Saturday, December 31, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 28: The cat came back

A couple of days later, a couple of Marys come to gawk at the sepulchre. I've actually been to the church where all this supposedly happened, and not much has changed. Anyway, as they're taking photos, an earthquake strikes and an angel rolls the stone back. Zombie Jesus is inside, His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow (v. 3). He kills the guards and eats their brains The guards fall down dead.

The angels assure the women that they're cool, and invites them into the tomb for more photo ops. He tells them to go and alert the disciples and that Jesus will meet all of them in Galilee. Jesus meets them, and they have a joyful, foot-hugging reunion.

Meanwhile, some of the guards have found the dead guards and run to tell the city fathers. They bribe the guards to say that the disciples stole Jesus' body while they slept and promise to cover for them if Pilate asks questions.

Back to Jesus and the disciples, who have gone off into the mountains for some quiet time. Jesus says he's fully god now and tells them to keep spreading his message. The end.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 27: Spoiler alert! The guy on the cross dies

The political and religious leaders decide to put Jesus to death, which this book has only been foreshadowing for the last, oh, 26 chapters or so. So they tie him up and take him to Pointus Pilate.

Judas sees all this and feels bad. He tries to return the 30 pieces of silver, but the leaders aren't interested. So he hangs himself. The priest picks up the money and says it can't be put back in the treasury, so they use it to buy a field to bury foreigners in. Supposedly this fulfills a prophesy from Jeremiah. Or possibly Zechariah.

Back to Jesus, who is now at Pilate's house. Pilate asks him if he's the king of Jews. Jesus only answers Thou sayest. (v. 11) Then he refuses to speak again for the rest of the trial.

It's the feast day, and in the holiday spirit, Pilate agrees to release one prisoner. There happens to be a famous guy there called Barrabas. His wife thinks it should be Jesus, because he's giving her creepy dreams, which, she won't be the last. But the elders persuade the people to vote for Barabbas. When he asks what they want him to do with Jesus, they say crucify him. When he points out that Jesus is innocent, they say it again, louder this time. Which should tell you something about how beloved he really was.

Pilate washes his hands symbolically and tells the crowd His blood be on us, and on our children. (v. 25) He releases Barabbas and Jesus is flogged, dressed in a red robe, and led into the public hall. They put thorns on his head and a reed in his hand and say Hail, King of the Jews! (v. 29) Then they beat him again, take his clothes off, dress him in his old robe, and lead him out to Golgotha. Someone called Simon carries his cross. They give him a glass of vinegar and gall, which apparently means anything bitter, which he refuses.

They hang him up there and quite possibly remove his clothes. At any rate, the soldiers gamble for them. They hang a sign over his head that reads THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. (v. 37) Two thieves are also crucified, but we don't know their names. People make fun of him as they pass. Even the thieves get in on the act, which, come to think of it, you're just hanging there dying for a few days, you might as well pass them making fun of each other.

At some point, it all goes dark for 3 hours, and Jesus wails My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (v. 46) Some people standing around at the bottom try to give him some vinegar to drink, but he dies. Then there are some weird things that aren't recorded anywhere else: the veil in the temple splits, there's an earthquake, some zombies wander around the streets.

There are a few women around, most of them named Mary, and a rich man named Joseph who bribes Pilate for the body and buries it in a cloth in his own tomb. He rolls a rock over the door. The Marys come and sit outside. The city fathers remember the prophesy that Jesus will arise after three days and ask Pilate to set a watch over the tomb, but he tells them to pay for it themselves.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 26

Jesus predicts his own death. As he has been doing since the beginning of the book. This time he has a specific date in mind: 2 days after Passover.

Meanwhile, some powerful church and political leaders gather together and argue about when exactly they should kill him. They decide that the feast day is too controversial.

Rapid scene change: Jesus is now healing a leper. A woman comes up and dumps some oil all over his head while he's eating. The disciples think this is a waste, because she should have sold it and given the profits to the poor. Nope. Never seen this verse come up in a Republican campaign speech. Jesus says it's fine For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. (v. 11) He also says it's for his burial.

