Columns General story Jeffrey Salkin: Martini Judaism Opinion

Lay off my God already!

Thomas Nast’s famous drawing, “Merry Old Santa Claus,” from the January 1, 1881 edition of Harper’s Weekly is largely considered the basis for the modern image of Santa Claus. Image courtesy of Creative Commons

That’s it. I am calling the ADL.

Was it an anti-semitic incident? A swastika on a synagogue? A physical attack on Jews?

No. Not this time.

This time, it is an attack on Judaism itself.

This time, it comes in the pages of one of this country’s most sophisticated magazines — The New Yorker.

In the December 24 & 31, 2019 issue, on page 28, we see a cartoon. In the cartoon, Santa Claus has come down the chimney. He is wielding a whip. The waiting children say: “Oh, crap — it’s Old Testament Santa.”

Now, I thoroughly get it.

After all, compare the religious heroes of the season.

On the one hand, you have jolly St. Nick, whose only purpose in life is to deliver presents to greedy kids all over the world. Pure love and niceness. (You would have hoped that the major religious hero for Christians at this season would have been the Baby Jesus, but that theological train left long ago).

On the other hand, Judah Maccabee, the hero of Hanukkah. A brilliant military hero. A man who fought for Judaism. A man who wasn’t afraid to kill Syrians and treacherous Jews alike.

OK — not a nice guy. But, a necessary guy.

Santa Claus, nice. Judah Maccabee, not so nice.

Back to the “Old Testament Santa” cartoon — ignoring, for the moment, that Santa Claus appears in neither testaments.

The idea of an “Old Testament Santa” is anti-Judaism 101.

First of all, the very term “Old Testament.”

“Old Testament” is an unconscious piece of anti-Judaism. “Testament” means “covenant.”

To say that the Jewish Bible, or the TANAKH, is the old testament implies that the covenant that God made with Israel is old — as in, outmoded, out of step, out of style. To put it in computer terms, the old covenant needs an upgrade — to a new covenant, a new testament — through Jesus.

For that reason, many sensitive Christians no longer refer to our Bible as the Old Testament. Some refer to it as the “first testament.” Some even respectfully call it what we call it — the TANAKH.

Second, Santa wielding a whip. Here we have the following implication — that the God of the so-called Old Testament is a cruel, vengeful God — and that the God of the Christian New Testament is a loving God. God of justice vs. god of love.

The idea is very powerful, and very old.

It dates back to the first century Christian theologian, Marcion.

In the early years of Christianity, there was an ongoing debate: how “Jewish” should Christianity be? How much should it acknowledge Judaism as its parent religion?

Marcion would have none of it. He taught the following idea: the Jewish God — the God of the Old Testament — was evil, and that the Christian God — the God of the New Testament — was good. Marcion believed that Christianity must utterly sever itself from its Jewish roots.

From there, it was an easy move to Jews/bad, Christians/good.

You all know where that brought us.

What is my response to the God of love/God of justice thing?

First, for all of the love that the New Testament contains, you will forgive me if I remind you: for the better part of two thousand years, until sixty years ago, we Jews did not feel the love that emanates from Christianity. Rather than Santa brandishing a whip in a cartoon, it was the agents of the Church that brandished whips — and far worse — not in a cartoon in the New Yorker, but in real life.

But second, let me introduce you to my God.

The God I worship is many things.

But, at this moment, let me tell you about my God of love.

God is like the ideal parent. Yes, back in the Bible that Divine Parent had some bad days. Occasionally the anger got a little out of control. But when God got angry, let’s at least realize that the source of that divine anger was human action — human cruelty, rapaciousness, and idolatry.

God’s parenting skills are pretty human. If you want to try to understand God’s inner life, think about parenting. You watch your infant roll over for the first time. You coax her to do it, cheering her on, wondering if you should help or not, wondering if she will get it on her own.

That’s the way it is with God and humanity as well. God creates the world, but then we have to start working independently.

Your child grows up. She gets her drivers’ license. You are terrified that she may have an accident. You would like to keep her locked up in the house with the car keys in the safe.

But, you can’t. You must step back and let your child drive and pray for the best.

That’s the way it is with God and humanity as well. Some of us may want a perfectly ordered world in which people cannot hurt or do evil. But such a world, though idyllic, robs humanity of its freedom. It is too big a price for us – and even God – to pay.

The so-called God of the Old Testament is involved in active nurturing parental behavior. In Moses’ farewell poem in Deuteronomy, God “adopts” the Jewish people in the wilderness, “nurses” them, and watches over them like a mother eagle. There is even a legend that teaches that God ran a day care center in Egypt for lost Israelite children!

The so-called God of the Old Testament is not only a pretty good parent, but that God has taught me how to be a better son.

