This article is in response to Part 1, by Christopher Jon Bjerknes, Why I Hate the Old Testament
Part 2: In Defense of the Old Testament
by Lasha Darkmoon
The Bible is the Holy Book of 2.1 billion Christians. Can so many Christians be wrong to read the first half of the Bible, the Old Testament, with reverence and respect? Does the girl in the picture above, who is reading the Old Testament, look evil and dangerous to you?
In this article, I hope to explain why the Old Testament is important and what it means to me personally. I freely admit that I have never read the Old Testament in its entirety from cover to cover, but only certain favorite books which I happen to like. I feel very strongly that these extraordinary books should not be condemned because of the so-called “bad books” which stand in juxtaposition to them. The baby should not be thrown out with the bath water.
I realize only too well that I have already lost this debate in advance—on this site anyway—and that few of my regular readers are likely to sympathize with my views on the Old Testament. However, I know at the same time that I will find many supporters for my views elsewhere. For example, Dr E. Michael Jones, who is a good Catholic, would probably stand behind me and defend the Old Testament also, as would most other practicing Christians, because to reject the Old Testament literally leaves Christianity in ruins.
Is this a circular argument? No it is not, because I begin with the assumption that there are millions of Christians out there who are so anti-Semitic that they would like nothing to do with the Old Testament. They would like to tear the Old Testament out of the Bible and trample upon it, holding on to the New Testament grimly. These are the Christians—and we have met them repeatedly in these columns—who insist that Jesus was not a Jew.
I don’t wish to enter into argument with these crackpot conspiracy theorists. Cosily ensconced in a delusional cocoon of their own, they are impervious to logic as well as historical fact. According to these cranks, Jesus was an Aryan gentleman with blue eyes and blonde hair, belonging to one of the ten lost tribes of Israel — and he doesn’t have a drop of Semitic blood in his veins! (See here, here and here)
We know for a fact that Jesus taught in the synagogue, something he would not have been allowed to do if he had been a non-Jew. We also know that the capital letters inscribed on his cross were INRI, which stand for IESUS NAZARENUS REX IUDAEORUM, meaning “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”.
Iudaeus (later written as ‘Judaeus’) = Jew.
Iudaea (later written as ‘Judea’) = the country of the Jews, Judea or Palestine.
(Cassell’s New Latin Dictionary, p. 329)
My favorite Old Testament book is the Book of Ecclesiastes. It is short and can be read in a single sitting. It is essentially a long prose poem and its beautiful language and sublimity always move me profoundly, as almost nothing else in world literature does.
Here are some excerpts from Ecclesiastes. I can see no harm in them. They do not corrupt me. In no way are they “dangerous” or “obscene”. They do not speak of Jewish world domination or the destruction of the goyim. The sentiments expressed here are cool, philosophical, detached, and utterly sublime in their own world-weary way.
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered. And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.
Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;
While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,
And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;
Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:
Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.
Truly, not to be moved by these words is to have a heart of stone; it is to be spiritually dead.
I first became acquainted with the Book of Ecclesiastes as a child. This was after my beloved father, one fine morning as we sat on our sunny patio overlooking the blue ocean, read me the final chapter of the great book. I was only 13 years old at the time and soon knew the chapter by heart. It began with the memorable words:
“Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.”
These words almost knocked me out of my chair. There I was, young and vibrant and in the early spring of my life, like a sappy plant in a lush paradise garden, with the warm semi-tropical sun kissing my pale flesh, and a frisson ran right though me at the thought that I would never be so young and alive again, never again so utterly in the now moment, and that the galloping years would bring grief and darkness to me and wither my flesh, and, in the course of time, bring me to old age, sickness and death.
By the time my father had reached the final words of the great book, words which burned into my young brain like a blowtorch, I was in tears:
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”
Who could fail to be moved by these sublime words? Here the ancient doctrine of karma, as old as time and rooted in every great religion, forms the clincher in the concluding sentence. This was my introduction to the Old Testament. The effect on my psyche was profound. My father could see I had gone into a sort of semi-mystical trance.
“Darling, are you all right?” he asked solicitously. I smiled through my tears, radiant with rapture. In that moment the seed of faith was sown in my heart. I had been a carefree child in the morning. In the afternoon, I was no longer a child. I had suddenly found God in the golden sunshine. The words of Ecclesiastes had been the catalyst. The entire world around me was now bathed in preternatural light. All was transformed, all was beautiful, all was meaningful, all was infinitely precious.
I apologize for this foolish outburst.
All I can say is this. If any Jew-bashing Old Testament hater can see anything wicked in the words of Ecclesiastes that I have just quoted, let him step forward and point out the wickedness and where it lies. I challenge him to do this. If he cannot, let him have the decency to hang his head in shame and try to acquire the rudiments of humility.
Apart from the Book of Ecclesiastes, the Old Testament books that have impressed me most have been the Book of Job (which Jung wrote about extensively in his volume “Answer to Job”), the Proverbs of Solomon, Isaiah, Genesis, and, finally, the Psalms of David. Nor must the Apocrypha be forgotten, in particular the Wisdom of Solomon and the Book of Ecclesiasticus (not be confused with the Book of Ecclesiastes).
