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Showing posts with label #Difficulties. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Difficulties. Show all posts

07 November 2018

The bible’s not a biology textbook!

Not that this stops young-earth creationists from trying to derive their “science” from it.

Leviticus 11.13-19 • Deuteronomy 14.11-18 • Jonah 1.17 • Matthew 12.40

During a talk with a fellow Christian, we went off on a bit of a tangent.

ME. “…Like when Jonah got swallowed by the whale…”
HE. “Sea creature.”
ME. “Whale. How’re you getting ‘sea creature’ from kítus?
HE. “From what?”
HE.Kítus. The Greek word for ‘whale.’ The word Jesus used when he talked about Jonah being in the whale’s belly three days and nights. Mt 12.40 It’s the word we get our adjective ‘cetacean’ from, which refers to whales, dolphins, porpoises, and other marine mammals.”
HE. [confused; betcha he didn’t expect me to know what I was talking about] “But Jonah said he was swallowed by a great fish.” Jh 1.17
ME. “Sure.”
HE. “Well a whale’s not a fish.”
ME. “Not anymore. It was a fish in Jesus’s day.”
HE. “Whales used to be fish…?”
HE. “Yep. No, they didn’t once have gills then evolve lungs. They used to be fish because the ancients classified them as fish: If it lives in the sea it’s a fish. Then somebody realized some of these fishes have lungs, and decided if you have lungs you’re not a fish, and humanity redefined ‘fish.’ Well, the bible’s still using the old definition. So whales, in the bible, are still big fish.”
HE. [still confused] “But whales aren’t fish.”
ME. “Aren’t fish now. Were fish back in Jesus and Jonah’s day.”
HE. “So are you saying the bible’s wrong, or we are?”
ME. “Neither. The bible doesn’t define fish; it explains God. We define fish. You remember Adam got to name the animals. Ge 2.19-20 We get to decide what’s called a fish and what’s not. And if we update the words, we gotta update our bible translations. Problem is, sometimes we update ’em wrong and make the bible look inconsistent. It’s not. It’s just a quirk of language.”

Turns out his confusion came from the fact his updated bible translation changed the wrong word. It took Jesus’s kítos—which still means “whale” in modern Greek!—and rendered it thisaway:

Matthew 12.40 NIV
“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

Which isn’t an entirely illegitimate translation. To Jesus’s mind (at the time) a whale was a huge fish. But if we wanna be precise, he said kítus/“whale.” Whenever there appears to be a bible difficulty, the NIV is notorious for changing the text till it’s not so difficult anymore.

Problem is, people aren’t always gonna read an NIV bible. Plenty of people still read the KJV. All those Gideon bibles in the hotel rooms still read “whale’s belly,” and people are still gonna read ’em. And maybe wonder why Jesus thought a marine mammal was a fish. If you don’t know your history, you won’t know why it was totally okay for Jesus to think that.

05 October 2018

How does one answer a fool?

Well, Solomon had two suggestions.

Proverbs 26.4-5

Whenever someone claims the bible never, ever contradicts itself, I like to take ’em to this pair of proverbs.

Proverbs 26.4-5 KWL
4 Don’t respond to a fool’s foolishness, lest you be compared to them.
5 Respond to a fool’s foolishness, lest they become wise in their own eyes.

Thing is, whenever I do this, the person immediately attempts to explain how they don’t contradict one another. Oh, they’ll do a terrible job of it. It’ll get ridiculous and illogical. But they do try.

Because at some point in their past, they heard the bible never contradicts itself. They liked the idea. So they made it a core belief: One of the things which defines their Christianity, which defines their trust in the bible, is this ground-floor idea it never contradicts itself. Shake that belief and now they gotta rethink their belief system from the ground up.

But there’s something in human nature where it’s just easier to go into full-on denial: “No it doesn’t contradict itself, and here’s why…” Instead of deal with the problem, they’d rather pretend it isn’t there.

