The Jewish perspective of the OT according to poster David_Jay

by deegee 44 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • tor1500

    Hi David_Jay,

    That was a lot but very informative...I want to thank you so very much for taking the time to explain...

    I'll be back to talk to you in a while...more stuff to think about...


  • David_Jay

    Wrapping Up the Scroll: The Last Three Questions

    If you have followed up to now, you realize that the Jews have a view of themselves and their Scriptures that don't match anything you learned in JW land.

    You might also already sort of know, more or less, what the answer to the last three questions are (and why they are grouped together too), namely...

    Was there a literal Exodus from Egypt to the promised land?

    Is there any part of the OT that should be taken literally?

    Are there any Jewish scriptures outside of the OT which were communicated directly by God to the Jews/Israelites?

    We pretty much answered the last question already in that if the Jews don't necessarily recognize the Hebrew Scriptures as a product of a direct communication by God (or at least don't have a dogmatic answer for this), then they don't have an answer to the last question. In a way all of the religion of the Jews in inspired, but it doesn't mean the same thing to us that this means to JWs.

    Did God directly communicate other Scriptures to other peoples, something like, again, the Book of Mormon to the people who once inhabited the USA? Did, as the song goes in the musical, The Book of Mormon, 'ancient Jews build boats and sail to America?' These other Scriptures were not the product of our people, so we can't judge one way or the other. You will have to decide for yourself. We don't have anything in our theology that goes about saying that this is an impossibility (though the arguments for the validity of the Book of Mormon being what it claims it is, is pretty low).

    Is there any part of the Hebrew Scriptures that can be taken literally? Of course. Go back to the original illustration about The Miracle Worker. Is any of that literal? Indeed, yes. Which parts? You have to do the footwork yourself and compare the script to the actual life accounts. Which parts of the Hebrew Scriptures are literal and which are not? Well, I don't have the space to tell you all of that.

    But there is a lot of less footwork involved since scholars have done a lot of the footwork for you. For a Jewish perspective on what is literal and what is not, you can start with the Jewish Study Bible. But don't be surprised if you need to dig further. Expect to. And you may be surprised that the Roman Catholic Church and mainstream Christianity have come to many of the same conclusions we have, but again you will have to do some work to see where this is so. I suggest the NRSV Oxford Annotated Study Bible and the NABRE. The New Jerusalem Bible is a good choice too, but make sure you have the edition with the full footnote apparatus.

    And don't be surprised if you find that some Jews see some parts of Scripture as literal, and some do not. Remember, we are "Israel." We wrestle with God. We challenge the Scriptures, unlike Christians who attempt to make everything fit in with all the texts. You can't judge all Jews but what one Jew or some Jews say. You can only hear the various views and leave it at that.

    Now, was there a literal Exodus from Egypt? Historians and archaeologists believe so, and this ancient aspect of our Jewish history predates the Scriptures. The evidence does support that under the reign of the Hyksos dynasty, Semites came to live in Egypt and eventually found themselves driven into slavery after the Hyksos were driven out. Some scholars believe the exodus of slaves came in waves, some suggesting three.

    How many left? Probably a lot less than what is written in the Scriptures. Remember, the book of Exodus is not the source of the stories of our slavery and exodus from Egypt. This comes from our own history. Every nation in the ancient world had its gods, and we attributed our redemption from slavery to our God, just as any other nation or tribe would have done. In some ways the stories of my ancestors are merely typical of what you will find by examining any ancient history of any ancient peoples.

    To conclude, like The Miracle Worker, our Scriptures are not pure fiction or merely mythologies borrowed from other nations of the ancient world around us (though some of what you find is fiction and some of it is borrowed). There are reasons for this.

    The reason some of you reading this might find a lot of this surprising or hard to grasp or even accept is because of your exposure to the Jehovah's Witnesses. For them the Bible is a source of revelation from God. As such, the Bible must be the guide for all religion. If it is to be this guide, then its words must be true, and that truth must be fact. If they are not, then any religion based solely on the Bible can't ever be right.

    Judaism has never based its beliefs solely on the Bible. We wrote the Bible. It came a long time after the events therein. And we didn't write the things down in order to have a guide for our religious beliefs and doctrines. If you were an ancient nation, you had religious beliefs and doctrines already. From what we believed came the Scriptures and not the other way around.

