© 2017 Jewish Books | Judaism | Jewish Religion : Israel Drazin
Design by SEOperson.net
Joel M. Hoffman’s book “The Bible Doesn’t Say That” is certainly correct that people read ideas, teachings, commands and whatever else they want to find into the biblical words and events that the words do not say and which is not at all explicit in the biblical events. Since religion, or at least some religious concepts, have a significant part in people’s thinking and impact their behavior, these wrong ideas lead to irrational ways of thinking and acting. Examples include the Christians and Jews, both accepting the importance of the Hebrew Bible, but seeing the passages saying radically different things, such as the Christians understanding that scripture is teaching about Jesus, while there is no clear statement that supports their reading. Another example is how mystically-minded people see the Bible saying one thing while rational people see something else in the biblical words. Still another instance are the sermons of Christians, Jews, and Muslims that the clerics insist are based on biblical texts, but invariably a close reading reveals that the cleric is seeing what he wants to see, something that is not biblical, such as the belief in a world to come, that people have souls, are rewarded in heaven and punished in hell, and the like.
People may think that the wrong ideas are not so bad, but this is not so. The Hebrew Bible, for example, does not have the concept of a soul or an after-life or punishment and reward after death. These were ideas that entered Judaism and later Christianity around the fourth century BCE. But although not endemic to religion, although God did not reveal them in the Torah, people base their behavior on these and other concepts that are not in the Bible. They read biblical verses in synagogues, churches, and mosques and think what the rabbi, preacher, or imam says is true, that the holy book says is what he says, when the truth is that the holy man, like other people, has been misled, the book does not say it. Recognizing this phenomenon should prompt people to think about what they read.
Hoffman discusses forty such ideas, but there are hundreds more. I reveal many of them in my “Unusual Bible” series. Hoffman’s book is very readable and is filled with humor such as, when an economist was asked by a reporter to describe the economy in one word, he answered “good.” When asked to use two words, he responded, “not good.” The following are some of the forty ideas that he mentions with some of my parenthetical comments.