Judging and condemning others, is an easy task. We come to conclusions based on our observations and interactions with others. Most of us label the people around us: “He’s an idiot”, “She’s a slut”, “He’s an oaf”, etc., etc.
But who are we to pass judgment? What rights do we have to appraise others.
This brings to my mind two sayings In Tamil:
“இன்னது மெய் இன்னது பொய் என்று யார் சொல்லலாம்?”
(Transliteration: innathu mei, innathu poi endru yaar sollalaam?) meaning “Who can tell which is true and which is false?”
“கண்ணாலே காண்பதும் பொய், காதாலே கேட்பதும் பொய், தீர விசாரிப்பதே மெய்..”
(Transliteration: kannaalae kaanbathum poi, kaathaalae kaetpathum poi, theera visaaripathae mei.) meaning “the eye can lie, the ear can lie, best is to investige thoroughly.”
Hence, we must investigate thoroughly before passing on our judgment and condemning others. Also, we must as well learn to forgive those who displease us.
All of us have a right to our justified anger. Though psychologists tell us that “anger is a human emotion that is completely normal and generally healthy” doesn’t mean that we have the right to take that anger out on our loved ones, friends, neighbors, or any other human being or living creature.
Forgiving is just not an attitude. It involves using our will and intellect to forgive and forget. We should not wait for the feeling to forgive come to us; because that may never happen. And, if you find it difficult to forgive, then pray to God and ask Him for the grace to forgive.
Martin Luther King Jr., said:
“First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love… Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Giving is a spiritual practice and has a spiritual value. All the major religions of the world teach their followers to give, to provide for the poor and the needy.
The pali word ‘dāna‘ and the Sanskrit word ‘daan‘ mean giving or generosity. In Hinduism and Buddhism, it is also used to mean the practice of cultivating generosity.
For the Hindus there are five important points to keep in mind.
Give with the heart not with the head.
Give with Joy, not reluctantly.
Give only that is useful to the other person, not rubbish.
Give without expecting anything in return. There should be no give and take.
Give with humility, love and compassion, not with pride or arrogance .
For the Buddhists,
Giving (dāna) as a formal religious act has the effect of purifying and transforming the mind of the giver.
Generosity developed through giving leads to being reborn in happy states and the availability of material wealth. Conversely, lack of giving leads to unhappy states and poverty.
Giving without seeking anything in return leads to greater spiritual wealth. Moreover, it reduces the acquisitive impulses that ultimately lead to continued dukkha (sorrow).
In Judaism, traditional Jews give at least ten percent of their income to charity and their homes commonly have a pushke, a box for routinely collecting coins for the needy. Jewish youths continually go door-to-door collecting cash and sundry for various worthy causes. A standard mourner’s prayer includes a statement that the mourner will make a donation to charity in memory of the deceased.
Zakat or alms-giving is the third pillar of the five pillars of Islam. It is the practice of charitable giving by the followers of prophet Muhammad based on accumulated wealth. It is obligatory for all who are able to do so. It is considered to be a personal responsibility for Muslims to ease economic hardship for others and eliminate inequality. Zakat consists of spending 2.5% of one’s wealth for the benefit of the poor or needy. A Muslim rather than to achieve additional divine reward may also donate more as an act of voluntary charity (sadaqah).
True Christians ought to follow the wisdom of Jesus. He said to his disciples:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” — Luke 6:36-38
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye. — Luke 6:41-42
The prayer beads (rosaries and mala beads) are common accessories among spiritual traditions of many religions except in Judaism.
The orthodox Jews frown upon such devices. They consider it a mortal sin tantamount to idol worship. Many Judaic sources frown, prohibit or discourage the use of prayer beads and such, since these practices could lead the observant to take the name of God in vain. However, there are other sources that verify such use as a common kabbalistic practice kept secret for over hundreds of years.
However, there is something comparable to the use of prayer beads in traditional Jewish practice, though there is no direct reference to any kind of rosary practice.
The tallit is a prayer shawl, used for centuries by Jewish people. It is a rectangular garment with parallel stripes across the shorter ends. Most tallitot (plural) are white with navy or black stripes. Originally it was woven without seams.
The Jews place the tallit over their head and shoulders while praying in private and in the synagogue, and during other significant times of prayer.
Tallitot are first worn by children on their Bar Mitzvahs. Among orthodox Jews in the Ashkenazi circles, a tallit is customarily presented to a groom before marriage as part of the dowry.
In the Torah, in the book of Numbers, chapter 15:37-40, we read that the LORD designed the tallit and gave the directions to Moses:
37 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:
38 ‘Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them throughout their generations fringes in the corners of their garments, and that they put with the fringe of each corner a thread of blue.
39 And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye go not about after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go astray;
40 that ye may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy unto your God.
