I’LL PROBABLY GO TO HELL FOR THIS
– Musings of a Modern-day Heretic –
So, just what are the “Musings of a Modern-day Heretic” anyway, and why should you care?
Well, the ‘Heretic’ is me and the ‘Musings’ are some thoughts I’ve had about the Bible.1 You might care if, like me, you’ve found certain things about the Bible that just never seemed to add up. Or you might have never read it before and you just want to get an idea of what it’s all about.
When I read the Bible the first time many things struck me as strange and not at all like I’d learned growing up. The more I looked into it, the more I found that what’s actually ‘in’ the book and what I’d been taught ‘about’ the book, are two entirely different things.
Before we get started, I want to be clear I am in no way attacking the wisdom of the Bible in any way. But I am going to point out some biases, inconsistencies and distortions that run through the entire literal narrative. Whether these distortions were the natural result of changing times and the multitude of interpretations or deliberate attempts to press an agenda we’ll never know. But the fact remains, the Bible is littered with too many distortions and inconsistencies to ignore.
I’m not famous and I have no academic credentials, per se2. I didn’t cure myself of cancer nor did I have a near-death experience. I haven’t hooked up with aliens, studied under the Maharishi, or channeled spirits.
But I have seen God.
A bold statement, I know, but it’s true. Actually, “seen” is not exactly the right word but it’s as close as I can get. There was no blinding light or anything like that, but I understand why people say that. There really is no way to explain it. Today I say I was consciously in the presence of the Infinite All That Is,
To make a long story short, I’d had a traumatic injury, was extremely distressed, and was at my wits end. I’d always believed in something ‘more’ and I’d prayed to God off and on since I was a kid.3 But when I prayed it was like, “please don’t let me get a ‘D’ in math,” or “Please God, don’t let her be pregnant.” You get the idea. But not this time. This time something shifted. I prayed in absolute surrender. That’s when it happened.4
To paraphrase Robert Browning, “It was like the forked tongue of the Infinite pierced my heart.”
I literally went to bed one person, and woke up another. Whatever happened that night, I woke up and I ‘knew’.
Knew what? I knew God was real,5 he was paying attention, and he6 cared. I knew I would always have a roof over my head, have enough money, plenty of food, and people who loved me. I knew my purpose in life was to be happy. I knew there was no need for struggle or strife. I knew everything would always work out because, no matter what, God had my back. And the best part, I knew life was eternal. What we call death is an illusion.
And no, drugs were not involved.
But there was more to it than that. I’d been a ‘seeker’7 for as long as I could remember and in the preceding couple of years I’d been seeking in earnest. I guess God was listening because in the instant I ‘knew’ these things, I also got a message. That message was, “Shit, or get off the pot.” Forgive my French but God made it very clear that if I really wanted to get into this seeking thing, I had a decision to make. If I wanted to get serious, now was the time. And if I decided to go for it, God would take me on Mr. Toad’s wild ride on steroids.
I went for it.
But I also made a deal with God.8 I told God I was going to let him show me the way. I wasn’t going to go to some guru or preacher and let them tell me what God was all about9. I was going to look at everything, read everything, talk to everybody, listen, and let God show me the way. He said, “Sounds good, let’s go,”10 and off we went.
I read the Bible five times, cover to cover, in four different versions11. I read the Bhagavad Gita, the Vedas, the Book of Mormon, the Analects, I Ching, Lao Tzu and countless spiritual and metaphysical books. When the Mormons came knocking, I invited them in. They even showed me their movie.12 For the next ten years or so I was insatiable.
After awhile the common thread became very clear; have faith in the Great Spirit13 and love in your heart and everything will work out just fine. It really is that simple. God is paying attention and he cares and, if you trust the process and act from love, everything will always work out.
But there was always something that bugged me about the Bible. Not the Bible itself so much, but the way it’s presented. The more I read it, the more I couldn’t reconcile what was being claimed to be the word of God to what was actually on the page.
So, about the third time through, I started paying real close attention; cross referencing, looking into language and interpretations, researching the backgrounds of the different versions, Aramaic traditions and idioms, the Middle Eastern landscape and people of the time. Most of this was done before the internet so I did a lot of reading.14
I took a ton of notes and this book is the result of all that.15 Just one heretic’s view on the most influential book of Western civilization.
This is in no way meant to be a thorough treatise of the Bible. It’s a rare person who has actually read the Bible cover to cover. That’s okay. Think of this as an abbreviated Cliff Note version. My ‘musings’.
I’ll take you through the first part of the Old Testament, where all the basic groundwork was laid, and the first part of the New Testament, which is all about Jesus and the beginning of the Christian church.
I’ll cover the basic who?, what?,when?, where? of it and point out some things that don’t seem to add up and other things that are incredible. So, if you’ve never actually read the Bible, this might be really helpful.16
I don’t expect you to agree with all of it but, if you’ve come this far, hang in there and see what you think.
WHO WROTE THE BIBLE?
So, who wrote the Bible anyway? You’d think somebody would know, right?. It turns out it’s not as easy to nail down as you might think.
THE OLD TESTAMENT
The Old Testament alone covers thousands of years, hundreds of people and myriad locations.
It covers the creation of the world, the early history of humanity, how and why Abraham and his family are so important, a bunch of rules to live by, a boat-load of prophecies and finally, the rise and fall of the Jewish empire.
Then we have the New Testament which covers the life and times of Yeshua ben Yosef, better known as Jesus of Nazareth, more rules to live by, and a bunch of letters and prophecies concerning the early Christian church and the end of the world.
So who wrote all this stuff down and, more importantly, who collected it into the book we now know as ‘The Bible’?
When we look at the Old Testament, the fact is, nobody knows. The oldest known fragments we have date back to about 600-400 B.C.E.17 which isn’t very old when you figure Moses was around about 1,100 years before that and Abraham a whopping 1,700 years earlier. Not to mention Adam and Eve.18
Though we don’t know for sure who wrote it all down there’s this thing called the Documentary Hypothesis that says what we generally call the Old Testament is actually a compilation of various oral accounts that weren’t actually written down until somewhere around 600-400 years B.C.E.
According to this theory, all the books of the Old Testament were originally stories conveyed through word of mouth and date back hundreds, if not thousands, of years before being written down. Whether they are legends, mythology, parables, or factual accounts is anybody’s guess19, but there’s no doubt they were each important nuggets of Hebrew lore.
Throughout history this story-telling tradition has been typical of nomadic tribes. The early Hebrews were nomads, constantly on the move, and so it’s only natural they would use stories to pass on their heritage from one generation to the next. They’d been conquerors and been conquered themselves. More than once they’d been led off as captives to a foreign land. As time went by, it became more important these stories be written down and a record kept for posterity.
But who did the writing? When did someone finally put pen to parchment, so to speak? We need look no further than the Bible itself to find some important clues.
Around 450 B.C.E. there was this priest named Ezra. The Babylonians had conquered Israel some150 years before and carted off most of the people to Babylon. Apparently Ezra was born in Babylon where he became a scholar and preeminent authority of Jewish tradition and law.20
The Babylonian leaders liked Ezra and were intrigued with Jewish tradition. They ended up sending him back to Palestine and encouraged him to study the ways of his people and even rebuild the temple they’d previously destroyed.21
As luck would have it, Ezra found Moses’ “Book of the Law” buried in the ruins of the temple. Being a prodigious scholar and scribe and the leader of a team of over seventy scribes,22 Ezra was just the right man to happen upon this ancient sacred writing.
Many scholars believe Ezra didn’t ‘find’ anything. They believe he and his team documented the laws and statutes of Moses and other stories and then presented them to the people as having been there the whole time. He just ‘found’ them. Regardless of what really happened, the people bought it, and consequently Ezra is often referred to as the Father of Judaism.23
Many people take these stories literally and many others believe they are legends and metaphoric stories derived from Jewish lore. But the fact remains, Ezra and his team could have made a lot of this stuff up. Who would have known?
Apparently, when Ezra finally read his findings to the people, they had no clue about any of it. They didn’t know about Passover or Moses or any of God’s laws. They didn’t know about any of the feasts, rituals or sacrifices they were supposed to have been doing. None of it. They were clueless. It was all new to them.
Interestingly, there’s a story in Ezra’s findings of a king named Josiah who did essentially the same thing about 200 years previous. Josiah also ‘found’ the Book of the Law in the ruins of the temple24 and read them to the people. And, just like with Ezra, the people had no idea of their history or what was expected of them. It was like it all came out of nowhere.
Was Ezra using the story of Josiah to cover his tracks? Was he the one actually doing the documentation but giving credit to a legendary king from 200 years ago? It’s easier to say you found some sacred writings than to say, “Oh yeah, we wrote all this stuff, but trust me, it’s all true.”
This Documentary Hypothesis is an interesting theory and it’s even more interesting that the earliest evidence of a written record of the Old Testament coincides with Ezra ‘finding’ the sacred books around 400 B.C.E.
If you care to look into this further I suggest you Google it. There are plenty of articles you can find about it. Happy hunting.
THE NEW TESTAMENT
Now when it comes to the New Testament it’s a little easier to keep track of when things came together because, for the most part, the Greeks and Romans were heavily involved and they were meticulous record keepers.
Without getting into what is a true gospel or not, the fact is, there are plenty of copies of New Testament writings, some dating back as far as 60 C.E.25 while others weren’t written until as much as 300 years after Jesus’ death.
The Apostle Paul26 and his followers were prodigious writers and loved to share their revelations about Jesus with the world27. There were so many of these, often competing, accounts that when the Romans took control of the Christian church, they basically decided what writings were ‘official’ and which were not. This is where they ‘canonized’ certain books and condemned all the others. These canonized books were deemed ‘sacred’ and make up what we now know as the New Testament.28
You can still find some of the other ‘condemned’ books, stories and writings that didn’t make the cut29. Some survived30 but we’ll never know how many did not. The Roman church did a pretty ruthless purge of the books they didn’t approve of and the people who believed them.
It’s important to remember none of this stuff, let me repeat NONE of it, was written by anybody who actually knew Jesus, who hung out with him, or knew anybody who did. It’s all hearsay. ALL hearsay. These are all stories heard by someone who heard it from someone, who knew somebody, who heard it from somebody, who swore it was true. Then somebody finally wrote it down, decades and even hundreds of years after the fact.
Needless to say, there’s a lot of room for discussion about this but personally, I believe Ezra and his crew documented the Old Testament and the Roman Catholic Church authorized the New Testament. But since, for the purposes of this book, I’m going to approach it like a literalist.31 I’m going to act like God wrote it himself and see where it leads us.
NO EVIDENCE OF ANY OF IT
Now here’s the real kicker; there is absolutely no independent evidence that any of the people in the Bible ever existed, any of the events actually occurred, or any of it is true on anything other than a metaphorical level.
That being said, I have to stress the ‘independent’ evidence part. That means you can’t use the Bible to prove its own existence. I learned in grade school you can’t use a word to define another word derived from it; ie: you can’t define ‘consciousness’ as ‘the state of being conscious’.32 See what I mean? If you take the Bible out of the equation there is no evidence anywhere of any of it. No Noah, no flood, no Tower of Babel, no Moses, no David, no Solomon, no Jesus, no Paul, none of it.
And it’s not like there weren’t other people around who could have written about it. After all, pretty much all of it happened in the Cradle of Civilization among significant civilizations who we do have independent evidence of and who were prodigious record keepers. The Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks and Romans all documented everything.
Even though the Israelites apparently had contact with several of these civilizations, nowhere is there any record of a guy named Abraham33. There’s no record of his son Joseph or how he saved Egypt and the entire known world. There’s no record of Moses, much less the escape of two and a half million Hebrew slaves. There’s no record of David or Solomon or the huge kingdom they created. There’s no record of Noah’s Arc, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the Tower of Babel. And believe it or not, there is no record of Jesus or the Apostle Paul or any of Jesus’ disciples. There’s a bit of empirical evidence that people point to that may or may not refer to someone or something. But as far as hard, independent evidence, none, zilch, nada, nothing. We take it all on faith.34
The earliest record we have of anyone known as an Israelite is on the Merneptah Stele35 which is a big obelisk thing covered in hieroglyphics. It dates back to 1206 B.C.E. and refers to a group of people known as Israelites who weren’t big players in the region. They weren’t numerous enough to be a city state or kingdom but there were enough of them to at least rate mention as a ‘people’ living in the land of Canaan. This is when, according to the Bible, Israel was on a roll and basically dominated the entire region.
Then there are the Tel Dan Stele and Mesha Stele, both dated around the mid 800’s B.C.E. that seem to make a reference to the ‘House of David’. The Mesha Stele actually refers to the ‘House of Omri’ which some claim to be a reference to David while others say it refers to the Moab king named Balak. Either way, none of that, if true, actually proves the existence of the David we read about in the Bible.
Think about it; we have the state of Washington, Washington D.C. and a ton of people named Washington, but none of that proves George Washington ever existed. The only reason we believe there was ever such a man as George Washington is because there is loads of independent evidence of his life and times. Even still, legends have grown up around him that are complete fabrications.36
History is littered with fictional characters and places that were all created for one reason or another. For instance, there was a guy named Geoffrey of Monmouth who wrote a book back in the 12th century called ‘The History of the Kings of Britain’ where he basically made up a whole history of Britain, including King Arthur, and claimed it as fact.
By referring to real places and accepted lore, Geoffrey’s account was counted as a valid history of Medieval England for centuries. He was basically the Ezra of Britain. Except Monmouth’s history has since been proven to be complete fabrication.
If you’ve ever read Mark Twain’s “Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc” you get the idea how writers can take liberties with accepted fact and create an absolutely believable fiction.
Some refer to the Dead Sea Scrolls as proof of the Bible. What they fail to realize is the oldest of these scrolls only date back as far as 408 B.C.E. In fact, they are copies of Ezra’s books and a plethora of early Christian writings, many of which didn’t make the cut at the Council of Nicea and were not included in the New Testament. They were hidden in caves in the Judaean desert as a means to preserve them from the purges of the Roman church.
Remember, you can’t use a source to prove its own existence, and these scrolls can in no way be viewed as independent evidence; they are just earlier writings, some of which match up to contemporary Biblical content and many that don’t.
I know this can be pretty daunting, It sure was to me. But when I finally started digging, I was amazed that the Western world has built so much of its history on a very shaky foundation.
I realize no amount of science will shake some people’s faith and that’s okay. It doesn’t really matter anyway. People believe what they want to believe, whether it’s true or not. Who am I to say what’s true and what’s not? I admit, I may be completely off base. So, at the very least, I encourage you to do your own research and, based on what you find, decide for yourself.
JUST WHO IS GOD ANYWAY?
How are we going to define God? There must be as many ways to define God as there are people on the planet. Some think he’s a big guy in the sky while others think he’s not a ‘he’ at all but a gender-less, formless, infinitely intelligent energy. I love the way Ernest Holmes refers to God as “the Thing Itself”.
I stand more with the latter group but, for the purposes of this book, I’m going to refer to God pretty much as the Bible does, as an all-powerful man in the sky. I know a lot of people get turned off just by the mention of the word ‘God’ but, if we’re going to approach the Bible literally, then we have to use the literal terms given us.
The Bible says we were created in God’s image but it seems, at least in the Old Testament, that man created God in the image of the most powerful kings and rulers of the time. Like these despots, God comes off as a petulant deity with a short temper who demands absolute loyalty and obedience. He is generous to those he likes and unbelievably cruel to those he doesn’t.
The Old Testament God is moody and prone to temper tantrums. Sometimes he can be argued with and he’ll change his mind. But then, at the next turn, one little slip up will doom you forever.
To confuse the issue even more, even God’s form is inconsistent. Sometimes he shows up as a clueless guy walking around the garden, sometimes he’s hiding in a burning bush, sometimes he’s just some guy who shows up on your doorstep. He’s even been known to get into wrestling matches with humans. But one thing that is consistent, he’s always a ‘he’. So, although it pains me, that’s how I’m going to refer to him.37
It wasn’t until Jesus came along that the entire narrative on God changed. Suddenly he was this loving, benevolent, super tolerant ‘father’ who doesn’t judge you and is eternally forgiving. The New Testament God wants nothing more than to give you all the gifts life has to offer.38 Quite a change from the Old Testament fire and brimstone God.
Another thing about this God/gender thing; it does make it easier to talk about this infinitely intelligent source-energy thing if we just call it God and refer to it as ‘him’. Although I don’t believe it’s literally correct, I do see why people have been doing it for eons; it’s just easier.
Early on, the king was the most powerful dude around so it was just natural that God would be the biggest, baddest dude ever. That’s pretty much how a lot of people still think of him today. Thinking of God as some abstract energy life-force is just beyond some people’s ability to comprehend.39
It is self-evident a power exists in the universe that is greater than we are. Something grand and glorious gave rise to all this. It is pointless to deny the existence of Life Itself but where we take it from there is up to each one of us. Regardless of how we think of it, it is what it is.
Each one of us, within our own subconscious mind, will define God in whatever way works for us.40 I like how Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, called it “the God of his understanding”. He knew each person understands God in a completely unique way and nothing else matters except we acknowledge it in our own way. Ultimately, God, as far as we’re concerned, is whatever we think it is. God is quite happy to let us think whatever we want.
The nature of God is fodder for a whole book, but not this one. To state it plainly, as far as I’m concerned, God is infinite and therefore cannot be defined in any real way anyway. But if I were to try, I would say God is an all-powerful, absolute Intelligence, infinite Wisdom, LIFE itself, unconditional love and the source of all. God is ALL and all of creation is made ‘of’ God, which is way different than being made ‘by’ God. I believe God exists in its fullness in each and every one of its creation, including you and me. I believe our potential ability to create is exactly the same as this infinite creative force. It is only a matter of degree and our ability to believe we can.41
So, it doesn’t matter if you think of God as an infinitely intelligent Life force or a big powerful guy up in the clouds taking notes and getting ready for the judgment day. It doesn’t matter if you refer to God as your Inner Being, your Higher Self, Source energy, Nature, Life, the Universe, or just plain God. For the purposes of this book I’m going to stick to the literal narrative and refer to God as ‘God’, and that God is a he/him.42
Rarely is hygiene considered when we examine Biblical writings. Frankly, there wasn’t much hygiene going on. But we have to remember that most of these Old Testament stories happened during the Bronze Age43 when advanced civilization was just getting a foothold on the planet.44 These were nomadic people used to living in the dirt and sleeping with the animals. It would be thousands of years before somebody finally made the connection between washing your hands and getting sick.
As strange as it may seem, hygiene does come into play when we start talking about the Laws of Moses. It’s very likely many of these laws were motivated more by basic health issues than the idiosyncrasies of a petulant God.
In a nutshell, Old Testament hygiene consisted of the following;
You only had to wash your clothes if you’d touched a dead thing, were cured of leprosy, or you slept in a moldy house.45
But you had to wash your clothes AND take a bath if you’d had a discharge46, you’d touched someone or something that had a discharge, you’d touched a menstruating woman, consummated sex47, or eaten something that died on its own.48
If you found a dead rat or lizard or something like that in a bowl you had to break it if it was pottery or wash it if it was wood or brass. Same thing if the guy with the discharge touched it.49
Leprosy was a big deal back then but basic hygiene wasn’t part of the treatment protocol.50 Only when you were finally rid of it did you have to wash your clothes. But if your clothes got leprosy you had to burn them and if your house got it you had to remove the part that had it, or maybe even have to tear the whole thing down.51 I’m not sure how your clothes or house can get leprosy but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say they were probably talking about mold and didn’t know any better.
The only mention of what we might call ‘bathroom etiquette’ is in Deuteronomy when the people are instructed to go outside the camp, dig a hole, do their business, then bury their pooh pooh.52
Numerous declarations demand that someone “remain unclean until evening.” This indicates a clear indication that they knew enough to stay away from these ‘unclean’ people for a reasonable amount of time.53 Whether it helped or not we’ll never know but it never hurts to error on the side of not dying. Remember, this is when a small cut or infection of any kind could easily kill you.
It’s clear these people had a rudimentary understanding of the things that could make them sick. But it’s also clear staying ‘clean’ had more to do with what you ate than it did with how often you took a bath. That being said, they did have a variety of ways of keeping themselves healthy. These become a significant factor when we consider the ‘do’s and don’ts’ Moses laid out later on in his laws and statutes.
Well, that pretty much lays out the foundation of the who, what and why of this book. So, if you’re still with me, let’s dive right in. Next stop, Genesis and the beginning of the world.
SIX DAYS OF CREATION
Six days. That’s how long the Bible says it took to create everything in the Universe. Six days. Religion and Science have been battling this out since the world was flat.
Without fail, people who believe the strict interpretation of the Bible relate a ‘day’ to what we think of as a standard 24 hour day. So basically they say the Universe was created in 144 hours.
Also without fail, scientists and most rational thinking people think these people are nuts.
Believers say God can do anything he wants and science says even God can’t defy his own physical laws. And so the debate has raged for eons. It’s one of the main reasons many religious people don’t trust science because to trust science would be to discount their God, and there’s no way that’s going to happen. It’s also the reason many early scientists were tortured or burned at the stake or met some similarly hideous demise.
But, what if science and religion aren’t really that far apart? What if there was actually a way to reconcile the two sides? Impossible you say? Not so, and it’s simpler than you might think..
See, there’s this thing called the Day of Brahma. It’s an ancient Hindu unit of time that lasts approximately 4.32 billion years. That’s right, billion years. So six days of Brahma would be over 25 billion years. Even modern day scientists don’t think it took that long to create the Universe but at least it puts religion and science in the same ballpark. When you’re talking billions of years, what’s a billion here or there? Nobody really knows anyway, right? It does make a lot more sense than 144 hours.
You might ask what a Hindu unit of time has to do with the whole Genesis narrative. Well, the Genesis story, or more accurately, the Hebrew versions54 of creation, borrow heavily from ancient Mesopotamian mythology.55 In fact, the Hebrew patriarchs spent their formative years living and learning in Mesopotamia. And Mesopotamia just happens to be the birthplace of the Hindu religion.
So, it’s more than likely the Hebrews and Hindus have more of a common heritage than we might think. It’s not a stretch to understand that what Western Bible translators have interpreted as 144 hours actually meant 25 billion years.
Okay, now that that’s settled, let’s move on.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
In the beginning the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.
This was on the first day.
But the sun and the moon weren’t created until the fourth day. So what’s this ‘Light’ they’re talking about? It obviously doesn’t have anything to do with what we normally think of as the light of day and the dark of night. So what is it?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the use of the word ‘Light’ is symbolic. There are plenty of books about what it might symbolize56, but that’s not the point here. The point is, it must be symbolic of something.57
And if the very first thing the Bible talks about is symbolic, I’m going to hazard a guess there are a lot of other things in there that are symbolic too. Literalists who don’t acknowledge the symbolism and metaphor of the Bible do so at their own peril.
TWO VERSIONS OF CREATION
The Bible contains three versions of Creation.58 Genesis itself has two distinct versions59 told back-to-back. These narratives were created at different times by different people60 but woven together in the version we now read in Genesis. It’s important to know these stories were not exclusive to the Hebrews but were versions which borrowed heavily from Mesopotamian, Babylonian, Sumerian61 and Egyptian62 creation stories.
The first version is pretty straight forward. It’s the one with the days. Day one God created the heavens, earth and light. Day two he separated the waters from the waters, etc. In this version, God is called Elohim, a generic Hebrew name for God.63
The second version is the Adam and Eve story. In this one God is referred to as Yahweh, a more personal name.64
If we want to take these stories literally we have a problem right off the bat. The order of who, what and when things were created is all mixed up. In the first version both man and woman were created last, after everything else was already done. In the second version man was created first, then all the plants and animals, and finally, at the end of it all, woman was created from Adam’s rib. None of the pertinent details (ie: the days, the snake, the garden, the rib, etc) are contained in both versions.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with this. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all symbolic. These ancient stories were created over the millennium in an effort to make sense of a prehistoric world and to teach life lessons. Remember, these were people who didn’t know where the sun went at night and thought lightning was God having a tantrum. These were stories told around campfires for thousands of years before ever being written down.65 Depending on what camp fire you sat around determined what particular version you grew up with.
MAN MADE IN GOD’S IMAGE
On the sixth day God created man and woman “in his own image”. I’m always amazed at what a stickler this is for some people. The first time I read it, it was so obvious what it meant. But I still run into people who insist God has a face and arms and lungs and basically looks like a big human being with super powers. Come on, that’s just ridiculous. I’m pretty sure God, being God, doesn’t need to eat every day, breathe air, brush his teeth and go to the bathroom.66 What we’ve managed to do is create a God in our image..
A god made in a human image would be a very limited god indeed. But if you take a look at most ancient religions, that’s exactly the kind of god they portray. The Hebrew god and the Christian god look and act very much like the Egyptian god, Amun-Ra and the Greek god, Zeus. These gods are very much in the human image. They are petty, vindictive, jealous, narcissistic and ready to punish or destroy anyone who is disloyal or doesn’t manage to please him.67
But even Jesus said a house divided against itself cannot stand. So a god at war with his creation would pretty much destroy everything in short order. Thankfully, this is not the image we are made in.68
If you look at everything the Bible has said so far, it’s about God creating things. God is a creator, pure and simple. He creates things. And so do we. From the time we’re born until the day we die, we create things. From music to pies, from houses to gardens, from children to mathematics, we create. We create with our hands and we create with our minds.
Every thought we think, whether we realize it or not, creates a desire within us. It may be a desire for more, a desire for less or a desire to chill and enjoy. But no thought leaves us how it found us. We are not the same person when we go to bed at night as we were when we first woke up in the morning.
We create constantly and push our creations ever forward. From a stone wheel to a space station, we create an ongoing litany of things, some that serve us well, some, not so much. But we continue to create. That is how we are the image and likeness of God, We are creators.
IT WAS GOOD
In the first version of creation, every time God created something he pronounced it good. That’s worth noting, especially as we move forward with this. He didn’t say it was kind of cool and let’s see how it goes, he pronounced it ‘good’. So we can assume by this everything, including humans, were originally ‘good’. Not ‘right’ or ‘adequate’ or ‘functional’, but ‘good’. There is a difference between ‘right’ and ‘good’ and if you’re not sure what it is, now would be a good time to go look it up.
How you view the Adam and Eve story will probably shape how you view the whole good, bad thing, but for now, let’s assume God was pleased with what he’d done and all things were good. Being an all-knowing, infinitely intelligent Being it would seem he’d have a pretty good idea what he was doing.
ADAM AND EVE
So let’s dive right into the Adam and Eve story. To sum it up really quickly for those of you who might not know it; Adam and Eve were the first humans and God put them in a great place called the Garden of Eden.69 This was a perfect place to live except, for some reason, God decided he would tempt these two crazy kids with the fruit of the tree of the ‘Knowledge of Good and Evil’. As long as they didn’t eat the fruit70 of this tree everything would be great. If they ate it, they would die.
Well, if you take this literally, either God is the dumbest parent ever or he set Adam and Eve up to fail right off the bat. Either way, he doesn’t come off as an all-knowing infinite, loving, benevolent Being. He comes off more as a kid who gets his jollies tearing the wings off of flies.
I mean, why would God put Adam and Eve in this great place with everything they’d ever need and then put in one tree that would kill them? And why, if he’s all-powerful, would he let Satan, in the form of a talking snake,71 into the garden to tempt them with this great tree that would make them like Gods and kill them at the same time?
And then, knowing they’d fail, why would he banish them, punish them and make their lives miserable forever? And not only them, but all of humanity forever? I mean, if the kids don’t pass the test I guess it’s okay to punish them but everybody, all their relatives, forever? Forever? I’m sorry but I didn’t even know these people and I’ve still got to pay because they couldn’t follow the rules?
Doesn’t that sound a little petty and vindictive? Would you do that to your kids?72 Do you know anybody who would? Even Jesus said, “Who of you, if your son ask for a fish, would give him a stone?” It’s like putting a bunch of heroin in front of your kids and telling them it’s the best thing ever but “don’t you dare touch it or you’ll die”. And then just leave it there on the table while you go shopping at Walmart.
I know there are plenty of people who take this story literally, and that’s okay. But for those of us who don’t believe in talking snakes and can’t imagine God wandering around the garden, scratching his beard, wondering where those darn kids had gotten off to, there is another way to look at it.
Remember, these stories started out as campfire stories meant to explain the unexplainable. They were developed over thousands of years and morphed along the lines of the cultures as they spread out across Africa and Asia. If you look at the Garden of Eden and the Adam and Eve story metaphorically, it makes a lot more sense.73
First of all, it’s notable that the tree with the forbidden fruit was the tree of the ‘Knowledge of Good and Evil’. “Knowledge” being the key word. Not the knowledge of what good is and evil is, but the knowledge that good and evil exist. It is really an acknowledgment of the duality of our human existence. It was never about man knowing the difference between true good and evil, but about him knowing there is a difference. And, by knowing that, he would literally be damned to a lifetime of trying to figure out which was which, thinking he was right and everybody else was wrong.74
It doesn’t take much looking around the world to see how much trouble this has caused us. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Killing is never right unless I’m killing my enemy. Then it’s okay, because obviously, I’m right, and they’re wrong.
History is littered with the most heinous atrocities perpetrated by supposedly righteous people who thought they knew the difference between right and wrong. This ‘knowledge of good and evil’ is literally killing us.
The problem is, there is no altruistic ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ written in the sky. All of it is relative. I know I’ll get a lot of flak for this but if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll see I’m right. Ha! Did you catch the irony?
The creator(s) of the Adam and Eve story knew this was a part of the human condition and strove to make sense of it. Kind of like when you make up a story to explain to your 3 year old why somebody does something awful. The easy way out is to blame somebody else, and the devil is the perfect scapegoat if there ever was one. Damn that snake!
BE FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY
Another thing about the Adam and Eve story is the part where God tells them to “be fruitful and multiply”. There are those, a couple of religions in particular75, that take this so literally they believe God is actually talking directly to them, and not only them, but all people, at all times, forever. There are millions of people who won’t use any type of birth control, much less have an abortion, simply because of this one verse.
But if you take a look at who God Is talking to when he says this, it’s Adam and Eve, the only two people on the planet! Of course they should be fruitful and multiply, they need to get some people here. And this isn’t the only time God said this. He also said it to Noah after the flood when, you guessed it, Noah and his family were the only humans left.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out God wasn’t talking to everybody, forever. He was talking to these specific people and at a specific time when it was time to get busy and populate the planet..
Enough already people! It’s time to quit being so fruitful.
Another thing that you don’t hear much about but what I found very interesting is, at the end of creation, God gives every green plant and herb bearing seed as food for all the animals along with Adam and Eve. It’s very specific. So if we’re to take this literally, all living things were originally vegetarians. This should make you vegans happy. Unfortunately,76 this changed after the flood.
CAIN AND ABEL
For those who may not know the story about Cain and Abel, the short version goes like this;
Cain was the first born of Adam and Eve followed in short order by his brother, Abel. Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd. Somewhere along the line they brought offerings of their respective bounty before the Lord and God liked Abel’s sheep but Cain’s fruit, not so much.
