Monday, February 27, 2012
The Jewish Approach to God: A Brief Introduction for Christians by Neil Gillman
This is an interesting book that expounds a very liberal Jewish viewpoint. In this liberal Jewish view, Torah, or the Bible, is not the literal "word" of God, but rather the human understanding of God, written by our ancestors in a metaphorical form.
I was raised in the Reform Jewish religion, then, as an adult, became a born-again Christian so I went from a very liberal concept about God and religion to a very conservative view. In the past few years, I have been studying the Jewish religion and have come to appreciate many things about it that I did not learn while growing up in it.
One interesting statement from this book is the author's interpretation of the verse from the Shema - the phrase "On that day, the Lord will be One and His name shall be One". According to the author, "On that day", refers to the end of days, the age of the Messiah, and for the Lord to be One and His name to be One means that the entire world will acknowledge God.
I also found it interesting that the author refers to Jonah as the only successful prophet in the Bible. I had not thought of it that way before.
The author shares that in the Jewish religion, the Bible is not the final authority on doctrine, but rather tradition plays a large part as well. Judaism does not have creeds and no one has the final word - everything can be argued. When I left the Jewish religion years ago, that was one thing that I disliked about it. I felt that it made the religion pointless if there was not an "answer", and everything could be argued. I was thrilled, as a born again Christian to find that Christ is the answer to everything. Now, I am also appreciating the more Jewish view that God's ways are not our ways and we really cannot truely understand Him and, in my opinion, those who claim to know the exact answers and truth are, many times, deluded or deceived.
The author states that "Judaism is the only religion in which study is equivalent to worship." He shares that ha-satan, refered to in Job, means the satan, not "Satan" as a proper name and that the Jewish view of the satan is not the same as the Christian view in that in the Jewish view, the satan does not act independantly from God, but rather co-operates with God.
I find Gillman's understanding of what it means for Jews to be the "chosen people" refreshingly different. He explains that just as we might chose an apple from a bowl of mixed fruit , that does not mean that we might not chose a pear another day nor does it imply that the apple is superior to the pear and all of the other fruit. He states that "the doctrine of Israel as God's chosen people is Israel's self-perception, not God's own perception of Israel. No human being knows objectively what God wants, feels, or does. God transcends human understanding."
Rabbi Gillman presents the liberal Jewish view that the Bible is man's word, man's understanding of God and the world. He shows how some Christian viwes are based on those of the Jewish religion and how some Jewish beliefs are influenced from the Greek philosophy that also influences the Christian religion. For example, the concept of an immortal soul, which is one concept that some Jews believe, originated in Greek philosophy.
This is an interesting and insightful book.