Monday, June 7, 2010

275: Jesus Christ

Matthew 1-4
"This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit." - Matthew 1:18

The first chapter of Matthew goes through a long line of genealogy, linking Abraham to David, and David to Joseph (the "father" of Jesus). Of course, the fallacy in this is that, if you believe the bible's story, Jesus is not the real son of Joseph. What's the point of linking David to Joseph if Joseph isn't the real father?

Next, the bible describes how Mary was pledged to marry Joseph, but she became pregnant with the Holy Spirit. I don't have any idea what this "holy spirit" business is, the bible has never mentioned it before. I'll ignore the obvious possibility that Mary had sex and didn't want to tell anyone. Isn't this adultery in any case? God somehow had to contribute those 23 chromosomes, that sounds a lot like sex to me. I guess his own rules don't apply to him.

Joseph decides to be a nice guy, and not kill his future wife for committing adultery (which he has every right to do under biblical law). Instead he plans to quietly divorce her (but they aren't married yet, I don't know how that works). However, an angel comes to him in a dream, and tells him the child is of the Holy Spirit. Does this mean the dream I had about having a million dollars is also real? Should I check the bank?

The bible goes on to say that this was all to fulfill the prophecy that reads as follows: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel". Joseph, who is apparently terrible with names, names his son Jesus. So Jesus almost fulfills the prophecy, close enough.

In chapter 2, Jesus is born in Bethlehem. No manger is mentioned. An unknown number of Magi (not three) come to visit Jesus. They do give him gold, incense, and myrrh. The king at the time (Herod), it turns out, had sent the Magi to figure out where Jesus was. Upon finding Jesus, they are supposed to return to Herod and tell him where Jesus is so he can "go and worship him".

The Magi are warned in a dream not to return to Herod, so they take another way home. In yet another dream, Joseph is warned to flee with his family to Egypt. They do. Soon after, Herod figures out that the Magi aren't going to tell him where Jesus is.

Herod then decides that he should kill all the children under 2 years old in Bethlehem. What happened to wanting to go and worship Jesus? Now you want to kill him? A safe assumption would be that he was attempting to deceive the Magi, but the bible doesn't say that (I can sense the Christians trying to read between the lines). After Herod's death, Joseph's family goes back to Israel. This time they settle in Nazareth.

The entirety of chapter 3 is about John the Baptist. John's clothes, the bible says, are made of camel hair, and he has a leather belt. The only thing he eats are desert locusts and wild honey. In other words, if you imagine the creepiest looking guy you can think of, that's probably John the Baptist.

Somehow the people of Israel know that he's out in the desert, and think that he is specially qualified to baptize all of them. The Pharisees (who are apparently nasty people) come to John to be baptized. He does baptize them, but warns that soon there will be one that will baptize them with the Holy Spirit, and with fire.

John the Baptist is apparently so famous that Jesus himself comes to be baptized by him. Where has Jesus been since he was a baby? John, who apparently also knows about Jesus, says that Jesus should be baptizing him, not the other way around. Jesus says that it is proper to do it this way to fulfill all righteousness. Whatever the hell that means.

The moment Jesus is baptized, the sky splits open and Jesus sees the Holy Spirit descending on him. A voice says "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

The majority of chapter 4 is about the temptation of Jesus. Satan is back. My complaint from yesterday still seems valid, Satan just doesn't seem that bad. Jesus is lead by the Holy Spirit into the desert to be tempted by Satan. Again, it seems that God has to approve of any bad thing Satan does.

Satan tells Jesus that if he is the son of God, he should be able to turn stones into bread. Jesus says that men don't live on bread alone, but the word of God. Ok, that's a lame excuse for not turning stones into bread. Hasn't Jesus heard of "Just say no".

Next Satan tells Jesus to throw himself off a cliff, because if he is the son of God, angels will save him. Jesus says that it is written that he shouldn't test God. Well that's convenient. I can make gold bars appear out of thin air... Just don't test me on it.

Finally, Satan shows Jesus all the lands of Israel and says that if only Jesus will bow down and worship him, he will give him all of it. Finally, Jesus tells Satan to (I'm paraphrasing here) fuck off. Surprisingly, Satan leaves without protest. For being the father of all evil, he seems pretty cooperative.

The chapter ends with Jesus beginning to preach, and collecting his first disciples. News about Jesus spreads throughout the land and people start coming to him to be healed.

*News*
Helen Thomas has resigned (read been fired) for statements against Israel. It was about time for Helen Thomas to retire anyway.

She was fired for saying that the Israelites should "get the hell out of Palestine", and go home (to Germany, Poland, America, etc.). I have mixed feelings about this. Mike Huckabee, on the other hand, does not. In fact, he says the Israelites are home, because the bible says so.


Transcript:
There was a little bit of a lame apology given by Helen Thomas, but it was pretty lame. Her comments were outrageous, anti-Semitic, racist, indefensible. She says that the Jews ought to go home. Helen, they are home. They are home. Read Genesis 15, Exodus 23, Numbers 34, that’s why they are where they are. Helen, I’ve got a suggestion, maybe it’s time for you to go home.
Excuse me? The Jews should live in Israel because a 2000+ year old book says so? I guess that means we should all go back to the land that our distant ancestors lived on. Sorry Huckabee, that means back to Europe with you. We have to give the Indians back their land.

I don't think for a moment that Helen meant her comments to be anti-Semitic, or racist. The Israelites seem, to me, to be a violent oppressor. I think if the Israelites left Palestine there would be an immediate decline in violence. Is that anti-Semitic? I think not. Telling them to "go home" to Germany, Poland, or the U.S. was a little silly, however.