Again in Deuteronomy 22:12 we read:
“Thou shalt make thee twisted cords upon the four corners of thy covering, wherewith thou coverest thyself.”
In Hebrew, tzitzit is the name for specially knotted ritual fringes worn by observant Jews. Tzitzit are attached to the four corners of the tallit and tallit katan.
There are specifications for constructing the tassel, winding the thread separating the knots, and making the knots themselves.
God, in his concern for his people to obey his commandments and avoid punishment of death, told Moses to have his people include a specified number of fringes or knotted tassels on its four corners, and on the hems or borders of all their garments, in a very specific fashion, called tzitzit.
Each of these tzitziyot should include a cord of blue to remind that the origin of the Law is heavenly and not sin against the Holy One of Israel, Yahweh, God the Father.
Also, these verses from the Torah might lead some to subtly infer that numbers are as spiritually significant to the tallit in Judaism as they are to prayer beads in other traditions. However, there are no reference to using these knots in any kind of rosary practice.
The tallit katan
The tallit katan meaning ‘small tallit‘ is a fringed garment traditionally worn either under or over their clothing by Jewish men. It is a poncho-like garment with a hole for the head and special twined and knotted fringes known as tzitzit attached to its four corners.
The four corners are generally regarded as the four corners of the earth’s cardinal directions; and the tassels to remind them of the commandments. By the way, the Jews have a total of 613 do and don’t commandments to follow and not just the 10 that are generally known.
Generally, a tallit katan is made of wool or cotton. The requirements about the fabric and fringes of a tallit katan are the same as that of a tallit gadol, the prayer shawl worn during the morning services in synagogues by all male participants, and in many communities by the leader of the afternoon and evening prayers as well.
“Who touched me?”
Most of us forget that Jesus was a Jew. Here is an interesting episode in the life of Jesus narrated by Luke in Chapter 8:42-48.
… As he went, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years, who [had spent her whole livelihood on doctors and] was unable to be cured by anyone, came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. Immediately her bleeding stopped.
Jesus then asked, “Who touched me?”
While all were denying it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds are pushing and pressing in upon you.”
But Jesus said, “Someone has touched me; for I know that power has gone out from me.”
When the woman realized that she had not escaped notice, she came forward trembling. Falling down before him, she explained in the presence of all the people why she had touched him and how she had been healed immediately.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Though born to Roman Catholic parents and growing up in a Catholic background I find that people who read the bible, the Old and New Testaments, as a ritual, fail to realize the reality of its content. The brutality in the history of Christianity such as crusades for redeeming the Holy Land, mass massacre, enslaving the defeated etc., stems from the words written in the Bible.
Recently I came across an article on the web titled BIBLE MORALITY (King James Version) containing biblical verses compiled by Barbara G. Walker, an independent scholar of comparative religion and mythology, as well as women’s spirituality. She is a Freethought Nation guest writer concerning the supposed “morality” of the Bible.
Some of my Christian friends might find fault with me for reproducing this controversial compilation. But this is reality.
The paraphrases and commentary are Barbara’s, while the original verses are linked.
1. KILLING. (AS IN “THOU SHALT NOT”…???)
The biblical god personally kills a total of 371,186 people, not counting his slaughter of every living thing in Genesis 7. The biblical god also orders the killing of a total of 1,862,265.
Gen 22:2 – God accepts human sacrifices (including that of Jesus, later). Ex 12:29 – God kills all the firstborn in the land of Egypt. Ex 15:3 – God is a god of war. Ex 21:15, 17 – Anyone who strikes or curses a parent must be killed. Ex 22:18 – Every witch must be killed.
Ex 22:19, 20 – You must kill anyone who “lieth with a beast,” or who worships any god other than Yahweh. Ex 31:15 – Anyone who works on the Sabbath must be killed. Lev 20:10, 13, 27 – You must kill adulterers, homosexuals, wizards and spirit mediums. Lev 21:9 – Any priest’s daughter who fornicates must be burned alive. Lev 24:16 – Blasphemers must be killed.
Num 16:27-33 – God caused the whole tribe of Korah — men, women, and children — to be buried alive. Num 21:3 – God caused the destruction of all the Canaanites. Num 31:7-35 – God orders Moses to kill the Midianites, making sure to slaughter not only the men but also the boys and females, except for the 32,000 virgin girls. Deut 3:4 – God is pleased that his warriors destroyed 60 cities. Deut 7:16 – You must kill all the people God delivers into your hands, and “thine eye shall have no pity upon them.”
