Monday, January 28, 2013

The Torah and the nature of scripture

The scriptures of the three major monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are often regarded as unitary books. In the case of the Qur'an this is true - alternate versions having been destroyed under orders by the third Rashidun Caliph Uthman.  This is not so, however, for Judaism and less so for Christianity.  While Christians acknowledge two basic divisions for their sacred scripture - the Old Testament and the New Testament - and also acknowledge that these are comprised of various separate books - they are meant to be read as a whole.

For Judaism, the Torah came to form the basic Scripture of this religion - but added to it were other books, the group known as the Prophets and a final body of literature known simply as the Writings.

What makes these scriptures different - and which also allows Christian scriptures to be included in this categorization - is their form.  While the Qur'an was told to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel as the direct words of God - the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity take the form of the story of God's relationship with the Jews, then with their successors, the Christians.  That is, they form a collection of narrative tales which contain lessons for the proper relationship of humanity to divinity, rather than a collection of precepts.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The New Religion

Science as religion - all this new creed lacks is a sense of community - it gives a creation account, provides a sense of worth for the individual and has its preachers:

In the beginning was the code

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Creativity and sub-creativity

I started to watch a TED talk [not by me ....:-)) this morning where a digital artist was talking about creativity - he mentioned how difficult it is to create something from nothing.  A throw away line of course, or a meme - but that got me to thinking about J.R.R. Tolkien [bear with me!] - Prof. Tolkien was a devout Christian and believed that only God creates - that is, only God has or can produce 'something' from 'nothing'.  Tolkien believed that humans 'sub-create' - that is they re-assemble existing forms, ideas, things, and so on, into new forms.... but that we cannot by our nature begin with a literal nothing.

Now, to be fair, I suppose the fellow giving this talk was using the term 'creativity' in its general sense, and not in a theological or philosophical sense - or indeed, in a scientific sense.  Scientists too, after all creatively re-arrange matter to suit humanity's purposes, or just out of curiosity.

The TED talk:

Aaron Koblin:  Artfully visualizing our humanity

And J.R.R. Tolkien:

” The incarnate mind, the tongue, and the tale are in our world coeval. The human mind, endowed with the powers of generalisation and abstraction, sees not only green-grass, discriminating it from other things (and finding it fair to look upon), but sees that it is green as well as being grass. . . The mind that thought of light, heavy, grey, yellow, still, swift, also conceived of magic that would make heavy things light and able to fly, turn grey lead into yellow gold, and the still rock into swift water. . . in such ‘fantasy’, as it is called, new form is made; FaĆ«rie begins; Man becomes sub-creator.” 

from:  Tolkien, J.R.R. “On Fairy-Stories.” The Monsters and the Critics: And Other Essays. Ed. Christopher Tolkien. London: HarperCollins, 2006. pg 122. found here: