Seminary Program

This is where we post the essays from many of our Universal Life Church Seminary students. When students finish a ULC course, they write a comprehensive essay about their experiences with the course, what they learned, didn't learn, were inspired by, etc. Here are their essays.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Four Gospels Midrash

Bear with me a little bit, Rev Elizabeth Andres say I am “long-winded” and I type too fast.

Most of all stray from my points. If you not familiar with midrash this a short over view.

A Biblical canon or canon of scripture is nothing more than a list of Biblical books which establishes the names of books which are considered to be authoritative as scripture by a religious community, generally in Judaism or Christianity. This technical term is late and Christian, but the idea is Jewish. Those to understand the Gospels one has to understand midrash (Hebrew: מדרש; plural midrashim) is a Hebrew word referring to a method of exegesis of a Biblical text. The term "midrash" can also refer to a compilation of Midrashic teachings, in the form of legal, exegetical or homiletical commentaries on the Tanakh (Jewish Bible). Most forget Jesus was Jewish, as were the Gospels Jewish Book, written for Jew’s by Jew’s. As it was true with his disciples Peter, James, John , Judas. (midrash Jacob fathered 12 sons, 12 tribes of Israel , 12 apostle ) In the beginning of Christianity one first had to convert to Judaism to become a Christian. In order to truly understand the Gospels one most know the order of the months of the Jewish year that was followed in the first year, along with prominent festivals, fast, and holy days of the Jewish year in the First Century. (In Mark it is the story of Jesus from Rosh Hashanah to Passover) The very fact is Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, James, and Jude the authorship is document to be Jewish, all though most Christian through exegesis deny or dispute this fact.

According to the Pardes system of exegesis, understanding of Biblical text in Judaism is divided among peshat (simple meaning), remez (hints, clues), derash (interpretation) and sod (mystical, lit. "secret"). The Midrash concentrates somewhat on remez but mostly on derash.

Many different exegetical methods are employed to derive deeper meaning from a text. This is not limited to the traditional thirteen textual tools attributed to the Tanna Rabbi Ishmael, which are used in the interpretation of Halakha (Jewish law). Presence of superfluous words or letters, chronology of events, parallel narratives or other textual anomalies are often a springboard for interpretation of segments of Biblical text. In many cases, a dialogue is expanded manifold: handfuls of lines in the Biblical narrative may become long philosophical discussions. It is unclear whether the Midrash assumes these dialogues took place in reality or if this refers only to subtext or religious implication.

The "classical" Midrash starts off with a seemingly unrelated sentence from the Biblical books of Psalms, Proverbs or the Prophets. This sentence later turns out to metaphorically reflect the content of the rabbinical interpretation offered.

Some Midrash discussions are highly metaphorical, and many Jewish authors stress that they are not intended to be taken literally. Rather, other midrashic sources may sometimes serve as a key to particularly esoteric discussions. Later authors maintain that this was done to make this material less accessible to the casual reader and prevent its abuse by detractors.

In general the Midrash is focused on either Halakhic (legal) or Aggadic (non-legal and chiefly homiletical) subject matter. Both kinds of Midrashim were at first preserved only orally; but their writing down commenced in the 2nd century, and they now exist in the shape chiefly of exegetical or homiletical commentaries on Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible). Midrashic literature is worthwhile reading not only for its insights into Judaism and the history of Jewish thought, but also for the more incidental data it provides to historians, philologists, philosophers, and scholars of either historical-critical Bible study or comparative religion.

Midrash halakha was the ancient Judaic rabbinic method of Torah study verifying the traditionally received 613 Mitzvot ("laws") by identifying their sources in the Torah Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), and by interpreting these passages as proofs of the law's authenticity. Midrash more generally also refers to the "non-legal" interpretation of the Tanakh (aggadic midrash). The term is applied also to the derivation of new laws, either by means of a correct interpretation of the obvious meaning of scriptural words themselves or by the application of certain hermeneutic rules.

The Mishnah (Hebrew משנה, "repetition"), redacted circa 200 CE by Yehudah Ha-Nasi (יהודה הנשׂיא / "President Judah"), is the first written recording of the Oral Torah of the Jewish people, as championed by the Pharisees, and as debated between 70-200 CE by the group of rabbinic sages known as the Tannaim.