There were times when my father and I were angry with each other — complete with painful stretches of anger that seemed endless because the animosity was filled with silence.

When my father and I have fought and made up, I have understood the true meaning of repentance. That’s the way it is with God and humanity as well. God doesn’t seem to talk anymore.

Is God disgruntled? Or have we not taken the time to hear what God might be saying to us?

The ancient sages of the Jews imagined a God Who can change and grow, like a maturing artist.

The ancient sages of the Jews imagined a God Who was responsive to human dialogue (Abraham and Moses were pretty good in this department).

They imagined a God who can be wrong.

There is a famous passage in the Talmud in which sages argue with God over a matter of some arcane law, and the sages are proven right. God loves it. “My children have defeated Me!”

It is like the parent who loves when his or her child is victorious in chess or in football – or who loves it when the child comes back with a witty retort. In Jewish legend, God even has frustrations and weeps. God sees human suffering and goes to a special chamber in heaven and bawls.

There is far more in the mainstream religious imagination than we know. We simply have not used it. When we do so, we become better, richer, deeper people.

Henry Slonimsky, an underrated Jewish thinker, once wrote: “God is primarily and pre‑eminently a great heart, caring most for what seems to be important and sacred to us, namely, our loves and aspirations and sufferings.”

Like I said: lay off my God already.

Because whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not, in some form or another, that might be your God, too.


About the author

Jeffrey Salkin

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., and the author of numerous books on Jewish spirituality and ethics, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and Jewish Publication Society.


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  • The God of the TANAKH was the God of love, just ask any Midianite. At least there is no Hell in the TANAKH, so He’s got that going for him.

  • “Marcion…you all know where that lead us.”

    Yes, we do.

    It lead us to a place where Marcion was excommunicated, the God of the Old Testament was conclusively affirmed to be the God of the New Testament and the Father of Jesus Christ, and said Old Testament was included in the Christian canon of Scripture.

  • “Here we have the following implication — that the God of the so-called Old Testament is a cruel, vengeful God — and that the God of the Christian New Testament is a loving God. God of justice vs. god of love.”

    Implication my foot! Compare the Hebrew Scriptures to the Christian Greek scriptures and that is what you objectively conclude – although the christian god still has a vengeful streak that will show at Armageddon.

  • Or if someone forgot to repent of his or her sins. Or if they didn’t know that Jesus was lord. Or acknowledge it.

  • Me thinks thou dost protest too much! Old doesn’t necessarily imply outdated, irrelevant, needing to be replaced. Antiques are old and their value is in their oldness! So get a grip!

  • Let’s see, santa with a whip. But, as Rabbi Salkin wrote, Santa is not God. But whose god did take a whip, one he made himself, with which to beat people?

    John 2:15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables

    Why were there money changers and sellers of sacrifices in the Temple? Because God meant them to be there, to change money to the local currency, and to buy a sacrifice that they could not transport the distance from their home town

    Deuteronomy 14:24 And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the Etrnl thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the Etrnl thy God hath blessed thee: 25 Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the Etrnl thy God shall choose: 26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the Etrnl thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household

    So which god is vengeful?

  • Uh, it’s the Christians’ new testament that claims our covenant with God is old, fading away, replaced by the new testament::

    Hebrews 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

  • Rabbi Salkin, I’ve read this column three times, and even now, I’m not sure about it. The cartoon, which I haven’t seen, is funny, at least to me as a cultural Jew, as an atheist, and as a frequent critic of the excesses of religion. On the other hand, I can see how angry it has made you, and that I also understand as a cultural Jew, as a gay man, and as a frequent critic of the excesses of religion. What I don’t see it as is a dog whistle to the explicitly anti-Semitic. I get that you do.

    I got attacked a number of times as a child in the Fifties, both as a Jewish boy and an obviously gay boy. So I get all of that. But, as I say, I also get the cartoon. The God I was told about as a child in my Jewish Sunday school Seemed arbitrarily vicious and cruel — arbitrarily, as in no good reason – and Fully at odds with the great and good being that I was also taught about. I remember being taught about the 10 plagues of Egypt, and about how after each of them, “God hardened pharaoh’s heart”, in order to inflict ever worsening plagues. I will always remember protesting in school to my teacher: “but that isn’t fair!”. I also thought that the flood was more of the same, and said so. I still remember the Gustave Dore engravings that illustrated the drowning of the little babies that couldn’t have sinned even if they wanted to.

    I was told that I was not to question God or his actions. All that instruction did was cause me to question my teacher, my faith, my rabbi, and eventually, everything they were telling me, which ultimately led me to be an atheist. After my bar mitzvah, I entered a temple exactly twice: once for friend’s bar mitzvah, and once because my father asked me to as a favor to him. Well, twice until I started going there for my business, but never for any religion related business.