    This may be fascinating, but at the same time it is also upsetting. Being so obsessed with the Bible should have made the Witnesses and their Governing Body equally obsessed with learning the facts behind the Book they believe to be the ultimate source of revelation from God. If they wanted to know what it meant, they should have at least considered the Jewish view first. Where they have done this in a few places, to a large extent this still has not happened. What I am writing here is not new, but some of you who have spent years studying the Bible as one of Jehovah's Witnesses are just learning of these things for the first time. In my opinion, you should have learned it to begin with. If the Bible is so vital to the Jehovah's Witnesses, none of this I have written should come as a surprise. No one, not even the one who composed the OP should have a question for me.

    You don't have to be Jewish to know the Jewish perspective. And you can't understand the Scriptures correctly (even the New Testament) without having a grasp of that perspective to begin with. The idea that this is not the starting place or even any part of the Bible education of Jehovah's Witnesses is, for lack of a better word, sad. Even the Catholic, Orthodox, and mainstream Protestant study Bibles are filled with accurate information about the Jewish perspective (maybe not as deep, but it's there).

    So that's it. I finished sooner that I expected. Feel free to ask any further question on the subjects presented. I will try to get back to each as soon as I can. Just remember, if you are seeking to discuss religion with me or even try to get me to consider your religious views on Jesus or the like, I don't think that is appropriate. Nobody comes here to get preached at, and I am not looking to make people into Jews either.

    Hopefully now your eyes are a little more open to how blind and deaf you had been due to the failure of the Watchtower religion to teach people about the Scriptures of the Children of Abraham, the nation of Israel, the Jews.

  • John_Mann

    Spiritual soul can be viewed as being responsible for giving Qualia to humans. Even hard atheists( like Dennett who advocates consciousness does not exists) say that they recognise something more than just materialistic processes in their minds. Dennett speaks about this characteristic as the Zombic Hunch.

    By definition is impossible to humans create the spiritual soul (neshamah/psyche) that gives humans the capability to be conscious.

    Catholicism has a very simple explanation of soul and defines only 3 (vegetative, animal and spiritual) and one "appendix" of the spiritual soul (psyche) called pneuma (translated as "spirit of man" and can be viewed as the "center of intentions" of psyche).

    Spirit in Catholicism have two meanings: one is the concept of pneuma (spirit of man) and the other is regarding the substance which souls are made contrasting to material substance (like the vegetative and animal souls. Both mortal).

    Catholicism says the two mortal souls came to existence by natural means (evolution) and in Homo Sapiens the animal soul reached a very high functional level able to receive the spiritual soul (psyche). Adam and Eve were the first couple to receive this spiritual soul (in a very recent point in history). God creates every single psyche in Adam's offspring. Being a direct creation of God every psyche is perfect and immortal and can't be annihilated. Psyche has no parts so it cannot be decomposed, therefore is immortal. Pneuma is just a salience in psyche like a handle of a mug and functions like an "antenna". Pneuma is responsible for the spiritual communication between other beings.

    Psyche cannot be annihilated but can fall to perdition and it is like a living death (second death). The eternal destiny of soul (soteriology) is the main concern to Catholicism.

    Tell me more about the concepts of soul in Judaism. I know Jews defines 5 souls in humans. David, do you think is possible to humans emulate or even create in artificial intelligence something like the naturalistic soul (nephesh habehamit or the human anima)?

  • David_Jay


    Actually the idea of the "five-facet" soul is more an aspect of Jewish mysticism and Chassidic thought. Jewish ideas regarding the soul as an immaterial, immortal aspect of humans belongs to the realm of Jewish philosophy and late Hebrew theological speculation. The immediacy of this concept held by some Jews (definitely not all) cannot be made directly from Scripture.

    As such it is out of the realm of the purpose of this thread, which is to offer a Jewish perspective on the "Old Testament." While Chassidic teachers often saw the various words in Hebrew as indicative of five separate facets of the soul, this idea is by no means universal to Judaism.

    If you are interested in learning more from the source, you need to look up Chabad, an Orthodox Hassidic movement. Chabad has a unique outreach program and various websites and programs to introduce people to Jewish Hassidic thougnt.

  • John_Mann

    Thank you! I'll take a look.

