Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Poem by Nessrriinn: "Sharia Law . . . Again . . ."

I've noticed that the more artistic the criticism of Islam, the more upset Muslims get. If someone writes a book arguing that Islam is false, not much problem. If some draws a cartoon or writes a work of fiction portraying Islam in a negative light, we suddenly see signs that read "Death to Those Who Insult Muhammad!"

This goes back to the time of Muhammad, when poets like Abu Afak and Asma bint Marwan were brutally murdered for composing poems about Islam.

Thus, I'm interested in seeing what the Muslim reaction will be to the thoughtful poems of this talented critic of Islam.


hugh watt said...


O Allah, O Allah you wear that mask so well.
Muslims who see through your disguise they hear the alarm bell.

They hear a Voice, now have a choice, to stay or do you go?
A 'yes' to friends and family,
and to the true God 'no!'

The anguish. O, the agony,
Do you know how it is?
I can't pretend my Muslim friend,
But what i'll say is this.

There is a God Who sits on high,
But once He stooped so low.
He pressed on through when Judas turned,
And Peter heard the crow.

He's here, He's near, in Him there is no fear.
When once the scales have been removed you'll see it oh so clear.

Salaam, salaam, you say come to Islam.
We promise peace, salaam, rest, calm.
But in your heart salaam?

The Fat Man said...

I just read on Atlas Shrugs that Rifqa Berry has Cancer. Keep her in your prayers

The Fat Man said...

David I have noticed a few things about Islam.

First the Most popular name is Mohamed, second Islam encourages Muslims to imitate Mohamed from the way he dressed and how long he wore his beard, to how he went to the bathroom.

In other words there is no individuality, everyone is to be the same, a world full of Mohameds not just in name but also in attire, and appearance even down to the level of bodily functions.

And were there is no individuality there can be no creativity.

I have noticed that those that leave Islam all of sudden become creative, they learn to play a instrument, learn to sing, draw, write etc...

But those that embrace Islam leave any creativity they had. Cat Stephens as a example.

I can only think that the reason why Muslims attack those that are creative, is because their master hates that we were created in the Image of the creator, and he hates the fact that we can create, when he can only destroy.

The Fat Man said...

"She's buried chest deep; the Moderate to sleep... Her testimony's cheep, stones thrown by religious sheep"

That needs to be a rallying cry.

John Lollard said...

The poem is beautiful.

I have an honest question, and Muslims bring it up, and I just really don't feel like I've heard a good answer to it.

The Bible dictates that adulterers are to be buried up to their necks and stoned to death. It prescribes the same penalty for homosexuality. If you could transport this film 2100 years back in time into Canaan, it would be a spoken word criticism of Judaism and Ha Shem.

I think the poem is beautiful, but I'd like a good answer to why God gave the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. I don't feel like I've heard one.

Does anyone wanna help a brother out?

Love in Christ,

minoria said...

Hello John Lollard:

The Jewish people were given those harsh laws AFTER they had seen all the miracles of Egypt,and being feed miraculously in the desert,and the parting of the sea,and mana bread from heaven.

It is ONLY because of that that there are such rules and ONLY for the Jews.They knew there was a God.

We in Moses' time would have been exempted and 99% of humanity.But WHAT miracles did Mohammed do in HIS lifetime to merit accepting death for apostasy,for example?


If one were to see not one but 10 astonishing miracles by God in a few years(like 100 famous people of history being resurrected) and then told NOT to commit adultery or be killed,then God can say one knew he was real.

It was assumed that the generation that saw all those wonders would tell THEIR children(and ALL the Jewish people of that generation would verify that X person was telling the truth)and then so on to the next generation.


It didn't work.Like 50% of the time there was MASS APOSTASY by the Jews and nobody got punished.What good is a harsh law if nobody cares to apply it?That was another reason,to prevent all-out sin by society and it still proved not enough.


