This is the second part of a six-part series about an imaginary journey to an Episcopal seminary where I ask hard questions about Christianity and priesthood. Without twenty-first-century answers, I may have to drop out. You can find Part 1 here.
Last week, I attended an imaginary class about prayer and prayer life. I asked too many questions. I didn’t mean to irritate anyone—I only wanted to learn how to best serve my Christ, the Jewish Jesus, in an advanced, sophisticated society.
Now, I’m off to my first class on the Old Testament. It must be very important, because at my ordination, the bishop will ask if I “believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God” (The Book of Common Prayer, page 526).
Shortly after the class begins, I ask this burning question: “Is the Old Testament god different from the New Testament one? They seem so different. One seems to be angry most of the time and has so many laws. The other is all about love.”
I am given a nonanswer in reply. The church is very good at that!
I listen for a while and then ask, “How can the Old Testament and the New both be the Word of God? Doesn’t the New Testament replace the Old and all 613 Jewish laws?”
Then I ask, “Who gets to decide what the Word of God is? I think it’s all about unconditional love. But many so-called Christian churches exclude the LGBTQUI community, treat women as second-class citizens, and support a morally corrupt man as leader of the free world. We can’t both be right!”
I understand the need to study the Old Testament as an influence on the early church, but the Old Testament is just that: old and ancient history.
I also know this. I am a gentile. I didn’t know any Jews until I went to college. The Old Testament was written by Jewish authors to record religious history instead of objective history. The two are very different. Religious history tends to hide messages in stories that are historically untrue.
So, I ask my Old Testament professor, “How can we understand the Old and New Testaments unless we are taught by Jewish scholars, know how to read Hebrew, and understand Judaism?”
The professor doesn’t like that question (he isn’t a Jewish scholar) and mumbles something about me taking a course in Hebrew and going to rabbinical school.
I have to think about that.
Maybe I should just shut up and blindly accept what the church tells me I have to believe!
What do you think? Come back next week for my New Testament class.