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October 06, 2018


Or this...


And what's with that mainstreaming of anti-semitism anyway? I'm looking at you, Unz Review

Becoming human, instead of staying with the timeless minds of animals.

I'm a bit confused by how the "timeless minds of animals" constitute immortality. It seems like the argument is that not being conscious of time is the same as triumphing over time (which is how I see immortality). And I see them as two very different concepts.

Perhaps timeless in the sense of not being conscious of one's finite life ... oblivion.

Which is a kind of immortality. Human children maintain that state for a period of time.

Such unconsiousness could be seen as a sort of triumph, as much as sedation and anesthesia while having one's leg removed surgically is a modern triumph over pain.

Elephants might disprove this human/animal split regarding consciousness of Death.

They seem to spend a lot of time in existential musing.

My mother had a cat who knew, before any of the rest of her family, that her physical Death was imminent, though we of course knew, in the course of things, her life would not be infinite.

Not only mainstreaming anti-Semitism, but mainstreaming it from the top:


From an ignorant lout, elected and enabled by ignorant louts, tens of millions of them, and who can rile up a crowd of ignorant louts regarding the sacred presumption of Kavanaugh's innocence, while demonizing a woman's telling of the accusation, in a job interview, that we might all be so lucky, but can reject and campaign against the innocence of the swarthy, in the most public terms, even after our public institutions have exonerated the defendants' of all guilt.


The train is off the tracks and spitting into the wind ain't gonna stop the ride.

Read this, from a sober, dispassionate, notoriously bipartisan observer, Kathleen Hall Jamieson:


There will now be no justice for the stealing of a presidential election.

Sorry, Doc.

A very thought-provoking post. I'll remove myself to other threads.

There was no command not to eat from the tree of life. Was it hidden in plain sight or did it not bear fruit at the time? Or was it like the golden apples of Idun that have to be consumed on a regular base to restore youth?
While we are at Mesopotamian myth: Gilgamesh too got tricked. The stay awake test he couldn't avoid failing was the pretense to deny him permanent absolute immortality, and the plant of rejuvenation (i.e. temporary relative immortality) he got instead as a consolation price was stolen by a snake (!) that demonstrated its effect by shedding its skin (the aition for the belief that snakes are immortal by way of repeated rejuvenation).
Whether Gilgamesh came home a wiser man is up to debate. The epic ends with verses from its very beginning. Does that mean he learned nothing or that simply the cycle is ready for the next turn (eternal recurrence of the same)?

And the Lord God said, "The man has now become like one of us

or, as the authorised version of the King James Bible (which I always prefer) has it:

And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us

What I'm suddenly interested in, never having spotted it before as far as I recall, is the use of the words "one of us". I've looked it up, and the explanations seem to vary between a reference to the Trinity (absurd in my opinion, in the Old Testament), to the Royal We. But this, although perhaps it exists in Hebrew, would not explain one of us. So now I come to think of it, this is very odd, as spoken by a deity we are told is a jealous god, who insists "Thou shalt have no other god before me" and that jews should repeatedly say "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD". Hmmm. Very rum indeed.

An excellent post Doc. I am full to the brim with food for thought.

Thank you!

this is very odd, as spoken by a deity we are told is a jealous god, who insists "Thou shalt have no other god before me"

Observe that this is actually quite different for "there are no other gods than me, period." In fact, it would appear to be an explicit statement of polytheism. Which is not, perhaps, surprising in a document which includes chunks originating in other, polytheistic, religions of the region. But pretty clearly, monotheism was an evolution from mere supremacy in a constellation of gods.

I observe it, and consequently believe that followers of the monotheistic religions have been sold a pup!

Lovely post Doc. Can you explain ‘how’ you study the Torah? Is there a standard translation or do you work from the original? Is it free, like bible study or is there some ’curriculum’ that underlies the study? I also know (I think) that traditional study also includes studying commentary, similar to studying the scholia for Homer. Does that happen with you and your group? And, as a convert, is there an element of studying it like a second language for you (realizing that it is a second language for everyone, but are there points when others raised in the culture/faith have knowledge they draw on vice versa?


There are LOTS of ways of studying Torah--there is no topic for which "Two Jews, three opinions" is more true.

