuple - les croyants les plus stricts surtout - lui voue une haine profonde. Comme roi, il est l'antithèse du grand David. Pourquoi ? Non seulement parce que, bâtard et partisan de Rome, il construit ou agrandit partout des

 

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palais, des temples et des villes (Samarie, par exemple, devient Sébaste - « Augusta », « ville de l'empereur » en l'honneur d'Auguste). Non seulement parce qu'il encourage le culte impérial et bâtit ou restaure de nombreuses fortifications - signes de son gouvernement fondé sur la terreur (la citadelle de Jérusalem, Macheronte et Massada, dominant la mer Morte). Mais aussi parce qu'il manipule à son gré les grands prêtres, parce qu'il favorise la séparation de l'État et de la religion, qu'il étouffe violemment toute tentative d'opposition et qu'il tue, par méfiance, tout prétendant éventuel à la succession, non seulement dans la famille des Asmonéens, mais dans sa propre famille (huit mariages en tout) : il élimine ainsi sa deuxième femme Mariamne, petite-nièce du grand prêtre Hyrcan, ainsi que ce dernier lui-même, à l'âge de quatre-vingts ans, et encore trois de ses propres fils, le dernier quelques jours seulement avant sa propre mort. Tout cela constitue l'arrière-plan de la légende du massacre des enfants de Bethléem (sur l'ordre d'Hérode) dans l'Évangile de Matthieu, mais inspira aussi de grands dramaturges de la littérature mondiale, de Hans Sachs et Calderôn à Friedrich Hebbel, en passant par Voltaire...

Depuis l'époque des Asmonéens, en Judée, les dissensions en politique intérieure relèvent surtout de la lutte entre les riches sadducéens, hellénisés, collaborant avec l'occupant romain, et les pieux pharisiens, hostiles à la culture grecque, qui entendent vivre conformément à la Loi, préoccupés de « justice » et de jugement, dont l'emprise sur le peuple ne cesse de croître. Il est clair que, sous la suzeraineté romaine, tolérante en matière religieuse, le paradigme théocratique n'a fait que se renforcer, jusqu'à devenir une sorte d'État-Eglise - dont le Temple est à nouveau le centre religieux, économique, politique183. Hérode lui-même et ses successeurs (après la mort d'Hérode, l'empereur Auguste a partagé le royaume d'Hérode entre ses trois plus jeunes fils), mais aussi les gouverneurs romains (procurateurs), qui ont leur siège à Césarée (parmi eux le célèbre Ponce Pilate, 26-36 apr. J.-C.), respectent en général ce pouvoir et cette administration théocratique de la hiérarchie sacerdotale, que les juifs considèrent comme légitimés par Dieu lui-même, le Seigneur Très-Haut. La religion, la justice, l'administration et à un moindre degré la politique sont ici inextricablement entrelacées.

 

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L'organe central du gouvernement, de la justice et de l'administration, compétent pour toutes les affaires religieuses et de droit civil, n'est pas un roi juif, mais le Conseil suprême de Jérusalem, en grec Sunédrionassemblée », d'où l'araméen « Sanhédrin »), présidé par le grand prêtre. Les classes dominantes du pays y sont représentées : à côté des prêtres et aristocrates sadducéens, surtout les « scribes » (théologiens-juristes) ; parmi ces derniers, se retrouvent aussi bien la tendance sadducéenne-sacerdotale que la tendance pharisienne-populaire. Ils sont exactement soixante-dix hommes, sous la présidence du grand prêtre qui, bien que dépendant entièrement du roi et de la puissance occupante, n'en est pas moins considéré comme le représentant suprême du peuple juif. Mais dans ce peuple se propagent aussi - ouvertement ou en secret - des attentes toutes différentes de celles de l'establishment hiérarchique.

 

8. Les auteurs apocalyptiques, avertisseurs et interprètes de leur temps

Sous la pression des événements prend naissance, en marge du paradigme théocratique, dans les cercles des hassidim une interprétation de l'histoire d'un type nouveau, une littérature « apocalyptique » (« dé-voilement », « révélation »), qui reprend l'ancienne espérance eschatologique, relative à la fin des temps. Sous la forme, surtout, de prédictions, de testaments, de visions et de songes, dans un langage riche en images et des spéculations sur les nombres, cette littérature prétend pouvoir « dévoiler » les mystères divins et surtout l'avenir. Que dévoile-t-on ainsi184 ?

Pendant la crise de l'époque des Maccabées, les auteurs apocalyptiques, avertisseurs et interprètes du temps, visionnaires, voyants et porteurs de songes, avaient déjà pris le relais des prophètes et des sages. Et c'est dans le livre de Daniel que l'annonce apocalyptique - après plusieurs étapes préliminaires dans la littérature prophétique - avait connu son plein développement. Un livre du prophète Daniel? Nous savons aujourd'hui que le livre de Daniel n'est certainement pas l'œuvre du voyant

 

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convoqué à la cour de Babylone au vie siècle av. J.-C. - à cause de sa langue, de sa théologie (celle, plus tardive, des anges) et de sa composition qui manque d'homogénéité. Son auteur a vécu au IIe siècle, il se dissimule derrière le masque de Daniel et écrit à l'époque d'Antiochos IV Épiphane, brutal hellénisant. Le canon juif ne le range d'ailleurs pas parmi les « Prophètes », mais parmi les « Écrits ».   ^ 

Le livre de Daniel représente une autre forme de réaction, moins politique que théologique, à la répression politique et à la bataille culturelle du judaïsme hellénistique. Cette bataille culturelle appelait avant tout une nouvelle réponse quant au sens de l'histoire. « Cette poussée expansionniste des Séleucides vers le sud, extraordinairement agressive, jointe aux séductions de la culture mondiale hellénistique, qui conduisait à Jérusalem à une apostasie massive, bien que souvent dissimulée, parmi les possédants, le clergé et l'aristocratie - allant jusqu'à l'abrogation de la Tora -, suscita, dans les milieux pieux du judaïsme, une crise extérieure et intérieure si fondamentale qu'elle donna naissance à cette théologie de l'histoire totalement différente que nous appelons apocalyptique185. » Cette nouvelle théologie de l'histoire, souvent liée à l'attente d'une catastrophe cosmique terminale et de l'avènement du Royaume de Dieu, avait deux conséquences qui pèseront d'un grand poids sur l'évolution historique ultérieure.

Pour la première fois dans l'histoire du peuple juif se développe la foi en une résurrection individuelle. Rien d'étonnant à cela : une époque où sévissent de telles persécutions - pour l'auteur du livre de Daniel c'est une époque de détresse, où leur fidélité à la Loi vaut aux hommes, aux femmes et aux enfants d'être cruellement torturés - repose de façon bien plus aiguë que pour les générations précédentes le vieux problème de la juste rétribution. De nouvelles questions surgissent - différentes de celles de l'époque des Ptolémées et de Qohélet : dans son acquiescement mélancolique à l'ici-bas (goûte la vie, tant qu'il en est temps !), celui-ci est très loin de la théologie de la rétribution traditionnelle de la littérature sapientielle, mais tout aussi loin de toute joyeuse espérance dans l'au-delà. Maintenant, la fidélité dans la foi de nombreux martyrs - qui n'ont que le terrible choix entre l'apostasie et la mort - pose des questions        ^

 

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nouvelles qu'on ne peut pas ne pas entendre : quel peut bien être le sens du martyre si ces hommes et ces femmes fidèles à leur foi jusque dans la mort ne peuvent plus espérer aucune compensation ? Ni dans la vie présente, puisqu'ils sont morts ! Ni dans l'au-delà, où ils ne peuvent espérer qu'une existence d'ombres ! Que fait donc le Dieu juste avec sa justice - pour les plus justes de tous, précisément ?

Daniel répond : ce temps de détresse sera suivi des derniers temps - maintenant ! Israël sera sauvé et - là est la nouveauté - les morts ressusciteront, les témoins de la foi tout comme leurs persécuteurs. Les morts qui ont dormi dans le « pays de la poussière » s'éveilleront. Ils reviendront à la vie dans leur pleine humanité (et pas seulement comme des « âmes » platoniciennes), dans cette existence d'ici-bas, mais qui dès lors durera éternellement, sans fin : pour les sages sous la forme de la lumière éternelle, pour les autres sous la forme de l'ignominie éternelle - qui n'est pas décrite non plus : « Et les gens réfléchis resplendiront comme la splendeur du firmament, eux qui ont rendu la multitude juste, comme les étoiles à tout jamais186. » Retenons ce passage : ce texte de Daniel est le plus ancien et même le seul texte incontesté en faveur d'une résurrection des morts dans toute la Bible hébraïque !  ^   En dehors du canon hébraïque, dans la Septante grecque, nous trouvons d'autres témoignages de cette espérance de la résurrection qui s'est fait jour si tardivement, surtout dans le deuxième livre des Maccabées, avec les plus anciens récits de martyres juifs, qui serviront de modèles aux martyrologes chrétiens. Et c'est ainsi que, dans les cent cinquante ans avant notre ère, la foi en la résurrection devient un objet de discussions tout à fait central dans le judaïsme.    ^

Un deuxième développement est tout aussi important. Au vu du fourvoiement total de l'histoire, l'attente traditionnelle du Messie - cet avènement d'un « fils de David », issu de l'histoire elle-même - avait perdu de sa force de persuasion dans le peuple juif. Les cercles apocalyptiques de la Palestine ont acquis cette conviction : le seul dont on puisse encore attendre une aide sera un envoyé direct de Dieu, venu du ciel, un autre, un sauveur préexistant, caché auprès de Dieu. C'est ainsi que dans maints écrits apocalyptiques le Messie davidique est totalement absent.

 

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Le Messie davidique terrestre a fait place à la figure de juge et de sauveur, préexistante et transcendante, du « fils de l'homme » ; c'est plus tard seulement que le « fils de l'homme » se fondra, en Palestine, avec la figure traditionnelle du Messie187.

C'est à cette époque, profondément marquée par la pensée apocalyptique, qu'est né ce juif - à peine remarqué par ce qui constituait alors le monde, et qui n'a pas trouvé place dans ses chroniques - qui deviendra l'homme du destin pour le judaïsme et pour le christianisme : Jésus de Nazareth, appelé le « fils de l'homme », déjà fortement contesté de son vivant et dont seul un tout petit groupe de juifs, qui croîtra toutefois rapidement en nombre, sera fermement convaincu qu'il est ressuscité des morts.

Nous aurons l'occasion d'y revenir. Continuons à suivre ici l'histoire du peuple juif qui est suffisamment passionnante, en ce nouveau tournant qu'elle va prendre.

 

9. La chute de Jérusalem et la fin de la théocratie

Tout à fait indépendamment de l'exécution du Nazaréen autour de l'an 30 apr. J.-C. - liquidé par les Romains comme un parmi les nombreux agitateurs juifs -, la crise politico-religieuse du judaïsme s'était aggravée de.façon dramatique pendant les décennies suivantes. Des combattants de la liberté, surtout en Galilée et dans les guérillas de Jérusalem, les zéloteszélateurs ») et les sicairesporteurs de poignards »), s'en étaient déjà pris à la puissance occupante romaine, représentée par des procurateurs rapaces, insensibles et politiquement incapables, qui s'étaient permis, de plus, quelques empiétements religieux extrêmement maladroits188.    ^

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Nancey Murphy, "Bodies And Souls, or Spirited Bodies?", Cambridge University Press 2006, "Current Isssues In Theology" Series. Nancey Murphy is professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Seminary. She is an internationally known author and speaker in the field of religion and science. Professor Murphy's many publications include "Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning" (1990) and "Religion and Science: God, Evolution and the Soul" (2002).

