Your God is brutal

sprtslvr1973

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This has been brought up before. But, the fact is many atheists and antitheists accurately quote passages of the OT when they reference brutality played upon the enemies of Israel. Genocide, slavery and rape are but some of the acts recorded and apparently demanded and remembered as good things. Is Alla really worse than God? Mohamed worse than Moses who demanded massacre and enslaving of the Midianites?
This has caused a minor crisis and challenge for me.
 

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sprtslvr1973 said:
This has been brought up before. But, the fact is many atheists and antitheists accurately quote passages of the OT when they reference brutality played upon the enemies of Israel. Genocide, slavery and rape are but some of the acts recorded and apparently demanded and remembered as good things. Is Alla really worse than God? Mohamed worse than Moses who demanded massacre and enslaving of the Midianites?
This has caused a minor crisis and challenge for me.
1. Christians have the mind of Christ, not atheists and antithesis. So I would not ever say they do anything accurately when it comes to scripture. They might be able to quote it, but this does not mean they quote it or exegete it in its proper context.
2. Anyone can take a passage of scripture and take it out of its context and try to make it mean just about anything. This is a battle the church has fought for 2 millennia. It is the reason we hold to sacred tradition, the context in which the fathers and bishops help us to know scripture in light of its correct context.
3. When Muslims speak of Allah, they do not speak of a triune God. Christians, when we speak of God, understand him in the light of the Trinity. God is not mocked and he is not compared to another deity.
4. God called Moses His friend. I am not aware of a historical context in which Mohammed enjoyed such a title from God. The scripture is replete with the attributes of Moses and his humility. At the same time, because of his disobedience God did not allow Moses to enter into the promised land. God is a just and fair God. What will it solve to compare Moses and Mohammed in light of that reality? 
5. At the end of the day, atheist and antitheists, are not alone as being among those groups of people who look to where the scripture records violence and other such acts as excuses to accuse God or refuse the revelation of Jesus Christ. However, they have no excuse where scripture testifies that God has held out an out stretched hand of mercy desiring all to repent and for none to perish. I don't know of anyone who thinks of Genocide, slavery or rape as a "good thing." Did these things happen? Tragically yes then and because of a fallen world in which we still live, these horrors remain with us today. 
 

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When the Universal Church met and compiled the Holy Bible ~( we gathered and decided what writings would be included ) several Hebrew books and records were found worthy to be included (not everyone agreed ~  it is often said the Holy Bible was inspired by God ~ that does not mean or follow that every thing the Hebrew did that they recorded, and said the God told them to do ~ Well, it doesn't mean that God actually told them to do these things ~ The Books of Numbers give account of things ~ we don't know that the accountant who wrote down the tally never made and error or lied ~ one writing says the God told them to go to a place and kill everyone and kill all the animals as well ~ are we sure it was God ~ we have to talk about that ```

What we call the New Testament ~ some call the Christian Bible ```
 

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The Lord gave the ancient Israelis some instructions to drive out the nations before them.  In Deuteronomy He gave different instructions for the rules of war.  When He made a personal visit 2,000 years ago, He gave us different instructions.  These days our wars are against principalities, powers, and etc.  We can use the sword for justice, but it is not up to us to use the sword for forced conversions.  If the atheists do not like that, they can explain it to the Lord when we all appear before Him.
 

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Luke said:
The Lord gave the ancient Israelis some instructions to drive out the nations before them.  In Deuteronomy He gave different instructions for the rules of war.  When He made a personal visit 2,000 years ago, He gave us different instructions.  These days our wars are against principalities, powers, and etc.  We can use the sword for justice, but it is not up to us to use the sword for forced conversions.  If the atheists do not like that, they can explain it to the Lord when we all appear before Him.
The phrase "the sanctity of human life" is often employed in opposition to abortion/euthanasia by Christians.  From an Christian perspective why is human life sacred?
 
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I think the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 indicates why our lives are sacred. It is used to explain why we are to love God & neighbor.
 

copticorthodoxboy

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recent convert said:
I think the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 indicates why our lives are sacred. It is used to explain why we are to love God & neighbor.
Yes I agree.  I've struggled with this question myself so much so that I no longer practice my faith.
The arguments I've heard to justify the genocide throughout the Old Testament aren't convincing (to me).  The Christian teaching of the sanctity of human life is rooted in the belief that we are uniquely created in the image and likeness of God and due to this each individual is uniquely loved and cherished by God.
The Commandments teach that "thou shall not murder" and to "love God and your neighbor as yourself."  I've had friends argue that the genocide of the Canaanites isn't really "murder" due to "reasons."  For God to command his people to break the very laws he commanded above ("thou shall not murder" and to "love God and your neighbor as yourself") is logically inconsistent.

sprtslvr1973 said:
This has been brought up before. But, the fact is many atheists and antitheists accurately quote passages of the OT when they reference brutality played upon the enemies of Israel. Genocide, slavery and rape are but some of the acts recorded and apparently demanded and remembered as good things. Is Alla really worse than God? Mohamed worse than Moses who demanded massacre and enslaving of the Midianites?
This has caused a minor crisis and challenge for me.
Secular Biblical scholars are of the opinion that the early books of the Old Testament were written centuries after the events took place, likely around the time of King Solomon.  I'm not sure if it is compatible with Orthodox teaching but I'd like to believe that although the writings of the Old Testament were inspired some of the details are ahistorical (for example, archeologists argue that the walls around Jericho were partially destroyed prior to the Biblical story and Jericho has mostly already been abandoned; also the Canaanites weren't completely destroyed and relocated north of Canaan and are known as the Phoenicians) and that God didn't command the slaughter of innocent men, women and children (violating ethics of the sanctity of human life laid down by the Christian God). 
 

Dominika

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sprtslvr1973 said:
This has been brought up before. But, the fact is many atheists and antitheists accurately quote passages of the OT when they reference brutality played upon the enemies of Israel. Genocide, slavery and rape are but some of the acts recorded and apparently demanded and remembered as good things. Is Alla really worse than God? Mohamed worse than Moses who demanded massacre and enslaving of the Midianites?
This has caused a minor crisis and challenge for me.
I changed the title of the topic; such profanity toward God is not permited. You got 50% for this.
Dominika, Global Moderator
 

Alpha60

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coptic orthodox boy said:
recent convert said:
I think the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 indicates why our lives are sacred. It is used to explain why we are to love God & neighbor.
Yes I agree.  I've struggled with this question myself so much so that I no longer practice my faith.
The arguments I've heard to justify the genocide throughout the Old Testament aren't convincing (to me).  The Christian teaching of the sanctity of human life is rooted in the belief that we are uniquely created in the image and likeness of God and due to this each individual is uniquely loved and cherished by God.
The Commandments teach that "thou shall not murder" and to "love God and your neighbor as yourself."  I've had friends argue that the genocide of the Canaanites isn't really "murder" due to "reasons."  For God to command his people to break the very laws he commanded above ("thou shall not murder" and to "love God and your neighbor as yourself") is logically inconsistent.

sprtslvr1973 said:
This has been brought up before. But, the fact is many atheists and antitheists accurately quote passages of the OT when they reference brutality played upon the enemies of Israel. Genocide, slavery and rape are but some of the acts recorded and apparently demanded and remembered as good things. Is Alla really worse than God? Mohamed worse than Moses who demanded massacre and enslaving of the Midianites?
This has caused a minor crisis and challenge for me.
Secular Biblical scholars are of the opinion that the early books of the Old Testament were written centuries after the events took place, likely around the time of King Solomon.  I'm not sure if it is compatible with Orthodox teaching but I'd like to believe that although the writings of the Old Testament were inspired some of the details are ahistorical (for example, archeologists argue that the walls around Jericho were partially destroyed prior to the Biblical story and Jericho has mostly already been abandoned; also the Canaanites weren't completely destroyed and relocated north of Canaan and are known as the Phoenicians) and that God didn't command the slaughter of innocent men, women and children (violating ethics of the sanctity of human life laid down by the Christian God).
There is a mistake all of you are making, especially you, Coptic Boy, and that is reading the Old Testament using the Antiochene literal-historical method, rather than the Alexandrian method, where the Old Testament is seen as spiritual allegory and above all else, Christological prophecy.

Let us take one of the most controversial of the “Imprecatory Psalms” as an example, Super Flumina, better known as By the Rivers of Babylon, Psalm 137 in the Jordanville Psalter (which is the Coverdale Psalter corrected against the Septuagint by the monks at Holy Trinity).

Psalm 136. Super flumina. David’s, by Jeremiah. BY the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and we wept, when we remembered Zion. 2 Upon the willows in the midst thereof did we hang our harps. 3 For there they that had taken us captive asked us for the words of a song, and they that led us away for a melody, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. 4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? 5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten. 6 Let my tongue cleave to the back of my throat, if I remember thee not, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy. 7 Remember the children of Edom, O Lord, in the day of Jerusalem, how they said, Down with it, down with it, even to the foundation thereof. 8 O daughter of Babylon, thou cursed one, blessed shall he be that shall do unto thee, as thou hast done unto us. 9 Blessed is he that shall seize and dash thine infants against a rock.
Now, liberal Christians, and even misguided chaps who were otherwise relatively saintly, like John Wesley, who introduced the idea of salvation through Theosis to the Protestant West, freaked out over this, and some versions of the Book of Common Prayer, and its successors, I have heard, omit verses 8 and 9.  But this is a stupid concession to theological liberalism that stems from a fallacious reading of this verse using the Antiochene literal-historical form of exegesis and criticism, which just does not cut it.  If we read this psalm in a historical, literal, Antiochene way, we might erroneously suppose that this Psalm was written by Jews who were furious about the Babylonians taking them captive and forcing them into exile, who are fantasizing about revenge.  And read this way, John Wesley and more recent scholars would have a point in calling for it to be excised or modified.

But that is not what it means.

If we read this Psalm using Alexandrian exegesis, everything makes sense from a Christian standpoint.  Zion is paradise, from which our forefathers were expelled due to the Fall, due to sin.  Babylon represents the world, wordliness, and sinfulness, a “strange land” in which we cannot sing the Lord’s song, because we are surrounded by that which is unholy and wrong.  The captors are not the literal Mesopotamian armies of King Nebuchadnezzar, a tragic figure at one point referred to by St. Daniel as having been Lucifer, but rather, are those in service to the devil.  The daughter of Babylon is sin and death, and He who shall defeat her in verse 8, and destroy her offspring in verse 9, is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  And the little ones in question are not Mesopotamian children, but rather the demons, and the demonic passions, and those enthralled to them, passions we can overcome and defeat, and dash against a rock, with the help of our Lord.
 

Alpha60

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Indeed, we find more confirmation of this in the commentary in the Orthodox Study Bible:

“Ps 136 was sung in exile in the Old Testament, while Israel was in captivity in Babylon. In the Church, it is prayed by the Christian community as being in exile in this world.”


Excerpt From
The Orthodox Study Bible
St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology
This material may be protected by copyright.
So the moral of this story is really threefold:

1. Do not blindly use Antiochene Literal-Historical exegesis of the sort favored by Calvinist Fundamentalists, but rather use the Alexandrian Christological system of typological prophecy and spiritual allegory, most of the time.  The only valuable Antiochene exegesis was composed by Theodore of Mopsuestia and is associated heavily with Nestorianism; even Theodore’s best friend St. John Chrysostom, who was also of Antioch, inclined towards Alexandrian interpretation where appropriate.

2. Do not start reading the Bible in Genesis 1.  Start with the Gospels and move out.  And everything must be interpreted in the light of the Gospels.  In the conclusion of the Gospel of St. Luke, the books are opened by our Lord, and the eleven remaining disciples for the first time understand the Old Testament: it is speaking of Him, our savior and redeemer.  The historical-literal interpretation relied on by the Jews simply deflates into irrelevance in the light of the Gospel, which requires us to radically re-evaluate even apparently straightforward books like Joshua or Esther.

3. Do not read the Bible outside of, or apart from, the Church.  The Bible was compiled by the Church, for the Church, which is why you should be using a translation of the Septuagint, the Vulgate or the Peshitta as far as the Old Testament is concerned, or a corrected version of an MT translation like the Jordanville Psalter, because the Masoretic text usually obscures Christological readings (except in the case of Psalm 1:12).  And you should be reading Scripture under the instruction of your priest, or following the lectionary of the church, or otherwise in a protected ecclesiastical context, with commentaries which follow an Orthodox exegesis.
 

WPM

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sprtslvr1973 said:
This has been brought up before. But, the fact is many atheists and antitheists accurately quote passages of the OT when they reference brutality played upon the enemies of Israel. Genocide, slavery and rape are but some of the acts recorded and apparently demanded and remembered as good things. Is Alla really worse than God? Mohamed worse than Moses who demanded massacre and enslaving of the Midianites?
This has caused a minor crisis and challenge for me.
Everyone should take several years to properly answer questions.
 
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Does the Alexandrian school consider the Epistle of Barnabas as useful?
 

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Hm... Actually, when you start reading the Bible from Genesis, you slowly but surely start keeping God's side.

From the very begining - it's the people who are disloyal to God. In Exodus and further - Lord several times reminds His peple "If you decide to follow me, you will be given a choice: life or death. If you do as I ask, you'll live happily under my care and protection. Follow your evil ways and you'll face death."

And people always keep complaining, keep being disloyal, treacherous, eager for evil. Even when they finally enter the Promised Land, they soon start planting holy woods, offering children as sacrifice to foreign gods, and so on, and so forth...

 

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Zephyr7 said:
Hm... Actually, when you start reading the Bible from Genesis, you slowly but surely start keeping God's side.

From the very begining - it's the people who are disloyal to God. In Exodus and further - Lord several times reminds His peple "If you decide to follow me, you will be given a choice: life or death. If you do as I ask, you'll live happily under my care and protection. Follow your evil ways and you'll face death."

And people always keep complaining, keep being disloyal, treacherous, eager for evil. Even when they finally enter the Promised Land, they soon start planting holy woods, offering children as sacrifice to foreign gods, and so on, and so forth...
This is true, but it could lead to pride or misanthropy if done incautiously.  The Orthodox Churches in their liturgy, to my knowledge, never use lectio continua for the Old Testament, but rather link Old Testament prophecies, read at Vespers in the Byzantine Rite, and also in various Lenten services, to the salvation and renewal of mankind God condescended to provide through His incarnation; so an Old Testament prophecy is linked to an epistle and a Gospel, collectively describing the economy of salvation.

