Thursday, June 09, 2005

Judith Christ of Nazareth

By Alexander Samuels

Don't like the current orthodox versions of the Bible? Why not write a new version to suit your own taste? At least that is what the Law & Business Institute of Washington, D.C., has done. There is now a version of the Bible on sale at your local bookstore titled . . . Judith Christ of Nazareth: The Gospels of the Bible Corrected to Reflect That Jesus Christ Was a Woman, Extracted From Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The new book also portrays God as feminine.

In a June 6 article from AgapePress, Jim Brown writes, "LBI's vice president, a man called Billie Shakespeare, describes this so-called 'corrected version' of the Bible as a valuable resource designed to make the scriptures accessible to a wider audience and 'to acknowledge the rise of women in society.'"

If you are disgusted with this as I am, don't forget that we live in the foggy age of relativism. Most people don't believe in absolute truth. So if you don't like the Bible as is, the theory goes, you just mark out what you don't care for, or add whatever makes you feel better about yourself. It doesn't matter that all the historic evidence says Jesus (not Judith) was a man or that the Bible never refers to God in the feminine gender.

Why hasn't Newsweek published an outraged article condemning this blasphemous desecration of Christianity's most holy book? I suppose that in today's American society, where Christianity is the only faith not held sacred, Newsweek and the rest of the mainstream media consider the Bible to be just another book on the shelf.

As Christians, when fundamental assaults are made on the true meaning of the Scriptures, if we remain silent, then we too are agreeing with a culture that wishes to make the Bible irrelevant. Yes, absolute truth is real. Rewriting the book will not change the Truth that God has spoken through the Bible. Refusing to preach and teach His whole Word of Truth because it might offend some members of the congregation is also just as much an assault upon the Bible as Billie Shakespeare's Judith Christ of Nazareth. Christian congregations should expect their pastors, teachers, elders and deacons to take a stand for the Truth in such matters.

13 Comments:

At Friday, June 10, 2005 11:51:00 AM, Blogger Christina Martin said...

I wonder how radical feminist women would feel about being redefined as men.

 
At Friday, June 10, 2005 1:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always suspected that this Christianity fad wouldn't last. And what would deliver the final blow? Yes... a three year old alternative translation of the Bible, spawned by a publisher no one can seem to locate, led by a person with the suspiciously familiar name "Billie Shakespeare." Oh yes, the forces of darkness are at work here.

The dementia unleashed by this recently discovered "new" book is amusing, but it suggests that a lot of believers are getting their panties in a wad over nothing. Do me a favor: Google the title. You'll look into an echo chamber of outrage that would have never existed if you and others just ignored it.

But now the echo chamber is in full fury, and you're ranting about absolute truth and the desecration of the bible, while failing to notice that you and others like you are the only ones paying attention to the book.
This begs a more serious question: Is the faith of some Christians so weak that it's threatened by a book that has had no discernible influence on our culture?

 
At Friday, June 10, 2005 10:11:00 PM, Anonymous Alex Samuels said...

Ideas have a power and force all their own when it comes to influencing the course of civilization. If you do not stand against evil, no matter how trivial it may seem in the beginning, it grows in influence. If you do not defend what you believe is right, truth is dismissed as irrelevant and your character is stained with cowardness. You become a social jester who sarcastically treats the concerns of serious people with laughing contempt. Somehow this makes you feel superior to the concerns of the superstitious masses. All the while there is an empty place inside that knows eternity is waiting. But you long to say with William Ernest Henley, “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” An echo arises from the depths of that empty place within and the word is always “No.”

 
At Sunday, June 12, 2005 9:13:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So that's how spiritual entropy works, Alex? Fail to stand against the forces of the trivial 24/7 (and hey, every weekly issue of People magazine generates two weeks of white-hot outrage in me), and pretty soon you're staring into the void?

Replace your phrase "serious people" with "self-indulgent people." There's evidence of real evil in the world, but it's not contained in the rotting corpse of an insignificant book that you exhumed to condemn. Pointing this out does no damage to my spiritual life, much less my soul. However, it does suggest that I have little patience with those who manufacturer opportunities to demonstrate their piety.

 
At Monday, June 13, 2005 7:24:00 AM, Anonymous Alex Samuels said...

When "Mein Kamph" was first published by Hitler, the German elite ignored it and thought these rantings of a little mad man would have little influence on their society. Even today, it is a best seller in Arab countries.

 
At Monday, June 13, 2005 9:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're engaging in sophistry, Alex.

Ideas take root because they speak to the condition of those who receive them. In your example (by the way, I was wondering when the first Nazi-related reference would land - you didn't disappoint me), Mein Kampf didn't exist in a vacuum. Its ideas - and no doubt, they are abhorent - resonated with the German mainstream, and inflamed the nationalist mood that resulted from Germany's post WWI humiliation. Today, Palestinians and Muslim Turks find sympathy with Mein Kampf because it echoes their anti-Semitic beliefs.

