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Taryn Mattice

Thanks Patrick, more food for thought!

Patrick S. O'Donnell


It's rather presumptuous to speak for all atheists, as one of the foremost philosophers on the subject, J.J.C. Smart, is quite respectful of theist positions and thus, by implication, religious literature: http://www.amazon.com/Atheism-Theism-Great-Debates-Philosophy/dp/0631232591/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1319153419&sr=1-1

Moreover, IF one understands Buddhists to be "atheists," they too show respect for these "hoary documents."


We atheists have long ago gotten over "respect" for religion of any kind, much less their hoary documents.

Patrick S. O'Donnell

Having read the aforementioned article, I think we are not that far apart after all. She is arguing that Christians be allowed to refer to the "Old Testament" in the context of their churches and herself uses "Tanakh" to refer to the Hebrew Bible for Jews (incidentally, the point about the original language of the scriptures not being in Hebrew is rather beside the point insofar as the Jews are often called 'Hebrews'). In public fora, non-Jews using the term Tanakh would not negate the meaning of the Old Testament for Christians, while using "Old Testament" (where 'old' does not connote 'bad' but rather 'past' tense, something superseded in some measure by what is 'new') does imply "transcendence" (in an Hegelian sense, in which that which is 'negated' includes incorporation into something larger, greater, newer, etc.). The "Old Testament apocrypha" is a Christian problem, not a Jewish one.

I don't share her faith that the "educational" endeavor she refers to can be separated from the "labelling," as words do matter and many if not most of my Christian students are surprised that Jews don't refer to Tanakh as the Old Testament!

Patrick S. O'Donnell

Thanks Taryn, I'll have look at this.

When I teach my students about Judaism, I insist they refer to the "Hebrew Bible," and when we come to Christianity, they're of course free to refer to the "Old Testament." When individuals speak as Christians, I assume they'll refer to the Old Testament. And although I can imagine attempts at justification by "convention," I don't think it should be linguistically or communicatively normative, as it privileges an intra-traditional and contested conception of the characterization of (the meaning of) religious texts.

Taryn Mattice

This made perfect sense to me until I read Amy-Jill Levine (who is herself Jewish, but teaches New Testament at Vanderbilt) make a case for the traditional "Old" and "New" Testaments.

From her book, "The Misunderstood Jew:

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