Cain got jealous and killed Abel. God came looking for them and asked Cain where was his brother. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Am I my brother’s keeper”? This is where it comes from. Anyway, God, being God, already knew what was up and banished Cain to the land of Nod.
This is where, if taken literally, the story gets a little sticky. First of all, Cain freaks out and is afraid whoever finds him will kill him. The question begs to be asked, what people? Up until now there are only the four of them, Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel. Who are these other people?
To make it even more interesting Cain goes to Nod and his wife bears him a son. Wait a second! Where did she come from? Where did the people of Nod come from?
Some will argue that, of course, Adam and Eve had more sons and daughters. They lived hundreds of years so there was plenty of time to populate more than a few cities. Remember, be fruitful and multiply.
But the thing is, taken literally, the next child Adam and Eve had was Seth, who came after Cain killed Abel. The only talk of having ‘other sons and daughters’ comes after the birth of Seth.
If we’re going to take it literally, we don’t get to make up stories to fill in the holes, and this story is littered with holes.77
After the birth of Seth there’s a whole list of people having children who had children who had children, etc..And since these people were living upwards of 700 years, there was plenty of ‘being fruitful’ going on, and the earth was getting populated.
Not only that, but apparently the sons of God, whoever they were78, were turned on by the human women and came in unto them, if you know what I mean. These women had children known as ‘mighty men’.79 Apparently these mighty men were giants or supermen or something.
So there you have it, aliens were having sex with human women and creating some sort of hybrid being. I’ll leave it to you conspiracy theorists to figure that one out, but there it is in black and white.80
A lot goes on in the interim but eventually we get to Noah.
Apparently things were getting out of hand. The humans just weren’t behaving themselves so God decided he’d hit the reset button; flood the earth, kill everybody and be done with it.
But for some reason God liked Noah. He liked him so much he decided to save him and his family and a bunch of animals. So he gave him plans for a boat and some instructions on how to build it.
Taken literally, this story says a six hundred year old man and his three sons built a boat almost two football fields long by themselves with stone age tools. And then, a pair of every animal on the planet flew, walked, crawled or slithered to the boat so they could get on.
Just the logistics of this defies any sort of logic. Imagine two penguins walking all the way from Antarctica81. And what about the food it would take? And who’s cleaning the stalls? Remember, it’s just Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives. They weren’t getting any help from the neighbors because the neighbors thought they were nuts. And there’s no mention of slaves or servants or anything so again, taken literally, it was just the eight of them.
One other thing that’s always bugged me is when God says to take one pair of all the ‘unclean’ animals and seven pairs of the ‘clean’ animals82. The thing is, up until now there was no mention of what animals were ‘clean’ and which were not. Moses was the one who set that up over a thousand years later. So, at this time, there was no such thing as a clean or unclean animal.
And then there’s the forty days and forty nights thing. There’s really no way to tell how long it rained because ‘forty’ in Aramaic really means ‘a long time’. It doesn’t literally mean an actual forty days and nights like you and I might think of it. The ‘forty’ thing will show up later when the Jews were wandering around the desert after escaping Egypt.
Nonetheless, they were in the boat for at least another 150 days. Once they got out, God put the fear of man in the animals, which was a good idea since he also gave all the animals to man for food. Remember, up until now everything on earth had been vegetarian. Why it had to change now is beyond me but, there it is.
This is also when rainbows came into being, supposedly as a sign that God wouldn’t kill everybody again. I guess he was sorry. Too bad for all the people and animals who got wiped out before he had a change of heart. This God seems very impulsive. He doesn’t really think it through.
Again, it smacks of mythology to me. Flood mythology is littered throughout history83. When taken allegorically, there are huge, eternal life lessons in the Flood story. Maybe that’s why so many cultures have similar stories in their archives. Taken literally, it’s a little hard for an intelligent person not to have doubts. But as an allegorical life lesson, it makes perfect sense.
One last thing before we leave Noah. It seems one night he got drunk and passed out naked in his tent.84 Well, his son, Ham, came in and saw him. Ham immediately went out and told his brothers Dad was drunk and naked in the tent. Why they just didn’t leave him is beyond me, but they decided to walk in, backs turned, and covered Noah up with a blanket.
I guess seeing your dad naked was a really bad thing because when Noah woke up he somehow knew Ham had seen him naked and immediately cursed Ham’s son, Canaan.
What? Why Canaan? He wasn’t even there. But from that moment on, any reference to Canaan, the sons of Canaan, the land of Canaan, anything to do with Canaan bears this curse. And for what? Noah getting drunk and passing out naked? What power did Noah have to do that anyway? He’s not God. But from then on, Canaan gets the short end of the stick.85
Seems to be a pattern here though. God cursed Adam and Eve and all humanity had to pay for it forever and now Noah curse’s Canaan and so his family bears the curse forever. How petty. Doesn’t make an ounce of sense but, as we’ll see later on, we’re just getting started on this curse (and blessing) thing.
THE TOWER OF BABEL
For those not familiar with the Tower of Babel, it goes like this;
After the flood, and more being fruitful and multiplying, it didn’t take humans long to get full of themselves again. They decided to build a tower that would reach up to the heavens; the Tower of Babel. For some reason God didn’t like it. I guess he didn’t want a bunch of humans coming up to heaven and spying on him.
So to stop them, God confused their language. All of a sudden there were all these groups who could understand each other but not anybody else. So they got frustrated, quit on the tower and went off with the people they could understand.
This is another one of those stories that ignorant sheep herders might have fallen for but, come on, this just reeks of ancient mythology.
And confusing their language didn’t put much of a dent in people’s ability to communicate. Again, not the best move by an all-knowing, all-powerful God. Sounds a lot like a story you might make up to tell your kids why their friend Lupe’s parents talk so funny.
So far, the God of Genesis is acting more like a jealous, domineering narcissist than an omniscient, loving patriarch. Very much like the mythological Gods of Egypt and Babylon, and later Greek and Roman mythology. More evidence of us making God in our image.
I’ve just scratched the surface on this whole Genesis narrative and if you’re interested I encourage you to read it for yourself, but for now, let’s move on to Abraham.
WHO WAS ABRAHAM AND WHY DOES HE MATTER?
Abraham is the linchpin of the entire Bible. Everything we’ve seen so far was a set up for Abraham. He is the patriarch of the Hebrew people and basically everything in the Bible revolves around Abraham and his offspring. It blew my mind the first time I read the Bible; the whole thing is essentially the story of one family. The whole Bible is really just a detailed, glorified genealogy of the ‘sons of Abraham’. Judaism isn’t a religion, it’s a heritage. If you’re a true Jew it wasn’t a choice, you were literally born into it.
Pretty interesting to think that a good chunk of the civilized world is operating based on what this one family was up to out in some nondescript desert three thousand years ago.
So, why Abraham? What’s so great about him? Other than hearing the voice of God, or maybe just hearing voices, his one claim to fame was being blessed by Melchizedek, the priest of God Most High. It’s an interesting story.
Abraham had been traveling around with his nephew, Lot, looking for a place to stay. Lot went off to the Jordan Valley and settled in a town called Sodom. Abraham stayed in the land of Canaan. Remember Canaan?
Apparently, this one group of kings had been in charge and pretty much ruled the whole area. Well, another group of kings had had enough and decided to rebel. It turns out Lot was in with the wrong group of kings and when the first group eventually prevailed, they took all the people and possessions of Sodom and took off with them, including Lot.
When Abraham heard about it he gave chase with a little over 300 men. He tracked them down and kicked their ass, recovering his nephew Lot, all the people of Sodom, and all their stuff.
Needless to say, the people of Sodom were stoked. Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High, blessed Abraham.
Soon after Abraham had a vision where God promised him that his offspring would possess all the land from the Nile to the Euphrates river. This is why it’s called “The Promised Land”.
And that’s it. That’s why Abraham and his entire family are blessed into perpetuity. That’s why the Jews claim to be the ‘chosen’ people. That’s where anything you want to talk about Semitism or anti-Semitism began. Because Abraham kicked some ass and was blessed by this one random priest and then he had a vision. I’ll let you make of that what you will.
Allow me to mention two things before we leave this.
First, when you read about this battle it sounds like it was a really big deal. I mean, five kings against four, the heated battle, the conquest and the plundering of cities. Sounds like it was an epic battle. But in reality, these kingdoms were nothing more than clans86 and the kings were the head of the clan. When you consider it only took Abraham and 318 men to beat down five kings it puts things in perspective.
Secondly, the fact that Abraham had 318 fighting men at his disposal and could take down five kings would indicate Abraham was quite the king himself. The image we have of this guy wandering the desert pitching his tent here and there is in no way accurate. Abraham commanded a large army and had the wherewithal to maintain his entire community. Make no mistake, Abraham was already a very powerful, wealthy guy. Well find out how he might have gotten that way later on.
SARAH, HAGAR AND ISHMAEL
I’m just going to go over this real quick because there’s more to this story a little later on. But we need to touch on this first.
First of all, for you sticklers of detail, at this time Abraham’s name was Abram and Sarah’s name was Sarai. They changed their names soon thereafter to Abraham and Sarah so that’s what I’m going to call them.
Sarah was Abraham’s wife but Sarah had a problem. She was barren and couldn’t have children. Children were a big deal in those days. Being a rich and powerful man, Abraham needed an heir and it looked like Sarah wasn’t going to come through.
But Sarah had a plan; she would give her servant, Hagar, to Abraham so he could have children by her in Sarah’s name. Apparently this was rather common, so Abraham was glad to oblige. Hagar immediately became pregnant, eventually having a son whom she named Ishmael.
But once the deed was done, even though it was her idea, Sarah got jealous and gave Abraham a load of grief about it. Abraham, in his unparalleled parenting skills, told Sarah that Hagar was her servant and she could do whatever she wanted with her and her new son87. So Sarah treated them both with contempt and made their lives a living hell.
SODOM AND GOMORRAH
Much has been made about what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah but just in case you don’t know the story, here it is.
Sodom and Gomorrah are often called “The Cities of the Plain”, the plain being the Jordan river valley. These two cities are almost always referred to together so apparently they were so close together they were basically one town88.
To put this in perspective, let’s remember this was the same Sodom and Gomorrah that, less than twenty years earlier, Abraham had saved their ass with a little over 300 men. So this wasn’t a giant metropolis. It was basically two patriarchs who had bonded together for safety’s sake and created a decent sized town with some permanent buildings.
It goes without saying,89 Abraham and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah knew each other very well90. For some reason this is never brought up in the particular telling.
Abraham had set up camp up on a hill some distance from Sodom and Gomorrah, but still at a point where he could keep an eye on them down in the valley. Let’s also remember it wasn’t just Abraham up there. If he’d had over 300 men with him twenty years before, it’s a good bet he had a formidable group up on the hill with him.
One day three angels showed up at Abraham’s camp.
It’s important to note that angels in those days were not what we think of as angels today. The original Aramaic definition for angel is ‘messenger’. Angel was a common term used for anyone who did “God’s work”. It could be a priest or a common man, as long as they were doing the Lord’s work. So don’t think of these guys as apparitions with white robes and wings, etc. They were just guys doing the Lord’s work. Different people have different ideas of what the ‘Lord’s work’ is, but apparently the Lord’s work for these guys was blowing up Sodom and Gomorrah.
Anyway, Abraham was so happy to see these guys he immediately threw a giant feast. It doesn’t specifically say so, but chances are pretty good Abraham already knew these guys. It’s hard to see why he would make such a fuss and throw a big party for three complete strangers.
During the party, these angels announced that in a year’s time Sarah would bear Abraham a son. Neither Abraham nor Sarah believed it because Sarah was well advanced in years and had “ceased to be in the way of women” as it were. In other words she was an old lady, at least 90, who’d gone through menopause. No way was she going to have a baby.
After the prediction, the story gets a little sketchy. All of a sudden it sounds like Abraham is talking directly to God and not the three guys. It’s hard to tell if these guys are just guys or God himself. From the narrative it sounds like they’re both.
Well, whoever they are, they tell Abraham they’re going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because the people are so wicked. But Abraham argues with them long enough to get them to spare his nephew, Lot, who still lives down there.
This won’t be the last time we’ll see a man bargaining with God and coming out on top.
The next thing you know there are only two angels going to Sodom and Gomorrah. No mention of what happened to the third guy. Maybe he went ahead to plant some explosives.
Well, when these two angels get to the gates of the city they run into Lot and Lot is as excited to see them as his uncle was. Lot takes them home and throws them a feast.
It makes me wonder if Abraham, the angels and Lot were all in cahoots to blow up the city. Why is anybody’s guess. The Bible says they were wicked so maybe their wickedness was they were messing with Abraham somehow. Who knows? 91
Whatever it was, the people of the town were not digging these new strangers and demanded Lot turn them over. I’ve always wondered why they would care about two strangers who were friends with Lot. Lot was no newcomer. He’d lived there since before his uncle had saved their whole town. You’d think they would’ve liked him and welcomed his friends. But that was not the case.
The men of the city knew something was up with these strangers and whatever it was, they didn’t like it.
But Lot wouldn’t turn them over. He even offered up his two virgin daughters instead. He said the mob could have his daughters and do with them whatever they pleased, just don’t hurt these friends of mine. What? It’s apparent these guys were really important to Lot. Hard to believe he’d just met them and now was already willing to give up his virgin daughters for them.
But the mob didn’t want the girls, they wanted the newcomers. Why? Sounds like they knew these guys were up to no good and Lot was in on it. We’ll never know because just as the mob was about to break down the door, the angels struck them all blind. Sounds like they had some sort of ancient pepper spray.
The bottom line is, the mob went away and didn’t bother them anymore. Like they just forgot about it. Convenient, to say the least.
The next day, the angels convinced Lot to take his wife and two daughters and head for the hills. The Bible says God rained down fire and brimstone. Seeing as brimstone is literally sulfur, it’s likely these guys were versed in some sort of primitive explosives and basically blew up the town. Let’s remember, this wasn’t Los Angeles, it was basically a village made of sticks and clay. It wouldn’t take much.
And as the story goes, just as the town was blown to smithereens, Lot’s wife turned back toward the town and she became a pillar of salt. What that pillar of salt actually represents92 is open to debate but that’s not what we’re doing here. I’ll leave it to you to do some more research on your own if you feel like it.
The story gets a lot more lurid when, after escaping the fire and brimstone, Lot and his daughters end up camping out in a cave. His daughters were afraid they’ll end up old maids since there are no men around so they came up with a plan.
They got Lot so drunk he blacked out and while he was unconscious the older daughter had sex with him. How she managed this is anybody’s guess. I don’t know how anybody that drunk could perform, much less consummate. But it worked so well they did the same thing the next night and this time the younger daughter rode the pony. Good thing mom wasn’t around.
To make a long story short, both daughters got pregnant. There’s no mention of what Lot thought about his supposedly virgin daughters getting pregnant with no other men being around. Maybe he wasn’t as drunk as we’ve been led to believe.
The son of the older daughter was named Moab and became the father of the Moabites. The younger daughter’s son was named Ben-ammi and he would become the father of the Ammonites.
Both of these groups would end up being mortal enemies of the sons of Abraham, later known as the Israelites. Talk about a family feud. And that’s just the beginning.
ABRAHAM SCAMS ABIMELECH
After they blew up Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham packed up and took off for Gerar which nowadays would be the southern part of modern day Palestine. Here he ran into Abimelech who was the king of that particular area.
For some reason Abraham thought the locals would kill him to get to Sarah, so Abraham told Sarah to tell everybody that she was his sister (which she was), and not his wife. Why anyone would want a 90 year old, post-menopausal woman is beyond me but that shows what I know because Abimelech immediately swooped in and scooped her up.
But before he could do anything inappropriate God came to him in a dream and said he was going to kill him for taking another man’s wife. “Whoa now there God!,” says Abimelech, “This guy said she’s my sister. What am I supposed to do?” And God says, “Well, okay, just give her back.” 93
Relieved, Abimelech gave Sarah back to Abraham, along with a bunch of sheep, cattle, slaves and money and said “My land is before you, dwell where it pleases you.” In other words, “Take your wife and hit the road.”
The funny thing is that Abraham and Sarah had done this same thing about 25 years earlier when they went to Egypt.94 Except that time it was Pharaoh who’d snatched up Sarah. I’m guessing she was better looking back then but still, you’d think Pharaoh could do better.
However they did it, they got the same result. God told Pharaoh to give her back, or else, which he did, along with lots of sheep, cattle, and servants. This was the beginning of Abraham’s wealth building.
Were Abraham and Sarah working a con? Sure sounds like it.
Well, lo and behold, just like the two angels had predicted, Sarah got pregnant and had a son in her old age. They called him Issac.
As you might remember, Sarah was none too happy with Hagar and Ishmael before all this but now she was downright homicidal. She ordered Abraham to cast out this slave woman and her son. Depending on how you look at it, either Abraham had no backbone or, like the Bible says, God told him to go ahead and do it because God would take care of them and, in fact, make of Ishmael a great nation.
So Abraham gave Hagar and his first born son a little bread and a bota bag full of water and sent them off into the desert to die.
But just before they perished, God came to them and showed Hagar a well that had been there the whole time. They were saved! Ishmael grew up in the wilderness, became an expert with the bow, went off to Egypt, got a wife and that’s that.
The next we hear of Ishmael is when Abraham dies. Obviously he was still in the picture somehow but we never hear about him except that he had twelve sons and he was hostile toward his relatives. Not too surprising seeing how he and his mother were treated. Tradition has it that Ishmael is the father of the Arabic people. They’re still at each other’s throats to this day.
THE SACRIFICE OF ISSAC
The way the story goes, God wanted to test Abraham. After all, he’d chosen him from all the people in the universe to be the father of his ‘chosen people’, so I guess God felt Abraham needed to prove himself. Loyalty, as we’ll see over and over, is a big thing to God.
Well, the way Abraham had to prove himself loyal was to sacrifice Issac as a burnt offering. Pretty harsh, but to a guy who’d just sent his first born son off to die in the desert I guess it’s not as big a deal as it might be to you or I. And from what we read later on, offering up the first born son was not uncommon in those days.
I guess God figured if Abraham was willing to sacrifice Issac, he’d pretty much be willing to do anything.
So off they went up the mountain to do the deed. Issac was not aware of it yet because Abraham tricked him into going. But when he found out, he just went along with it and didn’t try to run or anything. Like it was okay.
Abraham tied him up, piled on the sticks and was ready to light him up when, at the last second, God pulled the plug. Apparently Abraham had passed the loyalty test so Issac was off the hook.
Since Abraham showed his loyalty, God promised to bless him, to multiply his offspring like the stars of heaven and the sands of the desert. They would possess the gates of their enemies and all the world would be blessed because of him. Note the Aramaic penchant for exaggeration. We’ll see it often.
If we leave out the possibility that Abraham was a delusional schizophrenic hearing voices, it still doesn’t sound like something an all-knowing, loving God would do. It sounds a lot more like a loyalty test by an insecure tyrant. More mythology in the image and likeness of humanity?
In a lot of these early Old Testament stories this God sounds like a narcissistic, irrational, petty despot. But seeing that these stories were created for people who were used to being ruled by petty, irrational despots it makes perfect sense. In the long run, if you do what they want, good things happen, if you don’t, it will go very badly. Very superstitious, very mythological, very ignorant but, at the same time, very logical, especially at the time.
Without getting into the whole history, suffice it to say Issac lived and married his cousin, Rebecca. She bore him two sons, Jacob and Esau.
It’s interesting to note that before Jacob and Esau came along, Issac and Rebecca moved into Abimelech’s territory. Remember Abimelech? I don’t know if this was just the custom at the time or if they were trying to pull the same scam Abraham and Rebecca did, but when they got to Abimelech’s neck of the woods, Issac told everybody that Rebecca was his sister, not his wife. But before anyone could snatch her up, Abimelech caught wind of it and told them to get out of town. He’d seen this scam before.
JACOB AND ESAU
Jacob and Esau were born twins but could not have been more different if they’d tried. Esau was a big, hairy guy who loved to hunt and be outdoors while Jacob was fair and quiet and liked to stay inside with the women. As you might expect, Esau was Abraham’s favorite while Rebecca loved Jacob.
Technically Esau was the older son since he’d come out first and, being the older son, he was entitled to all that was the first born’s right, which in those days was basically everything. By this time Issac was worth a fortune.
But Jacob was a sneaky little guy and he and Rebecca went about methodically taking away all of Esau’s rights.
The first thing Jacob did was get Esau to trade him his birthright for a bowl of stew. Really, I’m not kidding. A birthright, especially that of the first born child, was more precious than gold. But it seems Esau had come in from the field and was exhausted and Jacob was making stew. Rather than just give his brother some stew he made Esau sell him his birthright for a bowl of stew.
I guess Esau was a pretty impetuous guy, or just not too smart, but he went for it. Jacob made him swear so that sealed the deal.
After Esau ate his stew he realized what he’d done and was pretty pissed about it. But he couldn’t take it back, after all, he’d sworn to it.
Later on, when Issac was about to die, he called Esau to him and asked him to go hunt down a deer and prepare the venison just the way he liked it. Afterward he would give him his blessing.
Well, Rebecca heard Abraham and put a plan in motion. She told Jacob to go get a couple of sheep and she would prepare them the way Abraham liked. Then Jacob could take it to him and, pretending he was Esau, receive the blessing. Abraham was blind so he’d never know. “But Esau’s hairy,” Jacob says; “No problem,” says Rebecca.
So Rebecca fixed the food and dressed Jacob up in Esau’s clothes so he’d smell like the outdoors. She put sheep skins on the back of his hands and his neck so he felt hairy like his brother. Then she sent Jacob in to see his dad.
Jacob straight up lied to Issac, pretending he was Esau. But Issac wasn’t convinced so he made him come near. Even though he heard Jacob’s voice he could smell the field on his clothes and the sheep skins did the trick so he was convinced it was Esau.
And so Issac blessed Jacob, thinking he was blessing Esau. In essence the blessing said he would be super prosperous, he’d lord over his brothers and his mother’s sons would bow down to him. Those who cursed him would be cursed and those who blessed him would be blessed. With that, Jacob took off.
But scarcely had Jacob left when Esau came in with his food and was all ready to get his blessing. It didn’t take long before he and Abraham figured out that Jacob had scammed him. But here’s what’s weird; rather than say, “Wait a minute! That little sucker tricked me!” Issac told Esau he was out of luck and basically screwed. Even though he’d blessed Jacob, thinking he was Esau, since Jacob was the one in front of him, the blessing stuck with Jacob.
I could never understand why Abraham didn’t just go get Jacob and slap him for being a thief and a cheat. At the very least, he thought he was blessing Esau so shouldn’t the blessing actually belong to Esau anyway? Doesn’t make an ounce of sense. But it works for the story.
As you might expect, Esau wanted to kill Jacob. But Rebecca got wind of it and she tricked Abraham into shipping Jacob off to live with her brother, Laban, about 600 miles north at a place called Haran. Needless to say, Jacob was more than ready to get out of Dodge.
Along the way to Laban’s house Jacob had a dream. God restated his intention to give all this land, the “Promised Land”, to the children of Abraham, which now apparently meant Jacob.95
THE HOUSE OF JACOB
I encourage you to read about Jacob’s time with Laban, it’s worth the read, but I’m just going to skim it here.
Jacob went to live with his uncle, Laban and immediately fell in love with Laban’s daughter Rachel.96 The Bible says Rachel was very beautiful but I’m not sure how he’d know that if she was all covered up in a burka, as was the custom at the time97. But that’s what it says.
Jacob made a deal with Laban to work for him for seven years so he could marry Rachel. “Sounds like a good deal to me,” said Laban.
Well, when the wedding day finally came along, Laban pulled a switch and tricked Jacob into marrying Rachel’s older sister, Leah, instead of Rachel. How that happened is beyond me. Either the women were so covered up he couldn’t tell, or everybody was so drunk they couldn’t see straight. However it happened, Jacob didn’t realize the bait and switch until the next morning and by then he’d already ‘gone in unto’ Leah, if you know what I mean, and now it was too late.
Needless to say, Jacob was irate. But Laban blew him off saying it was the custom to marry off the older daughter before the younger. Like he couldn’t have said that before? And didn’t he make a deal for Rachel in the first place? Anyway, since Jacob wanted Rachel so bad he agreed to work another seven years to get her.
Lying and cheating just seems to be par for the course with these people.
Well, as luck would have it, Rachel was barren, but not Leah. Leah started popping out kids left and right. Rachel was so jealous she gave Jacob her servant so she could have kids through her.98 It didn’t take long before it turned into a competition. Leah gave Jacob her servant so she could have even more babies through her servant.
Then, lo and behold, Rachel miraculously became fertile and gave Abraham a son of her own, Joseph. I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to see a pattern here where the barren wife all of a sudden isn’t barren anymore and gives birth to the favorite son.
When it all washed out, Jacob had eleven sons and one daughter.
These eleven sons would eventually become twelve and the families of these sons would forever be known as the twelve tribes of Israel. Israel because, not too much later, Jacob would change his name to Israel
So, all in all, Jacob had been working for Laban for at least 20 years when God finally told him it was time to go home. He and Laban worked out a deal of what his wages should be but, as you might imagine, Laban tried to cheat Jacob again. But Jacob was too smart for that and he cheated Laban right back and made a run for it.
But Laban chased him down and confronted him about running off with his daughters and all his stuff. I won’t get into it here, but it’s worth the read if you’re interested. Lots more lying and cheating going on. Eventually Laban let Jacob and his daughters go on their way.
JACOB AND ESAU – Part 2
So Jacob headed back to the land of Canaan, which today would be modern day Israel, Jordan and parts of Syria and Lebanon. But he was afraid of his brother, Esau, and what he might do. It was twenty years ago but, after all, he did cheat Esau out of his birthright and blessing. He thought Esau might be out for blood.
By now Jacob has accumulated a ton of wealth himself. Besides his wives and children he’d gotten male and female servants, huge flocks of sheep and goats, camels, donkeys, cows and bulls, all of which he was herding down to Canaan. This was essentially like an old fashioned cattle drive like you see in the old Western movies. Most everybody was walking and, with over 600 miles to cover, it took awhile.
Somewhere along the way Jacob met up with some ‘angels of God’. Not much is said about them but, since we already know an angel is a messenger, it’s likely these guys showed up to impart some important information. About Esau perhaps?
Whatever it was, we’ll never know because soon after, Jacob learned Esau was coming to meet him. And he has four hundred men with him.
Jacob was totally spooked. He split up his company and, hoping to buy some time, sent herds and flocks out ahead of the main group as a gift to Esau.
An interesting thing happened the night before Jacob and Esau met up. Literally, the Bible says Jacob ‘wrestled with a man’ all night long. Interestingly, later on this ‘man’ is referred to as God. So Jacob wrestled with God and actually got the better of him. Not bad for a 70 year old man.
This whole narrative makes no sense at all until you find out, in the original Aramaic phraseology, this whole wrestling with a man thing actually refers to an emotional and spiritual act rather than anything physical 99. What really happened was that Jacob was up all night agonizing over his decision to go home. Was it the right thing to do? Should he go on? Should he turn tail and run back to Laban? Eventually he ‘prevails against the man’, overcomes his doubts, trusts God, and decides to push on.
This is just one of many instances where, if we try to take a translation literally, we completely lose the meaning.100
But it turned out Esau had done very well on his own and no longer had any problem with Jacob. After all, he’d stayed home and basically taken over Issac’s entire estate. He was doing okay and held no grudge.
So they met up, made up, and went their separate ways.
Jacob ended up being the patriarch of Israel and Esau, the patriarch or Edom. As time went on the two countries ended up being sworn enemies. Imagine that, another family feud.
There is one story from this time that deserves mention.
Shechem was a town that, like most places in those days, was named after the guy who ran it. Shechem was the son of Hamor, the king of the territory. Remember, this was a very tribal society; the places weren’t huge, maybe a couple of hundred people, but it was still significant who owned them and they called themselves kings and princes and so forth.
Well, when Shechem saw Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, he couldn’t help himself and, as what seems to be the custom, he raped her. When Dinah’s brothers found out, they were out for blood.
But, lo and behold, Shechem actually fell in love with Dinah and wanted to marry her. Shechem’s father came to Jacob and wanted to make a deal. He basically offered Jacob anything he wanted if he’d give Dinah to his son. And he sweetened the deal by offering up all his daughters to intermarry with Jacob’s sons so they could be one big happy family.
But Dinah’s brothers said they’d only agree if Hamor and all his clansmen got themselves circumcised. For some reason they all agreed. I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure I’d have to think about it real hard before I’d whack off the head of my pee pee just so I could get at some strange women. But apparently these women were pretty hot and the men were tired of marrying relatives. They also thought they’d eventually take Jacob for everything he had anyway so they went along with it.
Jacob’s sons had other ideas. On the third day, when the newly circumcised men could barely walk, Dinah’s brothers swooped into town and killed them all. They plundered the town, taking all the flocks and livestock along with all the women and children. It gives you an idea of the size of the place if eleven guys could do that much damage.101
This was the first of what would eventually be many genocidal carnages perpetrated by the sons of Abraham.
Nonetheless, Jacob and his tribe were on the run once again. The word must have gotten out about these crazy band of killers because, as they headed west toward Bethel, all the other people in the area gave them a wide berth.
ISRAEL, BENJAMIN AND RACHEL’S TOMB
Along the way, God reiterated to Jacob his promise to Abraham and Issac; that his offspring would possess all the land he could see and beyond.102 He also changed Jacob’s name to Israel. Not really sure why. Could it have been so the people of the land wouldn’t confuse him with Jacob and his homicidal sons?
Also, Rachel died while giving birth to Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth son. As I said before, these twelve sons make up what are famously known as the twelve tribes of Israel.
When Rachel died, Israel buried her and set up a pillar over her tomb. The reason I mention this is because the Bible very clearly states that the pillar is still there “to this day”; a clear indication that this story was not a first person account but written after the fact.103 According to the Bible this event happened at least 1900 years before Jesus and wasn’t recorded until almost 650 before Jesus. That’s a pretty significant gap. More on that later.
Israel had a soft spot for Joseph and Benjamin since they were the children of Rachel, the only woman he ever really loved. In fact Joseph was Israel’s favorite son and he made no bones about it.
This made Joseph’s brothers super jealous104. One day they were all out in the fields with the sheep and they had the opportunity to kill Joseph. They were going to throw him in a pit and leave him there to die but his brother, Rueben, got cold feet. As fortune would have it, a caravan on its way to Egypt happened to be passing by. So rather than kill Joseph and have his blood on their hands, they decided to sell him as a slave to the caravan and off they went.
To hide the deed, the brothers soaked Joseph’s coat in sheep’s blood and told Israel they’d found it on their way home. Apparently a wild beast had eaten Joseph. Israel was devastated.
I’m not sure why of all the families in the universe, God liked this family so much. Seems like they’re a bunch of lying, cheating scoundrels. But what do I know? Obviously he’s got his reasons.