Deut 13:5 – Any prophet or “dreamer of dreams,” who serves another god, must be killed. Deut 13:6-9 – If your brother, son, daughter, wife, or friend tempts you to worship other gods, “thou shalt surely kill him.” Deut 13:13-15 – If the people of any city worship other gods, you must slaughter them all, including their cattle. Deut 17:5 – Any man or woman who worships other deities of sun, moon or stars must be stoned to death. Deut 18:20 – False prophets must be killed.
Deut 20:16-17 – God commands complete destruction of all Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, and “thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth.” Deut 22:21 – A bride found not to be a virgin must be stoned to death. Deut 22:22 – Adulterers must be killed. Deut 22:23-24 – A girl who is raped within city limits, and fails to cry out, must be killed. Deut 28:22-28 – If you don’t obey God’s commandments, he will punish you with consumption, fever, extreme burning, blasting, mildew, hemorrhoids, the scab, the itch, the botch of Egypt, etc., as well as “madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart.”
Josh 6:21 – God’s warriors destroyed Jericho and killed every man, woman, child, and domestic animal. Josh 8:25 – God’s warriors killed 12,000 people in the city of Ai. Josh 19:47 – The children of Dan wanted more room, so they destroyed the whole population of Leshen and took their territory. Judges 1:17-18 – Judah and Simeon utterly destroyed the populations of Zephath, Gaza, Askelon and Ekron. Judges 11:39 – In accord with God’s law, Jephthah was forced to burn his virgin daughter to death as a sacrifice.
Judges 15:15 – God enables Samson to kill 1,000 men with the jawbone of an ass. Judges 20:46 – At Gibeah, Benjamin’s men killed 25,000 people and burned every town. 1 Sam 6:19 – God kills 50,070 people for trying to peek into the Ark. 1 Sam 15:3 – God commands the destruction of Amalek: “Slay both men and women, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” 2 Sam 6:7 – God kills Uzzah for touching the Ark, even though he was trying to save it from falling off its oxcart.
1 Kings 18:40 – God commands the slaughter of “prophets of Baal”. 1 Kings 20:36 – Because a man didn’t “obey the voice of the Lord,” a lion was sent to kill him. 2 Kings 2:24 – God sent bears to tear apart 42 children for making fun of Elisha’s bald head. 2 Kings 10:25 – God commands the killing of a multitude in the temple of Baal. 2 Kings 19:35 – God’s angel killed 185,000 Assyrians in a single night.
1 Chron 21:14 – God kills 70,000 Israelites with a pestilence. 2 Chron 15:13 – Any man or woman who refuses to “seek the Lord God of Israel” must be killed. Job 1:15-19 – God arranges the killing of Job’s children, servants and animals. Isa 13:16 – God promises that all the Babylonians’ children will be “dashed to pieces before their eyes;” their wives will be raped. Isa 45:7 – God says “I create evil.”
Jer 48:10 – Killing for God is mandatory; God curses anyone who “keepeth back his sword from blood.” Jer 50:21 – God commands that the people of Merathaim and Pekod be “utterly destroyed.” Ezek 9:5-7 – God calls for purging in Jerusalem: “let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children, and women… fill the courts with the slain.” Ezek 35:8 – God promises to fill the mountains, hills, valleys and rivers with slain men. Hosea 13:16 – God promises to have Samaritan infants dashed to pieces, and pregnant women will have their bellies slashed open.
Nahum 1:2 – God is jealous, full of vengeance and wrath. Zeph 1:3 – God threatens to destroy everything, man and beast, birds and fishes. Zeph 1:18 – “The whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy.” Zeph 3:6 – God brags that he has destroyed many nations. Zech 13:3 – A false prophet must be killed by his father and mother.
Ex 21:7-8 – A father may sell his daughter to be a “maidservant” (or sex slave) who must “please her master.” Num 31:7, 18 – God orders his warriors to kill every living thing in a captured city, except the virgin girls, who are to be raped and turned into sex slaves. Deut 21:11-12 – If a warrior likes the look of a female war captive, he can take her to be one of his “wives.” Deut 22:28-29 – A man who rapes a virgin may take her for a wife if he pays her father 50 shekels of silver. (Yet, a bride found not to be a virgin must be stoned to death -Deut 22:20-21). Judges 5:30 – The spoils of war include “a damsel or two” for every man. Judges 21:12-23 – God’s warriors killed all the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead except for 400 virgin girls, who were taken as slaves. If there are not enough girls to go around, God’s warriors may raid neighboring towns for more to rape.
Gen 9:25 – God cursed Ham, son of Noah, with perpetual slavery for the crime of seeing his father naked. (Ham was formerly considered the ancestor of all “blacks.”) Ex 21:4 – A male slave may marry and have children, and may go free after six years; but his family remains the property (or hostages?) of his master. Ex 21:7 – A man may sell his daughter as a sex slave. Ex 21:20-21 – A man may be punished for beating a male or female slave
to death, but if the victim survives the beating for a few days, then
there is no penalty. Lev 19:20 – When a man has sex with a female slave (or “bondmaid”), SHE must be scourged. Eph 6:5 – Paul says slaves must obey their masters “with fear and trembling.” Titus 2:9 – Paul says slaves must obey and please their masters. 1 Tim 6:1 – Paul says slaves must “count their masters worthy of all honor.”