The repetitive nature of humans towards turning back towards sin is an obvious lesson in the Old Testament, and indeed, it is neatly condensed in several of the Psalms and in Ecclesiastes.  The miracle of salvation and glorification through the incarnation of God Himself as the Messiah, in which the only begotten son and word of God, Jesus Christ, became incarnate and was carried and born of the Virgin Mary, and taught on the Earth, and was crucified, died, resurrected, and ascended into Heaven, has the effect of radically redefining the Old Testament, which the Apostles found at the end of Luke, when Christ opened the scriptures, and it became evident that all of them attested to Him.  And these Christological references can be incredibly clear and incredibly poignant, for example, the Song of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah, or indeed Isaiah generally, or the incident with the three children in the Furnace, which is of such Christological importance that it used to be commonly re-enacted as a special liturgical play in the Byzantine Rite, particularly in the cathedrals, in the years before Turkocratia (and fortunately, Dr. Alexander Lingas has reconstructed this most edifying liturgy, and Capella Romana sings it with the monks of St. Catharine’s Monastery in Sinai, in their recording Frontier of Byzantium.

So we can take a Pharisaical-Antiochene approach and read the Old Testament as the depressing history of Israel repeatedly sinning and falling away from God, which is human nature, and then we might well crowd into a synagogue on Yom Kippur and lament the tragedy of our weaknesses.  Or we can take an Alexandrian Christian approach and see in the Old Testament where God is continually intervening to save his people, even when their sins have gotten them into insane amounts of trouble, and we can see the clear prophecy of the Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection of our Lord.

In the Holy Saturday Vesperal Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite, and in the old Tridentine Rite Easter Vigil Mass before Pope Pius XII ruined it in the 1950s, which you might find in a Western Rite parish, this is emphasized particularly brilliantly with the reading of a large number of Old Testament prophecies, twelve in the Roman Rite and 13-18 or so in the Byzantine Rite, which clearly foretell the life, passion and resurrection of our Savior, followed by, in the Byzantine Rite, the promise of salvation through baptism in Romans 6, and the resurrection account of Matthew 28, which includes the Great Commission in verse 19.  This owes to this having been a baptismal liturgy, with the baptisms, if memory serves, being performed during the vesperal portion of the service, while the Old Testament prophecy is read.  The Roman Rite follows a similar course, with a spiritual exhortation for the newly baptized (Colossians 3:1-4) followed by the resurrection account in Matthew 28.  It should ne noted these lections were probably at one time longer; the Roman Rite preference for brevity later combined with the lack of a vernacular lectionary to cause the lessons to be pruned back to the minimum required to convey the message, but in the case of the Easter Vigils mass, the lections brilliantly align with their lengthier Byzantine Rite counterparts.

I encourage anyone who doubts the benefits of a Christocentric reading of the Old Testament to go here, to Bombaxo.org’s lectionary collection, and read the Greek Orthodox lectionary for Holy Saturday, and the Roman Rite lectionary for the same: http://www.bombaxo.com/biblical-stuff/lectionaries/modern-easter-lectionaries/the-greek-orthodox-lectionary/

This excellent website, if memory serves, is run by a pious Orthodox chap, and contains very useful resources, particularly with regards to the lectionary snd its historical development.
 

Alpha60

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recent convert said:
Does the Alexandrian school consider the Epistle of Barnabas as useful?
Some might, but I have no idea where that psuedepigraphical epistle came from, and I think most would agree that it takes allegory way too far, for example, in its wacky interpretations of Kosher dietary restrictions (in which the ban on eating pork refers to greed and gluttony, and that on eating weasal, sexual immorality).  I have no idea where the author came up with this...interpretation, but in the grand scheme of things there is no point for the average Christian layman to waste time with this particularly silly apocrypha. 

But it might well be fair to say this epistle, dated to the second century, represents an excessively aliteral approach, which is something quite rare compared to the glut of hyper-literal interpretations.
 
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I wonder why Christianity seems to be held under the microscope for the Old Testament more so than Judaism. Even if someone does not believe in the divinity of Christ, I would think that He would be perceived as reformer of the Law in which I think His preaching was actually incorporated into Judaism ethically. Whether this was conscious, unconscious, intentional or not I do not know but I think the Gospel still influenced later Judaism.

I also think God’s Revelation to man to the Jews is affected by an ancient mindset trying to understand as best as possible while struggling for survival in war or experiencing natural hardships. Regardless, the moral code of the Law ( Matthew 19:16-19, Romans 13:8-10 etc.) is unchanging. The Lord said if we are to love Him, we will keep the commandments ( John 14:15-18) which is the impulse behind the sending of the Holy Spirit.
 

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Alpha60 said:
But that is not what it means.

If we read this Psalm using Alexandrian exegesis, everything makes sense from a Christian standpoint.
Thank you for mentioning this. I didn't know the name of the exegesis but when I learned about the Orthodox interpretation of these difficult passages, it was a huge factor in my conversion.
 

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The good thing is that the Pentateuch and Jesus Navi are purely legendary or mythological so no genocide actually took place regardless of what revenge fantasies the inspired writers entertained.
 

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Alpha60 said:
coptic orthodox boy said:
recent convert said:
I think the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 indicates why our lives are sacred. It is used to explain why we are to love God & neighbor.
Yes I agree.  I've struggled with this question myself so much so that I no longer practice my faith.
The arguments I've heard to justify the genocide throughout the Old Testament aren't convincing (to me).  The Christian teaching of the sanctity of human life is rooted in the belief that we are uniquely created in the image and likeness of God and due to this each individual is uniquely loved and cherished by God.
The Commandments teach that "thou shall not murder" and to "love God and your neighbor as yourself."  I've had friends argue that the genocide of the Canaanites isn't really "murder" due to "reasons."  For God to command his people to break the very laws he commanded above ("thou shall not murder" and to "love God and your neighbor as yourself") is logically inconsistent.

sprtslvr1973 said:
This has been brought up before. But, the fact is many atheists and antitheists accurately quote passages of the OT when they reference brutality played upon the enemies of Israel. Genocide, slavery and rape are but some of the acts recorded and apparently demanded and remembered as good things. Is Alla really worse than God? Mohamed worse than Moses who demanded massacre and enslaving of the Midianites?
This has caused a minor crisis and challenge for me.
Secular Biblical scholars are of the opinion that the early books of the Old Testament were written centuries after the events took place, likely around the time of King Solomon.  I'm not sure if it is compatible with Orthodox teaching but I'd like to believe that although the writings of the Old Testament were inspired some of the details are ahistorical (for example, archeologists argue that the walls around Jericho were partially destroyed prior to the Biblical story and Jericho has mostly already been abandoned; also the Canaanites weren't completely destroyed and relocated north of Canaan and are known as the Phoenicians) and that God didn't command the slaughter of innocent men, women and children (violating ethics of the sanctity of human life laid down by the Christian God).
There is a mistake all of you are making, especially you, Coptic Boy, and that is reading the Old Testament using the Antiochene literal-historical method, rather than the Alexandrian method, where the Old Testament is seen as spiritual allegory and above all else, Christological prophecy.

Let us take one of the most controversial of the “Imprecatory Psalms” as an example, Super Flumina, better known as By the Rivers of Babylon, Psalm 137 in the Jordanville Psalter (which is the Coverdale Psalter corrected against the Septuagint by the monks at Holy Trinity).
Alpha, I'm familiar with the Alexandrian methodology of interpreting scripture.  While struggling with this very topic myself I used this method to justify certain passages/events in the Jewish scriptures.  For poetical passages I think it is easier to use this method than say the (supposedly) historical events that took place.

Alpha, do you believe God commanded Joshua to slaughter the Canaanites (in a literal and historical sense)?  Do you believe God commanded King Saul to slaughter all the Amalekites and was later punished by God for sparing the life of King Agag (in a literal and historical sense)?  If not, how do you use the Alexandrian methodology for those events without a "poetic flavor" in the Old Testament?  If so, how do you justify the Christian concept of the sanctity of human life based on all humans being created in the likeness and image of God?

P.S. Not an attack btw; I've been grappling with this issue for about 15 years now.
 

copticorthodoxboy

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recent convert said:
I wonder why Christianity seems to be held under the microscope for the Old Testament more so than Judaism. Even if someone does not believe in the divinity of Christ, I would think that He would be perceived as reformer of the Law in which I think His preaching was actually incorporated into Judaism ethically. Whether this was conscious, unconscious, intentional or not I do not know but I think the Gospel still influenced later Judaism.
I've pondered this question as well (also extending it to Islam).  I think a possible answer to the question is that both Christianity and Islam seek to prosthelytize while Judaism is more insular in nature. 
 

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coptic orthodox boy said:
Alpha60 said:
coptic orthodox boy said:
recent convert said:
I think the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 indicates why our lives are sacred. It is used to explain why we are to love God & neighbor.
Yes I agree.  I've struggled with this question myself so much so that I no longer practice my faith.
The arguments I've heard to justify the genocide throughout the Old Testament aren't convincing (to me).  The Christian teaching of the sanctity of human life is rooted in the belief that we are uniquely created in the image and likeness of God and due to this each individual is uniquely loved and cherished by God.
The Commandments teach that "thou shall not murder" and to "love God and your neighbor as yourself."  I've had friends argue that the genocide of the Canaanites isn't really "murder" due to "reasons."  For God to command his people to break the very laws he commanded above ("thou shall not murder" and to "love God and your neighbor as yourself") is logically inconsistent.

sprtslvr1973 said:
This has been brought up before. But, the fact is many atheists and antitheists accurately quote passages of the OT when they reference brutality played upon the enemies of Israel. Genocide, slavery and rape are but some of the acts recorded and apparently demanded and remembered as good things. Is Alla really worse than God? Mohamed worse than Moses who demanded massacre and enslaving of the Midianites?
This has caused a minor crisis and challenge for me.
Secular Biblical scholars are of the opinion that the early books of the Old Testament were written centuries after the events took place, likely around the time of King Solomon.  I'm not sure if it is compatible with Orthodox teaching but I'd like to believe that although the writings of the Old Testament were inspired some of the details are ahistorical (for example, archeologists argue that the walls around Jericho were partially destroyed prior to the Biblical story and Jericho has mostly already been abandoned; also the Canaanites weren't completely destroyed and relocated north of Canaan and are known as the Phoenicians) and that God didn't command the slaughter of innocent men, women and children (violating ethics of the sanctity of human life laid down by the Christian God).
There is a mistake all of you are making, especially you, Coptic Boy, and that is reading the Old Testament using the Antiochene literal-historical method, rather than the Alexandrian method, where the Old Testament is seen as spiritual allegory and above all else, Christological prophecy.

Let us take one of the most controversial of the “Imprecatory Psalms” as an example, Super Flumina, better known as By the Rivers of Babylon, Psalm 137 in the Jordanville Psalter (which is the Coverdale Psalter corrected against the Septuagint by the monks at Holy Trinity).
Alpha, I'm familiar with the Alexandrian methodology of interpreting scripture.  While struggling with this very topic myself I used this method to justify certain passages/events in the Jewish scriptures.  For poetical passages I think it is easier to use this method than say the (supposedly) historical events that took place.

Alpha, do you believe God commanded Joshua to slaughter the Canaanites (in a literal and historical sense)?  Do you believe God commanded King Saul to slaughter all the Amalekites and was later punished by God for sparing the life of King Agag (in a literal and historical sense)?  If not, how do you use the Alexandrian methodology for those events without a "poetic flavor" in the Old Testament?  If so, how do you justify the Christian concept of the sanctity of human life based on all humans being created in the likeness and image of God?

P.S. Not an attack btw; I've been grappling with this issue for about 15 years now.
I wasn’t there and I don’t know if it literally happened; some aspects of Joshua, such as the sun standing still in the sky, are physical impossibilities, but God can work miracles.

But let us look at this from another perspective.  Joshua shares a name with Jesus (Joshua means “Jah saves” as does “Yeshua”, the Hebraic form which was rendered into Jesus, Isho, Isa, and other spellings in the different languages of the apostolic church (note that we have no certain knowledge of how this word was pronounced, other than it likely had the full set of seven Aramaic vowells rather than the five vowells of the West Syriac dialects like Turoyo or Mlahso, so people who go around calling our Lord “Yes-shoe-ah”, who tend to be members of “messianic synagogues” and who think they have rediscovered “Aramaic Christianity”, while ignoring the Syriac Orthodox, Assyrian, Antiochian, Indian Orthodox, Maronite and Chaldean churches which in the Holy Land are, in the case of the Syriac Orthodox church, literally right in front of them, frustrate me greatly).  That aside, Joshua shares a name with our Lord, and is clearly a typological representative of Christ, in a manner similar to Melchizedek, also a type of Christ, or Moses and Noah for that matter.  People acting as types of Christ in the Old Testament are not uncommon; they are a major theme of the book, and indeed Orthodox soteriology, based on theosis, has us attain glorification by ourselves striving in humility, aided by tje grace of the Holy Spirit, to be like Christ. 

Now, understanding Joshua as a type of Christ, we can see in the Canaanites a type of the demons vanquished by Christ, and also a type of the pagans and heretics, and lastly, a type of the passions themselves; evils in the world which can only be defeated if we have faith in God to save us, expressed through prayer and the mysteries of the church.  In the Jewish religion, the blowing of the shofar was a sacramental act, one could argue, in the same way that our ringing of church bells or jse of holy water could be considered a sacramental (not a sacrament per se, not one of the seven mysteries, but rather one of the additional types of blessing ceremony, like the Great Blessing of Waters, or the Exaltation of the Cross, of the sort one will find in a Byzantine Rite Euchologion*).  And through the faith of the people, the sun was stopped in the sky, and through the blowing of trumpets, presumably, of the shofar variety, a sacramental, the walls of Jericho, the city of sin and evil, collapse, and the faithful are victorious.  So this clearly maps both to the ministry of Christ and to eschatology; Jericho might represent the corrupt world, led by antichrist, which will be defeated at the end of time.

Now, what about an Antiochene-literal exegesis?  Well, we know the Canaanites were not actually exterminated, because they appear later in the Old Testament, and if memory serves are also mentioned in the New Testament.  One also has to consider the Harrowing of Hell; it is an Orthodox belief** that those who died before the passion of our Lord were not inextricably damned, but rather, our Lord ministered to them and offered them an escape, which is why we have icons of Hades with empty shackles and chains, the people trapped therein having been saved by our Lord.  This is not to say that everyone who died before the passion of our Lord was saved automatically, but rather, that the passion of our Lord being a timeless act, and His mercy infinite, those who lived before him were not foreordained to destruction.  So all deaths mentioned in the Old Testament have to be qualified in this manner.

And the law of the Old Testament must further be qualified by Galatians 3:19 - 4:7, which, in summary, implies that humanity was in a state of infancy in the Old Testament, hence the strictures of the law, and, presumably things such as the conquest of Canaan; these bonds having been loosed through the passion of our Lord which brought about a more mature existence for humanity.