    All of this leads me to repeat what I have said many times. How we read the Bible really depends on the kind of people we are, and not the other way around. You are a good and decent man, as have been the vast majority of the many rabbis I’ve met over the years. I have not read anything of yours that has led me to think anything other than that. So that’s the kind of God you take out of Old Testament. At the same time, there is no denying that the old testament is a chronicle of smiting and slayings, of revenge and anger. (For the record, I don’t see the NT as all that much better, with its sacrifices of the innocent and promises of eternal torutures and damnation if you don’t bend the appropriate knee).

    The same thing is true for Christians. I’ve known many good, kind, wonderful Christian people whose faith reflects those qualities, just as I can see on These Very Pages the other kind of Christian, the kind who always seem to be saying “the New Testament is for Me. The Old Testament is for YOU.” The kind whose faith is a club in all senses of the word— one that excludes other people, including other Christians, one that they will use to beat you into submission.

    So my suggestion is: There are real injustices and real anti-Semitism to be concerned about. A cartoon in the New Yorker is neither.

  • Given the nature and functioning of the human conscience as described in Romans 2:15, exactly how does anyone merely “forget” to repent of their own sins? Hmm?

  • “So which god is vengeful?”

    It would say it is the God who said: “Vengeance is mine.” (Deuteronomy 32:35).

    Now who was it who said that? Oh yeah, the Lord, the God of Israel.

    Like Father, like Son.

  • The illustration was painted by Thomas Nast in 1881.

    Thomas Nast was a rabid anti-Catholic

    and racist.

    Nast expressed anti-Irish sentiment by depicting them as violent drunks. He used Irish people as a symbol of mob violence, machine politics, and the exploitation of immigrants by political bosses.

    Although opposed to slavery and ostensibly discrimination against blacks, later in his career “racist stereotypy of blacks began to appear: comparable to those of the Irish …”.

  • But it hasn’t vanished or faded away! So that proves that you can’t believe everything you read in the New Testament. The New as well as the Old testaments are the work of man. Wishful thinking doesn’t make something come true!

  • You haven’t waited long enough.

    So that proves your proof that you can’t believe everything you read in the New Testament has a hole in its bottom.

  • Why?
    Because it made me think and was well written. The title made me think the writer was going to claim an exclusive on God but in the last paragraph let’s me know that is not the case. The pause breaks for humor and returns to the story suggest to me the author is serious about the subject but understands this to be a lite example of something bigger.

    The bigger being, for some a belief in God is a part of who they are that they can not deny. But rather than settling for the low hanging fruit of belief in a God of only good fortunes and bad fortunes, they wonder more deeply. It’s not idle wonder like has God ever had to wash his long white robe in heaven?-if not why?-if so does he do his own laundry?-if not who? This post is evidence of deeper thoughts. If God what purpose? If life with thoughts of God that seem to be so natural, why? Why contest some pro-God answers and agree with some anti-God sentiments? When wondering about God, what starts making sense?

    There is a thought of God that can’t really be charactered because the thought is, if God, followed by individual, incomplete, wonder. Different things compete, to complete for individuals, that incomplete wonder. Something like Old Testament Santa Claus is one more drop in the bucket competing to complete the wonder of God for many individuals. This post counters that. Therefore well said.

  • All god’s are vengeful when They want. They are capricious which is why people fear them. They are dictators.

  • The Santa myth right up there with the virgin-birth myth: Again, the reality of Xmas in 2018:

    Christmas, the embellished story of the birth of a simple, preacher man named Jesus.
    As per most contemporary NT exegetes, his parents were Mary and Joseph although some say Jesus was a mamzer, the result of a pre-marital relationship between Mary and a Roman soldier.


    Jesus was not born in Bethlehem at least the one we are familiar with and there were no pretty wingie thingies singing/talking from on high, no slaughter of the innocents by Herod, no visiting wise men and no escape to Egypt.

    “Mark’s gospel, the most historical of the four gospels, does not even mention the event.

    And from Professor Gerd Ludemann in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 269-272, “The historical yield of the Lukan infancy narrative in respect to the birth of Jesus is virtually nil.

    Matt 1:18-25: , pp. 123-124, “The fathering of Jesus from the Holy Spirit and his birth from the virgin Mary are unhistorical”. Ludemann gives a very detailed analysis to support his conclusions. One part being the lack of attestations to these events and the late time strata of said story.

    “Lüdemann [pp. 261-63) discounts Luke’s account as a legend deriving from Jewish Hellenistic circles that were concerned to hold together the procreation of the Spirit, the authentic sonship of the Messiah and the virginal conception. ”

    Then there are these additional conclusions:

    Professor Bruce Chilton

    “In [Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography] (2000), Chilton develops the idea of Jesus as a mamzer; someone whose irregular birth circu-mstances result in their exclusion from full participation in the life of the community. He argues for the natural pa-ternity of Joseph and finds no need for a miraculous conception. In his subsequent reconstruction of Jesus’ life, Chilton suggests that this sustained personal experience of exclusion played a major role in Jesus’ self-ident-ity, his concept of God and his spiritual quest.