So off to Egypt Joseph went. To his great fortune, he was sold to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard. It turned out Joseph was a very competent dude and before long he was running Potiphar’s house.
But to his great misfortune, Potiphar’s wife wanted to get frisky with Joseph. But Joseph was an upright guy and wouldn’t go for it. There’s a saying that there’s nothing like a woman scorned and Potiphar’s wife certainly proved it. She told her husband Joseph tried to rape her. Potiphar promptly sent Joseph off to prison. Why he didn’t just kill him is anybody’s guess.
But again, Joseph was a competent guy and pretty soon he was the most trusted trustee in the prison and basically ran the joint.
While he was there he met up with Pharaoh’s cup bearer and baker who had recently fallen out of favor and landed in prison. One night they both had dreams and Joseph correctly interpreted them. Good for the cup bearer, not so much for the baker.
Two years passed and Pharaoh had a couple of disturbing dreams that nobody seemed to be able to figure out. But the cup bearer remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh about him. So Pharaoh called for Joseph and he interpreted the dreams. Egypt will have seven years of bumper crops followed by seven years of famine. The dreams were a heads up that it was time to prepare.
Rather than pick one of his trusted men to make the preparations, Pharaoh took this unknown Hebrew slave/prisoner and put him in charge of everything, second only to Pharaoh.
Nobody knows who this unnamed Pharaoh was and there is no written record of any of this in all the archives of Egyptology. But we’ll take the Bible at its word and, for now, agree it’s all true.
ISRAEL COMES TO EGYPT
To make a long story short, the famine came and the whole world105 was starving to death, including Israel and his household. So Israel sent his sons down to Egypt to buy some food.
The brothers ended up in front of Joseph but didn’t recognize him. After all, it had been almost 20 years and Joseph was all dressed up like Pharaoh. Why some foreigners looking to buy a little grain would end up in front of the second-most powerful guy in the country seems strange, but let’s not quibble.
After tormenting them awhile, Joseph finally relented and made himself known. The brothers liked to have shit themselves but Joseph put them at ease. No hard feelings. After all, if they hadn’t sold him into slavery he never would have been able to save the world. So it all worked out, right?
Joseph told them to go get dad and bring him and all his household to Egypt. Pharaoh was into it and said his father and his entire household could live in the best part of the country and enjoy the fruits of the land.
That’s the short version of how the Israelites ended up in Egypt.
Now let’s see how they got out.
So Abraham and all his family, flocks, cattle, menservants and maidservants and everything they had, all went down to Egypt to live off the fat of the land. They were indeed fruitful and did indeed multiply.
Eventually Israel, Joseph, all his brothers, and that whole generation died off.
Well, Pharaohs come and Pharaohs go and about 250-300 years down the road a new Pharaoh was in charge. This Pharaoh never knew Joseph and didn’t care that he had saved the country or anything like that. That was a long time ago.
All he knew was these Israelites had become so numerous he was afraid they might try to take over or conspire against him in some way. So he did what any good absolute ruler would do; first he enslaved them and made their lives miserable; then he tried to outright eliminate them. But he found it was harder than he’d figured.
Finally, in his frustration, he ordered every newborn Hebrew male be thrown in the Nile River to drown. That should do it.
This is the climate into which Moses was born.
According to Pharaoh, he should have been thrown into the Nile and drowned. But somehow Moses’ mother was able to hide him for three months. But when she couldn’t do it anymore she put him in a little basket and placed him in the water among the reeds in the Nile. What she expected to happen isn’t said but, as luck would have it, Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the river to take a bath.
Pharaoh’s daughter found the basket with the baby and immediately surmised it was a Hebrew baby. Rather than throw him in the river like she was supposed to, she decided to take him home and keep him as her own106 But first she needed someone to nurse him. Well, wouldn’t you know it, Moses’ real mother just happened to be nearby so she got the job.107
Eventually Moses was brought into the house of Pharaoh and raised as his daughter’s own son. How they were able to pull this off is one of the great mysteries of the Old Testament. Shouldn’t he have just been thrown in the river with all the rest of the male babies? How did Pharaoh’s daughter get away with going against her father’s direct orders? How did Pharaoh not notice his daughter had a brand new baby son? How did a Hebrew grow up in Pharaoh’s own household and nobody notice? None of this is explained.
The next thing we know, Moses is all grown up and one day he went out to “his people” and saw their oppression. How did Moses even know he was a Hebrew? He’d been brought up in the royal court, son of Pharaoh’s daughter, grandson of Pharaoh. He was totally immersed in the royal family. Again, there’s no clue but, if we’re going to be literalists, we won’t question any of this, we’ll just take the story at its word.
So Moses was out wandering around one day and saw an Egyptian beating on one of the Hebrew slaves, one of “his people”. Moses looked around, and when he thought nobody was looking, he killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand.
But it turned out somebody did see him and when Pharaoh heard about it he was out for blood. Moses hightailed it and escaped to the land of Midian, about 300 miles away, on the east side of the Gulf of Arabia, better known as the Red Sea.
On the way, Moses helped some girls, saving them from some shepherds with bad intent. As it turned out these girls were the daughters of Jethro, the priest of Midian. Being a grateful father, Jethro gave Moses one of his daughters for a wife and she bore him a son named Gershom.
During his time in Midian, Pharaoh and the people who were looking for Moses all died off.
THE BURNING BUSH
According to the Bible, Moses was out with the flocks one day when he came across a burning bush. The bush wasn’t being consumed, it was just burning. There are a lot of interpretations of the significance of this burning bush and none of them are about an actual bush in flames108. If you’re interested it’s pretty easy to look up.
Regardless, this is when ‘an angel of the Lord’ appeared to Moses and told him to go back to Egypt and free his people. This is the beginning of the whole Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt which is hugely significant in the Jewish experience.
This ‘angel of the Lord’ phrase is pretty significant also because, as we’ve seen before, this, more than likely, is just some guy delivering a message.
But Moses didn’t want to go back to Egypt. He was hugely conflicted and made up every excuse he could think of to get out of it. One of his arguments was, when he got back to Egypt, he’d have to have some credibility. Under whose authority was he acting? Why would anybody listen to him if they didn’t know who’d sent him?
And from the burning bush God said, “I Am That I Am. Tell them ‘I Am’ sent you.” This is a pretty famous saying and deserves more scrutiny than it usually gets.
The actual Hebrew interpretation is Ehyeh asher ehyeh. Ehyeh has several meanings 109. One is “I am,” another is “I will be,” another is “I will cause to be,” and yet another is “I create.” And asher can mean “that,” or “who,” or even “what.” So this phrase is interpreted in many ways; “I am that I am,” “I am who I am,” “I cause to be what I cause to be,” or “I create what I create.”
If we were to take a metaphysical approach it wouldn’t be a stretch to interpret this phrase as, “I Am what I create”. Just that one phrase has huge ramifications. But let’s not get into that right now, let’s stick with Moses.
Anyway, Moses kept arguing with this angel, who he now calls Lord, trying to get out of it, but the Lord wouldn’t go for it. This Lord worked a little magic but Moses still wasn’t comfortable about the whole thing. Apparently Moses had a stutter and couldn’t speak well so he tried to use that as an excuse. But the Lord came back with, “Hey, take your brother Aaron with you and let him do the talking.”
Whoa! Wait a second! Where did this Aaron come from and since when did Moses have a brother? Was Moses leading two secret lives – one as grandson of Pharaoh and one as a poor Hebrew boy? And, by the way, Moses should have been the only Hebrew boy his age because all the other male babies had been thrown in the Nile, remember? Again, there’s no explanation so I guess we’re just supposed to accept it.
Eventually Moses gave in and headed for Egypt.
On the way back he stopped at a lodging and ‘the Lord’ tried to kill him. Just who was this ‘Lord’ anyway? Was it the same Lord that just spent all that time getting him to go to save his people or was it some other ‘Lord’ who wanted to stop him? We’re never told but Moses’ wife circumcised his son, Gershom, and somehow that saved the day.
This is just one more instance where interpretations of words get a little wonky. As we’ve seen before and we will again, words like ‘Lord’ and ‘angel’ are often used interchangeably and do not necessarily refer to the Deity or his heavenly host. They often refer to human beings who may or may not be doing God’s work, depending on who’s doing the talking.
MOSES AND PHARAOH
So Moses met up with Aaron and they went back to Egypt to talk to the elders of Israel. Moses did a couple of magic tricks and that was good enough for the elders. They agreed to let Moses go to Pharaoh to see if he would set them free.
Before we go any further it’s important to note that Moses and the current Pharaoh had to have had a history together. After all, this Pharaoh was the heir to the Pharaoh whose daughter was Moses’ adopted mother, so there’s a good chance he’s Moses’ uncle. It’s been surmised that they could be cousins or even half-brothers depending on who married whom within the family. Incest was common back then, especially within royal families. Nothing is ever mentioned about this but it’s pretty certain these two guys knew each other and, from the events that follow, it’s apparent they didn’t like each other.
So Moses went up to Pharaoh and said the Israelites just wanted to go out into the desert for a few days to sacrifice and celebrate their God. But Pharaoh knew it was a scam from the get-go. He knew they were going to make a run for it and he wasn’t about to let that happen. He needed his slaves and he needed them to behave. So just to show his authority, he decided to make the Israelite slaves’ lives even more miserable.
I’m not sure what Moses expected but he seems to have made things even worse than before. The people groaned, Moses was disheartened and the elders were seriously pissed. But God had a plan. In fact God let on that he’d hardened Pharaoh’s heart on purpose just so he could beat his ass later and show off his awesome power.
This is where the Bible says Moses showed his magic and brought ten plagues on the Egyptians. These plagues were;
1) turning the Nile water into blood,
2) frogs everywhere,
3) lice everywhere,
4) flies everywhere,
5) livestock sick and die,
8) locusts everywhere,
10) killing first born Egyptian children.
Most people who read this imagine it to be somewhat like the Cecil B. DeMille version, as played out with Charlton Heston in ‘The Ten Commandments’. They assume Moses had the power of God behind him and just worked some pretty heavy magic. But, if you look a little closer and do some research, there are actually natural causes that Moses could have been privy to and claimed credit for.110 Anything from a volcano or an algae bloom.
The one thing that these explanations don’t really cover is the killing of the firstborn child. Commonly known as Passover, it was a night where the angel(s) of God bypassed all the Hebrew households and killed all the first born of the Egyptians.
I know this will get me in a lot of trouble but let’s take a look at what might have really happened.
Let’s take a step back here and see if we can take a look at this “set my people free” thing from a more secular vantage point.
First of all, this is all just theory so don’t get too freaked out if it goes up against your current beliefs. And let’s remember, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that any of this happened in real life anyway, so your guess is as good as mine. There is no independent record of a guy named Moses leading a slave rebellion or anything else in the Exodus narrative. The Egyptians, Babylonians and Assyrians were notorious for meticulously documenting everything but, other than the Biblical writings themselves, there is no independent evidence of any of this.
But let’s assume it really happened. And let’s put the messages from God where they belong, as visions, dreams and intuitive interpretations by men who truly believed they were doing God’s work, not some booming voice from the sky.
So first let’s take on who Moses was. We know he was born a Hebrew and should have been thrown in the river at birth. But he wasn’t. He was saved by Pharaoh’s daughter and brought up in Pharaoh’s own house. How they pulled this off would be a miracle in itself, but let’s just accept that they did.
We know Moses’ real mother was brought in early on to nurse him. Let’s assume she stayed around as Moses grew up and secretly told him about his true heritage.
And let’s further assume that Moses took his Hebrew heritage to heart. He took it on enough to where, when he saw the cruel Egyptian taskmaster beating on a Hebrew slave, he killed him in cold blood. It’s obvious, for whatever reason, Moses was vested in the Hebrew’s plight. Vested enough to kill.
As we already know, when he was found out, he made a run for it and escaped to Midian. There he got married and seemed to be settling in.
But then, years later, someone showed up111 and convinced him to go back to Egypt to help set his people free. Moses didn’t want to do it but the Lord worked on him until he wore him down and agreed to give it a try.
But why Moses? It had been almost 60 years since he left Egypt. Why him? Why now?
Well, let’s remember Moses was of the Royal household. Just that fact would ensure he could at least get an audience with the current Pharaoh who, as we’ve already established, was very likely a pretty close relative. And we know Moses felt deeply enough for his Hebrew heritage to kill for it. Deeply enough to go back and lead his people to freedom.
The way it’s written it looks like this was Moses’ first encounter with this messenger. But, as we’ve seen before,112 there are often big gaps in these stories. There very well could have been an ongoing dialogue between Moses and the Hebrew community back in Egypt. For all we know Moses was living in exile as the leader of the rebel resistance. Perhaps this messenger was relaying the decision that the people back home thought it was time to act but Moses didn’t think it was time yet. But it was too late, his brother Aaron was already on his way to Midian to meet him.113
I don’t know about you, but that sounds more feasible than some guy showing up out of the blue hoping Moses would lead them out of bondage.
So Moses went back to Egypt to call out Pharaoh and demand his people’s freedom. And this was no small group of ragtag rebels. Later on, when they finally escaped Egypt, we’ll find that there were over 600,000 men, not counting the women, children, parents and grandparents. That’s a formidable group. No wonder Pharaoh was afraid of them.
So Moses and Pharaoh went back and forth, both working their magic on each other. But Pharaoh had no more intention of letting his slaves go as a Mississippi slave owner would free his cotton pickers.
All the plaques didn’t work so now Moses had to play his last card, killing all the first born of the Egyptians. After all, the Egyptians had killed all those Hebrew babies way back when so it was only fair, right? Pay back time.
But how did this really go down?
First, Moses told all the Hebrews to kill a lamb, paint some blood on their doorposts, and don’t go outside no matter what. The blood on the doorposts would show ‘the destroyer’ that Hebrews lived in that house so leave them alone. It was like a secret code.
At midnight, all hell broke loose and innocent Egyptian children throughout the land were slaughtered by the thousands.
But how did all these children die? Was it the invisible hand of God striking them down in their beds? Cecil B. DeMille portrayed it as a shadow coming over and they all just died peacefully in their sleep.
Or was it jihad?; the passion of mujahedin, ‘the angels of God’, an army of thousands of angry Hebrew freedom fighters coordinating a vicious attack in the name of God? The blood on the doorposts was their sign to pass over that home, but to enter every other house and kill the children. Only a human would need a sign like that. It’s hard to imagine an all-powerful, all-knowing God would need a mark on a doorpost so he wouldn’t get confused. That sign was for men, not God.
After that night the Egyptians couldn’t get rid of the Hebrews fast enough. “Here, take anything you want, just go!” And so the Hebrews plundered the Egyptians and took off. And that was no easy feat. Conservative estimates put over 2 million people hitting the road all at once 114. Talk about a traffic jam. Just to get an idea of how many people that is, imagine the entire populations of Louisville, Kentucky; Detroit, Michigan; and Dallas, Texas all going somewhere together all at once. Now that’s a traffic jam.
This night of Passover is of huge significance to the Jewish people and as such, is celebrated every year as a ‘night of watching kept throughout the generations.’ 115 116
So, after 430 years in Egypt, over two million Jews took off into the desert with no clear destination in mind.
They got as far as the Red Sea before Pharaoh changed his mind and came after them. You can only imagine the pressure he was under to bring these child-murdering slaves to justice.
But Moses was ready. According to the Bible God told Moses to hold up and wait for Pharaoh so he could show off a little.
The Israelites weren’t too happy about it when they saw Pharaoh and his army coming. The elders started whining and having second thoughts. Apparently these people had short memories or didn’t really trust Moses or their God.
You probably already know what happened. God parted the Red Sea, the Israelites crossed and, when Pharaoh and his army chased them, the sea closed in on them and they all drowned.
The Biblical account says Moses stretched out his hand and a great wind came and separated the sea so there was a wall of water on either side. After the Israelites got across, he stretched his hand forth again and the waters closed in on the Egyptians, killing them all.
Aramaic lore is known for grandiose exaggeration so most scientists and scholars doubt this account. But they have other, more plausible, natural explanations. From extreme tidal changes to a strong wind exposing a reef hidden in the shallows. It’s easy enough to look these alternative theories up so I won’t waste too much time on them here.
Let’s remember Moses had spent over 20 years in the area around the Red Sea. He would have known it very well and would have known exactly where the shallows were, when they were likely to be exposed, and for how long. So it’s not inconceivable that Moses had a grand plan all along and set Pharaoh up. With this one gesture Moses would make sure the Egyptians would leave them alone for good. And it worked. Not another word is said about Egyptians chasing them through the desert, even though they were out there for a long time.
There’s also no record at all among Egyptian writings that any of this ever happened at all. So we can accept it as literal truth or as part of a long narrative meant to give meaning to the Hebrew people.117 We’ll get into that later on.
There’s a lot more to this story – miracles, manna and some other things – so, if you’re interested, I suggest you read it on your own.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
Once they were free of the Egyptians, Moses hiked his merry band to the foot of Mount Sinai where they set up camp.
God told Moses to go up the mountain so he could give him some instructions. These instructions are what the Hebrews call ‘The Ten Sayings’ and Christians call ‘The Ten Commandments’.
So Moses went up the mountain and God gave him the Ten Commandments, etched out on stone tablets. These sayings are the cornerstone of Hebrew law.
If you’ve never actually seen them, here they are:
You shall have no other Gods before me
You shall not make any idol or image and bow down before it
You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain
You shall honor the Sabbath.
You shall honor your father and mother.
You shall not kill
You shall not commit adultery
You shall not steal
You shall not bear false witness
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or any of his things
These all seem pretty reasonable and highbrow until you consider God just killed thousands of innocent children. And pretty much every patriarch, from Abraham on down, were lying, cheating, scoundrels. Not to mention Moses himself being a cold blooded murderer.
Maybe Moses was recognizing all these previous mistakes and was trying to figure out a way not to make them again. Who knows? Let’s just accept it as a good standard to shoot for.
So Moses came down the mountain and read the Ten Commandments to the people and they all agreed they were a great set of rules and they would abide by them.
But then Moses went back up to the mountain where God gave him a bunch more instructions. And I mean a bunch.
By the time he was done, Moses had been up on the mountain so long that the people were getting restless. Was he coming back? Was he dead? What should they do?
So rather than send somebody up to look for him, what did they do? They gathered up all the gold jewelry they had plundered from the Egyptians, melted it down and got Aaron to make them a big golden statue of a calf. They called it their new God and partied like it was 1999.
But God got wind of it and was totally irate. He was ready to kill them all but Moses talked him out of it. As we’ve seen before, talking God out of something is not as hard as you might think.
Anyway, Moses came down the mountain with two stone tablets. People usually think these stone tablets had the Ten Commandments but that can’t be because he’d already brought them down. 118
What is actually on these particular tablets is open to debate but regardless, when Moses saw the people partying around the golden calf he slammed the tablets down, breaking them to pieces.
Then he ground up the golden calf into dust and demanded Aaron tell him why he let this happen. Aaron’s answer is priceless.
He said all the people gave him their gold and he threw it in the fire and out popped this golden calf, I’m serious, that’s what he said. Seriously, if that actually happened, I’d worship it too. Sounds more like something a six year old might come up with when he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
Well, that didn’t cut it for Moses. He rounded up Aaron and the rest of his clan, the sons of Levi119, and they killed three thousand of their own people. So much for ‘thou shalt not kill.’ Moses was old school, he knew how to take control.
For good measure God sent them a plague killing another untold multitude.
After all this, it was time for Moses to lay down the Law.
ORIGINS OF THE LAW
In this section we’ll be going over some of the statutes that Moses came up with to keep his merry band of wanderers in line. These statutes are the nitty gritty of how to implement the Ten Commandments.
Technically, the ‘Law’ is the Ten Commandments as written on the stone tablets. These were stored in the Ark of the Covenant, which we’ll get to later. The ‘statutes’ are the actual mandates and corresponding punishments that cover a myriad of situations.
Many people argue these statutes were dictated directly to Moses by God and were on the tablets Moses broke during the golden calf fiasco. If you take a look at any Bible and consider how many stone tablets it would take to write all this down, it’s pretty obvious two tablets wouldn’t cut it.
Even Jesus refers specifically to the ‘Law of God’ and ‘Statutes of Moses’ as two distinctly separate things. I figure if it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.
Also, it’s important to note that all these laws and statutes were meant only for the Israelites – to keep them separate from the other people who occupied the land. So technically, if you’re not a Jew, none of this applies to you. You’re off the hook.120
Most people, when they cite these laws, act like they were written for everybody, everywhere, for all time. That’s just not the case. They were written for the children of Israel, period. If you’re not a Jew but would like to abide by them, fine. If not, that’s fine too. You’re under no obligation, and neither is anybody else.
And, as it turns out, these were not entirely original laws. Moses borrowed liberally from the many codes and statues of the Babylonians, Egyptians, Sumerians and others that had been governing the peoples of the near and Middle East for centuries.121
LEVITICUS AND DEUTERONOMY
Leviticus and Deuteronomy are two books full of instructions on how to perform various sacrifices and rules about what’s okay to eat, how to treat people, who can have sex with whom, what to do about leprosy and much more. It’s pretty tedious.
There’s a lot of repetition in the two books so I’m going to be mixing and matching a lot of it, taking a little something from Leviticus and then a little something from Deuteronomy hoping you don’t get bored. I’m going to be skimming the basic content while highlighting some of the passages I found to be more interesting, questionable, or downright outrageous.
Leviticus and Deuteronomy are very much like a lot of the Bible narratives; the same story told from two differing perspectives.122
Sacrificing to various Gods was a practice common to many civilizations long before Moses came along. Apparently sacrifice was the only way to appease God, no matter whose God it was. And these Gods needed plenty of appeasing. Pretty much everything you did, good or bad, required some sort of sacrifice. Besides that, there were numerous festivals literally built around ritual sacrifice. I won’t go into all the details but if you really want to know about it I recommend you read these two books.
For the record, sacrifice requires you give up something prized or of value in order to get something of higher value. What they gave up were things like sheep, cattle, oxen and, in some cultures, the first born child. What they got back was a happy God.
In a way it makes perfect sense from an ancient man’s point of view. These people were accustomed to having a powerful ruler over them. If you wanted something from him, of course you’d have to pay for it, and likewise, if you did something wrong you’d have to pay for that too. It’s only natural that if you wanted something from God, the biggest ruler of them all, you’d have to pay for it. The concept of a loving God who wants nothing more than to bestow all the fruits of the kingdom on you would have to wait until Jesus came along.123
Moses wanted to make sure his people did their sacrifices in the right way and with plenty of respect since, after all, their God was the best God, right? So he laid out very strict rules about how and what to sacrifice.
Regardless of what the sacrifice was for, there was one thing you could count on; lots of killing and plenty of blood. Depending on how wealthy you were, oxen, cattle and lambs were all fair game. For poor people it was doves and grain. And you couldn’t offer up just any cow or lamb in the field either; it had to be a spotless male without blemish. In other words, you had to give up your best to God.
They didn’t just kill it either. They’d cut it up, gut it, drain the blood and wave the various parts around the altar. Very often, burning the various parts was part of the ritual because God liked the smell. I guess God likes a good barbecue as much as anyone. He loved the smell of burning flesh.
It’s hard to imagine how messy this would be when they really got going. When you consider how many people there were and all the things that required sacrifice it would have had to have been a non-stop operation.
I mention this not to gross you out, but to show how established the notion of sacrifice, killing and blood were ingrained in the mindset of the people of the time. Particularly the Hebrews. Fifteen hundred years down the road this premise would become the cornerstone of the Christian religion.
This notion of not being good enough and needing to sacrifice in one way or another to become worthy is, unfortunately, still in the mindset of a huge number of people today.
ANOINTING AND THE LEVITES
One of the first things Moses did was anoint his brother Aaron as the High Priest. Anointing is a symbolic thing where they pour oil on your head and declare you to be whatever it is they’re declaring you to be. In this case it was the High Priest. Later it would be mostly about declaring someone king.
Anointing was a really big deal. You needed to be ‘anointed’ into your position for it to be valid. The Hebrew word for someone who is anointed is ‘messiah’. When you hear the word ‘messiah’ it literally means ‘anointed one’. Keep this in your back pocket for a while. We’ll get back to it later when we talk about Jesus. But for now it meant only the descendants of Aaron could be priests.
The next thing Moses did was assign the Levites to be keepers of the tabernacle, and later, by extension, the temple, and the Ark of the Covenant. It was a huge responsibility. Remember, Moses was a Levite and they’d stood up with him during the whole golden calf thing so this could very well be their reward.
So now, not only had Moses cemented his place as leader but he’d also surrounded himself with a loyal guard and established he and his brother as the sole authority when it comes to God.
One of the Ten Commandments that really was a stroke of genius was the Sabbath. From the very beginning God had made a big deal about him taking a day off after he created the heavens and earth. With the Sabbath, he mandates that the Hebrews take one day off every week. No work at all. None. Period. Basically sit on the couch and watch the world go by. Why would he do that?
In this case, it turns out God had a pretty good handle on human psychology. He knew man would work himself to death if given the chance. And not only himself, but everyone who worked for him.
But God (or was it Moses?) had seen enough of this and commanded that his people work no more than six days before taking one day off. This included the man of the house, his wife, his whole family, his slaves, everybody who worked for him, even his animals.
I’m sure we all know someone that, if given the chance, would work until he dropped. This Sabbath thing was a brilliant way to make sure that didn’t happen. You must take one day off a week. Non-negotiable. Does anybody still do that?
We seem to have gotten away from that idea in today’s day and age but it was, and still is, a great idea.
ALTARS AND THE ARK OF THE COVENANT
One of the first things God told Moses was to make sure he didn’t make big ornate altars. He was to make them out of raw rocks. unhewn stone. When I first read this I thought God didn’t want a lot of glitz and glimmer and wanted his people to be more grounded and humble. But later on, when we get to Solomon and the temple, we’ll see God likes his bling just as much as anybody.
God gave detailed instructions on how to build the Ark of the Covenant, which is a gold covered box that would hold the Ten Commandment tablets. Equally detailed are instructions about the Tabernacle, which is a big tent that held the Ark of the Covenant; and the priests and others who were to take care of it all.124
CLEAN AND UNCLEAN ANIMALS
This is where we first hear the distinction between ‘clean’ animals and ‘unclean’ animals. What it comes down to is you can eat clean animals but unclean animals are off limits. You might remember I brought this up when we visited Noah and his ark.
At first glance you might wonder what’s the point. But when you look at it a bit closer it all makes sense. When it all washes out, the animals that are okay to eat are the herd animals, flocking birds and schooling fish, along with a few bugs. What you can’t eat are predators or anything that could be highly unhealthy if not prepared exactly right; like pigs, scavengers, rodents, bottom feeders and shellfish.
It shows that Moses had a pretty good grasp of the ebb and flow of his ecosystem and how to maintain it. Herd animals and schooling fish are good food and multiply quickly. Predators are essential to the balance of any ecosystem and they’re generally not the best food anyway. Bottom feeders, scavengers, shellfish, rodents and swine, even today, are pretty sketchy eating.
Even primitive people learned these culinary lessons early on. But you know how people get. Sometimes, without rules, they’ll do what’s not good for them anyway. Moses knew that and he got really specific and employed his favorite tactic; the fear of God.
This next section is where Moses really shows a forward thinking social agenda. It’s also an area where modern day fundamentalists are particularly adept at cherry picking.
First Moses said you couldn’t harvest your field right up to the edges nor glean the gatherings of your harvest or strip your vineyard bare. You had to leave these leftovers for the poor, homeless, widows and orphans, Moses’ early version of social welfare.
He said you couldn’t steal, deal falsely or lie. You couldn’t rob or oppress your neighbor and you had to pay the people that work for you what you said you’d pay them, when you said you’d pay them.
If you found something of your neighbor’s, you had to give it back. And if you didn’t know whose it was, you had to make an honest effort to find out. No ‘finders keepers’.
You couldn’t be partial to the poor or defer to the rich. You had to be honest in your dealings and couldn’t go around slandering people.
Also, you had to respect the sojourner (a foreigner working in your country) as you would a citizen of your own land. And, you had to love him as yourself. At the very least, treat the immigrant just the same as you would a natural born citizen.
Moses specifically said if your brother becomes poor you will support him as though he was a stranger or sojourner. You shall not sell him food for profit or charge him interest and you shall welcome him to live beside you. You shall provide for his welfare. Welfare being the operative word.
You couldn’t hate your neighbor in your heart and you had to reason frankly with him. You couldn’t take vengeance nor bear a grudge. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
When you lent your brother money, you couldn’t charge him interest.
You couldn’t sell one of your brothers into slavery.
If these laws would have been around in Jacob’s day then none of his sons except Joseph and Benjamin would have lived and this whole twelve tribes of Israel would have never seen the light of day.
There’s a section that talks about not sacrificing a child. In more than one instance God talks about redeeming the first born son by sacrificing a lamb instead. Apparently it was a common practice among certain folks back then to kill the firstborn in the name of their God. You’ll remember Abraham was ready to sacrifice Issac no questions asked. Moses put a stop to that.
Moses again showed his knowledge of the land when he commanded his people to observe the Sabbath of the land, which means you could plant a field for six years but every seventh year you had to let it rest. No tilling, no harvesting what grows by itself, nothing. Even then, he knew the soil needed to replenish itself or it would eventually wear out.
And when you planted a tree, you couldn’t eat its fruit for five years. Moses was quite the horticulturist.
You couldn’t curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind. A deeper meaning might suggest you can’t mess with people when they don’t know you’re doing it. Without being overly Kabala-esque, hidden meanings abound in these laws if you’re willing to look for them.
A prime example would be when Moses laid down a couple of interesting laws. One being you couldn’t sow two kinds of seeds in the same field, the other being you couldn’t yoke an ox and a donkey together to plow your field.
Sure, oxen and donkeys are nowhere near the same size nor do their temperaments allow them to work well together. And sowing two crops in the same field is just asking for a nightmare at harvest time. But any capable farmer would already know this and, since they were wandering around the desert, they weren’t planting any crops anyway.
So why did Moses feel it necessary to write something like this into law?
This is a particularly glaring example where we see Moses hiding a deeper metaphysical message beneath the surface of what, at first glance, looks like an innocuous mandate. Moses is pointing out that you should not yoke yourself to another of incompatible abilities or temperament. We could even take this further to include intelligence, world view, spiritual development and much more. Be careful where you choose to plant your seeds and who you yolk up with.
The real point is, it behooves us to examine these laws on a deeper level. There is much more here than meets the eye.
TATTOOS, TASSELS AND A REBELLIOUS SON
Also, tattoos were a no-no, as was cutting yourself or shaving your beard. Many people think these rules are about keeping themselves separate from the Egyptians but it seems more likely that it’s more of a health issue.
Remember, these people were wandering around the desert during the early Bronze Age. Basic hygiene was not even an issue. Chances are they were using a sharpened flint to shave with. A tattoo would be done with an unsterilized piece of metal or even a stick, with ink made from some plant extract or crushed stone. The chances of infection were astronomical. This was a time when a simple cut could easily become infected, causing permanent damage or death. Moses recognized this early on and put a stop to it.
