Idolatry and the Definition of Marriage
The Biblical concept of the marriage relationship constitutes of a union between a man and a woman. According to the Bible, each of these was designed by God to fill a different role in the context of a marriage. A relationship that consists of two men or two women is not considered a marriage because the two respective roles that make up a Biblical marriage are not present in the union.
The relationship between God and those who worship Him is compared to a marriage (Jeremiah 2:1). The difference between God and any of His creations is far greater, both qualitatively and quantitatively than the difference that exists between a man and a woman. God is the Author of all existence and all of His creations are the recipients of His kindness.
When two beneficiaries of God’s kindness enter into a relationship with each other, that relationship cannot be considered “worship of the divine”. Worship of the Divine consists of a relationship between the One Author of all existence on the one side and His creations on the other side.
When one beneficiary of God’s kindness faces another beneficiary of God’s kindness in relationship – and that relationship is elevated in their respective minds to the status of “worship of the divine” – than that relationship has become idolatrous.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal
This is very clearly written, and it makes a lot of sense.
The book of Hebrews works with this concept in some strange ways. In chapter 1, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Yet he is seen to have been appointed as a son. Chapter 2 says he was humbled for a little while, because of the role of redemption he chose to play, and yet applies to him the imagery of one who praises God, trusts in God, and relies on him. I can’t get my understanding around what these early Christians were thinking.
Even Paul had an idea of Jesus as the wisdom of God; that having the mind of the Messiah, having God’s Spirit, means knowing the thoughts of God (1 Corinthians 2). While he consistently distinguished between the Father as God and Jesus as Lord, Paul directed some of the love, faith, and submission that belong to God towards Jesus, and spoke of him as more than ordinary creation: the one “through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6). I don’t understand what these people were believing and doing here. Paul hoped for the help of the Spirit of the Messiah in Philippians 1:19, not really distinguishing between the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Jesus; he believed that Jesus lives in believers (2 Corinthians 13:5), and the Corinthians were presented as a chaste virgin to the Messiah in sincere devotion to him (2 Corinthians 11:2-3): an affection, closeness, and loyalty that would be unfaithful to God if directed to a merely human prophet or Messiah. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, 8:9, and of course Philippians 2:6-8, he is definitely seen to have existed beforehand and humbled himself.
These people clearly had an understanding of God as the creator, and of the devastating adultery of worshiping anything that God had created; they sought righteousness and despised idolatry or unfaithfulness. Yet their imaginative distinctions were so different to the one you are portraying here, even to allow the personality of the Messiah to be part of their relationship with God. Were they simply confused by their devotion to their beloved Messiah, now in heaven and so inextricably linked with the saving work of God? I can’t understand what they were seeing in their beliefs, especially because most never wrote an explanation of how, or why, a man they had once thought was created as they were was now being spoken of in terms that belong to God alone. The resurrection in itself, along with the teachings and events recorded in the synoptic gospels, doesn’t explain their perspective; I wonder if I’m missing something.
There are several modern Christian songs in which it is hard to tell the difference between a “religious” song and a secular or pop love song. Several that represent love of Jesus (or God) almost as a love between a man and a woman (not necessarily a married couple) or a person and their lover (“lay against your chest & feel your heart beat”). Women in church often sing songs like that about Jesus with “lust in their heart”. Men sometimes feel very ackward singing those songs, because it seems like they have a homosexual relationship with Jesus.
These songs are not like the “Song of Songs”. They are emotional & are personal feelings about another created being. They are not songs about the love between a person and a “Father in Heaven”. They are not about man & “Nature” or the beauty & awesomeness of the land & God’s creation. They are not about a relationship with God, a glorious creator. It is idolatrous worship of an “indwelling” of “spirit” within the created object/being, like in the asherah tree, the totem pole, the gold calf, the pagan god-man or man-god.
