Sunday, July 25, 2010

323: Jailbreak

Acts 16-17
"Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped." - Acts 16:26-27

We're still following Paul today (even though he split from Barnabas). He is now traveling with Silas. They come upon a Greek city and find a fellow follower of Jesus named Timothy. Paul wanted to take Timothy along with them, so he had him circumcised. The bible implies that this circumcision is for the benefit of the Jews in the area.

Theres a couple of things wrong with this. First, we just went over yesterday how it was supposed to be ok to be uncircumcised (indeed Paul is supposed to be delivering this message). What would illustrate this better than going around the country with an uncircumcised guy in toe? Second, who's going to know the difference? Does everyone in ancient times walk around with their penis on display?

All three of them come to the border of an area called Mysia (in modern day Turkey). When they try to cross the border to Bithynia the "Spirit of Jesus" (is this the Holy Spirit or something different?) would not let them enter. Did this spirit put up some physical barricade?

They then decide to go the other way. In the night Paul dreams that someone from Macedonia is calling for his help. The next day they are on a boat to Macedonia. When they arrive, they are met by believers, who they spend the night with.

On their way to a place of prayer, they are met by a slave girl with the gift of prophecy. She starts following them around saying, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." She follows them around for several days saying this, until Paul gets fed up with her. He turns around and says, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" Couldn't he just tell her to go away?

Her owners (who were making money off of her prophecies) are angry at Paul and have him locked up. I thought the Holy Spirit was supposed to give you the gift of prophecy, now apparently it can take it away. Paul and Silas (where did Timothy go?) are locked up for taking away her ability to prophecy.

At midnight, while they are in jail, there is a great earthquake and all the prison doors fly open and everyones chains fall off. I didn't realize that earthquakes somehow picked locks without harming the people in the locks. None of the prisoners are feeling very frisky and decide to stay in their jail cells (?). The jailer sees that all the doors are open, and draws his sword to kill himself because he thinks his prisoners have escaped. I thought Seppuku was only for Samurai.

Paul tells the jailer to stop trying to kill himself because everyone is still in their cell. The jailer then has some kind of religious experience and comes to ask Paul and Silas what he needs to do to be saved. Paul tells him all about Jesus and the jailer is immediately converted. This entire story seems suspiciously like bullshit. Especially since this story is a second hand account of a later retelling.

The bullshit continues with Paul and Silas going to this jailers house. When the morning comes the magistrate sends a message to the jailer telling him to release Paul and Silas. Why would they release them now? Paul and Silas demand that the magistrates escort them out of town, because they are Roman citizens and they were beaten without being charged. The magistrates are apparently surprised that they are Roman citizens and agree to escort them out of town.

They then end up in Thessalonica where they are chased out of town by a mob of angry Jews (as usual). They then go to Berea, where they have better luck converting. That is until the Jews of Thessalonica hear that they've started preaching there. Paul runs out of town (before he can be chased out by the usual mob of angry Jews) to Athens.

In Athens Paul finds a variety of different "false" idols. He even finds an altar with an inscription written, "to an unknown God", which I find rather amusing. Paul only finds a few converts among the Athenians. They seem especially skeptical of the various resurrections Paul talks about.

We've got some interesting mental gymnastics today:
As the consciousness revolution hots up, it's becoming pretty clear that what's really holy about the Holy Bible is the person reading it. We may imbue the book with holiness, but surely, isn't it even more valuable to see it as a mirror in which our soul is reflected? Isn't the Bible about us? About God's purpose for us? How he created us as an expression of himself? How we lost awareness of our divine nature? And how we can restore it?
I'll largely agree with this besides the "soul reflection" bit. I would certainly agree that the readers of the bible are the ones imbuing it with it's holiness. If not for them it would be a badly written, generally disturbing work of mostly fiction.
Take Genesis. Let's face it, we know for sure that
  • The universe was not created in seven days;
  • Man is not made from dust;
  • Serpents do not hold conversations with naked ladies.
Orthodox doctrine maintains that everything must be taken literally and that the Bible is a full, final, immutable transcription of God's Word -- mess with it at your peril!
If you can't take something as blatant as "a woman talked to a snake" literally, then what can you take literally? We know for sure that people can't prophecy, and that people can't heal other people with magic touch. So every miracle of Jesus was a metaphor? We also know that, in recorded medical history, nobody has ever come back from the dead after three days. I declare it all a metaphor!
As told in the story of Jacob, God may want us to struggle with his teachings in order to receive enlightenment. My working hypothesis is that God leaves us clues. Scripture is poetry that speaks through our minds to our souls. Perhaps our spiritual evolution occurs as we use these clues as a catalyst for looking within ourselves for meaning and truth. This would be fully consistent with the first commandment, "Have no other gods before me." He may be saying, "I, God, am within you. I am your true self. Don't look out there and worship symbols or you'll get lost. Use the symbols to go deeper inside."
Oh, that's what it means. And all this time I though it meant "Have no other gods before me". It's so clear that it really means that God wants you to search the bible for hidden clues about what God really means by (metaphorically) killing millions of people and generally being a douchebag.
Take Genesis again. The Bible offers us three versions of the creation story: Genesis 1, Genesis 2, and John 1. Why? Maybe this is a clue, a pointer?