Do you see MASS apostasy of 50% by Egyptians or Pakistanis and the other 50% does notcare or punish?Does it happen that people there are MORE easy-going regarding changing religion that the ancient Jews?Of course not.The ancient Jews were better,in spite of their faults.IN SPITE of having harsher laws.

John Lollard said...

Thanks minoria.

I just want to make sure I understand. This poem says that Satan could not be crueler than Allah because Allah prescribed being buried in the sand and stoned to death as a punishment for adultery.

Ha Shem prescribed being buried in the sand and stoned to death as a punishment for adultery.

I want to make sure that I'm not misunderstanding your argument, but I cannot tell if you are saying that the Law was purposefully harsh as a punishment on the Jews, or that the Law was harsh on the Jews since the miracles done for them left them with no excuse but to accept the perfect justice of the Law.

If the first one, then I'm kind of confused, as Jesus seems to use the Law as a standard of righteousness.

If the second one, then I'm not sure how that gets Ha Shem off of the charges in this poem while still indicting Allah. Stoning an adulterer would be the standard of justice and the poet would be wrong to call it cruel. But if she's wrong, then this poem is worthless.

Or maybe you meant something else altogether?

It is a very touching poem and I really enjoy it, but it also makes me slightly uncomfortable. I hear atheists all the time pull out the very same sorts of rules in condemnation of Ha Shem.

I just learned not so long ago, too, that John chapter 8 is probably not an actual part of the inspired manuscript of John. Which is upsetting. (Even if it isn't scriptural, I'd like to know the event described still happened.)

Hopefully you or someone else could help to clarify this for me, as I'd like to have a better response than "Yeah, it sucked until Grace."

Love in Christ,

Nakdimon said...

ENCORE! This was simply beautiful. Nuff said.

hugh watt said...

JL said.

"The Bible dictates that adulterers are to be buried up to their necks and stoned to death. It prescribes the same penalty for homosexuality."

Do you have a ref' for these? Often when people say 'the Bible says,' it does not! Muslims do this a lot.

GreekAsianPanda said...

Here's the refs, Hugh Watt:

"If a man commits adultery with another man's wife - with the wife of his neighbor - both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death." Leviticus 20:10

"Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable...Everyone who does any of these detestable things - such persons must be cut off from their people." Leviticus 18:22,29
(Both references from NIV)

It doesn't say specifically to stone them, but that could be the way they're put to death, so I'm pretty sure this is what John Pollard was talking about.

I really think we should all be consistent.

hugh watt said...

Thanks Panda.

Here's what i'm getting at;

Gen.3:1 "Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made."

"The Bible dictates that adulterers are to be buried up to their necks and stoned to death. It prescribes the same penalty for homosexuality."

SUBTIL. When people add to God's Word and twist the meaning that's Satanic. Muslims do this a lot. I'm currently doing a rebuttal on Jamal Badawi Phd, with his twisting of Scriptures. Watch any debate with Muslims, they do this frequently.

minoria said...

Hello John:

About the woman caught in adultery it is not originally part of JOHN's gospel but scholars tend to consider it an AUTHENTIC ORAL tradition that got into the book.

There are reasons for it,since there are other references to such a story outside of the NT which have the same basic theme and INCLUDE Jesus.


I agree it is harsh.My argument was that even though a person is condemned to death they can still repent and get right with God beforehand and then die to a better life.


I know for a fact that death by hanging is often worse in the sense the person often doesn't die RIGHT AWAY.If it is not done expertly he chokes for many minutes
or the rope breaks.

I think the stoning was to be done by many at the same time to end the life as quickly as possible.

If done right it ends life right away.There is the PROBLEM.It has to be done right,by a professionel.That is why before they had a PROFESSIONAL executioner who did it.Otherwise even more suffering is inflicted since the head is NOT choped off the first time.

minoria said...