I read the parsha in English and think about it. Many people in the chat have knowledge of Hebrew, but by no means all. It's very low-key and informal.

Wonderful bit of stained glass there.

"...The LORD our God is one LORD"

I had not heard this translation before. Checking Google, I see that the King James Version uses it.

The common Jewish translation is, "The Lord is one."

My Hebrew is not good enough to comment very knowledgeably, but I do know that in Hebrew the word "Adonai," - the Lord - appears only once in this part of the prayer. It reads, "Adonai echad." "Echad means "one."

You're right, byomtov, as I happen to know since we had to say the Shema prayer just minutes before my father's death, because he could not do it himself and had been a traditional-ish jew. I quoted the King James version since I think it is one of the glories of English literature, and that is always a consolation to me when (as a rather anti-religion atheist) considering the bible.

Girl from the North Country,

I think that looking at the oldest translation, the Septuagint, is instructive, because it gives a good idea what Jews were thinking around 200 BC the Torah to mean. Verse 3:22 is

καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός ᾿Ιδοὺ Αδαμ γέγονεν ὡς εἷς ἐξ ἡμῶν τοῦ γινώσκειν καλὸν καὶ πονηρόν, καὶ νῦν μήποτε ἐκτείνῃ τὴν χεῖρα καὶ λάβῃ τοῦ ξύλου τῆς ζωῆς καὶ φάγῃ καὶ ζήσεται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.

The translation of the pertinent part is, as far as my Greek helps me: "Behold, Adam has turned into like one of us, knowing good and evil..." So, KJV seems to carry the understanding of the text also mirrored by Septuagint.

I do know that in Hebrew the word "Adonai," - the Lord - appears only once

Interesting, byomtov. Because what I have always heard in services is "Sh'ma Yisra'el, Adonai 'eloheinu, Adonai 'eḥad" (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד׃‬). That is, "Adonai" appears twice.


You are correct.

I misread gfntc's translation and stuck an extra "Lord" in somehow.


From classically Lutheran point of view, the statement is not purely polytheist. Luther defines god as something from which we expect help, hope and safety. Thus, wherever we put our trust, that is our god.

If you think that your wealth is going to shield you from evil, then money is your god. If you think that sports and healthy lifestyle alone are a fulfilment of your purpose as a human and preventing disease, then you have created an idol out of them. If you make your intellect and studies the main thing giving you self-respect and dignity, they are your god. All these are idolatry.

So, the commandment does not necessarily imply the existence of other gods as spiritual beings but as something human-made.

Thus, the first commandment is perhaps the most difficult to keep. We people tend to create our own gods, favoring them over the only God we are allowed to have. Completely giving ourselves over to God, expecting no other source of help and safety, is a constant challenge we are bound to fail constantly.

byomtov and wj: I don't know how that slipped by me! Particularly having actually said the bloody prayer which is consequently seared on my brain because of the circumstances. Never mind, at least somebody was on the ball.

Lurker, thank you for the greek as well. I am not surprised it agrees with the KJV, since the team assembled to make that translation were, as well as able to produce a sublime work of art, very learned men. In my opinion, if anything in either testament conveys a numinous sense, it is due to the beauty of that translation.

GftNC, I think it may help to learn the prayer late. That way, the details are more memorable than if they are merely seared into the brain in childhood.

It's clear to me when I bring up Gen 3:22-23 that even most people who are familiar with the chapter don't remember this particular passage, even though it casts doubt on traditional Exile from Eden/Fall of Man narratives ("Fall of Man" is a Christian concept, not a Jewish one; there is no Original Sin in Judaism).

I look at it using tools I learned from Donald Akenson's Surpassing Wonder: The Invention of the Bible and the Talmuds. Genesis as we know it was constructed by an editor from texts that were already considered canon: he couldn't leave anything out, even when the texts contradicted each other. So he *had* to include Gen 3:22-23 whether it fit with the rest or not. In fact, it seems to me that it reflects an older level of the story, more ancient--possibly *much* more ancient--than the rest of the J narrative.

But one thing the editor *could* do was move these pesky verses to a later pointin the narrative, to make them seem less motivating and more of a final flourish.

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