Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Who is begging the question?

I see where Rabbi Brackman is coming from in his ynet op/ed. He is trying to make an argument against a multiple source theory, an approach which basically seeks to dismantle divine Torah. He knows his audience is ideologically mixed, including many of whom might be quick to pigeonhole his (my?) views as "fundie."

But, then, its also an audience with one broad ideological commonality: most of our people do not believe Jesus is the Messiah. Moreover, a broadly shared traditional assumption is that however "those Christians" might interpret the Hebrew Bible, they do so incorrectly.

So his rhetorical approach which casts liberal biblical critical scholars and Yeshua-believers as similar may be effective. Now such as an argument this would not be valid, but did not have room to make an in depth critique of an entire edifice, just offer an opinionated perspective. SO I must admit that Yeshua believers make a common foil (one shared by most of his audience in considering the Torah), and for him to play off of us makes a useful swipe.

However, while I can appreciate the Rabbi's move and even join him in his critique, I question the substance of the comparison. The substantial differences matter more than the rhetorically effective similarities as regards followers of Yeshua and biblical critics.

On the one hand,
Rabbi Brackman is correct that approaches which seek to dismantle traditional Torah authorship (and ditto for trying to dismantle the New Covenant writings) depend on unproven philosophical assumption. Well, actually its more like a network of interrelated assumptions: anti-supernaturalism (the belief that miracles are impossible, Spinoza); skepticism (the idea that should never trust miracle reports, Hume); agnosticism (the notion that it is impossible to know anything metaphysical, Kant); even evolutionary theory (that we get more from less over time, as applied to more than just biological Darwinism); all these and more have the part to play in the now repsectable 'discipline' of Torah-text antagonism.

By contrast, we know that this is not how Yeshua-faith developed. Yes, plenty of assumptions (even the assumption of Yeshua-faith itself) might have become a basis eventually; there surely there are plenty of Christians today who read in all sorts of things, including Messiah Himself, into this or that verse. And that's not a particularly Christian (or liberal Bible critic) conceit, but rather a human one. If we go back to the genesis of Yeshua-faith, they were responding to a singular, particular, assumption-defying historical event. The original proclaimers of Yeshua's resurrection were Jewish, after all, but neither their traditional Jewish assumptions nor the more widespread Greek assumptions had any a priori room for what they were proclaiming. So the question I'd throw into the mix is: how is it somehow unreasonable enough to consider Yeshua now? Perhaps what makes it seem unreasonable is the way Yeshua continues to confound our various assumptions. This dovetails well with the Rabbi's point made at the outset:

There are many things that others may find unbelievable and unreasonable but, after thorough review, are found to be true.

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