Friedman on tradition

Friedman’s book Who Wrote the Bible? starts off with a discussion of how the early medieval Bible was made with a strong notion of tradition.

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I’m going to skip quite a bit of explanation about how Origen and his successors tortured the text and forbade common sense in order to twist their interpretations to suit the needs of the moment.


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In fact, Friedman leaves out a bunch of relevant history. He starts at the 3rd century, then skips to the 11th century.

We could look at the history of the Septuagint, but I would have to make a bunch of half-remembered points without the history books to back them up, so I won’t go there right now.

I have read many, many denunciations of the Council of Nicea, but they were mostly polemics, not histories.

If I had a lot of free time and unlimited library access, I might try to assemble a criticism of the Septuagint, because I suspect the Council of Nicea inherited all the bad habits of the Septuagint authors, and then added some new ones. But for the moment, what I’ve got is Friedman, and I’ll work with what I’ve got.

In the end, I will have a long list of disagreements with Friedman’s interpretations, but for the moment, I can agree with Friedman’s notion that the Bible originated as a written text embedded in an oral culture. Oral cultures do not lend themselves to exact sciences or even to precise logic. Oral cultures lend themselves to enthusiastic group sing-alongs or else to illogical shouting matches.


Postscript:

All of this was motivated by a long discussion, and I think I’m going to have to focus on the few issues that my available evidence can support.

Previously, medieval otaku had written:

God began intimating to the Hebrews that He did not like slavery by first freeing them from the yoke and then requiring them to free their own slaves on the year of the Jubilee. Then, Jesus often spoke of sin and slavery in the same breath and represented freedom as a goal of living a moral life:
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36).
St. Paul elucidated on this theme of freedom in his own epistles. Then, it was only a matter of time for Christians to understand that if spiritual slavery was abhorrent, then neither should one man own another. And so, slavery was eradicated in northern Europe by the 12th century, with many other European countries following during the Renaissance, and its total abolishment in the Christian world by the 19th. The theologians of the South who argued for the institution or “divine institution of slavery” as they called it were trying to make us revert to the deficient understanding of bygone ages and ignoring many of the truths discovered since.
But, the important thing to note in developments on revelation is that these new understandings are rooted in revelation and nothing which revelation contradicts explicitly can be invented as a new article of doctrine. And so, Scripture has no passages claiming that God desires the institution of slavery to exist, but many which intimate that God wishes men to be free. On the other hand, a doctrine which cannot be implemented, despite the efforts of many erroneous theologians or well-meaning persons, is for homosexuality to be legitimized. Revelation has always condemned it, and the New Testament has not reversed the condemnation–unlike in the case of the prohibition of certain foods.

It’s hard to find fault with that – and I should know, because I find fault with lots of things.

I had originally said that Jesus condoned slavery because Jesus didn’t go around freeing slaves. Of course, that’s just one INTERPRETATION. The above is a different interpretation.

I don’t think Friedman will open up much new evidence specifically relevant to slavery, but there might be some new insights concerning what should be considered “revelation.”

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