 

1 Do Christians need souls?

Theological and biblical perspectives on human nature

 

1. Prospect and problems

One thing we have in common with the first Christians is this: we have available to us a wealth of conflicting ideas about what a human being, most basically, is. It is important to be aware of this fact since whatever we believe on this subject will influence how we think about a great number of other issues, for example: What happens to us after we die? Is an embryo a person? Ordinarily we do not discuss our theories of human nature, so these disagreements are kept largely below the surface of our debates. Here is an example: when Dolly the sheep was cloned I received calls from media people looking for a Christian reaction. One reporter seemed frustrated that I had no strong condemnation of the idea of cloning humans. After his repeated attempts to provoke me to express some sort of horror at the prospect, light dawned for me. I asked him,

"Do you read a lot of science fiction?"

"Well, some."

"Are you imagining that if we try to clone a human being we'll clone a body but it won't have a soul? It will be like the zombies in science fiction?"

"Yes, something like that."

"Well," I said, "don't worry. None of us has a soul and we all get along perfectly well!"

Because we seldom discuss our theories of human nature it is difficult to know what others think. I have had to resort to informal polling whenever I get the chance. I ask students in various classes and often ask my audiences when I lecture. Here are some options. The first can be called either physicalism or materialism. This is the view that humans are composed of only one "part," a physical body. The terms […]

 

 

 

 

Nancey Murphy, "Bodies And Souls, or Spirited Bodies?", Cambridge University Press 2006, "Current Isssues In Theology" Series. Nancey Murphy is professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Seminary. She is an internationally known author and speaker in the field of religion and science. Professor Murphy's many publications include "Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning" (1990) and "Religion and Science: God, Evolution and the Soul" (2002).

p. 2:

[…]

Which of the following comes closest to your understanding of human nature?

1.      Humans are composed of one part: a physical body (materialism/physicalism).

2.      Humans are composed of two parts: a body and a soul, or a body and a mind (dualism).

3.      Humans are composed of three parts: body, soul and spirit (trichotomism).

4.      Humans are composed of one part: a spiritual/mental substance (idealism).

5.      Who cares?

 

p. 3:

The results I usually get are as follows: among my Evangelical students at Fuller Theological Seminary, as well as with a general audience, dualism and trichotomism compete for the first place. There are usually only one or two physicalists and one or two idealists.

In groups of specialists the numbers are quite different. If I were to ask scientists, I am sure I would find that most biologists and especially neuroscientists are physicalists. However, it is not easy to predict what chemists or physicists will say. Answers here are related to the issue of reductionism, which I shall address throughout this volume. If I ask philosophers, their answers will depend largely on whether they are Christians or not. Secular philosophers are almost all physicalists - I only know one exception. Christian philosophers are divided between dualism and physicalism. When I speak at seminaries on the liberal end of the spectrum all but incoming students are physicalists. At more conservative institutions faculty members are split between dualism and physicalism. Item 5 ("Who cares?") is included at a teaser, since I shall argue that it actually represents the biblical view. […]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nancey Murphy, "Bodies And Souls, or Spirited Bodies?", Cambridge University Press 2006, "Current Isssues In Theology" Series. Nancey Murphy is professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Seminary. She is an internationally known author and speaker in the field of religion and science. Professor Murphy's many publications include "Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning" (1990) and "Religion and Science: God, Evolution and the Soul" (2002).

p. 5:

emphasis on our continuity with animals, raised the question of how it could be that we have souls while the (other) animals do not. The significance of contemporary neuroscience is this: all of the capacities once attributed to the mind or soul now appear to be (largely) functions of the brain.   ^  

In both of these first two chapters I shall be arguing either directly or indirectly for a physicalist account of human nature. However, physicalism has not been a predominant view in either philosophy or theology until recently. There are a number of philosophical problems that need to be addressed if physicalism is to be acceptable to Christians. In my third and fourth chapters, then, I shall alert you to the most significant of these problems and sketch out some rough indicators of where solutions might lie.

A central philosophical issue is reductionism, what neuropsychologist Donald MacKay called "nothing-buttery." The essential question is this: if humans are purely physical, then how can it fail to be the case that all of our thoughts and behavior are simply determined by the laws of neurobiology? In chapter 3, I first explain what is wrong with reductionism in general, and then sketch out an account of how our complex neural equipment, along with cultural resources, underlies our capacities for both morality and free will.

In chapter 4, I address a variety of other philosophical problems. One is simply the question of how we know physicalism is true. I argue that if it is treated as a scientific hypothesis rather than a philosophical doctrine, we see that it has all of the confirming evidence one could hope for (much of it sketched in chapter 2).

The two remaining issues are related to the difference between reductionist and non-reductionist versions of physicalism. First, if humans have no souls, what accounts for the traditional view that we have a special place among the animals; in other words, in what does human distinctiveness lie? I shall focus on morality and the ability to be in relationship with God. I argue that our capacity for religious experience is enabled by culture and by our complex […]

5

 

 

 

 

Nancey Murphy, "Bodies And Souls, or Spirited Bodies?", Cambridge University Press 2006, "Current Isssues In Theology" Series. Nancey Murphy is professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Seminary. She is an internationally known author and speaker in the field of religion and science. Professor Murphy's many publications include "Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning" (1990) and "Religion and Science: God, Evolution and the Soul" (2002).

p. 8:

In the eighteenth and especially the nineteenth centuries many New Testament scholars cast doubt on the historicity of miracles in general and the great miracle of Jesus' resurrection in particular. Skepticism about Jesus' resurrection led to increased emphasis among theologians on the immortality of the soul as the only basis for Christian hope in an afterlife. Philosophy was important here as well. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) has been the most influential philosopher in the development of liberal theology. He devised a "transcendental" argument for the soul's immortality, which nicely reinforced the tendency among theologians to see body-soul dualism as the "Enlightened" Christian position. Consider Adolf von Harnack's neat summary of the kernel of Christian doctrine: the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, and the infinite value of the human soul.3

Meanwhile - and here is the contradictory tendency - biblical scholars had begun to question whether body-soul dualism was in fact the position to be found in Scripture. One important contribution here was the work of H. Wheeler Robinson, an Old Testament scholar whose book, The Christian Doctrine of Man, went through three editions and eight printings between 1911 and 1952.4 Robinson argued that the Hebrew idea of personality is that of an animated body, not (like the Greek) that of an incarnated soul. However, while arguing that the New Testament is largely continuous with the Old in conceiving of the person as a unity rather than dualistically, he also said that the most important advance in the New Testament is the belief that the essential personality (whether called the psyche or the pneuma) survives bodily death. This soul or spirit maybe temporarily disembodied, but it is not complete without the body, and its

 

3 Adolf von Harnack, Das Wesen des Christentums (1900); translated as What is Christianity? (1901).

4 H. Wheeler Robinson, The Christian Doctrine of Man (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1911). While Robinson's account of Old Testament teaching struck a blow against dualism, it did not support physicalism directly since Robinson interpreted theories of human nature in terms of his idealist philosophy.

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continued existence after bodily death is dependent upon God rather than a natural endowment of the soul. So here we see the beginning of the recognition that dualism was not the original Hebraic understanding. He sees a modified dualism as a New Testament invention. Theological thinking on these issues around the time Robinson wrote can only be described as confused. This can be seen by comparing related entries in reference works from early in the twentieth century. In The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1910) there is a clear consensus that the whole of the Bible is dualistic.5 The general understanding was that the human soul is bound to corporeality in this life, yet it survives death because it possesses the Spirit of God. Resurrection is understood as God's giving new bodies to souls that have rested in God since the death of the old body.

Yet in a slightly earlier work, A Dictionary of the Bible (1902), two sharply opposed views appear.6 An article on "Soul" says that throughout most of the Bible, the terms usually translated as "soul" such as the Hebrew word nephesh or the Greek psyche do not in fact refer to a substantial soul. Instead they are simply equivalent to the life embodied in living creatures (4:608). The article on "Resurrection," however, subscribes to body-soul dualism. Resurrection is described as "the clothing of the soul with a body" (4:236). So some of the authors in this dictionary assume dualism while others explicitly deny that it is the anthropology of the Bible.

This tendency to juxtapose incompatible accounts of biblical teaching continued through the middle of the twentieth century, when several new factors gave the issue greater prominence. One was the rise of neo-orthodox theology after World War I.  Karl Barth and others made a sharp distinction between Hebraic and Hellenistic conceptions, and strongly favored the former. Barth […]

 

5 Samuel Macauley Jackson, ed. (New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls Company (1910).

6 James Hastings, ed. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1902).

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Nancey Murphy, "Bodies And Souls, or Spirited Bodies?", Cambridge University Press 2006, "Current Isssues In Theology" Series. Nancey Murphy is professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Seminary. She is an internationally known author and speaker in the field of religion and science. Professor Murphy's many publications include "Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning" (1990) and "Religion and Science: God, Evolution and the Soul" (2002).

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Being a proponent of physicalism, and teaching at a seminary where biblical authority is paramount, I would like to be able to state unequivocally that physicalism is the position of the Bible. Unfortunately (for me) it is more complicated than that. While there is wide agreement among biblical scholars that at least the earlier Hebraic scriptures know nothing of body-soul dualism, it is surprisingly difficult to settle the issue of what the New Testament has to say.     ^   

 

4.1 Old Testament scholarship

 

Let us consider first the Old Testament. If current scholars are correct in their claim that the original Hebraic conception of the person comes closer to current physicalist accounts than to body-soul dualism, how could Christians have been wrong about this for so many centuries? Part of the answer involves translation. The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, probably dating from around 250 BCE. This text translated Hebrew anthropological terminology into Greek, and it then contained the terms that, in the minds of Christians influenced by Greek philosophy, referred to constituent parts of humans. Christians since then have obligingly read them and translated them in this way. The clearest instance of this is the Hebrew word nephesh, which was translated as psyche in the Septuagint and later translated into English as "soul." To illustrate, here are a few lines as they were translated in the King James Version:

Psalm 16:10: "For thou wilt not leave my soul in Hell."

Psalm 25:20: "O keep my soul and deliver me; let me not be ashamed."

Psalm 26:9: "Gather not my soul with sinners."

Psalm 49:14-15: "They that trust in their wealth like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them - but God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave ..."

 

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These passages fit nicely with a view that, while the body may decay in the grave, God saves souls; this sounds exactly like body-soul dualism. Notice, though, that there are other references to the soul in the Hebrew scriptures that do not fit this dualist picture at all:

 

Psalm 7:1-2: "O Lord my God in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me . . . Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces."

Psalm 22:20: "Deliver my soul from the sword."

Psalm 35:7: "... without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul."

 

These passages are strange in the old translations - it is bodies, not souls, that are torn or stabbed, and souls cannot be thrown into pits. Even a passage in Genesis that is often used to support dualism sounds odd. Genesis 2:7 used to read:

 

"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul."

 

Should it not say instead, "God breathed a soul into his nostrils and he became a living being"?