So, even from the deprecated perspective of Antiochene historical-literal interpretation, there is nothing to fret about regarding the Canaanites.  The exegesis you are worried about is not relevant to Christianity in the slightest, and is frankly primarily used by Atheists and neo-Marcionist Gnostic heretics.  It is not the way the Church reads that passage.  St. Vincent of Lerins and St. Hilary of Poitiers, the great Latin saints of the fourth and fifth century, teach us that scripture is in the interpretation, and not the text.  This is why I say one can read the Bible superficially forwards, from cover to cover, while actually reading it backwards, by forming opinions about God and Israel outside of the Gospel, rather than starting and ending with Christ and following the interpretation of the Church.  Scripture was compiled by and for the church, and the atheists and liberals who attempt to deconstruct it,  are engaging in a ludicrous, Quixotic gesture. 

So, again, if we read the Bible backwards, that is, from the law forward, God will appear brutal and capricious, but if we read it in the correct direction, the extreme loving kindness of God becomes apparent when we begin and end our reading of scripture with the incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ.  God is love, and Christ is God incarnate, and all actions taken by God were taken out of love, for our benefit, and this becomes ever more obvious if you move from the Gospels back into the Old Testament and read them according to the correct Alexandrian mode, keeping Christ in the forefront.

But before you even do this, I think you could really enjoy a return to the basics.  The false theology of liberals and atheists is a toxic distortion, which distracts us from the parts of the Bible which really matter.  So I think there are two things you should do: firstly, and most importantly, review with your priest any passages which are troubling you, and if he can’t answer your questions satisfactorily or doesn’t know the answers, talk to a better priest.  The Coptic Church is blessed with extremely good priests; I am of the opinion the Coptic Church is blessed with the best preachers of any Orthodox jurisdiction.  You can also find extremely good resources among the members here on OCNet, for example, Fr. Peter Farrington is a Coptic priest, in the Metropolis of Great Britain, who is also probably the foremost expert in Christology, anywhere in the world.  This very forum is moderated by a brilliant Master of Divinity from St. Vladimir’s.  The owner of the forum and the chief moderator are trained priests; we also had an extremely talented priest, serb1389, but he managed to get swamped with the duties of the priesthood as his ecclesiastical responsibilities increased, but we still frequently are visited by brilliant Orthodox clergy like Fr. Andrew S. Damick and Fr. John Whiteford, with some regularity.  So it is in my view critical you talk to a priest about your concerns; hopefully your parish priest or the priest of a nearby parish can sit down with you and address them in detail.

  This is crucial, because without understanding what the Church thinks about passages that trouble you, you might just fret about them and risk being conquered by atheists, at least until you master the skill serb1389 taught me of apatheia.  I, for example, don’t care about the Antiochene interpretation of Joshua.  This is not because I am uncaring or insensitive to violence, but rather I know of the Alexandrian mode, and I have reached a point where the paradoxes and dilemmas that arise when people outside the church attempt to use Antiochene literal exegesis in order to attack us no lomger bother me, because I have come to understand that the reasoning they are predicated upon is hopelessly flawed, and therefore, these attempted criticisms of the Christian faith are worthless and entirely without merit.  But I think it is probably a healthy sign that someone at your age is asking questions, and if you approach this correctly, and seek to find one or more great tutors in the Christian faith, it will be a great blessing for you spiritually and in all other respects.

Secondly, once you have found a priest, I recommend you discuss with him the following: that you restart your reading of the scripture, by reading and praying the hours of the Agpeya as you are able, concentrating on the Gospel lessons and taking stock of all the Psalms.  Because in the Agpeya, we find the perfect connection between the Holy Gospel and the Old Testament, in the forms of the Psalms, so that, thanks to the litanies and other prayers, the Christological connections can become evident.  This is true of all prayerbooks, so if you are familiar with the Agpeya to the point you might find that uninteresting, you might consider using the Syriac Orthodox Shimo, or a Byzantine prayerbook, free versions of which are available on the Net.  I particularly like the Agpeya because of its repetition of a set of Gospel lessons and the grouping of Psalms with those lessons, while still following the theme for each hour, but there is other material out there as well you could benefit from.  And from that kernel, you might nranch out and read the Coptic lectionary: the Annual and Khiak Psalmody, and the scripture lessons and Synaxarion for each day of the week***.  These lessons are the ones which your church, which I love and have spemt much time attending, has deemed the most important for the understanding of the faith, which is why they are appointed to be read in Church.  And this lectionary, and the liturgies that go with it, in some cases trace back to the fourth century or older.

We know that the basic Coptic liturgy, as found in the modern Divine Liturgy of St. Cyril (I say modern, I mean, 5th century), is the oldest liturgy attested, with the second century Muratorian fragment and the fourth century Euchologion of St. Serapion containing versions of it.  So what better place than to find the scripture that truly matters, that should guide your interpretation of the rest of Scripture, than in the lessons assigned to accompamy the ancient liturgy of the Coptic Church, which predates the US, the discovery of the Americas, the fall of the Roman Empire, and the rise of Islam?  These are prayers Christians were drawing strength from when Romans were seizing them and feeding them to lions in the arenas, and forcing them under pain of death to sacrifice to the false pagan gods. 

I suggest in absorbing all of this, to foster an attitude of grateful acceptance that quashes worldly cynicism, which is misguided and inapplicable to our religious scriptures, you might follow in my footsteps and form a devotion for the ultimate Coptic Orthodox Boy, St. Abanoub, who received a crown of martyrdom for his unflinching faith in the divine love of our Lord, who protects all his children, even in the case of St. Abanoub, one who is just 12 years old, and also do not neglect the memory of the Virgin Mary, whose trust in God is absolute and whose intercessions are a great help for us, as we seek to discern from the Holy Spirit the truth of things. 

And again, to reiterate, be sure to review everything I have suggested herein with your chosen priest, as he may want you to pursue an alternative course, and its his job to know what the best course is for people to take.  I am simply outlining, in this second recommendation, what worked for me, the process by which I came to be in a state of peace with Orthodox theology (as there were things that troubled me also, for example, I was terrified of the idea of eternity, as I misunderstood it, and also I was troubled by the thought of what happens to Christians outside the church, and here, I was greatly aided by doing something akin to what I just suggested for you).  But the precise course of action should be tailored by your priest based on your current knowledge, time constraints, and all other factors, which it is his sacred charisma to know and understand.  The bottom line is you just want something: a prayer rule and a rule for reading scripture, so you can reboot your faith and clear out the corruption created by the intentionally false and misleading psuedo-Antiochene hyper-literal exegesis that is oit there, promulgated by enemies of the church in order to ne a stumbling block for the faithful.

* The Coptic Euchologion only contains the Divine Liturgies and supplemental material; one can download it free over the Net.  I do not know what the precise Coptic equivalent is to the Byzantine Euchologion, known in Church Slavonic as the Trebnik, or Book of Needs.  The Byzantine equivalent to the Coptic Euchologion is called a Liturgikon, or Sluzhbenik (priest’s service book).
** I believe we can assert based on the Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom, related hymnody, and iconography, that the Harrowing of Hell qualifies as an actual dogma of the Orthodox Church, although I have not confirmed this in either Orthodox Dogmatic Theology or from a Coptic perspective, in related OO materials, and with regards to doctrinal questions, there is controversy surrounding some of the works of Pope Shenouda III, Memory Eternal, as opposed to his uncontroversial work on human sexuality and spiritual calmness, which is particularly excellent and follows the grand tradition of Egyptian monastic thought.
*** You can obtain this material in the Coptic Reader app; the base app is free, and includes an Agpeya; I think the daily lectionary portions are also free, but I am not sure, however, the Psalmody does cost a small amount.  But the Coptic Reader is completely worth it, because for less than US $40, you can acquire the text for the vast majority of Coptic Rite liturgical services, in English and Arabic.  Regarding other prayer books, the Orthodox Study Bible, and so on, much of this material is available online, much of it is for free, and if you PM I would be happy to help you find it.

God bless you, coptic orthodox boy.  I will be praying for you on your journey of faith.
 

iohanne

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My brothers, the debate between the Alexandrian and Antiochene schools frustrates me even further.  Why would God cause to exist a Divine Scripture that is so difficult to interpret?  An atheist friend once asked me, as I was trying to explain a way of looking at Scripture that was not based on the sola scriptura lens, why God couldn't be said to have failed when he intended to reveal Himself and His will in a set of canonical Scriptures? 

For example, why are there so many schisms in Protestantism about the interpretation of the Bible?  And why can't the schisms among those Churches claiming sacraments and apostolic succession be solved by simply turning to the Bible to see what is written? 

And also, And why does it seem to be a Scripture that seems to not have at all transcended the particular sins of the society of its writers, using such language of genocide and infanticide, etc.? 

Or, if all Scripture speaks of Christ, why does He seem so hidden in the OT?  I believe He is there, and I personally see him spoken of plainly, but I think about all our different churches' interpretations of the OT as they're laid out in the liturgies and in the fathers, and I imagine myself having a hard time trying to explain it all to a Jew.  Half the time, I would feel as if I was reaching to find something that wasn't there. 

Such a Scripture, from the first sceptical glance seems suspicious to me.  It hardly seems to work at all if what one would think a Scripture is intended to do:  reveal God, His Person, His will, His love, His beauty, etc.  Why should God be revealed in the language of war, when most of Christian societies have come to desire our ploughshares?

Please forgive me if I have expressed any of such doubts or concerns in a way that would seem hateful or insulting towards God.  I mean it these questions in an enquiring sense only, because they are regular matters brought up in honest discussions with non-believers.   
 

copticorthodoxboy

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Alpha60 said:
coptic orthodox boy said:
Alpha60 said:
coptic orthodox boy said:
recent convert said:
I think the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 indicates why our lives are sacred. It is used to explain why we are to love God & neighbor.
Yes I agree.  I've struggled with this question myself so much so that I no longer practice my faith.
The arguments I've heard to justify the genocide throughout the Old Testament aren't convincing (to me).  The Christian teaching of the sanctity of human life is rooted in the belief that we are uniquely created in the image and likeness of God and due to this each individual is uniquely loved and cherished by God.
The Commandments teach that "thou shall not murder" and to "love God and your neighbor as yourself."  I've had friends argue that the genocide of the Canaanites isn't really "murder" due to "reasons."  For God to command his people to break the very laws he commanded above ("thou shall not murder" and to "love God and your neighbor as yourself") is logically inconsistent.

sprtslvr1973 said:
This has been brought up before. But, the fact is many atheists and antitheists accurately quote passages of the OT when they reference brutality played upon the enemies of Israel. Genocide, slavery and rape are but some of the acts recorded and apparently demanded and remembered as good things. Is Alla really worse than God? Mohamed worse than Moses who demanded massacre and enslaving of the Midianites?
This has caused a minor crisis and challenge for me.
Secular Biblical scholars are of the opinion that the early books of the Old Testament were written centuries after the events took place, likely around the time of King Solomon.  I'm not sure if it is compatible with Orthodox teaching but I'd like to believe that although the writings of the Old Testament were inspired some of the details are ahistorical (for example, archeologists argue that the walls around Jericho were partially destroyed prior to the Biblical story and Jericho has mostly already been abandoned; also the Canaanites weren't completely destroyed and relocated north of Canaan and are known as the Phoenicians) and that God didn't command the slaughter of innocent men, women and children (violating ethics of the sanctity of human life laid down by the Christian God).
There is a mistake all of you are making, especially you, Coptic Boy, and that is reading the Old Testament using the Antiochene literal-historical method, rather than the Alexandrian method, where the Old Testament is seen as spiritual allegory and above all else, Christological prophecy.

Let us take one of the most controversial of the “Imprecatory Psalms” as an example, Super Flumina, better known as By the Rivers of Babylon, Psalm 137 in the Jordanville Psalter (which is the Coverdale Psalter corrected against the Septuagint by the monks at Holy Trinity).
Alpha, I'm familiar with the Alexandrian methodology of interpreting scripture.  While struggling with this very topic myself I used this method to justify certain passages/events in the Jewish scriptures.  For poetical passages I think it is easier to use this method than say the (supposedly) historical events that took place.

Alpha, do you believe God commanded Joshua to slaughter the Canaanites (in a literal and historical sense)?  Do you believe God commanded King Saul to slaughter all the Amalekites and was later punished by God for sparing the life of King Agag (in a literal and historical sense)?  If not, how do you use the Alexandrian methodology for those events without a "poetic flavor" in the Old Testament?  If so, how do you justify the Christian concept of the sanctity of human life based on all humans being created in the likeness and image of God?

P.S. Not an attack btw; I've been grappling with this issue for about 15 years now.
I wasn’t there and I don’t know if it literally happened; some aspects of Joshua, such as the sun standing still in the sky, are physical impossibilities, but God can work miracles.

But let us look at this from another perspective.  Joshua shares a name with Jesus (Joshua means “Jah saves” as does “Yeshua”, the Hebraic form which was rendered into Jesus, Isho, Isa, and other spellings in the different languages of the apostolic church (note that we have no certain knowledge of how this word was pronounced, other than it likely had the full set of seven Aramaic vowells rather than the five vowells of the West Syriac dialects like Turoyo or Mlahso, so people who go around calling our Lord “Yes-shoe-ah”, who tend to be members of “messianic synagogues” and who think they have rediscovered “Aramaic Christianity”, while ignoring the Syriac Orthodox, Assyrian, Antiochian, Indian Orthodox, Maronite and Chaldean churches which in the Holy Land are, in the case of the Syriac Orthodox church, literally right in front of them, frustrate me greatly).  That aside, Joshua shares a name with our Lord, and is clearly a typological representative of Christ, in a manner similar to Melchizedek, also a type of Christ, or Moses and Noah for that matter.  People acting as types of Christ in the Old Testament are not uncommon; they are a major theme of the book, and indeed Orthodox soteriology, based on theosis, has us attain glorification by ourselves striving in humility, aided by tje grace of the Holy Spirit, to be like Christ. 

Now, understanding Joshua as a type of Christ, we can see in the Canaanites a type of the demons vanquished by Christ, and also a type of the pagans and heretics, and lastly, a type of the passions themselves; evils in the world which can only be defeated if we have faith in God to save us, expressed through prayer and the mysteries of the church.  In the Jewish religion, the blowing of the shofar was a sacramental act, one could argue, in the same way that our ringing of church bells or jse of holy water could be considered a sacramental (not a sacrament per se, not one of the seven mysteries, but rather one of the additional types of blessing ceremony, like the Great Blessing of Waters, or the Exaltation of the Cross, of the sort one will find in a Byzantine Rite Euchologion*).  And through the faith of the people, the sun was stopped in the sky, and through the blowing of trumpets, presumably, of the shofar variety, a sacramental, the walls of Jericho, the city of sin and evil, collapse, and the faithful are victorious.  So this clearly maps both to the ministry of Christ and to eschatology; Jericho might represent the corrupt world, led by antichrist, which will be defeated at the end of time.