Except it is. And it’s gonna bug them. And it’s either gonna unravel their Christianity, and even their trust in God; or it’s gonna kill their faith altogether, and they’re gonna pretend they trust God, but they no longer do.

Or, which is wisest, they’re gonna deal with the contradiction. ’Cause the editor of Proverbs put these two proverbs of Solomon right next to one another for a reason. And the reason is really simple: Depending on the circumstances, sometimes we follow verse 4, and sometimes verse 5.

Yep. The editor was trying to teach us situational ethics. Something a number of Christians insist isn’t a biblical idea; insist it’s even antithetical to the sort of absolute truth in the bible. Well, it’s not. And it’s probably a good idea to start doubting those absolutists, ’cause not everything they claim to be absolute, is. They’re way too quick to build their houses on sand.

13 August 2018

Stick together.

If we could only grasp how much of them there are.

Ephesians 4.1-16

Now that God’s provided his adoptive kids with his superabundant riches, it’s time for us to live like his kids. So here’s the part of Ephesians where Paul moves away from the salvation theology, and gets into how we Christians are supposed to behave towards one another. We’ve been predestined for God’s kingdom; now let’s walk like inheritors of his kingdom.

Paul especially emphasized the unity we oughta see among Christians, who are after all sharing the same Master.

Ephesians 4.1-6 KWL
1 So I, the captive in the Master, encourage you to walk the calling you were called to,
appropriately: 2 With all humility and gentleness.
With patience, putting up with one another in love.
3 Eager to defend the Spirit’s unity, in peace’s joint captivity: 4 One body. One Spirit.
Just as you were also called in one hope of your calling.
5 One Master. One faith. One baptism. 6 One God,
and Father of everyone, over everyone, and in everyone.

Most of the time preachers apply this to Christians who are members, or regulars, of the same church. We’re supposed to love our fellow church members, be patient with them, live in unity with them. Which is true; we should. But that’s not at all the idea Paul had in mind.

Multiple denominations of Christians wouldn’t exist for another two centuries or so, and it’s likely Paul never expected them to ever exist. Even though multiple denominations in the Hebrew religion existed—Pharisees and Sadducees and Samaritans—the early Christians didn’t expect the body of Christ to be likewise fragmented. It’s a violation of Jesus’s will, y’know. Jn 17.20-23

So when Paul wrote this, it applied not just to Christians who shared a church body, but every Christian everywhere: We’re to put up with any and every fellow Christian, no matter what their stripe, whether we fellowship in the same congregation or not. Every denomination and theology. We’re to encourage unity with all of them, because that’s what Jesus wants. Because all of us do have one body, one Spirit, one Master, one faith, one baptism, and one God.

True, you get certain Christians who insist we can’t interact with certain churches. Because they insist they get to define orthodoxy, and if you’re not orthodox enough for them you’re not a true Christian. I would say otherwise: Only Jesus gets to define who’s his and who’s not, and when Jesus told us how to identify true followers, true teachers, and true prophets, he didn’t tell us to look for orthodoxy; he told us to look for fruit. Fruity Christians have the Holy Spirit in them, so they belong to Jesus. Fruitless Christians, no matter how orthodox their beliefs, aren’t obeying Jesus, and aren’t really his.

And y’notice Paul mentioned a few of the Spirit’s fruits in the above passage: Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Love. Peace. If you can’t be bothered to try these things, of course your church isn’t gonna hold together. Or interact with other churches. Or interact with anybody; you’ll turn into one of those isolationist cults who only come out in public to wave “God Hates Fags” signs. You’ll think you’re the only ones going to heaven, ’cause the rest of “Christendom” can’t possibly. And it’s gonna suck to be you when you finally stand before Jesus.

31 July 2018

No one has ever seen God. Except 74 ancient Hebrews.

John’s theology versus Moses’s experience.

Exodus 24.9-11 • John 1.18 • 1 John 4.12-13

Most of the reason we Christians are pretty sure John bar Zavdi wrote both the gospel with his name on it, and the letters with his name on them, is ’cause the same ideas and themes (and wording, and vocabulary) come up in them. Including today’s bible difficulty, the idea nobody’s ever seen God. John wrote it in both his gospel and his first letter.