 

It is widely agreed now that the Hebrew word translated "soul" in all these cases - nephesh - did not mean what later Christians have meant by "soul." In most of these cases, it is simply a way of referring to the whole living person.    ^   Here is how more recent versions translate some of these same passages:

 

Psalm 16:10: (KJV) "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell"; (REB) "for you will not abandon me to Sheol. ..."

Psalm 25:20: (KJV) "Oh keep my soul and deliver me"; (NIV) "Guard my life and rescue me."

 

The Genesis passage is translated as "man became a living being" (NIV) or "a living creature" (REB).

Biblical scholar Robert Gundry writes that "... we confront a current understanding of OT (Old Testament) anthropology by

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 now so common that its maxims need no quotation marks. It is that in the OT body and soul do not contrast. Man is an animated body rather than an incarnated soul."15 Yet Gundry (in the work just cited) is one of the most articulate proponents of a dualistic interpretation of the New Testament.

 

4.2 Conflicting accounts of the New Testament

The New Testament, being written in Greek, has also been read in light of Greek philosophy, and, in addition, there are a number of passages that many take to show that the New Testament authors espoused a dualist anthropology. These include:

(1) Matthew 10:28 (REB), "Do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul. Fear him rather who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell;"

(2) Luke 16:19-31, the story of Lazarus in which (without reference to prior resurrection of the body) Lazarus is said to be with Abraham;

(3) Luke 23:39-43, in which Jesus says to one of those crucified with him  that he will be with  him  today  in  Paradise;  and  

(4) 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, in which Paul says that "in this present body we groan, yearning to be covered by our heavenly habitation put over this one, in the hope that, being thus clothed, we shall not find ourselves naked."

 

It is not clear what to make of these passages. For example, the Lukan parallel to the text from Matthew reads "do not fear those who kill the body and after that have nothing more they can do ... fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell . . ." (Lk. 12:4-5).

 

Which is the better representation of Jesus' own words?

The other passages here are taken by some current scholars to allude to or presuppose a conscious intermediate state between death and the final resurrection. John W. Cooper, a philosophical theologian at Calvin Theological Seminary, published his book,

 

15 Robert H. Gundry, Soma in Biblical Theology: With Emphasis on Pauline Anthropology ((Grand Rapids, Ml: Zondevan Press, 1987).

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Nancey Murphy, "Bodies And Souls, or Spirited Bodies?", Cambridge University Press 2006, "Current Isssues In Theology" Series. Nancey Murphy is professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Seminary. She is an internationally known author and speaker in the field of religion and science. Professor Murphy's many publications include "Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning" (1990) and "Religion and Science: God, Evolution and the Soul" (2002).

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My point in reporting this argument is not to take sides with one or the other, but rather to show the difficulty in determining what a New Testament author has in mind on this particular issue. My question is this: do Christians really need to work through a long list of non-Canonical books in order to determine what the Bible teaches on this issue? The unlikelihood of a positive answer to my rhetorical question leads me to this conclusion: the New Testament authors are not intending to teach anything about humans' metaphysical composition. If they were, surely they could have done so much more clearly!

Helpful support for this conclusion comes from New Testament scholar James Dunn. Dunn distinguishes between what he calls "aspective" and "partitive" accounts of human nature. Dunn writes:

 

"... in simplified terms, while Greek thought tended to regard the human being as made up of distinct parts, Hebraic thought saw the human being more as a whole person existing on different dimensions. As we might say, it was more characteristically Greek to conceive of the human person "partitively," whereas it was more characteristically Hebrew to conceive of the human person "aspec-tively." That is to say, we speak of a school having a gym (the gym is part of the school); but we say I am a Scot (my Scottishness is an aspect of my whole being)."21

 

So the Greek philosophers we have surveyed were interested in the question: what are the essential parts that make up a human being? In contrast, for the biblical authors each "part" ("part" in scare quotes) stands for the whole person thought of from a certain angle. For example, "spirit" stands for the whole person in relation to God. What the New Testament authors arc concerned with, then, is human beings in relationship to the natural world, to the

 

21 James D.G. Dunn, The Theology Of The Apostle Paul (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998, 54). Dunn attributes the aspective/partitive account to D.E.H. Whitley, The Theology of St Paul (Oxford Blackwell, 1964).

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community, and to God. Paul's distinction between spirit and flesh is not our later distinction between soul and body. Paul is concerned with two ways of living: one in conformity with the Spirit of God, and the other in conformity to the old aeon before Christ. Recall that item 5 in my survey (above) was "Who cares?" I included that option to represent Dunn's (widely shared) thesis regarding the apparent unimportance of our question about "parts" for the biblical authors.

 

4.3 My thesis

So I conclude that there is no such thing as the biblical view of human nature insofar as we are interested in a partitive account. The biblical authors, especially the New Testament authors, wrote within the context of a wide variety of views, probably as diverse as in our own day, but did not take a clear stand on one theory or another. What the New Testament authors do attest is, first, that humans are psychophysical unities; second, that Christian hope for eternal life is staked on bodily resurrection rather than an immortal soul; and, third, that humans are to be understood in terms of their relationships - relationships to the community of believers and especially to God.

I believe that we can conclude, further, that this leaves contemporary Christians free to choose among several options. It would be very bold of me to say that dualism per se is ruled out, given that it has been so prominent in the tradition. However, the radical dualisms of Plato and Rene Descartes,22 which take the body to be unnecessary for, or even a hindrance to, full human life, are clearly out of bounds. Equally unacceptable is any physicalist account that denies human ability to be in relationship with God. Thus, many reductionist forms of physicalism are also out of bounds. More on this in chapters 3 and 4.  

 

22. I describe Descartes's position in chapter 2.

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Nancey Murphy, "Bodies And Souls, or Spirited Bodies?", Cambridge University Press 2006, "Current Isssues In Theology" Series. Nancey Murphy is professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Seminary. She is an internationally known author and speaker in the field of religion and science. Professor Murphy's many publications include "Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning" (1990) and "Religion and Science: God, Evolution and the Soul" (2002).

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relating all of the "parts." The questions I am asked about Christology when I present a physicalist account of humans often suggest that the questioner is assuming that the divinity of Christ is somehow connected with his soul. Deny the existence of human souls in general and this is tantamount to denying Christ's divinity. However, the assumption lurking behind this question conflicts with the Chalcedonian conclusion that Jesus is both fully divine and fully human.

Given that physicalist anthropology has been widely accepted among theologians for at least a half century, there is a wide array of Christologies developed in this light.  ^ I am in no position to do justice to them here.28 I make here two suggestions. First, rethinking Christology in light of a physicalist anthropology certainly requires Christians to pay adequate attention to incarnation - if humans are purely physical, then there is no getting around the scandal of "enfleshment."

Second, there has always been a tension in trinitarian thought between those who emphasize the unity of God and those who emphasize the three-ness. In the eyes of one group, the others appear to verge on tri-theism; in the eyes of the other, on uni-tarianism. An alternative approach to the now-popular social trinitarianism emphasizes that the word "person" in formulations of the doctrine of the trinity has shifted its meaning over the centuries. Whereas it now refers to an individual rational agent, the Latin persona from which it was derived referred to masks worn by actors and, by extension, to the roles they played. Consequently, Robert Jenson argues that in order to understand the origin of the triune understanding of God, Christians need to "attend to the plot of the biblical narrative turning on these two events [Exodus and Resurrection], and to the dramatis personae

 

28 See, for example, James W. McClendon  Jr.'s "two narratives" Christology,  in Doctrine: Systematic Theology, Volume 2 ( Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1994), chapter 6.

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Nancey Murphy, "Bodies And Souls, or Spirited Bodies?", Cambridge University Press 2006, "Current Isssues In Theology" Series. Nancey Murphy is professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Seminary. She is an internationally known author and speaker in the field of religion and science. Professor Murphy's many publications include "Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning" (1990) and "Religion and Science: God, Evolution and the Soul" (2002).

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5.3 Salvation and history

An equally important doctrine to rethink in light of a physicalist account of human nature is the doctrine of salvation. Again, I can only be suggestive. One of my colleagues recently described some children's literature that uses the device of parallel worlds - worlds just like ours except that one or a few variables are different. For example, what would it be like to be a student at Oxford today if the English Reformation had not taken place? Let us use this device to think about theology in general and the Christian doctrine of salvation in particular. What might theology be like today, and how might Christian history have gone differently, if a physicalist sort of anthropology had predominated rather than dualism? It seems clear that much of the Christian spiritual tradition would be different. There would be no notion of care of the soul as the point of Christian disciplines - certainly no concept of depriving the body in order that the soul might flourish. As some feminist thinkers have been saying for some time: dualist anthropology all too easily leads to disparagement of the body and all that goes along with being embodied. More on Christian spirituality in the next section.

Here are some questions: Without the Neoplatonic notion that the goal of life is to prepare the soul for its proper abode in heaven, would Christians through the centuries have devoted more of their attention to working for God's reign on earth? And would Jesus' teachings be regarded as a proper blueprint for that earthly society? Would the creeds, then, not have skipped from his birth to his death, leaving out his teaching and faithful life? Would Christians then see a broader, richer role for Jesus Messiah than as facilitator of the forgiveness of their sins? If Christians had been focusing more, throughout all of these centuries, on following Jesus' teachings about sharing, and about loving our enemies at least enough so as not to kill them, how different might world politics be today? What would Christians have been doing these past 2000 years if there were no such things as souls to save?

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My reflections here grow out of two sources. One is my own longstanding puzzlement about how the different sorts of Christianity I have encountered can be so different, despite so much doctrinal agreement. for example, the forms of life of my church, the Church of the Brethren, are rather well summed up in the denomination's motto: Continuing the work of Jesus, peacefully, simply, together. Yet at Fuller Seminary, while most of my students are in fact continuing the work of Jesus, their understanding is that Christianity is basically about something else - having one's sins forgiven and eternal life. The second source of my reflections is David Kelsey's book, "The Uses of Scripture in Recent Theology". He attributes differences among theologies and approaches to scriptural authority to different ideas about how to construe God's presence in the community. He says that a theologian attempts to "catch up what Christianity is basically all about in a single, synoptic, imaginative judgment."35

Now, at great risk of oversimplification, I am suggesting that the adoption of a dualist anthropology in the early centuries of the church was largely responsible for changing Christians' conception of what Christianity is basically all about. I am suggesting that original Christianity is better understood in socio-political terms than in terms of what is currently thought of as religious or metaphysical. The adoption of a dualist anthropology provided something different - different from socio-political and ethical concerns - with which Christians became primarily concerned.

This is not, of course, to deny the afterlife. It is rather to emphasize the importance of bodily resurrection. It is important to see how the contrasting accounts of life after death - resurrection versus immortality of the soul - lead to different attitudes toward kingdom work in this life. Lutheran theologian Ted Peters whimsically describes the dualist account of salvation as "soul-ectomy." If souls are saved out of

 

35 David Kelsey, The Uses of Scripture in Recent Theology (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975), 159.                  ^ 

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this world, then nothing here matters ultimately. If it is our bodily selves that are saved and transformed, then bodies and all that go with them matter - families, history, and all of nature.

