One thing I’ve heard a fair amount for Christians that doesn’t seem to really hold up is that Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection freed believers from the Jewish law. And yet the same people will quote verses from Leviticus to condemn stuff they don’t like. So which part of the law still applies, and which doesn’t? Christianity still holds to the notion of sin, and what is sin if not disobedience of ritual law? I don’t even know that there’s much indication that Jesus himself supported this notion. Certainly, in the Gospel of Matthew, he’s a big supporter of the Law. The version of the Sermon on the Mount given in Matthew 5 has him say, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” Of course, there’s some wiggle room with what fulfilling the law means. The general interpretation seems to be that the fulfillment occurred with Jesus’ death and resurrection. But he goes on to say that his followers have to be more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees, and has much stricter views on marriage and adultery than the Torah does. There were cases where he reinterpreted laws, as he did with the Sabbath, but this appears to have been common in that era. In Matthew 7:12, he’s quoted as saying, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” That is, obviously, the Golden Rule, which is found in the Torah, specifically in Leviticus 19:18: “Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” It’s certainly a nice idea, and one that other Jewish philosophers held up as the most important part of the Law.
But really, how can you say stoning people for various minor infractions is loving thy neighbor as thyself? It doesn’t even apply to all New Testament rules. How is telling people they’ll go to Hell if they don’t share your beliefs doing unto others as you would have them do unto you? It kind of seems like the idea that the Jewish law, or at least many of the more controversial parts, was part of Paul’s attempt to recruit gentiles. His pitch was more or less, “Sure, it’s technically a Jewish movement, but you don’t have to cut off your foreskins, and you can eat whatever you want!” His rationale was that adherence to the Law wasn’t all that important, since the world was ending anyway. The fact that he was obviously wrong about this doesn’t seem to deter most people.
I think one problem inherent here is that, while I’m an atheist, I’m still mostly familiar with Christian viewpoints on this topic. I’ve been to church and Sunday school, and heard about how Jesus was the whole point of the scriptures (presumably even the parts about slaughtering Amalekites and such), and that Jews believe that the Messiah hasn’t arrived yet. I suppose the latter is technically true, but I don’t think it’s generally the focus of modern Judaism. It was huge during the Roman occupation, however, which is the climate in which Jesus and his earliest followers lived. The Gospels, especially Matthew, do a lot of fudging to make Jesus fulfill prophecies from the Tanakh, some of which don’t even appear to have BEEN prophecies in the first place. From what I’ve read, it wasn’t until AFTER Jesus died that dying and being reborn had anything to do with the Messiah. For that matter, even the Jews who DID accept Jesus as Messiah didn’t necessarily think that absolved them from the Law. I mean, that was “a covenant forever,” not “a covenant until my son shows up and gets screwed over.” For that matter, is freedom from the Law necessarily a good thing? Yes, parts of it (perhaps most of it, by modern standards) are really harsh, but laws are part of creating a functioning society. And while early Christians held up the idea that Jesus’ sacrifice atoned for everyone’s sins, but sin offerings were only one sort of sacrifice practiced in Judaism when the Temple existed. But then, since the Temple was destroyed around when Christianity was becoming popular, Judaism had to change to adjust to that, and Christianity became more firmly established as its own thing. I guess my point is that it’s strange how Christianity grew out of Judaism, specifically first-century Judaism, but very quickly came out against some of the basic tenets of its parent religion. And now they insist the Old Testament was really meant for them in the first place. I guess this kind of thing happens all the time, though. It was probably the reaction the other Iron Age Semitic peoples had towards early Judaism.
“So you worship Yahweh, but not his wife? What the Sheol?”