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God and gods.

Reader comment on item: Musing on History
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Submitted by Michael S (United States), Jul 3, 2015 at 19:06

Hi, Waz

I'm not Quaker, Jewish or Buddhist, so none of the above apply. Christians who are not locked into Trinitarianism are an extreme rarity; and I find it impossible to discuss John 1 with Trinitarians. I read the passage just as it's written, without embellishment. To break it down,

John 1:
[1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

That seems simple enough. John says that the word of God (Torah) did not come before God, or after God: It is an inherent part of God, expressing His nature.

[2] The same was in the beginning with God.

...just an elucidation of the above.

[3] All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

This is straightforward. God was responsible for making everything: Space, time, matter, energy, thought, good, evil, heaven, earth, man, animals, the devil, the angels, you name it: It it's a "thing", God made it.

[4] In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

This is also straightforward: In the beginning (and ever since, though it doesn't explicitly say so here), God was what we call "alive". He was not some inanimate being, essence, or anything like that. Also, our "light" comes from him, which I imagine has something to do with our consciousness of Him.

[5] And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

We don't normally think of darkness "comprehending" things, as in "understanding" them. This requires a lookup:

1:5 και το φως εν τη σκοτια φαινει και η σκοτια αυτο ου κατελαβεν

"αυτο ου κατελαβεν" reads, "it did not overtake it" -- nothing to do with "understanding". It means that the darkness can't engulf the light, like the Blob that ate Cleveland, and snuff it out.

That's the five verses I presented here. Christians can't read this, without splitting God in two and making "the word" (which is a thing, not a person) as a "side" of God, like an ego and an id or something. It's just a "word", like the things I'm typing here, just as one understands it. It means the same thing throughout scripture. I said that, to explain how it's impossible to talk with Christians about these matters.

Now, let's see what your William Blake says:

"...every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite..."

Blake must have been on drugs. Obviously, everything isn't infinite. Only God is. He continues,

"To pray is to join God in the darkness of God's infinite Light – the darkness of our own senses, which cannot perceive that which is beyond attributes..."

The "darkness of God's light"? It might be sayings like this, that have caused people to have a hard time with Quakers over the centuries. I don't understand it; and I thank God that I am not a Quaker and don't have to understand it. Let's move on to the Jew you quote, Rabbi Steinsaltz:

"...there is no end and no purpose to [God's] light..."

If this is saying that God doesn't have some hidden agenda for shining, that He simply shines, then I agree... He goes on,

"In contrast to the numerical, or any other, infinity, with its severe limitations in all directions but one, the infinite light of God has no limit in any direction or form."

I certainly can't argue with the rabbi here; but neither can I affirm that he's correct: He's talking about God, as though God existed in our universe, with our notions of time and space. What, after all, can "all directions" mean, in a world that extends beyond the known universe? Let's move on to the Buddhist:

"Amhitaba Buddha is the buddha of infinite light. This 'light' is not just an allegorical term - it is an infinite sea of bliss and is the precursor of everything."

That has nothing to do with what John said. First of all, "the light" is not personified in the passage -- not as Jesus, not as "God the Father", and certainly not as Amhitaba Buddha. it is simply "light", which again, I will look up:

1:4 εν αυτω ζωη ην και η ζωη ην το φως των ανθρωπων

Are you ready for this?

φως Pronounce: foce

Strongs Number: G5457

Orig: from an obsolete phao (to shine or make manifest, especially by rays; compare 5316, 5346); luminousness (in the widest application, natural or artificial, abstract or concrete, literal or figurative):--fire, light. G5316

Use: TDNT-9:310,1293 Noun Neuter

Heb Strong: H216 H5043 H5051 H5094 H5216

1) light
1a) the light
1a1) emitted by a lamp
1a2) a heavenly light such as surrounds angels when they appear on earth
1b) anything emitting light
1b1) a star
1b2) fire because it is light and sheds light
1b3) a lamp or torch
1c) light, i.e brightness
1c1) of a lamp
2) metaph.
2a) God is light because light has the extremely delicate, subtle, pure, brilliant quality
2b) of truth and its knowledge, together with the spiritual purity associated with it
2c) that which is exposed to the view of all, openly, publicly
2d) reason, mind
2d1) the power of understanding esp. moral and spiritual truth

For Synonyms see entry G5817 (Strongs Exhaustive Concordance, Greek definition #5817)

That's a lot of definitions, but none of them is "light is a person". Note that definition 2a identifies "God" as "light". This is scripturally plausible, because of the passage:

[5] This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

We have to understand "light" in 1 John 1 as a metaphor; because in John 1:4, the author makes it clear that God Himself is not light; He has light within Him. Merriam-Webster's definition 2a is therefore scripturally incorrect, though linguistically accepted. The bottom line is that "light" is not a person: it is a thing.

Buddha, then is not "the light", in any of his manifestations. Let's go on... Is this Buddhist light "an infinite sea of bliss" ? Let's see how the Bible describes God:

Rev. 4:
[2] And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
[3] And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
[4] And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
[5] And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God...

Rev. 11:
[16] And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
[17] Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.
[18] And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
[19] And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail...

The Buddhist god may be a "sea of tranquility"; but mine is more like a lightning storm. I fail to see any connection.

Of the three imaginations of God you presented, I agree the most with the Jewish one. Of course, this does not make me Jewish.

Shalom shalom :-)


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