Jewish scholar Neil Gillman lends weight to my suggestion. His book, titled "The Death of Death", argues that resurrection of the body, rather than immortality of the soul, is the only authentically Jewish conception of life after death. Why are physicalism and resurrection important to Jews? For many reasons, Gillman replies:

 

Because the notion of immortality tends to deny the reality of death, of God's power to take my life and to restore it; because the doctrine of immortality implies that my body is less precious, important, even "pure," while resurrection affirms that my body is no less God's creation and is both necessary and good; because the notion of a bodiless soul runs counter to my experience of myself and others .. .36

 

It is indispensable for another reason. If my body inserts me into history and society, then the affirmation of bodily resurrection is also an affirmation of history and society. If my bodily existence is insignificant, then so are history and society. To affirm that God has the power to reconstitute me in my bodily existence is to affirm that God also cares deeply about history and society.37

Looking forward to the resurrection and transformation of our bodies leads naturally to the expectation that the entire cosmos will be similarly transformed. German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg argues that in Jesus' resurrection we see the first fruits of the transformation for which the whole creation is longing.38 As Paul says:

The created universe is waiting with eager expectation lor God's sons to be revealed. It was made subject to frustration, not of its own choice but by the will of him who subjected it, yet with the hope that

36. Gillman, The Death of Death, 238. 

37. Ibid., 262.

38. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus - God and Man ( Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1968).

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the universe itself is to be freed from the shackles of mortality and is to enter upon the glorious liberty of the children of God. Up to the present, as we know, the whole created universe in all its parts groans as if in the pangs of childbirth. What is more, we also, to whom the Spirit is given as the first fruits of the harvest to come, arc-groaning inwardly while we look forward to our adoption, our liberation from mortality. (Rom. 8:19-23 |REB|)

 

6. Questioning the spiritual quest

In the previous section I have only begun to scratch the surface of important theological issues related to one's theory of human nature. The change from a dualist to a physicalist anthropology also calls for serious reconsideration of traditional understandings of Christian spirituality. From Augustine to the present we have had a conception of the self that distinguishes the inner life from the outer, and spirituality has been associated largely with the inner.

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6.1 Augustinian inwardness

The distinction between inner and outer is not equivalent to the distinction between soul and body, but its historical origin was a result of Augustine's dualism. The peculiar notion that one has an "inside," and that one's true self can "enter into" that inner space, arose from Augustine's reflections on the problem of the location of the soul. He came to conceive of it as a "space" of its own. The ancient rhetorical tradition, with its arts of memory and invention, had already connected the idea of chambers or rooms with the idea of memory. Orators memorized the order of subjects to be discussed

 

39. See Phillip Cary, "Augustine's invention of the Inner Self: The Legacy of a Christian Plalonist" (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

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in a speech by imagining themselves walking through the rooms of a familiar house and mentally marking each successive place with an image that would serve as a reminder of the next topic. The result was the introduction, in Augustine's Confessions, of the idea of memory as a capacious inner chamber, in which is found "innumerable images of all kinds ... whatever we think about... all the skills acquired through the liberal arts . .. the principles of the laws of numbers ..." and most important of all, God.40

The combination of the Neoplatonic emphasis on the care of the soul with Augustine's metaphor of entering into one's own self or soul in order to find God constituted a complex of ideas that has shaped the whole of Western spirituality from that point onward. Teresa of Avila's extended metaphor of the interior castle is one of its finest fruits.41 Teresa writes:

... we consider our soul to be like a castle made entirely out of a diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in heaven there are many dwelling places... [T]he soul of the just person is nothing else but a paradise where the Lord says He finds His delight. I didn't find anything comparable to the magnificent beauty of a soul and its marvelous capacity. Indeed, our intellects, however keen, can hardly comprehend it, just as they cannot comprehend God; but He Himself says that He created us in His own image and Likeness ...

Well, let us consider that this castle has, as I said, many dwelling places: some up above, others down below, others to the sides; and in the center and middle is the main dwelling place where the very secret exchanges between God and the soul take place.42

 

40. Augustine, Confessions, Book 10; trans. Henry Chadwick (Oxford. Oxford University Press, 1991), 185.

41. Teresa of Avila, The Interioe Castle, written in 1577.

42. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, in The Collected Works Of  St. Teresa of Avilla, vol. 2,  trans. and ed.

Otilio Rodriguez and Kieran Kavanaugh (Washington, DC. Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1980), 283-4.

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This imagery is so familiar to us that we often fail to notice how strange it is: I, the real I, am somehow inside of myself. Teresa does note the oddity: "Well, getting back to our beautiful and delightful castle we must see how we can enter it. It seems I'm saying something foolish. For if this castle is the soul, clearly one doesn't have to enter it since it is within oneself."43

 

6.2 Contemporary revisions

There are a number of thoughtful critics today of this tradition of inwardness. One is Nicholas Lash44;another is

Owen Thomas, emeritus professor of theology at the Episcopal Divinity School. I shall follow two of Thomas's essays." Here are the contemporary misunderstandings as Thomas sees them:

 

It is commonly assumed that spirituality is an optional matter, that some people are more spiritual than others and some not at all, that spirituality is essentially a good thing (the more the better), that while spirituality is somehow related to religion it should be sharply distinguished from religion as something superior to and more important than religion .. ,"46

 

Thomas argues his position on the basis of the very narrow meaning of the word "spirit" in English as compared with its translations in other languages Geist in German, esprit in French, and spirito in Italian. The English word "spirit" is associated with emotion and will as opposed to intellect. In contrast, the German Geist refers to the totality of what defines humanity in its fullness. Consequently, Thomas believes that spirituality "is most fruitfully defined as the sum of all the uniquely human capacities

 

43. Ibid., 285, H. Lash, Easter in Ordinary.

45. Owen Thomas, "Some Problems in Contemporary Christian Theology," Anglican Theological Review 82, no. 2 (Spring 2000): 267-81, and essay cited at note 52.

46. Ibid., 267.

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Nancey Murphy, "Bodies And Souls, or Spirited Bodies?", Cambridge University Press 2006, "Current Isssues In Theology" Series. Nancey Murphy is professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Seminary. She is an internationally known author and speaker in the field of religion and science. Professor Murphy's many publications include "Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning" (1990) and "Religion and Science: God, Evolution and the Soul" (2002).

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consummation, including the resurrection of the body. Although there has been considerable attention devoted to the body in recent Christian spirituality, it has been largely focused on using the body as a foil for the progress of the soul.

Second, the reign of God must become central again in Christian spirituality. The reign of God is the fundamental theme of Jesus' mission: its inbreaking and manifestation in Jesus' presence, healing, and teaching. To be a follower of Jesus means to repent and open oneself to the presence of this reign, to look for and point to signs of the reign, and to participate in it by manifesting its signs in active love of the neighbor and in the struggle for justice and peace. The presence of the reign of God is manifest primarily in outer life and public life, as well as in inner life and private life, and it is the former which has been largely ignored in recent Christian formation.54

Earlier in this section I pointed out that the inner-outer distinction is not the same as the distinction between soul and body. So presumably one could be a body-soul dualist while avoiding an excessively inward-looking spirituality. In fact, some of the greatest writers on inwardness did so. Teresa of Avila spent years traveling, reforming convents, and founding new ones. It is also possible for someone with a physicalist anthropology to flee from the responsibilities of kingdom work by turning to solitude, self-examination, and contemplation. So the strongest point I can make here is to claim, as I did in the preceding section, that physicalism - along with an eschatological hope for resurrection of the body - leads more naturally to a concern for the physical world and its transformation than does dualism.

I need to raise an important issue here, but one I shall reserve for the next chapter. This is the problem of divine action. In the distant past, Christians believed that God had to do with both souls and bodies. However, during the modern period, it became difficult to

 

54. Thomas, "Some Problems," 278.

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give an account of how God could act in the physical world without running foul of the laws of nature. One strategy was to say that God works only in human history, not in nature. But if we humans conceive of ourselves as purely physical, this strategy is no longer available. The difficult question of how God acts in the physical world cannot be avoided. James McClendon says that we have so anthropocentrized our theology in the modern period that we have a difficult time appreciating the fact that God has to do with bodies. He follows William Temple in describing Christianity as "the most avowedly materialist of all the great religions."55 Although we can never describe what Austin Farrer calls the "causal joint" between God and matter,56 we have to accept the fact that God does indeed act in the physical world, and in particular, however awkward it may sound, we have to say that God acts causally on human brains.57

 

7. Retrospect

I began this chapter by noting that Christians and others in our culture subscribe to a surprising variety of theories of human nature. The odd thing is that we are generally unaware of these differences. I hazard a guess that some of you readers may not even know what your spouse thinks about this issue. Unbeknownst to you, you may be sleeping with a trichotomist!

I have begun in this chapter to make a cumulative case for physicalism. I want to make three summary points: first, most of

 

55. See James W. McClendon, Jr., Ethics: Systematic Theology, Volume 1, revised edn. (Nashville: Abingdon, 2002), 97; referring to William Temple, Nature, Man and God (London: Macmillan, 1934), 478. However, this seems equally true of Judaism.

56. Austin Farrer, Faith and Speculation (London, A. & C. Black, 1967), 66.

57. See Robert J. Russell, Nancey Murphy, Thco C. Meyering, and Michael A. Arbib, eds., Nenroscience and the Person: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action (Vatican City State and Berkeley, CA: Vatican Observatory and Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, 1999).

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the dualism that has appeared to be biblical teaching has been a result of poor translations. The original Aramaic and Hebrew terms were first translated into Greek, and later taken to mean what Greek philosophers would mean by them. These meanings come down to us in older English translations. After the translations have been fixed, it is hard to find any clear teaching on the metaphysical makeup of the person - this is simply not a question in which the biblical authors were interested. They apparently assumed a variety of extant views and then used and remodeled them for their own purposes. So insofar as the Bible is normative for Christians, it appears that contemporary Christians are free to adopt either physicalism or dualism.    ^   

Second, despite lack of clarity on this issue in the Bible, it is in fact the case that most Christians, throughout most of their history, have been dualists of one sort or another. However, the fact that this has been largely due to cultural influences should free contemporary Christians to formulate accounts of human nature that are in keeping with current cultural developments. In the following chapter I shall survey some of the scientific developments that have long called dualism into question.

Third, I have argued that the adoption of a physicalist anthropology might lead to a reformulation of theology, both systematic theology and the theology of spirituality, that would correct for the otherworldliness and excessive inwardness of the Platonists, and that this might be a good thing both for our relationship with God and for our relations with the Earth and the rest of her inhabitants.

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2 What does science say about human nature?

Physics, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience

1. Prospect

In chapter 1, I noted the fact that we have a wide variety of views of human nature available to us in our culture: trichotomism, dualism, physicalism, idealism and many variations on each of these themes. I claimed that the variety can be explained in part by the fact that Christian theologians have taught a number of different views throughout the tradition's long history. Many of these differences are due to the borrowing of assorted accounts from ancient philosophy. Other differences are due to conflicting interpretations of the biblical texts. I made a claim there, which might not be so widely accepted as these others, that there is no such thing as the biblical view of human nature. I argued that the scriptural authors were interested in the various dimensions of human life, in relationships, not in the philosophical question of how many parts are essential components of a human being. This virtual silence in Scripture has made it easy for Christians throughout their history to adopt and adapt a variety of cultural assumptions about human nature.

I also claimed that there were only three major points in church history when Christians were forced to re-evaluate their theories of human nature. One in the early centuries was occasioned by the spread of Christianity into more Hellenized regions of the Mediterranean world. The second was the Aristotelian revival in the late middle ages, occasioned by Muslim conquests in Europe. The third was the development in the modern period of historical-critical methodology.