Hello Hugh:
Just read your comment.You are right,no reference to stoning.I am not a great expert of some aspects of the OT but I am sure stoning is there somewhere is some incident.Thanks for the feedback.

Hello John:

In the OT we have that the generation of JOSHUA,who suceeded Moses,followed God.Then in the next generations,in the book of JUDGES,we have that they did mass apostasy,were conquered by the Cananites,repented,then God helped them get their freedom.


The NEXT generation did the whole cycle all over again,century after century,mass apostasy was the rule.It went on for 400 YEARS.

The Hebrews then got a king and after SOLOMON they divided into 2 nations.There was MASS apostasy specially in the NORTHERN kingdom century after century.

The NORTHERN one was made up of TEN tribes.

There were ONLY 12 tribes.In other words,the great majority apostasized.Many times there was apostasy in the southern kingdom also.

minoria said...

Hello John:

Here is what I found on the Woman caught in Adultery.I quote another but the info is very consistent with other sources.I have divided it into parts for easier digestion:


"The story appears to have been well known in the ancient church.

"Eusebius of Caesarea reports that Papias, another early Christian
scholar, knew the story of a WOMAN ACCUSED of SIN, a story that
was recorded in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Eusebius
lived in the third/fourth centuries CE. Papias died ca. 130 CE.
The Gospel of the Hebrews was probably composed some time in the
early second century CE."


"A third century document known as the
"Didascalia Apostolorum" (The teaching of the Apostles) has an
UNMISTAKABLE REFERENCE to the story. The Didascalia originated in
Syria, which means that the story was probably known in oral form
in Syria by the late second century."


"However Augustine (354-430
CE) and Ambrose (339-397 CE) regarded it as part of the Gospel,
Jerome (342-420 CE) included it in the Vulgate, the official
Bible of the Roman catholic Church. There can be little doubt
that the story is quite old."

John Lollard said...

Well, after searching, I give up.

Unless you want to consider Ezekiel 16:35-42... but that's kind of stretching it.

It is still the death penalty for adultery and homosexuality and various other forms of sexual immorality. As Panda said, I'm almost positive this was carried out through stoning.

By the way, I got my information from a sermon on John 8. According to the speaker, the male and female were both brought out, buried to their necks, stoned, and then a tree was to be planted over them so that future generations could ask about the true and be told about the punishment for adultery. I can ask for the source for this, if it's an issue, but I'm willing to admit that I misspoke.

So forget adultery, what about premarital sex, with the penalty of being stoned at the door of your father's house (Deuteronomy 22:13-21). Why is it okay for God to command this but it is not okay for Allah to command it?

Love in Christ,

David Wood said...


I think you missed an extremely important point. There were stiff penalties in Judaism, but these were for people who had entered into a specific covenant with God (i.e. God agrees to do X and the people agree to do Y). If people refused to honor their end of the agreement, there were death penalties for various offenses. These death penalties didn't apply to the world at large, and there was no effort on the part of Jews to enforce these rulings on a global scale. If you were to ask a Jew whether the penalties should be enforced in, say, China, the response would be, "What are you talking about? They're not part of our covenant!"

In Islam, Sharia is to be imposed on everyone. It has nothing to do with entering into a covenant with God. It's a matter of one group, with no evidence to back them up, saying that everyone must submit to their law . . . or else.

There are other matters to consider. (For instance, under Islamic law, a woman can be raped by a number of men, and her testimony is powerless against them if they say she's lying.) But the main issue has been addressed. I'm not saying that God has no right to command stoning. God has a right to punish people in whatever way He sees fit. And I'm not saying that Islam is false because it commands stoning. Islam is true or false based on whether God has revealed it, not based on its laws. My point would be something like this:

"Muslims are claiming that Islam is peaceful and that Westerners have nothing to fear from Islam. Yet when we turn to the teachings of Islam, we find that the solution for practically everything in Islam is violence, and that Muslims ultimately want to impose this on all unbelievers. If they had strong evidence that Islam is true, we would have to submit to it. But in the absence of such evidence, we should never submit."