    Continued below:

  • From Professor John Dominic Crossan

    “In [Historical Jesus] (p. 371) Crossan treats this cluster, like 007 Of Davids Lineage, as an example of the interplay of prophecy and history in the development of the Jesus traditions.

    “In [Birth of Christianity] (pp. 26-29) Crossan uses Luke’s account of Jesus’ conception and birth to explore ethical issues concerning the public interpretation of the past. He notes the tendency of Christian scholars to disregard “pagan” birth legends while investing great effort in the defense of biblical birth narratives. He concludes:

    I do not accept the divine conception of either Jesus or Augustus as factual history, but I believe that God is incarnate in the Jewish peasant poverty of Jesus and not in the Roman imperial power of Augustus. ”

    “The following ancient parallels to Jesus’ miraculous conception should be noted:

    Birth of Moses (Exod 2:1-10)
    Birth of Plato (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, 3.45) [see Acts of Jesus, p. 507]
    Birth of Alexander the Great (Plutarch, Parallel Lives, 2.1-3.5) [see Acts of Jesus, p. 502f]
    Birth of Apollonius (Philostratus, Life of Apollonius, I.4) [see Acts of Jesus, p. 505]”

    And some final words from Thomas Jefferson, not a contemporary NT scholar, but indeed a very learned man:

    “And the day will come,
    when the mystical generation of Jesus,
    by the Supreme Being as His Father,
    in the womb of a virgin,
    will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva”

    Letter to John Adams, from Monticello, April 11, 1823.

    Conclusion: Christmas is historically a non-event. Ditto for the Feast of the Magi and the solemnity of Mary aka New Years day.

  • John’s gospel as per many contemporary NT exegetes is historically nil.

    And Deuteronomy? Said book is the invention of Jewish scribes. Some other myths generated by said scribes:

    From the New Torah For Modern Minds :

    “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. (prob·a·bly
    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell).

    The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions — the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years — have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity — until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called ”Etz Hayim” (”Tree of Life” in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine document.

  • Wishful thinking does not make something come true, and that’s true, but wishfully thinking aloud can be insulting and hurtful.

  • Jews don’t read our scripture literally. We are not Protestants — the idea of reading the Bible without an interpretive framework is extremely new. Certainly, it is never something that Jews have ever done! Reading at the level of “peshat” (plain meaning) is the lowest level of reading in Judaism, appropriate only for young children or the extremely ignorant. Everyone knows you can’t understand the story of Abraham, Issac and Esau, Joseph and his brother, Sodom and Gemorrah, the war with Midianites or the journey in the desert without all of the well-known legends, interpretations and stories that surround it. The Jewish God is a God of both justice and love and the times when God seems particularly vengeful and irrational are exactly the times that the Jewish interpretive tradition steps in to mitigate in and some ways rescue God from the text. It’s unfortunate that our interpretations are not well-known to Christians, which leads them to misunderstand the meaning of our text, but as they say, “Jews and Christians are two religions divided by a common text”. Meaning — we share the Hebrew Bible but we read it so differently we might as well have entirely different books. It’s hard for Jews to understand Christianity as a loving religion — not when so many millions of people (not just Jews) have died for refusing to convert to it. A God that damns the vast majority of people who have ever lived to eternal suffering and torment literally has nothing to do with the God we believe in — a God who loves creation, humanity, and who provides rewards for both Jews and non-Jews, both in this world and the next.

  • This makes sense, but it creates a problem for Rabbi Salkin. The cartoon is based on a conservative Christian understanding of the Old Testament – “plain meaning” as you put it. But you suggest that the God of the Jews is the God understood by the “Jewish interpretive tradition” – not the same God as the “plain meaning” God. So, in fact, the cartoon is not poking fun at the God of the Jews; it is poking fun at the God of Christian conservatives, or perhaps more accurately, at the Christian conservative understanding of God.
    So why is Rabbi Salkin whining and complaining? There are many things in this world to whine and complain about, but this cartoon surely is not one of them. On this occasion, Rabbi Salkin seems to have grabbed a thistle, rather than a fig.

  • Fine – my comments were aimed at the texts that define the religions – not how they are practiced today. Judaism today bears little resemblance to ancient practices. In the NT Christians are admonished to be peaceful but the actual practice – done in the name of Christianity – has a long history of violence and cruelty.

  • Well, I’m Jewish, at least by birth and culture, so from that perspective, I agree.