John 1.18 KWL
Nobody’s ever seen God.
The only Son, God who’s in the Father’s womb, he explains God.
1 John 4.12-13 KWL
12 No one’s ever seen God, yet when we love one another, God’s with us.
His love’s been expressed in us, 13 so this is how we get to know we’re with him and he’s with us.
He’s given us his Spirit.

The reason it’s a difficulty? Because people have seen God. In Exodus 24, we have this interesting little story:

Exodus 24.9-11 KWL
9 Moses, Aaron, Nadáv, Avíhu, and 70 of Israel’s elders,
went up 10 and saw Israel’s God:
Under his feet was something like a manufactured sapphire pavement,
pure as the skies themselves.
11 As for the Israeli nobles, God didn’t strike them down:
They saw God, and they ate and drank.

Wait, what?

Yeah, nobody bothers to read their Old Testament, so it stands to reason they’d utterly miss this one. Or any of the other God-appearances in the scriptures.

In the OT, on a regular basis, humans freak out when there’s a chance they might see God. Jg 13.22 ’Cause a rumor was going round that if they did see God, they’d die. God’s pure, holy awesomeness would consume them like a volcano taking out stupid tourists. Although you do get the occasional dark Christian claim that God would be unreasonably pissed about it, and destroy them for daring to approach his majesty. Pretty sure that second idea only reflects their twisted secret wishes about how they’d like subordinates to approach them. God’s cool with his kids approaching him. Ep 3.12, He 4.16 But I digress.

Yeah, it was a rumor. And sometimes rumors are true. The LORD himself warned Moses he’d only get to see God’s back, because his front was much too much for the prophet.

Exodus 33.20 KWL
God said, “You aren’t able to see my face.
For a human cannot see me and live.”

And yet we have this story in the middle of Exodus, where apparently 74 people saw God, had lunch with him, and lived to tell of it.

And it’s not the only instance! Abraham had lunch with God too. Ge 18.1-7 Well, more like served him lunch. Isaiah and Ezekiel saw God on his throne. Jeremiah even experienced God touching him. Jr 1.9

Whenever I point out this rather vast discrepancy, Christians flinch, then usually respond one of two ways. Either they dismiss the passages where people got to see God, or they dismiss the passages where seeing God would get you struck down. The authors of the bible must not really have meant what the text clearly says.

18 August 2017

Bible “difficulties”: The passages which won’t do as we want.

Usually we mean scriptures which appear to contradict other scriptures.

Whenever you hear Christians refer to “bible difficulties,” you’d think we meant scriptures which’re hard to translate, hard to interpret, hard to understand, or hard to follow. Often we do. Certainly I do.

But why do Christians consider these scriptures difficult? Three reasons.

  1. We believe the bible contains no errors—but these passages appear to be in error, or appear to contradict other scriptures. Like Jesus’s two different genealogies.
  2. We have certain beliefs, doctrines, traditions, or assumptions—and these passages appear to violate them. Like Christians who don’t wash feet, Jn 13.14 or Christian men who don’t kiss one another hello. Ro 16.16 We don’t wanna say these passages don’t apply anymore… but honestly, we don’t wanna follow ’em either.
  3. These passages actually are obscure, and Christians throughout history (and Jews too) have found ’em hard to interpret.

The most common reason would be the first one: Discrepancies. Scriptures which appear to contradict other scriptures… or reality itself.

Nearly every Fundamentalist insists the bible has no such contradictions. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: “Have these guys ever read the bible?” Tried to line up the resurrection stories, or Jesus’s aforementioned genealogies?

Plus several orthodox Christian teachings—based on bible, I remind you—are kinda contradictory as well. Like how God’s kingdom is here, yet not yet here; like how God is one yet three. Fundies know all this stuff, but regardless: One of their fundamentals, one of their non-negotiable beliefs, is that the bible has no errors. Contradictions would be errors; therefore no contradictions.