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My plan in this chapter is to turn to scientific influences. I shall argue that there are three major points in Western history where science has called for a re-appraisal ol theories of human nature. The first was the replacement of Aristotelian physics by modern physics in the seventeenth century. This called for a different account of the nature of the soul, and occasioned a return to a more radical dualism. A consequence of the changes in conceptions of both matter and the soul was creation of what is now judged to be an insuperable problem by most philosophers: the means by which body and soul (or mind) interact.

The second major scientific change was the Darwinian revolution in biology. This has had wide-ranging effects on human self-understanding, but relates to the dualism/physicalism debate in that it raised, for some, the question of why humans should be thought to have souls if their close animal kin do not. Others responded with an emphasis on dualism as the very thing that distinguishes us from animals. This issue of human distinctiveness will occupy us in chapter 4 as well.

The third major scientific impact is taking place right now due to the influences of contemporary neuroscience. It is becoming increasingly obvious to many that the functions and attributes once attributed to the soul or mind are better understood as functions of the brain.  ^  We shall examine each of these developments in turn. Despite the fact that the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin (1809-82) have been seen by so many as a challenge to Christian faith, I believe that the developments in physics and in the neurosciences have both been as much or more significant in reshaping theories of human nature.

 

2. The atomist revolution in physics

Galileo and Copernicus are famous for their roles in promoting heliocentric astronomy. This revolution is said to have had a great

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Nancey Murphy, "Bodies And Souls, or Spirited Bodies?", Cambridge University Press 2006, "Current Isssues In Theology" Series. Nancey Murphy is professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Seminary. She is an internationally known author and speaker in the field of religion and science. Professor Murphy's many publications include "Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning" (1990) and "Religion and Science: God, Evolution and the Soul" (2002).

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describes the late medieval version. Everything that exists, from rocks to God, can be arranged in a hierarchy: inorganic materials, plants, animals, humans, angels, and God. The great onlological divide here is not between Creator and creatures, as I think it should be for readers of the Bible, but rather between matter and spirit ("spirit" understood in gnostic rather than Pauline terms). Humans on this view are "amphibious" creatures, their bodies are on the lower side of the great divide, their souls above. This being a hierarchy of value and not merely a classificatory scheme, Westerners have grown accustomed to thinking of themselves as distinctly superior to animals in moral terms. I believe that this is one of the sources of negative attitudes toward animals. They are "beastly," while we are (when we behave in ways commensurate with our place in the hierarchy) "humane."13

The holdover from this very old worldview, I believe, is part of the explanation for resistance to accepting the fact of our close kinship with animals. Another explanation is connected with Darwin's theory itself, but ultimately comes from the natural theology of Darwin's day. Contemporary ethologist Frans de Waal has written extensively on the behavior of social animals. An important aim of his work is to counteract a scientific culture that is ready to describe animal behavior in morally negative terms - for example, some chimpanzees are called "cheaters" or "grudgers," and kinship bonds are called "nepotism." Yet these same scientists refuse to use any language with a positive moral tone. De Waal shows that human capacities for morality, such as sharing food and caring for the sick or disabled, have quite striking predecessors among certain species of animals. Here is one of the instances he presents as evidence:

 

A British ethologist... followed the final days of a low ranking adult male (in a dwarf mongoose colony; it was)

dying of chronic kidney

 

13 See Mary Midgley, Beast and Man: The Roots of Human Nature (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1978).

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disease. The male lived in a captive group consisting of a pair and its offspring. Two adjustments took place. First, the sick male was allowed to eat much earlier in the rank order than previously... Second, the rest of the group changed from sleeping on elevated objects, such as boxes, to sleeping on the floor once the sick male had lost the ability to climb up onto the boxes. They stayed in contact with him, grooming him much more than usual. After the male's death, the group slept with the cadaver until its decay made removal necessary.14

 

So here is the question again: why the preference for viewing animals in a negative moral light? De Waal suggests (in a section titled "Calvinist Sociobiology") that the source is Christian conceptions of the Fall according to which all of nature is corrupted.15 I argue, though, that a more proximate cause is the moral and theological climate in which Darwin worked.

 

3.2 Theological roots of social Darwinism

The common assumption is that Darwin began with observations of nature, then formulated a theory about the fierce struggle for existence among animals, and then, after that, moral theories called social Darwinism were formulated. The reasoning went as follows: what is natural among animals - struggle and strife - is good because it leads to evolutionary progress. Therefore what is natural for us human animals must be competition and strife, and that, too, will lead to progress, only here it is economic rather than biological progress.

What this story leaves out is the fact that Darwin was predisposed by the theology of his day to see nature in overwhelmingly conflictual terms. Darwin was influenced by William Paley and his design

 

14. Frans De Wall, Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), 80.

 15. Ibid., 13-20.

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Nancey Murphy, "Bodies And Souls, or Spirited Bodies?", Cambridge University Press 2006, "Current Isssues In Theology" Series. Nancey Murphy is professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Seminary. She is an internationally known author and speaker in the field of religion and science. Professor Murphy's many publications include "Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning" (1990) and "Religion and Science: God, Evolution and the Soul" (2002).

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organs, entire organisms, and ecosystems. In this hierarchy, new properties emerge. For example, there are properties of molecules that are entirely different from those of their components.

In the early years of the twentieth century there was a controversy in the philosophy of biology between vitalists and emergentists. The vitalists took an Aristotelian line: there must be something - a vital force - to direct the formation of an organism and to account for its being alive. The emergentists replied that all one needed was the proper functioning of a suitably complex entity and it would be alive. Life is an emergent property that is dependent on complex organization, not on an additional entity or non-material stuff. So this was the last gasp of the ancient and medieval idea of the soul as a life force.

Biologists today ask what the minimum requirements are for life. The basics are self-maintenance, growth, and reproduction. Thus, a sphere of proteins and other large molecules is living if, first, it has a membrane separating it from its environment; second, the membrane is permeable enough to allow for intake of nutrients; third, it has the ability to repair itself if damaged; and fourth, the ability to reproduce, even if only by splitting into two spheres, each of which grows large enough to split again. Note that the three functions Thomas attributed to the vegetative soul were growth, nutrition, and reproduction. The one feature he failed to note was self-repair.

The physicalist thesis is that as we go up the hierarchy of increasingly complex organisms, all of the other capacities once attributed to the soul will also turn out to be products of complex organization, rather than properties of a non-material entity.

4.2 Neuroscience and the animal soul

The faculties Thomas attributed to the animal or sensitive soul were locomotion, appetite, sensation, and emotion. Let us consider these in turn.

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Nancey Murphy, "Bodies And Souls, or Spirited Bodies?", Cambridge University Press 2006, "Current Isssues In Theology" Series. Nancey Murphy is professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Seminary. She is an internationally known author and speaker in the field of religion and science. Professor Murphy's many publications include "Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning" (1990) and "Religion and Science: God, Evolution and the Soul" (2002).

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3 Did my neurons make me do it?

Reductionism, morality, and the problem of free will

1. Prospect

My two previous chapters have dealt with theories of human nature from the point of view, first, of theology and biblical studies, and second of science. I noted in chapter 1 that within the general population a view of humans as composed of body, soul, and spirit is often the preferred position. Equally popular is dualism, and there are two versions: body and soul or body and mind. Trichotomism and dualism are in conflict with majority views in neuroscience, where some sort of physicalism or materialism is the preferred view. This makes it appear that science and religion are headed for conflict. For example, Nobel-Prize-winning scientist Francis Crick claims to have falsified Christianity by showing that there is no soul. In contrast, I have argued that there is a remarkable convergence here between science and Christian scholarship. Christian scholars began to draw the same conclusion a hundred years ago. In fact, the body-soul dualism in Christian history has been more of an accommodation to culture than distinctive to biblical teaching.

I also pointed out in chapter 1 that there have been a variety of philosophical theories in Western history. In modern philosophy mind-body dualism has been a major contender for three hundred years, from Rene Descartes to Gilbert Kyle. Since the 1950s, though, the number of dualists has been decreasing and the number of physicalists has been increasing dramatically. The success of neuroscience in understanding mental processes through study of the

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brain, which I addressed in chapter 2, has been a significant factor. Another factor has been the growing conviction that mind-body interaction, as understood by modern dualists, is simply unintelligible. There are still a number of dualists among philosophers, and almost all of these appear to have theological motivations for defending dualism.

I certainly do not mean to criticize my fellow Christian philosophers for defending a position for theological reasons; in fact that is what I intend to do in the remainder of this volume. Christian philosophers have no need to defend dualism, but they do need to enter into debate with other physicalists in order to argue against reductionism. One way of understanding the difference between reductionist and nonreductionist versions of physicalism is stated by philosopher Mary Midgley. She says:

"If certain confusions result from Descartes' having sliced humans down the middle, many people feel that the best cure is just to drop the immaterial half altogether . . ."1

The problem with this form of physicalism is that it results in denial of the capacities and functions once attributted to the soul. The nonreductive physicalist makes no such denial, and instead seeks to show how all of these capacities depend on the body in its relations to the world, to culture, and to God. This will be the task of both this chapter and the next.

Two of the most daunting reductionist challenges are how to understand free will and moral responsibility. The reductionist says: "If humans are purely physical then their behavior must be determined by the laws of nature and therefore they cannot be free or morally responsible." Thus, the problem of free will, in this instance, is the problem of avoiding neurobiological reductionism.2

 

1. Mary Midgley, "The Soul's Successors: Philosophy and the 'Body,'" in Sarah Coakley, ed., Religion and the Body (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 53-68.

2. The problem of neurobiological reductionism is treated in more technical detail in Nanccy Murphy and Warren S. Brown, Did My Neurons Make Me Do It? (forthcoming).

 

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A crucially important feature of even rudimentary biological activity, then, is action under evaluation. In most cases this is not conscious evaluation, but only a system that is able to correct the routine when feedback from the environment indicates a mismatch between the behavioral routine and the goals, as in the case of the bacterium mentioned above. Different degrees of cognitive power lead to differing degrees of flexibility in responding to the mismatch.

 

3.1 Fixed patterns of complex activity   ^ 

Insects exhibit forms of complex activity that are fixed rather than flexible. A fine example is the Sphex ichneumoneus, a type of wasp, now beloved insect of the philosophical literature.

 

"When the time comes for egg laying, the wasp Sphex builds a burrow for the purpose and seeks out a cricket which she stings in such a way as to paralyze but not kill it. She drags the cricket into the burrow, lays her eggs alongside, closes the burrow, then flies away, never to return. In due course, the eggs hatch and the wasp grubs feed off the paralyzed cricket, which has not decayed, having been kept in the wasp equivalent of deep freeze. To the human mind, such an elaborately organized and seemingly purposeful routine conveys a convincing flavor of logic and thoughtfulness - until more details are examined. For example, the wasp's routine is to bring the paralyzed cricket to the burrow, leave it on the threshold, go inside to see that all is well, emerge, and then drag the cricket in. If the cricket is moved a few inches away while the wasp is inside making her preliminary inspection, the wasp, on emerging from the burrow, will bring the cricket back to the threshold, but not inside, and will then repeat the preparatory procedure of entering the burrow to see that everything is all right. If again the cricket is removed a few inches while the wasp is inside, once again she will move the cricket up to the threshold and re-enter ihc burrow lor a final check. The wasp never thinks of pulling the cricket straight in. On one

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occasion this procedure was repeated forty times, always with the same result".27

 

Thus, the behavior of Sphex is fixed in a predetermined pattern in relationship to specific environmental clues. Her response is hardwired and cannot be adapted to devilment by the entomologist.