Judas sneaks off and makes a deal with the priests: Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Then he bides his time until he can betray him.

Now it's Passover and the disciples ask Jesus where he wants to eat. Jesus tells them to seek out some guy and tell him it's time. So they do, and while they're eating, Jesus tells them one of them will betray him. See, it was suggestion. They ask which one it will be. He says the one who shared his bowl. Judas asks if it's him, for some bizarre reason.

Next, Jesus does that wine and bread thing where we're supposedly eating his body and drinking his blood. Then he says he's not going to drink any more wine until he's in heaven.

They sing a hymn and go for a walk up the Mount of Olives, which, let me tell you, is not a leisurely stroll, and Jesus tells them more stories about his death: they'll all abandon him. Peter promises not to, but Jesus assures him that he'll deny him three times. They all promise not to betray him.

Their stroll takes them past the Garden of Gethsemane, which still exists and contains 2000 year old olive trees that neither confirm nor deny any of this. Jesus wanders away to pray. When he comes back, the disciples are all asleep. He rebukes them, then goes back to pray some more. Same deal. And again. The third time, Judas shows up with the city guard. Judas kisses him on the cheek and it's on. One of the disciples draws his sword and cuts off a guard's ear, but Jesus tells him to put it away for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. (v. 52) As he's being led away, Jesus tells the people off, but admit that this is all fulfilling a prophecy.

Jesus is taken to the high priests. Peter manages to sneak in to watch. They try to find someone who will denounce him so they can kill him, but no one volunteers. Jesus himself continues to talk in riddles. The priest has a tantrum and tears his clothes and finally gets his death sentence for blasphemy. They start beating and spitting on him.

As Peter is watching, a woman recognises him. He denies it, but another person recognises him when he goes outside. Then a cock crows and he remembers how Jesus had told him he would deny him three time before the cock crowed.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 25: Don't forget to oil your virgin

Jesus tells another weird parable about what heaven is like:

A man gets married to 10 virgins. Sold!

Just kidding. Five of the virgins are smart and remember to bring oil for their lamps with them to the bridal suite. Five of them are foolish and forget. What a dumb intelligence test.

Even with 10 hot virgins waiting upstairs, the bridegroom doesn't want to leave the party, which is how you know he's gay. While he's still dancing along to YMCA, the virgins get bored and fall asleep. At midnight, though, he finally decides to face the inevitable and deflower his brides.

The five allegedly stupid virgins ask the smart ones for lamp oil, but the smart ones are also catty bitches, so they tell the dumb ones to go buy their own oil. While they're out, the smart wives convince him that five women is really enough for any man, so when they come back he says I know you not. (v. 12) Apparently, this demonstrates how we always have to be prepared should we find ourselves sharing a husband with a bunch of selfish sister wives.

Then he has another weird parable:

A man goes on holiday and trusts his fortune to his three servants while he's away. He gives one slave 5 talents, 2 to another, and 1 to the third. The first servant manages to trade his talents for a house Whoops! Actually, he doubles his money, as does the slave with 2 talents. The third one is as dopey as the oil-lacking virgins and buries his talent.

After a long time, the master comes back and asks about his money. The first two servants tell the story, and he praises them. The third, though, not only gives his master dirty money that he dug out of the ground, but insults him as well, saying he reaps what he doesn't sow and gathers wheat he didn't grow. The master admits it, then criticises him for not making money through usury. He orders the slave to give his talent to the guy with the 10 talents and says For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. (v. 25) No wonder Republicans love Jesus so much! The master orders the slave banished, so he founds Occupy Wall Street. Just kidding!

The takeaway? Jesus will come back someday to sit on his golden throne. Some people, the sheep, will sit on his right and go to heaven. The ones on the left, the goats, are going to hell.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Matthew, Chapters 23 & 24: The happiest verse in the whole bible

Chapter 23

Jesus' list of complaints about the Pharisees and prophets: hypocrites, lazy, ostentatious, lovers of fine clothing. Also, they like to be called Father or Rabbi in the public square, and only god should be called either of those. Now I wonder if there are super Christians out there who call their dads something else. But they'll get theirs in the end. Then there's a lot of ranting about swearing and temples and damning to hell.