Let's, for a moment, disregard the zoning laws of an ancient book. The current land division between Palestine and Israel has been in effect for over 60 years now. This is enough time for 2+ generations of people to have been born and grown up under the current law. It's time for the Israelites to stay in Israel, and the Palestinians to stay in Palestine. I don't think the Israelites could "go home" to where their great grandparents lived before WWII any more than I believe the Palestinians can go live elsewhere in the middle east.

The past is the past. It doesn't matter if the Israelites took the land of Israel 3000 years ago, or even that what is now "Israel" was all Palestine 60 years ago. A new page in history has been turned. It's time for peace.

3 comments:

  1. Matt 1:
    In order to get 3 sets of 14 generations from Abraham to Jesus, Matthew has to get a little creative with his counting: He counts David twice, but not any of the others, since there are only 41 generations on his list.

    And to get those 14 generations between David and the exile, Matthew had to leave out some names, namely, he has Jehoram as the father of Uzziah, when in reality he was his great grandfather (the omitted names are Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah (cf. 1 Chronicles 3, keeping in mind that Uzziah is the same person as Azariah). He also skips a generation (Jehoiakim) between Josiah and Jehoiachin (=Jeconiah), and he has Zerubbabel descended from Shealtiel (from Ezra and Haggai) rather than from his brother Pedaiah (as in 1 Chron 3).

    There are many places in the OT where David's offspring is predicted to be the future messiah, and the same is true in a few places for Solomon and Zerubbabel (cf. Hagg 2:23), but Matthew must've missed that part (Jer 22:30) where God explicitly states that none of the offspring of Jeconiah will ever sit on the throne of David. Oops.

    Since Mary and Joseph weren't married yet, it wouldn't be adultery. Moreover, since the only way the anybody knew that the father was the Holy Spigot was from Joseph's dream, how would we know that he didn't just imagine it. Or maybe he made up the story just so that he could marry Mary without being ridiculed, or as a rationalization to himself.

    The whole part about the virgin birth and naming the kid Immanuel (derived from the name El of one God, whereas Jesus comes from the name of another, Yahweh) comes from Isa 7:14 (Matthew even admits as much). Yet Is 7:14 is explicitly a prophesy about events that will take place before the Assyrian invasion, hundreds of years earlier. Also, the word "virgin" in Isa 7:14 is found only in the Greek Septuagint version of the OT; the word in Hebrew just means young woman.

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  2. Matt 2:

    The idea that Jesus was born in Bethlehem was due to Mic 5:2, and also the general idea that the messiah would be in the line of David.

    The magi must've employed astrology to make deductions based upon the position of a star, but then the OT endorses this pseudo-science as well. This story also parallels that of Nimrod, who becomes aware of the birth of Abraham through the interpretation of a star by astrologers. The magi "follow" the star to Jerusalem because that is where the Jewish king (Herod) lives; apparently they weren't cognizant of Mic 5:2, but Herod's scribes were.

    Why does Herod inquire as to the exact time they saw the star? It says in verse 16 so that he would know up until what age to murder all the children in Bethlehem. But he originally sends the magi to Bethlehem to report on the identity and location of the child, and he is furious when they don't return, so why did he ask about the time, since it didn't seem that he would need that information. Moreover, it would've been much simpler to either detain the magi in Jerusalem (or send them in a different direction), while secretly sending out spies to Bethlehem to find the child, or Herod could've just sent an escort along with them. Why didn't he do this? Did God cloud his mind so that he didn't think of this, and thus spare Jesus while needlessly slaughtering innocent children? Finally, the slaughtering of the children story (not reported in any historical account of Herod) is a direct copy of the story of Pharaoh trying to kill the infant Moses, in particular, the version that appears in Josephus' Antiquities.

    The star then leads the magi to a particular dwelling. How could a star pick out a single house?

    The whole flight to Egypt part is based on the prophecy Hos 11:1 ("When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son."), but the prophecy is clearly about Israel, the metaphoric son of God, not an individual. Like with the name Immanuel, Matthew is really reaching here with his prophecies. He does the same with Jer 31:15, randomly applying a quote that referred to an event hundreds of years earlier.

    Then, in order to get Jesus to Nazareth (where he was known to hail from), Matthew pulls an unknown prophecy about him being a Nazorean (not Nazarene, as it is often mis-transcribed) out of thin air.

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  3. Matt 3:

    Here we once again have a passage seemingly constructed almost entirely from random verses in the OT, in particular, Mal 3:1, Mal 4:1, Mal 4:5, Isa 40:3. The description of John the Baptist's clothes is also obviously suggestive of Elijah (cf. 2 Kings 1:8). Once again Matthew twists a prophecy (Isa 40:3) into a different meaning (it originally referred to God, not the messiah, and the voice is not said to be in the desert).

    Why was Jesus baptized for repentance? What had he done wrong? And how did John know who he was?

    Matt 3:17 is another pastiche of OT quotes, cobbled together from Ps. 2:7, Isa. 42.1, and Gen. 22:12. Can't God think of anything original to say? As we'll see later, Jesus suffers from this problem, too. Note also that here God is addressing the entire crowd. So word would've gotten out that he was the Son of God.

    Matt 4:

    Another story cribbed from the OT, this time the 40 days in the desert fasting (cf. Exod 34:28, Deut 9:9, Deut 18, 1 Kings 19:8), not to mention all the quotes Jesus and Satan throw back at each other.

    How did Satan whisk Jesus to the top of the temple in Jerusalem from the desert, and then later to the top of the mountain? Teleportation? And from what mountain can one see the entire earth? Does Matthew think the world was flat?

    Why does everyone call him the Son of God when he was quite clearly the love child of the Holy Spirit? And it seems pretty evident from Matt 1:20 that this Spirit is distinct from God.

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