I can’t speak for every Christian at all, but when I have sung these songs they have always been to my creator alone. I have believed that my relationship with Jesus is not like the emotional connection I would have with another created human person, whether a friend or in a marriage relationship; instead, I felt sure that God himself, the one who made the world and has stood apart from it for eternity, also chose to make himself known in many ways- one of which was the incarnation. There is a sense of hatred for idolatry that, for many Christians, doesn’t allow them to imagine God (known as Jesus) as created and dependent as we are. Christians relate to God as God, trust him to provide, and love him because of who he is, singing all the truth of the psalms. The resistance you encounter in some Christians is because to even ask questions about Jesus’ deity is to introduce ambiguity in your loyalty to God alone… and because Christians are astonished that God would humble himself to become like us, extremely thankful for the cost of love that it would take to do that, and unwilling to seek any path of forgiveness but the one he has given.
It’s complicated. It is a personal relationship with Jesus, but that is only understood within the experience of relationship with God. Because of the nature of human emotions and imagination, it’s possible for that experience to be inseparable, even for people who avert their eyes immediately from deifying, created things, false gods, or selfish experiences. But it’s hard to explain. It’s a difficult claim to grapple with, especially when you can see the blessing, the miracles, and the love for God in the churches in front of your eyes; you have to take this community seriously if it holds an unspeakable gift from God. It’s really complicated. The problems of anthropolatry described by this blog post, and by you, are horribly important if Christians are attributing that personhood and worship to someone who is just one of us. And that’s exactly why I want to know how the New Testament authors were thinking and speaking about these things; their letters perplex me, whatever solution is offered.
(P.S. I don’t know about the song you quoted there, but most Christians I know would be uncomfortable with that sort of ‘God is my boyfriend’ song.)
I can understand people seeing the resurrection and believing that Jesus was the Messiah. But if they are treating him as God, why didn’t they say what they saw or heard that brought them to that conclusion? Regardless of whether it’s true, it’s also strange, considering the sort of people who seem to have written those letters.
Why would many Christians be uncomfortable with a ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’, “I want to marry Jesus” song (besides maybe for some less spiritual or “baby Christian” men)? It might be that they have taken 1step out of idolatry toward a purer, more mature relationship with God? It shouldn’t bother some Christians, “because of the nature of human emotions and imagination…” as you put it. These are good people, “because you can see the blessing, the miracles, and the love for God” in their eyes & in the churches. But there are other communities who do not need to see God as a man in order to perhaps “feed one’s ego”, one’s humanistic beliefs or worldview, one’s “angst”. They need no Jesus to relate to God; don’t need to divide their devotion & love. No divided house; no divided God. Don’t need to pray to God & then end our prayer in someone else’s name. No need for a “stamp of approval” from one who is not God. You “have to take this community seriously if it holds an unspeakable gift from God” that you are not yet enlightened about. Can one imagine love from one or something that is not like us, perhaps like a child of one gender can feel love for & love from an adult parent of another gender? If you feel that dependence & security, is it ever possible for you to become an adult with your own child? To think like a child when you are a child is great, fun, exciting & it is all you know; can you put aside those “childish” ways & think another way? You need not wonder, for most of us, we were designed to leave those ways behind. And God only becomes more real, more wonderous to one who moves forward to be more like God.
God can do all things, can know all things. The humanist religionist or believer (& the “mystic”) does not really believe that! God must be “humbled”, must become like us (not for a day, but a year or 3 or 33) in order for us to be appeased, to be accept God. But you didn’t actually see that “incarnation”! You take the word of a few writers, yet know little or nothing about those writers or the history of the text. Good honest people, but they weren’t the only ones. Those good people, those believers, promoted heresies or committed forgeries & frauds. Hear this from the early Christians themselves.
Rather than see that we are created in a likeness of God (which is not a physical likeness or material state of being), we prefer that God be created in our likeness. A man-god or a god-man (incarnated god) is what we prefer. You may not see that, in your current state of confusion (though in your recent posts you articulate your reasons for confusion about NT writings & early believers well -but you take the words literally, you take the writings out of it’s historical context), but those who have been there, see it clearly. How to put it in words?
