The word sin today is definitely Politically Incorrect. We can like or dislike something. We can find something questionable but we hesitate before we want to call it wrong. We might go as far as saying “it is wrong for me” but we don’t want to call it wrong for anyone else but that just comes across as judgmental and … wrong.
However, the Ten Commandments are found in Exodus 20. We don’t want to be murdered and wouldn’t like it if someone stole our car or lied about us. Situational ethics sound great until they impact us negatively … Right or Wrong?
So what exactly is the meaning of Sin and how far apart is the Jewish and Christian teaching of this Biblical teaching? Therefore, Tzedakah Ministries thought we would begin this section with a couple of primary questions that might help us answer this overarching question.
TWO PRIMARY QUESTIONS…
I am sure that you have heard it taught that all Christians believe in the concept of “Original Sin” – the idea that because Adam/Eve sinned we are all born damned in our sins because we are all born sinful. While Judaism doesn’t believe in such a barbaric theology but instead believes in the concept of free choice/free will.
However, and because you don’t like to be stereotyped in your Jewishness, I must warn you that not all Christians believe this idea. Without getting bogged down in the weeds of the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate, there is a lot of gray area on the issue of “Original Sin” within Christian thought and even within Christian denominations (For example – many but not all Baptists do but most Methodists don’t — while Presbyterians more than likely do but Pentecostals probably don’t).
So instead of getting trapped in Christian political minutiae, let’s examine Scripture instead because it is always the best way to go:
- Genesis 8:21b (after the flood narrative and the Noahic Covenant) states – “…for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth;…” – Couple of key words are heart, evil, youth
a. Heart in the Hebrew is the muscle that keeps life going. In other words, what beats in our chest is simply…
b. Evil plain and simple from…
c. Our youth or childhood. Now does this mean from the time we were born or at a certain age? We cannot ascertain from this passage and we will need to dig further but look at us … are we really that nice when no one is really looking?
d. We can be “good people” but what does our heart reveal about us? Just a question that we should all ask … including me because I was not always nice to my sister even when I was a child.
- Psalm 51:5 (after David’s sin related to Bathsheba) states – “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
a. One could argue that David was exercising a bit of hyperbole here but was he? Or was he acknowledging that even King David was a sinner from the earliest of ages?
b. He was not born illegitimate because he was the youngest of 7 and so that could not be his rationale. He truly saw himself as a sinner and a sinner that began from an early age.
There are other passages in Job and Proverbs we could list but I believe you can research those for yourself. Bottom line, the Hebrew Scriptures does not excuse or eliminate the possibility that sin begins at the earliest of ages. And I (Tzedakah Ministries) will be honest with you that we believe in Original Sin in the sense of the questions below:
- Does it really matter if it was a matter of birth or not? After all … we all sin as if we were born to do it. Right? Can you remember a time when you were truly perfect (and not just because your Bubbe told you that you were)? We all blow it (I remember lying to my dad at the age of 4 or 5 and watching his face crumble because he knew I was doing it) and even though Rabbinic Judaism tries to dismiss the idea of being “born sinful” they have created “creative” ways around the idea that we will discuss below.
- Does the possible reality of “Original Sin” make God unfair or is there more to the story? If so … wouldn’t it be a good time to find out? We will discuss this more below! Keep reading!
EVIL INCLINATION VS. FREE WILL
Yes, Tzedakah Ministries and Explore Messiah…? believes in “Original Sin” but we also believe in Free Will. Confused yet? Don’t be. God gave humanity the “fair” gift of free choice and we blew it and we are continuing to blow it.
So … we now must face the consequences and find out what will satisfy God’s demands for perfection (i.e., the whole “be ye holy as I am holy” concept found throughout Leviticus).
Rabbinic Judaism has an option that we will discuss but we want to suggest there is a better and more Biblical option that will answer your heart exploration more honestly and thoroughly. Because … I can promise you that “Yaytser-Hure” will not cut it.
WHAT IN THE WORLD IS “YAYTSER-HURE”?
My mother’s family can trace its roots in Texas back almost to what is called the “Original 300” that came with Moses and Stephen F. Austin.
We came with the second group in the early 1830s from Tennessee led by Sam Houston and Sterling Robertson. Now if you are not from Texas, this is not that impressive but if you are and drive through Huntsville you will see the gargantuan statue of “The Sam” and realize our Texas roots are pretty deep. For Sam Houston was not only the president of the Republic of Texas but also a governor of Texas.
However, my mother’s family greatest genealogical Texas history claim to fame is not Sam Houston but Cynthia Ann Parker. Not many have heard of Cynthia Ann, but most Texans have heard of her son Quanah, one of the most famous leaders of the Comanche Tribe.