Now, what about an Antiochene-literal exegesis?  Well, we know the Canaanites were not actually exterminated, because they appear later in the Old Testament, and if memory serves are also mentioned in the New Testament.  One also has to consider the Harrowing of Hell; it is an Orthodox belief** that those who died before the passion of our Lord were not inextricably damned, but rather, our Lord ministered to them and offered them an escape, which is why we have icons of Hades with empty shackles and chains, the people trapped therein having been saved by our Lord.  This is not to say that everyone who died before the passion of our Lord was saved automatically, but rather, that the passion of our Lord being a timeless act, and His mercy infinite, those who lived before him were not foreordained to destruction.  So all deaths mentioned in the Old Testament have to be qualified in this manner.

And the law of the Old Testament must further be qualified by Galatians 3:19 - 4:7, which, in summary, implies that humanity was in a state of infancy in the Old Testament, hence the strictures of the law, and, presumably things such as the conquest of Canaan; these bonds having been loosed through the passion of our Lord which brought about a more mature existence for humanity.

So, even from the deprecated perspective of Antiochene historical-literal interpretation, there is nothing to fret about regarding the Canaanites.  The exegesis you are worried about is not relevant to Christianity in the slightest, and is frankly primarily used by Atheists and neo-Marcionist Gnostic heretics.  It is not the way the Church reads that passage.  St. Vincent of Lerins and St. Hilary of Poitiers, the great Latin saints of the fourth and fifth century, teach us that scripture is in the interpretation, and not the text.  This is why I say one can read the Bible superficially forwards, from cover to cover, while actually reading it backwards, by forming opinions about God and Israel outside of the Gospel, rather than starting and ending with Christ and following the interpretation of the Church.  Scripture was compiled by and for the church, and the atheists and liberals who attempt to deconstruct it,  are engaging in a ludicrous, Quixotic gesture. 

So, again, if we read the Bible backwards, that is, from the law forward, God will appear brutal and capricious, but if we read it in the correct direction, the extreme loving kindness of God becomes apparent when we begin and end our reading of scripture with the incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ.  God is love, and Christ is God incarnate, and all actions taken by God were taken out of love, for our benefit, and this becomes ever more obvious if you move from the Gospels back into the Old Testament and read them according to the correct Alexandrian mode, keeping Christ in the forefront.

But before you even do this, I think you could really enjoy a return to the basics.  The false theology of liberals and atheists is a toxic distortion, which distracts us from the parts of the Bible which really matter.  So I think there are two things you should do: firstly, and most importantly, review with your priest any passages which are troubling you, and if he can’t answer your questions satisfactorily or doesn’t know the answers, talk to a better priest.  The Coptic Church is blessed with extremely good priests; I am of the opinion the Coptic Church is blessed with the best preachers of any Orthodox jurisdiction.  You can also find extremely good resources among the members here on OCNet, for example, Fr. Peter Farrington is a Coptic priest, in the Metropolis of Great Britain, who is also probably the foremost expert in Christology, anywhere in the world.  This very forum is moderated by a brilliant Master of Divinity from St. Vladimir’s.  The owner of the forum and the chief moderator are trained priests; we also had an extremely talented priest, serb1389, but he managed to get swamped with the duties of the priesthood as his ecclesiastical responsibilities increased, but we still frequently are visited by brilliant Orthodox clergy like Fr. Andrew S. Damick and Fr. John Whiteford, with some regularity.  So it is in my view critical you talk to a priest about your concerns; hopefully your parish priest or the priest of a nearby parish can sit down with you and address them in detail.

  This is crucial, because without understanding what the Church thinks about passages that trouble you, you might just fret about them and risk being conquered by atheists, at least until you master the skill serb1389 taught me of apatheia.  I, for example, don’t care about the Antiochene interpretation of Joshua.  This is not because I am uncaring or insensitive to violence, but rather I know of the Alexandrian mode, and I have reached a point where the paradoxes and dilemmas that arise when people outside the church attempt to use Antiochene literal exegesis in order to attack us no lomger bother me, because I have come to understand that the reasoning they are predicated upon is hopelessly flawed, and therefore, these attempted criticisms of the Christian faith are worthless and entirely without merit.  But I think it is probably a healthy sign that someone at your age is asking questions, and if you approach this correctly, and seek to find one or more great tutors in the Christian faith, it will be a great blessing for you spiritually and in all other respects.

Secondly, once you have found a priest, I recommend you discuss with him the following: that you restart your reading of the scripture, by reading and praying the hours of the Agpeya as you are able, concentrating on the Gospel lessons and taking stock of all the Psalms.  Because in the Agpeya, we find the perfect connection between the Holy Gospel and the Old Testament, in the forms of the Psalms, so that, thanks to the litanies and other prayers, the Christological connections can become evident.  This is true of all prayerbooks, so if you are familiar with the Agpeya to the point you might find that uninteresting, you might consider using the Syriac Orthodox Shimo, or a Byzantine prayerbook, free versions of which are available on the Net.  I particularly like the Agpeya because of its repetition of a set of Gospel lessons and the grouping of Psalms with those lessons, while still following the theme for each hour, but there is other material out there as well you could benefit from.  And from that kernel, you might nranch out and read the Coptic lectionary: the Annual and Khiak Psalmody, and the scripture lessons and Synaxarion for each day of the week***.  These lessons are the ones which your church, which I love and have spemt much time attending, has deemed the most important for the understanding of the faith, which is why they are appointed to be read in Church.  And this lectionary, and the liturgies that go with it, in some cases trace back to the fourth century or older.

We know that the basic Coptic liturgy, as found in the modern Divine Liturgy of St. Cyril (I say modern, I mean, 5th century), is the oldest liturgy attested, with the second century Muratorian fragment and the fourth century Euchologion of St. Serapion containing versions of it.  So what better place than to find the scripture that truly matters, that should guide your interpretation of the rest of Scripture, than in the lessons assigned to accompamy the ancient liturgy of the Coptic Church, which predates the US, the discovery of the Americas, the fall of the Roman Empire, and the rise of Islam?  These are prayers Christians were drawing strength from when Romans were seizing them and feeding them to lions in the arenas, and forcing them under pain of death to sacrifice to the false pagan gods. 

I suggest in absorbing all of this, to foster an attitude of grateful acceptance that quashes worldly cynicism, which is misguided and inapplicable to our religious scriptures, you might follow in my footsteps and form a devotion for the ultimate Coptic Orthodox Boy, St. Abanoub, who received a crown of martyrdom for his unflinching faith in the divine love of our Lord, who protects all his children, even in the case of St. Abanoub, one who is just 12 years old, and also do not neglect the memory of the Virgin Mary, whose trust in God is absolute and whose intercessions are a great help for us, as we seek to discern from the Holy Spirit the truth of things. 

And again, to reiterate, be sure to review everything I have suggested herein with your chosen priest, as he may want you to pursue an alternative course, and its his job to know what the best course is for people to take.  I am simply outlining, in this second recommendation, what worked for me, the process by which I came to be in a state of peace with Orthodox theology (as there were things that troubled me also, for example, I was terrified of the idea of eternity, as I misunderstood it, and also I was troubled by the thought of what happens to Christians outside the church, and here, I was greatly aided by doing something akin to what I just suggested for you).  But the precise course of action should be tailored by your priest based on your current knowledge, time constraints, and all other factors, which it is his sacred charisma to know and understand.  The bottom line is you just want something: a prayer rule and a rule for reading scripture, so you can reboot your faith and clear out the corruption created by the intentionally false and misleading psuedo-Antiochene hyper-literal exegesis that is oit there, promulgated by enemies of the church in order to ne a stumbling block for the faithful.

* The Coptic Euchologion only contains the Divine Liturgies and supplemental material; one can download it free over the Net.  I do not know what the precise Coptic equivalent is to the Byzantine Euchologion, known in Church Slavonic as the Trebnik, or Book of Needs.  The Byzantine equivalent to the Coptic Euchologion is called a Liturgikon, or Sluzhbenik (priest’s service book).
** I believe we can assert based on the Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom, related hymnody, and iconography, that the Harrowing of Hell qualifies as an actual dogma of the Orthodox Church, although I have not confirmed this in either Orthodox Dogmatic Theology or from a Coptic perspective, in related OO materials, and with regards to doctrinal questions, there is controversy surrounding some of the works of Pope Shenouda III, Memory Eternal, as opposed to his uncontroversial work on human sexuality and spiritual calmness, which is particularly excellent and follows the grand tradition of Egyptian monastic thought.
*** You can obtain this material in the Coptic Reader app; the base app is free, and includes an Agpeya; I think the daily lectionary portions are also free, but I am not sure, however, the Psalmody does cost a small amount.  But the Coptic Reader is completely worth it, because for less than US $40, you can acquire the text for the vast majority of Coptic Rite liturgical services, in English and Arabic.  Regarding other prayer books, the Orthodox Study Bible, and so on, much of this material is available online, much of it is for free, and if you PM I would be happy to help you find it.

God bless you, coptic orthodox boy.  I will be praying for you on your journey of faith.
Alpha,

Thank you for your response.  I've only browsed it; if I feel there is something to respond to after a more thorough reading I will.
More about myself: I was born into a Methodist family, became a Catholic at 15 and was looking into a few Franciscan communities before leaving for Orthodoxy at the age of 18.  While a Catholic I had a deep prayer life (Eucharistic adoration daily, daily mass during the summer, rosary a few times throughout the day, etc). 
I was received into the Coptic church when I was 18 but was attending and communing at both the local Coptic and Carpatho-Russian church (a local, though not very vocal, agreement was reached by the two bishops) and left theism in disgust maybe around 20. 
Anyways I'm currently living in Shanghai (though will be moving to Beijing next month for work) so I don't have access to an Orthodox priest at this time.  I've tried to pray a few times since losing my faith but, for example, every time I prayed "thy will be done" in the Lord's Prayer it felt dishonest.     
 

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iohanne said:
My brothers, the debate between the Alexandrian and Antiochene schools frustrates me even further.  Why would God cause to exist a Divine Scripture that is so difficult to interpret?  An atheist friend once asked me, as I was trying to explain a way of looking at Scripture that was not based on the sola scriptura lens, why God couldn't be said to have failed when he intended to reveal Himself and His will in a set of canonical Scriptures? 

For example, why are there so many schisms in Protestantism about the interpretation of the Bible?  And why can't the schisms among those Churches claiming sacraments and apostolic succession be solved by simply turning to the Bible to see what is written? 

And also, And why does it seem to be a Scripture that seems to not have at all transcended the particular sins of the society of its writers, using such language of genocide and infanticide, etc.? 

Or, if all Scripture speaks of Christ, why does He seem so hidden in the OT?  I believe He is there, and I personally see him spoken of plainly, but I think about all our different churches' interpretations of the OT as they're laid out in the liturgies and in the fathers, and I imagine myself having a hard time trying to explain it all to a Jew.  Half the time, I would feel as if I was reaching to find something that wasn't there. 

Such a Scripture, from the first sceptical glance seems suspicious to me.  It hardly seems to work at all if what one would think a Scripture is intended to do:  reveal God, His Person, His will, His love, His beauty, etc.  Why should God be revealed in the language of war, when most of Christian societies have come to desire our ploughshares?

Please forgive me if I have expressed any of such doubts or concerns in a way that would seem hateful or insulting towards God.  I mean it these questions in an enquiring sense only, because they are regular matters brought up in honest discussions with non-believers. 
God explained Himself perfectly, but gave humans free will.  As a result, humans can chose to reject Christ and His Church, and they can also, owing to some misunderstanding and an element of vanity, succumb to demonic influence and promulgate heresies and heretical interpretations.  This starts in the New Testament: Jesus warned us about it, and Simon Magus, Cerinthus and Nicolas the Deacon (as in the Nicolaitans) did it, and so did the Judaizers.  St. John’s epistles, Gospel and Apocalypse largely address the former, the earliest Gnostic heretics, and his disciples St. Ignatius the Martyr, St. Polycarp, St. Justin Martyr, and especially St. Irenaeus, in “Against Knowledge (Gnosis) So Falsely Called,” the first part of Against Heresies, continued that struggle.  Meanwhile, St. Paul, St. Luke and St. Peter focused their attention on the Judaizing heretics, through St. Peter’s support of gentile conversion, St. Paul preaching to the gentiles, and St. Luke writing a history of the Acts of the Apostles as a follow-on to his Gospel narrative.  St. James attacked anomianism, the idea that Christians, freed from the law, were devoid of moral obligations if they had salvific knowledge, basically, doctrines similar to those of Martin Luther, which resulted in his attempt to exclude that epistle, doctrines which have only really surfaced in modern liberal Lutheranism, manifesting as the moral restraint and traditions of the Northern European cultures in which that religion took hold lost a grip on their traditional moral values, and other Lutheran theologians of greater piety and moral restraint than Martin Luther, who did not, for example, agree with Luther that Christians were probably free to practice polygamy: we see this anomialism in the Nicolaitan Gnostic sect, which practiced sacramental wife-swapping, and other Gnostic sects, which had sexual rituals; the deeds of the Borborites as recorded by St. Epiphanius of Salamis were so filthy I dare not repeat them here, but consider, their name meant “mud people” and in ancient times, they were despised to the point where strangers in Syria on encountering them in the ancient Syrian equivalent of a restaurant, would not share a bowl with them (something ordinarily done and considered polite and normal in that time and place).

The teachings of the Church are extremely simple, and Scripture as expounded by the Church is extremely simple.  Even Antiochene interpretation, by the way, is legitimately used to some extent, and can be used piously; the Orthodox interpretation of the Old Testament consists of an Alexandrian typological-prophetical interpretation layered atop an Antiochene historical-prophetical interpretation, but in both cases, the focus is Christo-centric.  Theodore of Mopsuestia and St. John Chrysostom used Antiochene expositions of scripture in a way that worked and made sense from the perspective of Christian doctrine.  The danger I have alluded to is from a hyper-literal Antiochene/Sola Scriptura type interpretation that results when one reads the Bible from Genesis to the Apocalypse, lectio continua, without starting from the Gospel of the Incarnate Word of God and without relying on the Church to provide guidance.  But a pious Antiochene reading of a book like Esther (the version found in the Septuagint), provides an example of the Jews being saved through prayer and the love of God, from an evil member of the court of Esther’s husband, Emperor Xerxes.  So we have this important salvation history, which I expect is literally true, and the same applies to books such as Daniel, Chronicles, Kings, Nehemiah, and so on.  But this reading is still Christocentric; one must read Christ into the text, which we know is correct based on the conclusion of the Gospel of Luke, and if we pursue the spiritual allegories and typological prophecies of Christ which are the real point of the Old Testament, we find an Alexandrian patina naturally forming over the Antiochene historical substrate of Israel, and the Christocentric synthesis of these two, leaning towards the wisdom we can glean from the Alexandrian patina or superstrate, which is produced from the ( possibly partially mythological) history of Israel.  But we do this in the Church; we do not go galivanting through the scriptures unaided, forming our own opinions as to what they must literally mean, but rather, we reflect on the scriptures in accordance with the commentaries of the Church Fathers, and we focus in particular on the Scriptures in the Lectionary, which we encounter at Vespers, Matins and the Eucharist, and other services.