    At the same time, why is it that so much in the word of God needs to be explained, interpreted, and “peshered” away to make it acceptable to a minimal sense of morality, goodness, and kindness? Why is god so inept at communicating?

    Read my long comment to Rabbi Salkin above. I’d like to hear what you think.

  • Mountain out of a molehill. And, the God of the Old Testament seems fixated on killing, punishing, destroying, more than anything else. Not a very good testament (sorry, couldn’t help myself) to a God of Infinite Love. “Greedy kids” are pretty tame compared to all that smitery.

    “God is like the ideal parent. Yes, back in the Bible that Divine Parent had some bad days. Occasionally the anger got a little out of control. But when God got angry, let’s at least realize that the source of that divine anger was human action — human cruelty, rapaciousness, and idolatry.”

    Nonsense. If we accept that God is ‘all-knowing’ and ‘all-powerful,’ then he set the stage for all that. He knew what was going to happen. All part of God’s ‘plan,’ don’t you know. Or is that just an American evangelical thing. You know – Pat Robertson stuff. God killed all those Haitians because, like, you know, Haitians are so debauched. Or God pretty much destroyed New Orleans because of …what? The French Quarter? The slaughter in Yemen? Doesn’t matter; those are all Muslims and they don’t count in God’s ‘plan.’

    Yeah. All part of the ‘plan’.

    You not only missed the boat on this one, you fell off the gangplank.

    And it’s the 2018 issues, not the 2019 issues.

  • Jesus taught the Old Testament is still in effect – “scripture cannot be broken”. What was the old Testament – scripture.
    The New Testament – other than maybe Luke, and Acts – was written by Jews, who upheld the Old Testament
    “that the God of the so-called Old Testament is a cruel, vengeful God ” The god of the OT is the same god of the NT. He loved Israel enough to defend them from their adversaries – remember Moses arms being held up? He brought Jericho down. He was/is a loving God;. He sent His Son to die for Israel – who is also a loving God – they just refused Him because He didn’t carry a red heifer, and other issues.
    This would show how Christ felt about Israel’s (His people) rejection (in my opinion)

    Matthew 22 English Standard Version (ESV)

    The Parable of the Wedding Feast

    22 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants[a] to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
    11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22

    God still loves His People. He sent Christ to die for them, should they accept His offer of salvation to have a relationship with them again. The curtain is rent.

  • The Day of the Lord Will Come

    3 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets (OT) and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

    8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,[a] not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies[b] will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.[c]

    11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:1-13

  • the “God of the OT” fed His people, nurtured them, made a place for them to live, protected them in wars, provided hope for them and,at times punished them – but most of all, He loved His people

  • The God of the Bible is different to the other “gods” – who want to be catered to and appeased. Christ reaches down for us, instead of expecting us to try to reach up to Him.

  • 2 Corinthians 4:4 English Standard Version (ESV)

    4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

  • Timothy 4 – 1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,

  • You need to exchange those rose-colored glasses for some clear ones! When I studied the Bible I was appalled at the level of cruelty and bloodthirstiness of the OT. The Elders failed to give me any reasonable explanation. Some examples:

    Felt it necessary to wipe out nearly every living animal and flooding the Earth just to destroy ‘bad’ people. Doesn’t say much for his design work when only 8 people out of hundreds of thousands (or millions) were good enough to be spared.

    Youths teased Elisha’s bald head and two bears viciously mauled and killed 42 of them.

    If a woman grabs the genitals of a man not her husband, Her hand was to be amputated.

    A rebellious child habitually disrespectful of his parents was to be stoned. Other sins such as homosexual acts and adultery also carried the death penalty.

    In some of the nations Israel displaced they were commanded to kill men, women, children and livestock.

    Yahweh is depicted as very human. He was vindictive, petulant, jealous, insecure, regretful and was talked out of bad deeds by his servants.

    The list is endless. The Christians definitely gave him a makeover as he is unrecognizable.

  • “level of cruelty and bloodthirstiness of the OT” Then you weren’t looking at it as a child of God who needed to see how far God would go to protect His own
    “Felt it necessary to wipe out nearly every living animal and flooding the Earth just to destroy ‘bad’ people.” My understanding and probably Jeffrey can confirm or deny this, but sin was looked upon like a “tar” that covers the person and everything that surrounds it. So God, with the Great Flood, was eradicating that sin.
    “Youths teased Elisha’s bald head and two bears viciously mauled and killed 42 of them.” God will protect His – I bet no one else gave Elisha a bad time.
    The genitals one I don’t know
    My understanding is that no child was ever stoned – again, perhaps Jeffrey can advise if that is true.
    “In some of the nations Israel displaced they were commanded to kill men, women, children and livestock” Again, the tar thing.
    “Yahweh is depicted as very human. He was vindictive, petulant, jealous, insecure, regretful and was talked out of bad deeds by his servants.” The God, Who created the Heavens the Earth and the Seas, was hardly human.
    The lists of His love for His people is endless – He came in the flesh to die for his people.