Chapter 24

Jesus starts describing the end of the world in visceral detail. First, lots of people will claim to be Christ. Then there will be all the usual things: wars, pestilence, plague, famine. But those will only be the beginning! Believers will be tortured by non-believers, until they start to turn on each other. False prophets will promote sin and kill love. But! People who manage to endure all this will get to heaven.

When the apocalypse starts, run for the hills. But only the able-bodied young men, because woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! (v. 19) The Christian apologists are all like, 'Well, duh, it's a siege! Of course the women won't be able to run as fast as the able-bodied men! What do you expect?' These constant reminders of how much the bible just loves fetuses and little babies just warm my heart to its very cockles. Also, hope it doesn't happen in winter or on a Sabbath, because as we all remember, long journeys are prohibited then.

Other signs of the end of the world: no more sun or moon, the stars will fall out of the sky. Eventually, though, his sign will appear in the sky and some angels will swoop down and take the chosen people to heaven. All this will happen within the disciples' lifetimes. Jerry Falwell's bible experiences a system overload at this verse and comes up with: the previously lifted signs wil continue to multiply throughout the church age and reach their ultimate climax at the end of the age in the generation of those who will live to see the entire mater fulfilled in their lifetime. In other words: don't think to hard, kids.

We won't know when any of this is coming, one day you'll be tilling the fields with your friend, and he'll just... disappear into thin air. So be watchful.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 22: God is a Bridezilla

Here's how Jesus describes heaven:

A prince gets married and the king sends his messengers around to all the nobles to invite them to the wedding feast. But the nobles aren't that interested, because let's face it, weddings suck for all involved, and they'd rather spend the weekend chilling at their farms or managing their businesses. One even kills the messengers, he's so unenthused at the idea of toasting the happy couple and watching yet another lame entrance dance set to Chris Brown.

The king, feeling a need to keep up appearances that continues to serve the wedding-industrial complex to this day, instructs his servants to go out into the streets and round up anybody they can find for a free meal and booze. But! One of them is not in a wedding garment! Now, I don't know about the rest of you, but I keep getting these wedding invitations from brides who have clearly thought waaaay to long and hard about their 'special days' and have somehow come to the conclusion that their guests are equally committed to making their fantasies come true, so we're all told to 'dress in black & white' or 'ladies, please wear a long dress' because we're just accessoriess in a demented, living tableau. I'm actually surprised that none of them has done what the king does next, which is have the guy bound up and thrown outside, possibly for torture. At least, no bride has done it that I know of. The moral of the story? For many are called, but few are chosen. (v. 14) I don't get it, either.

Anyway, the Pharisees just pass over this particular bit of crazy talk and ask Jesus whether it's lawful to pay tribute to Caesar. Jesus smells the rat and tells them to bring him some tribute money, which happens to be a penny with Caesar's face stamped on it. This prompts one of his other famous sayings Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. (v. 21) Yay, separation of church and state! Why don't Republican politicians ever quote that one? Anyway, that one stumps the Pharisees, so they go away for a bit.

Of course that isn't the end of annoying skeptics coming along to challenge Jesus' teachings, but at least the next ones, the Sadducees, have an interesting question: Moses said that if a married man dies before he has kids, his brother has to marry his wife and raise the kids as if they belonged to the original husband. But now they have the case of a woman who got married to seven brothers and never managed to get pregnant. Then she died. Which one will she be married to in heaven? Jesus then informs us that there is no sex or marriage in heaven, we all become eunuch angels. Then he tells us God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, (v. 32) which makes all this stuff he's been spouting about getting your reward in the afterlife seem... less rewarding.