So when you entered into the debate with your atheist friend, you were already doomed to fail, because you allowed yourself to get roped into accepting his ideas about scripture, even as you tried to explain a non-Sola Scriptura basis.  Firstly, it is a bad idea to debate atheists; they relish it, and are experts when it comes to deconstructing the Fundamentalist-Literalist interpretation of the Masoretic text.  On the other hand, they are, in my opinion, totally unprepared for the truth of the matter, that the pious Jewish forefathers of the Christian Church wrote and compiled the Old Testament for liturgical use, and the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Christian Church, which today abides in the Orthodox churches, did the same thing both with the New Testament and with the determination as to what Old Testament books were valid and worthy of inclusion.

Having addressed your reply in general, I will now reply to your specific points.  Remember as I do the explanation of heresy and the origin thereof in my prior post.  And lest you question God granting us free will, I would urge you to meditate on what Metropolitan Kallistos Ware said, that the one thing God cannot force us to do is love Him.  Our love for God, sans free will, would not be meaningful.  God is love, and desires our voluntary reciprocation.
 

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coptic orthodox boy said:
Alpha60 said:
coptic orthodox boy said:
Alpha60 said:
coptic orthodox boy said:
recent convert said:
I think the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 indicates why our lives are sacred. It is used to explain why we are to love God & neighbor.
Yes I agree.  I've struggled with this question myself so much so that I no longer practice my faith.
The arguments I've heard to justify the genocide throughout the Old Testament aren't convincing (to me).  The Christian teaching of the sanctity of human life is rooted in the belief that we are uniquely created in the image and likeness of God and due to this each individual is uniquely loved and cherished by God.
The Commandments teach that "thou shall not murder" and to "love God and your neighbor as yourself."  I've had friends argue that the genocide of the Canaanites isn't really "murder" due to "reasons."  For God to command his people to break the very laws he commanded above ("thou shall not murder" and to "love God and your neighbor as yourself") is logically inconsistent.

sprtslvr1973 said:
This has been brought up before. But, the fact is many atheists and antitheists accurately quote passages of the OT when they reference brutality played upon the enemies of Israel. Genocide, slavery and rape are but some of the acts recorded and apparently demanded and remembered as good things. Is Alla really worse than God? Mohamed worse than Moses who demanded massacre and enslaving of the Midianites?
This has caused a minor crisis and challenge for me.
Secular Biblical scholars are of the opinion that the early books of the Old Testament were written centuries after the events took place, likely around the time of King Solomon.  I'm not sure if it is compatible with Orthodox teaching but I'd like to believe that although the writings of the Old Testament were inspired some of the details are ahistorical (for example, archeologists argue that the walls around Jericho were partially destroyed prior to the Biblical story and Jericho has mostly already been abandoned; also the Canaanites weren't completely destroyed and relocated north of Canaan and are known as the Phoenicians) and that God didn't command the slaughter of innocent men, women and children (violating ethics of the sanctity of human life laid down by the Christian God).
There is a mistake all of you are making, especially you, Coptic Boy, and that is reading the Old Testament using the Antiochene literal-historical method, rather than the Alexandrian method, where the Old Testament is seen as spiritual allegory and above all else, Christological prophecy.

Let us take one of the most controversial of the “Imprecatory Psalms” as an example, Super Flumina, better known as By the Rivers of Babylon, Psalm 137 in the Jordanville Psalter (which is the Coverdale Psalter corrected against the Septuagint by the monks at Holy Trinity).
Alpha, I'm familiar with the Alexandrian methodology of interpreting scripture.  While struggling with this very topic myself I used this method to justify certain passages/events in the Jewish scriptures.  For poetical passages I think it is easier to use this method than say the (supposedly) historical events that took place.

Alpha, do you believe God commanded Joshua to slaughter the Canaanites (in a literal and historical sense)?  Do you believe God commanded King Saul to slaughter all the Amalekites and was later punished by God for sparing the life of King Agag (in a literal and historical sense)?  If not, how do you use the Alexandrian methodology for those events without a "poetic flavor" in the Old Testament?  If so, how do you justify the Christian concept of the sanctity of human life based on all humans being created in the likeness and image of God?

P.S. Not an attack btw; I've been grappling with this issue for about 15 years now.
I wasn’t there and I don’t know if it literally happened; some aspects of Joshua, such as the sun standing still in the sky, are physical impossibilities, but God can work miracles.

But let us look at this from another perspective.  Joshua shares a name with Jesus (Joshua means “Jah saves” as does “Yeshua”, the Hebraic form which was rendered into Jesus, Isho, Isa, and other spellings in the different languages of the apostolic church (note that we have no certain knowledge of how this word was pronounced, other than it likely had the full set of seven Aramaic vowells rather than the five vowells of the West Syriac dialects like Turoyo or Mlahso, so people who go around calling our Lord “Yes-shoe-ah”, who tend to be members of “messianic synagogues” and who think they have rediscovered “Aramaic Christianity”, while ignoring the Syriac Orthodox, Assyrian, Antiochian, Indian Orthodox, Maronite and Chaldean churches which in the Holy Land are, in the case of the Syriac Orthodox church, literally right in front of them, frustrate me greatly).  That aside, Joshua shares a name with our Lord, and is clearly a typological representative of Christ, in a manner similar to Melchizedek, also a type of Christ, or Moses and Noah for that matter.  People acting as types of Christ in the Old Testament are not uncommon; they are a major theme of the book, and indeed Orthodox soteriology, based on theosis, has us attain glorification by ourselves striving in humility, aided by tje grace of the Holy Spirit, to be like Christ. 

Now, understanding Joshua as a type of Christ, we can see in the Canaanites a type of the demons vanquished by Christ, and also a type of the pagans and heretics, and lastly, a type of the passions themselves; evils in the world which can only be defeated if we have faith in God to save us, expressed through prayer and the mysteries of the church.  In the Jewish religion, the blowing of the shofar was a sacramental act, one could argue, in the same way that our ringing of church bells or jse of holy water could be considered a sacramental (not a sacrament per se, not one of the seven mysteries, but rather one of the additional types of blessing ceremony, like the Great Blessing of Waters, or the Exaltation of the Cross, of the sort one will find in a Byzantine Rite Euchologion*).  And through the faith of the people, the sun was stopped in the sky, and through the blowing of trumpets, presumably, of the shofar variety, a sacramental, the walls of Jericho, the city of sin and evil, collapse, and the faithful are victorious.  So this clearly maps both to the ministry of Christ and to eschatology; Jericho might represent the corrupt world, led by antichrist, which will be defeated at the end of time.

Now, what about an Antiochene-literal exegesis?  Well, we know the Canaanites were not actually exterminated, because they appear later in the Old Testament, and if memory serves are also mentioned in the New Testament.  One also has to consider the Harrowing of Hell; it is an Orthodox belief** that those who died before the passion of our Lord were not inextricably damned, but rather, our Lord ministered to them and offered them an escape, which is why we have icons of Hades with empty shackles and chains, the people trapped therein having been saved by our Lord.  This is not to say that everyone who died before the passion of our Lord was saved automatically, but rather, that the passion of our Lord being a timeless act, and His mercy infinite, those who lived before him were not foreordained to destruction.  So all deaths mentioned in the Old Testament have to be qualified in this manner.

And the law of the Old Testament must further be qualified by Galatians 3:19 - 4:7, which, in summary, implies that humanity was in a state of infancy in the Old Testament, hence the strictures of the law, and, presumably things such as the conquest of Canaan; these bonds having been loosed through the passion of our Lord which brought about a more mature existence for humanity.

So, even from the deprecated perspective of Antiochene historical-literal interpretation, there is nothing to fret about regarding the Canaanites.  The exegesis you are worried about is not relevant to Christianity in the slightest, and is frankly primarily used by Atheists and neo-Marcionist Gnostic heretics.  It is not the way the Church reads that passage.  St. Vincent of Lerins and St. Hilary of Poitiers, the great Latin saints of the fourth and fifth century, teach us that scripture is in the interpretation, and not the text.  This is why I say one can read the Bible superficially forwards, from cover to cover, while actually reading it backwards, by forming opinions about God and Israel outside of the Gospel, rather than starting and ending with Christ and following the interpretation of the Church.  Scripture was compiled by and for the church, and the atheists and liberals who attempt to deconstruct it,  are engaging in a ludicrous, Quixotic gesture. 

So, again, if we read the Bible backwards, that is, from the law forward, God will appear brutal and capricious, but if we read it in the correct direction, the extreme loving kindness of God becomes apparent when we begin and end our reading of scripture with the incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ.  God is love, and Christ is God incarnate, and all actions taken by God were taken out of love, for our benefit, and this becomes ever more obvious if you move from the Gospels back into the Old Testament and read them according to the correct Alexandrian mode, keeping Christ in the forefront.

But before you even do this, I think you could really enjoy a return to the basics.  The false theology of liberals and atheists is a toxic distortion, which distracts us from the parts of the Bible which really matter.  So I think there are two things you should do: firstly, and most importantly, review with your priest any passages which are troubling you, and if he can’t answer your questions satisfactorily or doesn’t know the answers, talk to a better priest.  The Coptic Church is blessed with extremely good priests; I am of the opinion the Coptic Church is blessed with the best preachers of any Orthodox jurisdiction.  You can also find extremely good resources among the members here on OCNet, for example, Fr. Peter Farrington is a Coptic priest, in the Metropolis of Great Britain, who is also probably the foremost expert in Christology, anywhere in the world.  This very forum is moderated by a brilliant Master of Divinity from St. Vladimir’s.  The owner of the forum and the chief moderator are trained priests; we also had an extremely talented priest, serb1389, but he managed to get swamped with the duties of the priesthood as his ecclesiastical responsibilities increased, but we still frequently are visited by brilliant Orthodox clergy like Fr. Andrew S. Damick and Fr. John Whiteford, with some regularity.  So it is in my view critical you talk to a priest about your concerns; hopefully your parish priest or the priest of a nearby parish can sit down with you and address them in detail.

  This is crucial, because without understanding what the Church thinks about passages that trouble you, you might just fret about them and risk being conquered by atheists, at least until you master the skill serb1389 taught me of apatheia.  I, for example, don’t care about the Antiochene interpretation of Joshua.  This is not because I am uncaring or insensitive to violence, but rather I know of the Alexandrian mode, and I have reached a point where the paradoxes and dilemmas that arise when people outside the church attempt to use Antiochene literal exegesis in order to attack us no lomger bother me, because I have come to understand that the reasoning they are predicated upon is hopelessly flawed, and therefore, these attempted criticisms of the Christian faith are worthless and entirely without merit.  But I think it is probably a healthy sign that someone at your age is asking questions, and if you approach this correctly, and seek to find one or more great tutors in the Christian faith, it will be a great blessing for you spiritually and in all other respects.

Secondly, once you have found a priest, I recommend you discuss with him the following: that you restart your reading of the scripture, by reading and praying the hours of the Agpeya as you are able, concentrating on the Gospel lessons and taking stock of all the Psalms.  Because in the Agpeya, we find the perfect connection between the Holy Gospel and the Old Testament, in the forms of the Psalms, so that, thanks to the litanies and other prayers, the Christological connections can become evident.  This is true of all prayerbooks, so if you are familiar with the Agpeya to the point you might find that uninteresting, you might consider using the Syriac Orthodox Shimo, or a Byzantine prayerbook, free versions of which are available on the Net.  I particularly like the Agpeya because of its repetition of a set of Gospel lessons and the grouping of Psalms with those lessons, while still following the theme for each hour, but there is other material out there as well you could benefit from.  And from that kernel, you might nranch out and read the Coptic lectionary: the Annual and Khiak Psalmody, and the scripture lessons and Synaxarion for each day of the week***.  These lessons are the ones which your church, which I love and have spemt much time attending, has deemed the most important for the understanding of the faith, which is why they are appointed to be read in Church.  And this lectionary, and the liturgies that go with it, in some cases trace back to the fourth century or older.

We know that the basic Coptic liturgy, as found in the modern Divine Liturgy of St. Cyril (I say modern, I mean, 5th century), is the oldest liturgy attested, with the second century Muratorian fragment and the fourth century Euchologion of St. Serapion containing versions of it.  So what better place than to find the scripture that truly matters, that should guide your interpretation of the rest of Scripture, than in the lessons assigned to accompamy the ancient liturgy of the Coptic Church, which predates the US, the discovery of the Americas, the fall of the Roman Empire, and the rise of Islam?  These are prayers Christians were drawing strength from when Romans were seizing them and feeding them to lions in the arenas, and forcing them under pain of death to sacrifice to the false pagan gods. 

I suggest in absorbing all of this, to foster an attitude of grateful acceptance that quashes worldly cynicism, which is misguided and inapplicable to our religious scriptures, you might follow in my footsteps and form a devotion for the ultimate Coptic Orthodox Boy, St. Abanoub, who received a crown of martyrdom for his unflinching faith in the divine love of our Lord, who protects all his children, even in the case of St. Abanoub, one who is just 12 years old, and also do not neglect the memory of the Virgin Mary, whose trust in God is absolute and whose intercessions are a great help for us, as we seek to discern from the Holy Spirit the truth of things. 

And again, to reiterate, be sure to review everything I have suggested herein with your chosen priest, as he may want you to pursue an alternative course, and its his job to know what the best course is for people to take.  I am simply outlining, in this second recommendation, what worked for me, the process by which I came to be in a state of peace with Orthodox theology (as there were things that troubled me also, for example, I was terrified of the idea of eternity, as I misunderstood it, and also I was troubled by the thought of what happens to Christians outside the church, and here, I was greatly aided by doing something akin to what I just suggested for you).  But the precise course of action should be tailored by your priest based on your current knowledge, time constraints, and all other factors, which it is his sacred charisma to know and understand.  The bottom line is you just want something: a prayer rule and a rule for reading scripture, so you can reboot your faith and clear out the corruption created by the intentionally false and misleading psuedo-Antiochene hyper-literal exegesis that is oit there, promulgated by enemies of the church in order to ne a stumbling block for the faithful.