So, to sum up, if Jews were to establish Jewish courts based on the teachings of Judaism, only Jews would be involved. If Christians were to establish Christian courts based on the teachings of Christianity, only the church would be involved. If Muslims were to establish Islamic courts based on the teachings of Islam, unbelievers everywhere would start being slaughtered.

Hope that clears things up.

hugh watt said...


God has good reason to do what He does. Allah however is very harsh for the sake of it.

S.4:78 "Wheresoever ye may be, death will overtake you, even though ye were in lofty towers. Yet if a happy thing befalleth them they say: This is from Allah; and if an evil thing befalleth them they say: This is of thy doing (O Muhammad). Say (unto them): All is from Allah. What is amiss with these people that they come not nigh to understand a happening?"

S.35:8 "Is he, the evil of whose deeds is made fairseeming unto him so that he deemeth it good, (other than Satan's dupe) ? Allah verily sendeth whom He will astray, and guideth whom He will; so let not thy soul expire in sighings for them. Lo! Allah is Aware of what they do!"

Here we see Allah doing things for no seeming purpose. Make some 'do right, make some 'do wrong' then punish them for what Allah made them do! God is not like that.

John Lollard said...

To All,

Thank you all very much. I hear your responses, and I agree with a lot of them. I'm just not sure how they apply to the poem. The poet is criticizing Allah as being cruel for calling for the death penalty for sexual immorality. God also does this, so it seems like the poem is also applicable to God.

Given, Allah is a false and ridiculous concept of deity, given Muslims go to great lengths to enforce these sorts of regulations, given Islam uses violence as the solution to all of its problems, given that the true God desires mercy rather than sacrifice and that Christians don't seek to apply any sort of violent punishment to anyone, much less non-Christians, and given that God is truly God and truly good, how is this poem not still also a critique of Him?

Maybe I'm being too nitpicky, but it just doesn't seem consistent of us. And maybe I'm being stubborn and close-minded, because I do not feel satisfied with the explanations that I've heard.

I dunno. I guess I'll stop now. Hopefully someone will come by and explain, but I'll stop asking.

Love in Christ,

Nabeel Qureshi said...

JL --

Here are my thoughts. Yahweh was harsh on Israel because they were His chosen people to make Him known throughout the world. When they sinned, they had to pay for it. In equal measure, though, he blessed them tremendously when they were obedient to him.

By the time the Son is incarnate, the world has come to see that God is real through the history of the Israelites. Now God spreads his grace to all, because His existence and sovereignty has been sufficiently established.

So here's the difference: In Islam, stoning adulterers to death is the final, complete commandment. This is not a temporary teaching to fulfill a higher purpose, this is as good as it gets. That's cruel.

On the other hand, in the OT, God's commandment is for a time to fulfill a purpose: establishing Yahweh's sovereignty through Israel. After that is complete, his ultimate command comes to us: grace and forgiveness. That is a good God.

What say ye?

John Lollard said...


Thanks, I think that's one of the best responses I've heard. Why don't you guys actually give that one in debates! You get a reponse AND the Gospel in one! :P I've seen at least three debates where stoning laws are brought up and the Christian debater just lets it slide by!

By the way, it is really sort of creepy how exactly the Islamic notion of righteousness conforms to the prejudices of the enemy; outward obedience to a moral, societal, and religious law with strict and merciless punishment which can only be abated by an outward display of good works. Even before I had even heard of Islam, that is how I understood the hatred of the enemy to operate.

Anyway, thanks Panda, David, Nabeel, Hugh, Minoria, and whoever I missed. I'll look more into the question a little bit, there's probably something in Romans, Galatians or Hebrews, and hopefully I'll have an answer if it is ever brought up up an atheist or Muslim or someone.

God bless,

Hiwot said...