Need I point out that the Psalms of David form the bedrock of the liturgy of the Catholic Church and that the Catholic Church is the foundation church of Christianity? Christian civilization—the greatest civilization the world has ever known in terms of great art, architecture, literature, music and philosophy—was founded in AD 313 with the adoption of Christianity by the Roman Empire after the conversion of the Emperor Constantine.
Numerous Christian monasteries sprung up all over Europe and in all of these, from the very earliest times, the Psalms of David were chanted by the monks and nuns and priests. The whole congregation joined in at Sunday Mass. Plainchant it is called. Or Gregorian chant. It is written in the lucidly pure Latin of St Jerome and has remained unchanged to this day.
For centuries, ever since the foundation of Christianity up to the present time, these beautiful psalms of the Old Testament prophet have been chanted in every country of the world to which the message of the Lord Jesus Christ has been taken. Not once a day, not twice a day, not three times a day — but seven times a day!
These are the seven Divine Offices, originally eight, also known as the Holy Hours, in which the Psalms of David are sung: matins-cum-lauds, prime, terce, sext, nones, vespers, compline. The exact times of day when these seven religious services have been held have varied throughout the centuries, but during a typical day in the High Middle Ages in Europe these Latin language services would have been held at roughly the following times: matins at the crack of dawn, with lauds soon to follow after a very brief interval, prime at 6am, terce at 9am, sext at midday, nones at 3pm, vespers at 6pm, compline at 9pm. After compline the monks went straight to bed.
(For more details, see Medieval Notes: The Divine Office, by Lasha Darkmoon)
What am I trying to say? I am saying that if you reject the Old Testament, you do so rather recklessly, without a proper knowledge of the history of Christianity and how its liturgy is bound up inextricably with the Psalms of David.
Cut the Old Testament out of Christianity and you have to sacrifice the Psalms of David. Sacrifice the Psalms of David and you have to sacrifice the Divine Office. In one fell swoop, you lose matins, lauds, prime, sext, nones, vespers and compline. Not much left, is there?
The moment you start thinking about cutting the Old Testament out of the Bible, you have embarked on a reckless bout of mutilation or demolition. All you are left with is the New Testament, and, hopefully, your veneration of the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ.
But even the New Testament is saturated with Old Testament references. No matter how much you try, you cannot expunge the Old Testament from the New Testament.
Can you say to yourself: “Forget the Old Testament! Forget the Catholic Church! Forget orthodox religion and every other branch of Christianity! Just give me two things: the New Testament and Jesus Christ.”
No, you can’t do that. Not with any consistency. Because you cannot have Jesus Christ and at the same time reject his teachings. And his teachings are rooted in the soil of the Old Testament.
Jesus taught in the synagogue, remember. Which is a Jewish institution. Not a Christian one.
Jesus quotes from the Old Testament constantly, including from the Psalms of David. His last words on the cross—Eli, eli, lama sabachthani? Lord, lord, why hast thou forsaken me?—is a quote from the Psalms of David.
Think, please think: would the last words of a dying man be a quote from a book he hated?
The easiest way out of this morass is to become a nihilist and believe in nothing. Or to be a happy pagan who is content, like Epicurus, to spend his life in the pursuit of pleasure. Is sex and food and fun, eating and drinking and making merry and getting stoned, enough to keep a man happy until the grave swallows him up in darkness and oblivion?
I don’t think so.
It is not the love of money, but godlessness, that is the root of all evil. Man lives by his ideals and noble aspirations. However irrational these may seem to the scoffing nihilist, they invest his life with meaning; for without some supermundane goal and purpose, life becomes meaningless and the only logical outcome of such a bleak and pessimistic attitude is to hang oneself.
It was not for nothing that Nietzsche, at the end of his tether, wrote down these memorable words, “Formula of my Happiness: a Yes, a No, a Straight Line, a Goal.”
And here is the prophet Isaiah, “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.”
Christianity is built on the foundation of the Judaism of the Old Testament, by which I mean the sum total of the collective wisdom of countless generations of Jewish thought. For who can deny that Solomon was wise or that King David and Isaiah and Job had delved into the heart of things and plumbed the depths of the human condition? Cut away this rich foundation of Jewish thought and the whole building that is Christianity collapses.
Judaism is the dark root, Christianity the flower.
As I sat in meditation one morning, the Devil whispered in my ear. I grabbed a pencil and quickly wrote down his words. I lie not. These are the words the Whisperer dictated to me as I sat by my window in deepest contemplation, and I will give you his exact words as he spoke them—pure poison—pure, unadulterated poison from the bottomless pits of hell:
“The ultimate toxin is Truth. This is the sad secret of life. In order to survive and be moderately happy, man needs to surround himself with beautiful illusions and comforting lies. If the Truth ever became known, it would have to be concealed.”