For good measure you were supposed to have tassels on the four corners of your garments and not wear a garment made of two types of fabric. Why? Who knows? Deeper meaning? Undoubtedly.
There is a very specific law concerning a son who is rebellious and won’t obey his father and mother; he shall be stoned.125 I say this just for you literalists who cherry pick your laws. Don’t forget to stone your rebellious sons.
MEDIUMS, DIVINERS & PRIESTS
There’s a whole section about not going to mediums, wizards or diviners. You were supposed to go only to God, via Moses, or else you’d be stoned or burned. It’s obvious Moses didn’t want his people going to every psychic or palm reader for advice.
But when we read deeper into the Bible these mediums, prophets and oracles pop up all over the place and are given great credence. Even the story of Jesus’ birth rests on three wise men and the divination and astrology they used to figure out where he would be born.
The sad part is a lot of people throughout the ages have used this to justify countless atrocities, Joan of Arc and the Salem witch trials to name just two.
Moses goes into great detail about who can have sex with whom, or ‘uncovering their nakedness’ as he liked to put it.126
He seemed to be very concerned with banishing incest and any sex within families. Up until now, this was very common, even with the Hebrews. If you remember, Abraham, Issac and Jacob all married relatives. Moses even prohibited a man from marrying two sisters. Good thing this law wasn’t around when Jacob married Rachel and Leah.
It seems like Moses was trying to purge his people of some of the things that had gotten them in trouble in the past. Also, being of the house of Pharaoh, maybe he’d recognized how incest degraded the gene pool. He even made specific reference that his people should keep themselves separate and not do as the Egyptians or Canaanites127 had done.
There’s also a reference about a man lying with another man as with a woman that has been a bane on many a life. I’m going to leave that for now and cover it extensively in a section dedicated exclusively to homosexuality.
RAPE AND OTHER WAYS WOMEN GOT SCREWED
If a man found out his wife wasn’t a virgin when they married, all the men in town got to stone her. If a man was found having sex with another man’s wife they both got stoned.
There is a really strange, and I do have to say, extremely superstitious way to find out if a woman had cheated on her husband. I’m not going to go into it but if you want to see some of the stuff they were doing back then that the fundamentalists have seemed to completely neglect, follow the footnote to check it out.128
If a man raped a woman in the city they both must be stoned. Why her, you ask? Since she was in the city she should have cried out for help and she would have been rescued. That always works, right? So obviously, if she didn’t scream, she wanted it. But if she was in open country, she was off the hook because no one could have heard her anyway. But the guy still got stoned, right? Well, not necessarily.
Both these circumstances are only in effect if the woman was betrothed to another man. She is his property and the rapist defiled the man’s property.
If the woman was virgin but not betrothed then the rapist had to pay her father and marry her. You might recall I mentioned this before and how times have changed. Remember Dinah and her brothers?
Incidentally, nothing is said about what happens if a man raped a woman who wasn’t a virgin. Apparently that was okay.
Also, a woman can’t wear men’s clothing and vice versa. Sorry, it’s an abomination. Check your wardrobe, all you crossdressers out there.
If someone is beating up a guy and his wife goes to help her husband and grabs the attacker’s private parts, you have to cut off her hand. Talk about harsh. She must have wanted that too, right?
There’s also some stuff about divorce and inheritance. It always is up to the man. This was back in the day when a woman was just property for the man to do with as he pleased.
THE YEAR OF THE JUBILEE
The Year of the Jubilee was another of Moses’ brilliant ideas that has fallen by the wayside. A Jubilee year comes every fifty years and in that year everybody gets back whatever land they’ve sold off in the previous 49 years.
This was a big deal because when the children of Israel finally conquered the ‘Promised Land’, each tribe got a portion of the land which they divided up among each family in the tribe. Possession of the land was a finite thing since each tribe only got so much, which meant each family only got so much.
So, whenever you sold some land you set the price according to how long it was until the next Jubilee year. If it was many years, the price was higher and if it was a few years, the price was lower because, no matter what, you were going to get your land back in the year of the Jubilee. It really was more like a lease.
You know how people are, if given the chance, it wouldn’t be long before a few rich families owned all the land. Even today, we see it all over the world. Moses recognized this and put the Jubilee in place to keep that from happening. Brilliant.
This idea of a Refuge city is an interesting concept. Moses designated six cities as Refuge cities.
The point was simple; If you killed somebody, but not on purpose129, you could run to one of these cities and have refuge from the ‘avenger of blood’. This avenger of blood was usually the oldest male in the family of the guy you killed. It was his duty to kill you to make things right. An eye for an eye kind of thing. But if you made it to the City of Refuge this avenger couldn’t touch you until you got a fair trial. If he got you beforehand, you were toast.
It seems Moses understood the power and need for vengeance one might feel when a family member is killed. He knew how the avenger could easily be acting irrationally out of blind anger and he was cutting him a bit of slack. But only a bit. It gave the ‘avenger of blood’ a little time to act impulsively if he had the mind to, but it also ensured the man-slayer, if he could get to the City of Refuge in time, would have the opportunity to let justice take its course.
Was Moses thinking back to when he first murdered that Egyptian and the avenger of blood was hot on his tail?
WHAT ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY?
While we’re talking about what one should and shouldn’t do, I thought this would be a good time to bring up homosexuality.
This has got to be one of the hottest of the hot button issues in modern-day Christianity130 so it’s about time we look at it for what it really is.
First off, let’s define just what homosexuality is, at least how the dictionary defines it.
“A homosexual is a person who is sexually or romantically attracted to a person of his or her own sex.” That’s it. Period. So, what does that mean in real life?
A lot of people stop right at the sexually attracted part and all they see is a bunch of guys in leather chaps having disgusting sex131 and being outrageous at a Gay Pride Parade. They never consider the romantic part.
We might all have our own notion of what romance is but the dictionary describes it as, “a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love”; love being the operative word here.
So, to be fair, a homosexual relationship is exactly the same as a heterosexual relationship, except the gender of both parties is the same. In fact, all lasting romantic relationships are more about love than sex, regardless of whether they’re gay or straight. Most married couples, if they last any time at all, figure that out early on.
So, when I’m talking about a homosexual, I’m talking about a person with all the same commitment issues, image issues, sexual issues, insecurities, phobias, hopes, dreams and goals as any straight person. I’m saying the vast majority of homosexuals are just like any straight person except they happen to be attracted to someone of their own sex.
Invariably, people who have a problem with homosexuality cite some sort of religious belief and, at least in the Western world, that belief is deeply rooted in the Christian Bible.
That being said, and since the Bible is what’s on the table here, I’m going to approach the subject of homosexuality from two completely different angles, but both rooted firmly in the Bible.
The first issue is regarding health. The first time I read the Bible I was bowled over. It was so obvious to me, I was amazed I’d never heard anyone even breach the subject before.
OLD TESTAMENT HEALTH ISSUES
People who use the Bible to condemn homosexuality often say the Bible prohibits sexual relations between people of the same sex. Well, that’s simply just NOT true.
Without fail, they will point to two ‘go-to’ Old Testament verses; Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13.
Most English Bibles interpret Leviticus 18:22 as, “A man shall not lie with another man as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination.” Leviticus 20:13 says essentially the same thing. That’s usually good enough for most people. “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that’s that.” The problem is this interpretation is actually not accurate but we’ll get more into that later.
First off, let’s point out that no interpretation even hints at anything like, “A man shall not love another man as he would a woman.” Again, the operative word being ‘love’.
You’ll also notice nowhere does it say anything about a woman lying with a woman..
Many people like to hedge on this point saying when the Bible says ‘man’, it’s inherently referring to women as well. Well, if you’re going to take it literally, you can’t have it both ways; either it says it or it doesn’t. And in this case, it doesn’t.
A bit further along verse 18:23 it says, “And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it; it is perversion.”
Now we’ve got the woman specifically involved in the narrative. And since these verses literally follow one another we can be reasonably assured the writer made these references and omissions on purpose.
So, literally speaking, these verses say guys shouldn’t be buggering each other and nobody should be having sex with the animals. That’s it. There is literally NOTHING about homosexuality, per se.
Now let’s see if we can take this in a bit of context to see why Moses found it necessary to ban these particular acts.132
First of all, let’s remember these statutes were written as the Israelites were wandering around the desert for 40 years133. If we’re going to take this literally, conservative estimates put the number of ‘wanderers’ at approximately two and a half million people. That’s right, million.
It’s a rare believer who has ever even considered this number. As stated previously, two and a half 134 million people is approximately the population of Louisville, Kentucky; Detroit, Michigan; and Dallas, Texas combined! By any stretch of the imagination, that’s a lot of people.
Without beating a dead horse, we can surmise there were a whole lot of people wandering around the desert for a long time. And these were very primitive people, nomads who knew nothing of basic hygiene and only took a bath when they crossed a river.
Suffice it to say, under these circumstances, anal sex and bestiality could be extremely unhealthy and even deadly. This was back when even a minor infection would kill you.
Without getting into the who, what and why of it, the fact is, people have been buggering each other and having sex with animals since time immemorial. You can do your own research as to why that is, but the fact is, it’s a fact. And obviously, if Moses needed to address it, it was a problem for his merry band.
What jumped out at me the first time I read this was it was never about whether a man or woman loved someone of the same sex. It was a health issue and Moses was taking care of it the way he took care of everything; he kept it simple and invoked the fear of God.
This second part might make you a bit squeamish but hang in there with me. The health issue, although it makes sense, is still complete conjecture on my part. But this second part is rooted directly in language interpretation and isn’t really theoretical. It’s pretty much cut and dried. It’s what the Bible says. Just depends on what Bible you’re reading.
The fact that Jesus never said a thing about homosexuality one way or the other is telling. In fact, when we look at what Jesus actually taught, it’s easy to come to a different conclusion135. Jesus was a pretty tolerant dude.
But we’re not talking about Jesus now, we’re talking about the Apostle Paul who, by the way, was not one of Jesus’ original followers. In fact, there is no evidence the two ever met.
All the New Testament verses people cite regarding homosexuality were taken from Paul’s writings to his Greek converts. And they truly were ‘converts’ in every sense of the word. Paul was doing his level best to get them to conform to his teaching which, in many ways, was diametrically opposed to what the Grecian culture was living.
Paul went out of his way to convince his converts to not give themselves up to ‘the ways of the flesh,’ but to live a more moral, spiritually pure life. Likewise, each verse lists several examples of promiscuous and unprincipled behavior.
For example Romans 13:13 says “…let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy…”
Another one is Romans 1:24 where he says, “God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies…”
It’s important to remember Paul is imploring his converts to remain pure and not go crazy like some of the people they see around them. The Greece of that day was well known for its hedonism and debauchery. There is nothing here to specifically condemn homosexuality, it’s more about excess and promiscuity.
But like the Old Testament, the New Testament has its own ‘Big 2’ verses that purportedly put an end to the homosexual debate.
The first is 1 Corinthians, 6:9 – “…neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves….etc.”
The second is 1 Timothy, 1:10 which says, “ …for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine.”.
So now homosexuals are lumped in there with thieves and slave traders. They must be horrible people. But there’s an interesting history about the word these modern Bibles now interpret to mean ‘homosexual’. The King James version interprets the word as ‘effeminate’’ 136 or ‘whore-monger, whereas the New International version calls them ‘male prostitutes’, or ‘perverts’.137 The Revised standard version uses ‘sodomites’. There seems to have been a lot of latitude in the translation of this particular word over time.
But the truly telling thing is that the actual Greek word they are interpreting is ‘arsenokoitai’ 138 which translates literally to ‘pederast’139
Pederasty is a custom where adult men have sex with prepubescent, usually pre-teenaged, boys. In many ancient cultures this was perfectly acceptable and commonplace140. Nowadays we’d call it pedophilia and you go to jail for it.
Interestingly, the Greek word, arsenokoitai, was not translated to mean homosexual until 1946141.
So, you can see the original Greek word for pedophile slowly morphed to ‘effeminate’, to ‘pervert’, to ‘sodomite’, to ‘homosexual’. I don’t know about you but it’s a pretty big jump to automatically label all homosexuals as child molesters or vise versa. I personally know plenty of homosexual men and women and not one of them has sex with children.
In ancient Greece the practice of grown men having sex with young boys was not only common, but condoned and even encouraged142143. It seems obvious Paul was carrying over the Hebrew belief that pederasty was morally reprehensible and doing his best to instill this belief into his converts.
And where do we find evidence that pederasty was morally reprehensible in the Hebrew culture? We need look no further than the Old Testament ‘Big 2’ verses on homosexuality.
When you take a look at the German, Luther Bible 1912144 translation of Leviticus 18:22, it reads, “Du sollst nicht beim Knaben liegen wie beim Weibe; denn es ist ein Greuel.”
When I break out my trusty Google search translator145 this verse literally translates to, “Thou shalt not lie with a boy as with the woman, because it is an abomination.”
Martin Luther’s original German translation from 1534146 uses the word ‘knabenschänder’ which literally translates to, ‘Knaben’, boy, ‘schänder’, molester.
Similarly, Luther Bible 1912147 version of Leviticus 20:13 reads, “Wenn jemand beim Knaben schläft wie beim Weibe, die haben einen Greuel getan und sollen beide des Todes sterben; ihr Blut sei auf ihnen,” which translates literally to, “If a man sleeps with a boy as with a woman, they have done an abomination, and both shall die of death: her blood is on them.” Where the ‘her blood’ part comes in I have no idea but there it is. Lost in translation I guess.
So it turns out Paul’s New Testament teachings are actually based on ancient Old Testament Mosaic statutes prohibiting pederasty. Homosexuality, or rather consensual sex between two adults of the same sex is never mentioned, not once. Let me repeat, NOT ONCE!.
It’s abundantly clear pederasty was not an uncommon practice in ancient times.148 As much as I hate to say it, it’s not really so uncommon in modern times either.149 150
But sticking to the Bible, it’s not too much of a jump to assume the Hebrews picked up the practice during their time in Egypt. Just the fact that Moses found it necessary to address the issue shows, at the very least, it was present in his camp. It could have been another Egyptian custom he wanted to eradicate or he could have been making a moral judgment. We’ll never know. But his admonition was very specific and had nothing to do with same sex couples.
You may think my health issue theory is a bunch of baloney. You may think the whole translation thing was just a natural misunderstanding or you may think it was some insidious plot against homosexuals, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is, the Bible never, ever, not once, condemns homosexuality itself.
Whether it be a health issue, a cultural issue, moral issue, or all of the above, it was never a same sex intimacy and love issue. Nowhere in the Bible is same sex intimacy prohibited except in the case of pederasty.
I’ve only scratched the surface here but what I noticed when I first read the Bible was we, as a people, have found it very convenient to cherry pick the statutes we resonate with and seem perfectly willing to ignore the ones that don’t serve us. Literalists have made up some very convoluted theological reasons why that’s okay. In one breath they’ll say it’s okay to shave your beard but in the next breath they’ll say something like, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that’s that.”
For most of western history we’ve had no problem persecuting gays, burning witches, regaling social welfare or demonizing immigrants while being perfectly content to get tattoos, shave our beards and wear clothes with no tassels and made of cotton and polyester.
I encourage151 you to read Leviticus and Deuteronomy and see for yourself what hypocrites we are.
THE FINAL WORD
Moses finishes off with a whole tirade about how everything will go well with you if you obey these statues and how things will go horribly wrong if you don’t. That’s pretty much the whole message of the Bible; be good and you’ll get good; don’t do good and won’t.152
THE PROMISED LAND
TAKING THE PROMISED LAND – Part 1
So, now that Moses had laid down the law, it was time to take possession of the Promised Land.
At the time, Moses and his gang were still on the east side of the Jordan River and the Promised Land was basically from the Jordan River west, all the way to the ocean.153
So the first thing Moses did was send spies into the land to see what it was like. When the spies came back they said it was a great place, flowing with milk and honey, but the people were strong and it would be very difficult to steal their land.
As you might expect, a lot of Moses’ band lost faith (again) and wanted to stone Moses for bringing them out here to die in the desert. Why didn’t they just stay in Egypt where they were happy slaves?
And predictably, God got pissed (again) and wanted to kill them all (again) and raise up a new nation from the descendants of Moses. But Moses argued with God (again) and was able to convince him not to do it (again). We’re well into a pattern here now, do you see it?
But in return for not killing them all God said none of the people who came up out of Egypt would see the Promised Land. None of them. That whole generation would die off in the desert and it would be their children who would inherit the Promised Land. Why the people who didn’t protest had to pay the price is not mentioned.154 Seems to be the way with this God; some screw up and everybody pays. Hence, they were doomed to wander the desert for 40 years.155
Again, as you might imagine, a lot of the people weren’t happy about this so there was a major uprising against Moses. But, lo and behold, the ground opened up and swallowed up the malcontents. That put a quick end to this particular uprising.
You’d think God would be super happy with how Moses had handled these stiff-necked people.156 No such luck.
Eventually the people grumbled against Moses (again) because they had no water. God told Moses to go stand on a rock and command the water to come forth.
Maybe he was frustrated, maybe he’d had a bad day or was tired, maybe he just didn’t understand the instructions but, for whatever reason, Moses didn’t do exactly as he was told. Instead he struck the rock with his staff and the water came out anyway.
All is well, right. Not so. God got pissed at Moses for not following his orders exactly. Apparently this striking the rock was not cool. So what did God do? Even after all Moses had gone through, all the loyalty he’d shown, all the arguing and convincing, God told Moses he didn’t get to go to the Promised Land. All because he hit the rock with his stick. This time Moses couldn’t argue his way out of it. Sorry, bro. Again, God acting like a petty, vindictive, demagogue.
To make it worse, God was also pissed at Aaron .157 He told Moses to take Aaron and his son up to the top of Mt. Hor. Once there, Moses stripped Aaron of his priestly garments and put them on his son, Eleazar. So now Eleazar was the High Priest.
So what happened to Aaron? All the Bible says is Aaron died up there. Did Moses kill him? Did he commit suicide? We’ll never know. All we know is he went up but didn’t come down.
KILL ‘EM ALL
Even though Moses knew he’d never set foot in the Promised Land it didn’t stop him from fighting to get there. From that point forward it was Israel against the world.
Before they could take the Promised Land they had to fight their way to the Jordan River.
First they took out the Canaanites in Hormah158, destroying all their cities. Next they conquered the Amorites, killing everybody and taking their land. Then Og, King of Bashan, again, killing everybody.159
By now everyone in the area was deathly afraid of Israel so they went to this guy named Balaam, a powerful priest and soothsayer. The kings of the land wanted Balaam to curse Moses and his people. But God told Balaam not to do it, so he didn’t.
The only reason I mention this is because, after a bunch of stuff happened, Balaam’s donkey talked to him. That’s right, talked to him.160 So, if you’re a literalist, you already believe in talking snakes and now in talking donkeys.
Anyway, it all turned out well for Moses because Balaam ended up blessing the Israelites who wasted no time in wiping out these particular kings who had tried to set Balaam against them.
But it didn’t take long for the people to go astray once again.161 They started hanging out with the local women and even worshiped their God, Baal.
Moses’ response was typical. He promptly gathered up all the people who’d been worshiping Baal and killed them, 24,000 in all.
So much for the ‘thou shalt not kill’ thing (again).
Once all was right again in Moses’ world, God sent him off to war against Midian. Remembering how those foreign women had led his people astray before, Moses commanded his soldiers to kill all the men, women and male children while keeping for themselves only the virgin girls, of which there were 32,000. Gives you an idea about how much killing was going on.
These Israelites were getting a well deserved reputation as a scorched earth kind of people. Talk about putting the fear of God in you. It looked like Israel’s god was the baddest dude in town.
You’d think God might have given Moses a break on the stick and water thing, but no such luck. God sent Moses up to Mount Nebo to take a look at the Promised Land one last time. That’s all he was gonna get, a look. I guess God just wanted to rub salt in the wound. He could see it, but he couldn’t go in.
So Moses died up there on the mountain and God buried him somewhere, nobody knows where.
There’s an interesting sideline regarding this story that’s worth a note. After we learn of Moses’ death it literally says, “…and no one knows the place of his burial to this day.” Emphasis on “…to this day.” How long after the fact was this written?162
So that was it for Moses.
TAKING THE PROMISED LAND – Part 2
I’m not here to go through the whole conquest of the Promised Land but there are a few instances that struck me so I’ll just throw in my two cents and you can take what you want.
After Moses was gone, it fell on Joshua, Moses’ right hand man, to lead the charge into the land of Canaan163 and take possession of the ‘Promised Land’.
As you might imagine, the people who already lived there weren’t too thrilled. After all, this was their home and they’d been living there for a long time. That being said, they were scared to death of the Israelites. Everybody knew that these slaves had come out of Egypt after killing and plundering the Egyptians and they’d pretty much killed everybody who got in their way ever since. The sons of Abraham were a very nasty bunch.
So the first thing Joshua did was send spies to check out Jericho, the first city he had his sights on. These spies ended up in the house of a prostitute named Rahab. Why they ended up in the house of a prostitute is notable but I’ll leave you to your own conclusions about that.
Anyway, Rahab knew what they were up to and quickly made a deal. She’d hide them and help them escape if they agreed to spare her and her family when they came to take the city. Deal.
And just in time too, because the king of Jericho had found out about the spies and knew they’d paid a visit to the local whore.
But Rahab was a good liar. “Sure, they’d been there,” she said, “but they did their business and took off not too long ago. If you hurry you can catch them.” 164
Sure enough, the king took the bait and the spies escaped.
The next thing you know, Joshua and his army laid siege to Jericho.
You may have heard of the walls of Jericho falling down after the Israelites had marched around it for seven days. Some figure, if it actually happened, it must have been an earthquake. Literalists believe it was the hand of God, and some dismiss the whole story as a fairy tale.165
Personally, I take it as typical Middle Eastern exaggeration. I think the people of Jericho were so terrified of the Israelites they put up no fight and the walls were scaled as if they weren’t even there.
Regardless, as the story goes they marched around the city for six days and blew their horns on the seventh day and the walls fell down. And once again, the Israelites killed everybody, men, women, children, oxen, sheep, donkeys, everything. Everyone except Rahab the whore and her family.
I guess it was okay to not observe the Sabbath as long as they were murdering an entire population.166
But during the siege a guy named Achan had taken something he shouldn’t have and God, being all knowing, knew about it and was pissed. So what did he do? He ordered Achan, his whole family and everything he had; wives, sons, daughters, donkeys, oxen, sheep and even his tent, be stoned, then burnt and a big pile of stones be raised over them. According to the Bible that stone pile “stands to this day.” 167
This Old Testament God was not a very forgiving guy.
Next Joshua set his sights on the city of Ai. The reason I mention this is because, besides killing everybody in the city, men, women, children, he used a simple battle technique that has been used ever since.
First he got a bunch of his guys to hide out behind the city. Then he took a bunch of other guys and attacked the city from the front. Then he pretended to be losing and took off in retreat. That got the guys in Ai to chase after him. Once all the warriors of Ai were well outside the city, Joshua’s ambushers rose up and took the city and burned it to the ground. Then they had the Ai warriors in a vice and killed them all.
It’s the same technique used by the Spartans, the Roman Republic, William the Conqueror, Genghis Khan and countless others. It’s what the Sioux used to beat Custer. Sun Tzu warned in his ‘Art of War’; “do not pursue an enemy who feigns retreat.” Wise advice, whether in business or on the battlefield, beware if somebody gives up too easily.
In another battle it’s said “And the sun stood still and the moon stopped until the nation (Israel) took vengeance on their enemies.” 168
People have been debating this since time immemorial. Anyone with a brain knows there’s no way the sun stood still, which would really mean the earth ceased to rotate. It’s pretty obvious what would happen if that were literally true but many early scientists were burned at the stake for even mentioning the possibility. God can do whatever he wants, right? If he can work miracles he can easily make the Earth stand still. Who are we to question God?
What they fail to account for is the Near Eastern penchant for exaggeration. It’s like when they say, “Their numbers are so great, like the sand on the seashore.” You come across this type of phraseology regularly in the Bible and none of them were meant to be taken literally. It’s a euphemism, a figure of speech. Paraphrased, it really means, “We killed so many of them and with such ease it was like we had two days worth of killing in one day.”
Also, here’s a funny fact; this verse references The Book of Jasher as a prophecy of this sun standing still event. The problem with that is the Book(s) of Jasher, of which there are several, were not written until after the birth of Jesus. And Jasher isn’t even a name, it’s an adjective meaning ‘the upright one’. You can research this until your head explodes and you still won’t settle the debate.
One last thing about this verse. The part about taking vengeance on their enemies. I just want to point out that Israel was invading their land. The people who lived there had never done anything to them. So technically, Israel was the invading horde attacking people who had done them no harm. Vengeance was not the issue and these people were not their enemy.
So, just to be clear, Israel was the enemy. None-the-less, they killed everybody. Oh, and by the way, at the end of all this there’s another reference to “…until this day.” 169
Then they went to Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, Debir, Negeb, Hazor, Shimron, Achshaph and killed everybody there too.
So now that they’d pretty much killed everybody, they took possession of their Promised Land.
But then Joshua died and Israel again lost its way. And just as God had promised, they started losing the land they’d fought so hard for.
For those who’ve heard of the story of Samson and Delilah, this is when it happened 170.
SAMSON AND DELILAH
At the time the Philistines ruled over Israel but this Israeli guy named Samson was a continual thorn in their side. As you might have heard, he was super strong. One time he killed 1,000 men with only the jawbone of an ass171 as a weapon. This is undoubtedly one of those Aramaic exaggerations but we won’t quibble.
To make a long story short, he fell in love with a girl named Delilah who tricked him into telling her the source of his strength. After messing with her a bit, he confessed it was his hair. If he ever cut his hair he’d lose his strength. This is beginning to sound like classic mythology but again, let’s take it at its word.
So Delilah cut Sampson’s hair and the Philistines grabbed him, gouged his eyes out and threw him in prison. Then they had a big feast to celebrate their great victory. They brought Sampson up out of prison to make fun of him but Sampson had other ideas. He leaned into the main pillars that held up the building and called on God to help him. Miraculously, his strength returned and he pushed over the pillar. He literally brought the house down, killing over 3,000 people, himself included. Talk about a hero.
I’m not going to get into it any more than I have but this whole portion of the Bible (Book of Judges) is chock full of scandal, killing, lies, deceit and betrayal so if you’re into that kind of stuff, or want to know more about this “Promised Land” thing, you might like it.
THE RISE AND FALL OF ISRAEL
After Joshua died there was nobody to take his place so the people of Israel were governed by a series of judges. As you might expect, some of these judges were good and some were corrupt. As a result they were at continual war with the Philistines who were insistent on getting their land back.
Eventually the people tired of the judges and wanted a king. They looked at how the countries around them were governed and figured they’d be better off with one guy in charge.
Samuel, the judge in charge at the time, warned them that it was a bad idea. Samuel was a prophet as well as a judge and God had told him specifically it would be a fiasco, but the people insisted.
For reference, this was about 400 years after Moses led them out of Egypt.
One thing led to another and Samuel ended up anointing172 a guy named Saul to be king over Israel. Saul was a devout guy, good looking, and the son of a very rich man.
But Saul was unknown and not everybody could get behind making him their king, even if Samuel had anointed him. But that all changed after Saul kicked some Philistine ass in his first battle. That was all it took, Saul was king and the people loved him.
So Saul went about making war with all the kingdoms around him, killing and plundering and securing Israel’s place in the Promised Land. As we’ve seen before, God had a big thing about killing everybody, men, women, children173, even the sheep, cows and donkeys. Total scorched earth. Something about keeping ‘his’ people pure. Don’t fool around with those foreign women.
But there was one time, when God had told Saul to kill everybody and he didn’t do it. So God decided to take the kingdom from him and give it to somebody else. That somebody else was a kid named David.
There are two versions of how David and Saul got together. The first one goes like this;
God told Samuel he was going to dump Saul so, on the sly, Samuel anointed David with oil174. Although technically that made David king, Samuel didn’t announce it so Saul knew nothing about it. Kind of a ‘pre-installation’ anointing.
But ever since David got anointed Saul had been tormented by harmful spirits175 because, unbeknownst to Saul, the spirit of God had left him, and gone into David. These harmful spirits were debilitating and somebody suggested they find someone who could play the lyre176. Presumably this playing would soothe Saul when the harmful spirits hit him. Well, it just so happened David played a mean lyre.
So they sent for David and, sure enough, it worked. Saul really liked David and had him stay with him. He loved him like a son and David eventually became Saul’s armor-bearer.
That’s one story of how Saul and David met but, as seems to be the custom of the Bible, there is another version told in conjunction with the first.
You’ve probably heard the story of David and Goliath but, just in case you haven’t, here’s the condensed version.
Israel was at war with the Philistines. Each day as the armies faced off. Goliath, a Philistine giant, would come out into the open space between the two armies and call out the Israelis, saying he could take any one of them. Kind of a “Our baddest guy can lick your baddest guy” kind of thing.
The deal was, if anyone had guts enough to come out and fight Goliath and actually beat him, then the Philistines would be their servants. But seeing as Goliath was over nine feet tall and a warrior to the core, it’s not surprising that nobody was too keen to take him on.
This went on day after day until one day David showed up. He was bringing some food to his older brothers who were in the army and got there just in time for Goliath’s daily performance.
David was a young guy, just a lowly keeper of the sheep, with no military experience but this giant got under his skin. The way he was making fun of his people and his God just didn’t sit right. He said he’d fight the giant any day. Saul got wind of it and sent for this brash kid.
David talked a good game and, since Saul basically had nothing to lose, he sent the kid out to face Goliath.
Well, it turned out David was really good with a slingshot. This is not the kind of slingshot you might have had as a kid. It’s known as a shepherd’s slingshot; two long strips of leather with a pouch in the middle. It could hold a stone the size of your fist and deliver that sucker at over 100 mph. In the hands of an expert it could literally take your head off . And David was an expert.
It reminds me of the first Indiana Jones movie where this big Bedouin swordsman is waving his sword around, trying to intimidate Indiana Jones, but Indy just pulls out his pistol and shoots him dead. That’s basically what David did. He fired his sling from close range and buried that stone in Goliath’s head. Got him right between the eyes. Imagine Nolan Ryan177 firing a baseball-sized rock from ten feet away. Lights out.
Goliath went down like a ton of bricks. To add insult to injury, David used Goliath’s own sword to cut off his head.
Seeing this, the Philistines ran for the hills but the Israelites chased them down and killed them all.
The point I want to make is, up until now, Saul didn’t know David from Adam. No talk about harmful spirits or lyres. Again, it looks like the case that there was more than one legend surrounding these guys and for the sake of the documentary178, both versions had to be worked in.
Well, now David was a hero. The people loved him and sang his praises. It didn’t take long for Saul to get jealous and start to plot how to get rid of him.
So David literally had to head for the hills to escape Saul. In the process he gathered about 600 men around him. He had various adventures, escaping Saul and other treacherous scoundrels, and picked up a few wives along the way. In the process David had Saul in his crosshairs twice but refused to kill him. He wasn’t about to kill God’s anointed.
