10 years without christianity – part 10

Hesediah: So here we are again with David, a person who consciously chose to leave the faith of his background, christianity, just over 10 years ago. Sorry for the gap in time since we last spoke, David.

David: That’s ok, Hesed. It’s not like this is your full-time job. And I’m here to answer your questions if I can. Carry on, man.

Hesediah: Thanx. So I’ve been searching for a way to carry on to this interview series, so that we can find out about your life up until today. But I’m still slightly intrigued by something that crossed my mind, two things actually. Firstly, I see the reasons why you rejected Jesus. And I understand, I really do. But don’t you think you’ve messed yourself up?

David: Errrr …. I think you need to explain the question.

Hesediah: Ok. So you’ve thrown Jesus out on his ear. But along with Jesus you’ve thrown out your means of getting forgiveness for sin, right? Jesus is supposed to have died for your sins, died in your place because you were worthy of death for going against God’s law. He is supposed to be your sacrifice for sin. An argument against your current position is that you still acknowledge the God of Israel, yet you have no sacrifice, no means of atoning for your sin. What’s worse is that you’re a gentile, a non-Jew. You aren’t even part of their covenant. You’re an outsider to Israel, you’re reading a book written originally in a foreign language meant for a people you had no real interaction with, the Jews. So what relationship do you have with God anyway? You’re a sinner with no means of forgiveness and an outsider to the only people you know to have a national covenant with God. What do you really have? What have you done to yourself?

David: Good questions. Actually at least those questions help us to move forward from christianity to where I am now. But I see the two questions. You’re asking how or if there is forgiveness for me for the sins that I’ve committed. And you’re asking what relationship I could possibly have with the God of Israel. That’s what you’re asking more or less, right?

Hesediah: I guess so.

David: OK. Before I deal with the questions, I have to let you know something.

Accepting Jesus, embracing christianity is more than just some notion that I pick up a single idea and hold that single idea in isolation to everything else that I think or do or believe in. Rejecting that man and the religion named after him is more than just dropping a single idea with the rest of my thoughts and life undisturbed. That’s what many people do not understand.

“christianity” properly is a whole worldview. Accepting Jesus is like putting on tinted glasses and the color of your whole world changes. It’s like you built your world with Jesus as the foundation and by tearing him out the whole world crumbles down and you get up, look around, and everything looks almost completely different. You look at certain ideas and you wonder to yourself where such beliefs even came from.

The same is very true for the questions you brought up. The way to get forgiveness, the place of a gentile in God’s scheme of things, and many other notions, in my past christian life, were based not on the Jewish Bible, but on reading New Testament ideas back into it. In much the same way that christians read Jesus into the Jewish Bible when its natural voice doesn’t say the same thing, the doctrines that surround the Jesus-concept are the basis for interpreting the Hebrew Bible and the lens through which the text is read and understood. Once Jesus is evicted, booted out, and, more importantly, the doctrines that the new testament and christianity teach are also trashed, a fresh look at such questions reveal very different answers.

So, to make this more relevant to your questions, what you ask already assumes the new testament and Jesus to be valid ways of interpreting the Jewish Bible. The idea that a person needs a sacrifice, or blood, to atone for one’s sin is not from the Jewish Bible, but rather the book of Hebrews from the christian new testament, which says “there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood” (Hebrews 9:22). The concept that gentiles are outsiders having no relationship with God or at least a derogatory one is highlighted in possibly two places in the new testament. In the book of Ephesians chapter 2, Paul says that gentiles, before Jesus were outsiders to the covenant and without God. In Matthew 15, Jesus, when approached by a non-Jewish woman, refers to Jews as children and to gentiles as dogs. With regards to that last reference, even though the conclusion of the message was the importance of faith, Jesus still calls gentiles dogs, or at least equates us with dogs, and he does nothing to correct that view. So, with the message being faith, it still ends up with Jesus basically saying that even “dogs” have faith.

But once Jesus is set aside, the question should be asked: what does the Jewish Bible itself say about forgiveness, and the place or the role and place of a gentile.

Hesediah: Wait there, David! Excuse my reluctance to believe you, but aren’t the books of Moses – the Torah Law – full of sacrifices? We’ll deal with the gentile issue a little later, but you know this is an argument of christianity.

David: Hesed, I sense a certain skew in your questions. Are you playing devil’s advocate?

Hesediah: Don’t you feel these are important questions to answer for those reading?

David: Nice sidestep of my question. But anyway, I’ll be blunt with you. Is Torah law full of sacrifices? No! Is there a significant portion of the written Torah that deals with offerings to God? Yes! Let’s not go overboard and to the same false advertising with our words used by many. There is a lot more to the books of Moses than just sacrifice.

But even if we do focus on the offerings that were given, let’s be frank here. There is no place whatsoever in the law of Moses that says that forgiveness can only be achieved by blood or sacrifices, and the fact that a significant portion of the written Torah speaks of sacrifice is not evidence for such a belief. In fact, the very fact that in the books of Moses itself, sins were forgiven without sacrifice refutes the very notion, like when the sin of the golden calf happens. Only Moses’ prayer and intercession does the job of getting appropriate forgiveness, not the shedding of sacrificial blood. In Leviticus 26, after it prophesies that the people will forsake God, the way that the people return to God is through repentance, not sacrifice. So the very fact that there are such examples refutes the notion that only blood and sacrifices are necessary for forgiveness. And remember, we are just focusing on the law of Moses. Once we get into the prophets, it is made even clearer that such thinking is mistaken at its core.

Always remember, the doctrine of christianity is subtle. It is very important to silence even its whisper and just let the Hebrew Bible speak. There were many purposes for offerings to God and it wasn’t just sin and atonement. And to believe that just because there is an offering, even an offering involving the death of an animal and the application of its blood to the altar, it must imply forgiveness is really to add a concept to the Hebrew Bible and the Law that isn’t even there.

So once again, I re-iterate, avoid christian assumptions when approaching the text of the Hebrew Bible, or else you’re putting the cart before the horse and problems are inevitable. So rather than put the assumption in the question, just ask the question: what does the Jewish Bible say about the ways that a person can get forgiveness from God? That’s the way to get the right answers from the Jewish Bible, rather than just from our own heads. That way we’re less likely to build answers just from our assumptions and more likely to go with the words of the Jewish Bible.

Hesediah: Fair point. OK. Good. Hopefully we can do this again and get the answers to those questions. Thank you, David. And thank you, reader, once again for reading this interview. Hopefully we’ll see you for the next one.

Have a great day!

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2 Comments

  1. searchinmyroots

    Enjoyed that post! You might want to add something about Yom Kippur. I have many conversations about whether blood is necessary for atonement and when I bring up all of the points (and others) that you did, they bring up Yom Kippur. So they sometimes agree there are other ways to be forgiven but not for the Day of Atonement. Even though there were 2 goats and 1 was released to the wilderness, Leviticus does say the other goat was sacrificed. The Jewish understanding of why that goat was sacrificed is a bit hard for the christian to grasp.

    Just my 2 cents!

    • Hi there, RootSearcher! Good points. As you can see, this part of the series isn’t done yet. It would be useful to add that part concerning Yom Kippur and I did experience it during the years between leaving xtianity and now. I’ll see if I can add something next time.

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