Friday, July 23, 2010

321: God, Still Killing People

Acts 11-13
"Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died." - Acts 12:23

Chapter 11 starts with Peter explaining to the early church why he gave the Holy Spirit to the gentiles. Why does he need to explain himself? Didn't Jesus make it pretty clear that he wanted Christians to spread the word to everyone (i.e. not just Jews)?

The chapter goes on to tell about the Christian church spreading to Antioch (a Greek city). Barnabas and Saul are the head of this offshoot church. This story doesn't seem to have much significance other than to tell us that the church is spreading to Greece. In this story we see one of the very few times (three, if my googling is correct) that the followers of Jesus are actually referred to as "Christians".

Chapter 12 is all about Herod arresting members of the church. He first arrests, and executes, James. He then arrests Peter, presumably planning to do the same thing. However, the church earnestly prays for him (were they not earnestly praying for James?) and the night before his trial an angel comes and breaks him out of jail. When Peter meets back up with the disciples, he immediately tells them to go tell James of his miraculous release. Does he mean the James that just died? This constant use of first names only is getting old.

On a bit of a tangent, the disciples seem to have lost their concern for having twelve disciples. James dies and they make no move to replace him. I guess if you're a good person and die, it must have been God's will.

The chapter ends with Herod giving a speech to the people of Tyre and Sidon. After he gives this speech they all shout, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man". Immediately after this, Herod is killed by an angel of God for not properly praising the Lord. Of all the things Herod could have been killed by God for (namely, killing disciples and taking part in the execution of Jesus depending on which gospel you read), he was executed for not correcting a rowdy crowd?

Anyway, I thought Godly killings were supposed to be over. It's the New Testament after all. Of course, I have little biblical evidence for this claim. But it seems that any Christian you ask will claim that God just sits around playing with kittens in the New Testament.

In chapter 13 we're back to Saul and Barnabas. This time the Holy Spirit sends them off to Cyprus. While they're on the island they meet a sorcerer/false prophet. Saul, who the bible says is also referred to as Paul, looks this sorcerer straight in the eyes and says, "You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right!" This sorcerer is going to be immediately executed by an angel, right? After all, "child of the devil" is surely worse than someone who fails to properly acknowledge God. Wrong. This sorcerer is just blinded.

The remainder of the chapter is just more converting by the disciples. This is a lot of stuff we've already heard, including the repeated assertion that Jesus was hung from a tree. At the end of this conversion attempt, the bible says that, "all who were appointed for eternal life believed". This would again imply that God has preselected the people that he's going to allow to believe, and thus allow into heaven.

Are the tea partiers following the bible? They seem to be the only ones that think so:
That's what some progressive Christian leaders are arguing as battle lines are drawn for the 2010 mid-term elections. They say Beck and his Tea Party followers are, in a word, unbiblical.

Not so fast, say Tea Party activists, who claim biblical grounds for a libertarian-minded Jesus. He didn't like tax-based welfare programs, they say, and encouraged his followers to donate from the heart.
First of all, I'm 99.9% sure that Jesus had no opinion on tax-based welfare programs. I also don't recall him telling us to "donate from the heart" anywhere. He tells us to give to the needy (which tax based welfare programs would seem to do), and he mostly tells us to get rid of our money at all costs (forgive the pun). Remember, its easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into heaven. So, as a Christian, you're really encouraged to give for your own eternal welfare. That is, you should give for the primary purpose of not burning in hell.
Lloyd Marcus of Deltona, Fla., a spokesman for the Tea Party Express, is a born-again, nondenominational Christian who says flatly that "Jesus was not for socialism."

''Yes, the Bible advocates giving, but out of the goodness of our own hearts, not out of government confiscation of wealth or re-distribution of wealth," he said.
Jesus may not have been a fan of socialism or re-distribution of wealth. But there seems to be solid bible-based evidence that the early church was. Lets look at Acts 2 and 4:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. - Acts 2:44-45
Note, this doesn't say "they gave to the people when their heart called them to". It says they gave to anyone in need. Sounds a lot like a welfare system to me.
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. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales - Acts 4:32-34
First of all, they shared everything. That's redistribution of wealth taken to it's most extreme. Then, if anyone is needy, the people sell their houses and give them the money. What did these needy people do to deserve this money? They need to stop being lazy and get a job (note: this is not my opinion, I'm just channeling my inner tea partier). And remember what happens if you try to keep a little money from the sale of your house? That's right, Peter has you killed. Talk about "socialist nightmare".
"When Jesus talks about clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, he's talking to us as individuals," Farah said. The Bible does not "suggest that government is the institution that he designed to help the poor." Government social welfare programs are akin to "coercively taking money from people and redistributing to other people, which, at the end of the day, is legalized stealing," he said.
I'm beginning to wonder if these people have ever opened their bibles. This "coercively taking money from people and redistributing it to other people" is exactly what happened in the early church (see previous paragraph). Is this early church the utopia we're supposed to be aspiring to, or the socialist nightmare that's going to end America?

I'll give the last word today to Michael Lindsay from Rice University:
"I would like to think that Christians are generous," he said, "but sadly the truth of the matter is that their rhetoric is much stronger than their action."


  1. Not only are you completely right about the early church practicing socialism, but Jesus urged that everyone should pay their taxes in full:

    Mark 12:14-17: They came to him and said, "Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn't we?"

    But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. "Why are you trying to trap me?" he asked. "Bring me a denarius and let me look at it." They brought the coin, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"
    "Caesar's," they replied.

    Then Jesus said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."

  2. Acts 11:3. The Jewish Xians are criticizing Peter with having eaten with Gentiles, but this was in response to them having heard that the Gentiles were converted. What do these 2 things have to do with each other? Why don't they to the conversion of the Gentiles, instead?

