Wrap-up of Nov 9, Week 7

Thanks to all for your careful preparation and lively contributions to our discussion!  As you could tell, I think that the one thing you should take away from the course (if you take only one!) is an understanding of the main difference between Judaism and Christianity.  You by now know my answer!  But I can tell that many of you are skeptical of it and I would like to consider other differences you find plausible so that I can make the argument that they result from the difference I take to be the main one.  So, please, think about how you would describe the difference and we’ll consider each one next week.  Including the one mentioned by Shaye Cohen, that Judaism is about sanctification and Christianity about salvation.  (Can you formulate the argument that this is an outgrowth of the difference between cosmic monism and cosmic dualism?)

2 thoughts on “Wrap-up of Nov 9, Week 7

  1. I agree that last week’s discussion was the most lively we have had so far! I had to clarify with Beardsley what exactly he means by ‘cosmic dualism’. To me there are two possible interpretations: God/Jesus, or God/Satan. I had always thought of the main difference between the two religions as the former.
    Evil, or at least the knowledge of it, seems to appear in the Adam/Eve/serpent story, and it’s odd to me that the theme doesn’t appear more frequently in the Old Testament. So, the big question is how did Satan become a cosmic force in Christianity?

    • Thanks to Jennifer for provoking an important clarification: the two forces implied by “cosmic dualism” are God and Satin. We’ve seen that the Genesis 2 reference to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad (JSB; King James of course renders it Evil) is most likely a reference to Knowledge of All Things (a merism like the wedding vow “in sickness and in health”). The serpent is described as “the shrewdest of all the wild beasts” but not as evil. The most plausible (to me) interpretation is that the snake provided the opportunity for Adam and Eve to demonstrate that humans, created in God’s image, nonetheless had the choice to disobey, thus introducing the concepts of free will and responsibility. The traditional Jewish understanding is that this disobedience is a case of unrighteousness requiring even a merciful God to punish it. Note however that the author hastens to show God’s mercy by having him make clothes from animal skins for them to wear out into the cruel world.

      Satin first became a cosmic force in Jewish Apocalypticism (as in Daniel) and was naturally a part of Jesus’ worldview as an apolcalypticist. So we see Jesus battling with the Devil/Satan throughout the gospel of Mark. Christianity took over cosmic dualism from Jewish apocalypticists and ran with it (for example, retrojecting Satan onto the snake). The rabbis, on the other hand, rejected cosmic dualism and Rabbinic Judaism presents the traditional worldview of cosmic monism.

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