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Let me introduce myself. I am a retired teacher and school administrator. I have been a Southern Baptist all my life. My father, a deacon, saw to it that his family attended church on Sunday morning and Sunday evening every Sunday. Although he never spoke to me personally about matters relating to religious life, he did see that I heard about it through church attendance. I have served as deacon, Sunday School teacher and various other leadership roles in the church. I am currently a member of a local Baptist church in Hardin County, Kentucky. I am not a theologian. My doctorate is in educational administration from Vanderbilt University. I am proud to not have been trained as a theologian.
The purpose of this writing is to relate my evolving belief system in a few of many topics relating to personal belief. Obviously I have been influenced by pastors, teachers and persons I have read or listened to through other media. Among these resources of teaching are by the late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan and the late Vendyl Jones of Texas. Rabbi Kaplan’s writings cause one to consider deeply his or her thinking on many levels. Vendyl Jones presents concepts which challenge one to evaluate for him or herself before adopting as one’s own. I do not subscribe to all of Mr. Jones’ beliefs. The tenet suggested by my words is for everyone to listen or read, and then, with the help of God, to determine the truth of the concept. It is my hope that you will not glibly accept every notion that is presented through preaching or teaching by any media, including my own.
It is very easy to be lulled into accepting certain concepts without personally evaluating each. One such issue is the observance of Christmas on December 25. Scholarship has long determined this is not the likely day for the birth of the Christ child. Does it make any difference whether we celebrate on this day or another? Nevertheless, no movement has been launched to change it. Another concept is that of angels. We probably agree that angels are God’s special messengers from heaven to persons on earth. We make angels to be men, women and children in pageants and plays. But can you find a reference in the Bible to an angel that is a woman or child?
Do you also know that the person we call Jesus was never called Jesus in his life on earth? His name is Yeshua ben Joseph. This is the same name as Joshua, the successor of Moses. Again, does it make any difference which name we use? It just seems to me that if his name is Yeshua, why not call him Yeshua?
As a part of the introduction of my thesis, I would like to address the individuals who are skeptics or even atheists who doubt the existence of a Creator. The Bible records in Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (KJV) Does this mean that we are not to use our intelligence to consider the existence of God? Consider the following allegory inspired by something I read in Jewish literature. Suppose I told you, if you are a skeptic, that I got up one morning and on my typewriter, written entirely by itself, was the following poem:
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
And you say to me, “Do you take me for a fool? Not only does such a poem have to have an author, I know who the author is. The author is Robert Frost and the name of the poem is Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening.” And I say to you, “Do you take me for a fool? As you look at the sun, moon and stars, as you look at the creatures of the world, as you look at the ability of the human body to heal itself, as you look at the human eye with its ability to distinguish vivid colors, you don’t know that there had to be an author and creator of such?”
Finally, to complete my introduction, I want to discuss the Holy Bible. Today, most Bibles contain 66 books, 39 books comprising of the “Old Testament” and 27 books comprising the “New Testament.” Do you also know that the 1611 King James Bible also contained the 15 books of the Apocrypha?
To me, the use of the term “Old Testament” is repulsive. The term implies that this portion of the Bible is obsolete, archaic, outdated and should not be considered relevant. Nothing is further from the truth. The Jews refer to this collection of books as the Tanach. This is how I will refer to it. Recorded in Acts 17 are two passages stipulating the relevance and authority of the Tanach. Verse 2 states, “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,” (KJV) Also, verse 11 states “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (KJV) To what do you think the word “scriptures” in these two passages refer? There was no “New Testament” at this time. The words refer to the Tanach! One principal of Hebrew studies is that the oldest scriptural writing is the most authoritative. This is a principal on which I will always rely.
Tanach is the Hebrew acronym for the three sections of Hebrew scripture: Torah, Neviim (prophets) and Kesuvim (writings). Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy comprise what is referred to as the Torah. To the Jew, the Torah is the very word of God dictated to Moses by God.
This is the starting point for my thesis on what I believe.