David even made a deal with the Philistines who let him hide out in their land. Yes, these are the same Philistines as in Goliath the giant. Why they let him hide out in their land is a wonder but, according to the story, they did. And from this hideout, David would raid various cities, killing everybody and taking all their stuff. I’m assuming these weren’t Israeli or Philistine cites but the Bible doesn’t specify. At this point David had basically turned into a murdering bandit.
One time, while David was away, another army came and raided his camp. But they didn’t kill anybody, they just kidnapped them, including David’s wives. Post haste, David hunted them down, rescued all his people and killed all the guys who raided him. Sounds a little like when Lot got taken from Sodom and Abraham rescued him.
Saul, on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky. He took on the Philistines one last time and ended up on the wrong end of it and got killed.
DAVID BECOMES KING
So David, his wives and all his men went up to Judah. Judah was one of Jacob’s (Israel’s) twelve sons, and the land they got was called the land of Judah. And the men of Judah anointed179 David as their king.
But Abner, the head of Saul’s army, made Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, king over the rest of the tribes, who are henceforth called Israel. So the house of David (Judah) and the house of Saul (Israel) were at war for a long time. Ever since, there would be a distinction between the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
After all kinds of treachery and deceit, Abner, Ish-bosheth, and a bunch of other people got assassinated. With hat in hand, the men of Israel came to David and asked him to be their king too. So they anointed him and David became king over all of Israel and Judah. Along the way, David took on a host of wives and concubines. David was quite the ladies man.
Without going through all the details, God made a deal with David. If he would stay loyal to him, then God would perpetuate his kingdom forever. Apparently it didn’t matter what kind of guy he was, kind, honest, deceitful or treacherous; he just had to stay loyal. And David managed to do it. The world has been paying for this deal ever since.
As king, David went to war with everybody around him and beat them all. Besides being a ladies man, David was quite the warrior and kicked ass wherever he went. Israel became the preeminent nation of the region.180 This was the height of Israel as a nation. This is why David is revered even to this day, not because he was a good guy, which he obviously wasn’t, but because he was a mighty warrior and was responsible for Israel coming to prominence.
Besides the previous examples, it only takes one story to show what kind of guy David really was. It’s the story of Bathsheba.
As the story goes, one day David was walking around the roof of his house and from that high vantage point he spotted a woman taking a bath. She was naked and she was hot. This was too much for David to bear so he sent for her, had her brought back to the house, and raped her.
It turns out this woman, Bathsheba, was the wife of one of David’s trusted inner circle, Uriah the Hittite181, who was off fighting the Ammonites.
As luck would have it, Bathsheba got pregnant. So David, hoping he could cover it up, called for Uriah to return from the battle. The plan was Uriah would be so glad to be home, the first thing he’d do was go have sex with his hot wife. Unfortunately for David, Uriah had too much integrity. How could he have sex with his wife while his men were out there sacrificing themselves on the battlefield?
So David sent Uriah back off to battle and told his general, Joab, to put Uriah on the front lines and, when the battle got hot, draw back from him. So Joab did what he was told and Uriah got killed. Then David snatched up Bathsheba for his wife.
God wasn’t thrilled with this so, as punishment, he killed the first son of David and Bathsheba. But they had another son who they called Solomon, you might have heard of him.
Purists will give David a break saying he had to be with Bathsheba in order to get to Solomon but I’m pretty sure God, being God, could have brought Solomon into the picture without David being such an asshole.
It’s pretty obvious David liked the ladies and was used to getting his way, so raping the wife of one of his inner circle and then having him killed to cover it up apparently wasn’t a big deal.
AMNON AND TAMAR
As the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. In David’s case it was one of his sons, Amnon, who took up his father’s penchant for taking what he wanted. In this case it was his sister,182 Tamar.
Amnon fancied Tamar and it didn’t matter whether she was his sister or not, he was going to have her. And so he did, raping her like a good son of his father. But, like what happens more times than we’d like to admit, as soon as he got what he wanted, he had no use for Tamar anymore. So Tamar was basically damaged goods and put away.
There are several reasons I mention this incident besides the fact that these guys were total scum. First, they were obviously not following the laws that Moses laid down. Since Amnon raped Tamar in the city and she didn’t cry out, according to the law she should have been stoned. Secondly, since Amnon had sex with is sister, they both should both have been shunned and cut off from their people. Obviously none of these guys were following the law except when it was convenient. If they even knew anything about these laws. More on that later.
But Amnon got his just deserts because Absalom, Tamar’s brother183, ended up killing him. But Absalom had higher aspirations, he wanted to be king and, in fact, was anointed as such.184 He got enough people to follow him that David had to make a run for it.
To add insult to injury, when Absalom entered Jerusalem as the new king, he took all David’s concubines up on the roof of his house and had sex with them in sight of all the people. Talk about humiliating your dad.185
But Absalom’s victory was short-lived because in his first battle with David he was killed and all his followers scattered.
So David took back his kingdom and, once again, waged war all around. Once again, David made Israel the preeminent nation of the area.
In case you haven’t gathered by now, these Israelites were a fickle crowd.186
There’s just a weird thing that happens here that I don’t really understand but I just want to point it out. It has to do with David doing a census.
First off, God told David to take a census of Israel and Judah. Then David told his commanders to go do it but for some reason they were against it. But David insisted so they did it. After all, God told him to do it, right?
But then God got pissed at David for taking the census, which, if you’ll remember, he told him to do in the first place. He gave David three choices by which he could atone himself. He could choose three years of famine, or he could flee for three months while his enemies pursue him, or he could have three days of pestilence in the land.
If this were a parable or myth, which I personally believe it is, it seems like a classic moral choice. Will David take personal responsibility for his actions or will he pass the buck?
As you might expect, David passed the buck and, rather than have to pay for it personally, he chose to let a pestilence come across the land. Said pestilence killed over 70,000 of his own people.187
Lest you still have some notion this Old Testament god is kind, loving and forgiving, this story should pretty much put the puppy to rest.
But this is just one instance, of which we’ve already seen several and will see more, that reinforces why so many people, especially literalists and fundamentalists, insist there must always be a price that is paid for any indiscretion. The scales must be evened out, so to speak. It is the very foundation of Judeo/Christian religion.
By now David was old and getting feeble so the first thing they did was find him a young girl to take care of him. Good ol’ David.
But some of his sons had an eye on the throne and, in fact, one of them, Adonijah claimed it. But Bathsheba188 went to David and reminded him that he’d promised her Solomon would succeed him as king. So David anointed Solomon king and Adonijah slinked off into the shadows, just glad to be alive.
But Adonijah’s escape was short-lived as Solomon didn’t waste any time cleaning house, killing pretty much everyone who’d crossed him or his father. So Solomon’s kingdom was firmly established.
You may have heard that Solomon was considered the wisest man ever. He wasn’t always that way but after he became king, God came to him and asked him what he wanted, he’d grant any wish.189 As the story goes, instead of asking for riches or a long life, Solomon asked for an understanding mind and the ability to discern right from wrong so he could be a wise and proper ruler.
Well, this pleased God to no end so he gave him wisdom unlike anyone who’d come before or would come after. He also got plenty of riches in the bargain.
The Bible gives one example of this wisdom in the story of the two prostitutes. It seemed these two prostitutes had babies at the same time but on the third day one of the babies died. So, in the middle of the night, the mother of the dead baby switched babies, taking the live one for herself and laying the dead one next to the other mother.
Well, the other mother knew better, and somehow they ended up before Solomon to decide whose baby it was. Since they both claimed to be the mother, Solomon commanded the baby be cut in half and each woman would get half.
As you might expect, the true mother immediately gave up her claim and said the other woman could have it. The fake mother said it sounded fair so go ahead and cut the baby in half. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who the true mother was, so Solomon gave her her baby.
As a funny aside, I actually tried this ploy with my step-kids when they were young, about 8 or 9 years old. They were fighting over a toy rubber spider, both claiming it was theirs. So I said I’d rip it in half and give them both half. Sure enough, one of them panicked and said no, don’t do it, and the other said fine, go ahead. You can probably guess who I gave the spider to.
Solomon became super wealthy and his fame spread. Part of what David had charged him to do was to build himself a super fine house and an extravagant temple in Jerusalem to hold the Ark of the Covenant which, if you recall, contained the original Ten Commandment stone tablets. This would be a permanent house of God.
The temple was outrageously ornate, full of gold, silver, bronze and hand carved cedar. As a small sample of how extravagant things had gotten, when they dedicated the temple, Solomon’s personal sacrifice was 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. They’d come a long way from a simple altar of unhewn stones.
And like David before him, Solomon was quite the ladies man, having 700 wives and 300 concubines. That’s a lot of ladies to please. I guess if you’re that rich and you’re the king, you can do what you want.190
But as what often happens when you get too much of a good thing, you get yourself into trouble. Just what God had warned against. It turns out some of Solomon’s wives were foreign ladies and they ended up turning his head toward their own gods and goddesses. Needless to say, God was not happy. Solomon was not loyal like David had been.
That was basically the end of the Israeli dynasty. Many of the nations around whom David had conquered began to rise up against Solomon’s rule. Solomon ended up fighting them off until the day he died.
After Solomon died, his kids made a mess of things. Not only were they defeated, but Israel and Judah were forever divided.
THE FALL OF ISRAEL
For a good part of the next five hundred years things went from bad to worse for Israel and Judah. Both went through a whole succession of kings with a few being good but most being bad.
The benchmark for being good or bad was always the same, whether they walked in the ways of David, who followed God with a steadfast heart. That steadfast heart seems to be entirely based on the fact that he didn’t go chasing after other Gods. It obviously had nothing to do with his strength of character or following the laws that Moses had put down.191
Eventually Assyria conquered Israel and Judah and stripped the temple of all its gold and everything of value except, apparently, the Ark of the Covenant192. And they also took all the people away to Assyria, into what’s known as the first exile.
But things didn’t go well in the region so it wasn’t long before the king of Assyria sent them back. As long as they paid tribute everything would be fine.
JOSIAH AND THE BOOK OF THE LAW
Again, the sons of Abraham got back into the same round-robin of good king, bad king, until a guy named Josiah became king.
Josiah walked in the way of David and only wanted to serve the Lord. In fact the Bible says there was never a king before him or after him who followed the Lord with all his might.193 So much for David. Apparently Josiah was the new benchmark but he never really got the credit.
While he was at it, Josiah decided to fix up the temple which had been stripped when the Assyrians first took over about 80 years before. In the process, one of the priests found the original Book of the Law, a document supposedly hand-written by Moses194 and stashed inside the Ark of the Covenant along with the original Ten Commandments195. This Book of the Law had all the laws and statutes set out in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
How this Book escaped the scrutiny of the Assyrians as they plundered the temple seems a bit far fetched. You would think any self-respecting plunderer wouldn’t miss the big gold box with sacred texts inside..
But what’s really astonishing is apparently neither Josiah, nor any of the priests, had any idea this book even existed. So even though these laws were literally right under their noses, nobody had been following them at least since the time of Solomon and probably before David or Saul. Granted, that’s well over 300 years but it still seems unlikely that, if they were there, nobody knew about it.
This is where the Documentary Hypothesis196 comes in. It’s quite possible, and more than likely, Josiah was trying to figure out how to bring his people back to God, so he had his priests ‘document’ all the word of mouth stories and legends about the history of the Israelites and part of what came out of it was this Book of the Law.
When Josiah broke out this newly discovered document, the people were floored. When they heard about the laws they were supposed to be following and the curses that would happen if they didn’t, they completely freaked out.
But even that didn’t do any good. God was still pissed so he ended up taking Israel down by way of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. Josiah got killed in battle and Nebuchadnezzar took over Jerusalem.
Nebuchadnezzar did a proper plundering of the Temple, taking all the gold, silver and bronze197. Then he burned the whole place to the ground. This is the last anyone hears of the Ark of the Covenant. It’s assumed Nebuchadnezzar took it back to Babylon and from there it’s anyone’s guess.
But the Book of the Law somehow survived. It poked its head up one more time a couple of hundred years later when, after the Israelites had gone back to the Promised Land, a priest named Ezra found it again and read it to the people at the dedication of the rebuilt temple198.
It’s very possible it was Ezra, and not Josiah, who was the actual ‘documentarian’ of the Book of the Law 199.Was he the one who first committed it to parchment? Did he give credit to Josiah to add credibility to his own treatise? Scholars have debated this for centuries. Honestly, we’ll never know.200
So that’s about it for what Christians call the Pentateuch, what the Jews call the Torah, and what is the foundation of the Old Testament. All the other books just expound and expand on what happened in these first five books.
Now that we’ve established a decent background, let’s talk about a guy who came along about 400 years later. His name was Yeshua ben Yosef, better known as Jesus.
Jesus. Where to start?
First off, there is absolutely no independent evidence that Jesus, the man, ever existed. There is no record of him in the Roman, Assyrian, Egyptian or even Grecian archives. Whatever we know about him we find in the Bible and like writings written hundreds of years after his supposed life. Everything we find in our nightstand Bible is an interpretation of an interpretation of an interpretation of copies of letters written many years after his death by people who never met him.
Personally, I believe Jesus did exist but I don’t think he was quite the person modern Christianity has made him out to be.
I know this is a touchy subject for many but there are just too many things in the Jesus narrative for me to ignore. At times it may sound like I’m totally dissing Jesus but, believe me, I’m not. Jesus is my go-to guy.
What I will be doing is pointing out a host of inconsistencies and false premises that seem to be consistently glossed over when Christian doctrine is discussed. When I first read the Bible I was stunned at how the actual teachings and meaning of Jesus’ life were quite different from what I’d been led to believe.
So if you can cut me a little slack, just hang in there for a bit. I don’t expect you to agree with everything I have to say but, if you’ve gotten this far, I’d ask you to at least carry on for curiosity’s sake if nothing else.
Before we get started, there are certain ‘givens‘ literalist Christians hold when it comes to Jesus. One is that Jesus was born of a virgin whom God himself impregnated and thus Jesus was the one and only “begotten” son of God. And secondly, the only way we can be accepted by God is if we believe Jesus died on the cross to atone for our sins. Basically he was a human sacrifice.201
And why is that particular sacrifice necessary, you may ask? Because, as we’ve discussed before, the concept of balancing the scales and making things right with God through sacrifice was a widely held practice for a very long time.202 And it had to be something you really valued. That’s why it had to be a cow or a sheep “without blemish” You couldn’t just offer up any old goat; it had to be the best one.
In many ancient cultures ‘offering up’ the first born male to the Gods was common practice. You can’t give up anything much more precious than your first born son, right? Moses put a stop to that but apparently, in Jesus’ case, God felt it necessary to revive that particular gruesome custom. The entire basis of Christianity rests on Jesus being a sacrifice for our sins.
If you’ll remember back in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, Moses laid out a bunch of laws and specified a boat load of sacrifices for the people to offer up to God so he would forgive them for their human shortcomings. It’s like God knew that people would never be able to keep all the rules but if they gave him a present once in a while he’d call it square.
But the people weren’t keeping up their end of the bargain. By the time Jesus came along a lot of time had gone by since Moses laid down the law and God was realizing his chosen people just couldn’t keep up.
So, according to the narrative, God figured he’d send his son down to earth to die a horrible death and that would settle the sacrifice issue once and for all. No need to kill any more goats or cows, just believe Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and you’re good to go. But if you don’t believe it, all bets are off and you’re screwed worse than ever.
Personally, that scenario never made sense to me. But that doesn’t matter because there are a whole lot of people who believe Jesus is their salvation. Who am I to argue? Well, that’s kinda what I’m doing here, so here goes.
I’m going to address all this and more but before we get started, here’s a shocker; none of what Jesus taught was for anyone other than the Israelites. Just like Moses’ law was only for the Jews, Jesus’ whole ministry was meant only for the Jews. Why do I say that? Because Jesus says so himself.
Matthew 15:24 – But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
So that takes all the heat off the Gentiles203 among us. There are plenty who would argue otherwise but, I hate to say it, there it is in black and white.
If we’re going to take the Bible literally, I can follow Jesus’ teachings if I so choose, but I’m under no obligation to do so.
Whatever you think about Christianity, it wasn’t created by Jesus anyway, it was created by a guy named Paul, who was a contemporary of Jesus. Paul distorted the message and twisted the narrative so he could take his rather brilliant message of forgiveness to Greece and Rome. The Jews wanted nothing to do with him and didn’t believe a word of it. After all, Paul wasn’t even a disciple. We’ll talk more about that later.
I hate to burst anyone’s bubble right off the bat but, for the record, Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th. The early Christians never acknowledged a day of birth and most experts agree the day is more symbolic than actual fact.
That particular day was chosen by early Christians to coincide with pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. It gave Christians a reason to celebrate with all their neighbors while not technically celebrating a pagan holiday. Much like Easter allowed them to celebrate at the same time as their pagan neighbors were celebrating the Spring equinox. When the Romans took control of Christianity they basically codified it and so it was forevermore.
So what about the actual birth? I’ll get into the virgin birth thing in a bit but right now I just want to address the actual birth.
Most of us have heard about the three wise men and the shepherds and the manger, the star and no room at the inn. That’s always how it’s depicted in those nativity scenes we see on Christmas cards and on people’s front lawns during the Christmas season. If you go to church you’ve probably seen the Sunday school kids act it out more than once.
The fact is, there are two distinct versions of Jesus’ actual birth, one in Matthew and one in Luke, and neither one of them is anywhere near the same. The Christmas tale you learned about as a kid is a combination of the two versions. Most people don’t look deeper into it than that, so let’s do so now.
In Matthew’s version we have the three wise men who have come from the East, following a star that proclaims the coming of the king of the Jews.
These wise men came to Herod, the Roman king in charge, and asked him where this new king was. Needless to say, Herod was not too happy about a new king in town but he told the wise men to go find this newborn king and, when they did, come back and tell him so he could go worship him himself. Of course, it was a trick so Herod could kill this new threat to his throne.
So the wise men went off, following the star until it settled over the house where Jesus had just been born. We all know a star can’t settle over a house but this is where that Christmas card image comes from. Was it symbolic? Were the people who made this up so ignorant they didn’t know any better? It makes a good story but we’ll never know for sure. One thing we do know for sure, a star can’t settle over a house204. I’m sure more than a few would-be scientists were tortured back in the Middle Ages for even suggesting such a thing.
However they did it, the wise men found the house and gave Jesus’ mom and dad, Mary and Joseph, a bunch of presents; gold, frankincense and myrrh to be specific.
They must have let on that they’d stopped off to see Herod because everybody took off knowing Herod was out to kill this threat to his kingdom. We don’t know where the wise men went, presumably back home, but Matthew says Mary, Joseph and Jesus took off for Egypt to hide out.
Once Herod died Joseph brought his family back to Nazareth. This coming out of Egypt is a big deal in Christian prophecy so this story meets that criteria.
That’s pretty much it for Matthew.
In Luke’s version we get the ‘no room at the inn’ scenario where Mary gives birth in a barn and the baby Jesus is laid in the manger.
The reason they’re in Bethlehem in the first place is because the Roman governor, Quirinius, called for a census. To take the census everybody had to go back to their hometown to be counted. The problem with this is there was no such census taken during the time of Herod.205 No literalist scholars have been able to reconcile this errant information. Most historians think the author of this account was confused and didn’t really know their history.206
Beside making for a good story, according to prophecy it’s important that Jesus be born in Bethlehem and be of the house of David. This scenario covers both of those bases. We’ll come back to this later.
Also in Luke’s scenario, a group of shepherds were out in the field when they were visited by some angels who told them of the glorious event. So the shepherds went into town and found the house207 and, sure enough, there was a baby in swaddling cloth laying in a manger. The newborn king.
After eight days, the baby Jesus was taken to the priest to be circumcised. Mary and Joseph performed the required sacrifices for a firstborn son and returned to Nazareth.
Even to a casual observer, it’s pretty obvious these stories outright contradict each other.
In Matthew, it’s wise men who find the baby by using astrology, incidentally a practice specifically outlawed by Moses, and, after the birth, Mary and Joseph take their baby to Egypt to escape the vengeance of Herod. No mention of a census or manger.
But in Luke it’s shepherds who find the baby at the direction of angels and Mary and Joseph don’t take Jesus to Egypt at all, they just go home to Nazareth.
I’ve actually read a book where someone weaves these stories into one narrative with the reasoning that neither author knew all the details so if you just combine all the stuff together you get the real picture. I guess that’s one way to reconcile the inconsistencies. Pretty weak if you ask me. I’d hate to go to court with a story like that.
It’s a good bet that, since none of the details match, both stories were based on a common legend where the facts got twisted as the story spread to different regions and congregations.
These two versions of Jesus’ birth were written at least a hundred years after the fact by people who’d never met him nor knew anyone who had. These are legends that had grown up around his birth, much like the two versions of Creation and the two versions of Saul and David. Even though they openly contradict each other it was obviously important enough to the people who compiled the Bible208 that both versions be included.
There’s another thing about Luke’s version that most people don’t know but struck me the first time I read it.
You might have heard about John the Baptist, have you? John was the son of a priest named Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth. John was a bit eccentric to say the least. He wore clothes made from camel hair, lived in the wilderness and ate locusts and wild honey. Eccentric is probably being generous.
Anyway, John would rant on about the kingdom of God being at hand and for some reason people dug it. They’d come in droves out to the river so he could baptize them. This is the first we hear about baptizing. Nobody really knows what John’s method was but we know he dunked them in the water and that symbolically washed away their sins.
Well, as it turns out John and Jesus were related. Elizabeth was Mary’s aunt so that would make John Mary’s cousin, right? I think that makes John Jesus’ first cousin once removed. Don’t quote me on that, I’m not sure how that stuff works. The point is they were related by blood. In fact Mary was pregnant with Jesus while Elizabeth was pregnant with John so Jesus and John were the same age. Did they grow up together? Did they play together? We’ll never know but it’s pretty probable.
Two things are important about this that I’ve never heard anyone mention. If Zechariah was a priest he had to be a descendant of Aaron. Remember Aaron? He was Moses’ brother, the original High Priest. And Elizabeth is specifically identified as a daughter of Aaron. I’m just going out on a limb here but since Mary is directly related to these people it is highly probable that she was also a descendant of the priestly class and by extension that would make Jesus also related by blood to the descendants of Aaron. The point I’m making is, it’s more than likely Jesus, by birth, was a Levite and a member of the priestly class.
This would explain his in-depth knowledge of Jewish law and his ability to debate with scholars on the steps of the Temple when he was only twelve years old.209 Chances are very good Jesus had all the education afforded the priestly class. Even though we think of him as being a lowly carpenter’s son, it’s more likely he was a priest in training well versed in the Temple system.
Many people will talk about the prophecy of Jesus being a descendant of David and I’ll get back to that later but, for now, just think about it. The ramifications are staggering and will explain some of the stuff we hear about Jesus later on when we talk about prophecy.
JESUS IS NOT GOD
Okay, there, I said it. Jesus is not God, at least in the way most literalists think about it. Personally I think we are all God. As the old saying goes, “I am not all of God, but God is all of me.”
Jesus basically says the same thing when he quotes Psalms; “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, Ye are gods’.”
But for Christian literalists there is God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus. They are each part of what’s called ‘The Trinity’ and they are all basically co-equal. Actually, the way it’s taught is that God is at the top and Jesus, because he sacrificed himself, is the only way for us lowly human beings to reconcile with God.
For Christian literalists it’s very important that Jesus is not just a regular guy. He is the great exception, conceived directly from the seed of God, the only begotten son of God. At the time of Jesus, being the first born son was a really big deal. He basically inherited everything but was also responsible for the family.
Jesus, being the first born son of God, apparently got some extra magical powers. He could heal the sick, feed the hungry, raise the dead, and wipe away our sins.
So where do I start?
First off, in ancient times it was common for emperors, kings and Pharaohs to deify themselves and insist on their own God-hood. If they knew what was good for them, their subjects would bow down and act accordingly whether they believed it or not.
The Roman rulers of Jesus’ time were no different and the Israelites were no strangers to the tradition. Deifying a ruler was common and not as big a deal as we make it out to be.
So it’s no surprise when certain early Christian cults, having already proclaimed him ‘the Christ’, would take the next step of declaring Jesus divine.
But Jesus never bought into that. He never professed his divinity and constantly refused to count himself as equal to God. He did say he was ‘one’ with God, but that’s not the same. We’ll delve more into that later too.
So here I’ve listed a bunch of quotes taken directly from the Bible where Jesus himself acknowledges the fact that he, in his human form, is distinctly separate from God.
John 6:38 – “I have come…not to do my will, but the will of him who sent me.”
John 8:28 –“…and I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak as the Father taught me.”
John 8:50 – “I do not seek my own glory. There is one who seeks and judges.”
John 12:40 – “For I did not speak of my own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent me has given me commandment, what to say and what to speak.”
John 14:24 – “He who does not love me does not keep my words, and the word which you hear is not mine, but the Father who sent me.”
John 14:28 – “…because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”
Mathew 12:32 & Luke 12:10 – “And whoever says a word against the son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven…”
Luke 18:18-19 – “…why do you call me good, only God is good.”
Matthew 20:23 – “To sit at my right hand is not mine to grant.”
Matthew 26:39 – “…not my will, but thy will be done.”
Mark 13:32 – “…of that day no one knows…not the Son, only the Father.”
John 6:44 – “…no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…”
John 12:49 – “For I have not spoken of my own accord, but the Father who sent me, he told me what to say.”
Mark 14:36 – “…Father, all things are possible to you, take away this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done.”
Just by saying, “my will” and “the will of him who sent me,” Jesus leaves absolutely no doubt about the distinction between himself and the one who sent him. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.
And who sent him? Why, “the Father,” of course. Jesus continually subjugates himself to “the Father.” It’s always him and “the Father.” Jesus readily admits he came from “the Father” and it is his job to do the will of “the Father”.
And what did Jesus think of our relationship with him and God?
John 34:10 – Jesus (quoting Psalms 82:6-7) answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, Ye are gods’.” 210
Jesus flat out points out something that the Jewish scholars and most Christian teachers have totally neglected to mention; we are all gods.
And finally, Jesus leaves no doubt about the relationship between man and God when in he states plainly, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’” 211
Jesus leaves no doubt that God lives, breathes and has its being as each and every one of us. Not just within us, but as us. He makes a distinct point by singling out “the least of these…” Jesus clearly states that even though you might feel unholy or unworthy or despicable, you are, in fact, God incarnated as you. Jesus leaves no doubt, we are gods, all of us. All of us.
Can you imagine if people actually treated everyone they met as if they were talking face to face with God? Do you think it might make you take pause before you condemn, criticize or complain? I know it does me.
I know some will come back with a slew of quotes like, “I am the way, the truth and the life” and many more. I guess it’s just a matter of where you want to cherry pick your quotes.
If you read the Bible long enough, you can find a quote to justify just about anything. So, am I cherry picking my verses? By all means! Just like everyone else. I think what verses you cherry pick says more about what’s in you rather than what the Bible actually says. Since this is my musings, these are my cherries to pick.
The point I want to make is Jesus’ relationship with God was no different than yours or mine.
Though he was obviously more consciously aware of his true connection with the Infinite than the majority of people, he still openly declared his subservience to the Divine power. He was adamant that we all have the ability to have the same connection with God as he had.
THE SON OF GOD
Another verse literalists will quote verbatim is John 3:16; “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
This apparently claims God has no other sons than Jesus. We’ve already talked about how important the first born son was so the fact that Jesus was an only child makes him even more precious.
Though we could debate translations all day long I find two things interesting when reading the translation from the original Aramaic212, which was the language Jesus actually spoke;
“Because God loved the world so much so that he would give his unique beloved son so that everyone who trusts him may not perish but have life that is eternal.”
First is, while most English Bibles translate the Hebrew word, ‘Ee-hee-da-yah’, as “only begotten son” it actually refers to the first-born son, the “unique, beloved son”, not “the only begotten.”213
Second, the standard translation says “…that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish,” while the Aramaic says, “that everyone who trusts him may not perish”. I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s a huge distinction. “…believeth in him” and “…trusts him214” are completely different things.
Personally I find it makes more sense that Jesus would want us to embrace his teachings and practice them rather than just believe he basically dove on the hand grenade for us. Otherwise, why teach at all? Why not just offer himself up and call it a day?
So rather than quibble such minutiae, I’ve compiled a list of quotes that go directly to the heart of the ‘son’ matter.
Matthew 5:44-45 – “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father…”
Duet 14:1 – “You are the sons of the Lord your God.”
Matthew 5:9 – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”
John 10:34 – After saying “I and the Father are one”, Jesus quotes Psalms; “..you are gods.”
Psalms 82:6-7 – “I have said “you are Gods and all of you are children of the Most High.’”
Exodus 4:22 – “…Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my first-born.”
Isaiah 1:2 – “…I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.”
Apparently God had a soft spot for Solomon. Three specific times he claims him as his son.
2 Samuel 7:14 – “I will be his father and he shall be my son.”
1 Chron 17:13 – “I will be his father and he shall be my son.”
1 Chron 22:10 – “…he shall be my son, and I will be his father.”
These next verses show pretty clearly the earth is not the only place God has sons.
Genesis 6-2: “…that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.”
You might remember I mentioned these sons of God back in Genesis. Their children were giants, the mighty men of old.
In the book of Job, God and his friends were having a party up in heaven when Satan came up with his plan to mess with Job. Anyway, it’s plainly obvious that God had some of his sons up there too.
Job 1:6 – “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord…”
Job 38:7 – “…all the sons of God shouted for joy.”
Finally Jesus puts it to bed when he makes clear we are all one.:
John 17:11 – “…but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me that they may be one, even as we are one.”
John 17:22 – “The glory which you have given me I have given them, that they may be one even as we are one.”
Jesus leaves no doubt as to the relationship between man and God when he emphatically states, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” 215
Whether taken literally or symbolically, it’s very clear God has lots of sons, or ‘children’ as it were. Literalists will point to the “only begotten” part of it which infers God impregnated Mary and that makes Jesus special. The interesting part is that the virgin Mary and son of God thing were hotly debated issues back in the early days of Christianity. 216
The fact is, the original disciples never thought of Jesus as God at all. It was only after the Roman emperor Constantine came along in the 3rd century, over 300 years after Jesus’ death, that Jesus’ divinity was made ‘official’ doctrine.
MESSIAH VS CHRIST
The Old Testament has a whole host of predictions that supposedly predict the coming of a new messiah. The guys in the New Testament like to point to these in order to prove Jesus was the messiah they’ve all been waiting for. Fulfilling prophecy, as it were. Why does that matter, you ask?
The Jews had been waiting for this new ‘anointed one’ for a long time. But to the Jews, this messiah would be a mortal, just like them, not some divine incarnation of God himself. While he would have no divine attributes, he would be blessed by God, just like all the other messiahs. But most importantly, he would be a great warrior, like David, and would restore Israel to its former glory.