 

3.2 Mammalian flexibility

Mammals exhibit much more flexibility in responding to their environments. They have the ability to suspend the pursuit of one goal, such as getting a drink of water, for the sake of a more pressing goal, such as avoiding a predator. Animals are capable of learning by trial and error and by imitation. Even so, our closest animal relative, the chimpanzee, is incapable of the same kind of flexibility that we see in small children.

Terrence Deacon describes an instructive series of experiments with chimpanzees. A chimpanzee is given the opportunity to choose between two unequal piles of candy; it always chooses the bigger one. Then the situation is made more complicated: the chimpanzee chooses, but the experimenter gives the chosen pile to a second chimpanzee and the first ends up with the smaller one. Children over the age of two catch on quickly and choose the smaller pile. But chimpanzees have a very hard time catching on; they watch in agitated dismay, over and over, as the larger pile of candy is given away.

Deacon says that the task poses a difficulty for the chimpanzees because the presence of such a salient reward undermines their ability to stand back from the situation and subjugate their desire to the pragmatic context, which requires them to do the opposite of what they would normally do to achieve the same end.

Now the experiment is further complicated. The chimpanzees are taught to associate numbers with the piles of candy. When given the

 

7. D. Woolridge, "Mechanical Man: The Physical Hasis of Intelligent Life" (New York: McGraw Hill, 1968), 82.

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chance to select numbers rather than the piles themselves, they quickly learn to choose the number associated with the smaller pile. Deacon argues that the symbolic representation helps reduce the power of the stimulus to drive behavior. Thus, he argues that increasing ability to create symbols progressively frees responses from stimulus-driven immediacy.28

The experiments with the chimpanzees illustrate another crucial ingredient in the escape from biological determinism. What the chimpanzees in the first phase of the experiment are unable to do is to make their own behavior, their own cognitive strategy, the object of their attention. This ability to represent to oneself aspects of one's own cognitive processes in order to be able to evaluate them is what I shall call self-transcendence. To represent this capacity we need a more complex diagram, as in Figure 3.2.

This figure represents a goal-seeking system (as in Figure 3.1) with an added feature, a supervisory system that takes stock of how things are going in the total system; it is represented in Figure 3.2 by two components, the meta-comparator, MC, and the meta-organizing system, MO. FF represents a feedforward part with feature filters that draw relevant information from sensory input for updating the organizing

 

28. Terrence W. Deacon, "The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution Of Language And The Brain" (New York: W. W. Norton, 19197), 413-15.

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 system.29 Such a system has the capacity to alter its own goal state in light of its evaluation of how the total system is coping with its environment. Philosopher Daniel Dennett points out that the truly explosive advance in the escape from crude biological determinism comes when the capacity for pattern recognition is turned in upon itself. The creature who is not only sensitive to patterns in its environment, but also to patterns in its own reactions to patterns in its environment, has taken a major step.30 Dennett's term for this ability is to "go meta" - one represents one's representations, reacts to one's reactions. "The power to iterate one's powers in this way, to apply whatever tricks one has to one's existing tricks, is a well-recognized breakthrough in many domains: a cascade of processes leading from stupid to sophisticated activity."31

 

4. Human self-determination and responsibility

Let us review the territory covered so far. In section 2 I have shown how to make room for environmental (that is, downward) causal influences in a law-governed system. There is room for downward causation to set up the initial conditions, including the structures within which the laws of the lower level operate. Often this is by means of selection of lower-level entities or causal processes according to the way they fit into higher-level causal systems.

I ended section 2 with the example of a system (the jet-liner) that was designed by humans to have a degree of self-direction. Entities such as guided missiles and jets become causal players in their own right when they are designed to respond to environmental conditions in such a way as to pursue a goal. In section 3 I traced the increasing cognitive

 

29. MacKay, "Behind the Eye", 141.

30. Daniel C. Dennett, "Elbow Room: Varieties of Tree Will Worth Wanting" (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984), 29; referring to D. R. Hotstadter, "Can Creativity Be Mechanized?", Scientific American, 247 (September 1982): 18-34

31. Dennett, Elbow Room, 29.

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responsibility to animals. MacIntyre has helpfully related his account of morally responsible action to a survey of the literature on the behavior of higher animals - his locus is on dolphins - so that we can see precisely what needs to be added in the human case.

 

4.1 Animal precursors

First and foremost, dolphins exhibit goal-directedness. Dolphin goals include food, mates, satisfaction of curiosity, play, affection. MacIntyre argues that lack of language is no reason to deny that dolphins act for reasons, which means that they have the capacity to make judgments about what actions are likely to produce desired results. I mentioned some relevant factors in chapter 2. There I reported on Thomas Aquinas's "interior senses," which we share with animals, and then described some of the neurobiological research that is relevant to these capacities. One is the ability to recognize what is dangerous, friendly, useful; another is the capacity to store these judgments in memory.

I also reported on Antonio Damasio's thesis of somatic markers. This was in connection with the report on Phineas Gage who, through brain damage, had lost the subtle emotional cues that ordinarily move us to do things that are good for us and to resist things that have caused us trouble in the past. So, in addition to inborn goals, we can suppose that the higher animals have the same capacity to learn from experience by means of the development of somatic markers. These subtle emotional cues indicate that an immediately contemplated activity is either good to enact or bad to enact.

A great step forward in the ability to evaluate one's own action is the capacity to run behavioral scenarios in the imagination. This allows for prediction of effects of the action without having to go through the costly process of trial and error. Higher animals appear to have some capacity for this. Here is an example from the chimpanzees at the Arnhem Zoo.

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Each morning ... the keeper hoses out all the rubber tires in the enclosure and hangs them one by one on a horizontal log ... One day (a chimp named) Krom was interested in a tire in which the water had been retained. Unfortunately, this particular tire was at the end of the row, with six ... tires hanging in front of it. Krom pulled and pulled at the one she wanted ... for over ten minutes, ignored by everyone except ... Jakie, a seven-year-old male chimpanzee to whom Krom used to be ... a caretaker ...

Immediately after Krom gave up ... Jakie approached. Without hesitation he pushed the tires off the log, one by one ... beginning with the front one ... When he reached the last tire, he carefully removed it so that no water was lost and carried the tire straight to [Krom], where he placed it upright in front of her.33

 

This scene suggests that Jakie had the ability to imagine a solution to the problem that saved him from the process of trial and error. It also illustrates two additional capacities shared with animals: the first is Krom's ability to change goals in light of experience that indicates that the goal was unachievable or not worth the effort - we might call this the "sour grapes" capacity that Aesop in one of his fables attributed to foxes.

Jakie's behavior exhibited another cognitive ability called a theory of other minds - that is, the ability to recognize the feelings and likely thoughts of another. Children develop this ability anywhere between three and nine years of age.

 

4.2 Language and the prerequisites for morality

Human morality builds upon these complex capacities. Most of the additional requirements for responsibility and morality depend on sophisticated symbolic language. These requirements are, first, a

 

Frans De Wall, Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), 83.

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Nancey Murphy, "Bodies And Souls, or Spirited Bodies?", Cambridge University Press 2006, "Current Isssues In Theology" Series. Nancey Murphy is professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Seminary. She is an internationally known author and speaker in the field of religion and science. Professor Murphy's many publications include "Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning" (1990) and "Religion and Science: God, Evolution and the Soul" (2002).

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demanding version is not a coherent idea. I shall consider three-conceptions of free will: The first is the concept, already mentioned, of free will as being able to act as one chooses. The second is the concept of free will as autonomy or as acting for a reason. The third is a concept of free will with a variety of names - libertarian, counterfactual, and incompatibilist free will.

Let us first consider free will as being able to act as one chooses. This concept is also sometimes called liberty of spontaneity or compatibilist free will, in the latter case because it is thought to be compatible with antecedent determination of actions, thoughts, and character. My examination of the complexities of human behavior, in contrast to that of machines and lower organisms, was precisely in order to lay out the factors that make humans and higher animals able to direct their behavior toward their own goals and to change those goals as appropriate. The sort of biological determinism that threatens such freedom is one in which we lack the ability to resist biological impulses or needs, as in the case of the chimpanzee that could not avoid choosing the larger pile of candy.

A second concept of free will, sometimes called autonomy, is the ability to subjugate one's behavior to the dictates of reason. This was addressed by considering the role of our linguistic abilities and the ability we have to evaluate and change our own cognitive processes.46 Acting for a reason is often specified in terms of governing one's behavior according to reason in contrast to being overcome by emotions.47 The point of considering the prerequisites for self-transcendence, that is, the ability to evaluate that which moves one to act, was precisely to see whether we could understand such

 

46. For a more technical approach to reconciling reason and causation, see Nancey Murphy, "The Problem of Mental Causation: How Does Reason Get Its Grip on the Brain?" Science and Christian Belief, 14, no. 2 (October 2002): 143-58; and Murphy and Brown, Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?

47. Damasio's work on the role of somatic markers - subtle emotional cues - in rational behavior provides empirical evidence that this disjunction of reason and emotion has been misguided. See Antonio Damasio, "Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain" (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1994).

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Joel B. Green, "Body, Soul and Human Life - The Nature of Humanity in the Bible", Baker Academic (a division of "Baker Publishing Group") 2008, "Studies in Theological Interpretation" Series. Joel B. Green (PhD, University Of Aberdeen) is Professor of New Testament interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including "Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels", "Introducing the New Testament", and "Commentaries on Luke and 1 Peter".

 

Preface

Not long ago, a New York Times article reported, "Neuroscientists have given up looking for the seat of the soul, but they are still seeking what may be special about human brains, what it is that provides the basis for a level of self-awareness and complex emotions unlike those of other animals." Noting the now-common view that morality and reason grow out of social emotions and feelings that are themselves linked to brain structures, the article suggests that, maybe, what makes us human is all in the wiring of the brain.1

Does our brain account for our essential humanity? What of the long-held and popular view that the sine qua non of genuine humanity is the soul? This is not the stuff of mere curiosity. A host of pressing issues is at stake. What portrait of the human person is capable of casting a canopy of sacred worth over human beings, so that we have what is necessary for discourse concerning morality

 

1. Sandra Blakeslee, "Humanity? Maybe It's All in the Wiring," New York Times, 9 December 2003, F1.

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and for ethical practices? If humans, like sheep, can he cloned, will the resulting life form be a "person"? Are we free to do what we want, or is our sense ot decision-making a ruse? What happens when we die?

Questions of this sort increasingly find their way into our daily newspapers, internet magazines, and evening news reports. More and more, it is neuroscientists who are setting the agenda for these discussions, some of whom (Antonio Damasio, for example, or Joseph LeDoux) have proven remarkably adept at telling their stories and thinking through the implications of their findings for audiences of non-specialists. Largely missing from the conversation are voices that take seriously what scientists are finding while at the same time bringing to bear on the discussion the perspectives and insights ot biblical faith. As a result, we find ourselves treated to astonishing claims about how neuroscience has undermined biblical views of the human person, typically by persons who apparently have little exposure to the biblical materials.

