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Friday, November 16, 2018

The Jewish interpretation of history, summarized

I posted this on Facebook in a thread on why "the Judeo-Christian concept of Original Sin" is not a thing, and I thought it was fun so I'll reproduce it here:

The traditional Jewish interpretation of history involves a series of covenants, with God trying out different successive models for interacting with humans.

Version 1.0 is "you can live in Paradise, and have anything you want, just don't eat from that tree". Adam and Eve fuck that up, so God is like "okay, you can't live in paradise, and you have to work to raise crops and dairy, and giving birth is gonna hurt, but you can still live up to 900 years and all speak one language. Also, I'm taking away snakes' legs, because fuck snakes."

A little while later God is like "okay so the one language thing isn't working out, you all speak different languages now."

And then a while after that God is like "okay this sucks, I'm killing you all except for this one guy and his family. So, listen up, buddy, you're the new ancestor of all humanity so here's our new deal. I'm only going to let your descendants live up to 120 years now, but good news! You can eat meat. As long as you don't pull pieces off living animals to eat, because that's gross. Also, don't murder, don't steal, don't have sex with your immediate family (I realize this is tough because I murdered everyone except like 10 people, but give it a try here), don't worship idols, and set up courts of law and make some laws and enforce them. Okay? And I won't kill everyone anymore, even I admit that was fucked up." (At which point the traumatized survivor immediately invents alcohol and gets drunk af).

And then some time later God visits this one guy and says "okay, I think the problem was I was scaling up too fast before, so instead of everybody in the world I'm just going to start with your family. You're going to have lots of descendants, and I'm going to give them lots of rules to follow, and it's going to be a pain in the ass but also kind of awesome, but don't worry about the details for now, all you have to do is love me, and also cut off a piece of your dick and your sons' dicks. Okay?"

And then later God is like "hey whatever happened to that one guys' family that i was going to make a great nation out of?" and checks back and is like "oh crap, they've been enslaved for a couple hundred years, I better get them out, while I'm at it I might as well make it really high concept and high drama so I can get some PR out of it though", and then after springing them, God is like "okay so I'm giving you a whole bunch of rules, but I'm only writing ten of them down, the other 603 I'm going to whisper in your ear, and when I say 603 what I mean is actually an infinite amount because you should argue about this forever. And really, it's all here in this book this one guy is going to write so just argue amongst yourselves, you shouldn't have to ask me any more."

And after that God keeps stopping by to drop hints and complain and kibitz to various folks until finally they tell him "okay, that's enough now, you told us to take care of it, so back off" and God is like "okay cool". (I am referring, of course, to the incident of the Aknai oven).

So, as you can see, this "God tries various things as humans continue to fuck up, trying to evolve a deal that's going to work for everybody" -- in which Adam and Eve's sin is only one in a long line of people fucking up (and, I would argue, if you read between the lines, God fucking up -- certainly it's in the text that God regrets various decisions in retrospect) is totally different than the model of Adam and Eve doing one Ur-Sin which cosmically infects all their descendants, who are incapable thereafter of salvation through works, and basically pre-damned until a massive cosmic act of grace cleanses them of sin and makes them eligible for redemption.

That's just not at all how it works in Judaism. Sin is a constant, concomitant consequence of being moral agents, and people being moral agents is not just the point of human life, but arguably the point of the whole universe.

Posted by benrosen at November 16, 2018 04:57 PM | Up to blog
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