Tuesday, July 20, 2010

318: Socialists!

Acts 4-6
"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had." - Acts 4:32

The day starts with Peter and John being taken before the Sanhedrin (the Jewish court). They are arrested for teaching that Jesus was resurrected. But when Peter speaks to the Sanhedrin he seems to think that he's being persecuted for healing the crippled man.

The Sanhedrin then, the bible says, feel outclassed. They tell Peter and John to leave so they can talk among themselves. Somehow we can still hear their conversation. The Jewish elders say that they cannot deny the miracles that the disciples have performed, but they need to stop this Jesus myth from spreading. I get the feeling that's not quite how the conversation went. It seems that Luke decided to fill in this gap with his own propaganda.

The Sanhedrin then calls the disciples back, threatens them, and tells them not to preach about Jesus. Then they let the disciples go. The disciples go back to their people and give them a speech about how they're not going to stop preaching about Jesus. In this speech they mention that both Pilate and Herod persecuted Jesus. This would seem to lend credence to the people that think Luke wrote this gospel. Considering Luke is the only one that mentions Jesus even coming before Herod.

Chapter 4 ends with a story about the early church. Luke says that, in this early Christian church, everyone shared all their possessions with each other. From time to time, people would sell their houses and give all the money they garnered from the sale to the disciples. The disciples were the one's in charge of distributing the money to the needy people.

First of all, it sounds a lot like this early church followed the basic tenants of Socialism. I wonder what Tea Partiers think of this "Socialist" bible. It's interesting that many Christians are so against this idea of Socialism that they're supposed to be aspiring to. Second, why is it that the disciples are getting filthy rich out of this whole setup? Shouldn't the people immediately distribute the money to poor people instead of first giving it to the disciples? After all, Jesus says sell your things and give the money to the poor, not sell your things and give the money to the disciples.

My objection turns to shock with the first story in chapter 5. Ananias and Sapphira (his wife) are two members of this early church. They are one of the families that sell their house and give the money to the disciples. However, Ananias, with his wife's knowledge, holds back some of the money from the disciples.

Peter somehow finds out about this and calls Ananias before him. He says that Satan has filled his heart, and he has lied to God. When Ananias hears this, he drops dead. Yes, you read that right. Peters servants then take his body outside and bury it.

Peter then calls Sapphira, who doesn't know that her husband has died. Peter asks her if the money that they gave him was the full price of their house. When she says yes, Peter asks her how she could have agreed to test the Holy Spirit. He tells her that the people who buried her husband are outside the door, and that they will take her too. She then, like her husband, drops dead. She is also taken outside and buried.

What the hell is this? This makes the early Christian church seem at least as bad as the worst of today's cults. Once you're in the church, if you don't give up all of your money, then you are ruthlessly killed. Why wouldn't Ananias and Sapphira just be kicked out of the church? Were they killed so that others may fear God? Indeed the bible says that these events struck fear into the early church. So nothing has changed since the Old Testament. The penalty for disobedience is still death. Except now, instead of just dying, you get to suffer eternal torture in hell. How does this God meet anyone's understanding of what is morally "good"?

The chapter continues with the disciples performing miracles. The bible says that people brought the sick into the streets so that Peter's shadow might be cast on them. I guess miraculous healing can be performed by merely casting shadows on people now. That's wonderfully inconsistent with anything we've heard thus far.

The Sanhedrin again arrest the disciples (this time all of them). During the night an angel comes and frees them from jail, and they begin preaching in public. Aren't I told all the time (with respect to illegal immigration) that good Christians are supposed to follow the laws of the land? In what way does the disciples breaking out of jail align with this?

The next morning the Sanhedrin assembles and they call for the jail to get the disciples. Someone tells them that they've broken out and are preaching in the temple courts. The Sanhedrin sends their guards to seize them, and the disciples don't put up much of a fight. In the end, breaking out of jail was a pointless stunt anyway.

The Sanhedrin tells the disciples that they were not to preach in Jesus's name. Peter, again, decides to give a long monologue. This is an interesting excerpt:
The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.
Wait, how was Jesus killed? He was killed by being hanged on a tree? I've got four gospels that tell me that Jesus carried (or had carried for him) a cross, with which he was crucified. I'd love to hear the mental gymnastics you have to do to make this fit. I supposed this is a metaphorical "tree" or some such other bullshit.

This monologue so infuriates the Sanhedrin that they want to have the disciples stoned. A Pharisee, however, orders that the disciples be put outside for awhile, while he talks to the Sanhedrin. Again, we are somehow privy to this conversation. This Pharisee explains that once the leader of a movement is killed, the movement eventually dies (just like the death of Martin Luther King destroyed the civil rights movement). I guess the idea of martyrdom hasn't occurred to these people yet. The Pharisee goes on to explain that the only way a movement can survive once it's leader is killed is if God is really in charge.