  • tor1500

    Hi David_Jay,

    I'm back....Even though I'm a witness, I agree with all that you wrote. As you said, JW's want to follow the bible but they should have done their research first..What I see is that they tailored the bible to fit them...just to be set-apart from other religions...I really love your break-down...I'll never be the same. The Society is about control. They want to control your life, if you allow them. Because they know best what God wants...

    The Jews challenged God, & guess what? He let them. I can't remember the bible character, but God was going to get rid of all the Jews but Moses or was it Abraham, said, don't do that, why free them then kill them. Now JW's always say God never changes his mind, but in this case he did...come to think of it many times he changed his mind...JW's say God didn't change his mind but....I forget what they say, but hog wash...We are made in his image, so we change our mind & so does God.

    I'm not sure what I'm going to do in the future, this JW thing is chocking me...The child abuse thing & other things. It's overwhelming..but I never thought it was God's org. I think I could be & do some much in God's service but being a witness is stifling. I want to walk away but made some good friends, but I know they won't be my friend if I leave...that's ok....just got to get up enough nerve, not to fear man....but I don't want to be DF'd either....I think I'm speaking for many on this site...You are an eye opener...

    Keep up the good work, hope this is not the last of you.


  • David_Jay


    It's not the last of me. I know what it is like to be a Jehovah's Witness. I was one myself for about a decade. I also know what it is like to leave everything and everyone behind.

    But I didn't leave because of any of their false doctrines or failures. My aunt was raising me during my teen years, and she was one of Jehovah's Witnesses and that is how I got mixed up with them. I had no idea I was Jewish at the time (nor why Hebrew came so naturally to me whenever the language came up in Watchtower publications--I grew up speaking a rare Jewish language called "Ladino" which is based on Hebrew). But once I learned who I was and that I got baptized while still having connections to Judaism and even the State of Israel, I made the decision to leave. I told no one, but I began preparing to leave with a set date, prepared a place for me in the real world, learned what I needed to in order to return to my people, and left exactly as I planned without looking back. One day I was a ministerial servant and regular pioneer giving a talk from the platform, the next day I had moved out of the flat I shared with my best JW friend who was like a brother to me.

    No one came after me once they learned why I left. No one talked to me or looked me in the face if I ever passed them on the street. And they spread vicious rumors about why I left after I was gone and chose to believe these instead of the truth.

    But I didn't leave because of anything bad they did or taught or because I predicted this horrible behavior of theirs (I knew they would handle it the way they did). No, I left because I am an honest person...or at least try to be. I also strive to be a man of honor.

    It has been said that in a certain way Jews don't have "beliefs" in the same way Christians do. For Jews it is not believing in a creed with a faith free of doubt that matters. For Jews it is how you live your life day to day. To me it doesn't matter what creed you make claim to, even if you hold on to Watchtower theology. What matters is how you live your life.

    It is not honest to stay in a group you are not really a part of, especially if they expect you to adhere to a creed with belief above and beyond reason. It isn't honest to them or to you, especially you, because these people won't love you unless you adhere to their creed with some static notion of belief.

    The way Jews see it, living honestly is more righteous than believing in things with all your heart but living a lie. It's what you do that matters because the world is effected by your actions. True, your convictions are where things start, but many people fail to live up to their creed of choice when put the test. So what you say you believe and what you put faith in while all is peaceful is not really a good measure of what you really are when the time calls for courageous action.

    Easier said than done, I know, and of course I can't really tell you what to do or judge you for staying or leaving. But you don't have to believe in God to be godly. As a Jewish proverb states: "Pray as if everything depends on God, but act as if everything depends on you." When good people don't do what is good, what is right, what is honest, God disappears. God isn't there in a person's claim to faith in God. God is there when you do (not just believe in) something good. An atheist can therefore be the greatest example of God sometimes this way while a theist can be the worst. Whatever you do, may it be more than static belief in something good, may it be doing something good.

  • Vidiot

    I have to say, after reading everything David's written on this forum, if I were religiously inclined, I'd find Judaism (or at least, the kind of Judaism he's discussing) kind of appealing.

  • tor1500

    Hi David_Jay,

    You mirror my thoughts..."The way Jews see it, living honestly is more righteous than believing in things with all your heart but living a lie. It's what you do that matters because the world is effected by your actions...What matters is how you live your life.