In traditional Jewish belief, the "Oral Torah", or "oral law," was an unwritten tradition which was given from God to Moses on Mount Sinai , which elucidated the written Torah but was not incorporated into its text. However, the Talmud relates that the oral laws were eventually recorded in the form of the Mishnah by Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, referred to in its text simply as "Rabbi," when the passage of time and the persecution of the Jews raised the possibility that its details would be forgotten.

The Mishnah consists of six orders ("sedarim"), each containing 7-12 tractates called masechtot, each of which is divided into verses called mishnayot. The orders include: Zeraim ("Seeds"), dealing with agricultural laws and prayers, Moed ("Festival"), pertaining to the laws of the Sabbath and the Festivals, Nashim ("Women"), concerning marriage and divorce, Nezikin ("Damages"), dealing with civil and criminal law, Kodashim ("Holy things"), regarding sacrificial rites, the Temple, and the dietary laws, and Tohorot ("Purities"), pertaining to the laws of purity and impurity, including the impurity of the dead, the laws of ritual purity for the priests (Kohanim), the laws of "family purity" (the menstrual laws) and others.

The homiletical midrashim embrace the interpretation of the non-legal portions of the Hebrew Bible. These midrashim are sometimes referred to as aggadah or haggadah, a loosely-defined term that may refer to all non-legal discourse in classical rabbinic literature.

Aggadic explanations of the non-legal parts of Scripture are characterized by a much greater freedom of exposition than the Halachic Midrashim (midrashim on Jewish law.) Aggadic expositors availed themselves of various techniques, including sayings of prominent rabbis. These aggadic explanations could be philosophical or mystical disquisitions concerning angels, demons, paradise, hell, the messiah, Satan, feasts and fasts, parables, legends, satirical assaults on those who practice idolatry, etc.

Some of these midrashim entail mystical teachings. The presentation is such that the Midrash is a simple lesson to the uninitiated, and a direct allusion, or analogy, to a Mystical teaching for those educated in this area.

An example of a Midrashic interpretation: "And God saw all that He had made, and found it very good. And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day." (Genesis 1:31) - Midrash: Rabbi Nahman said in Rabbi Samuel's name: "Behold, it was good" refers to the Good Desire; "And behold, it was very good" refers to the Evil Desire. (It only says "very good" after man was created with both the good and bad inclinations, in all other cases in only says "and God saw that it was good") Can then the Evil Desire be very good? That would be extraordinary! But without the Evil Desire, however, no man would build a house, take a wife and beget children; and thus said Solomon: "Again, I considered all labour and all excelling in work, that it is a man's rivalry with his neighbour." (Kohelet IV, 4) (Genesis Rabbah 9:7, translation from Soncino Publications). Those my belief the original sin had nothing to do with sex it was man knowing the power to emulating God or be like God and God like power. Fundamental Evangelicals Conservative Christian denominations use the concept of the original Sin has been a religious means of getting humans to give up psychological control of their lives ( “unworthy”) to an ideology and to religious authority (“worthy”) of oppression of self-ownership, individual sovereignty. By justifying Midrashic interpretation of Bible denies church the ability of psychological control, 1 John 3:13.

It was not until The Council of Nicaea 325 AD did the church as we know it today begin consolidate the power to control Christian thought and Midrashic interpretation of Bible just get in the way . The First Council of Nicaea, held in Nicaea in Bithynia (present-day Iznik in Turkey ), convoked by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in 325, was the first Ecumenical council of the early Christian Church, and most significantly resulted in the first uniform Christian doctrine, called the Nicene Creed. If any official minutes, or Acta, were kept of the Council of Nicaea, these have not survived. What we have are its twenty canons, or disciplinary decisions, are preserved in a variety of sources, as is a synodical letter that the council sent to the church of Alexandria . An early Christian creed traditionally attributed to the Apostles, but actually coming from the third century. A comparison of the Apostles Creed with the Nicene Creed reveals the theological innovations the battle against the Arian Controversy brought about with regard to the statements concerning the nature of the Christian godhead, that is, the doctrine of the Trinity.

Next, council (which is not Biblical Based) is described in a number of church histories from that period. Eusebius of Caesarea, the first church historian, concludes his famous Church History before the time of the council, but he does cover the events in his later Life of Constantine, covers the council but completely ignores the theological issues at stake. Socrates, Sozomen and Theodoret, who wrote in the 440s AD takes over were Eusebius left off and which all, at or near the beginning, cover the events of Nicaea. (Apology, a speech by Socrates transcribed by Plato and the Apology, an account by Xenophon). Christian apologetics had early formation from Socrates he was tried and convicted by the courts of democratic Athens on a charge of corrupting the youth and disbelieving in the ancestral gods. I see the same thing going on today.