Alex, you appear to believe that there are ideas that are intrinsically evil, a sentiment with which I disagree. I do think that by holding some ideas close, we alienate ourselves from God. In that case, sin would be a more appropriate word, right?

There's also the matter of proportion. That you compare Judith of Nazareth with Mein Kampf - even in the vaguest sense - calls into question your ability to differentiate between truly repellent ideas and those that are at worst banal (of course, there are many Christians who would not find JoN banal, but I doubt you'll meet them in your theological circle). It also suggests an arrogance about "Christianity" - which you fail to see as a rich tapestry of theological beliefs, and instead assume to be a monolith - that is misguided, not to mention unattractive.

So where do you stop? Can we expect a weekly laundry list of "evil" books? I suspect you'll have your hands full with that one. But you're the one who claims commitment to battling the smallest sign of "evil" lurking on the printed page. So have at it. I'm sure you'll do the book burners proud.

 
At Monday, June 13, 2005 4:48:00 PM, Blogger Toad734 said...

Or how about this:

Dont like your Catholic Bible?

Well just write one that suits your own taste. Thats what King James did.

 
At Tuesday, June 14, 2005 11:16:00 AM, Anonymous Alex Samuels said...

Anonymous,

Are you saying that the promotion of all ideas is neither evil nor good because no idea is either intrinsically evil or good? By the way, in my dictionary, evil and sinful are synonyms. Is the idea of murdering people to solve the world’s overpopulation a morally neutral idea?

Well, back to the subject of my article: As a Christian, I believe it is our duty to protect the name of Christ because we are saved through calling upon His name. The protection of the name “Jesus Christ” is important for theological reasons. His name is an affirmation of our Christian faith. To discredit or misuse His name (just as the third commandment implies) is to pour contempt on the one who Christians worship.

In 2 Peter 2:1-3, there is a warning about the heretic’s use of Scripture, “They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord . . . Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.”

To you I may be making a mountain out of a molehill. But if it is just a molehill, why so much fume and fury on your part? You sound just as passionate in your writing as I hope I do in mine. As a Christian, however, I believe this book about “Judith Christ” is blasphemy. Peter, speaking before the Sanhedrin about Jesus said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” This is a profound statement about the nature of Christianity. It is too often trivialized in today’s culture.

 
At Tuesday, June 14, 2005 2:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No "fume and fury" from me -- just forthrightness. Sorry if you thought otherwise.

To answer your first question, I didn't offer any opinion about the promotion of ideas. I simply wrote that I don't believe that ideas themselves are intrinsically evil. Promoting murder as a solution to overpopulation implies that you're moving out of the "just an idea" phase and are itching for action. And you may be relieved to know that I believe the promotion of genocide is evil.

Okay, so let's get back to this poor little book. By my reckoning, the fundamentalist Protestant blogosphere has done more to promote this book than its publisher -- than the whole publishing industry, for that matter -- has been able to accomplish. It sat there virtually ignored for three years until you and others cried in outrage at this "new" assault on your faith. So it seems ironic that you elected to shine a spotlight on ideas that, in your opinion, are evil to promote.

But the question of the evilness of this book is, well, questionable. Claiming that Jesus is Judith is dishonest scholarship, but I'm not convinced that it makes it a latter day Mein Kampf. God, a female? You might wish to acquaint yourself with the body of theology that addresses this issue. If you hang around a seminary for any length of time you find that individual concepts of God are shaped by personal experience. That God is exclusively male in the Bible has much to do with who was writing the texts, and literary conventions of the time. Simply saying "God's a man because the Bible says so" ignores both the history of the creation of the Canon and rich theological questions about our relationship with God. If this doesn't interest you, so be it, but your lack of interest doesn't invalidate the depth of inquiry into the nature of God.

Peter had much to say about the nature of discipleship and IMHO his richest teachings precede 2 Peter 2:1-3 (btw, what do you think of the idea that 2 Peter almost didn't make it into the Canon?). He focused on spiritual growth and maturity, which he implied to be an inward process that bears visible fruit.

Oh, and btw, bravo Toad734! Those in power have forever coopted faith for their own purposes. There's little outrage these days about politicians spouting questionable theology; certainly far less than this marginal, feminist book has created in some quarters. But that's a whole 'nother battle for those who oppose evil ideas. I'll wait for the corrective fury of the blogosphere to land on the politicians, but I suspect I'll be waiting a long, long, long time.

 
At Tuesday, June 14, 2005 5:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous,

After reading all this discussion, I believe the points argued come back to one of Alexander's first points. Either you believe in absolute truth or you don't. Whether God is male or female is something I believe we will all know some day. As for me, I have no doubts. Not just because of historical evidence of Christ, but because I happen to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and that it was written through man by God. I realize you have your opinions, but I commend Alexander for taking a stand for Christ and who He is. Revelations 22:18-19 warns about the consequences of distorting God's word. That appears to be the intention of the book in question and I think the original post does a good job of bringing that to everyone's attention.