* The Coptic Euchologion only contains the Divine Liturgies and supplemental material; one can download it free over the Net.  I do not know what the precise Coptic equivalent is to the Byzantine Euchologion, known in Church Slavonic as the Trebnik, or Book of Needs.  The Byzantine equivalent to the Coptic Euchologion is called a Liturgikon, or Sluzhbenik (priest’s service book).
** I believe we can assert based on the Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom, related hymnody, and iconography, that the Harrowing of Hell qualifies as an actual dogma of the Orthodox Church, although I have not confirmed this in either Orthodox Dogmatic Theology or from a Coptic perspective, in related OO materials, and with regards to doctrinal questions, there is controversy surrounding some of the works of Pope Shenouda III, Memory Eternal, as opposed to his uncontroversial work on human sexuality and spiritual calmness, which is particularly excellent and follows the grand tradition of Egyptian monastic thought.
*** You can obtain this material in the Coptic Reader app; the base app is free, and includes an Agpeya; I think the daily lectionary portions are also free, but I am not sure, however, the Psalmody does cost a small amount.  But the Coptic Reader is completely worth it, because for less than US $40, you can acquire the text for the vast majority of Coptic Rite liturgical services, in English and Arabic.  Regarding other prayer books, the Orthodox Study Bible, and so on, much of this material is available online, much of it is for free, and if you PM I would be happy to help you find it.

God bless you, coptic orthodox boy.  I will be praying for you on your journey of faith.
Alpha,

Thank you for your response.  I've only browsed it; if I feel there is something to respond to after a more thorough reading I will.
More about myself: I was born into a Methodist family, became a Catholic at 15 and was looking into a few Franciscan communities before leaving for Orthodoxy at the age of 18.  While a Catholic I had a deep prayer life (Eucharistic adoration daily, daily mass during the summer, rosary a few times throughout the day, etc). 
I was received into the Coptic church when I was 18 but was attending and communing at both the local Coptic and Carpatho-Russian church (a local, though not very vocal, agreement was reached by the two bishops) and left theism in disgust maybe around 20. 
Anyways I'm currently living in Shanghai (though will be moving to Beijing next month for work) so I don't have access to an Orthodox priest at this time.  I've tried to pray a few times since losing my faith but, for example, every time I prayed "thy will be done" in the Lord's Prayer it felt dishonest.   
Our conversion history is very similiar: I was also a Methodist, I flirted with Anglicanism and Anglo-Catholicism, and then my mother and I decided to join the Syriac Orthodox Church, which we love.  Since that time, due to our moving (for reasons firstly of my father’s poor health, and then, my work) areas where Syriac Orthodox parishes are few and far between, we have availed ourselves of the Coptic Church, which is in full communiom with the Syriac Orthodox Church, and also the OCA and ROCOR, which are Eastern Orthodox churches we also love.  And when possible, we loop back to the Syriac Orthodox Church into which we were received.  And we love and frequently visit the Coptic monks in Yermo, whenever we drive to California from back east.

Now, it is a frustration that you live in the PRC, where the Orthodox Church is illegal, but the good news is you do have access to an Orthodox priest, several in fact, on this forum.  I suggest you PM Fr. Peter Farrington straight away, as he is an English convert to the Coptic Church who is incredibly knowledgeable, who will be able to identify with your position.

Also, when you move to Beijing, you might get access to the Orthodox Church again; there should ne Orthodox chapels in the embassies of Orthodox lands.  I would suggest your best chance might be with the Russian embassy.  If you want to stay OO, there might be a chapel in the Armenian or Ethiopian embassy you could attend; the Ethiopian service being closest to Coptic worship.  If you wish, I can do some research for you to see what options exist for Orthodox in Beijing.  If you are from Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan, you might have access to these embassies you would not otherwise have, and if you are from another country in the region, you might have even more access.  So if you feel comfortable sending me a PM with information on your nationality, and also your experience with Coptic worship, I might be able to find a church in Beijing you can attend.  Or, better yet, you could PM Fr. George or the senior mods to request access to the private non-polemical forum, the Turkish Delight Stash, and in that manner, a large number of OCnet members instead of just me could help you with your situation.  So I suggest you do that.

But what I feel you should do right now, as a matter of urgency, is talk to Father Peter.  He is the moderator of our Oriental Orthodox forum, the Priest in charge of St. George’s Mission, the mission of the Coptic Church to the British people, and the world’s foremost expert on Christology.  I believe he can help you feel better.  If you wish, I can send a PM to introduce you to him.  We are blessed with several other priests on OCNet as well, from different Orthodox jurisdictions, but Fr. Peter is Coptic and thus able to help from the perspective of what you are familiar with.

My faith is a source of joy and comfort for me, and I think it can be for you as well, as it was in the past, and you have nothing to lose by talking to the clergy we have on OCNet.  I am also familiar personally with the phenomenon of a reaction to “Thy Will Be Done” similiar to yours; I used to gulp a bit when praying it, back when my fear of God was more of a fear than a reverence, due to flawed Methodist catechesis; I was scared that His will might not be what I wanted.  This was when I was your age.  In retrospect, my fear strikes me as unfounded and petulant; God always wants what is best for us, and it is when we move against God and His will that bad things happen.
 
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I often think that what the Lord took to the Cross included our misconceptions of God. Among these are supposed orders to wipe out the Canaanites etc. I believe there was general warfare for survival which  God obviously permits (not approves) humanity to engage in ( Ecclesiastes 3 etc.). People exaggerated the will of God with a “cause”. Constantine probably did the same and I think our faith is in a real God but always chaotic because of our fallen state ( John 16:33).
 

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I think I am at my 6th or 7th Lent Season. (40 days of Lent)
 

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iohanne said:
My brothers, the debate between the Alexandrian and Antiochene schools frustrates me even further.  Why would God cause to exist a Divine Scripture that is so difficult to interpret?  An atheist friend once asked me, as I was trying to explain a way of looking at Scripture that was not based on the sola scriptura lens, why God couldn't be said to have failed when he intended to reveal Himself and His will in a set of canonical Scriptures? 
I am going to now do a point by point breakdown of your post, but please remember what I said in my initial reply to you about Free Will, heresy, atheist interpretations, and so on

For example, why are there so many schisms in Protestantism about the interpretation of the Bible? 
Because of the Protestant heresies of sola scriptura or nuda scriptura, the pernicious idea that is held as a doctrine among Baptists and other Protestants that every Protestant has a “right” to interpret scripture the way they see fit, and the ecclesiological heresy of the Invisible Church consisting of all Christians.  The convergence of these two heresies causes Protestant sects to multiply exponentially; every time a Protestant who is a popular preacher or layman or is financially blessed has a heated disagreement with his church, the possibility exists that he will form a new schismatic sect based on his beliefs.  The best way to look at Protestantism is to think of it like a mass of Plutonium: an artificial substance the atoms of which are Protestant churches, that is radioactive and fissile, because each of the artificially produced atoms has been made unstable by a combination of the heresies of the Five Solas and the Invisible Church.  Meaning that periodically, every time a disagreement occurred, there is a possibility that one of the atoms will experience nuclear fission, that is to say, the particular protestant church will spontaneously divide itself via schism, releasing more radioactive isotopes schismatic sects abounding in Strontium-182 and radioactive iodine heretical doctrines And these fission products schismatic churches will continue to undergo fission schisms and the result is highly hazardous to human spiritual health, both due to the radioactivity (a tendency of Protestants to get involved in more schisms and become further alienated from the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church) and toxic (holding beliefs which are dangerous to the soul and to salvation, and lacking authentic sacraments such as a true baptism or Eucharist or a sacramental priesthood).

I don’t see the point in complaining about this on an Orthodox forum, since there is sweet nothing we can do about it; the Protestant Reformation was the fault of abusive behavior on the part of the Roman Catholic church and the resulting backlash.  It should be stressed there was never a Reformation in the Orthodox lands.  Protestant sects have spread into Orthodox countries via foreign missions and proselytism, but they remain small, they are not native developments, and one would suspect the mainstay of their membership consists of people who the local Orthodox church has managed to offend, perhaps due to poor catechesis during the Communist era, or poorly trained priests doing a poor job with pastoral care, such as confessions, or the lack of vernacular scripture lessons and preaching in some Orthodox churches (this usually is not a problem, and most Orthodox who have a liturgical language like Syriac, Coptic, Ge’ez, Church Slavonic, Byzantine Greek, or Classical Armenian, tend to want to retain and preserve that language as part of their heritage). 

The closest thing to a Protestant reformation in Orthodoxy occurred in Russia in response to the extremely controversial Hellenization of the ancient Russo-Byzantine liturgy under Patriarch Nikon, and the subsequent canonically illegal and spiritually incompetent management of the church in Czarist Russia by a state appointed Procurator.  The resulting sects however, were generally of two types: liturgically traditionalist sects which rejected the changes to the liturgy, and these were largely later reconciled with the Russian Orthodox Church, and apocalyptic sects, ranging from the Priestless Old Believers, who believe the Orthodox priesthood has become extinct, but who continue to perform Orthodox worship and who do every service an Orthodox layman can perform in church (serving Vespers, Matins, the hours, and the Typika instead of the Divine Liturgy, the Typika basically being the Liturgy of the Catechumens with the priest’s parts removed, for use by the faithful when a priest is unavailable), to more extreme apocalyptic sects which are now extinct, ranging from the benign “hole worshippers”, who felt that because of the apostasy they attributed to the Nikonian church, they could no longer use icons, so instead worshipped in chapels with a cross-shaped opening on the Eastern wall, to the Skoptsky (mutilators, who castrated themselves and removed the mammaries of female members), and Immolators.  Fortunately the latter two groups are now extinct.  The Priestless Old Believers largely live in the US now, in places like Woodburn, Oregon; some have realized their mistake, and the Church of the Nativity in Pennyslvania joined ROCOR in the 1980s and resumed worshipping with priests; they have since published the definitive English language service books with the Russian Old Rite liturgy.

Only two sects popped up in this spiritual turmoil in Russia which look anything like Protestant churches: the Molokans, who were a Judaizing sect, some of whom actually wound up converting to Judaism, whereas others embraced doctrines vaguely similiar to those of the Seventh Day Adventists and the Messianic Jews, and the Doukhobors, who were basically Unitarians, who rejected all scripture except the Sermon on the Mount.  The Molokans still survive in some places in California, and Tolstoy financed the emigration of the Doukhobors to Canada.  There, a radical group of Doukhobors objected vehemently to the mandatory public education of children in Canada, and over a 50 year period starting around 1900,thoroughly annoyed the population of British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba, protesting by parading in the nude through colonial Canadian towns, before laws against indecent exposure were passed, and after that occurred, continuing nude marches, and, in the case of a more extremist party, engaging in arson attacks on government buildings and industrial facilities. 

Since that time, their numbers have declined and they no longer engage in violence.  There is a small  community of Doukhobors in British Columbia, and smaller communities elsewhere, including, I believe, the Northwestern US.

So the short answer to your question, it should be evident, is the devil: the devil corrupted the Roman Catholic Church, causing it to break away from the Holy Catholic Church, the Orthodox, in a schism the RCC initiated of its own volition; it later triggered similiar schisms for all of the Orthodox churches, so that for each Orthodox church, you will find an Eastern Catholic equivalent.  There are Coptic Catholics, Russian Catholics, massive numbers of Ukrainian Greek Catholics, and so on.  The RCC also came to dominate outright a few Eastern churches, such as the Maronites, the Italo-Albanian Greek Catholics in southern Italy, and the Hungarian Greek Catholics.  But the RCC has since stopped doing this, as part of an effort to improve relations with the Orthodox (I will get to that in the next part).

All schisms are of the devil, and the RCC initiated the schism of schisms when it excommunicated the Patriarchate of Constantinople.  This wrent Christendom in two, and brutal persecution of Eastern Christians followed in the build up to the crusades.  In the end, the Orthodox had a choice to give up their faith for that of Rome, or be subjugated politically by the Ottoman Empire, and chose the latter.  Shortly thereafter, the apalling decadence of Roman Popes such as the Borgias, and Leo X, infuriated Martin Luther and caused him to initiate a schism, and John Calvin and others followed suit.  But these schisms were the product of an earlier schism, and they were inherently wrong and evil, and the Protestants adopted two sets of doctrines, the Five Solas and a belief in an Invisible Church of all believers, and these actions guaranteed the occurrence of more schisms.  Schism after schism after schism.  Just like a critical mass of ecclesiastical Plutonium, as I explained above.

The Orthodox in Russia, by engaging in an abuse of pastoral care, caused schisms, but only a few sects were remotely Protestant, and these consisted of doomsday cults which castrated themselves, immolated themselves, reverted to Judaism or embraced the Jewish law, and paraded in the nude through Canada while burning down buildings.  Russians were unimpressed, and no further schisms resulted from any of these schismatic Russian sects.  And frankly, parading nude through Canada, chopping off the female breasts or the male reproductive anatomy, and burning oneself alive, is per se demonic activity.  And in Europe, the Wars of Religion fought between the Catholics, the Lutherans and the Calvinists were also diabolical, and bloody in the extreme, and even worse was the persecution of Anabaptists and other Radical Reformers, like the Puritans, who fled to America.  There, the Puritans hanged some innocent women, accusing them of witchcraft, before deciding that Jesus Christ wasn’t really God and becoming Unitarians, 100 years later.  And since that time, the Unitarians rejected Christianity altogether, and there are practicing witches and atheists in the Unitarian Universalist churches.

And why can't the schisms among those Churches claiming sacraments and apostolic succession be solved by simply turning to the Bible to see what is written? 
Firstly, most of the schisms between the Apostolic Churches have been healed, partially or entirely.  For example, a large number of Russian Old Believers are now members of canonical Orthodox churches, and the two remaining Old Believer churches with their own priests and bishops are developing increasingly good relations with Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow.  800 years ago, there was a massive schism between the Armenian and Syriac Orthodox.  Today, it is ancient history, literally; I doubt that most Armenians or Syriac Orthodox are even aware that it happened.  In the 6th century, there was a massive schism in the Roman church, in Spain, Portugal and elsewhere, because people were furious about the anathema Emperor Justinian pronounced against Theodore of Mopsuestia.  This was known as the Three Chapters Controversy, and it was healed within a few decades.  In like manner, the Arian, Novatian, Donatist, Pelagian, Monothelite and Iconoclast schisms were all resolved and the schismatic sects disappeared (except possibly for the Monothelites: it is rumored the Maronites were monothelite before they entered into communion with Rome).