The Sanhedrin buys this, and sets the disciples free after a good flogging. The disciples (who are apparently a bunch of sadists) are grateful for this flogging, because they got to suffer in the name of Jesus. Whatever floats your boat.

Chapter 6 starts with a dispute between the Grecian Jews and the Hebraic Jews (whoever they are). The Hebraic Jews claim that their widows aren't getting a fair share of food. The disciples say that it wouldn't be fair to neglect the ministry to fairly distribute food, so they decide to choose seven people to be in charge (of food distribution?). I hope these seven turn out to be a little more than over hyped waiters.

One of these seven, Stephen, does miraculous signs among the people. Members of the Synagogue of Freedom (whoever they are) decide that they don't like him (for some unknown reason), and decide to give false testimony against him. They testify that he blasphemed against Moses and God. Stephen, like the disciples, are taken before the Sanhedrin, and the chapter ends. Tune in tomorrow for the shocking (or boring, I don't know) conclusion.

Can the bible be used as a counseling tool? Apparently this is a serious question:
“I’m not ashamed to tell you I’ve had years of counseling. I’ve been on four anti-depressants, three kinds of anti-anxiety prescriptions and a menu of meds for bipolar disorder. I’ve been suicidal at times and basically thought I’d never be happy.” That’s what Deborah, a 33-year-old wife and mom related after her life transformation courtesy of Dr. Greg Cynaumon, and his Unlocking The Bible’s Secrets to Happiness program. “I could have avoided years of pain and counseling and tens of thousands of dollars if I’d discovered this earlier in life,” she concluded.
Surely, because this program is based on the bible, he's going to give you this program for free. Or perhaps he will charge $2 (the approximate cost of 6 dvds, which the program comes on). Nope, if you want to participate, it's going to cost you $99.95 (plus shipping, of course). But maybe it's worth it, let's see what this program is going to do for you:
Look, I get that counseling is valuable and medication is absolutely beneficial – if not life-saving to many, many people. But if you’re depressed, anxious, stressed-out, can’t sleep, have a bad marriage, have difficulty setting boundaries and really aren’t at all sure what your bigger purpose for being here on this earth is - this program will change your life.
Yes, this will not only fix your depression, anxiety, and insomnia, but it will also fix your marriage! And if you believe that, I'm selling some high quality snake oil that you might be interested in.

Even if the bible can somehow miraculously cure you of your depression, you can get that for free at any church. And you'll probably get much more fellowship (which is what I would contend really cures depression) from a church than you would sitting at home by yourself, watching overpriced dvds. Of course, you can also get fellowship from your local atheist group. Then you won't have to try to be inspired by a book that promotes: killing people for not giving money to the church, sending bears to eat little children, and an assortment of other ghastly things.

(via PRWeb)


  1. You mean the disciples are a bunch of masochists, not sadists.

  2. Acts 4

    Acts 4:3. If they could hold Peter and John in jail overnight (or longer), why couldn't they have done the same with Jesus, instead of convening a trial in the middle of the night on the holiest night of the year?

    Acts 4:6: "Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest's family." The high priest at that time was Caiaphas, as most of the Gospels acknowledge. Annas was a former high priest, and Josephus at least was also in the habit of referring to former high priests by that title (as with U.S. Presidents), but Luke makes it seem as if Annas is the acting high priest.

  3. Acts 5-6

    Acts 5:1-11. This story begs so many questions:
    Wasn't the selling of land and donating the proceeds voluntary? It seems that it couldn't have been that common, since only 2 examples are noted, so shouldn't the apostles have been appreciative of what they could get? If the land was owned communally, how could it even have been Ananias and Sapphira's to sell in the first place? Since the selling of everybody's land didn't happen at once, but over time, with the owner's being able to control the timing of the sale, what would be the difference if Ananias had just sold a smaller portion of his land and gave the proceeds to the apostles? Why is it OK for someone to own land privately, but it is not OK to privately own the money that one could get from selling it?

    Why didn't Peter forgive the couple (as Jesus told him to do) or even offer them a chance to repent for murdering them? Peter is definitely violating Jesus' teachings and God's command.

    Why did the young men bury Ananias right away, without even informing his wife first? Why was the money still on the floor in the same spot at Peter's feet 3 hours later when Sapphira came calling? Why did she come to see Peter, except for the convenience of Luke's story?

  4. Acts 6

    Acts 6:7. If these figures are right, even in these early days of the religion, there were thousands of Xians in Jerusalem alone, including even (Jewish) priests. How could they have been persecuted so easily? Why is there no mention of them in 1st c. Jewish or Roman sources?

    Acts 6:9. Freedmen were slaves who had been freed, which was a common phenomenon in under Roman rule. Either that, or the synagogue was named after some people named Freedman, which is after all a common Jewish name.

  5. @Gmal

    Denied! You made my comment befoe me. Now I have to go and have a pout.

  6. Which point did you want to make?



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