4. WAS JESUS ETHICAL?
Matt 5:28-32 – Jesus says marriage to a divorcee is adultery; and a man who ogles a woman has already committed adultery; and that you must cut off your hand or pluck out your eye if it offends. Matt 6:19-34 – Jesus says don’t save any money and don’t plan ahead. Matt 8:32 – Having no regard for private property, Jesus destroys a herd of someone else’s pigs. Matt 10:34 – Jesus says he brings not peace on earth but “a sword.” Matt 19:12 – Jesus says the best way for a man to be sure of getting into heaven is to have himself castrated.
Mark 11:13 – Jesus destroys a fig tree for not bearing figs out of season. Mark 14:4-7 – Jesus says it is more important to anoint him with precious ointment than to give to the poor, who will always be here. (Why not just get rid of poverty?) Mark 16:18 – Jesus says anyone who believes in him can play with venomous snakes or drink poison without harm. (This act has been often tried, with rather unsatisfactory results.) Luke 12:47-48 – Jesus says it is permissible to whip slaves. Luke 14:26 – Jesus says no man can be his disciple unless he hates his parents, siblings, wife, children, and himself as well. Luke 19:27 – In telling a parable, Jesus insinuates that anyone who denies his rulership must be killed. John 15:6 – Jesus says anyone who doesn’t believe in him must be burned. Acts 5:5-10 – Ananias and his wife Sapphira were killed for withholding money from the church. 2 John 1:10-11 – A Christian is forbidden to offer hospitality to a non-Christian, not even to wish him “Godspeed” on parting.
5. WOMEN IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
1 Cor 11:3-10 – Women are inferior “because man was not created for woman, but woman was created for man.” Every woman “while praying or prophesying” must have her head covered “because of the angels,” meaning the spirits (it used to be believed that women’s hair attracts spirits). 1 Cor 14:34-35 – Women must not speak in church, which is a shame for them to do. If they want to ask questions, they must learn from their husbands at home. Eph 5:22 – Wives must submit to their husbands as they would to God. 1 Tim 2:11-15 – A woman must not teach, or hold authority over a man, but must “learn in silence with all subjection,” because “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (So, being gullible is the original sin.) 1 Tim 5:9 – Paul says the only women acceptable by the council of elders are devout, monogamous women over the age of sixty.
Gen 1:11-19 – God made all green plants on the third day of creation, but neglected to supply the sun (on which both plants and “days” depend) until the fourth day. Gen 6:6-7 – Because a few people displeased him, God “repented” having made the world, and decided to destroy all life on earth. Lev 11:5-6 – God thinks rabbits are cud-chewing animals. Deut 22:5 – All cross-dressers, or women who wear pants, are “abominations.” Deut 25:11-12 – A woman who seizes a man’s genitals, even to defend her husband from an attacker, must have her hand cut off. Deut 33:17 – God believes in unicorns. Matt 5:22 – Jesus says anyone who calls another “fool” will go to hell, but then he does it himself (Matt 23:17). 1 Tim 2:9 – Christian women are forbidden to braid their hair or wear jewelry. James 5:14-15 – Prayer by the elders of the church is the only sure cure for sickness. (Christian Science, anyone?)
How should we, the contemporary readers interpret the creation-flood narrative in Genesis 2–11?
The stories are neither myth nor history.
“Myth” is a poor term, as it has many different meanings and so connotes untruth in prevalent English.
“History” is, likewise, misleading, for it implies that the events, in fact, took place. The proper term would be ‘creation-flood story.’
The ancient thinkers of the Middle East did not have our means for researching serious topics. They used narratives for issues that we would describe as philosophical or theological. They sought out meaning in the ancient stories of their times. They contemplated on topics such as: how gods act with justice and generosity, why humans are rebellious, the dynamics of carnal allurement and marital relationships, why there are so many Peoples and languages. Their stories reveal an exclusive period, when divine decisions determined the future of the human race.Moreover, every time they retold these stories, they added, or subtracted narrative matters.
Even though most of these stories might seem to us as primitive and naive, they are, in fact, narrated in a compressed form with skill, and subtlety. They offer radical answers to perennial questions about God and human beings. To illustrate here is the story of the Tower of Babel told in Genesis,
Story of the Tower of Babel – Genesis 11:1-9
The whole world had the same language and the same words.
When they were migrating from the east, they came to a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.”