Anointing has always been reserved for a High Priest, a king or some other who would lead the people of Israel to defeat their enemies. Aaron was anointed, Saul was anointed, David was anointed, Solomon was anointed, Cyrus was anointed.217 These were all mighty leaders, warriors who fought to bring Israel to glory.
Many people of the time thought Jesus would be this new messiah. He would lead Israel to its former glory and splendor. He had worked miracles so obviously he could take down those filthy Romans.
When they found out Jesus was all about love, mercy and forgiveness they turned on him and sent him off to be crucified.218
Somewhere along the way the Christian’s changed the Jewish word messiah to the Greek word ‘Christ’. Suddenly this mortal warrior morphed into the only begotten son of God who would be the savior of all mankind by giving himself up as the sacrificial lamb, etc. The definition of the Greek word ‘Christ’ is an invention of Paul and has nothing to do with the Jewish version of messiah.
It’s interesting to note the Jews never bought into any of this Christ stuff. To them, it was a total perversion of prophecy and heresy of the highest order. Even today among the Jews, Jesus is begrudgingly given prophet status at best.
None of Jesus’ original followers ever embraced the immortal Jesus, son of God, scenario either. They thought Jesus was a great prophet and teacher but never held him as an equal to God. They held to the power of his message about our own relationship with God.219
Prophecy is a big part of Christianity. According to the Bible, Jesus’ earliest followers were quoting scripture to prove his Christ-hood almost immediately after his death.220
For the sake of argument I’m going to come at this prophecy thing from a few different angles. Sometimes I’ll refer to what I call ‘Prophecy after the fact.’ This is when someone scoured the Old Testament and cherry picked any verse that even remotely supported the ‘Christ’ narrative.
Other times I’ll point out various linguistic variances in translations. Once you really start looking at how many translations the Bible has gone through it’s amazing it holds any of its original message.
More insidiously, I’ll show where verses were purposefully altered or changed completely. Sometimes it’s just embellishing who God is and what he really wants, but a disturbing number of times it’s blatant lies and fallacies.
Okay, let’s get started.
THE HOUSE OF DAVID
The first premise for this new messiah to be vetted is that he comes from the house of David. There’s a whole slew of supposed prophecies that predict this. One of the big ones is Isaiah 11:1 where Isaiah says, “And a shoot shall spring forth from the stem of Jesse [David’s father], and a twig shall sprout from his roots.”
Personally I find this a little vague. At best, it sounds like he’s referring to one of David’s actual offspring. Solomon would be my guess. But who knows for sure? 221 Yet, to a lot of people, this one verse makes the messiah being from the ‘house of David’ a done deal.
To anchor this, the whole first part of Matthew recites a detailed genealogy from Abraham to David to Jesus, thereby establishing a direct blood line.
But there’s a hitch that nobody seems to mention. This genealogy is through Joseph, Jesus’ father. But if we accept the virgin birth then Joseph wasn’t involved in the coital process and his genes don’t matter. Joseph shared no actual chromosomes with Jesus. Essentially, according to this scenario, Joseph was Jesus’ step-father in which case his genealogy is of no consequence. To believers, this conundrum doesn’t seem to matter.
But if you follow the facts as presented in the Bible, the only human connection Jesus had was to Mary. David was from the tribe of Judah and Mary, through her lineage to Aaron, was a Levite. At the very least, if taken literally, this puts Jesus’ lineage to David in serious doubt.
THE VIRGIN BIRTH
Modern day Christianity rests on the fact that Jesus was born of a virgin. They claim that particular detail was prophesied nearly 800 years before.
When I first read this prophecy I was amazed that anyone would assume it was a prediction of a virgin birth. The fact that the Jews never did says something. This is one of those areas where somebody went through the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, with a fine toothed comb and distorted a verse to support their established argument; ie: Prophecy after the fact plus deliberate distortion.
When we look at the verse in context (Isaiah 7:14) we find it was never meant to be a prediction of some cosmic ‘Christ’. It was a very specific prophecy regarding a specific incident and a specific time frame.
The incident was that Jerusalem was under siege and the prospects were dire.
The prophecy was that a young woman, either with child or soon to be, would bear the child and by the time that child was weaned, the invading kings would abandon their siege and Jerusalem would be saved.
And that’s exactly what happened. God gave them the sign, the time frame and the result. And so it was. End of story.
But somewhere along the way, the followers of Jesus who held to his divine appointment found this verse and conveniently interpreted the Hebrew word ‘almah’, which literally means ‘young girl’222 to ‘virgin’. The problem is that, as originally written, this young girl could have been betrothed, a virgin at the time of the prophecy, soon to marry and have a baby the old fashioned way.
Although we’ll never know for sure, many scholars believe that this particular almah could have been Isaiah’s daughter or niece, maybe even his own wife. We can speculate who this almah was and debate the meaning of the word all day long and never get anywhere. The fact is, if you read the verse, it is talking about a specific incident, a specific time and a specific outcome. Nowhere is any reference to the future other than when the invaders would end their siege.
The fact that Jews dismiss the virgin birth as nonsense and none of the original disciples ever mentioned it, nor did the earliest Christians acknowledge it, is a pretty good indication that this is a cherry picked verse whose sole purpose is to support the narrative.223 I hate to say it, but the virgin birth just didn’t happen.
RIDING ON A DONKEY
Another verse that talks about this new messiah is Matthew 21:5. In this verse Matthew quotes Zechariah’s prediction224 that the savior would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey.
If you’ve heard about Palm Sunday, this is what it’s all about. The week before being strung up, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. He was at the height of his popularity and, in their celebration, the people laid palm fronds on the ground so the donkey’s feet wouldn’t touch the ground.
Christians point to this as another fulfillment of prophecy.
The problem is, this prophecy could literally apply to anybody who’d ever ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey. I’m guessing Jesus wasn’t the first. I’m also guessing he, like everybody else, knew about this prediction and used it to specifically make a point.
What does this prediction really mean? It means the messiah will be a regular guy who will ride into town humbly and without pretense. He will not arrive like a conquering king in a chariot and with much fanfare, but as a common man riding a donkey, just like the myriad of people who did so every day.
It’s a safe bet that many people already knew of this prophecy and were anxiously awaiting its fulfillment. They thought Jesus might be the one to set them free of Roman bondage.
So the bottom line is, maybe Jesus did fulfill this prophecy. Knowing its significance, I suspect he did it on purpose, just to show he was no different than anyone else225.
OUT OF EGYPT
Matthew quotes the Old Testament prophet Hosea (11:1) as saying “Out of Egypt did I call my son.” If you’ll recall, when describing Jesus’ birth, Matthew claims Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to escape Herod and then brought Jesus back to Galilee after Herod’s death. You might also recall Luke’s version directly contradicts Matthew’s version.
If you read Hosea’s verse in context it’s clear Hosea is talking about the original exodus when Moses led the people out of Egypt. God often refers to Israel as his children or his son. This verse is not a prophecy at all. This is clearly a case of cherry picking a verse to support an established narrative.
One of the most important verses to support the ‘Jesus is Lord and Savior’ narrative is Psalms 22 where, in part, it says, “They have pierced my hands and feet…” Christians commonly use this verse to predict Jesus’ crucifixion.
This is where it can be a real advantage to read the whole Bible, in different versions, front to back. It’s important to know the language and the context.
The book of Psalms is really just a book of David’s songs and poems where he very much lays his heart on the line. His songs range from high jubilation to the depths of despair.
This particular set of verses is one of those songs. The first part even has instructions to the musicians.
You might remember when we talked about David, he went through a whole series of ups and downs. No sooner was he the conquering hero than he was running for his life. Saul was after him, the Philistines were after him, heck, even his own sons were after him. Psalms 22 is definitely written in one of these desperate times.
Christians point particularly to Psalms 22:16 where it says, in part, “…they pierced my hands and feet.” To Christians this is a direct prophecy of the crucifixion.
But there’s a funny thing about this verse that Christian Bibles conveniently leave out. You see, there are many interpretations of this verse226. One Hebrew translation says “…like a lion they have bound227 my hands and feet.” Christian Bibles neglect to acknowledge the “…like a lion” part at all. They purposefully omitted it. Why would they do that?
Like most lyricists, David uses his fair share of exaggeration, imagery and hyperbole. In this Psalm he laments about being scorned, hunted like an animal and given up to his enemies. The “...like a lion” part very likely refers to how large animals are transported after being killed.
Lions are much too heavy to just throw over your shoulder and carry home. But, if you tie their legs together at the feet (bind their hands and feet) you can run a long pole or spear through the legs and then you can heft it onto the shoulders of a couple of strong guys and carry it away. In a pinch, if you don’t have any rope, you can ‘pierce’ the flesh and run a pole between the tendon and bone and do the same thing.
Thus, the “... pierced my hands and feet like a lion,” conveys the image of being captured, killed, and carried away like a wild animal. It’s symbology that fits perfectly within the song and makes no reference in the least to being crucified. This is an obvious example of not only cherry picking a verse but actually omitting a phrase that doesn’t fit the narrative. Prophecy after the fact mixed with intentional deception.
SACRIFICE OR NO SACRIFICE?
Another pillar of the whole Jesus, son of God, savior narrative is the premise that God requires a sacrifice in order for him to forgive you. In a very real sense you have to buy your forgiveness. Blood sacrifice was common in ancient times and apparently the only way to appease an angry God was to kill something. God likes blood and plenty of it. Whether you kill a goat or God kills his own son, somebody has to die.
The funny thing is, the Bible is littered with examples where the prophets say just the opposite. It seems that even way back then, people with real knowledge could separate the spirit of the law with its literal interpretation.
I’m listing a slew of verses where sacrifice is not the objective but something else is, like love, mercy and justice.
I will let these verses speak for themselves. You’ll see when you get to the verses from Matthew, even Jesus himself extols the virtue of love and mercy over offerings and sacrifice.
Psalms 40:6 – David says, “Sacrifice and offering thou does not desire; but thou hast given me an open ear.”
Hosea 6:6 – “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offering.”
1 Samuel 15:22 – “…to obey is better than sacrifice…”
Psalms 51:17 – “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, O God, thou will not despise.”
Proverbs 15:8 –”The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is his delight.”
Isaiah 1:18-19 – “…says the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow…if you be willing and obedient…”
Proverbs 21:3 – “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”
Micah 6:7-8 – “Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams…for the sin of my soul? He has shown you…what is good, and what the Lord requires of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Psalms 50:14-15 – “Offer to God thanksgiving; and pay your vow to the Most High. And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
Psalms 50:23 – “Whoever offers praise glorifies me, and to him…I will show salvation.”
Psalms 51:16-17 – “For thou does not delight in sacrifice…thou are not pleased with a burnt offering…The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit…”
Proverbs 15-8 – “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord; but the prayer of the upright is his delight.”
Isaiah 66:3 – “He who slaughters an ox is like him who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like him who breaks a dog’s neck; he who presents a cereal offering, like him who offers swine’s blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like him who blesses an idol.”
Isaiah 1:11-13 – “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to me?…I delight not in the blood of bullocks or of lambs…I cannot endure; it is iniquity, even your solemn meeting.”
Matthew 9:13 – “Go and learn the meaning of this, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’…”
Matthew 12:7 – “And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’, you would not have condemned the guiltless.”
Mark 12:28-34 – “…the most important commandment…love the Lord…second…love your neighbor…”
Matthew 22:37-40 – “…you shall love the Lord you God with all your heart…you shall love your neighbor as yourself…on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
It’s pretty obvious from these verses that God has never been terribly impressed by sacrifice. Over and over again he implores us to be good people who love each other, who help each other, who deal fairly with each other and who care more for mercy and justice than riches and impressive offerings.
And, if you’ll remember, God explicitly told Moses we were NOT to sacrifice our children.228 If he doesn’t want us to do it then he certainly wouldn’t require it of himself. And he would only be sacrificing to himself, so what’s the point?
On closer inspection, it’s apparent God is more willing to forgive than what we might have been led to believe.
JUDGMENT, REDEMPTION AND FORGIVENESS
So, if it’s not sacrifice that God wants, what is it?
First, let’s look at human nature. There’s a certain mindset that many people have that says they are not good enough, not worthy enough, not whatever enough. For whatever reason they feel guilty and are looking for a way to make amends. This feeling can gestate through any number of circumstances but, without getting into the whole psychology of guilt, suffice it to say, it is all too common in the human condition.
Since time immemorial those in power have been all too willing to exploit this mindset. They work hard to get their subjects to feel inferior and therefore in need of protection and leadership. It’s not the domain of any particular religion or philosophy. It’s the domain of those who wish to dominate and manipulate.
Just look at most advertising and political rhetoric. You’re not good enough, you’re not smart enough, you’re not rich enough, you’re not pretty enough, you’re not safe enough, you don’t drive the right car or wear the right clothes. But there’s always a product, a person, or a political party waiting in the wings to make everything alright.
In the case of religion there are those that take it to the ultimate extreme; you will go to hell and suffer eternal damnation unless you do what we say. Talk about a sales job. Not surprisingly, lots of people are just waiting to be told what to do so God will like them.
The Jesus, sacrificial lamb scenario fits that bill nicely. This scenario states you are separate from God, you are inherently evil, and the only way to make yourself right with God is to accept the blood of Jesus, and hold him as your Lord and savior. That’s a pretty hard sell.
But a surprising number of Biblical examples state just the opposite. Let’s take a look at a few from the Old Testament.:
In 2 Chronicles 30:18-19 the prophet says, “…the good Lord pardon every one, who sets his heart to seek God…though he is not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.”
And Ezekiel, in chapter 33, verse 20 he says, “…I will judge you every one after his ways.”
Isaiah 63:9 says, ”…in all their affliction he did not afflict, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them…”
In the New Testament, Jesus states over and over again that we will be judged, justified and forgiven by our words, actions and faith, not by sacrifice.
Matthew 12:37 – “…for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Matthew 3:10 – “…every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire.”
Matthew 7:12 – “Therefore all things whatsoever you would have men do unto you: do you even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”
Matthew 7:15-24 – “…you will know them by their fruits…he who hears these words of mine and acts upon them can be compared to a wise man.”
Matthew 9:20-22 & Mark 5:34 – “…your faith has made you well.”
Acts 2:21 – “…and it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Acts 10:34-35 – “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
Even in Revelations 20:12 it says, “…and the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done.”
And finally, Jesus lays it out about as simply as he could in Matthew 22:37-40 when he says, “…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…you shall love your neighbor as yourself…on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
It really doesn’t get any clearer than that. The Bible literally says you are judged by your ‘fruits’; how you love and how you treat others, NOT through any sacrifice.
Jesus, more than anyone, knew God created us in his own image. His constant reference that the Kingdom of God is within proves God loves us like a benevolent father and wants only our well-being. Jesus knew man could never reconcile himself with God by buying his forgiveness with a couple of goats.
Man reconciles with God by living his life in the image and likeness of the God that created him. If we want to be close to God we must be kind, loving, faithful, humble and charitable, and live our lives with integrity.
Rather than the exception, Jesus was the ultimate example of how to live a life praised and embraced by God. He knew our innate potential when exclaimed to his followers when he said, “…and greater works than these shall ye do.” 229
HE IS RISEN?
There’s probably nothing more sacred in modern day Christianity than the resurrection.
For those of you who may not know about this, here it is in a nutshell.
Apparently it wasn’t good enough that Jesus gave himself up on the cross. To prove he was the real deal, he needed to be dead for three days and then rise from the dead.
There’s a verse from Hosea 6:1-2230 that supposedly is a prophecy of this rising on the third day. But, if you read it in context, it’s quite a stretch to actually think this is a prophecy of things to come. Again, it looks more like somebody was combing the Old Testament for anything that would give their scenario credence. Again, prophecy after the fact.
But more importantly, the resurrection also means that, since Jesus rose, so will all the faithful ‘on the last day’. Paul goes on and on about this in his writings and, for a superstitious people who thought they were nothing but dust after they died, the possibility of coming back from the dead was super appealing.
But is it true?
Like so many of the stories in the Bible, the facts surrounding the crucifixion and subsequent rising change depending on who’s telling the story.
For instance, in Luke, Pilate sends Jesus to Herod231 but none of the other gospels even mention this.
In Matthew, Mark and Luke, while Jesus is led to the slaughter, his cross is carried by someone named Simon of Cyrene. But in John the writer is adamant that Jesus “bears his own cross”.232 Which is it? You can’t have it both ways.
As far as the actual resurrection goes, there are four accounts and no two are alike. Everyone pretty much agrees that after Jesus was taken down from the cross he was laid in a tomb and a stone was rolled over the entrance. What happened next again depends on who’s telling the story.
In Matthew there is an earthquake and an angel. This is not an Old Testament angel who was just a messenger, this was a New Testament angel who descended from heaven and rolled back the stone and then sat on it. In this version there are three women present who witness it.
In Mark, there’s no angel but there are three women. When they got to the tomb they found the stone rolled aside and when they went inside they saw one young man sitting on the right side of the tomb. Jesus wasn’t there. Who is this young man?
In Luke, all the women in Jesus’ entourage went to the tomb. The Bible clearly states Jesus had many women followers who attended to his needs. So, if all the women went to the tomb, it would have been a lot more than three. They too found the tomb empty. But in this version two men appeared in dazzling apparel and stood by them. Who these men were is anybody’s guess. They’re called men, not angels, but the dazzling apparel might be a give away.
In John, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb by herself and found it empty. Then she ran to get Peter and another disciple. Who this other disciple is we’re not told. They all went back to an empty tomb to try to figure out what happened. Upon finding the tomb empty, the two disciples left Mary by herself. She looked inside and saw two angles seated where the body had been. The next thing you know, Jesus appeared to Mary just outside the tomb.
It is self-evident that these four versions of the resurrection don’t match at all. And, if you do a bit of research, you’ll find there are many more versions of the crucifixion and resurrection that don’t agree with any of these versions. But like so many of the books that weren’t included in the ‘official’ Bible, these versions were hunted down and destroyed so as not to confuse the people. For whatever reasons these four versions made the final cut.
It’s rare to find a serious Christian who ever questions these discrepancies. It’s kind of like Jesus’ birth where they just mix it all up into one story and call it good. To me, it’s another obvious example of a legend that got told and re-told so many times in so many circles that each version took on a life of its own. How much is fact and how much is fiction is anybody’s guess. There are those who take each word as absolute fact and those who write the whole thing off as mythical fantasy or even Roman satire.233
Finally, let’s not forget these versions were written anywhere from 60 to 300 years after the fact by people who had no first hand knowledge of the events, or knew anyone who did. Hearsay in its finest form.
By the way, most of these prophecies come from the book of Matthew. If you have a concordance version of the Bible it will footnote where they got each particular prophecy. Check it out for yourself.
SO WHY JESUS?
The record is pretty clear that Jesus never thought of himself as the savior of all humanity, at least not in the sacrificial lamb way we usually think of him.
When we read his teachings he clearly had found a new way of looking at God and our relationship with him. He knew the innermost God and the outermost God are one and the same God. He knew God lives through his creation and wants nothing more than to bestow the fruits of the kingdom on all people, even “unto the least of these.”
Even more astonishingly, Jesus declared each and every one of us to be gods234. He proclaimed the Kingdom of God was at hand, right here, right now. This kingdom dwells within us, and to reap the benefits, all we need to do is recognize it.
Many people believe that Jesus sacrificing himself was what they call the “Good News”. Actually. The “Good News” Jesus preached was that we are all created of the one Father who loves us unconditionally and forgives us “seventy times seven.”235 He knew we were already ‘saved’, we are indeed gods in our own right, the Kingdom of God is at hand and it is the Father’s good pleasure to bestow all the gifts of the Kingdom on saints and sinners alike.
The question begs then, if Jesus wasn’t here to give himself up as a sacrificial lamb, what’s the point?
The answer is much simpler than we might suspect. If we think of Jesus as an extraordinary prophet and teacher, a man with a divine connection to the truth of his being, if we stick to what he actually taught, it becomes abundantly clear what he was up to, and why his message at the time was so revolutionary.
Jesus knew the kingdom of heaven was not something to be found by searching, it wasn’t something bestowed on you, and it couldn’t be earned or bought. It was within you and had been all along.236
He knew the truth and stated it simply. He implored his followers to listen to him and follow the wisdom of his teachings.237 He never quibbled about sacrifice or anything else. If you listened to what he taught and acted accordingly you would “be as a wise man.”
He knew the veil between what we call life and death is an illusion and shocked the world by saying his very words could bring eternal life.238
His message of love; that you love your brother, your sister, the foreigner and sojourner; that you love God; that love is all there is; that love is all that matters, was beyond anything anyone had ever heard.239
With all Jesus taught, he gave only one commandment in all of his teaching; “That you love one another even as I have loved you.”240
Jesus single handedly changed the nature of God from a vengeful “eye for an eye” God into a benevolent “Father” who wanted nothing more than that we be happy.241
WHY DID THEY KILL HIM?
To begin with, the Jewish priesthood at the time were very ‘law and order’ type guys. They were doing everything they could to keep the people in line with Jewish law while not offending their Roman occupiers.
On the one hand it was crucial to the priesthood staying in power to keep the Romans happy by discouraging any type of insurrection. On the other hand it was critical to their financial well-being to keep the people observing the laws of Moses. There was a lot of money to be made in the ‘Law’.
The priesthood at the time of Jesus controlled large swaths of land around Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular. They grew barley and wheat which they sold at profit. They raised sheep and cattle, many of which were sold as “sacrificial lambs” to city people and those who didn’t have flocks of their own. God wanted his unblemished sheep and the priests sold these sacrificial animals for a tidy profit. They also controlled all the money that changed hands through these various sales at the temple. The priests were the oligarchy of the day.
Jesus regularly railed against the temple priesthood for leveraging Mosaic law for profit at the expense of the poor and needy.242 His tirade against the money-changers in the temple is legendary.243
While Jesus’s message that God loves you and will accept you regardless of whether you sacrifice or not was not only groundbreaking, it also threatened the priestly profit margin and that wasn’t going over well with the leadership.
At the same time, the people were looking for a messiah to rise up and lead them against their Roman oppressors. When they saw Jesus healing people and doing all kinds of miracles they were sure he had true prophetic powers. His charisma was undeniable and it looked like he was the ‘chosen one’ who would lead them to freedom.
It didn’t help that Jesus was saying things like, “…the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” 244 As Jesus implored the people to follow the spirit of the law, it was very important to the priestly coiffures that the people follow the letter of the law.
The priests saw Jesus as a rabble rouser who was leading the people astray while challenging their profit margin. His actions were also very likely to bring the weight of the Roman army down on their heads. They weren’t about to let that happen.
But just as he wasn’t into sacrifice, Jesus wasn’t interested in fighting it out with the Romans either. His simple message of love and “do unto others…” confounded his followers and detractors alike.
The priests didn’t know what to do with him but they weren’t about to take any chances. So they did what people in power have done for millennia; they’d find a way to get rid of him.
So they arrested him and took him to Pilate, the governor of the area, figuring he would just execute him like did all the other common criminals. But it turned out the Romans weren’t impressed. Pilate wanted to release him.
But the priests kept pushing it and wouldn’t let it go until Pilate finally relented. According to the Bible, it was Pilate’s custom during the Passover holiday to release one prisoner of the people’s choosing.245 Pilate offered up Jesus and Barabas, a notorious rebel terrorist. He figured it would be a slam-dunk that the people would choose Jesus. After all, he’d just ridden into town the week before to a crazy celebration.
But people are fickle. They wanted Barabas. Barabas was a fighter and Jesus had shown himself to be just the opposite. The people wanted a fighter, they wanted Barabas. That sealed Jesus’ fate.
So they took him out, tortured him for fun and summarily nailed him to a tree. That’s right, the literal interpretation is ‘a tree’. Somewhere along the line the tree became a cross. Maybe a tree was a euphemism for a cross or maybe they hung him up on an actual tree. I’ve seen it both ways. It doesn’t really matter in the long run. By the end of the day he was dead. Only, as the story goes, to rise three days later and save us all.
Regardless of how much of this you believe, it’s self-evident that Jesus’ life and death have had a profound effect on civilization, especially Western civilization.246
But what did he really teach? Let’s take a look.
THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS
WHAT DID JESUS ACTUALLY TEACH?
So many things are attributed to Jesus and so many people have stamped their own interpretations on various verses that it can be pretty daunting to figure out what he actually taught.
In truth, we’ll never know. Everything written in the Gospels was written scores or even hundreds of years after Jesus died by people who never met him or knew anyone who did. There are, in fact, numerous other ‘gospels’ that didn’t make the cut when the Roman Catholic Church went through its final editing of what we now call ‘the Bible’.
But since this book is aimed at the literalist, we’re going to take these four Gospels at their word. So, what do they say were the teachings of Jesus?
For one, Jesus claimed we are all, each and every one of us, Gods,247 and the power of God is within us all.248
He claimed that God is all there is and God is right here, right now, everywhere and in everything, and provides for all of our needs.249
He taught the Kingdom of Heaven is ours to be had and God wants nothing more than for us to have all the fruits of the Kingdom.250
Jesus knew the power of our minds. In fact he said thinking of a thing as if it were so was akin to actually doing it. He taught that if we truly believe and persist in our belief then the thing believed in must be so, whether it’s good or bad. He knew first hand that the power to heal comes from the belief of the one being healed, not the healer. He knew all we need to do is ask, and if we ask believing, then it will surely come to pass.251
Likewise, he knew words are cheap. He taught that people will show who they are by what they do, not by what they say. He had a great saying, “Know a tree by its fruit”. Actions speak much louder than words.252
He taught that we reap what we sow and every action has a consequence.253 If we are to be saved or condemned, it will be through our own thoughts and actions and no ritual or sacrifice will save us. We are what we create.254
Jesus knew as much as anyone that all men are fallible and no one is perfect. This life is not meant to be perfect. We learn and grow through our trials and those trials show up uniquely through each one of us. He taught us not to judge others because we have no idea of the circumstances of anyone’s life. We need only to focus on ourselves and leave others to their own path.255
He taught us to let go of all resentment, all judgment, and put no limit on our forgiveness. For as we forgive, so we are forgiven.256
Jesus was adamant that we first and foremost seek our alignment with God, for if that relationship is true all else will take care of itself. God will never forsake us and his light will steadfastly lead us down the path that, in turn, will allow us to let that light shine through us.257
He taught us to be humble and seek our relationship with God with a child’s mind, a mind open to infinite possibilities, willing and able to accept goodness in a way only a child can.258
Jesus knew the spiritual path is not an easy one. He knew trials and tribulations are part of the game while we live here on earth. But he also knew that those who persevere, those who can see past this physical experience and manage to live from their higher spiritual being, will awaken to the fact that life is eternal.259
He knew our relationship with God is intensely personal and should be approached as such. He implored us to have faith in the goodness and givingness of God. He knew we are always held in the Divine embrace, guided, protected and nourished in a way only faith can embody.260
He implored us to be just and merciful and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. He instructed us to put his teaching into action not by judging but by doing good, for good’s sake alone, seeking nothing in return.261
Jesus taught we should always be mindful of who we are. We are love incarnate and we should always let that love-light shine brilliantly through the example of our lives. Love is the reason we are here and there is nothing more important than to express that love in every word, thought and deed.262
Lastly, and most importantly, Jesus taught us that love is the most important thing. All the laws and statutes were meant only to guide us to live a life of unconditional love.263
A parable is a story meant to convey a moral or spiritual lesson. The Greek and Roman myths we read about in grade school are parables. Most of Shakespeare’s plays can be considered parables. The fable of the Emperor’s new clothes is a parable as is the story of the boy who cried wolf. The tortoise and the hare is a parable. Most Dr. Seuss stories are parables as are most Disney movies. You get the idea. Parables abound in all cultures. Some are snippets and some are epic.
The Bible says Jesus taught only in parables264. If that’s true, we can’t really take anything Jesus taught literally. Let’s remember, nobody had a tape recorder around when Jesus was telling these stories. These, like all the stories in the Bible, were conveyed word of mouth for decades, even centuries, before they were finally written down. Written down by someone who’d never met Jesus or knew anyone who had.265
That being said, in this section I’m going to go over Jesus’ parables and give my take on them. Sometimes I’ll take some liberties with the story to modernize it a bit for understanding’s sake, and sometimes I’ll quote directly, but I’ll never change what’s actually happening in the story. Feel free to compare to the original.
Let’s get started.
THE SOWER Matthew 13:3-9
“A farmer went out to sow his seeds. As he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground and immediately sprang up but since the soil was so thin, they were scorched by the sun and withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears let him hear.”
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Have you ever had a great idea, or heard something you thought was the greatest thing ever but you never acted on it? You got busy with other things and it just slipped your mind? Well, that’s like the seeds that fell on the path and were eaten by the birds. Lots of potential but nothing happened. It’s common and happens every day.
Or have you ever had that great idea but once you started working on it, it was more than you bargained for? You thought, “This is way too much work. Nothing’s ever gonna come from this anyway. What’s the point?” That’s like the seeds that fell on the rocky ground. You actually got going on it (they sprouted) but you just didn’t have the inspiration or motivation to follow through so you just gave up (they withered away). Again, it happens all the time.
Have you ever gotten on a roll with something and it seemed like it might actually happen only to have some nay-sayers convince you it was impossible. Or maybe, once you actually had to commit your time and energy, you found out you’d rather watch TV or surf the internet or party with your friends instead. Eventually your great idea just piddled out and, alas, nothing ever came of it because too many other things got in the way. Your seeds got choked out by the thorns.
But maybe, just maybe, you’ve gotten an incredible inspiration and you actually followed through on it. You were inspired enough that nothing could distract you. Once you got working on it you couldn’t think of anything else. Instead of work it felt like inspired action and your enthusiasm burned until it actually came to be. Your idea landed on fertile soil and had grown beyond anything you could have imagined.
Every seed has the same potential but only you can provide the fertile soil they need to thrive.
In a spiritual sense this parable demonstrates the differing levels of awakening and commitment of those on the so-called ‘spiritual path’. It shows how some people cannot even understand what awakening is; some awaken only to fall away when the going gets tough; some awaken but the pull of the material world drags them back to ‘reality’; and some truly awaken and are forever changed.
I would imagine most people reading this book have been in any or all of these predicaments. It’s no big deal and is really quite normal. Wherever you are on your path is just fine. Take a minute and be honest with yourself. Where are your seeds right now?
THE MUSTARD SEED Mat 13:31-33; Mk 4:30-32; Lk 13:18-21
“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches. He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
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This parable, the only one to make it into three of the four Gospels, says it only takes a small amount of faith to change your world. This is true faith I’m talking about, not being hopeful or kind of believing in something. This is the kind of faith that is unshakable and leaves no room for doubt. This could be your faith in God, your faith in yourself, your faith in the goodness of the world or, on the flip side, your faith in the wickedness of humanity. It works either way.
The reference to leaven is just another way of saying the same thing. It only takes a tiny bit of leaven (yeast) to get your bread to rise. And under the right conditions the leaven will multiply all on its own. Just like faith.