In my understanding the poem criticizes Allah’s punishment for adultery and homosexuals is stoning to death and also criticizes Allah’s unfairness towards the woman’s (who is accused of such crime) testimony, which is worthless… “Her testimony is cheep… The crime she so persistently denied… The world stand silent… Her testimony is cheep… Allah has come up with such a fair call, the true justice of Sharia law”

You guys explained well regarding death penalty for adultery and homosexuals in the OT. Anyone mind to explain why her testimony was worthless and that she didn’t get fair trial…?


hugh watt said...


Reread Nabeel's post, paragraphs 1,2+4, add to it;

Deut.8:1 Make sure you follow every command I'm giving you today. Then you will live. You will increase your numbers. You will enter the land and take it as your own. It's the land the Lord promised with an oath to your people long ago.
2 Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way. He guided you in the desert for these 40 years. He wanted to take your pride away. He wanted to put you to the test and know what was in your hearts. He wanted to see whether you would obey his commands.
3 He took your pride away. He let you go hungry. Then he gave you manna to eat. You and your parents had never even known anything about manna before. He tested you to teach you that man doesn't live only on bread. He also lives on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothes didn't wear out during these 40 years. Your feet didn't swell.
5 Here is what I want you to know in your hearts. The Lord your God trains you, just as parents train their children.
6 Obey the commands of the Lord your God. Live as he wants you to live. Have respect for him.

Heb.5:8 Jesus was God's Son. But by suffering he learned what it means to obey. 9 In that way he was made perfect. Eternal salvation comes from him. He saves all those who obey him.

Heb.12:4 You struggle against sin. But you have not yet fought to the point of spilling your blood. 5 You have forgotten that word of hope. It speaks to you as children. It says,
"My son, think of the Lord's training as important.
Do not lose hope when he corrects you.
6 The Lord trains those he loves.
He punishes everyone he accepts as a son." —(Proverbs 3:11,12)
7 Put up with hard times. God uses them to train you. He is treating you as children. What children are not trained by their parents? 8 God trains all of his children. But what if he doesn't train you? Then you are like children of people who weren't married to each other. You are not truly God's children.
9 Besides, we have all had human parents who trained us. We respected them for it. How much more should we be trained by the Father of our spirits and live!
10 Our parents trained us for a little while. They did what they thought was best. But God trains us for our good. He wants us to share in his holiness.
11 No training seems pleasant at the time. In fact, it seems painful. But later on it produces a harvest of godliness and peace. It does that for those who have been trained by it.

Now compare to Allah's punishments bearing in mind the suras i posted last.


A woman's testimony is 'half that of a man's' in Islam, so if there's an accusation against her, or she cries 'rape,' she may have yet more problems.

Odo said...

Hello John.

I just wanted to throw in my two cents (and hopefully I will not confuse you). The laws prescribed in Deuteronomy and Leviticus are actually very tricky to dissect and one certainly would not be able to do it overnight. A lot of different variables have to be taken into account when looking at the applicability of law. One of them would be the Israelite community as a whole, the families and friends of the 'deviants', and any aliens to the community. In my study I have learned these laws were rarely carried out to the point they express, there was sort of a barrier that would protect fellow Israelites from the harsher punishment. For example, let's say that you live in the Israelite community and you do something against the law. Your friends and family would most certainly not turn you over to the higher authorities, but would try to get you to follow the 'righteous' path. And if you kept on your deviant path, then you would be shunned and expelled from the community before it ever came to a death penalty.

These laws should be viewed through an ancient Israelite perspective, in context. It has already been pointed out that the laws were strictly for the Israelite community and nobody else. Someone already said, if the Jews had their courts only Jews would be dealt with in those courts. And why would you want to kill a fellow Israelite? The community did not function, like, let's say, "there is an Israelite, he is gay, get him!" and then the Israelites would just stone him/her to death, bringing in the deviants to the authorities to be killed. No. The laws were formed during, like it has been pointed out, times of mass apostasy and exile. Outsiders to the community would not be treated to the standards of the law. If you notice in Islam, their laws are not just for Muslims, they apply to EVERYONE in the world, for ALL TIME to come.