They used bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar.
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.”
The LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the people had built.
Then the LORD said: If now, while they are one people and all have the same language, they have started to do this, nothing they presume to do will be out of their reach. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that no one will understand the speech of another.
So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.
That is why it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the speech of all the world. From there the LORD scattered them over all the earth.
One Jewish tradition implies that humans later defied God when he tried to forge a relationship between the various nations. So, God decided to direct his attention to one nation only, hoping it would eventually unite all the nations of the world. To bring God’s decision to fruition the authors of Genesis introduce Abraham.
The Covenant of Circumcision – Genesis 17:1-11
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said:
I am God the Almighty. Walk in my presence and be blameless. Between you and me I will establish my covenant, and I will multiply you exceedingly.
Abram fell face down and God said to him:
For my part, here is my covenant with you: you are to become the father of a multitude of nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a multitude of nations.
I will make you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you; kings will stem from you. I will maintain my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting covenant, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now residing as aliens, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God.
God said to Abraham:
For your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.
This is the covenant between me and you and your descendants after you that you must keep: every male among you shall be circumcised. Circumcise the flesh of your foreskin. That will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.
The Torah (Hebrew: תּוֹרָה) meaning “teaching,” “doctrine,” or “instruction” is the name given to the first five books of the Jewish Bible. In Hebrew, the five books bear the initial phrase in the text as their names: Bereshit (“In the beginning,”), Shemot (“Names,”), Vayikra (“He called”), Bamidbar (“In the desert,”) and Devarim (“Words,”).
The Pentateuch meaning “five vessels,” “five containers,” or “five-volume book” is the comparative term for the Torah in Christian theology. The Christians call the five books as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
The Torah and the Pentateuch also known as “the five books of Moses,” form the first section of the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures.
Genesis is the first book of the Pentateuch. Its title in the Jewish Scriptures it is known as Bereshit, the opening Hebrew word, “in the beginning.” Its title in English, “Genesis,” comes from the Greek word γενέσεως of Genesis 2:4, literally, “the book of the generation (genesis) of the heavens and earth.”
Genesis 1:1–2:3 presents us a seven-day creation account where a God almighty whose mere word generates an exquisite universe. In this beautiful universe, humans play an intrinsic part.
The storyline of Genesis 2–11, find its origin in creation-flood stories found in Mesopotamian literature of the second and early first millennia.
In the Mesopotamian creation-flood accounts, the gods created the humans as immortal slaves to take care of the universe for them. The humans were needed to provide the gods with food, clothing, and pay homage to them in temples. In an unanticipated development, however, the humans grew in plenty and were so noisy that the gods were not able to sleep. Madly angered, the gods decided to destroy the human race by a universal flood. However, one man, secretly warned of the flood by his patron god, built a boat and survived with his family. Regretting their impetuous decision, the gods created a new version of mankind. They made the new human race mortal to ensure they would never grow numerous and disturb the gods.The authors of Genesis (Bereshit) adapted this Mesopotamian creation-flood story to suit their viewpoints about God and humanity. To illustrate, in Genesis we read that Noah, created by God before the floods, led a long life.
Noah lived three hundred and fifty years after the flood. The whole lifetime of Noah was nine hundred and fifty years; then he died. (Genesis 9:28-29)
These authors attributed the weakness of the gods to human sin in lieu of divine oversight.
When the LORD saw how great the wickedness of human beings was on earth, and how every desire that their heart conceived was always nothing but evil, the LORD regretted making human beings on the earth, and his heart was grieved.
So the LORD said: I will wipe out from the earth the human beings I have created, and not only the human beings, but also the animals and the crawling things and the birds of the air, for I regret that I made them. (Genesis 6:5–7)
The authors made God reaffirm mankind without modifying the original creation
God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them: Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth.
Fear and dread of you shall come upon all the animals of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon all the creatures that move about on the ground and all the fishes of the sea; into your power they are delivered.
Any living creature that moves about shall be yours to eat; I give them all to you as I did the green plants. Only meat with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat.
Indeed for your own lifeblood I will demand an accounting: from every animal I will demand it, and from a human being, each one for the blood of another, I will demand an accounting for human life. Anyone who sheds the blood of a human being, by a human being shall that one’s blood be shed; For in the image of God have human beings been made. Be fertile, then, and multiply; abound on earth and subdue it. (Genesis 9:1–7).
In the biblical version God is just, powerful, and not needy.
The Torah, comprising the first five books of the Jewish Bible, severely condemns the worship of graven images. However, the Israelites collectively committed a grave sin while wandering through the desert. When Moses, who went over to the Sinai mountain to meet God, did not return at the appointed time, they demanded of Aaron, the brother of Moses, to make them a god to lead them in the desert.
