Monday, December 1, 2014

Off-topic but apparently needed: Judaism and Christianity - back to basics

I have received a lot of outraged comments for my statement that Orthodox Judaism is at its core just a type of "anti-Christianity".  My critiques informed me of the fact that since Judaism was older than Christianity, it could hardly have been an anti-Christianity.    Here are some samples of these comments:
Well, the first cannot possibly be true as Judaism existed well over thousand years prior, and ever since was an introverted worldview. (If you don't know much about it, no need to put such sort of labels. Everybody has a right to preach his own religion, not just the Orthodox Christians). 

Surely you're aware that Judaism is MUCH older than Christianity, Saker? However some of them may feel towards the goyim, I think there's a good bit more to their religion than mere anti-Christian animosity.

WTF!?  and with that the fools and naive can point and chant "anti-semite" - and could you blame them?  Well yes you could, but still. That one sentence pollutes any nuance, any thoughtful analysis, any factual argument saker makes. Shame saker is turning out to be a religious zealot - or at least an anti-jewish one.

As is so often the case, modern propaganda works by a mix of ignorance and learned assumptions.  You could say that this is a case of "unknown unknowns" to paraphrase Rumsfeld.  This is case, all the self-righteous outrage above is based on a very simple fallacy: the assumption that what we call "Judaism" today is the religion of the Jews before, or until, the times of Christ.  This assumption is completely wrong.

What we call "Judaism" today is basically the continuation of one of the many Jewish sects which existed at the time of Christ: the famous sect of the Pharisees.  Specifically, it is the continuation of that part of the sect of the Pharisees which did not accept Christ (others did, Saint Paul was a Pharsisee and so what is immensely famous teacher, Saint Gamaliel the Elder).  Besides being intellectually very sophisticated, one of the unique features of the Pharisees was that they met in "assemblies" to read the Scripture and worship.  The word "assembly" in Greek (which was the lingua franca of the time) is συναγωγή "sinagoge" - or "synagogue" in modern English.  When the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Legions of the Roman Emperor Titus in 70AD the Pharisees were the only ones that had a ready structure which could be used in the absence of the Temple, the synagogue.

Please keep in mind that as such there were no "rabbis", at least not as an institution, before 70AD.  There were priests and teachers and some teachers were addressed as 'rabbi', but 'rabbinical Judaism' (which what modern 'Judaism' really is did not exist at that time).

The other crucial feature of the Pharisees was that they (correctly) believed that not all of the teachings of God had been written down and that Oral Tradition was as important as the written one. Other Jewish sects, just like modern day Protestant denominations, insisted that sola scriptura.

There is no overstating the catastrophic importance of destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.  Not only did it take away the place of worship around which the lives of all the Jews of the entire Middle-East centered at the time, but it also destroyed the building in which the Messiah had been predicted to come to preach and it happened at the time predicted by the Prophet Daniel.  For those Jews who did not accept Christ, this was very, very bad news indeed.  Something needed to be done urgently, and indeed it was.  Here are the main axes this "response" took:

1) Under the pretext of correction and standardization the various Holy Books which we today think of as the "Old Testament" were expunged from the most evident passages which were referring to Christ.  The Book of Psalms was especially butchered.  A "new old Testament" of sorts was created by a group of scholars called the Masoretes who produced a fraud, a re-worked collection of texts we nowadays call the Masoretic Text of the Bible purged from all the key references to Christ (the *real* original text of the books of what we call today the Old Testament has not been preserved in Hebrew, but it exists in translations made from Hebrew into the Greek in the late 2nd century BC by 72 scholars working for Ptolemy Philadelphius, hence the translation is called the Septuaginta or simply LXX).

2) A new class of teachers tasked with the "correct" interpretation of the written and oral traditions emerged, the rabbis.  Their main task was the "explain" what had happened in 70AD and what that mean for the Jewish people.

3) A "new old Oral Tradition" was created and this time it was put in paper.  This is what eventually became known as the Talmud (of which there are two, but nevermind that), the anti-Christian book par excellence.

4)  Exactly in accordance with the words of Christ and the Apostles Paul and John the Evangelist, Devil-worship and black magic also soon were integrated into the "new old" corpus of traditions and this is the basis of what today is called the Kabbalah.

5) Finally, and logically, the focus of worship turned from a worship of God to self-worship.  In this recent addition, it is the entire Jewish people which are the innocent and suffering Messiah and the so-called "Holocaust" is that mystical sacrifice from which the salvation of the world will come.  In this latest school of thought, the Jews are collectively called to "fix/repair" the world, to do the work of the Messiah.

Okay, now before there is the usual tsunami of outraged comments spiced up with the usual accusations of anti-Semitism and the rest of the inevitable nonsense, let me tell you immediately that I have no intention at all to prove any of the above.  I simply have no time for that.  If you are interested, you can easily find all this information online, from books written by anti-Judaic scholars like Michael Hoffman to books written by authoritative Jewish scholars like Jacob Neusner.  The latter will, of course, not at all put the same interpretation to these events as I do, but he will not disagree with the basic facts and chronology.

The point for me is this: you can take any good book or course on the history of what is called "Judaism" today and check for yourself that all the facts above are true.  I particularly recommend "The Way of Torah: An Introduction to Judaism" by Jacob Neusner which, if I am not mistaken, exists in the form of audio lectures from the Teaching Company's "Great Courses" series.  From an non-Judaic perspective I recommend the books "Judaism's strange god" and, especially, the huge "Judaism Discovered" (over 1000 pages!) by Michael Hoffman.  You can get them from an online bookstore or even in the form of a (possibly unauthorized and therefore free) PDF download.  But even a short trip to your local library should give you enough confirmation that I am not making things up.

If you take the time to study the roots and evolution of what we called "Judaism", and which could be called something like "rabbinical/Phariseic Talmudism", you will come to the inevitable conclusion that modern "Judaism" is not the religion of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but the religion of Maimonides, Karo and Luria.  This religion has *nothing* in common with the religion of the Jewish people before Christ, just as modern Jews, especially the Ashkenazim, have no genetic connection to the Jewish people of 2000 years ago.  We are dealing with a fraud whose main effort is to prove that it is the real thing, just as the Papacy is trying to prove that it is "the" original Church of Christ while in reality neither one of them have their roots in the times of Christ.

Depending on your personal beliefs there are only two religions today which can claim to be the real, true, continuation of the faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: Orthodox Christianity (simply because it is the original form of Christianity which itself is the accomplishment of the ancient faith of the Jewish people) or Karaism (simply because it the closest non-Christian denomination to trace its roots to pre-Talmudic "Judaism" at least in the version of the Sect of the Sadducees).

I rather not have a long discussion about this fascinating, but complex, topic.  I just wanted to explain why I wrote the modern Judaism is basically a form of anti-Christianity and try to clam down those who suffered a heart-attack or stroke from the indignation at hearing such a self-evidently ignorant and bigoted thought :-)

Now let's get back to the modern world and its numerous problems.

Cheers and kind regards,

The Saker