What is significant about Cynthia Ann’s story is that she was taken captive during a Comanche attack on the Parker settlement in the late 1830s and ultimately became a full-fledged member of the tribe including marrying the chief of the Nocona branch of the Comanches. Later she was “rescued and returned to civilization” when the Nocona tribe was attacked and her husband was killed. Cynthia Ann (pictured below) never readjusted to “White Society” and she basically grieved herself to death in 1871.
The point of this story is that Cynthia Ann’s grandfather John Parker was a Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptist pastor who believed one was born with either a Good Seed or a Bad Seed and depending upon what seed you were given determined your eternity. The descendants who survived the 1830s massacre saw Cynthia Ann’s struggle to readjust as proof of her “Bad Seedness” and were not surprised when she died.
In other words, my multiple great-Uncle John was what you would call a Hyper-Hyper Calvinist and this view which filtered down to the view of Primitive Baptists which was strong in my family until my great-grandmother on both sides of my mother’s family broke away from it thankfully in the 1930s and 1940s.
Explore Messiah…? has told you this rather bizarre personal family story because many within Rabbinic Judaism will point to such a tale as an example of what is incorrect about the Christian faith. Yet, they will then turn around and advocate a concept called Yaytser Hure (aka Yetzer Hara) or the evil inclination. The idea of the “evil inclination” within Rabbinic Judaism is that every human is born with both a good and evil inclination. We can choose to do good or evil but our natural instincts will eventually take over and somewhere along the line we will choose to do bad – “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).
I don’t think any of us (even myself) would disagree with Ecclesiastes 7:20 but a simple question that I have often asked myself – how different really is the whole Inclination Argument than the Two-Seed Argument?
Yes, Rabbinic Judaism says you have a choice … but do you really? Yes, Rabbinic Judaism will relent and say that the choice is not really a choice because everyone eventually succumbs to our baser nature but they will then turn around and say you can do enough good to make up for you bad choices. All I can say that to explanation is … HUH???
Therefore, a final question before we look at what Scripture actually says – if we cannot control our baser nature … do you think you can really do enough good to make up for your own basic desire to sin?
BLOWING THE GIFT OF “FREE WILL” AND THE COST THROUGHOUT THE GENERATIONS
Tzedakah Ministries/Explore Messiah…? absolutely believes in the dual concept of the Sovereignty of God and “Free Will.” In fact, we would argue that God actually is secure enough in His Sovereignty that He never wanted robots for His greatest action of creation and gave us and still gives us “Free Will” but we continue to blow it. So … what is our choice, what is our road, what is our hopeful exploration back to Him?
First – Torah teaches that God only accepts holiness (i.e., “be ye Holy as I am Holy”) as found throughout Leviticus and attempts at good stuff will never cut it with Him.
Second – Isaiah actually said that our attempts at being good is absolute garbage in Isaiah 64:5 (verse 6 in the Christian Bible). Isaiah compares our best, believe it or not, in the Hebrew to the sanitary efforts/cleaning rags that a woman burned after her menstrual cycle!
Third – God never cancelled out the need for an actual atonement sacrifice for sins despite what Rabbinic Judaism tries to argue – and if they are honest they will admit it that Rabbinic Judaism is really Plan B Judaism to what Scripture teaches (Leviticus 17:11; 23:26-32). Incidentally, I took a continuing education course at Rutgers University on Rabbinic Literature and the professor basically admits as much!
Therefore, this is why we who believe in Jesus as our Messiah do not see Jesus’ sacrifice as a negative but as a solution to what we could never achieve ourselves. We blew/blow/continue to blow “Free Will” and Jesus did what we could never achieve on our own. He is our choice, our road and exploration back to God and that is what Romans 5 and Hebrews 10 seeks to explain if you are willing to explore/read it.
HAVE YOU EVER REALLY READ GENESIS 8:21; PSALM 51:5; ECCLESIASTES 7:20; AND ISAIAH 64:5 IN THE SYNAGOGUE?
One quick but really important final question – this section has utilized four specific passages from the Hebrew Scriptures (and we are not even including those awkward Leviticus verses!). When was the last time they were mentioned in the synagogue you attend[ed]? I remember one time bringing up Isaiah 64 to a rabbi and he didn’t even know that verse was there. Seriously! Would your rabbi know about it? How would he respond to it? Would you let us know?
Have you been surprised by what Christians actually believe about the idea of “Original Sin”? Is it different or the same from what you have been led to believe? Come and discuss it with us along with some of our questions at the CAFÉ Kehillah Discussion Board.
You might also be interested in reading about the REAL Jewish understanding of Hell as well — check out the Biblical understanding here.