In God’s likeness. Some people fail to grasp that concept. Perhaps because of some concept of the “fall of man” or “original sin” (which was not a horrendous evil), or the ideas of “hell for unbelievers” and of demons or devil (evil entities seemly as powerful as God). Those are our childish “boogie-men”, evil “monsters out to get us”. But, yes, we are in God’s likeness. God is not a human. So an “incarnation” is not a likeness of what God is. A Jesus god-man is not the message God would want for us. What did God want from us? We were commanded to be Holy, just as God was Holy. God had no problem seeing us “supposedly worthless sinners” as easily capable of being Holy, since after all, we were created in the likeness of God. We can choose to or not to. God’s children either way; God loves us either way. In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus agrees with me. Forgiveness without blood, without a sacrifice, without the son even asking for forgiveness nor him even expecting or wanting it. The prodigal son didn’t even need Jesus. God can love us without any extreme action (in humanistic terms), without any “play-acting” like God is being humble or paying a price (to whom?? What cost??) or acting dead like pagan God’s. What will the people of the nations say when God emulates many of the gods of the nations?
It would be well worth remembering several things concerning the Bible and the writings contained therein. First: the Bible did not arrive via fax or email from the office of GOD. Second: everything that was actually written by Paul should be viewed with the understanding that Paul was a mystic. Paul always referred to Christ, not Jesus in his writings. And Paul’s understanding of Christ was that of one who had been well taught in the Ancient Mystery Religions and was likely a priest in one of them before starting to teach a variation of the old story. Third: other writings claiming to be written from the hand of various apostles are now know to be spurious writings-generated to oppose various points of view other than what many were trying to advance. Fourth: nowhere in the Bible is there a statement that marriage is “one man and one woman”. If that were the case, then many who are revered in the Bible violated that idea many times with many wives. The real truth concerning marriage is that it actually represents the reuniting of male with female in spirit. It is an old, old portrayal of an eternal truth and originally was part of being initiated into the Mysteries of Christ. Do your homework people, before commenting on issues of this nature. There is a wealth of info available for study.
To confirm, rabbi blumenthal did write that marriage is between a man and a woman, but he didn’t say “one” man and “one” woman- I think he was illustrating that marriage requires both man and woman- same as what you said- the uniting of both.
In which Writings did Paul not refer to Jesus, but only to Christ? And which of the Pauline letters do you consider actual writings of Paul and not spurious writings? Do you believe there are only 7 letters written by Paul (or the same author) or do you belueve there were actually none written by a Paul or Paulos or Saul and all are spurious 3rd or 4th century writings? Do you believe as some do, that if there was a Paul, he only believed in a “spiritual “Christ” not a historical, flesh & blood one and that is why you rarely find a “historical Jesus or Christ” in his letters? Or is that only because of the nature of letter writing, which is more polemic, more theological, more spiritual or “mystic”, which is a different style or format from a “gospel” which is more biographical, less “mystical”? Was Mark also influenced by the gentile, pagan “mystery religions” and not by the Jewish bible? What do you think about the “Secret Gospel of Mark”? When did the early church fathers first speak of a Paul or first quote his letters?
I almost forgot to ask a couple of related questions, which might help us to determine which direction our homework will try to lead us. Why do some of the early Christian texts call Jesus “Chrestus” (which I think might mean “a good person”?) instead of Christos (one smeared with oil?)?
naaria, thanks for your description of these things. I think I understand it very deeply, perhaps. Your concept of a ‘pure’ relationship with God is a powerful thing, so I want to understand the Christian perspective without generalising. Your points are extremely important if you’re right.
The New Testament explores the notion that God revealed himself most fully in the person and ministry of Jesus, but it doesn’t teach that this ‘word become flesh’ was the only way in which people can have the knowledge of God. I need to think about the extent to which they saw their relationship with exa;led Jesus as a *relational* bridge to the distance we can feel between God and ourselves, but they certainly understood the closeness and faithfulness of the invisible God. Their beliefs weren’t philosophical to begin with, as if the incarnation ‘clearly needed to happen’. Instead, they believed that these are the things God *had* done (and, more importantly, was continuing to do in their community)… and that we should therefore respond.