Hence Fundamentalists have written big giant books about bible difficulties. In which they try to explain away any discrepancies, plus any other problem scriptures, as best they can. Sometimes reasonably, ’cause these passages only look like discrepancies but aren’t really. Other times Fundies really stretch reality in order to defend their doctrine.

02 November 2015

Jesus’s two genealogies.

Which happens to be a big fat bible discrepancy many Christians skim over.

Matthew 1.1-17 • Luke 3.23-38

Most Christians are aware Jesus has two genealogies.

These aren’t genealogies the way we do ’em. We do family trees: We include ancestors from all sides of the family, fathers and mothers both. Often we include aunts, uncles, and cousins; if we’re not particular about blood relations we’ll even include step-parents. Our family trees can get big and complicated.

Hebrew genealogies don’t. They turn into trees downward, when they’re listing one person’s descendants, as you can see from the first chapters of 1 Chronicles. But when they’re listing ancestors, they’re straight lines: You, your father, your father’s father, that grandfather’s father, that great-grandfather’s father, and so on back.

Thing is, Jesus has two of these lists. In Matthew 1, it’s a list of ancestors from Abraham to Joseph. And in Luke 4, it’s a list of male ancestors backwards, from Joseph to Adam to God. And they don’t match.

Parts do. But a whole lot of it doesn’t. I’ll let you read it. My translation. In Matthew I dropped the repetitive, superfluous instances of “begat”; in Luke all the “son of” (Aramaic bar) statements. You know their relationships.

Matthew 1.1-17
1 The book of the genesis of Messiah Jesus,
bar David, bar Abraham.
2 Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.
Jacob: Judah and his brothers.
3 Judah: Pérech and Zérakh by Tamar.
Pérech, Hechrón, 4 Ram,
Amminadáv, Nakhshón, Salmón.
5 Salmón: Boaz by Rahab.
Boaz: Obed by Ruth.
Obed, 6 Jesse, King David.
David: Solomon through Uriah’s woman.
7 Solomon, Rekhavám, Aviyáh,
8 Asáf, Yehošafát, Yorám,
9 Uzíyahu, Yotám, Akház,
10 Hezekiah, Manashéh, Amón, Josiah.
11 Josiah: Yekhonyáhu and his brothers during the Babylonian exile.
12 After the Babylonian exile: Yekhonyáhu.
Yekhonyáhu, Shaltiél, 13 Zerubbabel,
Avihúd, Elyakím, 14 Azúr,
Chadók, Yakhín, 15 Elikhúd,
Eleázar, Matdan, Jacob.
16 Jacob: Joseph, Mary’s man.
From her was born Jesus, who’s called Messiah.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David: 14 generations.
From David to the Babylonian exile: 14 generations.
From the Babylonian exile to Messiah: 14 generations.
Luke 3.23-38 KWL
23 Jesus himself was starting round his 30th year.
He was presumed the son of Joseph bar Ili—
24 bar Maddát, Leví, Malkhí, Yannaí, Joseph,
25 Mattityáhu, Amos, Nahum, Heslí, Naggaí,
26 Mákhat, Mattityáhu, Shimí, Yoshí, Yodáh,
27 Yochanán, Reishá, Zerubbabel, Shaltiél, Nerí,
28 Malkhí, Adí, Kosám, Elmadán, Er,
29 Yeshúa, Eleázar, Yorím, Mattát, Leví,
30 Shimón, Judah, Joseph, Jonám, Elyakím,
31 Maláh, Manáh, Mattatáh, Nathan, David,
32 Jesse, Obed, Boaz, Sheláh, Nakhshón,
33 Amminadáv, Admín, Arní, Hechrón, Pérech, Judah,
34 Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Térakh, Nakhór,
35 Serúg, Reú, Péleg, Éver, Sheláh,
36 Keïnán, Arfakhšád, Shem, Noah, Lémekh,
37 Metušelákh, Enoch, Yéred, Mahalalél, Keïnán,
38 Enósh, Šet, Adam, God.