Monday, February 1, 2010

Reading the Gospels

When reading the Gospels, one of the most important questions is: which bits should be given priority? For example should we take Jesus seriously when he tells us that he won't change one dot of the old religious laws, or should we override that with his pronouncement that he'll replace all old laws with just two news ones.

When we are trying to understand someone, it is fairest to look at the whole picture and indeed not just the nice bits. Certainly we wouldn't get an accurate picture of Stalin were to only consider his kind and tender side. Similarly for Jesus, the Gospels are full of his threats of eternal torture for much of humanity. That's a fact that's crying out not to be ignored.

During Stalin's time, in the USSR people spoke very kindly of him. With the threat of a gulag if you didn't, people had good reason to. Similarly for modern Christians, it seems that quite a few of them takes Jesus seriously when he says "fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell". As a result, many people are petrified of criticising him. However it is morally more courageous to stand up to a bully.

There is much that we can learn about God in the Gospel and for me a really important line is Matthew 25:27, where the Jews say the following regarding Christ's crucifixion "Let his blood be on us and on our children". From the research that I've done into it, I think that it is most likely that it was just made up, i.e. there weren't any Jews at Jesus crucifixion who said that. For one thing people tend not to talk all in unison. But let's give Matthew the benefit of the doubt here. Suppose a number of people did indeed say it as Matthew reports.

That one line has caused huge problems for the Jews. It was the inspiration for thousands of years of Christian pogroms against the Jews. It was used by Martin Luther in his book "The Jews and their Lies", which advocates ethnic cleansing. Ultimately that one line was a significant contributing factor in the Holocaust.

Christians are told to do the will of God. The consequence for not doing so is eternal torture. The Bible is the word of God and therein the Jews who were around at the time of Jesus and their descendants get blamed for killing the son of God.

Now we'll assume that God is all knowing. So when that line went into the bible God knew the trouble he was causing. Being all powerful, he could have changed the line to a pronouncement condemning ethnic cleansing, but he chose not to.

In the Old testament he gets actively involved in the slaughter of tribes that lived near his chosen people, then in the new testament, he leaves in a line which inspires some really revolting slaughter of the Jews over the following millenia. It certainly was in his power to have a different line in it's place, but he chose to leave it, inspite of the dyer consequences. So, he simply has to take some of the responsibility for the Holocaust.

So, if there is an all knowing, all powerful God who had anything to do with the writing of the bible, though guiding the editors or inspiring the writers, then he truly is a nasty God.

Alternatively, the supernatural claims in the Bible were just the product of human imagination. That seems to make a lot more sense to me.

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