The Molten Calf – Exodus 32:1-6
When the people saw that Moses was delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for that man Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.”
Aaron replied, “Take off the golden earrings that your wives, your sons, and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.”
So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He received their offering, and fashioning it with a tool, made a molten calf.
Then they cried out, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”
On seeing this, Aaron built an altar in front of the calf and proclaimed, “Tomorrow is a feast of the LORD.”
Early the next day the people sacrificed burnt offerings and brought communion sacrifices. Then they sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.
According to the Aggadah
Aggadah or Haggadah (Heb. הַגָּדָה, אַגָּדָה; “narrative”) is one of the two primary components of the classical rabbinic literature of Judaism. Citing the Aggadah, some rabbis claim that the demand for the idol was due to the forty thousand mixed multitudes, which joined the Israelites at the time of the Exodus.
A crowd of mixed ancestry also went up with them, with livestock in great abundance, both flocks and herds. (Exodus 12:38)
Two Egyptian magicians, Jannes and Mambres, were among the crowd. They aided in the making of the molten calf (Midrash Yelammedenu, Ki Tissa, Ex. xxxii.)
The crowd said that it was the sixth hour of the fortieth day since Moses had left, the hour which he had previously set for his return. They claimed that since he had not yet appeared he would never come. The people had included the day of the ascent of Moses in their calculation, whereas he had excluded it (Rashi, Shab. 89a).
Satan added fuel to the state of affairs by showing the people a vision of Moses’ bier. This convinced them that he died. So, they demanded Aaron to make a god for them (Shab. 89a; Tanh. B., Ex. 112–3).
God was also blamed since He enslaved them in Egypt where they were exposed to the most idolatrous of ancient civilizations; and giving them an abundance of gold and silver when they left Egypt.
Hur, the son of Miriam and Caleb, tried to dissuade the people from committing the sin of idolatry. Even so, they killed him. Aaron feared that he would share the same fate. Since he wanted peace to prevail, he conceded to their demand. To gain time, he asked them to bring the gold ornaments of their wives. He knew their wives would not part with their ornaments. The men thereupon gave their own jewelry.
Aaron then threw the collected gold into the fire, still hoping that Moses would return. Instantly, however, a calf appeared, alive and skipping. It was the result of a splinter thrown into the fire by the wicked Micah. This splinter contained the words עלהשור (alehshor, “Come up, Ox”).
Moses had previously thrown this splinter into the Nile when he desired the coffin of Joseph, whom he compared to an ox, to rise above the surface so that he could transport his remains to Ereẓ Israel (Tanḥ. Ki Tissa, 19).
According to another version, the Egyptian magicians made the calf move as if it were alive (Song R. 1:9, no. 3).
Aaron then postponed the celebration to the next day to gain time. God knew that Aaron was motivated by good intentions. So, the high priesthood was not taken away from him. Still, he was severely punished by the subsequent death of two of his sons.
The tribe of Levi and its 12 leaders did not join the worship of the molten calf. The remaining Israelites were mercilessly punished. Whoever sacrificed and burned incense before the altar of the molten calf died by the sword; whoever embraced and kissed the calf died by the plague; and whoever rejoiced in his heart died of dropsy (Yoma 66b).”There is not a misfortune that Israel has suffered, which is not partly a retribution for the sin of the calf” (Sanh. 102a).
The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple (Hebrew: בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ) was one of a series of structures which were historically located at the current site of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. These successive temples functioned as the centre of ancient Israelite and later Jewish worship. The Jews believed the Temple acted as the figurative “footstool” of God’s presence on earth. Also it was believed that a Third Temple will be built in that location in the future.
When the Israelites wandered in the desert, they had a portable sanctuary – The Tabernacle (Hebrew: משכן, mishkan, “residence” or “dwelling place”) for the divine presence. Moses built it according to the specifications revealed to him by God (Yahweh) at Mount Sinai. The Tabernacle accompanied the Israelites on their wanderings in the wilderness, from the time of the Exodus from Egypt through the conquering of the Promised Land of Canaan. It housed the Ark of the Covenant which was eventually placed in the First Temple in Jerusalem.
King David, after unifying all Israel, brought the Ark of the Covenant to his new capital, Jerusalem, intending to build there a temple to house the Ark in a permanent place. David purchased a threshing-floor for the site of the Temple.
The Oracle of Nathan – 2 Samuel 7:1-17
After the king [David] had taken up residence in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side, the king said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent!”
Nathan answered the king, “Whatever is in your heart, go and do, for the LORD is with you.”
But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan: Go and tell David my servant, Thus says the LORD: Is it you who would build me a house to dwell in?
I have never dwelt in a house from the day I brought Israel up from Egypt to this day, but I have been going about in a tent or a tabernacle.