  • ” teased Elisha’s bald head and two bears viciously mauled and killed 42 of them.” God will protect His – I bet no one else gave Elisha a bad time.

    How disgusting and shameful that you think the death penalty – and a horrific and painful death, no less – is a just punishment for teasing a man over his baldness. I hope you never have to serve on a jury.

  • Adding to the list of Old Testament the god-approved atrocities:

    To wit:

    •Exodus 32: 3,000 Israelites killed by Moses for worshipping the golden calf.

    •Numbers 31: After killing all men, boys and married women among the Midianites, 32,000 virgins remain as booty for the Israelites. (If unmarried girls are a quarter of the population, then 96,000 people were killed.)

    •Joshua: ◦Joshua 8: 12,000 men and women, all the people of Ai, killed.
    ◦Joshua 10: Joshua completely destroys Gibeon (“larger than Ai”), Makeddah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, Debir. “He left no survivors.”
    ◦Joshua 11: Hazor destroyed. [Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (1987), estimates the population of Hazor at ?> 50,000]
    ◦TOTAL: if Ai is average, 12,000 x 9 = 108,000 killed.

    •Judges 1: 10,000 Canaanites k. at Battle of Bezek. Jerusalem and Zephath destroyed.
    •Judges 3: ca. 10,000 Moabites k. at Jordan River.
    •Judges 8: 120,000 Midianite soldiers k. by Gideon
    •Judges 20: Benjamin attacked by other tribes. 25,000 killed.

    •1 Samuel 4: 4,000 Isrealites killed at 1st Battle of Ebenezer/Aphek. 30,000 Isr. k. at 2nd battle.
    •David: ◦2 Samuel 8: 22,000 Arameans of Damascus and 18,000 Edomites killed in 2 battles.

    ◦2 Samuel 10: 40,000 Aramean footsoldiers and 7,000 charioteers killed at Helam.
    ◦2 Samuel 18: 20,000 Israelites under Absalom killed at Ephraim.

    •1 Kings 20: 100,000 Arameans killed by Israelites at Battle of Aphek. Another 27,000 killed by collapsing wall.
    •2 Chron 13: Judah beat Israel and inflicted 500,000 casualties.
    •2 Chron 25: Amaziah, king of Judah, k. 10,000 from Seir in battle and executed 10,000 POWs. Discharged Judean soldiers pillaged and killed 3,000.
    •2 Chron 28: Pekah, king of Israel, slew 120,000 Judeans

    •TOTAL: That comes to about 1,283,000 mass killings specifically enumerated in the Old Testament/Torah.

    The New Testament has only one major atrocity, that of god committing filicide assuming you believe in this Christian mumbo jumbo. Said atrocity should be enough to vitiate all of Christianity.

  • Are the wedding feast parables historic?

    Luke 14: 7-14, non historic via rigorous historic testing: e.g. John Dominic Crossan

    Item: 459
    Stratum: III (80-120 CE)
    Attestation: Single
    Historicity: no

    See also Professor Gerd Ludemann’s review and conclusions (historically nil) in his book Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 357-359

    Luke 14: 15-24, historically nil, See Professor Ludemann’s review and conclusions as above, p.360

    And Moses along with Abraham and Jericho? All myths!!!

  • I’ve just read a little of your comment as I came to a conclusion quickly – you may see God as, “…. and Fully at odds with the great and good being that I was also taught about.” because you are in active rebellion against Him. Most of your comments reflect this. Blessings…

  • No you agree with the atrocities and outrageous conduct of god. I should add as recorded in the bible. It is my opinion that little there is real.

  • Rigorous historic testing of any book or historical figure involves the number of independent attestations, the time of the publications, the content as it relates to the subject and time period, and any related archaeological evidence. Professors JD Crossan and G. Ludemann’s studies are top notch in this regard. Professor Ehrman is also in the top ten. And please note that Matthew, Luke and John plagiarized much of the gospel of Mark. A companion study to Professor Crossan’s The Historical Jesus can be found in his book, Excavating Jesus (with Professor J. L. Reed, archeologist).

    Professor Crossan’s rigorously evaluated inventory of NT passages can be found on-line at with added commentary and inventory at .

  • You seemed to have elevated yourself to the third and the fourth nuisance stratum. Alchemy’s first law is what you need to test the accuracy of the Bible.

  • I remind you that Jews never use the term “Old Testament.” I always put “Old and New Testament” in quotes. Why do Christians always quote “New Tetament” at Jews when they know we don’t believe in it. From the Jewish perspective, the Hebrew Bible is continually reinterpreted. Judaism is a rabbinic religion and includes Midrash, Torah commentaries from all ages and the Talmud.