TP

 
At Tuesday, June 14, 2005 10:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

TP,

It's fine to make Biblical inerrancy the cornerstone of your faith. The only point at which I take issue is when proponents of literalist belief condemn others' theology as relativism or mere opinion without troubling themselves to understand the details of that theology.

The subtext of my disagreement with Alex is my belief that some Christians find satisfaction in opportunities to demonstrate their piety and deliberately create divisions among people of faith. Alex's original post -- and the many similar online posts -- reinforce my belief. Had anyone tried to engage the publisher and learn whether this book was a parody or a sincere attempt to interpret scripture (and I'm laying aside the quality of that interpretation for the moment), then I might be more sympathetic to the reaction. However, the immediate impulse was to join the mob and condemn the heretic. Apparently, if one isn't in the "right" tribe, one isn't a proper Christian at all. Or that's what Alex would have us think.

The sad part about this is that as Christians, we are all called to reconciliation. But that doesn't appear to be Alex's goal. Rather, he creates a false dichotomy of absolute truth versus foggy relativism, when there is no such dichotomy at all. There is no relativism or paradox in seeking truth through the Bible, while rejecting its inerrancy. In fact, I suspect that those who sincerely do this have explored the question of inerrancy far more deeply than those who accept it purely as a matter of faith.

There is an old joke about heaven, which says that it is a place at which each Christian hopes to arrive and find that he or she is the only inhabitant. Ultimately, theology (or lack thereof) shouldn't divide humankind. If we aspire to heaven we should hope to find everyone, including those who have wronged us, there. Unfortunately, the tendency toward condemnation over reconciliation suggests that there is more than a kernel of truth to that old joke.

 
At Wednesday, June 15, 2005 4:42:00 PM, Anonymous Alex said...

Anonymous,

You have succeeded in making one of the most interesting statements I have ever read: "There is no relativism or paradox in seeking truth through the Bible, while rejecting its inerrancy."

In other words, you are saying that the Bible is not totally true but we should seek to find what truth there is in the Bible. Sounds like relativism in relation to the Bible to me.

What have you found out about the theology of "Judith Christ of Nazarith" that I obviously don't know?

Who says I'm a literalist. In Reformed Theology we interpret the Bible by the Grammatical-Historical approach. You do not seem to be aware of this, because you say that anyone who defends the Bible is a literalist.

You say I'm trying to demonstrate my piety by creating divisions among people of faith. What faith is that? Anyone who believes that Jesus is Judith certainly is not of the Christian faith.

You see, the Bible , literarily and historcally does not allow you to choose which parts are truth or not. With the God of the Bible you take the whole package or nothing at all. You cannot change it. Have you seriously studied inerrancy at all?

Anonymous, it is the Bible that sets up a division among mankind. It separates those who believe it is the Word of God from those who don't. I'm sorry but it does not allow you to pick and choose what you believe.

Jesus noted in Matthew 7:21-23, "Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miricles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you.'"

I would hope too that somehow, one day , we could find everyone in heaven. The Bible makes it clear, however, that this is not going to happen.

By the way, I thank you for helping me to make a big deal out of a book you consider to be unimportant. Without your comments, it would not be possible. I want to thank Christina, toad734, TP, and anonymous for your part in this conversation. Anonymous, your disagreements with me have helped me to better understand the opposite point of view - even though I still disagree. Welcome back all, anytime, and please feel free to continue this discussion. I have something else to work on over the next few days.

 
At Wednesday, June 15, 2005 5:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to help, Alex. I'm the champion of the trivial. ;-)

So you're not a literalist. My mistake. Literalism is often associated with grammatical-historical interpretation, but if you aren't in that camp, so be it. However, it's difficult to discern your basis of interpretation, since you're offering proof texts as evidence to support your position.

I'd hardly describe myself as representing the "opposite" point of view, though you seem to gravitate to dualism.

But, let's look at "one of the most interesting statements I have ever read." I'm flattered that you find it so interesting, but you misunderstand my position.

If I understand you correctly, you believe the Bible to be the Divinely inspired word of God. As such, it is absolute truth, which implies that there is one meaning that may be derived from it. To question any part is to reject the whole.

I, on the other hand, believe the Bible to be a record of humankind's evolving understanding of its relationship with God. It is comprised of multiple texts, authored by individuals who held a range of viewpoints and positions in society, was assembled into the Canon, and has been translated into versions that vary in fidelity to the original texts. If I put aside the difficulties that this presents in terms of an absolute representation of truth, and revisit the original texts, I may still find my reading of, say, original Hebrew at odds with that of another exegete.

At the same time, I absolutely embrace the entire Bible and what it represents to Christians. For example, I can quite happily consider the contradictions present in the two Genesis creation stories, and consider them both to be "true" in the sense that they each represent how two individuals with differing viewpoints understood the origins of the world.

There's no foggy relativism there. I'm not dismissing anything because it doesn't match my preconceptions. I might also look at the Bible in the context of other forms of Biblical analysis, but I'm not seeking to make the text conform to the meaning I want. However, I maintain that this meaning isn't always as obvious as you seem to think.

Good luck with your pressing project. And kind regards....

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home