Where does your faith lie? Do you believe things are always working out for you or are you just waiting for the other shoe to drop? If you’re like most people you are somewhere in between. Faith is not static; at different times we can be anywhere on the scale. But we can take control of our thoughts if we so choose and that will determine our faith. It’s up to each one of us to determine where our faith truly lies.
THE HIDDEN TREASURE Matthew 13-44-46
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
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I live in Southern California where real estate prices are off the chart, especially near the beach where I am. People routinely buy a small, dumpy house for half a million bucks, scrape it and build a really nice one and sell it for $17,000,000. That’s a tidy profit. I know real estate people who, if they could get their hands on a prime piece of property for under a million dollars, they’d sell everything they had to get it.
So what does this have to do with God?
In this parable Jesus is talking about people who finally awaken to their own divine, spiritual magnificence. Once awakened, they can never turn back and will do anything to chase that dragon. It’s the level of ‘woke-ness’ we would all do well to strive for.
There is nothing more valuable than the love, peace and joy that is the Kingdom of heaven.
THE LOST SHEEP Matthew 18:12-14
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”
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I’m sure we’ve all lost something that was either really valuable or had a lot of sentimental value. When you found it, wasn’t that feeling way more powerful than what you were feeling about it before you lost it? Of course it was. This is how God feels about you. Yes, you!
Jesus is telling us we are not just grains of sand on the beach or dust in the wind; we are each unique, cherished and the most important thing in the world! God266 would never allow any of his creation to be ‘lost’ or perish in any way.
THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT Matthew 18:23-35
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like an important businessman who wanted to settle accounts with some contractors who owed him money. First on the agenda was a contractor who owed him ten thousand dollars. But this contractor didn’t have the money so the businessman sued him for everything he owned.
“The contractor knew he didn’t have a case. He’d be penniless, out on the street, his wife would leave him and he’d never see his children again. Devastated, he fell to his knees. ‘Please, be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The businessman took pity on him, canceled the debt and sent him on his way.
“No sooner had the contractor left the courtroom than he tracked down one of his fellow sub-contractors who owed him a thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the neck and screamed, ‘Pay me what you owe me!’
“The sub-contractor fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I swear I will pay it back.’
“But the contractor refused. Instead, he took the sub-contractor to court and demanded everything he had be sold until the debt was paid in full.
“When the other subcontractors saw what had happened, they were outraged and told the businessman what had happened.
“Then the businessman called the contractor in. ‘You good for nothing piece of sh_t! I canceled all your debt because you begged and begged and begged me to. And now you tell me you couldn’t cut your own subcontractor the same slack?’
“In his anger, the businessman sued the contractor into oblivion.”
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I’ll admit, I’ve taken some liberties with modernizing the narrative but I’ve kept the actual story right on point.
Jesus is making two distinct points here and illustrating the fundamental dynamics of the universe; Love and Law.
First he’s showing us the mercy and generosity of the businessman. Of course this refers to God and his eternal givingness. Jesus states over and over that God wants nothing more than that we have all the fruits of the kingdom and we have them in abundance. The businessman’s first dealing with the contractor illustrates this vividly. This is where Love sets the foundation.
But the contractor is one wicked dude and takes it out on the poor subcontractor. When the businessman finds out he takes the contractor to court and ruins him.
Many people will use this as proof that God will punish you if you mess up. But that’s not the case at all. What Jesus is really showing is the Law part of Love and Law; in this case the Law of Attraction.
It’s not that God punished the wicked contractor, it’s that the contractor’s own actions actually drew to himself the very thing he’d been perpetrating. We are not punished for our mistakes, we suffer the consequences of them. The Law of Attraction is an equal opportunity law; do good, you draw good; do evil, you draw evil. It’s as simple as that. Some people call that Karma.
Jesus knew our lives are determined by the vibration of our thoughts and he did his best to illustrate this simply, in a way his followers could understand.
THE WORKERS IN THE VINEYARD Matthew 20:1-16
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them each $100.00 for the day and sent them out to his fields.
“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others hanging out in the parking lot with nothing to do. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and when the day is over I’ll pay you whatever is right.’ They took the farmer at his word and went off to work the vineyard with the others.
“The landowner went out again at noon and then again at three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing? “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. He said to them, ‘Go talk to my foreman and he’ll put you to work.’
“When evening came, the landowner said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
“The workers who were hired at five in the afternoon came and each received $100.00. Those who were hired early in the morning thought they’d get more, since they’d worked all day. But when the time came they too received $100.00. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.
“His answer to them was, ‘Friend,I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for $100.00? Take your pay and go. What’s it to you if I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
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Jesus is making it pretty plain that it doesn’t matter how much time you’ve put in on your particular spiritual path, or anything else. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve worked or sacrificed, or how awakened or accomplished you might think you are. None of that matters to God. We are all equally worthy of the gifts of the kingdom and it is God’s delight to bestow them upon us all.
THE TWO SONS Matthew 21:28-32
“There was a man who had two sons. He went to his younger son and said, ‘Son, I need you to go in to work today.’
“‘Oh, come on Dad, it’s Saturday, I really can’t do it,’ he answered. But later on he changed his mind and went to work anyway.
“Then the father went to his older son and said the same thing. The older son answered, ‘Sure, I’ll do it,” but he blew it off and never went.
Jesus asked those around him, “Which of the two sons did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John267 came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not recognize your mistake and believe him.”
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Simply put, Jesus is saying talk is cheap. It’s action that counts. It doesn’t matter if you’re a whore, a thief, a drug addict or a Rhodes Scholar, it only matters if you have love in your heart, joy in your song and compassion in your dealings.
THE EVIL TENANTS Matthew 21:33-41
“There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a wine press in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to a different country. When the harvest time approached, he sent his property managers to the tenants to collect his profit.
“But the tenants seized the property managers; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then the landowner sent other managers to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, the landowner sent his son. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.
“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”
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In essence this is the same as the parable of the unforgiving servant. Jesus shows once again how God wants nothing more than that we should prosper and thrive but, in the end, we will always reap the consequences of our thoughts and actions.
THE WEDDING BANQUET Matthew 22:1-14
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a rich man who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they all begged off and wouldn’t come.
“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: The table is full and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
“But they paid no attention and went their own way. Some went shopping, others went to work. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The rich man was enraged and he sent his personal army and destroyed those murderers and burned their homes.
“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite anyone you find to my banquet.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the rich man came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘My friend, how did you get in here without wearing some decent clothes?’ The man was speechless.
“Then the rich man told the attendants, ‘Get this loser out of here, throw him out into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
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On the surface this parable seems pretty harsh. I’m not sure if Jesus is just having a bad day or he’s using typical Aramaic exaggeration, but again, Jesus is showing us how the Kingdom of Heaven is open to everyone but, if we are to enjoy it, we must allow the good to flow through us.
THE TEN VIRGINS Matthew 25:1-13
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their flashlights out into the night to wait for the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their flashlights but they were in such a hurry they did not take any extra batteries. But the wise ones knew it would be a long night so they took just enough extra batteries to last through the night. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘The bridegroom is here! Come out to meet him!’
“Then all the virgins woke up and checked their flashlights. The foolish ones found their batteries dead and said to the wise ones, ‘Give us some of your batteries; our flashlights are going out.’
“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for all of us. Instead, you go to the store and buy your own batteries.’
“But while the foolish virgins went looking for batteries, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
“Much later the other virgins showed up. ‘Come on, man,’ they said, ‘open the door and let us in!’
“But the bridegroom replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
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All Jesus is saying here is that when it comes to accomplishing anything you need to remain diligent, be persistent and stay focused. The bridegroom in this story is the prize but he symbolizes any desire you might have, whether it’s about health, finances, relationships or creative endeavors, it doesn’t matter.
The wise virgins didn’t necessarily work any harder than the foolish virgins. They weren’t more deserving and they certainly weren’t more ‘spiritual’. They simply were more mindful. They were patient, prepared and they persevered.
If we expect to reap the gifts of the kingdom we need to be like the wise virgins.268
THE TALENTS Matthew 25:14-29
“The kingdom of heaven will be like a businessman going on a journey who called his accountants and entrusted them each with a sum he thought they could handle. To one he gave $1,000,000, to a second he gave $500,000, and to a third he gave $200,000. He figured they would invest wisely according to their own particular strategies. Then he went on his journey.
“The accountant who had received $1,000,000 went at once and bought some property, developed it and quickly doubled his money.
“Likewise, the accountant with $500,000 really knew how to play the stock market and before long had doubled his money also.
“But the accountant who had received $200,000 immediately went home and stashed his bosses’ money in his safe..
“After two years the businessman returned and settled with his accountants.
“The first accountant took his boss to see the real estate he’d developed. “As you know, I’ve been in real estate for a long time. I snagged this prime piece of property and after building a couple of houses on it I doubled your money.’
“‘Way to go, man! Great job! You did so well I’m going to put you in charge of my entire real estate operation. Next week we’ll take my private jet to London and I’ll show you the ropes!’
“When it was his turn, the accountant with the $500,000 showed his boss what he’d done. ‘As you know, I’ve been working the market for a long time. I think you’ll be pleased with what I’ve done.’
“When the businessman saw how he’d turned $500,000 into a million he was overjoyed. ‘Well done! You’ve really outdone yourself. I think I’d like to make you CFO of my financial division.’
“Then the accountant who had received $200,000 came. ‘Sir,’ he said, ‘I know that you are a hard man. You say a word and your investments skyrocket. Wherever you put your attention seems to be touched by gold. I was afraid I could never live up to these expectations so I took your money and put it in my safe.’ He handed his boss the money. ‘Here it is sir, every penny.’
“His boss replied, ‘You worthless, no good, sorry excuse of an accountant! You know I’m a successful man and I expect those around me to excel as well. You didn’t even think to put it in the bank or a mutual fund and at least let me get a little interest off it?’
“Then the businessman fired the worthless accountant and took his $200,000 and gave it to the first accountant who had succeeded in real estate. He knew he’d invest it wisely.
“And then he said for all to hear, ‘For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even that which they have will be taken from them.’”
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Again, Jesus is showing us how we are all endowed with certain gifts and if we use them wisely they will grow more and more and we will reap huge rewards. But if we squander our gifts they will eventually stagnate and even the gifts we once had will be gone.
Jesus continually makes this point of “…he who has, will more be given but to he who has not, even that which he has will be taken away.” 269 This has nothing to do with punishment or even right or wrong. The, “he who has…” part can be taken as “…he who has love,” “…he who has faith,” “:..he who has confidence,” or even “…he who has optimism” will attract even more. It’s the natural outcome of the Law of Attraction. What you focus on draws more of the same to itself. If you are confident, you do well and your confidence grows
On the flip side he who has not love, even the love that he has will slip away. A man who cannot love will not even be able to accept it. Soon he will be loveless and no one will love him. He who has no confidence will fail and his lack of confidence will continually manifest in his life. Eventually he will be totally devoid of any shred of what confidence he may have once had. It’s not hard to see what Jesus was talking about.
On a purely practical level, this doesn’t only apply to so-called spiritual qualities. If you’re a musician and you don’t play for a long time your abilities shrink exponentially. If you used to be an athlete and now you’re a couch potato there’s no way you can do what you used to. Once those abilities are gone it’s nearly impossible to get them back. That which you once had will be taken away.270
But if you continue to train and practice diligently, your skills will continue to improve and you will be better than ever.
Wherever you put your attention, your focus and your enthusiasm, that is where you will gain “even more.”
THE SEED AND THE SOIL Mark 4:26-29
And Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and day by day he checks on it. First the seed sprouts and then the plant grows and grows. How it grows he does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the stalk, then the head, then the mature grain. Now when the crop permits, he puts in the sickle because the harvest has come.”
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Jesus is showing us a power beyond our comprehension that can somehow give life to a plant through some magical act between it and the soil. Even today we don’t know how that works. We don’t know how two cells divide until they become a human being. We will never understand the ‘how’ of even the simplest blessings of this life. We don’t need to. We need only enjoy them.
It behooves us to remember no seed sprouts immediately. You can’t eat an ear of corn for dinner tonight from a seed you planted this morning. Everything in life works like this. You must put in the time, have patience and continually tend to your thoughts, your desires, your relationships and your passions. If you do, your reward is assured and your harvest bountiful.
THE GOOD SAMARITAN Luke 10:30-37
“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, took all his money, beat him severely and left him for dead.
“Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw the injured man, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, looked, and passed by on the other side.
“But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled down the road, came upon the wounded man. When he saw him, he had compassion. So he gave him some wine to ease his pain and bandaged his wounds. He then put him in his car and took him to the nearest hotel and took care of him.
“On the next day, when he departed, the Samaritan took out five hundred dollars, gave it to the hotel manager, and said, ‘Take care of him; and if you spend any more than this I’ll pay you when I get back.’
“So which of these three do you think was a neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
“They said, ‘The man who showed him mercy.’
“Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
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This one is pretty straight forward; Jesus is telling us to always be kind and helpful to whomever you can, whenever we can. The fact that he says a Priest and a Levite271 ignored the injured man while a Samaritan was the only one to do the right thing is significant.
Priests and Levites were supposed to be on the upper level of holiness while the Samaritans were hated and considered vile.
Jesus is making a pointed and controversial statement that if you want to do the ‘will of God’ you need to treat everyone with honor and dignity, no matter who they are or what their status may be. No one is more worthy than anyone else and no one is unworthy in the eyes of God.
THE RICH MAN Luke 12:15-21
And Jesus said, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.
“And he told them a parable, saying, ‘There was a rich man who had many profitable businesses. One day while he was counting his money he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, I have so much money, what will I do with it all?’
“And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my warehouses and build bigger ones. I will invest in real estate and the stock market and buy a warehouse and fill it with gold. Then I’ll be set for life and spend the rest of my life relaxing, eating, drinking, and partying.”’
“But God said to him, ‘Fool! Tonight your soul is required of you. You will die and who will have all these things you have prepared?’
“So is the one who lays up treasure for himself but does not take care of his soul.”
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People often used this parable to demean rich people or the pursuit of worldly goods. They are certain that frugality, austerity and being poor is somehow virtuous. But that’s not what Jesus is saying at all. He’s merely telling us to keep your thoughts and pursuits in the proper order.
Know your priorities. Material goods are all fine and good but they’re not going to do you any good if you die on the way home from work today. What matters in life transcends the mere accumulation of physical ‘goodies’.
So called ‘spiritual’ qualities such as love, kindness, relationships and service will ultimately outlast anything material. So seek them first, then go get your goodies.
THE WEDDING FEAST Luke 14:7-11
“Jesus and many others were invited to a wedding feast and, when he noticed how some jockeyed for the best seats and best tables, he told this parable.
“Jesus said to them, ‘When you are invited to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person.’ You will be embarrassed in front of everyone there and in your shame you will end up at the loser’s table where no one else wants to sit.
“But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, come, sit with me at my table.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests.
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
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This one’s pretty straight forward. It’s always better to have someone else sing your praises rather than for you to toot your own horn. It’s better to be invited to a place of honor rather than be asked to leave and be embarrassed in front of everyone. Be humble and let others acknowledge your worth.
THE PRODIGAL SON Luke 15:11-32
“And Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me my inheritance now.’
“The father agreed and divided his property between his two sons.
“A few days later, the younger son gathered all he had and headed off to a foreign land where he squandered his money on reckless living. It wasn’t long before he’d spent everything and was in dire need.
“In desperation he took a job with a farmer who gave him a job feeding his pigs. The younger son was barely getting by and every once in a while he’d actually eat what he was feeding the pigs. No one gave him anything. Nobody cared.
“But finally he came to himself and thought, ‘How many of my father’s employees have more than enough bread, but I perish here feeding pigs and starving to death! I will go to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. I will do whatever you want. Please give me a job and just treat me like one of your employees.’
“So the younger son rose early in the morning and went to his father’s house. While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and ran and embraced his son, smothering him with hugs and kisses.
“And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his staff, ‘Quick, bring a new suit, and put it on him, and put a ring on his finger, and get him some new shoes. Then go get whatever you need for the biggest party we’ve ever had around here. It’s time to celebrate! For this my son was dead, but he is alive again; he was lost and now he is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now when his older son came home from work, he heard music and dancing. He called over one of the catering staff and asked what was going on and was told, ‘Your brother has come home, and your father is throwing a big party because he has returned home safe and sound.’
“When the older son heard this he was furious and refused to go in. His father came out and begged him to come in but the older son answered him, ‘Look, I’ve worked for you all these years and I’ve always done whatever you wanted, yet you never threw me a party like this. But this derelict son of yours squanders his entire inheritance on whores and wild living then finally drags himself home and you pull out all the stops and throw a party like we’ve never had before!’
“Then the father said to his elder son, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It is fitting to celebrate and be glad, for your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
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Jesus is making a bold statement here. He’s saying there is nothing we can be, do or say that would take “our Father’s” love from us. We don’t have to pay any price, we don’t need to make any amends, we don’t need to atone for anything. All we need to do is come home to who we truly are. Like the father, at our core we are loving, compassionate, kind and forgiving beings. It’s just that sometimes we lose sight of that and go a different way.
Like the son, we can sometimes be overly materialistic, hedonistic, narcissistic, even angry human beings. When we fall into this pattern things invariably go bad. We end up like the son, metaphorically feeding pigs all day long. It’s interesting that Jesus brings in the pigs to show how the son had sunk as far as he could possibly go. Jews hate pigs.
But finally the son “comes to himself” and realizes how foolish he’s been. He humbles himself and goes home and finds something completely unexpected; unconditional love. His father doesn’t come down on him, doesn’t want to know where he’s been or what he’s been up to. He doesn’t demand his money back. No. The father welcomes his son home with love, open arms, weeping and joy. You’d think he was celebrating the birth of a brand new baby. To him, that’s essentially what it was, that’s how happy he was, for his son was dead but was now alive.
I won’t even ask if you could do anything like that. I’m not sure I could. But that’s how God feels about you, about me, about all of us.272 It’s not something we have to earn, it just “is”. We are born worthy and can never do anything that would make us otherwise. This is a pretty heady concept and can get stuck in the craw of those who hold to the Old Testament, blood-letting sacrifice thing. But when you pay attention to what Jesus was really talking about, this is the message he’s been spreading all along. This is the ‘Good News’ that changed everything.
Here are my main takeaways from these parables.
– Seek first your connection to that inner being, be it ‘God’ or whatever else you want to call it. Listen to your heart and always follow your inner guidance.
– For every cause there is an effect. Be aware of what causes you put in motion. Be patient, forgiving and merciful and, in like kind, these qualities will be shown to you.
– Be mindful, be humble, have integrity, and always do what is good.
– God loves and accepts you no matter what.
– God loves all of us the same and all of us beyond measure.
– We are all God’s children and receive his blessings the same.
– The gifts are always there but we must accept and use them.
– Have faith that everything is always working out for you.
– A small amount of true faith will grow exponentially and draw to you evidence to support your belief.
WHAT ABOUT CHRISTIANITY?
THE DAY OF PENTECOST AND BEYOND
If you’ve ever wondered where Christianity came from there’s a book called ‘Acts of the Apostles’ in the New Testament that lays out the early days very concisely. But did it really happen the way it’s written? Let’s take a closer look.
According to ‘Acts’, after Jesus’ execution he rose from the dead and hung out with his friends for forty days273. He didn’t show himself to anyone else, just his disciples274. Then he said it was time to go and disappeared into the clouds. Just before he left he promised he’d come back someday. A lot of people are on pins and needles, waiting for that day.
The disciples were deathly afraid of the Jewish priests so they were hiding out together in an upper room somewhere in Jerusalem. Suddenly a great wind blew through the house and tongues of fire shot out through the room and came to rest on each of the disciples. They were immediately filled with the Holy Spirit and started prophesying and speaking in foreign languages.275
Straight away they burst into the street proclaiming Jesus as the Christ, the fulfiller of all prophecy and savior of the world. The city was full of tourists and pilgrims from all over the world who were amazed to be hearing this strange message in their own language. In a single day over 3,000 people were convinced of ‘the Way’.
This day is called the ‘Day of Pentecost’ and it is here where the entire narrative concerning Jesus dramatically changed. He was no longer a humble healer extolling the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven. He was no longer a prophet who proclaimed we were all gods and ‘the Father’ loved and embraced us no matter what276. He was now the ‘Good News’ itself, ‘The Christ’, the ultimate sacrifice and fulfiller of all prophecy. He had risen from the dead so that we might live.
This is when we first hear about being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ277 and being ‘saved by the blood of Christ’.
Almost immediately the disciples were healing people left and right. They were even raising the dead. Honestly, it sounds like they were doing more miracles than Jesus himself. But they did it all “in his name’’.
Their numbers steadily increased and, not being welcome in Israel, they spread out mostly northward into Asia Minor, Greece and even Rome. We now know a significant number also went southward into Africa.
Then a guy named Paul came along.
Paul was a contemporary of Jesus and although there’s no direct evidence that they ever met, it wouldn’t take much to believe they had
Paul was a well educated guy, born in Tarsus278 but now living in Jerusalem. He had grown up in a devout Hebrew sect called the Pharisees. His mother tongue was Greek but, being Jewish, he was fluent in Hebrew too.
Jesus was also a well educated guy279 who had a unique ability to inspire and influence the masses. What’s more, he was constantly on the warpath against the Pharisees. He didn’t like them at all and was forever calling them out as hypocrites and a brood of vipers. It’s easy to see how Paul would have had Jesus on his radar, and not in a good way.
As I previously stated, after ‘the Day of Pentecost’ a lot of Jesus’ followers hightailed it out of Jerusalem280 and spread out across Asia Minor where they started little communities dedicated to Jesus’ teachings. The Jewish hierarchy frowned on this new ‘Christian’ cult and enlisted Paul to track down these heretics and bring them back to Jerusalem for trial. Paul jumped at the chance and was so good at his job he quickly gained a reputation as a ruthless bounty hunter. How much of Paul’s enthusiasm was fueled by Jesus’ animosity toward the Pharisees is anybody’s guess but I’ll bet it was significant.
As the story goes, Paul was on his way to Damascus to arrest some of these malcontents when he was struck blind and Jesus appeared to him in a vision and asked him why he was being such a dick. Three days later, “something like scales fell from his eyes”281 and his blindness was immediately lifted. Jesus came to him in another vision and Paul became an instant convert, immediately proclaiming Jesus as ‘the Christ’, heaven sent to save all mankind.
From here on Paul dominates the New Testament narrative. He traveled all over the Mediterranean teaching his version of ‘the Way’ to his mostly Greek converts. He was eventually taken to Rome to stand trial for sedition and apparently died there. Tradition says he was martyred but nobody knows for sure how, when or where he died. Paul’s ministry spanned less than forty years.
But Paul was a prodigious writer and in those forty years he extolled the virtues of Jesus Christ282 and “the Way” in his many letters to the various churches he’d visited on his travels These letters, along with the four Gospels283, make up the bulk of the New Testament. Even those books not directly written by Paul were written by his own disciples and were heavily influenced by his teaching.284
Paul was the driving force behind the establishment of the early Christian church and his writings are the foundation of all that followed. According to the New Testament, Paul’s vision of Jesus as the Christ and consequent savior of humanity quickly caught on among the small bands of this early Christian sect. It was simple, it was easy and it fit right in with the thought process of his mainly Greek converts.
In its essence Paul’s Christianity is very simple:
God is all-powerful and good.
We, human beings are separate from God and evil to the core285
God and the Devil are constantly struggling for our souls but, since we’re essentially evil, the Devil has the upper hand.
Jesus, the Christ, the ‘only begotten’ son of God, came to earth to provide the ultimate sacrifice that would reconcile us with God and defeat that evil Devil286.
The only requirement is we acknowledge his sacrifice, recognize his divinity and accept him into our hearts as our ‘Lord and Savior’.287
If we do this, we are ‘saved’ and if we don’t, we’re ‘lost’ and Jesus’s sacrifice doesn’t do us any good288
Everyone will rise on ‘the last day’ and be judged about their life on earth. The ‘saved’ ones will go to heaven to live with Jesus happily ever after and those who are ‘lost’ will burn in hell forever.
To these new Christians, Jesus was the sole, divine authority under heaven. Their salvation came from his sacrifice, ‘the blood of the lamb’ as they called it, and they were more than willing to die and be martyred in his name.
At this point in history divine rulers were nothing new289 but these kings only recognized their own divinity, not that of some upstart dead guy. They were none too happy with this new cult who recognized only Jesus as their supreme master. If you’ve ever heard about Christians being thrown to the lions this is when all that was going on. Many of the early Christians paid the ultimate price for their beliefs
That’s the official story, but is that how it really went down?
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Let’s see how this could have gone down if we take a slightly more secular view.
First, it helps to know that these stories were first relayed by word of mouth for decades, sometimes even centuries, before ever being written down290. Most Biblical scholars believe the earliest any of these books could have been written was about 80 CE, years after Paul’s death. But that number is entirely theoretical because, in fact, the oldest surviving physical fragments of the New Testament we have were written anywhere from two to three hundred years after Jesus’ crucifixion. That’s plenty of time for the original meaning to be obscured at best, or manipulated at worst.
Recognizing the ancient Middle Eastern penchant for exaggeration, embellishment and putting story before fact, I’m going to assume most of the miracles attributed to Jesus’ followers291 in the book of ‘Acts’ are either exaggerations, metaphor, legend or pure fabrication. At this point in history, glorifying leaders to the point of deity was nothing new and I’m sure the early Christians were no exception.
Let’s start with the ‘Day of Pentecost’. Were the Apostles hold up in an upper room? Probably. Did a tongue of fire run through the room and bestow the Holy Spirit on everyone? Probably not. So what happened?
Consider that these people had just recently seen their beloved friend and spiritual leader brutally killed for beliefs they, themselves, passionately held. Can you imagine them up in that room trying to decide what to do? Should they pack it in and go back to being fishermen or should they risk their lives and continue to spread the message?
Can you also imagine one of them, probably Peter, being filled with the Holy Spirit, giving an impassioned plea that they should go forth and spread the ‘Good News’?292 Personally, I’ve heard many a preacher whose passion was “like a hot wind blowing through my soul” and whose message “pierced my heart like the fiery hand of God.” I contend the ‘wind’ and ‘fire’ were originally metaphors but as the legend grew in telling after telling, the original trope of the ‘wind’ and ‘fire’ of the spirit lost their original Aramaic passion in favor of Greek literalism and were eventually interpreted literally as physical wind and fire.
Regardless, having been thoroughly energized and emboldened, can you see these same disciples fearlessly spilling into the streets, on fire to spread their message?293 Surprisingly they met very little resistance and even gained a respectable amount of acceptance. After all, just a little over a month before many of these people on the street had been enamored with Jesus enough to lay palm fronds beneath his feet. No doubt a significant number were not happy about his crucifixion and were glad to see Jesus’ disciples continuing his mission.
So ‘The Way’ grew as small bands of believers began to gather and then spread slowly throughout Asia Minor and Africa. Jesus’ actual disciples stayed in Jerusalem so these groups were made up of people who had been on the fringes, following Jesus around for the last couple of years. They did their best to understand this charismatic rabbi but how much they actually understood is anybody’s guess.294 They weren’t true disciples or part of the inner circle and, in fact, they were people who Jesus himself said didn’t really get it.295 But they got it enough to want to try to continue to live by his teachings.
THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Most scholars recognize the claim that Paul was some ruthless bounty hunter as complete fiction. Under Roman law he had no power to arrest, detain or imprison anyone.296 He was a private citizen just like anyone else. Even if he was working for the Temple priests, he had no authority under Roman law.
In any case, it’s unlikely the Jewish priests would enlist Paul to kidnap members of this new cult to be tried by the Romans. The Romans were none too happy about the whole Jesus fiasco and weren’t about to become the priest’s personal executioners. They’d seen cults come and go and the odds were good this one would be more of the same, especially since they’d already killed the leader.
So what happened on the way to Damascus? Was Paul actually struck blind? Did ‘the scales fall off’ after his conversion?
Why Paul was on his way to Damascus, or if he actually was, is anybody’s guess but as far as going blind goes, it reminds me of a line in the old spiritual song ‘Amazing Grace’ that goes, “I once was blind, but now I see.” I contend Paul’s ‘blindness’ wasn’t a physical blindness at all, but a blindness of insight, a blindness to the truth that had not yet been revealed. Taken in the same context as the burning bush in Exodus and Jacob wrestling with an angel on his way back to the Palestine,297 we can see Paul was struggling with a huge emotional dilemma culminating in his revelation where the “scales fell off”298 and he could finally see the truth.
I can see this story easily getting lost in translation. Taking idioms and phraseology literally is the pitfall of any translation. Throughout this treatise we’ve seen it plenty of times. Through the telling, re-telling and embellishment deeply rooted in the oral tradition, Paul the bounty hunter turned convert became a compelling story that gave him immeasurable credibility. And it made his revelation and conversion all the more powerful.
Taking all this into consideration, just what was Paul’s revelation?
Before we get to the actual revelation we need to know a little bit more about Paul.
Paul came from a hard core Jewish sect called the Pharisees. Most people don’t have a clue what the Pharisees believed but when I started looking into it I was floored.
The Pharisees believed strongly in adherence to Jewish tradition and law but they also had some pretty radical views compared with traditional Judaism.
One of the things that set them apart was they believed in an afterlife. Most Jews believed you just died and that was it. But in the Pharisee afterlife the dead would be resurrected and rewarded or punished for what they had done in this lifetime. In other words, there would be a Judgment Day.
They also believed in heaven and hell, supernatural beings like angels, demons and the devil, and they were certain an ‘anointed one’, a messiah, would rise up in the manner of King David and restore Israel to its former glory.
The Pharisees were basically Christians waiting for their ‘Christ’.
Imagine Paul’s real revelation, when “the scales fell off” so to speak, was when he realized Jesus was the mystical fulfillment of all his Pharisaical beliefs.
Jesus had spoken often of angels, demons, the ‘evil one’, the resurrection of the dead, even judgment day, all staples of Pharisee doctrine. Paul’s vision made it crystal clear that Jesus’ message of a loving Father was a high spiritual concept unlike any the world had seen before299.
Jesus’ simple teachings not only accomplished what the Law of Moses and Jewish tradition had been trying to accomplish for thousands of years, but with his death, the final sacrifice, they transcended the need for physical constraints of any kind.
Jesus had consistently separated the “Law of God” from the “statutes of Moses” and now Paul knew why. He knew the only “Law of God” was that we love one another300. The “Good News” was that this love lived within each one of us and once we consciously connected with it, it would set us free to enjoy all the “fruits of the kingdom”.
Jews had been following the statues of Moses for generations in a vain attempt to achieve the one true Law that Jesus’ life demonstrated so clearly. Jesus did indeed lighten their burdens and his yolk was indeed easy301. Thus, Jesus, through the way he lived his life, had “fulfilled the Law”.302
Paul saw that, just as Jesus had said, the ‘Life’ of God was eternal, separate from the physical body and if we would but follow his simple teachings we would indeed “break the bonds of death”. His vision showed that what we saw as death was an illusion. Jesus had specifically said God was eternal and lived within each one of us. In fact, he said we were all gods and thus we were all eternal. By living in and as the spirit of the living God we would indeed be living “in the body of Christ” and never taste death.
