Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Biblical Morality

B.Spinoza asks whether we can we still gain moral instruction and inspiration from the Torah?

Well inspiration probably yes. Moral instruction probably not. I am not saying that the Torah has not been an important catalyst in the evolution of morality. I am sure it has, but the question is whether a person living in the 21 century should look to The Bible for moral guidance?

I do not really see much in The Bible that can teach a modern person how to live their lives. Morality in modern societies is far more developed than the Torah's morality. The Torah's morality in many places is rather crude, and typical of ancient societies. Chazal themselves had many a problem with the unsophisticated nature of biblical morality. Chazal quite rightly decided that 'an eye for an eye' is uncivilized and tried to convince us that the Torah had never meant to say that.

I think that we must divorce ourselves from our attitude towards Biblical morality. The Bible must not be our moral yardstick. Many things in The Bible are absolutely immoral (slavery, genocide of Ammoliek), and the morality that exists in The Bible is rather crude and unsophisticated.


At 3:59 PM, Blogger The Jewish Freak said...

I am just as sceptical as the next apikores, but I don't know if I agree with your view of biblical morality. We are a product of our times, and it is not easy to distance ourselves enough from our 21st century culture to accurately and objectively investigate biblical morality. - JF

At 5:22 PM, Blogger Hayim said...

As the central text of our cultural identity, the Bible remains the focus point of all morality queries.

Ancient verses are re-interpreted to fit our newfound conceptions. To give a simple example, God's declaration to Eve : "and he shall rule over you" used to be understood as an ontological affirmation of man's superiority, whereas today it is taken in a more egalitarian way, as a curse to be overcome (similar to "beze'at apecha tochal lechem").

Whether this is a projection in the text or a discovery of a new layer of depth is an interesting academic question, but my point is that the Bible is still very relevant.


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