In the 20th century, differences over what to do about Communism caused two fierce schisms, one between the Armenian Catholicos of Holy Etchmiadzin, in Armenia, and the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, in Lebanon.  Today, this schism is resolved.  In like manner, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, founded on instructions issued by St. Tikhon of Moscow when he feared being imprisoned and compromised (he was later imprisoned, mistreated, and died in a Soviet jail), was canonically isolated throughout most of the 20th century, having only intermittent relations with the Serbians, the Church of Jerusalem, and the Old Calendarists.  But in 2007, this schism came to an end, with a glorious divine liturgy in Moscow, and ROCOR is now an autonomous part of the Moscow Patriarchate.

So there are four remaining major churches that are partially separated from each other: the Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Roman Catholic Church.  The EOs and OOs are very close to restoring communion after a dialogue started in the 1960s revealed a common faith, and indeed, limited communion exists between the Antiochian (EO) and Syriac Orthodox (OO) churches, and the Coptic and Greek Orthodox Patriarchates of Alexandria.  And the Armenians are developing close relations with the Russian Orthodox and several other churches, to the extent that the Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church held of its own accord a memorial service for victims of the Armenian Genocide.  Meanwhile, a state of limited intercommunion exists between the Assyrians and the Chaldean Catholic Church, although during the height of the ISIL crisis in Mosul, the Chaldeans overplayed their hand by rather tackily suggesting a merger, to which the Assyrians declined.  The Assyrians are actively engaged in dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox, especially the Russian Orthodox, and desire communion, and it will probably happen.  Meanwhile, efforts at restoring communion between the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox are ongoing, but there are doctrinal differences, chief among them the papacy.

Now, you may have noticed a common theme here, and that is, these schisms between Apostolic churches tend to be transient, and do not usually involve any question of scriptural interpretation.  The Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox share a common interpretation of the Bible with the Eastern Catholics, except for one verse, Matthew 16:18, which Eastern Catholics read as mandating Papal supremacy.  The exegesis of the Assyrian Church of the East is also very close to the EO/OO model; to the extent it might differ superficially, I would attribute that to the enduring popularity of Theodore of Mopsuestia, who is venerated as a saint in the Assyrian Church.

Most of the doctrinal controversy between Rome and the East involve Roman doctrines which are not found in Scripture, like the Immaculate Conception, Purgatory, and so on.  And the other schisms that still remain are the result of a confusion in the fourth century caused by Nestorius, Eutyches and Pope Leo over what was the correct Christology, and the confusion of groups which were in fact Orthodox with heretical sects; the Oriental churches thought the Eastern churches were Nestorian, the Eastern Churches thought the Oriental churches were Eutychian, when in fact Eutyches had been anathematized by them, and so on.  And should you complain of the length of the schism, I would argue this was historically largely irrelevant, as all three Eastern churches suffered under Islam, and frequently, close alliances were formed across apparent ecclesiastical boundaries.  For example, St. Isaac the Syrian was a member of the Church of the East, but everyone venerated him; later, the  Catholicos of the Church of the East was the best of friends with St. Gregorios bar Hebraeus, his Syriac Orthodox Counterpart, the Maphrian (second in command of the Syriac church) in charge of the faithful in Mesopotamia, and when Mar Gregorios died in an Assyrian town en route from his main base in Tikrit to his preferred monastery in the mountains, the Catholicos organized his funeral, and the 4,000 or so mourners were mostly Assyrians.  In the 19th century, the Coptic and Greek Orthodox churches of Alexandria attempted to reunite, but the Khedive, a Muslim, feared the power of a unified Orthodox church and forbade it.

And also, And why does it seem to be a Scripture that seems to not have at all transcended the particular sins of the society of its writers, using such language of genocide and infanticide, etc.? 
This I addressed in my previous replies.

Or, if all Scripture speaks of Christ, why does He seem so hidden in the OT?  I believe He is there, and I personally see him spoken of plainly, but I think about all our different churches' interpretations of the OT as they're laid out in the liturgies and in the fathers, and I imagine myself having a hard time trying to explain it all to a Jew.  Half the time, I would feel as if I was reaching to find something that wasn't there. 
Firstly, forget about hypothetical conversations with the Jews.  The Rabinnical Jews have their own radically different interpretation of the Old Testament, or Tanakh as they call it, which you can find alluded to in the Talmud.  So if you interpret the OT based on what you assume Second Temple Judaism was, you are probably wrong about the former, and if you think you know based on that what modern Jews believe, you are in for one heck of a shock.  Pious, or “frum” Jews, might spend years in a Yeshiva engaged in “Torah Study”, which consists of debating the Talmud and esoteric aspects of the religion with a partner.  And even the relatively sober philosophy of Maimonides fails to do modern Judaism justice, because of two factors: Pharisaical hyper-literal legalism, which is so extreme that the Torah is extended to preclude any possibility, according to Rabinnical interpretation, of breaking the law. So, Rabinnical Jews wear phylacteries on their hands and foreheads, with leather straps, because the Bible says the laws of God should be bound before your eyes and on your hands.  And the white and blue fringes the Old Testament commands Jews to wear are, in Rabinnical Judaism, white only, because the Rabbis have no idea what shade of blue was intended, or how to make it.  The Sola Scriptura Karaite Jews don’t care, and wear white and blue fringes, and dispense with the phylacteries, but they use a philosophical technique called the Kalaam, also used in Islamic philosophy and theology, to engage in inductive reasoning about scripture, and as a result have some pretty bizarre beliefs.  For example, unlike Rabinnical Jews, Karaite Jews deny the existence of a devil, and insist the Serpent in the Garden of Eden was simply a particularly clever snake.  ::)

Then, Rabinnical Judaism goes completely off the wall with a system of ritual magic called the Kaballah, outlined in books starting with the Zohar.  Using Kaballah, the rabbis of the Prague synagogue allegedly created a gollum, a giant, made from clay, and animated by placing a quote from the Torah in the mouth.  This gollum allegedly protected the Jewish Quarter for a time, until it was no longer needed, and the Torah script was removed from its mouth, deactivating it.  Legend has it that the Gollum remains in storage along with worn out Torah scrolls (which cease to be Kosher and require replacement, but are too holy to just discard) and related material in the attic of the Prague synagogue, and eerily enough, in the 1990s the staircase leading to the attic was removed.  :eek:

Diabolical automatons aside, the Kaballah continues its weirdness with Gematria, which assigns a number to each Hebrew word based on the values associated with the letters containing it, and this technique can be used for various magical operations. 

The theology behind Kaballah is even weirder: the idea is that God became fragmented into shards, called Sephirot, and the goal of the Jewish people is to reunite them, bringing about the World to Come.  There was a brilliant miniseries on SyFy during the Battlestar Galactica era called The Lost Room, which basically is a science fiction treatment of ideas from Kaballah.  Also, the Talmud in a section on wills and inheritance contains Rabinnical accounts of bizarre, giant fish, including a massive fish so large, that had not moved in so long, an island with a palm tree had formed on it.  Two rabbis and other passengers of a ship made the mistake of landing on it, and quickly found themselves in the drink, as the awakened fish decided to promptly dive, causing the island to disintegrate into dissolving mud and floating foilage.  This is actually what Orthodox Jews consider to be the Torah, but for a simplified guide to their interpretation of the law, Google the Sulchan Aruch.

Suffice it to say, whatever problems you think you might have explaining the presence of Christ in the Old Testament to the Jews, you face much larger problems, since their interpretation of the books, which is based on a combination of Pharisaical legal theory, Aristotelian-Islamic logic via Maimonides, and ritual magic, the Kaballah, defined in the Zohar and practiced by both Chassidic and Charedi Jews (indeed, the most anti-Chassidic Charedim, the Vilna Gaon, was admired as a skilled practitioner of Kaballah). 

Such a Scripture, from the first sceptical glance seems suspicious to me.  It hardly seems to work at all if what one would think a Scripture is intended to do:  reveal God, His Person, His will, His love, His beauty, etc.  Why should God be revealed in the language of war, when most of Christian societies have come to desire our ploughshares?
Christianity is not a religion of peace.  Our Lord Himself says “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  Christianity is a religion in which we are called to fight for God, against the forces of evil, to fight our own sinful passions and desires, and to fight the demonic influences through prayer that would destroy us.  Christianity is not an angry or wrathful religion, but it is not a peaceful religion.  Because the love of God is a consuming fire, and because the devil has set himself up to do evil from the beginning, abusing the free will God lovingly gave him, the eschatology of Christianity consigns the evil one and those who follow him to the lake of fire.

If one desires a peaceful religion, the Jain faith seems appropriate, with its total non violence.  But I think Jainism is evil, as Jain monks and nuns consistently prioritize the life of tiny insects and vermin over human life, and some Jains commit religiously sanctioned suicide through deliberate malnutrition.

Christianity on the other hand is violent; we believe human life is sacred and we can fight for it, against the devil and the forces of evil.

Please forgive me if I have expressed any of such doubts or concerns in a way that would seem hateful or insulting towards God.  I mean it these questions in an enquiring sense only, because they are regular matters brought up in honest discussions with non-believers. 
I understand.  I would encourage you, respectfully, to take a step back from apologetics and work on strengthening your faith, by consulting with your priest, adopting or revising your prayer rule, learning about Alexandrian typological references to Christ, the incarnation, and the Virgin Mary in the Old Testament, and reading the liturgies of the church, the services of Matins and Vespers in the Horologion, Octoechos, Triodion, Pentecostarion, and Festal Menaion, or if you are in the Syriac Orthodox church, the Shimo and Fanqitho, or if you are in the Coptic Church, the Annual and Khiak Psalmody.  In this manner, you can immerse yourself in the liturgy of the church, which contains most if not all important doctrines of Holy Orthodoxy.  And you should get a good prayerbook, and a good Psalter (the Jordanville Psalter, available on Amazon Prime in the volume A Psalter for Prayer, with useful appendices like the Orthodox form of the Athanasian Creed, is particularly good).  And you should get the Prologue of Ohrid, which is a truly exceptional martyrology.  The Philokalia, the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, the writings of St. Athanasius and the Cappadocians, and the major Orthodox Latin Fathers Sts. Hilary of Poitiers, Isidore of Seville, Ambrose of Milan, Vincent of Lerins, and John Cassian, and the heresiology of St. Irenaeus and St. Epiphanius, which is combined in the latter’s excellent Panarion, all make for superb reading.  Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy, Second Edition, by Fr. Andrew S. Damick, addresses in an Irenic way the problems of Protestant exegesis and the instability of Sola Scriptura.  And finally, The Orthodox Way by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware is a beautiful reflection on the true and living faith of Holy Orthodoxy.  I can help you find several of these books online, several of which are available as downloads through the Scribd subscription service.
 

WPM

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Alpha60 said:
Firstly, forget about hypothetical conversations with the Jews.  The Rabinnical Jews have their own radically different interpretation of the Old Testament, or Tanakh as they call it, which you can find alluded to in the Talmud.  So if you interpret the OT based on what you assume Second Temple Judaism was, you are probably wrong about the former, and if you think you know based on that what modern Jews believe, you are in for one heck of a shock.  Pious, or “frum” Jews, might spend years in a Yeshiva engaged in “Torah Study”, which consists of debating the Talmud and esoteric aspects of the religion with a partner.  And even the relatively sober philosophy of Maimonides fails to do modern Judaism justice, because of two factors: Pharisaical hyper-literal legalism, which is so extreme that the Torah is extended to preclude any possibility, according to Rabinnical interpretation, of breaking the law. So, Rabinnical Jews wear phylacteries on their hands and foreheads, with leather straps, because the Bible says the laws of God should be bound before your eyes and on your hands.  And the white and blue fringes the Old Testament commands Jews to wear are, in Rabinnical Judaism, white only, because the Rabbis have no idea what shade of blue was intended, or how to make it.  The Sola Scriptura Karaite Jews don’t care, and wear white and blue fringes, and dispense with the phylacteries, but they use a philosophical technique called the Kalaam, also used in Islamic philosophy and theology, to engage in inductive reasoning about scripture, and as a result have some pretty bizarre beliefs.  For example, unlike Rabinnical Jews, Karaite Jews deny the existence of a devil, and insist the Serpent in the Garden of Eden was simply a particularly clever snake.  ::)

Then, Rabinnical Judaism goes completely off the wall with a system of ritual magic called the Kaballah, outlined in books starting with the Zohar.  Using Kaballah, the rabbis of the Prague synagogue allegedly created a gollum, a giant, made from clay, and animated by placing a quote from the Torah in the mouth.  This gollum allegedly protected the Jewish Quarter for a time, until it was no longer needed, and the Torah script was removed from its mouth, deactivating it.  Legend has it that the Gollum remains in storage along with worn out Torah scrolls (which cease to be Kosher and require replacement, but are too holy to just discard) and related material in the attic of the Prague synagogue, and eerily enough, in the 1990s the staircase leading to the attic was removed.  :eek:

Diabolical automatons aside, the Kaballah continues its weirdness with Gematria, which assigns a number to each Hebrew word based on the values associated with the letters containing it, and this technique can be used for various magical operations. 

The theology behind Kaballah is even weirder: the idea is that God became fragmented into shards, called Sephirot, and the goal of the Jewish people is to reunite them, bringing about the World to Come.  There was a brilliant miniseries on SyFy during the Battlestar Galactica era called The Lost Room, which basically is a science fiction treatment of ideas from Kaballah.  Also, the Talmud in a section on wills and inheritance contains Rabinnical accounts of bizarre, giant fish, including a massive fish so large, that had not moved in so long, an island with a palm tree had formed on it.  Two rabbis and other passengers of a ship made the mistake of landing on it, and quickly found themselves in the drink, as the awakened fish decided to promptly dive, causing the island to disintegrate into dissolving mud and floating foilage.  This is actually what Orthodox Jews consider to be the Torah, but for a simplified guide to their interpretation of the law, Google the Sulchan Aruch.

Suffice it to say, whatever problems you think you might have explaining the presence of Christ in the Old Testament to the Jews, you face much larger problems, since their interpretation of the books, which is based on a combination of Pharisaical legal theory, Aristotelian-Islamic logic via Maimonides, and ritual magic, the Kaballah, defined in the Zohar and practiced by both Chassidic and Charedi Jews (indeed, the most anti-Chassidic Charedim, the Vilna Gaon, was admired as a skilled practitioner of Kaballah).
That is just your spin on what the Jews believe.
 