As long as I have wandered about among the Israelites, did I ever say a word to any of the judges whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel: Why have you not built me a house of cedar?
Now then, speak thus to my servant David, Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the flock, to become ruler over my people Israel.
I was with you wherever you went, and I cut down all your enemies before you. And I will make your name like that of the greatest on earth.
I will assign a place for my people Israel and I will plant them in it to dwell there; they will never again be disturbed, nor shall the wicked ever again oppress them, as they did at the beginning, and from the day when I appointed judges over my people Israel. I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD also declares to you that the LORD will make a house for you: when your days have been completed and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, sprung from your loins, and I will establish his kingdom.
He it is who shall build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne forever.
I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. If he does wrong, I will reprove him with a human rod and with human punishments; but I will not withdraw my favor from him as I withdrew it from Saul who was before you.
Your house and your kingdom are firm forever before me; your throne shall be firmly established forever.
In accordance with all these words and this whole vision Nathan spoke to David.
But King David was a man of war and Yahweh told him that he would not be permitted to build a temple but promised that his son Solomon would build it.
After David’s death his son Solomon built the Temple. He followed the plan revealed to Moses by God, incorporating all the elements of the Tabernacle. However, the Book of Chronicles says
All this he wrote down, by the hand of the LORD, to make him understand it—the working out of the whole design. (1 Chronicles 28:19)
that the LORD himself gave the plans for the temple to David and he wrote them down “under the hand of the LORD.”
1 Kings Chapters 6 to 8 describe the construction and dedication of the Temple under Solomon.
So, according to The Bible, the First Temple was built in c. 957 BCE by King Solomon who is believed to have reigned between c. 970 to c. 930 BCE. This solid Temple in Jerusalem superseded the portable Tabernacle as the dwelling-place of God among the Israelites. The Temple replaced the portable sanctuary constructed in the Sinai Desert under the auspices of Moses, as well as local sanctuaries and altars in the hills, as the sole place of Jewish sacrifice.
This temple was however sacked a few decades later by Sheshonk I, Pharaoh of Egypt.
From time to time, efforts were made at partial reconstruction of the Temple.
In 835 BCE Jehoash, King of Judah in the second year of his reign invested considerable sums of his wealth in reconstruction. But his efforts were thwarted c700 BCE by Sennacherib, King of Assyria in c700 BCE.
The First Temple was totally destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE when they sacked the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon.
There is no further mention of the Tabernacle after this destruction.
The Second Temple
The Second Temple replaced the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon. It stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between 516 BCE and 70 CE and was an important Jewish shrine.
In 538 BCE, when Cyrus the Great of Persia allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and re-establish Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the Temple became possible. We read in Ezra and 2 Chronicles as follows:
The Decree of Cyrus – Ezra 1:1-4
In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing:
“Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: ‘All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
Those among you who belong to any part of his people, may their God be with them! Let them go up to Jerusalem in Judah to build the house of the LORD the God of Israel, that is, the God who is in Jerusalem.
Let all those who have survived, in whatever place they may have lived, be assisted by the people of that place with silver, gold, goods, and livestock, together with voluntary offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.’”
Decree of Cyrus – 2 Chronicles 36:22-23
In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to realize the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD roused the spirit of Cyrus, King of Persia, to spread this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing:
“Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. All among you, therefore, who belong to his people, may their God be with them; let them go up.”
Construction of the second Temple started at the original site of Solomon’s Temple, which had remained devastated during the approximately 70 years of captivity.
Seven years later, Cyrus the Great, died and was succeeded by his son Cambyses II.
Now for a slight diversion.
According to the traditional view based on the majority of ancient sources, such as Darius the Great’s Behistun inscription, as well as Herodotus, Justin, and Ctesias, although there are minor differences between them, Bardiya is the Persian name of Smerdis who possibly died in 522 BCE, and was a son of Cyrus the Great and the younger full or half-brother of Cambyses II.
According to Ctesias, on his deathbed Cyrus appointed Bardiya as satrap (or governor) of some of the far-eastern provinces.
According to Darius the Great, Cambyses II, after becoming king of Persia but before setting out for Egypt, killed Bardiya and kept this secret.
However according to Herodotus who gives two detailed stories, Bardiya went to Egypt with Cambyses and was there for some time but later Cambyses sent him back to Susa out of envy, because “Bardiya alone could draw the bow brought from the Ethiopian king.” Herodotus then states that “Cambyses had a dream in which he saw his brother sitting on the royal throne. As a result of this dream Cambyses sent his trusted counselor Prexaspes from Egypt to Susa with the order to kill Smerdis” (i.e. Bardiya).
