RE: [asa] A question on morals (OT and NT)

From: Dehler, Bernie <>
Date: Sat Nov 07 2009 - 23:45:06 EST

Merv said:
"if I may exaggerate the point. I don't pretend that we are morally superior to the ancients --not at all. We have just been entrusted with more; much more."

No, it sounds to me like you are saying, by way of your example, that we are more moral and can take a higher moral teaching. Now if you truly think we are no more moral than those in the OT, and we are just entrusted with more; why are we entrusted with more? What is the reason for that? If we are at basically the same moral level as those in the OT, then they could have been entrusted just as well as us.

Then there's the second level of discussion of even judging the morality of Jesus' redefinition (as well as that of the OT rule). I think both the OT "eye for eye" and NT sayings "turn the other cheek to an evil doer" are extreme and wrong; the right path is what most people do, in the middle (reasonable justice rather than 'eye for eye' and self-defense rather than 'turn the other cheek'). And if you think 'turn the other cheek' is not literal but only metaphorical, I don't see that when trying to see how the original hearers would have received it in context. And my concern is how Jesus meant it, and how it was received, at the time it was given.

There is the "smart God of physics and biology" (as ID points to); and these moral sayings look more to me like that of ancient man rather than a "smart God of morals." Could anyone have done better than Jesus and Moses for their time and place? Seems like the obvious answer is "yes," especially if they were getting direction from God almighty.

Just my opinion.


-----Original Message-----
From: Merv Bitikofer []
Sent: Tuesday, November 03, 2009 5:46 PM
To: Dehler, Bernie; asa
Subject: Re: [asa] A question on morals (OT and NT)

Dehler, Bernie wrote:
> Murray said: "That said, however, I would want to urge that we err when we introduce the Sermon on the Mount as part of that problem. People often speak as though the Sermon on the Mount is primarily a critique or abrogation of the Law (a "new law" or "new morality") when it is, as I understand it, directed not at the Law itself, but squarely at its misuse by the religious hierarchy in first century Judaism."
> I think the glaring problem with this idea is that Jesus quoted (and corrected) the OT verse, not a teaching of a 'religious hierarchy' based on some verse.
If I may jump way back to this objection of yours, Bernie; I have a
comparison that might be of value.

We could imagine a group of young students who take sloppy notes (when
they take them at all) and have no experience recording or presenting
organized lab data from some school science project they are in. What
they do write is a scrawled mess. The teacher steps in with
requirements and tells them: "you will write neatly in just this
format, and give me at least three coherent sentences of conclusion
about your data."

A year or so later, another science teacher tells the same students:
"Did that last teacher tell you to handwrite your reports and give at
least three sentences of conclusion?" "In MY class you will type your
reports and I require fully developed paragraphs discussing the lab
objectives and your conclusion, in addition to graphs presenting your
raw data!"

Nobody should conclude that the second teacher contradicted the first
and overturned everything the earlier teacher had taught. In fact, he
was building on it ---pressing students into their new discomfort zones
so they can keep growing. Like Pete has so nicely noted, it's a
trajectory. You need to remember that Levi & Simeon premeditated a
massacre of a whole village as revenge over Dinah's rape. This is the
moral landscape into which a law is inserted which says there will be
one eye for one eye. Getting them to do much more than that (loving
their enemies, even! ---and yes there are hints at that even in the
O.T.) might have been analogous to my marching into a Kindergarten
classroom to announce my formal requirements for typed essays and lab
reports --if I may exaggerate the point. I don't pretend that we are
morally superior to the ancients --not at all. We have just been
entrusted with more; much more.


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Received on Sat Nov 7 23:45:21 2009

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