  • You don’t have to believe in God to understand that this is classic Christian anti-Judaism. I’m not sure what you learned about Judaism as a child, but you obviously haven’t studied it as an adult. You don’t need to believe in God to study Judaism. You don’t even need to believe in God to attend synagouge. Jules Isaac, a French Jewish historian, wrote that “Christianity has a theology of contempt towards Judaism” that affects everyone in Western culture still. It affects everyone even the most progressive. It affects atheists. They are not immune.

    Being told not to question God or his/her actions seems very un-Jewish to me. The rabbis and Jewish scholars endlessly question God and the Tanach. Abraham questioned God. Ah, so you have nevered studied Judaism as an adult or had a rabbi who supported your questioning. I assure they are numerous. Did you never participate in a seder when we spill drops of wine to mourn for the Egyptian dead?

    Judaism is not a Hebrew Bible religion. It is a rabbinic religion. It includes Midrash, Torah commentaries from all ages and the Talmud. You will see them searching for a deeper meaning or reinterpreting Torah passages and that process continues today. The Torah is continually reinterpreted. “These and These are the living words of God,” A rabbi from the Talmud said this about two opposing interpretations of the Hebrew Bible. A literalist fundamentalist interpretion of the Hbrew Bible is not Jewish.

  • As opposed to the “New Testament” which is filled with contempt and hatred for Jews and Judaism. Jeffrey Salkin brought the over 2000 years of Christian treatment of Jews. I repeat Judaism is not a fundamentalist or literlist tredition.

  • I repeat, what you call the “OT” is nver interpreted literally by Jews. Judaism is not a fundamentalist tradition. Yes, Christians gave him a makeover to a God that hated Jews. Much of the “New Testament” is an early Christian polemic to prove the moral superiority of Christians.

  • Since the fall of the Temple and the dissolution of the priesthood, Judaism is predominantly a rabbinical religion.

  • Susan… I don’t disagree with anything you say. I also think you agree with me.

    I was raised Jewish, I got beat up as a kid for being Jewish, I will often say I am Jewish, but it is an origin, rather than an identity. I quite well recognize the “argumentative” nature of Judaism— “two rabbis. Three opinions.”

    But I have no need for Judaism, or indeed, any religion in my life. I have no interest in studying it, or the Torah, any more. When I was a young man, I made my religious pilgrimage: starting with Judaism, leaving Judaism, very nearly becoming a Christian, definitively leaving Christianity— ironically, CS LEwis got me started there, and ended up convincing me to leave— studying Buddhism, seeing the value of Buddhism, taking what I needed from Buddhism, but in the end, not seeing any need for any religion.

    That doesn’t mean I’m not interested in a lot of subjects related to religion, but My only interest in religion now, other than in occasional epistemological and morality interests, is the Intersection of faith, politics, and sexuality. How do people use their faith? Maybe it’s because I don’t really have any involvement in Judaism, and haven’t and 50 years, that I really don’t see this cartoon as anti-Semitic, but really a reflection of the Christian and Orthodox Jewish use of the Old Testament, as you have described. I think it is a widely shared perception of the Old Testament. Maybe, it has its roots as you’ve described, but that’s not where most people are coming from. I sincerely doubt that the creator of the cartoon had anything remotely anti-Semitic in mind, But I don’t know him or her and have no real idea.

    You wrote, “you will see them searching for a deeper meaning or reinterpreting the torah passages and the process continues today. The Torah is continually re-interpreted. “ That was exactly my point. People do not read the Bible and say, “I have read this book and this is going to be my morality.” How they read the Bible depends on the morality they’ve already brought to it, the kind of beliefs they’ve already brought to it, and not the other way around.

    Thank you for taking the time to write. I hope I have made myself clear in this.

  • I do apologize. Will do better in the future in announcing reiterations of important facts. Let me reiterate again for example one of the all important list of conclusions of the new year i.e. The Great Kibosh of All Religions (feel free to promulgate amongst the brethren).

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten
    seconds: Priceless !!!

    As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism,
    Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism,
    Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    There was no Gabriel i.e.Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on

    A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings
    (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a

    e.g. Taoism

    “The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth
    century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its
    later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today
    (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his
    mother’s womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. “

  • “Old Testament” is a very Christian term that I have never heard a Jew use before. I still think you should know what you’re giving up and you don’t. Even the most Orthodox Jew doesn’t follow the Hebrew Bible literally and is not a fundamentalist.

  • Judaism has been a rabbinic religion since the destruction of the second Temple. The foundation for a Rabbinic religion had already been created before the Temple was destroyed.

