I will conclude my critique of Michael Coogan’s article posted on CNN.com. In my previous post I showed his premise, loving your neighbor as the most important value in the Bible, was false. Now he finishes his article indicating three individuals Rabbi Hillel, Jesus Christ, and the Apostle Paul, who he says agree with him about loving your neighbor. Coogan writes:
“Here are three of them. The great Rabbi Hillel, who when asked what the basic principle of the Torah was, replied: ‘What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor: That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary.’ His words are echoed both by his near-contemporary, another rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, who put it this way: ‘Whatever you wish people to do to you, so you should do to them: for this is the Law and the Prophets,’ and by an early leader in the movement that Jesus started, the rabbinically trained Paul, who pronounced that ‘Love is the fulfilling of the law.’ So, I suggest, the essence of the Bible — its ultimate authority — is not in its individual pronouncements, but in its underlying message: equal, even loving, treatment of all persons, regardless of their age, gender, socio-economic status, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.”
Previously, I asked the question, who were these Jewish and Christian commentators he said agreed with him? Now he reveals who they are in his article. First, we have Rabbi Hillel. He was a very influential Jewish scholar who ministered in Jerusalem around 30 BC to 10 AD. Coogan accurately quoted Rabbi Hillel about loving your neighbor. However, we have to understand he was speaking to a potential prospect to Judaism and was teaching him the practical aspects of the Jewish religion. Similar to the book of James in the New Testament, he was teaching true faith in God results in good works. Hillel always kept God number one and Deuteronomy 6:4 (loving God with heart, soul, and strength) would have been an essential element of his daily prayers. Loving your neighbor would have been second in Hillel’s values. What I think is happening is Coogan’s adherence to pushing his agenda is so strong he cannot even correctly quote the Jewish Rabbi in context. If he would read the 10 commandments in Exodus he would discover the first 4 are addressed to God and then based on foundation of loving God, a follower will perform good works to family and others. The Old and New Testaments strongly endorse God first and then, as Hillel teaches, the practical application of that belief would be loving your neighbor.
Coogan then says his second witness to loving others was Jesus Christ who he says agrees with Rabbi Hillel. Again in my previous post I showed Coogan ignores the obvious passages where Jesus says God is number one and loving others is second. In Matthew 22:34-40 Jesus was pointing back to the 10 commandments (and other Laws) when he made his statement loving God is first and most the important commandment. Much more could be said concerning loving God as the essential commandment but I believe anyone, without a previous agenda, that investigates the teachings of both the Jewish and Christian religions the answer is obvious. Coogan is wrong in his analysis of the teachings of Hillel and Jesus; God was first and foremost for both and the outworking of loving God was to love your neighbor.
Finally, he appeals to the Apostle Paul, a devoted follower of Jesus and author of multiple books (letters) in the Bible. Did Paul teach loving your neighbor was the most essential and enduring commandment? Obviously, as a follower of Jesus Christ and an expert of the Old Testament Law, he believed loving God was the most essential and enduring commandment. Some main themes Paul taught in his letters were how to be right with God, how we deserve God’s judgment, Christians walking with the Holy Spirit, our struggles with sin, how we cannot be separated from the love of God, how the church functions, how to love others, fixing errors of the early church, and much more. Paul did teach to love your neighbor but in no way was this is most important theme. Either Coogan has not read the Apostle Paul’s letters or he again is forcing his agenda.
Michael Coogan’s basic premises in his article is the Bible is a manmade document and as such, he says Christian’s fail to consistently use all the passages pro and con on issues such as slavery, abortion, and homosexuality; that we cherry-pick verses. My series of posts I have presented a strong argument for God as the author and we do interpret the Bible accurately when verses are taken in context. I also demonstrated Coogan’s interpretations were biased by his personal agendas. He did what he accused Christians of doing. Based on the article he wrote and I critiqued, I would make sure I avoid reading his book, “God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says.” It will not be what the Bible says; it will be what Michael Coogan says and much of the content will be contrary to the actual teachings of the Bible. Despite his multiple academic degrees he needs to go back to school and take a basic hermeneutics (how to study the Bible) class. Maybe then he would lay aside his agenda and teach what the Bible really says.
 Coogan, Michael, “Bible has some shocking ‘family values'”October 26, 2010 12:53 p.m. EDT
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