Thursday, June 17, 2010

285: Jesus Will Return... 2000 Years Ago

Matthew 24-25
"I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened." - Matthew 24:34

All of chapter 24 is about the "end of the age" (aka Jesus's return). Jesus spends a long time making sure we don't fall for any "false Christs" before his actual return. He says many false Christs will come before him and perform great miracles. If these "false" Christs can perform great miracles then what is "false" about them? Jesus says the true sign will be when flies down from heaven, angels blow trumpets, the "elected" are gathered from "the four winds" (what?), and the abomination that causes desolation is in the holy place (again, what?). This has to be the most vague prophecy I've ever heard.

As if this isn't all crazy enough already, Jesus drops a bombshell. "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened." So all of these prophecies about Jesus's return were supposed to have happened in the writer's generation?Then what are all these Christians waiting around for? Either all this has already happened, or the prophecy is bullshit. If there's some other interpretation of this passage, I can't find it.

Jesus spends the rest of the chapter explaining how this prophecy will be fulfilled when people least expect it. This all seems pretty irrelevant now, considering he's talking about something that happened 2000 years ago (or didn't happen at all). Even if we throw out Jesus saying all this will happen in his generation, this passage makes people that try to put a date on the end of the world seem silly. They're putting a date on something that the prophecy deliverer himself says can't be dated.

The next parable is about ten virgins. Five of the virgins are "foolish", and five are "wise". The stupid virgins decide not to put oil in their lamps, the smart ones do. They are all waiting around for the bridegroom to come, but he takes forever and they all fall asleep. At midnight, the bridegroom arrives. By this time, the stupid virgin's lamps have gone out. They beg the smart virgins for oil, but they tell the stupid virgins to go to the market and buy some.

By the time the stupid virgins get back from the market, the bridegroom has already taken the five smart virgins to the wedding banquet. When the stupid virgins beg to be let into the banquet, the bridegroom says "I don't know you". And this is all a huge metaphor for God (the bridegroom) and humanity (the virgins). We're all supposed to have our oil lamps full, because we never know when the bridegroom (God) is going to come. Hopefully God doesn't take advantage of us after getting drunk at the wedding banquet. I think I just took the metaphor too far.

The next parable is about a man with three servants. He gives one servant five talents, the next servant two talents, and the final servant one talent. The first servant uses his five talents to gain five more. Likewise, the second servant uses his two talents to gain two more. However, the last servant buries his talent so he doesn't lose it.

Upon the master's return, he praises the first two servants for doubling their money. When he gets to the last servant he calls him wicked, and gives his talent to the man with ten talents. This is a metaphor for the end of times. He who has more will be given even more, and he who has less will be thrown into hell (why?). It's settled, God is a Republican.

The last part of the chapter is about sheep (good people) and goats (bad people). At the end of days people will be divided into sheep and goats. Jesus will tell the sheep they are blessed because they fed him when he was hungry and gave him water when he was thirsty. The righteous sheep answer that they don't know what he's talking about, because they never fed him or gave him drink (maybe they should have just said "you're welcome"). Jesus says that if they feed the least of his brothers they have fed him.

The goats, on the other hand, Jesus will send to hell for not feeding him. The goats ask when they ever refused to feed him. Jesus responds by saying that if they refuse to feed a stranger they refuse to feed Jesus. Eternal torment seems a bit harsh for not feeding one stranger.