In the OT God is the originator of the law, dependant on human agent for its enforcement.The AUTHORITY resident in the law is derived from the RELATIONSHIP between READER (of the law) and GOD. After the final destruction of Jerusalem and the rise of rabbinic Judaism, and probably before, the intermediary between the divine and human realms was not the king but the written text, the humanly created witness to the divinely conceived justice. In this, biblical law is not unlike modern law in that it relies on written texts for its promulgation and human INTERPRETATION for its application to and enforcement in a particular situation.


Odo said...

Just reading over Deuteronomy you get the strong feeling that it emphasizes an aspect of personal relationship between giver of the law and the ones called upon to obey it. It was for the Covenant people. Emphasis on the God who is known and the gods who are not known, the TEST of the depth of love on the Israelites part, the all encompassing nature of obedience, actual acts of God on behalf of the Israelites, and the promises made to their ancestors.

What is owed by Israel to God in the context of this personal relationship, what God has promised, has done, and will do in that same context, serve to tell the Israelites that more is at stake in obedience then obedience for its own sake.

Obedience takes place out of an ongoing personal relationship with the giver of the law. What is behind the law is not mere authority, but a God whom one knows, who cares about that one, who has done great things and who promises even greater things to come, and who expects much in return.

At no time in history was there ever a society which followed these laws as they are set forth in those texts. Even in its literary setting, the laws are prospective: Moses preaches his great sermon on the law as Israel contemplates entering at last the land promised so long before.

Nor can any historical setting be found in which the laws served as laws for an ongoing Israel: King Josiah discovers the scroll (legal code), banishes heterodox worship, and celebrates Passover according to the book of laws, but dies shortly after, and Judah itself dies only a few years later (2Kings 23-25). Ezra reforms the returning exiles by reading this law, but only in the context of Israel as a client state within the Persian empire (Nehemiah 8). The obedience to these laws has always been a matter of interpretation and hermeneutics of the WHOLE text.

In context of let's say Deuteronomy and the Exile, the Jewish audience finds itself in a place and time when service of other gods seems more logical than clinging to a God defeated. In such a context, Deuteronomy must be about something other than what it claims “literally” to be about.

The laws in Deuteronomy and Leviticus are not simply laid before us as givens, as injunctions bearing the imprint of divine authority. This is why relationship matters more than mere obedience, why paranesis, exhortation, pleading, occupies so much of those beautiful texts. This is why obedience is a matter of love and not of duty alone.

Odo said...

The subjects in the OT are read in the light of God as the One God of All, the personal nature of the relationship between the one who obeys and the one who is obeyed, the purpoiuse toward which the overall text and divine-human relationship point.

Biblical law results from a relationship between the one who commands and the one who obeys. The one who commands (God)is understood in two senses: On the surface of the text which is found the law. Beneath, behind, and within that text is the one, whether a single person or a community, to whom th reader also stands in relation.

God comes to us through the descriptions of humans and people like us. For those to who the text is authoritative, not only does the authority of the text derive from God who is revealed in the text, and who may enjoin the reader to do certain things. The authority of the text also derives from the HUMAN one who has revealed by handing on an account, a text, of their experience of the revealed God. It is only as we stand in relationship with that human revealer that we may allow that one the authority necessary to make their experience of God, and the purpose for which they tell US that experience, into our own.(this is exactly why it is so scary that Muslims revere Muhammad to the point of Godliness)

In the case of one to who the reader stands in a relationship as with another human being, if the quality of that relationship is that of a friend, then even the most abhorrent comment will be seen in the light of the whole of what that person is about – in other words a Deuteronomic community. For a friend one is willing to strain to find the good that one knows is there in even the worst of comments and circumstances, or to strain out what is worthwhile and leave behind what is not.

