I am a heretic – I say that from time to time to people who I discuss religion with. And, even then, I don’t discuss my religious beliefs in depth – there’s only a few people who get to glimpse my heresy in full.
I don’t meant that I won’t discuss religion in depth – I’m fairly well versed in a number of religions (though, it’s possible to trip me up – I’m far from perfect, and even with the Bible it’s possible to cause me to scratch my head when quizzed.) At 39 years of age, I still find plenty of “new” in the Bible, and I intentionally avoid “chapter and verse” concordance memorization.
Simply put – not all of my beliefs align with the rest of the world or the synagogue I attend, or heck, some days it seems like some of those beliefs don’t align with anyone else. Nor am a trained biblical scholar. Anything I say in the “Messianic Musings” section of my site should be taken with a grain of salt, or even the whole bottle of salt. On the other hand – my advice to anyone is any biblical scholar’s work should be taken with a health dose of skepticism anyways.
There’s a reason I’m saying all this: “Messianic Musings” is my new area about religion. I follow God’s Word – problem is, as humans, we always translate things into our own frame of reference. My frame of reference has a background in Catholicism and Protestantism when I was growing up (and a deep dislike for divisions within religion, and the hatred that goes along with “I’m right, you’re wrong!” sorts of thinking in religion), then eventually my great hunt for, well, Truth, with a capital T. What IS the right path? Is there a right and wrong path? Which group who follows the same book has gotten it right? And what about all of these other religions – are they all wrong too? Or is it possible they are all right?
Long story made short: I found a path that worked for me – Messianic Judaism. And even within that, a very specific grouping of people – Messianic Judaism is an overall concept, not a single “brand” of Believers that have an overall doctrine they adhere to completely and methodically no matter which congregation you happen to visit. If you’re really curious to hear more of how I went from “searching” to “meh, whatever” to “this is my path”, you can read about it in a previous blog post “2010 Reviewed, Part II: A New Faith”
I don’t just “read the Bible” – I study it deeply. I started learning Hebrew (Biblical Hebrew) for instance, but some things just didn’t quite make sense, so I started studying the evolution of the language for a bit, and looked into some of the paleo-Hebrew, and finally all the way back to the pictogram representations. Suddenly, bits and pieces made a whole lot more sense! (Why learn Biblical Hebrew? To study it in the original language, getting as close to the original writing as possible, and as far removed from modern translation and interpretation.)
Same goes for the timeframe, and pre-Biblical history. Remember that Heretic thing I mentioned? Yeah, well, I view the beginning of Genesis to be a simplified description of creation – simplified the same way you might tell a child the story. The details, including how long, weren’t important – only a couple of key concepts that were explained there (for instance, the division of time to establish the Shabbat or Sabbath). There’s no Biblical evidence to support my position there – science tells us the universe is 13.7 billion years old, and I tend to believe that with a margin of error of +/- 50% (since it’s often thought that many of the rules of physics may have changed between the big bang and now, though the rules have been static for potentially 13.699 of those 13.7 billion years – but any change is significant when discussing time periods!) Of course, one could point at Psalms 90:4 (“For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.”) and 2 Peter 3:8 (“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”) as examples that God does not view the passage of time the same as we do, or experience it in the same fashion. Simply put – why tangle a very simple people (at the time – we’re no longer simple people, really) with a bunch of un-important details. With the possible exception of Numbers, the Torah (the 5 books of Moses, the first 5 books of the Old Testament) is fairly straightforward – it’s not bogged down by the details.
Compare the writing style with that of modern writers. If Stephen King would have written the 5 books of Moses, I’m sure it would have been at least 10 books long, each book weighing in at around 1,200 pages like The Stand. People like Onan would have gotten more than a passing mention and a death scene – King would have had to explain who he was, why he was doing something other than what God told him to, and what he had for lunch. In the modern day we worry deeply about the details – heck, the fact that certain details aren’t there in the Bible drive me nuts, because I used to be an avid reader of people like King! I LIKE the details, dang it!
Oh, and I mentioned I don’t memorize chapter and verse intentionally: I dislike it for many reasons. Often I’ve seen it used as a club to someone who’s study isn’t as deep as the person they are debating with, so they start saying things like “AH, yes, but what about Psalms 90:4?” Then the other guy is stuck – if he doesn’t know the exact words of Psalms 90:4, he feels automatically that the other person’s debate is superior. I’ve watched that sort of thing happen before, and it’s a card trick when used that way – a way to con the other person in to believing what the first person believed, no matter right or wrong. Instead, I try to remember “about where” something is, and what was said. I don’t sound like I’m smacking someone with the Bible then, it sound like a normal discussion.
