Originally posted by Palynka
It appears to me that the take you refer is too far-fetched.
In my opinion, that looks like someone trying too hard to find a way to wriggle himself out of an embarassing part of the scriptures. A part that describes his God as something he does not appreciate.
The ammount of wrestling that needs to be done with that text to come up with such an explan ...[text shortened]... s.
I agree interpretation plays an important role in such texts, but surely there is a limit.
You might be right. It depends on how you view the text: something to be deciphered to find the “true” meaning (whether historical, or whatever), or as a “texture” for imaginative exploration. Rabbinic Judaism (perhaps as far back as the second or third century BCE) has consistently adopted the second approach. There has no doubt been an apologetic element to it; but there is also no rule about offering only “apologetic” interpretations.
It is such a paradigmatic shift away from the “deciphering” approach (or the plain, “literal” reading) of most western hermeneutics, that most people in that paradigm have difficulty accepting the “legitimacy” of any other approach, including the midrashic/talmudic. “You mean you get to remake the stories any way you want?” “Yep. Pretty much. That’s what they’re there for.
” I mean, who argues over the “true” meaning” of an Aesop’s fable, or a Zen koan—and yet those, too, were intended to “embody” (many) meaning(s).
The Talmudic dictum “It [the Torah and its interpretation] is not in heaven!” asserts a basically humanistic approach to hermeneutics. I’m not asking you to accept it. Just to recognize that rabbinical Judaism is not just the “religion of the Old Testament,” as many (most?) Christians seem to assume it is; it is the religion of the “dual Torah,” i.e., written and oral. And also just to see that it’s not the same “game” as the one played by biblical-literalist-fundamentalists.
Now, given the nature of the text, and the unusual usage of ha elohim
, I don’t think my exegesis is that far-fetched at all; that is, it is supportable by a close reading of the text. And that’s all I did: a close reading. Now, I am likely to range farther than, say, an Orthodox Jew. It was a Reform Rabbi who gave the first “Abraham failed the test, simple as that,” exegesis. (BTW, that’s not very “apologetic” for “our father Abraham.” ) He would undoubtedly get an argument from someone else; essentially, Jews are supposed
to argue over the meaning of the text, and not simply accept anyone else’s interpretation. From a Talmudic perspective, if you don’t bring your imagination and creativity to the text, you’re not bringing yourself
, and if you allow the text (or someone’s interpretation of it) to simply “dictate” meaning to you, you’re not properly wrestling with the text as, not only a religious, but also an existential exercise.
It’s just another paradigm. Accept it or reject it. Just don’t assume that Jews read the written Torah in any way like Christians, and then levy the same arguments that you would against Christian theists. Far more honest to simply say, “As an atheist, I reject all the religious texts, good or bad.”