    Yes, this is what I believe...I kind of fell into being a witness...they say don't stand by the hole to close or too just may fall's what happened to me...I know what I'm into...I'm not blinded, so that's what makes me feel some type of freedom. I've learned so much from you & you make me feel that in my heart I got it...not the way the witnesses have it but the way God would like me to be, not a bunch of rules and regulations...Just be nice to folks, help when and where you can. Try to be a good person, & every day try to wake up to be a better person than you were the day before.

    I find most other folks from other religions are nice folks...witnesses are a special breed of people that is attracted to this religion, haven't put my finger on it yet. So far, most of them are sickly, whiners, don't want to work & very judgmental. Oh yes, inbred...this is just to name a few. I once listened to this TV pastor, he said...back when their was leprosy they put folks together because they all had the same he brought it up to date...he said..What man can't cure they colonize...that's how I feel about witnesses...too long to go into details...but I feel he is right...I know you know what I mean.

    I don't think this is the right place for me....but in time ...we shall see...again, thanks for being on this forum, I think you are a breath of fresh air...


  • deegee

    Thanks for your response to my OP David_Jay.

    Though I'm not sure if my questions were answered.... least not directly.

    I'm wondering if the Jews back in the day would have given the same explanations which you and other contemporary Jews give regarding the OT scriptures? It seems to me that Judaism is in a constant state of evolution, reinterpretation and rationalization IN HIND SIGHT.

    I'm wondering why God didn't instruct the OT Bible writers to just write what really happened instead of having them write accounts which are just exaggerations and not literal.

    I can't imagine, for example, that back in the day when scientific knowledge was limited, that what the OT writers wrote regarding science and cosmology was not taken to be literal:

    There are several statements in the OT that are not accurate and authentic to this day, eg.

    - the earth is described as flat (Isaiah 11:12; Job 38:13; Jeremiah 16:19; Daniel 4:11; Matthew 4:8; Revelation 7:1),

    - the earth is described as stationary (Psalms 93:1; 104:5; 96:10);

    - the earth has a foundation and is resting on/held up by pillars - i.e., the earth is fixed:
    1Samuel 2:8, Job 38:4, Proverbs 8:29, Micah 6:2, Jeremiah 31:37, Job 26:11; Psalm 104:3

    - the earth is covered by a vault (dome) in which is fixed the stars and windows to let down rain (Genesis 7:11).

    - the sun moves back and forth across the sky Ecclesiastes 1:5, (and can be stopped if necessary - Joshua's battle at Jericho)

    - that the moon is a source of light,

    - that daylight does not emanate from the sun itself,

    - that the boundaries of the oceans are fixed ( think beach erosion),

    - that water in the sky is suspended above a giant curtain (firmament),

    - Genesis implies a flat earth with a sky dome holding back the waters of heaven, while windows are in place there to let rain in, while the land itself and the sky dome are held up by pillars. This is the sort of cosmogony that the ancient Babylonians had

    - Biblical cosmology portrays a three tier universe (the heavens, earth, and the underworld).

    - There are two contradictory stories of the Creation of the earth and the heavens in the book of Genesis, written either by different authors or an author drawing on different sources. In chapter 2:4-24, which is probably the oldest version of the story:
    * creation takes place in the space of one day,
    * man was made before any plants and animals
    * and woman was made later after animals failed as suitable companions/helpers for man.

    However, in chapter 1:
    * creation occurs over six days,
    * with plants, fish, birds, and animals created before man and woman,
    * who were created at the same time,
    * the plants were created before the sun - how did plants survive without sunlight?

    Archaeology indicates an older age for mankind than that indicated by the account of Adam & Eve.
    Archaeology has proven that death existed before Adam & Eve.

    - Isaiah 11: The wolf and lamb lying down together, the predator and prey system abolished. “They will not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain”.

    Can wolves, leopards and lambs actually dwell/lie down together?
    Or if the calf and the young lion and the fatling can actually dwell/lie down together?
    Can a little child safely lead wolves, leopards, and young lions?
    Can wolves and lambs actually feed together, and lions eat straw like the bullock? Can carnivores become herbivores?

    Imagine the scenario if all the carnivores/predators are transformed to herbivores and there is no more food chain: death would only be as a result of aging. With no more food chain, there would now be the potential risk of an out-of-control animal population.

    I can't imagine that the foregoing writings weren't taken to be literal back in the day but in light of modern scientific evidence and proven knowledge the Jews have changed their viewpoint to conform to scientific reality and decided that these writings were not literal, but this no doubt results in distorting the original language and meaning.


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