Wednesday, July 14, 2010

312: Was Blind, but Now I see

John 9-10
" 'How then were your eyes opened?' they demanded. He replied, 'The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.' " - John 9:10-11

The entirety of chapter 9 is about Jesus healing a man that was blind from birth. When Jesus's disciples see the man, they ask who sinned (the man, or his parents) to make the man blind. Jesus says that none of them sinned (I thought everyone sinned), but this man was blinded so that "God might be displayed in his life". God blinded him from birth so that Jesus could eventually come along and heal him? That's like me punching someone in the face so I can show everyone how nice I am when I help them up.

Unfortunately, Jesus is having an off day magic wise. He has to go back to using his spit-healing technique. Instead of spitting directly on the mans face (as in Mark), Jesus spits in the dirt to make mud. He smears this mud into the man's eyes and tells him to wash the mud out in the "pool of Siloam". Upon washing his eyes out, the man can see perfectly.

The problem with this is that when people who are blind from birth get their sight (this has happened) there is a lengthy learning process for someone to actually see. Most people in this condition never learn to distinguish distances correctly because the part of the brain that registers sight is underdeveloped. The man in this story has his sight restored, and is walking around the next day distinguishing all sorts of objects. Unless Jesus also smeared some of that mud on the man's occipital lobe, imbuing him with years of experience and knowledge about what objects look like, this story doesn't make sense (as if it made sense anyway).

Jesus ends the chapter by telling the Pharisees they are spiritually blind. This kind of makes the healing the blind man story seem like a metaphor. I guess calling it a metaphor is only a little better than saying "John made it up".

The first part of chapter 10 is another rolling metaphor. Jesus can't seem to decide who he is in this metaphor. Jesus first compares humanity to a herd of sheep. The man who enters the front gate of the sheep pen, Jesus says, is the shepherd of these sheep. The man who jumps in the pen from some other way is a thief.

Jesus first says that, in this metaphor, he is the gate for the sheep pen. In that whoever enters through him is "saved". Wait, I thought the person who entered through the gate was the shepherd. Jesus then changes his mind and starts calling himself the shepherd (the person who entered through the gate). I think Jesus got lost in his own rambling metaphor.

The last part of chapter 10 starts with the people of Jerusalem asking Jesus to tell them plainly that he is the Christ (the Messiah). Jesus says that he's already told them, but they didn't listen because they're not his sheep. Who, then, are these sheeple Jesus is talking about (if not the Jews)? Jesus vaguely describes his sheep as the people who follow him. Only the people that are already following him can understand him saying that he is the Messiah?

Jesus then says "I and the Father are one". This is after referring to God as "my father" for the entire chapter. I'm forced (for the moment) to assume that Jesus isn't literally talking about he and God being one being. For this statement, the Jews decide to stone Jesus (for the third or fourth time in John).

Jesus stops them and asks them which one of his miracles he is being stoned for. The Jews respond by saying that they are stoning him for blasphemy, not for his miracles. Jesus says that they should use his miracles as evidence that the Father is "in" Jesus. The Jews don't buy it and commence the stoning. Jesus slips away (again), and goes across the Jordan to safety. The Jesus of the gospel of John seems to be a master of escape.

*News*
A congressional debate on immigration reform turned into a scriptural debate.
Most illegal migrants are coming "not for nefarious purposes," but to reconnect with family members or find work, he asserted. "Church teaching acknowledges and upholds the right of a nation to control its borders. (But) it is our view that the best way to secure our southern border is through (comprehensive) immigration reform." [Bishop Gerald Kicanas ]
Illegal immigrants are... humans, with families?! Surely not. Back me up, Texas Representative Lamar Smith:
But Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the Judiciary Committee's top Republican, repeatedly cited passages from the Bible in support of a stronger crackdown on illegal immigration.

"The Bible contains numerous passages that support the rule of law," he asserted. "The scriptures clearly indicate that God charges civil authorities
with preserving order, protecting citizens and punishing wrongdoers."
He seems to completely overlook the bible's definition of "wrongdoer". I have a range of different complaints with the bible, however, fairness in immigration is not one of them. The bible consistently (yes, the bible is actually consistent on something) teaches that you are to treat foreigners in your land with respect. It even goes so far as to say you are to leave portions of your crop exclusively for the poor and for foreigners.
Smith cited, among other things, Romans 13: "Let every person be subject to governing authorities."

He also noted a passage from Leviticus: "When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong." This, he contended, does not imply that "foreigners should disregard civil laws to enter (the country) or that we should overlook it when they do."
Oh, so when foreigners break your flawed immigration law, the bible doesn't apply? Then, I guess, we can do all sorts of wrong to them (like split up families, and deport people that have been here for years). I guess this Representative is only a biblical literalist up until the point that it hurts his political goals.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, argued that the government is fundamentally "a reflection of who we are," and that there should therefore be little distinction between individual and governmental roles.