Even some Christians recognize that Jesus isn't all roses and butterflies:
Go into most churches, and you’ll rarely hear a sermon about the firm, confrontational, and courageous side of Jesus’ personality. Churches sing about “The Old Rugged Cross,” but preachers and teachers seldom mention the rugged side of the Savior. For many women, this is not a problem because…let’s be honest…the rougher side of Jesus can make women uncomfortable and even lead to an occasional cringe.
The churches are hiding Jesus's true identity so they don't make the women uncomfortable? I must secretly have gender identity issues, because a lot of Jesus's actions make me cringe. The writer goes on to list a few of Jesus's "rough side" moments. Then he continues being a misogynist:
Far too often, when women come to these passages in the Bible, they just skip over them or try to explain away the stronger side of Jesus. They rationalize, “Jesus wasn’t really angry in the temple courts. No way. He was calm and amazingly detached as he swung that whip around.” They read in the NIV Bible translation that Jesus rebuked Peter with a stern “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me” (Matthew 26:23), and somehow their NGB (Nice Girl Bible) translation turns that into “Jesus got a little annoyed with Peter and tactfully suggested that it would be best for Peter to give him some space to regroup and have a little ‘me time.’”
Turn the word "women" into "Christians" and this article will not only be more accurate, but considerably less douchey. I'm not sure why only Christian women are getting blamed for this gross misrepresentation of Jesus. Unless all the Christian guys I know are really cross dressing woman.
Fortunately, Jesus Christ doesn’t need damage control or help from an image consultant. As presented in the Gospels, Jesus is most definitely not one-sided. He is the complete embodiment of healthy, balanced human personality; thus, Jesus is immensely compassionate, kind, and gracious while also being assertive, forceful, and firm when necessary. He is good, but he’s definitely not “nice” or as safe as many Christians want to believe.
Clearly Jesus does need image control. I say this because (as this article says) Jesus's image is controlled by the vast majority of churches. Would Jesus be as well liked if people fully accepted that he calls random women "dogs" and kills fig trees because they don't please him? I certainly like him less.

If this article has taught me anything, it's that the writer needs to take a long look at his calendar. It's 2010, not 1910. It's time to stop blaming women for Christianity's problems. It's also time to stop implying that women somehow can't handle any type of violence. There are women in the army, there are women that are doctors, and nurses, and all the other "manly" professions where they might see violence. Your gender stereotypes are just as bad as racial or religious stereotypes, get over them.


  1. "It's settled, God is a Republican."

    Hey, you ripped off my comment on Matthew 13:12.

  2. The prophecy-thing and apocalyptic-thing are long-lingering viruses in the religious mindset. What better way to keep up the mania and the conversions than to keep the public fixated on what might happen 'soon'? Unfortunately, it's still in practice today. When will the next stock-drop hit? When will the housing market collapse? When will Jesus come? The answer is always 'soon'...

    As to the parable with the talents, I never took this to be a story of the end of days. It's a pithy and trite explanation of what to do with what you are given in life. The servants are given unequal amounts and for no justifiable reason either. Sounds like life. The master doesn't really give any explanation on how to use the money, or instruction on how to make it grow, but expects something at some time in the future. Sounds like life. The one with the most money made the most money. Not exactly fair. Sounds like life. But the master did praise both productive servants, and scolded the unimaginative servant. The master then gives the one talent to the first servant. That's proper portfolio management.

    Play the cards you're given. Don't complain that the game's rigged or that you weren't taught the rules (or how to bend the rules). Suck it up, work yer ass off when an opportunity comes along, and live through it.

  3. Doesn't that also fly in the face of the whole camel and eye of a needle thing?

    In fact I have a huge problem with the "you have to be poor" to get into Heaven thing. It doesn't say how poor you need to be. If everyone went around giving their money to the poor, wouldn't the poor not be, well, poor anymore? So by giving our money to the poor, aren't we making it harder to get into Heaven? Sounds like a pretty crappy thing to do.

    Oh wait, NONE of it makes sense unless you believe it to begin with. Yes, it's all very clear to me now.


  4. Matt 24:1-35. While this is depicted as a warning from Jesus to his followers, and thus was a prediction that the world would end in their lifetimes, there are a number of indications that this was not actually spoken by him but rather fashioned by later Christians and then put in his mouth. The most obvious sign of this is Matt 24:15 "let the reader understand" - how could Jesus have said that?!

    In Matt 24:28-33 Jesus lists various clues that will signal the coming of the end, but then he says that the Son of Man will come when you least expect it. How can that be if all those signs had already occurred?

    Matt 24:36:"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." So Jesus is saying here that even he doesn't know when the world will end. Moreover, he is unmistakeably ruling out the idea that he is God.

    Matt 25:1-13 is curious in that it doesn't merely make the point that no one knows when the end will come, but it actually presumes a situation where the end has not arrived when expected and vigilance is waning. This is clearly not due to Jesus, but from a later time when the end that he predicted had not come about.

    Matt 25:27. Jesus endorses collecting interest on a loan. So why did Christians during the Middle Ages think that this was usury? It's also not clear why the master should be angry at the servant who didn't risk his money. The text says that he was given the one talent for safekeeping, so why should he be angry that the servant decided not to gamble with it? Was inflation really high in Judea at that time?



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