The Sadducees are likewise stumped and go to confer with the Pharisees. Then they send forth their next parry: What are the principal commandments? As always, Jesus is ready with an answer: God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (v. 37) and Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (v. 39). Now Jesus has a question for the Pharisees: whose son do they think he is? Well, David's. Well, then why does David call him Lord? That shuts them and all the other critics up for good.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Matthew, Chapters 20 & 21: Jesus H. Crankypants

Chapter 20

Jesus tells yet another one of his confusing parables, this time about a man who goes to the marketplace to hire some pickers for his vineyards and agrees to pay them a penny for a day's work. He keeps going back at 3-hour intervals and hiring more pickers for the same wage. At the end of the day, he pays those hired at the eleventh hour (v. 9) first. The others grumble, but he points out that they negotiated that wage, so shove it up your butt. Some politicians apparently interpret this passage to mean that Jesus is against minimum wages, but he actually goes on to explain that this somehow demonstrates how few people will actually get into heaven.

With those final, inspiring words, Jesus heads off to Jerusalem to die. He's in the middle of telling his disciples exactly what's going to happen when a pushy stage mother interrupts to say she wants her two sons to sit on either side of him when he gets to heaven. Jesus says he can baptise them and even take them out for dinner, but where they'll sit in heaven is up to god. The other disciples resent these late interlopers, but Jesus tells them to chill.

As they walk, people keep coming up to them and asking for healing. He restores sight to a couple of blind dudes on his way.

Chapter 21

In the effort to leave no prophecy unfulfilled, Jesus instructs his disciples to go and steal an ass and her colt, because Zechariah said he would arrive on two donkeys. Then people start throwing their clothes and branches on the path the donkey takes, in an early version of a red carpet.

Jesus rides the donkeys right into the temple, where he throws the moneychangers out, saying they have made it a den of thieves. (v. 13) I always thought he did that as a kid, but maybe one of the other gospels will contradict this version. Naturally, as soon as the temple is cleared, the sick and lame start showing up, which pisses off the priests, because how on earth are they supposed to extract rent from these people? They ask Jesus if he hears what people are saying, and he's like um, yeah, have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? (v. 16)

At some point, Jesus gets bored and goes back to his hotel, which does not serve breakfast. As he's going back into the city to stir shit up, he comes across a fig tree that isn't in season and therefore doesn't have any fruit. Like many of us, he's cranky without breakfast, so he curses the fig tree, which dies. The disciples are amazed and ask how he did that. He answers that with faith, they can do anything they want, even move mountains into the sea. Go ahead and try that one at home, kids.

Having vented his spleen at the tree, Jesus makes his way back to the temple, where the pissed-off priests demand to see his permit. He replies that he'll show them his permit if they'll answer one question for him. They stupidly agree. The question is, was John the Baptist's baptism divine or human? They put their heads together, and come up with, we don't know. Jesus, jaw dropping at how easily outsmarted they were, goes on with the riddle he was planning to follow up with:

A man has two sons. He tells the first one to go and work in the vineyard. The son, having hit the bars a little too hard the night before, at first refuses, but after some McDonald's and an aspirin, goes out and gets to work. The man then goes to his second son with the same instruction. This son says he'll get right on it, then sinks back into the sofa and flicks the TV back on. Jesus asks which son did his father's will. The prophets reply that the first one does. Jesus tells them that hookers and bartenders will get into heaven before them, because they believed in John, and even after they'd seen proof of his divinity, they still didn't repent. I'm pretty sure that's not an answer.

But Jesus isn't done talking circles around the hapless priests. He tells another parable about an absentee landlord who sends his stewards out to the vineyard to collect the rent from his tenants. The tenants beat and kill them. They do the same to another group of stewards. Then they do it again to his son. Finally the landlord himself shows up. Jesus asks the priests what they think will happen next. They predict that the landlord will kill them and rent his land out to less stroppy tenants.

Jesus informs them that he's the landlord and they're the bad tenants. He gives them a chance to convert, but says if they don't he'll grind them into powder. This pisses the priests off, but they daren't arrest him because the people like him so much.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 19: Auto-castration is best

Jesus gets bored in Galilee and heads for Judea, where he keeps on healing people. The Pharisees are also there, nagging him now about divorce. Jesus' famous answer: Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.' (v. 4-6) Seems pretty clear to me. And yet, Christians divorce all the time. Just ask Newt Gingrich.