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WPM said:
Alpha60 said:
Firstly, forget about hypothetical conversations with the Jews.  The Rabinnical Jews have their own radically different interpretation of the Old Testament, or Tanakh as they call it, which you can find alluded to in the Talmud.  So if you interpret the OT based on what you assume Second Temple Judaism was, you are probably wrong about the former, and if you think you know based on that what modern Jews believe, you are in for one heck of a shock.  Pious, or “frum” Jews, might spend years in a Yeshiva engaged in “Torah Study”, which consists of debating the Talmud and esoteric aspects of the religion with a partner.  And even the relatively sober philosophy of Maimonides fails to do modern Judaism justice, because of two factors: Pharisaical hyper-literal legalism, which is so extreme that the Torah is extended to preclude any possibility, according to Rabinnical interpretation, of breaking the law. So, Rabinnical Jews wear phylacteries on their hands and foreheads, with leather straps, because the Bible says the laws of God should be bound before your eyes and on your hands.  And the white and blue fringes the Old Testament commands Jews to wear are, in Rabinnical Judaism, white only, because the Rabbis have no idea what shade of blue was intended, or how to make it.  The Sola Scriptura Karaite Jews don’t care, and wear white and blue fringes, and dispense with the phylacteries, but they use a philosophical technique called the Kalaam, also used in Islamic philosophy and theology, to engage in inductive reasoning about scripture, and as a result have some pretty bizarre beliefs.  For example, unlike Rabinnical Jews, Karaite Jews deny the existence of a devil, and insist the Serpent in the Garden of Eden was simply a particularly clever snake.  ::)

Then, Rabinnical Judaism goes completely off the wall with a system of ritual magic called the Kaballah, outlined in books starting with the Zohar.  Using Kaballah, the rabbis of the Prague synagogue allegedly created a gollum, a giant, made from clay, and animated by placing a quote from the Torah in the mouth.  This gollum allegedly protected the Jewish Quarter for a time, until it was no longer needed, and the Torah script was removed from its mouth, deactivating it.  Legend has it that the Gollum remains in storage along with worn out Torah scrolls (which cease to be Kosher and require replacement, but are too holy to just discard) and related material in the attic of the Prague synagogue, and eerily enough, in the 1990s the staircase leading to the attic was removed.  :eek:

Diabolical automatons aside, the Kaballah continues its weirdness with Gematria, which assigns a number to each Hebrew word based on the values associated with the letters containing it, and this technique can be used for various magical operations. 

The theology behind Kaballah is even weirder: the idea is that God became fragmented into shards, called Sephirot, and the goal of the Jewish people is to reunite them, bringing about the World to Come.  There was a brilliant miniseries on SyFy during the Battlestar Galactica era called The Lost Room, which basically is a science fiction treatment of ideas from Kaballah.  Also, the Talmud in a section on wills and inheritance contains Rabinnical accounts of bizarre, giant fish, including a massive fish so large, that had not moved in so long, an island with a palm tree had formed on it.  Two rabbis and other passengers of a ship made the mistake of landing on it, and quickly found themselves in the drink, as the awakened fish decided to promptly dive, causing the island to disintegrate into dissolving mud and floating foilage.  This is actually what Orthodox Jews consider to be the Torah, but for a simplified guide to their interpretation of the law, Google the Sulchan Aruch.

Suffice it to say, whatever problems you think you might have explaining the presence of Christ in the Old Testament to the Jews, you face much larger problems, since their interpretation of the books, which is based on a combination of Pharisaical legal theory, Aristotelian-Islamic logic via Maimonides, and ritual magic, the Kaballah, defined in the Zohar and practiced by both Chassidic and Charedi Jews (indeed, the most anti-Chassidic Charedim, the Vilna Gaon, was admired as a skilled practitioner of Kaballah).
That is just your spin on what the Jews believe.
So what’s your spin?
 

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recent convert said:
WPM said:
Alpha60 said:
Firstly, forget about hypothetical conversations with the Jews.  The Rabinnical Jews have their own radically different interpretation of the Old Testament, or Tanakh as they call it, which you can find alluded to in the Talmud.  So if you interpret the OT based on what you assume Second Temple Judaism was, you are probably wrong about the former, and if you think you know based on that what modern Jews believe, you are in for one heck of a shock.  Pious, or “frum” Jews, might spend years in a Yeshiva engaged in “Torah Study”, which consists of debating the Talmud and esoteric aspects of the religion with a partner.  And even the relatively sober philosophy of Maimonides fails to do modern Judaism justice, because of two factors: Pharisaical hyper-literal legalism, which is so extreme that the Torah is extended to preclude any possibility, according to Rabinnical interpretation, of breaking the law. So, Rabinnical Jews wear phylacteries on their hands and foreheads, with leather straps, because the Bible says the laws of God should be bound before your eyes and on your hands.  And the white and blue fringes the Old Testament commands Jews to wear are, in Rabinnical Judaism, white only, because the Rabbis have no idea what shade of blue was intended, or how to make it.  The Sola Scriptura Karaite Jews don’t care, and wear white and blue fringes, and dispense with the phylacteries, but they use a philosophical technique called the Kalaam, also used in Islamic philosophy and theology, to engage in inductive reasoning about scripture, and as a result have some pretty bizarre beliefs.  For example, unlike Rabinnical Jews, Karaite Jews deny the existence of a devil, and insist the Serpent in the Garden of Eden was simply a particularly clever snake.  ::)

Then, Rabinnical Judaism goes completely off the wall with a system of ritual magic called the Kaballah, outlined in books starting with the Zohar.  Using Kaballah, the rabbis of the Prague synagogue allegedly created a gollum, a giant, made from clay, and animated by placing a quote from the Torah in the mouth.  This gollum allegedly protected the Jewish Quarter for a time, until it was no longer needed, and the Torah script was removed from its mouth, deactivating it.  Legend has it that the Gollum remains in storage along with worn out Torah scrolls (which cease to be Kosher and require replacement, but are too holy to just discard) and related material in the attic of the Prague synagogue, and eerily enough, in the 1990s the staircase leading to the attic was removed.  :eek:

Diabolical automatons aside, the Kaballah continues its weirdness with Gematria, which assigns a number to each Hebrew word based on the values associated with the letters containing it, and this technique can be used for various magical operations. 

The theology behind Kaballah is even weirder: the idea is that God became fragmented into shards, called Sephirot, and the goal of the Jewish people is to reunite them, bringing about the World to Come.  There was a brilliant miniseries on SyFy during the Battlestar Galactica era called The Lost Room, which basically is a science fiction treatment of ideas from Kaballah.  Also, the Talmud in a section on wills and inheritance contains Rabinnical accounts of bizarre, giant fish, including a massive fish so large, that had not moved in so long, an island with a palm tree had formed on it.  Two rabbis and other passengers of a ship made the mistake of landing on it, and quickly found themselves in the drink, as the awakened fish decided to promptly dive, causing the island to disintegrate into dissolving mud and floating foilage.  This is actually what Orthodox Jews consider to be the Torah, but for a simplified guide to their interpretation of the law, Google the Sulchan Aruch.

Suffice it to say, whatever problems you think you might have explaining the presence of Christ in the Old Testament to the Jews, you face much larger problems, since their interpretation of the books, which is based on a combination of Pharisaical legal theory, Aristotelian-Islamic logic via Maimonides, and ritual magic, the Kaballah, defined in the Zohar and practiced by both Chassidic and Charedi Jews (indeed, the most anti-Chassidic Charedim, the Vilna Gaon, was admired as a skilled practitioner of Kaballah).
That is just your spin on what the Jews believe.
So what’s your spin?
No spin. . . See for yourself.
 

JamesR

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The fact that the majority of atheists support the systematic slaughter of the unborn in the name of choice renders this question invalid. I see no reason to engage those who already support things that any reasonable person would find morally reprehensible.
 

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sprtslvr1973 said:
This has been brought up before. But, the fact is many atheists and antitheists accurately quote passages of the OT when they reference brutality played upon the enemies of Israel. Genocide, slavery and rape are but some of the acts recorded and apparently demanded and remembered as good things. Is Alla really worse than God? Mohamed worse than Moses who demanded massacre and enslaving of the Midianites?
This has caused a minor crisis and challenge for me.
The hypocritical and nihilistic humanism of our age thinks God is cruel. Tell them to persist in their evil, if they want to learn first hand just how much. Yes, God is cruel to the evil because they are far away from His goodness. This is why evil is evil, because it is away from God's goodness and people tent to have natural understanding about these matters.

Apart from God, it is not possible to tell good from evil and it is all about consumers and consumed so the very thing they are accusing God of, is the natural conclusion of their atheistic idiocity.

Mohamed was a heretic, so his works were empty of God's glory and therefor disgusting. When Moses and Joshua slaughtered the pegans, they liberated the land from horrible oppressors, homosexuals, child molesters, demon worshipers, the kind of persons that practice human sacrifice and amazingly when you make comparison, what you see is that muslims, atheists and crazy leftists have much in common with the ancient enemies of God.
 

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Vanhyo said:
sprtslvr1973 said:
This has been brought up before. But, the fact is many atheists and antitheists accurately quote passages of the OT when they reference brutality played upon the enemies of Israel. Genocide, slavery and rape are but some of the acts recorded and apparently demanded and remembered as good things. Is Alla really worse than God? Mohamed worse than Moses who demanded massacre and enslaving of the Midianites?
This has caused a minor crisis and challenge for me.
The hypocritical and nihilistic humanism of our age thinks God is cruel. Tell them to persist in their evil, if they want to learn first hand just how much. Yes, God is cruel to the evil because they are far away from His goodness. This is why evil is evil, because it is away from God's goodness and people tent to have natural understanding about these matters.

Apart from God, it is not possible to tell good from evil and it is all about consumers and consumed so the very thing they are accusing God of, is the natural conclusion of their atheistic idiocity.

Mohamed was a heretic, so his works were empty of God's glory and therefor disgusting. When Moses and Joshua slaughtered the pegans, they liberated the land from horrible oppressors, homosexuals, child molesters, demon worshipers, the kind of persons that practice human sacrifice and amazingly when you make comparison, what you see is that muslims, atheists and crazy leftists have much in common with the ancient enemies of God.
to your insanity there is a method, at least.
 

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Vanhyo said:
sprtslvr1973 said:
This has been brought up before. But, the fact is many atheists and antitheists accurately quote passages of the OT when they reference brutality played upon the enemies of Israel. Genocide, slavery and rape are but some of the acts recorded and apparently demanded and remembered as good things. Is Alla really worse than God? Mohamed worse than Moses who demanded massacre and enslaving of the Midianites?
This has caused a minor crisis and challenge for me.
The hypocritical and nihilistic humanism of our age thinks God is cruel. Tell them to persist in their evil, if they want to learn first hand just how much. Yes, God is cruel to the evil because they are far away from His goodness. This is why evil is evil, because it is away from God's goodness and people tent to have natural understanding about these matters.

Apart from God, it is not possible to tell good from evil and it is all about consumers and consumed so the very thing they are accusing God of, is the natural conclusion of their atheistic idiocity.

Mohamed was a heretic, so his works were empty of God's glory and therefor disgusting. When Moses and Joshua slaughtered the pegans, they liberated the land from horrible oppressors, homosexuals, child molesters, demon worshipers, the kind of persons that practice human sacrifice and amazingly when you make comparison, what you see is that muslims, atheists and crazy leftists have much in common with the ancient enemies of God.
Calm down.
 

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coptic orthodox boy said:
Alpha60 said:
coptic orthodox boy said:
recent convert said:
I think the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 indicates why our lives are sacred. It is used to explain why we are to love God & neighbor.
Yes I agree.  I've struggled with this question myself so much so that I no longer practice my faith.
The arguments I've heard to justify the genocide throughout the Old Testament aren't convincing (to me).  The Christian teaching of the sanctity of human life is rooted in the belief that we are uniquely created in the image and likeness of God and due to this each individual is uniquely loved and cherished by God.
The Commandments teach that "thou shall not murder" and to "love God and your neighbor as yourself."  I've had friends argue that the genocide of the Canaanites isn't really "murder" due to "reasons."  For God to command his people to break the very laws he commanded above ("thou shall not murder" and to "love God and your neighbor as yourself") is logically inconsistent.

sprtslvr1973 said:
This has been brought up before. But, the fact is many atheists and antitheists accurately quote passages of the OT when they reference brutality played upon the enemies of Israel. Genocide, slavery and rape are but some of the acts recorded and apparently demanded and remembered as good things. Is Alla really worse than God? Mohamed worse than Moses who demanded massacre and enslaving of the Midianites?
This has caused a minor crisis and challenge for me.
Secular Biblical scholars are of the opinion that the early books of the Old Testament were written centuries after the events took place, likely around the time of King Solomon.  I'm not sure if it is compatible with Orthodox teaching but I'd like to believe that although the writings of the Old Testament were inspired some of the details are ahistorical (for example, archeologists argue that the walls around Jericho were partially destroyed prior to the Biblical story and Jericho has mostly already been abandoned; also the Canaanites weren't completely destroyed and relocated north of Canaan and are known as the Phoenicians) and that God didn't command the slaughter of innocent men, women and children (violating ethics of the sanctity of human life laid down by the Christian God).
There is a mistake all of you are making, especially you, Coptic Boy, and that is reading the Old Testament using the Antiochene literal-historical method, rather than the Alexandrian method, where the Old Testament is seen as spiritual allegory and above all else, Christological prophecy.

Let us take one of the most controversial of the “Imprecatory Psalms” as an example, Super Flumina, better known as By the Rivers of Babylon, Psalm 137 in the Jordanville Psalter (which is the Coverdale Psalter corrected against the Septuagint by the monks at Holy Trinity).
Alpha, I'm familiar with the Alexandrian methodology of interpreting scripture.  While struggling with this very topic myself I used this method to justify certain passages/events in the Jewish scriptures.  For poetical passages I think it is easier to use this method than say the (supposedly) historical events that took place.

Alpha, do you believe God commanded Joshua to slaughter the Canaanites (in a literal and historical sense)?  Do you believe God commanded King Saul to slaughter all the Amalekites and was later punished by God for sparing the life of King Agag (in a literal and historical sense)?  If not, how do you use the Alexandrian methodology for those events without a "poetic flavor" in the Old Testament?  If so, how do you justify the Christian concept of the sanctity of human life based on all humans being created in the likeness and image of God?

P.S. Not an attack btw; I've been grappling with this issue for about 15 years now.
What God did, does, or will do can never be grasped by mortals. I take the word of the bible as the word of God, and i dont try to grapple with some injustices in it, because who am i to ask those questions. Maybe some canaanite would become a very evil man, or that his offspring would do something heinous. God did what he did for a reason, he is a mystery as are his actions, but Jesus' words in the NT are what really matter.
Its why atheists dont attack what Jesus said or did when he was here with us that much, but refer to the OT.

 
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