"Focus on (the undocumented) families" at the center of the debate, he said. "Let's focus on the human beings."
There we go again, comparing illegal immigrants to humans. Yuck. Back me up, Iowa Representative Steve King:
"I didn't realize that the Bible barred the enforcement of immigration laws and neither did I realize that it erased borders, demanded pathways to citizenship for illegal immigrants, or ... forbid the leaders of a nation from caring most about the well-being of its own citizens."

King noted approvingly that "in the land of the Bible the leaders of today's Israel (have) built border fences to protect their citizens from terrorists or illegal job seekers alike."
Great, it's good to see that our Representatives are basing their foreign policy on the foreign policy of Israel (but that's for another post).

Let's back up a little bit. Why is this discussion happening at all? Why are congressman having a scriptural debate in the middle of a House subcommittee hearing? The opinion of the bible on immigration reform doesn't matter. It's a good thing our Representatives didn't consult the bible when ratifying the thirteenth amendment. The bible is overwhelming in it's support of slavery, but times have changed in the last (+/-) 4000 years.

(via CNN)

7 comments:

  1. Bryan,

    What makes you think the Bible wasn't discussed during the debates in Congress on the 13th Amendment? Here's an example:

    http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llcg&fileName=065/llcg065.db&recNum=448

    Note the upper right-hand column. Apparently Southerners (and some clergy in the North) did use the Bible to justify slavery. But none of them were in Congress to articulate this position, so we don't have a record of their arguments.

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  2. John 9

    John 9:2-3. First of all, what happened to original sin? Wouldn't everyone be sinners? Second, if blindness was not a punishment for sin, why does Jesus in John 5:14 tell the man that if he continues to sin something worse (than being an invalid) may happen to him?

    John 9:1-12. This is John's version of the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida from Mark 8:22-26 (Bryan, it's Mark, not Matthew, who has the primitive magic tricks). And if Jesus can magically cure blindness, presumably he can magically heal and/or train an optic nerve, too.

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  3. I stand corrected. It's interesting that whoever wrote this article acknowledges that Jesus doesn't ever prohibit slavery.

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  4. Mark/Matthew typo fixed.

    The point I was trying to make when mentioning the blind guy's brain is that the writer of John doesn't acknowledge it. Surely Jesus (or John if he was inspired by God) would know that if the man was blind from birth, then he would have to somehow repair his brain. Also, if he has to use mud to cure eyes (not very complex in comparison with a brain) surely he has to do something to transform the millions of neurons in the visual cortex.

    I realize healing a brain probably isn't any more absurd than healing a sick boy from miles away. I guess healing someone's brain without even mentioning it is just particularly bothersome to me.

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  5. It's not an article - it is a transcript from Senate debate on legislation, in this case, the 13th Amendment. The person who was speaking was Senator Johnson from Maryland.

    But yes, he basis his entire argument that Jesus was opposed to slavery on that fact that he advocated the Golden Rule, whereas he acknowledges that his opponents claim that the scriptures actually legally guarantee the existence of slavery. I must say that his opponents have the better argument - good thing no one rose to challenge him, or slavery may still be legal in the US.

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  6. John 10

    John 10:1-18. Another artificial monologue not connected to the context. As you correctly point out, Jesus switches from identifying himself with the gate to the shepherd. Actually, first he appears to be identifying with the shepherd, but he doesn't explicitly say it. Then, after the people don't understand (verse 9), he says "again" that he is the gate (even though this was not the point he was making before), but he's still confused, contrasting himself with the thieves and robbers who would more properly be juxtaposed with the shepherd. No wonder the people don't understand - Jesus doesn't seem to understand what he's saying either. Jesus never sates who these thieves and robbers are, and then adds superfluous hired hands and a watchman as well.

    Who are his sheep outside the pen? If his sheep are those who believe in him, then what is the distinction being made between those inside and those outside the pen? Or are Jesus' sheep only those who could POTENTIALLY believe in him, as if God has preselected those who could be or not be saved?

    John 10:17: "The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again." That is the reason? God wouldn't love him just because he was his son, or even just because God loves everybody? God sounds like a pretty harsh father.

    John 10:18: "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord." If so, then why did Jesus beg God to spare him from the crucifixion and then say, "not what I will, but what you will" (Mk 14:36)? It sounds as if it was God's idea, not Jesus'. Was Jesus afraid that he would be rejected by God if he did otherwise? Was Jesus coerced? (Note also that in the epistles Paul says that God sacrificed Jesus.)





    John 10:

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  7. I had a Bible professor that was convinced that, the time Jesus had to heal the same blind man twice ("Oh, the people look like treeeees") meant that Jesus was not only healing his eyes, but, the second time around, healing his brain, so that he could process what he was now seeing.
    Ah, apologetics...

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