The Pharisees point out that Moses allowed divorce, but Jesus rejoins that it was only allowed because they loved their country so much. Whoops! That was Gingrich again. Actually, their hearts were hard, but god never intended to make divorce legal. He does make one concession: if your wife cheats on you, you may divorce her. But you cannot take another wife, nor can your wife remarry. Again, why are those seven verses in Leviticus so important, but these ones aren't?

The disciples posit that perhaps then it's better to just not get married. Jesus agrees and expresses admiration for eunuchs, whether self-made or born that way, and highly recommends it to people who can handle it.

While this discussion of auto-castration and fornication is going on, a bunch of children show up. What would primitive Fox News say? He lays his hands on them, and the disciples protest. Jesus utters another famous line Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven (v. 14). One of the kids has a typical little kid question: what do I have to do to live forever? Jesus evades the question and tells him to follow the commandments. Which ones? Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (v. 18-19) Except if you can count, that's only 6 commandments, and the last one isn't on either of the lists in Exodus.

The boy says he does all those things, so what's next? Jesus replies that he should sell all his worldly goods and join the cause. The boy very sensibly doesn't want to give up all his nice stuff, so he leaves, prompting a spiteful Jesus to say, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God (v. 24). The amazed disciples ask who can make it then? Jesus remains evasive, saying only with God all things are possible. (v. 25)

Paul wants more details about how the disciples are going to be rewarded in the afterlife. Jesus promises them 12 thrones from which they can judge the 12 tribes of Israel. People who give up everything, including family, friends and land, will be rewarded a hundredfold.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 18: Torture is okay for subprime lenders

The disciples ask Jesus who is the fairest of them all in heaven. Jesus, ever theatrical, brings in a kid to answer Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. (v. 4)

Then he starts talking about who is going to heaven and who is going to hell. He repeats the bit about plucking out your eyes, and adds that hands and feet are also fair game. He also advises being nice to everyone, since you never know what disguise god is using today.

Next he has some instructions for what to do when your brother is being a dick: first, talk to him privately, but if he won't listen, gather some witnesses. If not even that works, put it before your church's congregation. If he ignores even that, you can write him off.

Jesus is really into consensus in this chapter, and promises that if two people on earth want something, god will make it so. G'head. Try that one at home with your family. Ask for a million bucks, or if you're the kids and your dad says you can't have a dog because they're smelly and he'll be the one who ends up taking care of it, pray to god to send you one.

Peter isn't satisfied with this loosey-goosey forgive thy brother crap. He wants statistics: how many times do you have to do it before you can write him off completely? Seven? Oh, no. You have to be one tolerant sumbitch I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (v. 22) Now, I'm sure I've forgiven my brother more times than that, but his sins mostly consist of hogging the remote control.

To illustrate, he starts on the story of a king who discovers that he's loaned his slave One Million Dollars, which just strikes me as incredibly poor judgement. How is your slave, with no income or property, ever supposed to pay you back? The king also sees this problem and commands that the servant and his family be sold as repayment. The slave begs for forgiveness and promises he's good for every penny of it. The king stupidly lets him go. The slave immediately goes to another slave who owes him a hundred pence, takes him by the throat, and demands repayment. This second slave tries the Dumb and Dumber trick, but the first slave is clearly smarter than the king, if not a genius, and throws him into prison. The other slaves tell the king, who has the first slave tortured.

So what is Jesus' grand unifying message here? Slavery is soul-destroying? Don't torture people because it's evil? Subprime loans will destroy the entire planet's economy for at least 4 years? No, forgive your brother.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Matthew, Chapters 16 & 17: Jesus is on Team Edward

Chapter 16

Did you know that the signs of the times (v. 3) is biblical? I did not. Anyway, Jesus says it in response to his critics, who are merely asking him to prove that he is what he says he is.

His disciples show up hungry, and he warns them not to buy dinner from the Pharisees, but rather to have faith, like the loaves and fishes incidents. But he's not talking about bread! He's really talking about doctrine.

