(Fwd) Re: Atonement Vs. Redemption

Kirk Lowery Kirk at leningradensis.org
Sat Aug 18 23:17:58 EDT 2001

On 18 Aug 2001, at 20:58, Shoshanna Walker wrote:

> I agree, and respect you
> But how can you discuss such concepts, stripped of their religious
> meanings?  They don't mean anything as mere words with no theological
> background - indeed the entire Torah can also not be studied stripped of
> the theological teachings it was brought into the world to teach. 
> Shoshanna

A fair question that deserves an answer. But the answer is not a short one!

The problem we face in our forum is that we come together to discuss texts
with wildly varying views of the world--what we allow to be possible and
what we do not allow to be possible. Some members of this list believe that
God is, and has spoken. Others do not. Some have an emotionally detached
perspective of the Hebrew Bible, others have strong feelings attached to
their understanding of the text. These world views and perspectives
inevitably collide and cause interpersonal friction when we discuss the
text together.

But we who have become members of this forum believe that it is 
worthwhile, nevertheless, to discuss the text and allow those differences
to help us to look at the familiar text with different eyes, and perhaps
discover new and even better understanding of what the text means. If one
believes that one can study the text from only a (choose one: 
Jewish/Christian/Muslim/Academic/Atheist/Scientific) perspective, that
person will not find a uniform perspective here on B-Hebrew. Indeed, there
are Internet discussion forums which have as their focus just one religious
perspective and the interpretation of the text proceeds from those
"confessional" presuppositions.

Long experience and many "flame wars" on this forum have taught us that
there are a few practical rules that--if followed--allow for discussion
that is interesting and useful to everyone. Here they are:

1. We allow everyone the dignity to be who they are. We don't try to 
change their fundamental beliefs on this forum. 

2. Matters of religious "dogma" are beyond this forum's limits. According
to our webpage: "Debate that forces particular faith or doctrinal
perspectives onto a reading of the text is not appropriate subject matter
for this forum." (When the discussion turned to the subject "Was the New
Testament written by God?", it went beyond the limits, which is the
specific cause for my recommendation that we halt that line of discussion.
Up until that point, the discussion was entirely within the limits of our

3. When there is disagreement and strong, contentious debate, members will
refrain from personal attacks. Members will assume--in our posts, at least-
-that everyone is motivated by the best of intentions and that if offence
is given, it is unintentional. Always give the benefit of the doubt.

4. Always keep in mind that the other person simply may not be aware of
what is offensive to you or your religious faith, simply because they never
interact with your group--except on B-Hebrew.

On our forum's webpage, <http://www.ibiblio.org/bhebrew/>, we have other
suggestions we recommend that members follow.

We (the co-chairs) agree with you that religious texts like the Hebrew
Bible have their own theology and religious contexts which affect how we
interpret them. But what those religious contexts and theology are, is
sometimes a matter of great debate among our diverse membership. It is then
that we must read b-hebrew messages by infering what perspective that
individual has and take that into account.

Perhaps I was too pre-emptive in calling for a halt of the thread. I was
concerned that matters not get out of control and become a flame-fest.
Continue, if you like, with the discussion of the meanings of the words
"atonement" and "redemption" as the Hebrew Bible uses them. If someone
makes an occasional comment that comes from outside a Jewish context, we
can indulge them and pass over it, can we not?


B-Hebrew co-chair

Kirk E. Lowery, Ph.D.                         <klowery at wts.edu>
Associate Director, Westminster Hebrew Institute
General Editor, Project "eL", The XML Leningrad Codex
Chair, Computer Assisted Research Group, Society of Biblical Literature

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