Since Bardiya’s death was not known to the people, in the spring of 522 BCE a usurper pretended to be him and proclaimed himself king on a mountain near the Persian town of Paishiyauvada. Darius claimed that the real name of the usurper was Gaumata, a Magian priest from Media. According to Herodotus, the name of the Magian usurper was Oropastes, but according to Ctesias it was Sphendadates.
In Daniel we read,
It was the first year that Darius, son of Ahasuerus, of the race of the Medes, reigned over the kingdom of the Chaldeans; in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years the LORD had decreed to the prophet Jeremiah: Jerusalem was to lie in ruins for seventy years. (Daniel 9:1-2)
In the second year of Darius’ rule, the work of rebuilding the temple was resumed and carried forward to its completion.
It was ready for consecration in the spring of 516 BCE, more than twenty years after the return from captivity. The Temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius, amid great rejoicings on the part of all the people although it was evident that the Jews were no longer an independent people, but were subject to a foreign power.
According to the biblical account some of the original artifacts were lost after the destruction of the First Temple. And so, the Second Temple lacked the following holy articles:
The Second Temple also included many of the original vessels of gold that had been taken by the Babylonians but restored by Cyrus the Great. According to Jewish tradition, however, the Temple lacked the Shekinah/Ruach HaKodesh, the dwelling or settling divine presence of God, present in the first.
Around 19 BC, Herod the Great renovated the Temple of Jerusalem, which became known as Herod’s Temple.
The temple area that John writes of (John 2:14) is not the sanctuary, the holy of holies, that contained the tabernacle, but the Court of the Gentiles – a part of the nineteen acres of space that surrounded the sanctuary. This space was divided into four courts, and as one walked toward the sanctuary from the east, he had to pass successively through the following courts: Court of the Gentiles; Court of the women; Court of Israel; and finally the Court of the priests.
The Court of the Gentiles was primarily a bazaar, for the convenience of the people, with vendors selling sacrificial animals such oxen, sheep and doves, food, souvenirs, etc. Oxen and doves were abundantly needed for sacrificial purposes. Also every family required a lamb to be eaten during the Passover, and so, the sheep were found in large flocks in the market. Also, as Passover was nearing, the number of vendors had increased.
There were money changers, exchanging Roman coins such as the aureus (gold), the denarius (silver), the sestertius (brass), the dupondius (brass), and the as (copper) for money from other regions outside the Roman Empire since the Romans did not allow Jews to coin their own money.
Guides that provided tours of the premises were also available since Jewish males had the unique opportunity to be shown inside the temple itself.
And there were the omnipresent priests, wearing white linen robes and tubular hats, directing pilgrims and advising them what kinds of sacrifices were to be offered.
All the evangelists have written about the cleansing of the Temple because they all concur on the one reason for Jesus’ fury – for Jesus, there was far too much commercialization in the Temple of worship whereby the pharisees amassed wealth.
One of the problems Saint Paul had to handle in Corinth was how to persuade the women to dress properly in the assembly.
In Paul’s period, women had been participating in worship at Corinth without the head-covering as was normal in Greek society. Paul’s stated that his goal was to bring these women into conformity with contemporary Jewish practice and propriety. In order to convince them, he put forward arguments from a variety of sources, though he had space to develop them only sketchily and was perhaps aware that they differed greatly in persuasiveness.
Man and Woman – 1 Corinthians 11:3-16
But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and a husband the head of his wife, and God the head of Christ.
Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered brings shame upon his head.
But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame upon her head, for it is one and the same thing as if she had had her head shaved.
For if a woman does not have her head veiled, she may as well have her hair cut off.
But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should wear a veil.
A man, on the other hand, should not cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.
For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; nor was man created for woman, but woman for man; for this reason a woman should have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels.
Woman is not independent of man or man of woman in the Lord.
For just as woman came from man, so man is born of woman; but all things are from God.
Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled?
Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears his hair long it is a disgrace to him, whereas if a woman has long hair it is her glory, because long hair has been
given [her] for a covering?
But if anyone is inclined to be argumentative, we do not have such a custom, nor do the churches of God.
Twenty years ago, in India, all Christian women, especially Catholic women, when they entered the churches covered their heads with a veil or the fold of their saree. But now it has become a fashion with women not to cover their head in church but wear coiffures in different styles. These women and young girls scoff at those few who cover their heads labeling them as old fashioned.
Even nuns belonging to certain orders wear sarees and do not cover their heads even while dispensing Holy Communion.
What bothers me and most Catholics is the fact that our clergy express pleasure by admiring the uncovered heads of our women folk in churches, be they saree clad nuns or lay women.
So, as Catholics and Christians why not, why can’t and why don’t our women folk, whether they are nuns or not, cover their heads in churches?
Recently, I came across the following video excerpt and was impressed by what Sheikh Khaled Yasin says.