Jesus gets itchy feet again, so they go to Caesarea. On the way, Jesus asks what people are saying about him. Because he's a 12 year old girl. They say that people think he's the resurrected John the Baptist or a prophet. Still insecure, he asks the disciples what they think he is. Simon Peter quickly responds that he's the son of the living god and is made pope as a reward. Then he starts bumming them out with stories of how he's going to die.

Peter tells him not to be such a downer, and Jesus responds with Get thee behind me, Satan (v. 23) not five verses after making him the pope. Then he says they can come along if they want and they'll be rewarded.

Chapter 17

Six days later, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain and gets transfigured. Do all religions talk about this? Because I had no idea what it means. In fact, his face gets all glowy and his clothes turn white. So, he took a bath and did some laundry, then.

Moses and Elias then appear. Peter starts to say something about building temples, but god rudely interrupts and tells him to listen to Jesus. He tells them to keep all this a secret until he's risen from the dead. They start pestering him with questions about Elias, and he promises he'll come back and restore things. Then he starts talking about John the Baptist and curing epileptics with prayer, fasting and exorcism. Don't try that at home.

Next he starts talking about how he'll be betrayed and killed, but he'll come back three days later. Finally, the arrive in Capernum, where a toll collector asks for their money. Jesus balks at collecting entry fees for strangers but letting citizens in for free, which I completely agree with him about. But rather than offend the people, he tells Peter to go fishing and to take the coin from he mouth of the first fish he catches.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 15: But mom! Jesus says I don't have to wash my hands

The Pharisees are about again, with their strongest argument yet for not following Jesus: he and his followers transgress the tradition of the elders, for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. (v. 2) That shit is gross, yo, especially in a culture that doesn't have things like clean running water or antibiotics.

Jesus has a counter-argument of course: the Pharisees defy god's traditions when they don't kill children who fail to honour their parents. Pharisees: 1, Jesus: 0. And wash your damned hands before you prepare or eat food.

Jesus stews over this argument for a bit, then decides to go for victory in numbers. He calls his multitudes over and tells them Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. (v. 10-11) Nevertheless, wash your damned hands before you prepare or eat food. Then he comes out with one of his less charitable parables: Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch (v. 14)

Peter asks him to explain himself, and even Jesus is exasperated at this point, but he explains: those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. (v. 18-20) Um, yes it does, Jesus. Eating without washing your hands is disgusting and can make you sick.

Jesus gets tired of arguing and goes over to Tyre and Sidon, where he is immediately accosted by a Canaanite woman whose daughter is possessed. He ignores her and she follows him, wailing loudly. The disciples are annoyed and ask him to send her away, and he answers I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (v. 24) She starts grovelling at his feet, and he says he's stretched thin as it is, and helping her would be taking his much-needed resources away from his flock. She still won't shut up, so finally he heals the daughter just to make her go away.

Next he goes up a mountain. And people gather round with the sick and injured. He heals them and they start to worship him.

Three days later, everyone is still worshipping, but food supplies have run drastically low. So he repeats the loaves and fishes trick, then leaves for Magdala.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 14: Too many Herods

Another Herod, not the one who ordered the killing of all the babies and subsequently died before any of them could be a threat to his rule back in chapter 2, thinks Jesus is the reincarnated John the Baptist, who was in prison back in chapter 11 but has apparently died off-screen.

We get the story in flashback. John was in prison not for baptising people, as you might think, but for telling the king's brother that his marriage was illegitimate. Herod wasn't planning to kill him, fearing riots, but then his niece danced so nicely at his birthday party that he let her make one wish. Her mother had coached her to say Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger. (v. 8) Which must have really sucked, because what she probably wanted was a pony and instead she gets a bloody head in a basket. Herod is reluctant, but he's even more reluctant to deal with the whining and sulking that comes with reneging on a promise to a teenage girl, so he does it. And she gets the head and takes it to her mother.

His followers take the body and bury it. Jesus hears about the death and goes out into the desert, because heaven forbid he let an opportunity to be dramatic go by. A bunch of people follow him and he starts healing. He gets so into it that soon it's evening and nobody's eaten anything all day. The disciples tell him to call it a day so everyone can have supper, but he says they have plenty of food. The disciples point out that five loaves and two fishes aren't going to cut it, as the crowd is up to 5000 people. Jesus tells them to bring the food to them, then looks up to heaven, then tells them to pass it out. In the end there are 12 baskets left over.