    Acts 11:14: "He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved." When did the angel say this? And when did Cornelius say that the angel said this?

    Acts 11:15. "As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them." Actually, Peter said a lot before the Holy Spirit creamed all over the Gentiles.

    Acts 11:16. Luke quoting Peter quoting Jesus quoting John the Baptist.

    Acts 11:18. When did Cornelius and the other Gentiles repent?

    So if Gentiles could now become Xians, did that mean that following the Law was unnecessary? And why doesn't anybody ask Peter about whether the Jewish Xians can now eat anything (except shellfish), since that was the theme of his vision, but dropped out of the conversation thereafter?

    Acts 11:20. Who were these men from Cyrene and Cyprus that beat Saul and Barnabas to the punch? Why don't we hear about the ones responsible for the first mission to the Gentiles?

    Acts 11:28. There was a famine over the entire Roman world during the reign of Claudius? From the British Isles all the way to the Middle East?

    Acts 12:3-4. Why did Herod have to wait for a public trial until after Passover, if Jesus could be tried and executed right after the feast?

    Acts 12:10. How did they pass the sentries standing guard? Were they invisible?

    Acts 12:15. Peter has a personal angel?

    Acts 12:17. Bryan, not that you could tell from Acts 12, but the James referred to here is supposedly Jesus' brother James. You know, the good-for-nothing who thought Jesus was crazy and wanted to see him killed.

    Acts 12:19. Why were these guards killed and not the ones who let Jesus escape from his tomb?

    Acts 12:21-23. This was modeled on Josephus' account in his Antiquities about how Agrippa I died. The story is very similar, except that in Josephus' telling (which was undoubtedly the correct version, since Josephus knew Agrippa's son personally), the King put on his robes, which were metallic and shown like the sun. This prompted the audience to say that he was a God. Instead of dying on the spot, he had a heart attack and died a few days later. Also, this occurred at the theater instead of his throne room. The biggest tipoff that the story was taken from Josephus is the detail about the robe in Acts 12:, which serves no function in Acts.

    Acts 12:23. Agrippa I was eaten by worms before he died?

  3. Acts 13

    Acts 13:6-10. A Jewish false prophet named "son of Jesus," who is also the son of the devil? The explanation of the name Elymas is confused, though - is Luke claiming that Elymas is the same name as Bar-Jesus, that Elymas means the same thing as Bar-Jesus, or that Bar-Jesus had 2 names, and the other one, Elymas, means magician? None of these possibilities makes sense or has any support in any known ancient language. Some manuscripts have Etoimos, which may be related to the magician Atomos in Josephus' Antiquities 20.142. (False prophet is also a term found in Josephus.)

    This story is also parallel to the conflict between Simon Magus and Peter in Acts 8. Many other such Peter and Paul will be observed in Acts.

    Acts 13:9. Saul starts being called Paul, for no apparent reason (other than that the Roman proconsul's name is also Paul). Was his name really originally Saul? It's not attested outside of Acts.

    Acts 13:19-20. The Greek actually says (Young's Literal Translation):

    "and having destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He did divide by lot to them their land. And after these things, about four hundred and fifty years, He gave judges -- till Samuel the prophet"

    As you can see, Paul says that the period between the conquest of Israel and Samuel was 450 years, which was not remotely correct. As usual, the NIV tries to cover for him (or Luke).

    Acts 13:25. Paul here says that John said this a the end of his career, but in the Gospels, particularly John, the work of Jesus and John overlapped.

    Acts 13:29. Once again Jesus is hung on a tree, instead of a cross. This is, what, the third or fourth time in Acts that somebody (not always the same person, but then that doesn't matter since Luke is writing all the speeches) says that Jesus was hung on a tree, whereas only twice has it been said that he was crucified, and both times by the Jews, at that. Moreover, Paul/Luke here says that Jesus was taken down from the tree and buried by the Jews (who were responsible for his death)!

    Acts 13:32-33: "What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children." No extant manuscript actually has this wording; the most common is " our children."

    Acts 13:33. "Raising up Jesus" can mean sending Jesus (as in "God raised up prophets for Israel").

    Psalm 2:7 is being used as a proof-text to show that Jesus became the Son of God upon his resurrection! This isn't the only time this has happened in Acts, either.

    Acts 13:38. "forgiveness of sins" is not a Pauline concept (it is not found in any of his letters), but it is a Lukan one, found in the speeches of Peter.

    Acts 13:41. This quotation from Hab 1:5 is from the Septuagint. The Hebrew has "among the nations" instead of "scoffers" (which is only a single letter change in Hebrew).

    Acts 13:42-43. Luke makes it appear that Paul and Barnabas left before the end of the service.

    Acts 13:44. First of all, where would there have been room for "almost the whole city"at the synagogue. Second, since Jews weren't a majority of the population, would the most of the Gentiles have attended, too?

    Acts 13:45-46,48. What can explain the sudden hostility of the Jews toward Paul? They invited him to speak, and were very positive toward him the previous week; how could the mere size of the crowd have bothered them?!

    And who was in those crowds, if not Jews. So are we to understand that Jews invited Paul to speak in front of them, and then the next week when he showed up, there was a crowd of Gentiles instead? But no, in verse 46 we see that Paul is speaking to Jews. And then how did the gentiles hear about this in verse 48? Were these the Gentiles who inexplicably showed up to the synagogue that week? Once again, Luke (and his readers) are hopelessly confused.

  4. Harumph. As a semi-libertarian is pains me to be associated with these uber-Christian tea party morons. I really wish free thinking was the norm.



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