Perhaps the anomalies are the portals to the hidden meaning. If John says it is "the Word" that is the causative factor in creation, why is it not mentioned in Genesis 1? Maybe it is. Maybe 6,000 years before John came along, they used a different word for the same thing? That's hardly heresy, is it? So where does Genesis 1 tally with John?
Oh. My. God. "The word". That's that segment on the Colbert Report. Stephen Colbert started as a correspondent on the Daily Show. The Daily Show is the reason I know about Viacom. Viacom also owns BET. BET, black, first black President, Obama! Obama is the Word! The Word is Jesus, Obama is Jesus! Is that it? Did I get the right hidden meaning?
Throughout Genesis 1, the expression "the waters" is used seven times, culminating in verse 20: "And God said, 'Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life ... '"

Could the missing word for "Word" in Genesis be "waters"? In Genesis 2, "the waters" as a creative force has morphed into the river that "went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became four heads." The four forces of the universe, perhaps? Imagine that: has Genesis been telling us all along what science is now discovering?

Could these metaphors be God's inscrutable way of telling us who we are and why we're here?
Dammit, God was really telling us to go along with science, not that Obama is Jesus. Incidentally, my logic wasn't any more or less convoluted than his, so I claim we're both equally right. But the symbolism goes on:
John 1 gives us more clues, "And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." Here, "light" and "darkness" are not physical electromagnetic light energies; they are obviously symbols for awareness and ignorance, respectively!

As we step past the miasma of the mind and move into our holy consciousness, it sheds light on verse 1. What if "heaven and earth" is not the universe but us, who we really are? The dual elements of consciousness? The spiritual touching the physical, like Da Vinci's "Creation of Adam"? Our purpose here, then, is God's simply stated purpose:

"Let there be light."
Wait, so when did God create light if he was talking about metaphorical enlightenment? For once I think someone has made a contradiction in the bible where there isn't one. John says "in the beginning was the Word". I'm told that "the Word" is Jesus (John says this a lot too). That doesn't mean that God didn't use literal words (e.g. "let there be light") in the beginning. It's just trying to imply that Jesus was also there.

This is a bit of a tangent. But I once had someone try to explain to me how Jesus and God were one at the beginning of time. Apparently they were some type of super being until Jesus was crucified. Then they were torn apart forever (except not really, because they're still one being). I'm not sure what the obsession is with making God and Jesus one being. Monotheism isn't worth these sorts of mental gymnastics.


  1. It is pointless to comment any of the holy books because they are full of historical, factual and other contradictions. I suppose that here you mention Paul of Tars who was a histeric and challenged in every way. You are aware that Jesus (the idea of him) never said or wrote anything known to the man and that Bible is a centuries long fabrication. We should accept it like any other Red Riding Hood story. No point in analyzing it and trying to prove the believers that is a book of nonsense.

  2. Acts 16:1. If Timothy's mother was a Jew, then so was he. Why wasn't he circumcised already. Actually, this story of the circumcision may have been based on that of Paul's companion Titus in Galations.

    Acts 16:4. The letter was only addressed to "Antioch, Cilicia, and Syria" (even though Antioch was in Syria). Why is Paul reading it to all these towns in Phrygia and Galatia (such as Lystra and Iconium)? What happened to all the hostility of the Jews in these places? Why aren't they stoning Paul?

    Acts 16:10. Notice the sudden shift to the 1st person plural. Did the writer join Paul without mentioning it? This is one of the so-called we-passages.No one is really sure why "we" crops up here and there during Paul's journeys, but it seems to be connected to sea voyages and may be either a travelogue or a literary device.

    Acts 16:17. The girl's shouting is reminiscent of the demoniac in Mark 1 and is probably modeled on it. Note that Paul wants her to shut up, but he isn't the least bit concerned about the fact that she is a slave.

    Acts 16:20-21. It was only made unlawful under Roman law for Jews to proselytize under Domitian in the late 1st c., much later than this story.

    Acts 16:25-26. Paul continues his game of one-upmanship with Peter. Now they've both escaped from prison.



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