My entrée into this conversation came just over a decade ago when Nancey Murphy invited me into a workgroup led by Warren Brown, Newton Malony, and herself. This was an interdisciplinary project on "Portraits of Human Nature," associated with the Lee Edward Travis Institute for Biopsychosocial Research at Fuller Theological Seminary and funded by The Templeton Foundation.2 This invitation led to another, from Malcolm Jeeves, and to my participation in an interdisciplinary consultation on "Mind, Brain, and Personhood: An Inquiry from Scientific anci Theological Perspectives," also funded by The Templeton Foundation.3 I am grateful to these friends. Each in their own way, they have pressed upon me the critical nature of these issues. Interaction with Malcolm Jeeves in particular - as well as the indefatigable encouragement of another friend, Jim Holsinger, M.D. - led me finally to graduate

 

2. See Warren S. Brown, Nancey Murphy, and H. Newton Malony, eds., "Whatever Happened to the Soul? - Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature" (TSc; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998).

3. See Malcolm A. Jeeves, ed., "From Cells to Souls - And Beyond: Changing Portraits of Human Nature" (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004).

 

 

1 THE BIBLE, THE NATURAL SCIENCES, AND THE HUMAN PERSON

 

There is a new image of man emerging, an image that will dramatically contradict almost all traditional images man has made of himself in the course of his cultural history. (Thomas Metzinger)1

 

The idea that the soul can continue to exist without the body or brain, strains scientific credibility. ... The dualistic approach is also unattractive theologically. (Fraser Watts)2

 

But someone has testified somewhere, "What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them? You have

 

1. Thomas Metzinger, "Introduction: Consciousness Research at the End of the Twentieth Century," in Neural Correlates of Consciousness: Empirical and Conceptual Questions (ed. Thomas Metzinger; Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000), 1-12 (6).

2. Fraser Watts, "Theology and Psychology" (ASKS; Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002), 46.

 

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made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honor, subjecting all things under their feet (Heb. 2:6-8)3

 

Self-assessment is often needed, but not always welcome. In the case of an examination oi humanity in the Bible, however, temptations may run in a different direction. Rather than avoiding analysis of ourselves as the human family or members of that family, we risk imagining that the Bible is "about" us. However, as Barth recognized in his 1916 lecture on "The Strange New World within the Bible," the "stuff" of the Bible is not fundamentally about human history, human needs, human potential, human practices.

 

The Bible tells us not how we should talk with God but what he says to us; not how we find the way to him, but how he has sought and found the way to us; not the right relation in which we must place ourselves to him, but the covenant which he has made with all who are Abraham's spiritual children and which he has sealed once and for all in Jesus Christ. It is this which is within the Bible.

 

Barth concludes, "We have found in the Bible a new world, God, God's sovereignty, God's glory, God's incomprehensible love." Recent work in biblical theology has only underscored this insight, insisting again and again that the unity of the biblical witness resides in God's self-revelation - not the "idea" or "concept" of God but God himself.5 Given the human propensity to regard with hyperbole our significance in the cosmos, this is an important opening reminder. On the one hand, we have been reticent to acknowledge the continuity of humanity with all other animals

 

3. Unless otherwise indicated, biblical citations are from the NRSV.

4. Karl Barth, "The Strange New World within the Bible," in The Word of God and the Word of Man (Gloucester: Peter Smith, 1978), 28-50 (43,45).

5. E.g.,  Ferdinand Hahn,  Theologie des  Nctten  Testaments  (2 vols.; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001-5); Ulrich Wilckens, Theologie des Neuen Testaments (4 vols.; Neukirchener-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2002-5); Christopher R. Seitz, Word without End: The Old Testament as Abiding Theological Witness (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998).

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and, indeed, the degree to which our lives are bound up with the world we indwell. On the other, we are slow to recognize our creatureliness in relation to God. Consequently, we have found ourselves humbled by scientific discovery - in the modern age, first by Copernicus, who demonstrated that our planet and, thus, we who inhabit the earth, are not the center around which the universe turns; and second, by Darwin and evolutionary biology, which has located Homo sapiens within the animal kingdom with a genetic make-up that strongly resembles the creatures around us.6 Were we to take Barth seriously, we might entertain a further "humbling" - namely, the realization that the Bible is about God, first and foremost, and only derivatively about us.

Study of the human person in the Bible - that is, a biblical-theological anthropology or, more simply, a biblical anthropology - is thus a derivative inquiry. It is secondary. However, insofar as it struggles with the character of humans in relation to God and with respect to the vocation given humanity by God, it is nonetheless crucial. We are concerned, then, with how the Bible portrays the human person, the basis and telos of human life, what it means for humanity, in the words of Irenaeus, to be "fully alive" (Adversus haereses, 4.20). Unavoidably, this raises questions about relations within the human family, and about the place of humanity in the world.

 

Humanity and Human Identity in Biblical Theology

By way of setting the stage, a brief review of key voices in the discussion is in order. Although my chief concern is with more recent directions and emphases, it is impossible to consider study of biblical anthropology without first recognizing the towering and stubborn influence of the perspective on

 

6. Helmut Thielicke lists  "three humblings" - Copernicus,  Darwin, and Freud (Being Human, . . Becmoming Human: An Essay in Christian Anthropology Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984, 28-32.

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humanity developed in Rudolf Bultmann's New Testament Theology, published 60 years ago7.

Bultmann's work encompassed some six hundred pages, with almost one-third of the project devoted to humanity; this alone belies the importance of this topic in his rendering of NT theology. Another measure of the importance of anthropology for Bultmann is his location of such theological issues as God's righteousness, grace, the death and resurrection of Christ, and the church as sub-categories of a theology of the human person. Although the center of his concern is Paul's anthropology, we quickly discover that Bultmann sees the Pauline perspective as representative of much of the Bible's anthropology and, in any case, as the Bible's determinative witness. Recognizing that Paul provides nothing in the way of a theological treatise on humanity, as one might find among the Greek philosophers, Bultmann turns to the fragmentary and occasional evidence of the seven assuredly Pauline letters with a concern to clarify the peculiarity of human existence8. His approach takes the form of extensive, theologically shaped word studies, the primary of which is concerned with soma, often, but for Bultmann problematically, translated as "body." As Bultmann famously remarked, "Man does not have a soma; he is soma.9" Indeed, "man, his person as a whole, can be denoted by soma. ... Man is called soma in respect to his being able to make himself the object of his own action or to experience himself as the subject to whom something happens. He can be called soma, that is, as having a relationship to himself - as being able in a certain sense to distinguish himself from himself."10 The human person does not consist of two (or three) parts, then, but is a living whole. What is more, human lives are oriented toward a purpose; they live always on a quest, though the human creature can find or lose one's self.

 

7. Rudolf Bultmann, "Theology of the New Testament" (2 vols.; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1951-55).

8. For Bultmann, the list of Pauline letters includes Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon.

9. Bultmann, Theology, 1:194; emphasis original.

10. Bultmann, Theology, 1:195-96; emphasis original.

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For Paul, Bultmnnn observes, "Man has always already missed the existence that at heart he seeks, his intent is basically perverse, evil."11 This "missing" of life is sin, which is a power that dominates everyone completely.

If until the onset of the twentieth century, Pauline anthropology was understood in dichotomous (body-soul) or even trichotomous (body-soul-spirit) terms,12 the same could not be said by mid-century or subsequently. Credit for this transformation is due especially to the authority of Bultmann, whose reading dominated subsequent discussion.13 Other scholars might wish to nuance his

 

11. Bultmann, Theology, 1:227; emphasis original.

12. So, e.g., Graham J. Warne, Hebrew Perspectives on the Human Person in the Hellenistic Era: Philo and Paul (MBPS 35; Lewiston, NY: Mellen, 1995), 157. In fact, the evidence is mixed, though clearly weighted toward a dichotomous or trichotomous view of the human person. For example, in the major reference works edited by James Hastings at the turn of the twentieth century, the human person is conceived by Jesus and/or the Gospels as having "two parts" according to E. Wheeler ("Man," in A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, 2 vols.; ed. James Hastings; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1908], 2:107-10 [1 10]); a "clear duality" by F. Meyrick and J.C. Lambert ("Body," in A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, 2 vols.; ed. James Hastings; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1908], 1:217-1 8); as a dichotomy or even trichotomy by J.C. Lambert ("Soul," in A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, 2 vols.; ed. James Hastings; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1908], 1:520); and the NT presents the body in a "clear and constant antithesis to 'soul' and 'spirit'" (J. Laidlaw, "Body, in Dictionary of the Bible, 5 vols.; ed. James Hastings; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1903], 1:309). Yet J.C. Lambert finds no dualism in Paul ("Body," in Dictionary of the Apostolic Church |3 vols.; ed. James Hastings; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1922], 1:154-56 |155|). The complexity of the problem is seen in the apparent waffling of Wheeler Robinson. In his essay on "Man" in Dictionary of the Apostolic Church (3 vols.; ed. James 1 lastings; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, IV22|, 2:3-6), he claims that Paul inherits the monism of the Hebrew Scriptures and that, while Paul was influenced by Hellenism, he did not succumb to its dualism. Similarly, in his presentation of The Christum Doctrine of Man ([3rd ed.; Ldinburgh: T&T Clark, 1 926], 1 04-5), Robinson refers to Paul as "a Hebrew of the Hebrews" who subordinated and assimilated Hellenistic influences to his "Jewish psychology," but then refers to the "separation ol the 'spirit' from its present body of flesh, an idea "which was not reached in the Old Testament."

1See the survey in Robert 11.( iuiulry, Sonui in Biblical Theology with l-:mpl)asis on I'ciulinc Anthropology (SNTS MS 29; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 38.

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work in one direction or another. For example, by querying the subject-object relationship by which Bultmann articulated the person's relationship with self or by urging a stronger sense of relationality in Pauline anthropology - but this emphasis on the essential unity of human existence seems to have been established. Paul is "a Hebrew of Hebrews", as John A.T. Robinson put it, drawing attention to Paul's wholistic understanding of the human creature."14 F.F. Bruce echoed this sentiment two decades later, observing that, in his anthropology, "Paul was a 'Hebrew born and bred. "15 Also writing in the mid-twentieth century, W.G. Kuemmel observed both that, for Paul, we can speak only of the "complete" person,"16 and that other NT writers share Paul's view of things as well.

Of particular importance among those who have registered concern about Bultmann's basic thesis is Robert Gundry, whose monograph on Soma in Biblical Theology appeared in 1976. His primary contribution was to counter the loss of any notion of physicality in Bultmann's understanding of soma - an argument he grounds in an extensive survey of the use of soma in biblical and extrabiblical literature, an examination of the use of soma within the framework of anthropological duality, and a wide-ranging discussion of the ramifications of his study for central aspects of Christian theology. In the end, Gundry apparently thinks that the semantic reach of soma is limited to the notion of physicality, with the result that the terminology he prefers, "duality," connotes not simply differences of aspect but of essence - that is, some sort of body-soul dualism.17 On the other hand, in one of the more

 

14. John A.T. Robinson, "The Body: A Study in Pauline Theology" (SET 5; London: SCM, 1952), 11.

15. F.F. Bruce, "Paul on Immortality," SJT 24 (1971): 457--72 (469); Bruce thus attributes to Paul an OT conception of an animated body over against a body-soul dualism. "' Werner Georg Kiimmel, Man in the New Testament (London: Epworth,

1963), 47.