Christian apologetics is the field of study concerned with the systematic defense of Christianity. The term "apologetic" comes from the Greek word apologia (απολογία), which means in defense of; therefore a person involved in Christian or Bible Apologetics is a defender of Christianity. Christian apologetics have taken many forms over the centuries, starting with Paul of Tarsus, including writers such as Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas, and continuing today with the modern Christian community through many authors in various Christian traditions. Apologists have based their defense of Christianity on favoring interpretations of historical evidence, philosophical arguments, scientific investigation, and other avenues.

This Classical Greek term appears in the Koine (that is, common) Greek of the New Testament. The apostle Paul employed the term "apologia" in his trial speech to Festus and Agrippa when he said, "I make my defense" (Acts 26:2). In the English language, the word apology, derived from the Greek word "apologia", usually refers to asking for forgiveness for an action that is open to blame. Christian apologetics are meant, however, to argue that Christianity is reasonable and in accordance with the evidence that can be examined, analogous to the use of the term in the Apology of Socrates, written by Plato.

It was The Council of Nicaea 325 AD that sit the dogma, traditions, theology and most off all orthodox of the church. It developed to what we know today, when Christianity left it Jewish roots Jewish roots behind in doing so all so Christ and God behind. Just as today the church was made up of many different theologies. Arianism is most commonly used to refer to the theological positions made famous by the theologian Arius (c. AD 250-336), who lived and taught in Alexandria , Egypt , in the early 4th century.

At the Council of Nicaea there were two debated points over the issue of deity of Christ, whether or not the Son had a beginning and whether or not he was created out of nothing. Behind these is the fundamental issue of the deity of Christ, which Arius denied. For him the Son was not to be identified with God himself but is the first and greatest of God’s creatures. He was made ex nihilo, although Arius (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarianism today) also affirmed that all of the rest of God’s creation was made through the Son. Since time is an aspect of the created universe, which was made through the Son, the latter existed before all time. “Creationism” and the newly spun “Intelligent Design.” Before it was all over Roman Emperor Constantine ordered the Thalia, the book in which Arius had expressed his teachings, to be burned. (Heteroousianism is a Christian belief that the substance or being of God the Father and the substance or being of the Son of God (Jesus) are different Commonly called Arianism, though Arianism includes other beliefs in addition to this one. The teaching was developed as a response to the homoousian teaching. Homoiousianism from the Greek όμοιος meaning similar and ουσία meaning essence or being) was a 4th century CE movement which arose in the early period of the Christian religion out of a wing of Arianism. It was an attempt to reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable views of the pro-Nicene homoousians, who believed that God the father and Jesus his son were identical in substance, with the "neo-Arian" position that God the father is "incomparable" and therefore the Son can not be described in any sense as "like in substance or attributes" but only "like" (ομολοζ) the Father in some suborbinate sense of the term.)

In Christianity, Trinity is the doctrine that God is one being who exists, simultaneously and eternally, as a mutual indwelling of three persons (not to be confused by "person"): the Father, the Son (incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth), and the Holy Spirit is not found any were in the Bible. Only through the use of exegesis and apologetics can there be a claim to such.

In a letter Constantine wrote to the Alexandrian Church, he talks of those who had been blaspheming against the Saviour, teaching ‘contrary to the divinely inspired Scriptures.’ He also stresses that ‘that which has commended itself to the judgment of three hundred bishops cannot be other than the doctrine of God; seeing that the Holy Spirit dwelling in the minds of so many dignified persons has effectively enlightened them respecting the divine will.’

In closing this I would like to leave at this thought, in Christianity, Sabellianism is the nontrinitarian belief that the Heavenly Father, Resurrected Son and Holy Spirit are different modes or aspects of one God (for us only), rather than three distinct persons (in Himself). God was said to have three "faces" or "masks" (Grk. prosopa). The question is: "is God's threeness a matter of our falsely seeing it to be so, or a matter of God's own essence revealed as three-in-one, orthodox trinitarianism?" The only number ascribed to God in the Holy Bible is One and that there is no inherent threeness ascribed to God explicitly in scripture any were New or Old Testament. The number three is never mentioned in relation to God in scripture, which of course is the number that is central to the word Trinity. I believe the Trinity as it was at the Council of Nicaea to be the invention of the church to control the Christian belief and the power to be only able to define God.

See Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism by John Shelby Spong


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