05 January 2010

Jan 5

Reference links:

Old Testament

Now, upon reading the story of the Tower of Babel, two interpretations popped into my mind (two of, I am sure, many more than that).  One, it's meant to be literally true and God does not like tall buildings and large cities and, as punishment for attempting to build them, diversified language and scattered people over the world.  Given that (a) we have plenty of large cities and tall buildings now and (b) that interpretation is clearly inconsistent with analyses of languages and their origins, that must be wrong.

So my second interpretation is that God is intentionally the source of misunderstanding between people.  The literal mixing up of language is symbolic of the misunderstandings that prevent people from coming together and working together in harmony.  God does not want humanity to come together.  This, of course, will sound completely implausible to those who believe that God is love, but I think my interpretation is no more of a stretch than the many Christian interpretations of various parts of the Bible.

The genealogy of Shem makes me wonder yet again at the internal consistency of Genesis.  Remember back in Genesis 6 when God said that the life span of humans would only be 120 years.  Let's assume that did not apply to people who were born before the flood (i.e., Noah and his sons).  Still, we see that Shem's son Arphaxad lived to be 438, his son Shelah to be 433, his son Eber to be 464, his son Peleg to be 239, his son Reu to be 239, his son Serug to be 230, his son Nahor 148, and his son Terah to be 205.  That means we have 7 generations after the flood where people were living to be well over 120 years old.

I wonder how Sarai felt about Abram passing her off as his sister instead of his wife.  Certainly God did not like it, although it is odd that God chose to punish Pharaoh for taking Sarai as his wife instead of Abram who was the one doing the lying.  I also wonder if Sarai preferred being Pharaoh's wife; it must have been a hard, unpleasant life wandering from place to place, dealing with starvation.  Life as wife of a ruler must have been so safe and comfortable by comparison.

New Testament

The book of Matthew gives us content!  Finally!  The Sermon on the Mount.  Of course, having watched "Life of Brian" recently I cannot help but wonder how large the crowds were and whether or not those in the back could hear properly. ;-)

Today's reading also contains the passage which shows why this project will not likely change the thinking of any Christians, as useful as it may be for me personally.
God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.  Be happy about it!  Be very glad!
If my experience is any guide, Christians who stumble across a blog like this will either read my posts then use a passage like this to determine that my criticism of it only justifies and strengthens their beliefs or they will already be of the types who recognize the inconsistencies and shortcomings of the Bible but have an interpretative style that allows them to accept/ignore them.

Christians occasionally debate about whether or not the laws in the Old Testament are invalidated, partially invalidated, fulfilled, reinterpreted, or something else by Jesus in the New Testament. Well, the Bible provides support for most interpreations.  Here's what we see in today's reading, from Matthew 5:18:  "I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God's law will disappear until its purpose is achieved." Now, there is some wiggle room with "until its purpose is achieved", but this looks like a point for the "most of the Old Testament laws are still valid except for those Jesus specifically said were invalid" side of the debate.

We also see that Jesus' feelings on punishment are more mild than yesterday's Old Testament reading.  Today we read, "If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment"; yesterday, we were told explicitly that this judgment meant death.  Now, given the next statement "But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment!", we can conclude that either people should be killed for anger or Jesus is a lot softer than yesterday's reading.

I do like the bit about how you should reconcile yourself with those who have something against you before making your sacrifices at the Temple.  Taken symbolically, it is quite an inspiring idea.  We cannot, in good faith, ask for blessing or forgiveness (of ourselves or others) if we are not truly at peace with others in our hearts.  Bad feelings affect the sincerity which with you can interact with the world.

Psalms and Proverbs

From the Psalm "You will destroy those who tell lies" ("You" being God). This is an another issue that I want to keep track of (although I will probably forget and miss many instances). So, what happens to sinners?  The common Christian answer is that they go to hell.  What, however, is hell? Some say literal eternal torture, some say separation from God is hell, some say that hell is the complete annihilation of the soul, and there are many more interpretations.  This is a point, albeit a minor one since the destruction here could mean worldly destruction, for the "hell as total destruction" interpretation.

Today's Proverbs are more fodder for the criticism that my reading and interpreting the Bible is invalid because I am an evil, godless atheist (but an awfully nice one, since I'm pointing these passages out so you don't have to search for them yourself).
I called you so often, but you wouldn't come.  I reached out to you, but you paid no attention.  You ignored my advice and rejected the correction I offered.  So I will laugh when you are in trouble!  I will mock you when disaster overtakes you --- when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster engulfs you like a cyclone, and anguish and distress overwhelm you.  When they cry for help, I will not answer.  Though they anxiously search for me, they will not find me.
You see, God gives atheists all the proof they need.  They have willfully rejected God's obvious and loving revelation.  Therefore, it is their own fault when disaster happens to them.  It is their own fault when God chooses not to reveal himself to them if they later come seeking.  (And I will let you figure out for yourself how consistent it is for a loving God to mock anyone in their times of trouble, even those who rejected him.)