Re: Ch. 3 - In the Shadow of God
JulianTheApostate: Harris made an intriguing claim that the idea of the virgin birth arose from a mistranslation of certain Biblical verses from Hebrew. Are any of you familiar with the validity of that claim?
As I understand it, the passage in question is a prophetic passage in Isaiah. The Hebrew uses a word which means "young woman" or "girl", without any connotation of her being a virgin. The word used in the Greek translation, however, did evoke the connotation of "virgin", which allowed for the translation which emphasizes Jesus' supposed virgin birth.
That doesn't necessarily mean that a mistranslation is responsible for the virgin birth narrative. There are lots of passages in Isaiah that weren't cited as evidence of Jesus' Messiahship -- that the gospel writers chose this particular verse is likely because it allowed
for the interpretation they were looking for. It's important to understand that the virgin birth narrative plays a distinct and deliberate role in the Messianic interpretation of Jesus' life. In particular, there is an apparant conflict between the claim that Jesus is the long-awaited Jewish Messiah and the fact of Jesus' rather ignomious death at the hands of the Roman state. Paul and others seem to have reconciled this contradiction by interpreting Jesus' life in reference to a cosmological scheme, that is, by literalizing the "Son of God" title. The virgin birth supports this cosmological scheme by providing a metaphysical avenue through which God could have incarnated as a full-realized human -- one that is born, lives and dies as any human does. The misinterpretation of the Isaiah verse may have lended the support of Judaic tradition to this interpretation, but I don't think it's likely to have been the origin of that interpretation.
riverc0il: These sure are great arguements against the church's past and do indicate that organized religion can make people do terrible things and can set humanity backwards on the path of progress.
I think it's over-stating the case to say that organized religion "can make people do terrible things". It certainly aides and abets atrocity from time to time, but more often than not, what you see is people appropriating religion to justify their own ends.I think that is an inherent problem with organized religion, that it can be interpreted and people must follow blindly or be rejected, and is one of many reasons I reject organized religion.
This, as I see it, is an aspect of religion that arises from its function as a kind of community. All communities have their standards for belief and behavior (remember our little tangent on what it means to be "un-American?"), and all communities are prone to reject members who defy those standards. There's nothing particularly horrible about excommunication unless you sincerely believe that it prevents you from entering the Kingdom of Heaven, and for that reason, excommunication has lost its force since the Reformation called that capacity into doubt. Even in a secular community, exile or stigmatization can be far more devestating to a person, as we see with the masses of German Jews who betrayed their religious community or merely chose not to escape when they had every indication that it was prudent to do so.Though did not Gallileo not get a pardon until just recently?
I don't believe Galileo was ever excommunicated. It was threatened, but he relented and lived with the penance they gave him, resentful though he may have been. I think the Church recently admitted that Galileo was right, though that was, of course, mere formality, as the Church has been behaving according to the Copernican model for centuries.