Odo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Odo said...

I hope I have not written too much, I read over your comments yesterday and thought I would type something up this morning. Point being: it would take hours of study just to get a glimpse inside the applicability of deuteronomic laws by humans. This is probably one reason Christian apologists don't go after this matter with Muslim apologists; all one has to do is simply point to the context of the Biblical Law and Quranic law for the Muslim claim to fall on its face.

Odo said...

I really hope I have not confused you further; it seems you found the answer you were looking for. But for the sake of Biblical Law, I would like to make some more posts, just giving a taste of the traditional view of the laws (if the laws ARENT as terrible as people make them out to be, even from the traditional Jewish perspective, then there is nothing to worry about from Christians.) And I assure you, if you were to only take Deuteronomy and Leviticus, stack them up next to the Quran, you would see a clear contextual difference to laws. Please notice the emphasis on relationship and the interesting flexibility of law presented in some of these traditional rabbinic materials. Some of the things I have written were extracted from other sources, but for the sake of brevity I will leave those un-referenced (so don't be surprised if you come across something in your books which you find me saying here, I just don't have time to track all the references down right now).

"At Sinai Moses received the Torah and handed it over to Joshua who handed it over to the elders who handed it over to the prophets who in turn handed it over to the men of the Great Assembly. The latter said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples, and make a fence around the Torah (Avot 1:1) These are the first words out of the Mishnah Avot, Jewish scripture.

What does "make a fence around the Torah" mean?

For example.

Exodus 12:15 prohibits the eating of leaven from the first day of Passover. Since in the rabbinic period a day was understood to begin at evening, it was feared that some might flout the spirit of the command by eating leavened products right up to the moment of nightfall, and the prohibition was moved to mid-afternoon. The Babylonian Talmud moved the prohibition on eating leaven up to ten in the morning in order to further protect the original command in the Torah. So? There was a ‘fence’ or some type of adjustable barrier made around the command so it would never even come to the commandment.

I don't think looking at the laws in these books should be viewed as some sort of burden laid upon the Jewish people which cannot save. The concept of making a fence around the Torah did not imply to the rabbis a RIGID legalism, or the loss of spiritual freedom, or an example of the impossible gap between humanity and God. Rather, the concept of such a fence signified the importance of preserving the integrity of divine revelation, thus ensuring it would always exist for humans to access.

Odo said...

Another example would be Moses at the Mount.

Moses acted on his own accord when he smashed the tablets after seeing the people worshipping the Golden Calf upon his descent from Sinai, Rabbi Nathan teaches that when Moses saw this, he made "an inference of his own accord."

He said, "How shall I give these tablets to Israel? I shall be obligating them to major commandments and make them liable to the penalty of death, for thus it is written in the tablets, 'Whoever sacrifices to a god other than the Lord shall be destroyed' (Exodus 22.19). Rather I shall take hold of them and break them, and bring Israel back to good conduct." (Avot de-Rabbi Nathan)

The fence around the Torah is best envisioned not as a stone wall but as stakes that can be moved and adjusted as each generation needs it. The Torah given at Sinai does NOT condemn; rather, keeping it, even in the smallest of ways, SETS one upon the PATH of redemption. Observing the fences of the Torah is an expression of piety and love for the gift of the Torah given at Sinai.

Rabbi Jonah ben Abraham says, "It is a great and noble thing to make a fence about the commandments; in this way one who fears the words of the Lord will escape neglecting them. That is why he who carries out the words of the sages, which are a fence to the commandments of the Torah, gives evidence of greater love of piety than he who simply carries out the commandment itself."

Now just think of this statement by substituting “sages” with the fulfillment of Jesus Christ, His words emanate not only for a specific context or time like with the rabbinic interpretation, His words are applicable to ALL people ALL the time.