He saw that heaven and hell were metaphors, states of being, not places to go. Paul finally understood that what man had been looking for in the physical world was not ‘out there’, but deep within himself. The ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ was indeed within each one of us. Real salvation, as Jesus had so often said, came from a sacrifice of the heart, a surrendering to the Spirit within. God loved all of us as precious as a first born son and wanted nothing more than that we should have all the gifts of ‘the Kingdom’.
Paul’s revelation showed the true messiah, what he called the ‘Christ’303, was that spark of divinity that lives within each of us, the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ within. The ‘Christ’ was not a person, but a state of being. Jesus recognized this ‘Christ’ within himself and was able to use it as few had before. Jesus was not a mere messiah here to save the Jews from the Romans but a ‘Christed one’ who, through his example and simple message, could show humanity ‘the Way’ and save mankind from itself.
Jesus was ‘the Way’ alright, but not in the way most people think. As the Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hahn related, when Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” he meant that to have a true relationship with God, one must practice the ‘way’ of Jesus.
To walk in ‘the Way’ we must walk in the footsteps of the master, we must walk in the way of unconditional love.
I believe this was Paul’s true revelation. All his Pharisaical aspirations, and so much more, were fulfilled in this one man’s life.
Once revealed, Paul was an instant, enthusiastic convert and he embarked on several journeys throughout Asia Minor to share his revelation with the small communities of early adherents of ‘the Way’.
It’s easy to see how these communities would clamor to hear Paul speak. After all, he’d come from Jerusalem, hung out with the disciples and, according to him, been chosen by Jesus himself to spread the word.304 He was fluent in Greek and deeply understood their customs. Under Paul’s guidance, followers of ‘the Way’ became followers of ‘Christ’ and the Christian Church was born.
If you look closely, you can see Paul’s original version of Christianity was much closer to Jesus’ core teachings but told through the lens of his original Pharisaical beliefs. With Jesus’ life having fulfilled the law and his death having been the ultimate sacrifice, Jewish tradition had not so much been negated, but ‘fulfilled’, accomplished to the point of not being necessary anymore. Jesus was the perfect Pharisaical messiah.
So what happened? Why is the Christianity we know today so far removed from Jesus’ original teachings? Two things mostly.
First, we need to remember that the people who scribed the original scriptures never knew Jesus or heard a word he said. And since these communities were largely isolated from each other, they ultimately developed their own belief systems concerning Jesus and circulated the various stories and letters to fit what they had decided to be true.
Once Paul came along he was able to get them more or less on the same page with his version of ‘the Way’. The people who wrote the New Testament were Paul’s disciples through and through and they did their best to document what he’d taught them. Even so, what Paul had taught was a constant source of contention.
The one thing they all agreed on was Paul’s core teaching that Jesus was the final sacrifice and if they were washed in his blood305 they would be saved.
Secondly, about 300 years after Jesus’ execution, the Roman emperor Constantine became a convert to ‘the Way’ and Rome basically took over the whole thing. Over time and through a series of councils, political wranglings and back door compromises, the church sifted through the myriad stories, letters, legends and folklore that had grown up around this man Jesus and decided which ones they would canonize to be true and which they would condemn as heresy.
During this time Jesus was ‘officially’ ordained to be divine, to be the one and only son of God who had sacrificed himself on the cross so that we might be saved. This is when it became ‘official’ that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. This is when it was ‘officially’ declared we had to believe all this in order to be saved, otherwise we were condemned to hell.
Up until then, all these claims had been hotly contested among the followers of ‘the Way’. But the Roman Catholic Church put a stop to that.
The books that make up what we now call the New Testament306 were picked specifically because they support this ‘official’ version of Jesus and his reason for being. The ones that didn’t were condemned as heresy.
For over 1,000 years the Roman Catholic Church held Christianity in an iron grip and brutally purged the world of as many of these ‘heretical’ writings, teachings and adherents as it could.307 Many Christians paid the ultimate price for their beliefs except this time it was at the hand of their fellow Christians.
HOW DID WE GET HERE FROM THERE?
Fast forward to the modern era and we find a Christian church as fragmented as it’s ever been. From hyper-conservative fundamentalists to ultra-liberal Unitarians, the gap between what different groups think about Jesus and how to interpret the Bible has never been greater.
But the one thing they all agree on is this; God sacrificed his only begotten son so that we might live.
How this happened is beyond me. Jesus was adamant that God didn’t care for sacrifice and God specifically prohibited child sacrifice308.
So how did Christianity become a blood cult based on the sacrifice of the first born son of its own God? Was it because Paul’s Pharisee indoctrination demanded the ritual sacrifice? Was that part of his revelation? Or did some of his converts with more Pharisaical leanings twist the meaning after Paul died. I guess we’ll never know.
However it happened, the fact remains that modern Christianity is a religion based on the blood sacrifice of the first born child. I’m going to go out a limb here and just say it; that is just NOT what Jesus was teaching.
SIN, REPENTANCE, ATONEMENT & CHRIST
What if I told you that you were born a sinner, you must repent to atone for your sins and Christ was the only to save yourself? Sounds pretty much like something you might hear in any Christian church on any given Sunday, right?
But let’s take a look at what the sentence really means and what, in my opinion, was the meaning of Paul’s revelation.
First let’s take a look at what ‘sin’ really means. The Hebrew word usually translated as ‘sin’ is ‘khata’.309 Khata means to fail to act through your divine nature. In Aramaic, the word is ‘htaha’ which translates to ‘an error or mistake’.310 The Greek word, ‘sin’, is actually a Greek archery term meaning, “to miss the mark.” So what ‘to sin’ really means is to make a mistake, to act other than from your divine nature; that nature being love, compassion, peace and joy.
Somewhere along the way the Christian interpretation morphed ‘sin’ into an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law; literally an affront against God.
Current Christian canon defines ‘repent’ as to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin. To be sorry for your transgression against God.
But the true meaning is much simpler. The word repent literally means “to perceive afterward.” It implies a change of mind, heart, will or purpose. To repent is to be convinced of another way, to change your mind or convictions. To turn away from one thing and toward another.
Common western culture views ‘atonement’ as to make reparation for some offense, to make amends for a wrong committed. Basically to pay for something you did wrong.
There is another, more ancient, meaning that is quite different. The Old English definition of atone is to reconcile, to bring into unity and harmony.
It goes without saying that Christianity, at least since the time of Constantine and the Council of Nicea, defines ‘Christ’ as one man, Jesus, who lived a couple of thousand years ago. All reference to Christ and all of its mystical meaning is embodied solely in the man Jesus and no other.
Let us remember that the word ‘Christ’ is a Greek word that was substituted for ‘messiah’ by Paul early on in his ministry. As noted before, Christ and messiah are completely separate concepts. Paul’s ‘Christ’ was embraced by his Greek converts and later canonized by the Roman Catholic Church as the savior of all mankind. This Christ was also completely rejected by the Jews as a perversion of their longed for messiah.
Yet there is another, more metaphysical notion of Christ that was hinted at by Paul, and even Jesus, and is embraced by spiritual communities around the globe.
This ‘Christ’ is that Divine spark that resides within the essence of every living being, in fact, within the heart of all creation. It is that part of us that knows we are created ‘of’ God, not ‘by’ God. For what else could we be? If in the beginning there was only God then all that was created MUST have been created from the very essence of God itself; what else could there be?
In this view, as Jesus himself said, we are all God. This is the essence of ‘Christ’.
So, to paraphrase my opening statement; “We all, from time to time, make mistakes and act contrary to our divine nature. But as we consider and turn toward that which we innately know is right, all is made well by our embracing the love, the peace, the joy, the God within us.”
And so it is.
Well, that’s about it for me. There’s plenty more to muse about but this seems like a good place to leave it for now.
The Bible is one of the most influential books ever written, especially in the Western world. It is full of profound truths and spiritual wisdom. But was it written to be taken literally and is it the one and only word of God? I think not.
The stories in the Bible were allegorical, full of symbology and deeper meanings. But much like the Jews who were so hung up on following the letter of the law that they completely missed the simple teachings of Jesus, we have lost the forest for the trees. Rather than embrace the symbolism, we fight over the meaning of scraps of an ancient text that had no punctuation.
THE LAST WORD ON TRANSLATION
To get an idea of what I mean, here is a list of figures of speech that probably every English speaking person over the age of twelve knows the meaning;
– On the lamb – Cold shoulder – Hit the nail on the head
– Right on the button – Stuck in a rut – In a quandary
– Sitting on a gold mine – Sharp as a tack – Keeps you on your toes
– Throw it out the window – Hit the wall – Throw in the towel
– Keep your eyes peeled – Kick the bucket – Piece of cake
– Nail it – Clam up – Cat got your tongue?
– Walking on eggshells – Got an ace up his sleeve – Got a screw loose
– Cut from the same cloth – Let the cat out of the bag – In a pig’s eye
– When pigs fly – Ruffle your feathers – Yank your chain
– Push your buttons – Bring down the house – Thorn in my side
– Break a leg – The real McCoy – He’s a nut
– The apple of my eye – Sick as a dog – Get your goat
– Got you on my radar – On pins and needles
Even today, translating these phrases literally into another language would be folly. Without the cultural context it would be impossible to discern the true meaning. Can you imagine what it would be like in two thousand years?
MORE TRANSLATION SNAFUS
When it comes to translation I’ve said all along that trying to decipher true meaning through literal interpretation is just not possible. The older the text gets, the more the subtleties of language slip away.
Have you ever read the original version of ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’? It was written only a little over 300 years ago and, because of the language they used back then, the story is nearly incomprehensible. Legions of high school kids have suffered through trying to make sense of it. There are actually versions that have translated it into ‘modern’ English so people can understand it. And that’s English to English translation, in only 300 years.
To get an idea of how dicey translation can get, this is a synopsis of the movie, ALIEN, taken off the cover jacket of a Hong Kong bootleg DVD copy of the movie.
“Spaceship people get up from sleeping coffin and have eat. Computer woman find strange noisings on planet and astronauts go to seeing. Astronauts find big elephant man who dead then find too many egg.
Astronaut is possess by egg demon and new egg demon is come when eat bad noodle. Seven friends and cat all try to find egg demon before space ship go home is hard working.
Who will life to escaping? Who is bad milk blood robot? Scream not working because space make deaf.”
Obviously this was first translated from English to Chinese, probably literally by someone who didn’t really understand English, and then translated back to English from the Chinese version, again by someone who didn’t really understand the nuances of the English language.
This is just one simple example of how screwed up translations can get in just one cycle of interpretation. And this is just in a few years and only two languages are in the mix.
Can you imagine if, 1,200 years from now, some Greek guy found a beat up copy of this DVD box and, using his imperfect understanding of modern English, tried to translate it into Greek? And then imagine some Latin guy finding that version 300 years later and translating it into Latin. And then a Chinese guy translated the Latin version back into Chinese only to have a French guy translate his version into French, and then some Russian guy did the same thing.
Now imagine, 600 years after all this, an English guy found a copy of the Russian version and he translated that back into English. How close do you think it would be to Ridley Scott’s original? Do you think he would recognize what movie it was from? Or that it even was from a movie? What if they don’t even have movies in 1,000 years or know what they are? What if he thought it was some sacred text and the secret to God was hidden somewhere in the words?
See what I mean about translations being dicey. Believe any literal translation at your peril.
ONLY THE BIBLE
I’ve often wondered why someone would accept the Bible literally at face value and reject any other source of spiritual revelation. My dad was one of those people. He was a super intelligent guy but he would only go to a church that taught the Bible, and only the Bible.
Why would so many people refuse to go beyond the Bible when even a cursory examination reveals plenty of obvious contradictions and obvious references to ancient mythology? I imagine there is a healthy (?) dose of fear involved.
As a mostly Christian society we have had it pounded into us since we were children that the Bible is the one and only word of God, Jesus died for our sins and if we don’t believe it we’ll burn in hell forever. Pretty much every Christian I’ve ever known has that ingrained in their DNA. To consider anything else is unthinkable.
But is there any other field of science, medicine or higher learning that refuses to inquire beyond a 2000 year old text. Would you go to a doctor who only used techniques from 2000 years ago? That would not only be ridiculous, but dangerous, and no doctor would ever consider it.
Are some of the ancient techniques valid? Of course. It’s self-evident we’ve come a long way in our knowledge and understanding and every self-respecting doctor wants to keep up on the latest techniques and treatments.
But when it comes to ‘believers’, the Bible is it, lock, stock and barrel. There is nothing more to be said and they will spend their lives going over every word trying to understand what God wants them to do.
I don’t want to be rude, but doesn’t that sound pretty ignorant?
THE GOOD NEWS
And then Jesus came along with his Good News.
If you ask most Christians what ‘Good News’ is, they’ll say it’s that Jesus died on the cross as the final sacrifice and rose from the dead, thereby atoning for the sins of mankind. The ‘Good News’ says that man doesn’t have to sacrifice anything anymore or even worry about his sins because Jesus has paid the debt.
After all Jesus tried to teach us, I’ve often wondered why people would still hold to this Old Testament model of redemption, ie: blood sacrifice to atone for sins. At its core, this is ‘Old News’ wrapped up in a simpler package. It has nothing to do with what Jesus was talking about.
Jesus stated the ‘Good News’ very simply;
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
And finally, the only commandment Jesus ever gave;
“…that you love each other as I have loved you.”311
That’s it. Period. Love. That’s all you need. That’s the ‘Good News’. Just love
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Who Was Abraham and Why Does He Matter?
Israel, Benjamin and Rachel’s Tomb
Altars and the Ark of the Covenant
Tattoos, Tassels and a Rebellious Son
Rape and Other Ways Women Got Screwed
Taking the Promised Land – Part 1
Taking the Promised Land – Part 2
Josiah and the Book of the Law
Judgment, Redemption and Forgiveness
What Did Jesus Actually Teach?
The Mustard Seed Mat 13:31-33; Mk 4:30-32; Lk 13:18-21
The Hidden Treasure Matthew 13:44-46
The Lost Sheep Matthew 18:12-14
The Unforgiving Servant Matthew 18:23-35
The Workers In The Vineyard Matthew 20:1-16
The Evil Tenants Matthew 21:33-41
The Wedding Banquet Matthew 22:1-14
The Ten Virgins Matthew 25:1-13
The Seed and the Soil Mark 4:26-29
The Good Samaritan Luke 10:30-37
The Wedding Feast Luke 14:7-11
The Prodigal Son Luke 15:11-32
The Day of Pentecost and Beyond
How Did We Get Here From There?
SIN, REPENTANCE, ATONEMENT & CHRIST
1 I’ve read it five times cover to cover, four different versions; three more times minus the prophets (they’re boring), and numerous ‘partials’
2Although I am a licensed Religious Science Practitioner for Centers for Spiritual Living.
3 I was 22 at the time of this revelation.
4 I’ve heard that’s common in revelations like mine, the ‘surrender’ thing.
5 Although I had no idea what He (or It) was.
6 If the “he” thing bugs you, it does me too. Read on.
7 Seeking what? The meaning of life; the nature of God; things like that.
8 How pretentious.
9 Jerry Falwell and Hal Lindsey were big at the time.
10 He didn’t really say it out loud. I heard it in my heart.
11 And three more times but I skipped the prophets…repetitive and too depressing in my opinion.
12 It was eye opening. I recommend it if you really want to know what Mormons are all about.
13 However you define it.
14 But have since used the internet extensively.
15 Not all of it. I’ve still got plenty left that’s not included here.
16 Without having to read the whole thing yourself.
17 They used to call this BC, ‘Before Christ’ but in an act of political correctness it’s now called BCE, ‘Before the Common Era’.
18 Traditional Biblical timeline puts Adam and Eve a little over 6,000 years ago. We fix this error in our discussion of Genesis.
19 …and a point of contention among many traditionalists.
20 How a Jew born in Babylon would become the preeminent authority on a Law he had no record of is a big question in itself.
21 A lot had changed in 150 years.
22 These 70 scribes were known as ‘The Great Assembly,’
23 Who knows, maybe he invented it
24 That temple got destroyed more than once
25 Common Era…used to be called A.D. (after death). See footnote about B.C.E. if you must.
26 Paul is the father of Christianity.
27 Much of the New Testament is letters written by Paul giving instruction on how to live your life.
28 Interestingly there are numerous versions of the ‘official’ New Testament; Catholic, King James, Coptic, etc.
29 ‘The Lost Books of the Bible’, ‘The Gospel of Thomas’, ‘The Gospel of Mary’, ‘The Gospel of Judas’ to name a few.
30 Notably as what we call the Dead Sea scrolls
31 Someone who interprets the Bible literally.
32 Or being ‘believable’ as ‘having the quality of being believed’
33 In the Old Testament Abraham was a really big deal
34 And the fact that it’s been literally beaten into the Western Civilization mindset for several thousand years
36 Cutting down the cherry tree; having wooden teeth; throwing a coin across the Potomac River.
38 That’s the ‘Good News’ Jesus was talking about
39 My mom was one of them
40 As John Lennon said, “Whatever gets you through the night”
41 So did Jesus. Read on
42 I’m cringing
43 Just after the Stone Age
44 At least on that part of the planet.
45 Leviticus 11:25 & 28, Leviticus 11:40, Leviticus 12:6 & 14:34, Leviticus 14:47
46 Your guess is as good as mine
47 You know what I mean
48 Leviticus 15:13, Leviticus 15:7-12, Leviticus 15:18-27, Leviticus 17:15
49 Gross; Leviticus 11:32, Leviticus 15:7-12
50 But there was a lot of sacrificing involved
51 Leviticus 14:35-45
52 Deuteronomy 23:11-14 With over 2 million people out there, that’s a lot of pooh.
53 Like social distancing in a pandemic.
54 Actually, if you read carefully, there are two versions laid out one after the other. More on that later.
56 Bible Mystery and Bible Meaning; by Thomas Troward
Old Testament (Metaphysical) Interpretation; by Charles Fillmore
57 John 1:4-5
58 For the 3rd version John 1:1-5
66 Where would God go to the bathroom anyway?
67 And they need a shave and a haircut.
68 Although sometimes it feels like we’re doing our best to destroy each other and ourselves.
69 In the second version
70 Which, by the way, was very pleasing
71 Why would he let Satan be Satan anytime, anywhere?
72 Even Jesus says, “Which of you, your child having asked for bread, would give him a stone?”
73 And who was there to document it anyway?
74 Hence, the ‘thou shalt die’ thing
75 Catholics and Mormons to begin with
76 For the animals
77 But a lot of people believe it word for word.
78 Angels maybe?
79 Genesis 6:2-4
80 Conspiracy theorists, unite!
81 I guess they could swim
82 Genesis 7:2
84 Genesis 9:20
85 It’s no coincidence that the Israelites, many years later, conquered the Land of Canaan
86 Family groups
87 Even though he was Abraham’s sole heir.
88 Like Las Vegas and Henderson, NV
89 Although nobody ever says it.
90 And possibly had a run-in or two
91 Literalists will invariably link the town name, Sodom with anal sex and say they were all a bunch of perverts who needed to go. The Bible makes no reference to that.
92 Or did she just go back and get burned up in the firestorm
93 I paraphrase here
94 Genesis 12:11-20
95 But for some reason, not Esau.
96 Jacob’s cousin.
97 And in some places, still is.
98 If you’ve ever seen ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ you’ll get the picture.
100 The ever-present trap of literal translation.
101 Though they might have had help from all of Jacob’s men-servants. It doesn’t say so, but it’s possible.
102 Modern day Israel and more
103 See “Documentary hypothesis”
104 Except Benjamin since he was second favorite.
105 In the Old Testament, the Middle East is basically the whole world
106 And hide him from her dad
107 Nobody put 2 and 2 together and wondered why a lactating Jew would just happen to be right where abandoned Jewish baby was found
108 The Aramaic language is full of exaggeration and symbolism and many linguists believe it represents Moses grappling with a moral dilemma, much like Jacob wrestling with an angel or Jonah in the belly of the fish.
110 https://time.com/5561441/passover-10-plagues-real-history/ https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/7530678/Biblical-plagues-really-happened-say-scientists.html
111 In a burning bush.
112 Remember Abraham, Lot, the angels and Sodom and Gomorrah
113 Exodus 4:14
114 Exodus 12:37 says about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children came up out of Egypt. According to most scholars we can assume each of these men had at least a mother and/or father, a wife and/or children, etc. So we can conservatively estimate each of these guys to represent four people.
115 Exodus 12:42 Another example of this story being written after the fact when it mentions,”… this night is a night of watching kept throughout the generations.”
116 There’s a phrase used here which is worth mentioning as it will come into play later on. Moses says, “It shall be as a mark on your hand and shall be as a frontlet between your eyes.” This phrase is used several times in the Bible (Exodus 13:16 Deuteronomy 6:8 Revelation 13:16-17) and is often interpreted to mean some sort of actual mark, like a tattoo or birthmark or something – ‘the mark
117 See “Documentary Thesis”
118 Unless, like we’ve seen before, it’s really two versions of the same story. Don’t get me started.
119Henceforth known as the Levites
120Bible pounders never mention this
121 The Code of Hammurabi being one of the main ones.
122 More evidence to support the Documentary Hypothesis.
123 The Good News.
124 The Levites
125 Deut 21:18-21
126 I just love that
127 There’s poor Cannan getting dragged down again.
128 Numbers 5:11-31
130 And most other religions
131 Depending on your proclivity
132 Most literalists hate taking things in context
133 Forty years is an Aramaic idiom meaning ‘a long time’. References to ‘forty’ does not literally refer to a specific number.
134 Exodus 12:37 says about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children came up out of Egypt. According to most scholars we can assume each of these men had at least a mother and/or father, a wife and/or children, etc. So we can conservatively estimate each of these guys represent four people.
135 See ‘Teachings of Jesus – Chapter 10’
136 The Zondervan Parallel New Testament in Greek and English
137 The Zondervan Parallel New Testament in Greek and English
138 The Zondervan Parallel New Testament in Greek and English
139 Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
141 Forgeonline.org March 21, 2019 Ed Oxford “Has ‘Homosexual’ Always Been In The Bible?”
142 Forgeonline.org – March 21, 2019 Ed Oxford “Has ‘Homosexual’ Always Been In The Bible?”
146 Forgeonline.org – March 21, 2019 Ed Oxford “Has ‘Homosexual’ Always Been In The Bible?”
148 https://allthatsinteresting.com/pederasty By Katie Serena Published Dec 7, 2017 Updated Feb 12, 2018
150 Google NAMBLA or Gabriel Matzneff for starters
152 Law of Attraction 101
153 It might help if you look at a map or, better yet, Google it.
155 A long time, not literally 40 years
156 His words, not mine
157 Apparently still holding a grudge after the golden calf fiasco
158 Canaan bites the dust again.
159 Men, women, children and often the animals
160 Numbers 22:38
161 Did I mention stiff necked people
162 See Documentary Hypothesis
163 Poor Canaan
164 I’m paraphrasing here
165 Sounds to me like another example of Aramaic exaggeration; kind of like when we say, “The enemy melted before us”, they didn’t actually melt, right.
166 Remember, no work (or killing) on the seventh day
167 See Documentary Hypothesis
168 Joshua 10:13
169 Joshua 10:27
170 Judges 13
171 A donkey
172 Another Messiah
173 Makes me wonder where the Philistines came from. Didn’t they kill everybody?
174 Another Messiah
176 A guitar-like instrument
177 If you’re old enough to know who Nolan Ryan was
178 See ‘Documentary hypothesis’
179 There’s that word again
181 2 Samuel 23:39. If you believe David didn’t know Bathsheba was Uriah’s wife I have some land in Florida I’d like to sell you
182 By another mother
183 From the same mother.
184 A lot of anointing going on. A messiah (later referred to as ‘Christ’) isn’t really the big thing it’s touted to be.
185 Not to mention stamina.
186 Stiff necked?
187 Imagine that.
188 The not naked lady on the roof
189 Kind of like Aladdin.
190 Talk about a libido.
191 Which nobody did; see Documentary Hypothesis
192 Somehow the overlooked the big gold box.
193 2 Kings 23:25
194 On parchment
195 Stone tablets
196 See the Forward and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Documentary_hypothesis
197 I thought the Assyrians took it all
198 Where it had been since the time of Josia is anybody’s guess
199 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ezra; See Documentary Hypothesis (again)
200 See the ‘Documentary Hypothesis’
201 Basically God sacrificed his first born son which, if you’ll remember, he specifically nixed back in Moses’ time.
202 And apparently still is.
204 It’s not like they had GPS.
206 Or they just made it up to fulfill a supposed prophecy
207 Without the help of a star
209 Luke 2:41-52
210 Psalms 82:6-7
211 Matthew 25:40
212 The language Jesus actually spoke
213 Science of Mind Magazine, Oct 2020, The Language of Jesus, Rocco Errico
214 “…believes him.”
215 Matthew 25:40
216 The pro-virgin birthers prevailed at the Council of Nicaea
217 Isaiah 45:1
218 And chose Barabas, a notorious revolutionary, instead
219 The true ‘Good News’
220 The Day of Pentecost…see the section on Christianity for details.
221 If you read the whole chapter it talks about a righteous new leader rising up.
223 Most likely at the Council of Nicea
224 Zachariah 9:9
225 After all, he arranged the whole show. Mark 11:1-11
227 The same word can be interpreted as ‘pierced’ or ‘dug at’……refer to footnote above
228 Exodus 13: 12-15, Numbers 18:15-16
229 John 14:12
230 Google it
231 Lk 23:6
232 John 19:18
233 Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus by Joseph Atwill
234 Actually he re-declared it
235 Matthew 18: 21-22
236 Luke 17:20-21
237 Matthew 7:24; Luke 6:47-49:
238 John 5:24; John 8:51; John 12:49-50
239 John 13:34; Matthew 22:37-40
240 John 15:12
241 It can be disheartening to see people who proclaim the ‘Good New’ while clinging to the Old Testament.
242 Matthew 23:23-24; Luke 20:46-47
243 John 2:12-22
244 Mark 2:27
245 A custom mentioned nowhere else, anywhere, ever
246 And by extension, most of the world.
247 Matthew 4:4
248 John 14:12
249 Matthew 4:17; Matthew 6: 9-10; Matthew 12:25-26
250 Matthew 6:11; Matthew 6:13 Matthew 6:25-34; Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 12:22-34
251 Matthew 5:21-22; Matthew 5:27-30; Matthew 8:5-13; Matthew 15:22-28; Matthew 17:20; Mark 11:22-25; Luke 11:5-8; Matthew 13:53-58; Mark 6:1-6; Luke 11:9-13
252 Matthew 7:15-27 Matthew 12:33-37; Luke 6:43-45
253 Matthew .5:31-32; Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 9:42-50
254 Matthew 5:23-26; Matthew 15:11; Matthew 15:17-20; Mark 7:14-23; Matthew 9:13; John 5:19-27
255 Matthew 5:3-12; Luke 6: 20-22; Luke 6:24-26; Matthew 5:33-36; Matthew 7:1-6
256 Luke 17:3-4; Matthew 18:21-22; Matthew 6:12; Matthew 6:14-15
257 Matthew 6:19-21; Matthew 10:39; Matthew 16: 26; Luke 6:39-42; Mark 10:2-12; Mark 12:35-37; Matthew 10:40-42
258 Matthew 6:1-4; Matthew 6:16-18; Matthew 18:3-6; Matthew 23:1-12; Mark 10:13-15; Luke 18:16-17
259 Matthew 7:13-14; Matthew 10:34-38; Matthew 24:34; Mark 12:19-27; Luke 4:1-12
260 Matthew 6:5-8; Luke 11:1-4
261 Matthew 23:23-24; Matthew 7:12-14; Luke 6:27-31; Luke 6:32-36; Luke 6:37-38; Luke 6:46-49
262 Matthew 6:22-24; Matthew 5:13; Matthew 5:14-16; Matthew 5:38-48; Matthew 22:34–40; Mark 12:28–34; Luke 10:27; Luke 11:28; Luke 11:33-36; John 15:12; John 13:34
263 Matthew 22:37-40
264 Matthew 13:34
265 Taken metaphorically, all of the stories in the Gospels can be taken as parables but since they are not presented as such I’m going to just stick to the ones Jesus specifically told his followers
266 If you don’t know already, go to the Forward to see what I really mean when I say “God”.
267 John the Baptist.
268 The actual virgin part is optional.
269 Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18; John 15:2
270 Not literally taken away. Nobody’s taking anything, you’re just losing it
271 Remember the Levites?
272 Or said another way; How Universal Spirit knows only unconditional love and desires nothing more and provides every opportunity for its creation to enjoy all the fruits this life has to offer.
273 Forty days, there’s the number again.
274 I always wondered why he didn’t go for broke and just walk into the temple and blow their minds.Also, there were no independent witnesses so we have to take the disciples word for it.
275 This is where the ‘speaking in tongues’ thing comes from.
276 See the Prodigal Son in the section on the Parables.
277 I always thought it strange how they’d come up with the ‘Jesus Christ’ moniker so quickly.
278 Modern day Turkey
279 Remember the priestly connection? Chances are better than even he was at one time training to be a priest.
280 Except his actual disciples who stayed put.
281 Acts 9:18
282 I always find it interesting that people almost immediately after his death began to call him ‘Jesus Christ’, like Christ was his last name. Shouldn’t it be more like “Jesus, the Christed one” or something like that?
283 Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
284 Contrary to popular belief, none of Jesus’ original apostles wrote any of the New Testament books.
285 Original sin; whatever that is
286 No more sacrificing goats
287 Reminds me of the loyalty tests the Old Testament God constantly demanded.
288 I’ve often wondered why we have to believe the sacrifice took place. Why should it matter? If someone pays off my house do I really have to ‘believe’ it? It’s done anyway, right? Asking for a friend
289 Especially in Rome.
290 Just like the Old Testament.
291 And maybe to Jesus himself.
292 Think Knute Rockney or Martin Luther King, Jr..
293 I’m going to write off the speaking in tongues to common Aramaic exaggeration and embellishment.
294 There’s a scene in Monty Python’s movie, “The Life of Brian”, that illustrates this brilliantly.
295 Matthew 13:13. That’s a significant fact in and of itself.
297 Or Jonah in the belly of a fish, for that matter
298 Having had such an epiphany myself I can totally see how that could happen.
299 At least in that part of the world.
300 Matthew 7:12, John 13:34, Hillel the Elder
301 Matthew 11:30
302 Romans 2:15
303 Christ is the Greek word for messiah.
304 Galatians 1:15-16
305 Figuratively obviously.
306 Depending on your version; the Catholic Bible is different from the Baptist Bible, etc.
307 Thanks to archaeologists all over the world many of these writings have resurfaced for your perusal.
308 Deuteronomy 12:29-32
310Rocco A. Errico, Th.D., Ph.D; Science of Mind Magazine, Vol 95, No. 10; Oct 2022, pg 101