BUT – on here, when applicable and when I remember to do it – I’ll be putting concordant addresses up. I don’t want you to take my word for what I say, in any way, shape, or form. I want you to be able to look it up, see it in context, and say things like “Sheesh. This guy is full of it!”
I come from a background of at one time being TOLD what the bible said, what was important, what was no longer relevant, and all sorts of other stuff that wasn’t even IN the Bible. Now, I try and dig as deep as possible to see what it said. Not just what the King James Translation says, but many possible sources. And I also go to Torah study once a week, and listen to the (quite fascinating!) conversations that go on there. I don’t speak much at Torah – I just listen mainly. I’m there to learn. Though, it’s quite frequent that I later look more deeply at the opinions that were presented during the discussion – there’s often thought provoking stuff, and sometimes there’s errors in what was said, in my opinion. Same could be said about anything I say 😉
I had been studying Torah and Acts on Saturdays – however, they finished Acts and decided to study Revelations. I flat-out refuse to study Revelations with a group of people – I don’t mean THAT group of people, I mean any group of people, period. So, I now have a little extra time on my hands on a Sabbath after Torah study – so I’ve been digging more deeply into my Hebrew, and my ability to understand the meaning of what was written. Granted, there’s something to be said about reading modern translation, as it does indeed put meaning within our current framework of society and language. But knowing both, in my opinion, is useful.
Now, as for the “Messianic Musings” section of my site, and why it now exists: it’s a dumping ground for my thoughts. I love using a blog as a way to bring all of that together, to be able to look back at a place in time I was before and see what I used to think compared to what I think now (I am not so egotistical to believe that my beliefs on God will not change, and that I’ve got it all figured out. They will over time, and I don’t.) I also love to write to organize my thoughts. So, as I study stuff, the things I find interesting for one reason or another will go up here. Or stuff that’s observations on discussions I’ve had about faith (I get into discussions of faith on a nearly daily basis.) Basically, whatever fits my thoughts at the moment – when I’m inspired, the words pour out quickly for me. (So expect quite a few long posts 😉 My goal is to write on every Saturday after I’m done with whatever direction my current study for the day takes me.
I also write it all down and make it accessible to others in the hopes that, well, they might find meaning in it too.
Others are more than welcome to comment on it – just because I wrote it down doesn’t mean it’s right. In fact, that’s an error I think has been repeated too often – we read it written down, so it must be true, right?! No so, here – look at the things I mention, see them in context, and see what does and doesn’t make sense. Discuss it – I’m a tolerant of other views. I follow Messianic Judaism – but does that mean because I follow something my choice in path is the right one, or the only right one? In my opinion, no – and trust me, there will be a very long entry explaining my position, and why – and all faiths are welcome here, including non-Believers, Atheists, Objectivists, Agnostics, Muslims, Shintoists, Wiccians, and any other of the belief systems that exist. Just not French Canadians. (I’m kidding – there’s a long story behind that joke that I’ll explain some other time. Get used to me saying things that amuse me, and only me. 😉
But hopefully, if you read this, you dig deeper too. You question what you were told, and you question what you’ve read for interpretations of scripture. My words are not The Word, nor are any other human beings words truly The Word.
I’ll probably end up permanently linking this entry to the top of all the “Messianic Musings” posts – I want it to be clear that I’m not a biblical scholar whenever I write about religion 😉
Now, about the title: Messianic Musings. Anyone who thinks about that title long enough, and is familiar with mythology in general might see a problem with that name. Yes, a Muse is a Greek goddess (there were three Muses. Or nine, depending on who you talk to), and the term has moved away from the specific (being about a specific set of goddesses) to being generic when it comes to that which inspires us. So, yeah, if you want to get technical about it, I just invoked a Biblical religious concept in association with a Greek mythology concept in the title. It’s not really a completely thoughtless naming on my part – “Muse” is the name of three of the books I’ve written (well, technically, only one is written, the other two are partially written) The name is an extension of those books – those three books are deeply rooted in belief systems if you dig into the underlying setup. I did say I was a heretic, right?