17 In fact, Gundry identifies his position - which segregates the human corporeal from the incorporeal - with a virtual collage of terms; e.g., the human is made up of "two substances" (Soma in Biblical Theology, 83), and "there is

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concentrated treatments of NT anthropology in recent years, Udo Schnelle is able to critique Bultmann on this very point without finding dualism in Paul. Even though "a person has a body and is a body" (a self-evident emendation of Bultmann's dictum, "man does not have a soma; he is soma"), Schnelle writes, Paul nevertheless "uses soma, as the comprehensive expression of the human self."18 And in an extensive examination of Paul's Anthropological Terms, published in 1971, Robert Jewett undermined Bultmann's existentialist approach to Paul's anthropology by demonstrating that Paul borrowed and recast the anthropological terms of his antagonists. That is, his anthropology emerges in historical settings wherein anthropology is a means for defending the gospel (pace Bultmann, for whom anthropology comprised the core of the kerygma). Jewett finds that the coherence in Paul's view of humanity is found in his usage of kardia ("heart"), which connotes the human "as an integral, intentional self who stands in relationship before God." For Jewett, Paul never uses psyche in the strict sense of "soul," and, while acknowledging occasional references to the observable human body in its physicality, he concludes that Paul uses the term soma especially to emphasize "the somatic basis of salvation" as a counter to "the gnostic idea of redemption from the body and the libertinistic actions which resulted from such an idea."

Without embracing Bultmann's existentialism or his evacuation of physicality from the concept of soma, a number of more recent,

 

an ontological duality, a functional pluralism, and an overarching unity" (84). Clearly, Gundry is casting about for language appropriate to nuance what he regards as Paul's position. In doing so, though, he employs terms that have a life of their own - and in some cases that stand in mutual opposition. The distinction between dualism and duality is pivotal in subsequent discussion - see, e.g., Malcolm A.Jeeves, "Human Nature: An Integrated Picture," in What about the Soul? Neuroscience and Christian Anthropology (cd. Joel IV (,reen; Nashville: Abingdon, 2004), 171-89.

18. Udo Schnelle, The Human Condition: Anthropology in the Teachings of Jesus, Paul, and John (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 58, 57.

19. Robert Jewett, Paul's Anthropological Terms: A Study of Their Use in (Conflict Settings (A(.)U 10; Leiden: Brill, 1971), 447.

20. Jewett, Paul's Anthropological Terms, 457.

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extensive studies have led to verdicts similarly supportive of Paul's essential wholism. In his study of the Pauline expression "the inner person," for example, Theo Heckel underscores Paul's emphasis on embodied life in this world and the next, while combating body-soul dualism.21  In his dissertation on "Hebrew Perspectives on the Human Person," Graham Warne argues that "Paul maintains an Hebraic perspective which emphasizes the wholeness of the human person's existence, both in the present life and beyond it." Warne's study is of special interest since it demonstrates how, from within a roughly analogous philosophical and theological milieu, Paul and Philo reach contrasting views of the human person.22

With reference to the anthropology of the OT, the consensus has continued to support a unified portrait of the human person. Indeed, that the OT does not think of the human being as made up of or possessing "parts" is often passed over quickly, as if it were an unassailable truism, in the service of other theological considerations. Thus, having noted that the OT "is familiar neither with the dichotomy of body and soul nor a trichotomy of body, soul, and spirit,"23 Horst Preuss goes on to survey the anthropology of each of the major voices represented in the OT, concluding that the basic, common framework of OT anthropology includes the human's basic dependence on God in community with whom authentic life was possible; the covenantal relationship of humanity and God (i.e., the human's dialogical responsibility before God); an egalitarianism of status among persons; the formation of humans for community; God's control over life and death; the framework of life as purposeful under God's providential guidance; and the residence of a person's character in his or her practices.24

 

21. Theo K. Heckel, Dcr innere Mensch: Die Paulinische Verarbeitung eines Platonischen Motivs (WUNT 2:53; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1993); idem, "Body and Soul in Saint Paul," in Psyche and Soma: Physicians and Metaphysicians on the Mind-Body Problem from Antiquity to Enlightenment (ed. John P. Wright and Paul Potter; Oxford: Clarendon, 2000), 117-31.

22. Warne, Hebrew Perspectives, 252.

23. Horst Dietrich Preuss, Old Testament Theology (2 vols.; OTL; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1992), 2:110.

24. More fully, see Preuss, OT Theology, 2:109-208.

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Earlier, Brevard Childs had reminded his readers that, even if the OT views humanity from different wholistic perspectives, the human creature "does not have a soul, but is a soul" - that is, the human is "a complete entity and not a composite of parts from body, soul and spirit."25 Moreover, humanity is set within a relational nexus -with God, whose own activity in drawing humanity to himself constitutes the basis of human openness to God; and with other humans, with relationships determined by righteousness. The OT, too, recognizes sin as disruption, alienation, and falsehood among humans and in relation to God. On such points as these, Childs finds basic coherence between the Old and New Testament witnesses to the nature of humanity.26

Walter Brueggemann observes that to speak of humanity in the divine image is to speak especially of the human person in relation to God. Indeed, in his description of 'The Human Person as Yahweh's Partner," he stakes his claim on a relational, dynamic notion of personhood, eschewing any interest in an essentialist definition of the human creature. As such, the human person is utterly dependent on Yahweh for life, experiences human vitality only in relation to God, is a "living being" that precludes any notion of dualism, and is human only in relation to the human community.

In addition to Gundry's work, and more influential than Gundry in subsequent discussion, a key voice in support of an anthropological dualism in the Bible has come from the philosophical theologian John Cooper. The concerns of his book, "Body, Soul and Life Everlasting", are, as the title suggests, primarily eschatological. More particularly, he argues that the Bible teaches the existence of an intermediate state and that this intermediate state

 

25. Brevard S. Childs, Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context (Philadelphia: Fortress, I9X.S), 199.

26. Brevard S. Childs, Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments: Theological Reflection on the Christum Hihle (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 566-94. To be sure, he finds points ot tension as well, though not on matters pertaining to the issues I have noted. I le admits that NT language occasionally adopts a more hlellenized idiom reflecting "a dualistic flavour" (579).

27. Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997), 450-54.

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requires an ontologically distinct soul that guarantees personal existence between death and resurrection. As he summarizes in the preface to the hook's second edition, "The Old Testament notion of ghostly survival in Sheol, eventually augmented with an affirmation of bodily resurrection, is developed by the Holy Spirit into the New Testament revelation of fellowship with Christ between each believer's death and the general resurrection at Christ's return."28 Cooper articulates his position in terms of a wholistic dualism: though composed of discrete elements, the human person is nonetheless to be identified with the whole, constituting a functional unity. The significance of Cooper's work can be measured by the fact that, not only philosophers like himself,29 but biblical scholars as well have employed it as a foundation for maintaining a dualistic anthropology of the Bible30. Although his perspective on the biblical data seems not to have changed, in his characterization of the human person Cooper more recently has moved away from the language of wholistic dualism in favor of terminology that makes "unity" the more basic term, in support of his developing view that the soul is neither a substance nor an entity.31

By way of drawing this survey of the lay of the land in biblical anthropology to a close, let me turn finally to three recent studies that expand somewhat the range of issues under consideration. Adriana Destro and Mauro Pesce have examined issues of "self"

28

28. John W. Cooper, Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting: Biblical Anthropology and the Monism-Dualism Debate (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), xv.

29. E.g., William Hasker, The Emergent Self (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999).

30. E.g., Philip F. Esler, New Testament Theology: Communion and Community (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 241; Philip S. Johnston, "Humanity," in NDBT, 564-65 (565); J. Knox Chamblin, "Psychology," in DPL, 765-75 (766-67). See also the combined effort of James Porter Moreland (philosopher) and Scott B. Rae (biblical scholar and ethicist): Body and Soul: Human Nature and the Crisis in Ethics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000), 17-47.

31. John W. Cooper, "Response to In Search of the Soul: 'I Don't Think It's Lost'" (paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers, Philadelphia, 20 November 2005).

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and "identity" in John's Gospel and the Pauline letters, emphasizing especially the spatial categories each theologian deploys - in the case of Paul, "inner" and "outer"; in the case of John, "above" and "below.32 The struggle between these opposing parts constructs a dualism of sorts, but a dialectic rather than an ontological division. To substitute chronological for spatial images, the center of this dialectic is the embodied metamorphosis of the old person into the new, a transformation instigated in "new birth" (John) or "new creation" (Paul) by the work of the Holy Spirit. Destro and Pesce introduce into their analysis a potentially helpful ambiguity when they speak of "the non-bodily parts" of the human, and when they claim that "the Spirit is in contact not only with the mind, but transforms the body, taking over the entire man."33 They deny that Paul works with "a radical dualism," 44 but leave open the possibility of other anthropological models; at the very least, they remind us that, for these two early Christian theologians, human capacities cannot be reductively explained by recourse to human physicality. What is more, Destro and Pesce surface issues of personal "identity" by urging that these two NT voices articulate the formation of "self" as a journey from previous self-identity to a new identity arising from the work of the Spirit.

Robert Di Vito has performed an invaluable service by situating OT anthropology, and specifically the construction of personal identity, in relation to contemporary perspectives in the West, the latter most notably sketched by the philosopher Charles Taylor."

 

32. Adriana Destro and Mauro Pesce, "Self, Identity, and Body in Paul and John,"  in  Self,  Soul and Body in  Religious  Experience  (ed.   Albert 1. Baumgarten, ]. Assmann, and G.G. Stroiimsa; SHR T8; Leiden: Brill, 1998), 184-97.

33. Destro and Pesce, "Self, Identity, and Body," 193, 196.

34. Destro and Pesce, "Self, Identity, and Body," 189 n. 24.

35. Robert A. Di Vito, "Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity," CBQ 61 (1999): 2 17-38; see also his essay, "1 lere One Need Not Be One's Self: The Conccpt of 'Self in the Old Testament," in The Whole and Divided Self: 'The Bible and Theological Anthropology (td. David L. Aune and John McCarthy; New York: Crossroad, 1997), 49-88. For Charles Taylor's construction of the modern self, see his Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989).

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Refusing the kind of extreme polarity between "modern" and "ancient" views of the human person one finds in some attempts to employ insights from cultural anthropology in biblical studies36. Di Vito nonetheless documents clear points of tension. From Taylor, he summarizes the modern sense of the human in terms of the location of dignity in self-sufficiency and self-containment, sharply defined personal boundaries, the highly developed idea of my "inner person," and the conviction that my full personhood rests on my exercise of autonomous and self-legislative action. Di Vito finds in the OT a very different portrait, one in which the person

 

"1) is deeply embedded, or engaged, in his or her social identity, 2) is comparatively decentered and undefined with respect to personal boundaries, 3) is relatively transparent, socialized, and embodied (in other words, is altogether lacking in a sense of "inner depths"), and 4) is "authentic" precisely in his or her heteronomy, in his or her obedience to another and dependence upon another."37

 

One of the benefits of Di Vito's work is its movement beyond the question of "the essence of the human person" to consideration of a wider range of issues in the study of human identity. Of course, one may still inquire, what portrait of the human person (unity, duality, etc.) best supports this way of conceiving of personal identity?

Finally, returning again to a. more narrow interest in the NT, Klaus Berger has written an engaging and wide-ranging "biblical psychology," including discussion of several motifs relevant to our interests: personal identity, the nature of embodied existence, and the notion of an "inne