Sunday, August 23, 2009

The religion that got away, Part 1

I've mentioned previously how I had to take two theology classes at Texas Lutheran. The first one pretty much made me into what most people would call agnostic, although I didn't yet think of myself as one. That experience did not put me in a great hurry to take that second class, and I wanted to be as far away from Christian teachings as I could get. Being at a Lutheran college and all, that wasn't very far, but they did offer a course on Judaism that was taught by a rabbi. I figured that was my best bet.

I learned that in many cases, Jewish and Christian interpretations of the same scriptures are often radically different. This is due in part to some differences in translation. The commandment cited by Christians as, "Thou shalt not kill," is cited by Jews as, "Thou shalt not murder." The verse in Isaiah that talks about a "virgin" conceiving is translated in Jewish Bibles as a "young girl" conceiving.

Sometimes the disagreements are over interpretation. The biblical story where Abraham is told to sacrifice Isaac is viewed by many Christians as God's way of testing Abraham's faith. But a common Jewish interpretation of that passage is that it was God's way of telling Abraham that there would be no human sacrifice in this new religion Abraham was founding.

As you may have guessed, these experiences tore away whatever shreds of Christian faith I might have had left. I didn't leap right into Judaism, but after I decided Buddhism wasn't for me, it was something I decided to give a shot. The religion I learned about in class struck me as practical (I'll expand on this in Part 2), and I liked the idea of a religion that was more focused on action than belief.

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