  • Had you written:

    “The ‘New Testament’ God is not – for me – a God of love for Jews.”

    that might be true in and of itself.

    But you made an empirical claim which is subject to verification and proof.

  • Well, with all respect, I don’t think I’m giving up a thing. It’s a part of my heritage, absolutely. So are all of the other religious texts. So is Harry Potter, Tolkien, and Lewis’s fiction. As I said, morality, as well as everything else in our lives, is the sum total of all that has gone before.

    Your point about an Orthodox Jew not being a fundamentalist is exactly my point. He also picks and chooses what parts of Bible he wants to follow, sameas a Christian fundamentalist, same as a liberal Christian. How they see the word of god depends upon who they are and what they bring to it, and not the other way around.

    As I said, we might look at things differently, but I’m pretty sure we’re basically in agreement. If we’re not, oh, well.

  • Maybe giving up is the wrong phrase, but before you decide something has no benefit you should know what it is first. I know atheists who go to synagogue and are very involved with the Jewish community. There are also atheist Jews who are very involved with Jewish culture as well.

  • It’s not my personal opinion, it’s my rabbis. Orthodox Judaism generally stops adapting after the Shulchan Aruch which was written during the Renaissance. It’s not 21st century, but it’s not the literal Bible either.

  • Oh, your rabbi agrees with you.

    That explains why you’re in that congregation.

    It does NOT, however, settle the matter.

    I also note you’re shifting the discussion from fundamentalist to literalist, which is another matter.

  • Initially, I thought it only included Reformed and Conservative Jews. It was the rabbi of my present synagogue that explained otherwise.

  • The Karaites were a sect that is now defunct. They were not Orthodox. Orthodox Jews study the Talmud and Karaites don’t.

  • “It’s a part of my heritage, absolutely. So are all of the other religious texts. So is Harry Potter, Tolkien, and Lewis’s fiction. As I said, morality, as well as everything else in our lives, is the sum total of all that has gone before.”

    What you’ve described is a data set or data depository, not morality.

    Morality involves making choices; this or that, yes or no.

    “How they see the word of god depends upon who they are and what they bring to it, and not the other way around.”

    In short, morality is subjective. Morality is a matter of taste.

    So, Hitler was not immoral, he simply had bad taste.

  • Since approximately the sixth century CE.

    Prior to that the descendants of the Sadducees still had a significant presence, and a smaller presence still exists.

  • -I am curious as to “how Jewish” you can be as an Atheist. Knowing, of course, that the very basis of Judaism is the covenant between Abraham and God.
    -I also view the cartoon as harmless fun. As the good rabbi touched on, it is a reference to the far more violent nature of the Torah. Yes “Old Testament” is not something a Jew should say, but getting the religious country-at-large to stop is..tricky.
    – I am a culturally Jewish atheist, and have studied adult views/understandings of God.(Jewish views, that is. Rabbi Kushner and so forth). My last point is that religious folks may think I’m missing out on something. It’s just not something I think has any basis in reality. Many fictions have been helpful and we all tell ourselves stories to some extent. But there are more powerful fictions which can touch the human spirit more than religious texts.

  • I found this to be an obscene overreaction. You, yourself, alluded to the fact that The Torah is a book of savagery, arbitrary cruelty, and that The God of the “Old Testament” is known as the just/cruel god. It’s just a silly joke based on this fact, and if you truly have read both the Torah and Christian Bible, you should know that. Are you being slightly disingenuous I wonder?

  • Easy to say my dear, less easy to prove as that isn’t the purpose of any of the texts gathered into the Christian Testament. Like the Hebrew Testament, it is a library of different genre of writings, each with a different purpose by its original author and later editors. If you don’t make assumed generalities about Christianity and the Christian scriptures, I won’t do so about Judaism and the Hebrew scriptures.

  • Depending on how one’s settings are made in Disqus, that could be one of a number of comments.

    The way to note a particular comment is to place your cursor on the “ago” portion of the header of a comment and copy it. That provides the exact comment. For example, I am currently responding to:

    Assuming you’re referring to

    your reference is to

    “Judaism is not a Hebrew Bible religion. It is a rabbinic religion. It includes Midrash, Torah commentaries from all ages and the Talmud. You will see them searching for a deeper meaning or reinterpreting Torah passages and that process continues today. The Torah is continually reinterpreted. “These and These are the living words of God,” A rabbi from the Talmud said this about two opposing interpretations of the Hebrew Bible. A literalist fundamentalist interpretion of the Hbrew Bible is not Jewish.”

    which is what I took issue with in the first place.

    Her particular version of Judaism is not a Hebrew Bible religion. Hers is not the only living Judaism.

    Her comment leaves out “predominantly”, which is necessary to accurately note that hers is not the ONLY Judaism extant.