"the study of Torah is more beloved by God than burnt offerings. For if a man studies Torah he comes to know the will of God, as it is said. Then will you understand the fear of the Lord, and find the will of God' (Proverbs 2.5) (Avot de-Rabbii Nathan)

The Torah is not studied only to ensure that laws are kept or that the word of God is remembered. Israel engages in the continual act of studying as partners with God in preserving creation itself. Having been made covenant partners with God by accepting the Torah, given by Moses at Sinai, Israel is a partner with God in the blessing of this world.

1. The rabbis depict Torah as being present at the beginning of creation and serving as God's instrument in the creative act. As such the Torah is a gift that expresses vitality and creativity.

2. As a living gift made manifest to Israel at Sinai, the Torah contains a multiplicity of revelation. "Torah" is not equivalent to "law," but rather is the entire content of God's revelation. Traditional Judaism expresses this in terms of the written Torah found in the five books of Moses and the oral Torah transmitted within the rabbinic tradition. In this sense, God's revelation is continuous and ongoing. Christianity expresses this as a fulfillment in Jesus, which is also continuous and ongoing.

3. For the rabbis, the proper response to the gift of the Torah is faithfulness in keeping all the requirements of the Torah. Without the Temple sacrifices, keeping the Torah is the highest expression of sacrifice.

4. The concept of making a fence around the Torah means the creation of ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTIONS to ensure that the original commands of the Torah are kept. This is an expression not of legalism but of devotion to the contents of the Torah.

5. Keeping the Torah as interpreted by the rabbis is an expression of the love of God and neighbor in acts of kindness, charity, and justice.

Odo said...

Jesus said:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)

Here Jesus' teaching in substance is not radically divergent from that recorded in Mishnah Avot.

Just as the rabbis of Avot emphasize the importance of keeping the Torah, so Jesus embraces the Torah.

Jesus’ seeming correctives to the law, such as his teachings on divorce, Sabbath, or purity laws, are NOT a rejection of the Torah, but part of an ongoing debate among those committed to the Torah in proto-rabbinic circles. Of course to us, with Jesus, this debate ended with His words.

Now for Paul and the compromise in Galatians 2:10:

Understanding that Paul proudly described himself as a Pharisee and one versed in the Torah, we should not see Paul as innately dismissive of the Torah. His argument centers on the differing requirements of the Torah for Israel and for Gentiles. While Israel is defined by its relationship with God in the Torah, Paul notes that for Gentiles a relationship with God is only possible in the person of Jesus. Paul does not want an overemphasis on Jewish ethnic identity rooted in the law to preclude Gentile participation in God's blessing through Jesus. Thus Paul does not dispute the intrinsic value of the Torah, but rather how differing communities ought to keep it.

As Christians we can express our love and respect for the Torah by speaking of how Jesus loved and respected it, and by approaching the text of His life with the same devotion as Jesus approached the Torah.

Ben Bag Bag, a convert to Judaism or maybe even a gentile alien in land of Israel during the first century, said about the Torah: "Turn it, and turn it, for everything is in it. Reflect on it and grow old and gray with it. Don't turn from it, for nothing is better than it" {Avot 5:22).

John Lollard said...

"At no time in history was there ever a society which followed these laws as they are set forth in those texts."

Doesn't that just mean, then, that the Jews were unfaithful to the Law of God?

Odo said...

No way. They were faithful, but as faithful as circumstance would allow. You have to keep in mind the context of the exile, a time when the upper classes whom the Law addresses were incapable of doing what it asks them to do.

Having no Jerusalem in which worship can be consolidated, and tho which the males of Israel can repair at the appointed feasts, the devout Jew, for instance, does these things wherever he or she can, and prays, vows, implores, ”next year in Jerusalem.” This case would make every place Jerusalem, every synagogue the Temple, every believer as a priest of God.

The text itself recognizes that it is not addressing an audience which can ACT on its exhortations without transcribing them into a different situation.