First, thanks for the compliment (kool chick) I usually keep pretty quiet unless it is something important to be said. I’ve been skimming a lot of posts, and I find it deeply interesting how people are using comparisons of Judaism and Christianity as explanations or justifications. Now it is appropriate to take a step back and look at the bigger picture; religion, interpretation, reason and where it all fits in.
We need to understand what religion is. Religion means “how” or “why” things are they way they are. Religion exists because humans are just that: humans, and need to look beyond the physical realms of nature for an explanation of existence. “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do snakes crawl and not walk?” “Why do females give birth and not males?” As I can recall, the term for stories written that explain events in nature are called anachronistic stories(feel free to correct if I am wrong), and these stories can be found in Old and New Testament alike. Humans turn to religion for comfort, for explanation, for justification and for reason. However, interpretation is just that: one can not discern or claim that his/her understanding of written word(or spoken) is completely correct or the intended purpose of what was written or said. Such “pendulum” effect leads to different views, and different views lead to disagreements or “rifts” in the faith, or separations completely in religions. When relgions are separated completely,. and people misunderstand or disrespect other people’s beliefs, or even disagree to the point where they can not see past their own, religion becomes and has always been the main cause of war. Case in point; the situation at hand between the Western (Judeo-Christian) world and the Eastern Muslim world. Generally, as I understand it (feel free to disagree), the Muslim extremists (those who support Bin Laden) do not value and recognize the freedoms and morals of the Western-Judeo-Christian world, to the point where they feel it is a threat to their own beliefs. Are we to say that their Islamic faith is wrong? Are we to make judgment and say that their interprtetation of their own faith(dying for Allah) is wrong? That is question that holds a personal answer on an individual basis. Yet by our own beliefs, and surely my convictions, their extremist beliefs have lead them to wrong ACTIONS, killing innocent for personal or religious gain is purely evil and immoral, as if that needed to be said.
Please allow me to continue to refer to interpretation. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew. We have translated it into thousands of different languages. ( I am not sure what language the New Testament was written in) It is IMPOSSIBLE to transliterate words exactly from one language to another: for the simple reason that words in one language do not have exact matching meaning in a sister language. Therefore the meaning of text alters slightly every time a transliteration occurs.
Does that mean we need to learn the language originally written to best interpret what has been intended? Certainly not. Again, the possibility of ever ascertaining the author’s/scribe’s intention is near to impossible: we are not the author, we do not own their original thoughts, and surely over 5000 years words and their meanings have changed. These are only a few of the reasons that religion is an interpretation of explanation- one that is wide and differentiated according to personal belief.
Please consider two texts to support or make sense of what I am trying to say. Our American Constitution, written over 200 years ago, is interpreted in many different ways. Why do you think we still debate over “the right to bear arms?” Why do you think “freedom of speech” is still a touchy subject? We can not get in a time machine and go back and ask Geo. Washington what he and others meant by writing those laws, we have to use our judgment and interpret what our founding fathers intended. Yet, the founding fathers also understood that times would change in our country, and included a Bill of Rights, or allowance to amend the Constitution if need be with changing times. But like religious texts, the Constitution is open to interpretation, which can cause rifts in political views, etc.
Another text to consider is Beowulf. I can not tell you the whole story of Beowulf( I read it entirely in Anglo-Saxon, and that interpretation is more than impossible). Beowulf was written in Medieval times, and part of the text itself caught on fire. The missing pages of this invaluable text (truly I dislike the story) had to be reconstructed, according to the words that came before and after the ruined sections. Try filling in the blanks of an ancient Anglo-Saxon text to make sense of what was missing. Again, this entirely changes meaning and greatly alters interpretation.
Lastly, consider the game of telephone. You can not possibly whisper a statement to one person, pass it along and have it come back to you completely altered. Parallel the game with the alterations of understanding of religious text with the passing of time, and you will clearly see that exact meaning that stands the test of time is truly impossible.
Of course, with these key points of reference in mind, there is no way that 2 individuals, 2 groups, or even 2 religions, can read the same text and come up with the same interpretation. Such explains the rift between understanding of the Torah by Jews and Christians, per se(for example as well).
Ok, I am done sounding smart. Again, this article written by yours truly(wink, wink) is open for discussion and interpretation, and I would be more than happy to explain or debate further.
P.S. figure out the riddle: brothers and sisters i have none, but this man’s father is my father’s son.