*exalted (not exa;led 🙂 )
Also, I know that the NT teaches that knowledge of Jesus is the only way to know and obey the Father. I just meant that they had a simple and clear understanding that relationship with God was possible before the time of Jesus, and they didn’t limit their relationship with God to the incarnation. Instead, they treaded so carefully around the idea that people still debate what exactly the early Christians believed about Jesus and his personal worthiness of worship as God. As I wrote before, I don’t find an easy solution to that question; it makes me curious about what they were thinking, and (most importantly…) why.
naaria, I’m writing in reply to your last two messages, which I think you wrote in reply to my last two above. I don’t want to get into a long conversation about Paul, and I’m not able to give definitive answers about his letters either. I think I asked for it, though, so here are my answers to your questions 🙂
I don’t have the ability to judge his letters for myself, so I’m taking the (somewhat clumsy, but helpful at the moment) route of considering mostly those seven letters you mentioned. The idea that they are spurious third or fourth century writings is crazy to me, who asserts that? And how? Also, I would say he was being quoted in the second century, but it sounds like you’ve heard that disputed; I’m curious to hear what the reasoning was. Paul was not fictional, based simply on my reading of his letters themselves. There is an intricate back-story implicit in the way he addresses his various audiences, the context he draws themselves within, and the way he works his way around what it means for Gentiles to come into the community of Jewish believers in Jesus. He definitely believed in a historical, flesh and blood Jesus… 1 Corinthians 15 is just one of the passages where it would be hard to argue otherwise.
I don’t know what you mean by referring not to Jesus, but to Christ. Mention of Jesus, by name, is all through Paul’s letters. Because his concerns are more theological he only refers to the historical events of Jesus’ life by allusion… which is actually considered better evidence, historically, because it assumes the audience was well familiar with the accounts; it’s not fabricating them with an intent of persuasion.
I have no idea whether Mark was influenced by the pagan ‘mystery religions’, or about the ‘secret gospel of Mark’. Again, I’d be interested to hear where you’re getting your thoughts on that. As to the reference to Chrestus, I don’t think that is found in any Christian texts… it, and similar, are found in a few texts by people who didn’t know much about the Messianic movement around Jesus at all. I’m not sure if that name was even definitely referring to him. What do you think?
Oh, unless you were replying to Bob, rather than to my comments? Oh well 🙂
Yes, my questions were for Bob, sorry that I didn’t address him directly. I was curious as to 3 of his main points. 1st that “Paul always referred to Christ, not Jesus in his writings.” 2nd- his understanding of Paul as perhaps a priest in “the Ancient Mystery Religions”. 3rd, that “other writings claiming to be written from the hand of various apostles are now know to be spurious writings”. It appeared he was discrediting the writings of the other apostles, but not of Paul. Some modern Christian scholars believe that maybe only 7 of the letters attributed to Paul were actually written by him and the others were later church writings.
I get it, that makes sense. I was confused by the way WordPress allows comments to be made out of order… but I wondering about those comments by Bob as well.
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So all the more curious that worship is frequently offered, intercession and sacrifice made to the Angel of the LORD, and He speaks as HaShem, decrees HaShem’s decisions, acts as HaShem and is identified directly by the text as HaShem.
If this isn’t idolatry, then something is deeply wrong with the paradigm here.
Again YB is driving the rabbinic notion of the Tenach’s teaching on the Divine Being, based on a selective and scotomatous reading of a family of texts and neglecting the broader picture other texts teach, in a way that leaves you with a profound incongruity. In effect, this Hellenic anti-anthropomorphism, shared with and taken further by Islam in the tauhid, turns the patriarchs and Moses into idolators. This is exactly how Muslims do often react when they first read the Torah, without the benefit of the extensive mental filtering of a sophisticated tradition.
There is good reason why their rejection of the notion of Divine Image in created man and the Son of God is blasphemous folly, and idolises human reason over revelation, it’s a great pity Rambam and many rabbis today also partake of this.
Charles Soper It is you who are reading the Scriptures with the Hellenistic eye thinking that idolatry is a mistake in philosophic thought. Idolatry is an act of the heart. What draws your heart? Is it the same that draws the heart of David and the people who still follow him? Or is it perhaps the mystery of the character described in your Greek book? Is the magnetism that draws your heart different than the magnetism that inspires the Unitarian to admire the human Jesus?
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