Monday, August 23, 2010

352: Don't Crucify Jesus

Hebrews 1-6
"It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace." - Hebrews 6:4-6

Hebrews is another letter, and it's actually more than one day long. This time, finally, the letter is not written by Paul (or, attributed to Paul I should say). This letter seems to be solely dedicated to convincing the Jews that they can achieve salvation through Jesus.

The introduction has some strange revelations. The writer says that it was through Jesus God created the universe. And that Jesus is the "exact representation of his being".

First of all, why didn't we hear about Jesus in the book of Genesis, or anywhere else for that matter? One could argue (unconvincingly) that there are references to Jesus's eventual existence in the Old Testament. But there is certainly no mention that he already existed in the Old Testament times. You'd think the messiah being right there while God was creating the universe (or Jesus doing the creating himself) would at least be worth a mention.

Second, how is Jesus an exact representation of God's being? If this is meant to be a physical description, God is generally described as a ball of fire, or made out of metal. If this is meant to be a character description, Jesus seems to defy most of the Old Testament laws. How can God defy himself?

The rest of the first chapter is devoted to quoting scripture to convince the Hebrews that Jesus is superior to the angels.

Chapter 2 begins by saying that we should not ignore the salvation of Jesus. This salvation was apparently testified by God through various "wonders and miracles" and by passing out the Holy Spirit according to his will.

Chapter 2 continues, giving us the same spiel about Jesus sacrificing himself for our sins. The bible then says that Jesus had flesh and blood, and was tempted like men. Later in Hebrews this is clarified to being tempted in every way. The problem here is that Jesus says anyone who looks upon a woman lustfully (the only way I can imagine you'd be tempted) has already committed adultery. The real issue here is, how can you be tempted without thinking about it?

Chapter 3 tells us that Jesus is superior to Moses. This is because Moses is but a servant and Jesus is the son. The chapter ends by saying that those who don't believe in Jesus will not be able to enter "God's rest".

In chapter 4 this mysterious Godly "rest" is clarified (sort of). This "rest" is really a sabbath rest. But not the sabbath rest of the Old Testament. This is a new sabbath rest, through Jesus, that only happens after you die. That is, the new sabbath rest is heaven (at least that's what I can discern from this chapter).

The end of chapter 4 is when Jesus is said to have been tempted "in every way" yet remained free of sin. By Jesus's definition of sin, this seems rather impossible. It also seems like you'd have to have a certain level of depravity to be tempted in every way possible. Was Jesus, for example, tempted to [insert the strangest sexual fetish you can think of]?

In chapter 5, the writer tries to convince us that Jesus was a "high priest". The bible says that after Jesus died, he was appointed to be a high priest in the order of Melchizedek. I'm not sure how the writer of Hebrews figured out that God had done this. All this high priest business seems to be solely for the benefit of Jewish readers.

Chapter 5 ends by saying that the writer has a lot to teach the Jews but it's hard because they're so slow to learn. Maybe if the writer would stop speaking in vague half-metaphor it would be easier to comprehend. Also, what makes this guy an expert on all things holy? At least the other books were written by "eye witnesses" or "friends of eye witnesses" or Paul (that's a whole different story). Now it's just some guy telling us what we should believe. Is "sounds good" the sole criteria for making it into the bible?

In chapter 6 the writer begins the arduous task of explaining Jesus to us. Because we, and the Jews, are apparently idiots. The writer promises to explain to us "baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment".

The first lesson is that people who have found Jesus, but subsequently turned away from him are actually recrucifying Jesus and subjecting him to public disgrace. The Catholics must love that one. I guess this is a metaphorical crucifixion, otherwise Jesus is being constantly crucified by millions of ex-Christians. The writer says that, because these ex-believers have crucified Jesus, they cannot be "brought back to repentance". Is this another one of those unforgivable sins?

Our education by some random guy will continue tomorrow.

We haven't had a good completely-misunderstands-atheism letter recently:
The author of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins for example doesn’t believe in God (admittedly of the Abrahamaic tradition for the most part) because He is an abrasive, angry, jealous, vengeful being who constantly plays favourites, commits genocide and delivers plagues on a regular basis — besides testing followers’ faith from time to time and demanding human sacrifice. It’s really no big deal rejecting this. So Dawkins doesn’t believe in a God he wants to believe in.
Of course, Dawkins never says that's the only God he doesn't believe in. In fact he clarifies that he doesn't believe in any God (including Zeus, Thor, etc). I don't think any legitimate atheist is arguing that the sole reason for their disbelief in God is his personality. His childish douchebaggery is more like icing on the cake of his nonexistence.
As for those who say their atheism rejects the existence of any divinity, it makes no sense. How can something that doesn’t exist be rejected? At least the very worst that can be said of believers is that they conjure up a God out of nothing and then accept it as real. But the very worst that can be said of atheists is they do the same thing and then reject it as unreal. It’s an act of faith by both. Say this about the power of faith — we can’t seem to live without it.
I reject the existence of Santa and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Did I just prove their existence by rejecting them? Did I just take a position of faith? I think the confusion here is that I'm rejecting the idea of Santa, not the person of Santa. I don't imagine that I've somehow conjured Santa into existence so I can reject him.

Faith is belief in the absence of evidence. I have disbelief in the absence of evidence. I think they call that, oh what's the word, sanity.


  1. Hebrews is not really a letter - it is a treatise, to which someone appended an ending to make it look like a letter, in fact, to make it look like a letter of Paul's (although it doesn't actually claim to be written by him). Despite being one of the earliest written books in the NT (perhaps the first after the authentic letters of Paul), it was long regarded with suspicion, and only made it into the NT because the faux-Paul ending permitted the pretense (long since abandoned - even the Bible doesn't say "Paul's letter to the Hebrews") that it was written by him.

  2. Apparently "faith" means "making a decision about something" in which case, yes, we can't live without faith, provided we redefine it to the point of meaninglessness.



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