After dinner, Jesus finally does send the multitudes away, and tells his disciples to get on a ship and he'll meet them on the other side. Then he goes up a mountain and prays a bit. While he's there, a storm blows up on the sea, but he walks across it to the ship. The disciples are scared and think it's a spirit. He assures them that he isn't, but Peter says if he's really Jesus, he should ask him to come out onto the water as well. So Jesus does and of course Peter starts to doubt and sinks a bit, but Jesus lifts him up with an O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? (v. 31) and he's fine. Don't try that one at home unless you can swim.

Anyway, a lot more people are converted.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 13: Parable fatigue

Jesus tries to take a day off and go to the beach, but his followers quickly find him and surround him. So he goes out to a ship and starts telling them parables. The first is about people sowing seeds, some of which end up in inhospitable conditions and other of which flourish. The disciples come along and ask him why he can't just say things outright rather than speaking in riddles. Jesus gives a confusing answer about rich people and the mysteries of heaven and prophecies.

Jesus then explains the parable: the seeds that ended up in poor soil are people who hear the word and believe it, but turn away when times are tough. They're going to hell. The seeds in good soil are the stalwarts and will go to heaven.

He then tells another confusing parable about a man who sows his fields, but then his slaves go along at night and sow weeds. He blames his enemies. He tells some more about how heaven is a mustard seed: crappy as a seed, but awesome as a tree, and about a woman mixing leaven in with her flour. Apparently a prophet predicted he would speak in parables and damnit, he is determined that that one will come true.

Jesus gets tired of reciting weird stories, so he sends the multitudes away and goes inside with his disciples, who demand an explanation of the parables. Seeds: good Christians. Weeds: non-believers, who will be burnt in hell like the weeds. I can't believe anyone was confused by that. Then he tells more parables about believers being rewarded and heaven while sinners burn in hell at the end of the world.

After his speech, Jesus decides to head home for a bit. Turns out his family isn't really speaking to him, so he petulantly refuses to do many good works while he's there.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Matthew, Chapters 11 & 12: Jesus' family values

Chapter 11

John the Baptist, still in jail, sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he's rilly rill or if they should keep looking for the real thing. Jesus says, of course he's genuine! Look at all his good works!

When they leave, Jesus asks John's followers why they spent all that time in the desert if their beliefs are so uncertain. He concedes that John is great and all, especially for a human, but he can't hold a candle to the beings up there in heaven. He also informs us that heaven is under attack, because of previous prophecies that he fulfils, as long as you call him Elias. Also that people think John's crazy and Jesus is crazier.

Then he starts listing all the cities that don't believe in him and condemning their citizens to hell.

Chapter 12

Jesus and his disciples are in a cornfield, rudely and no doubt illegally picking and eating the corn. The Pharisees see it, but only point out that it's the Sabbath and this is one of those weird kinds of 'work' you aren't supposed to do. Jesus points out that David did it, and so do priests, and he's Jesus, so fuck you.

Having eaten his fill Jesus heads over to the Pharisees' synagogue to piss them off some more. While he's in there, a man with a withered hand shows up and asks for healing. The Pharisees ask if this isn't also forbidden on the Sabbath. Jesus again tells them that emergency work on the Sabbath is okay, though this doesn't seem like an emergency, then goes ahead and heals the man. The multitudes follow him.

He is soon waylaid by a blind, mute man who happens to be possessed by the devil. The masses assume Jesus is the noble son of David, but the spoilsport Pharisees think the devil is controlled by Beelzebub. Jesus points out that every city or house divided against itself shall not stand (v. 25), which I did not know was a biblical expression. I also didn't know it's talking about Satan and how he can't both possess someone and cast himself out. But if Jesus is the one casting out devils, this somehow makes people closer to god.

Then he quotes George W. Bush He that is not with me is against me (v. 30) and tells us that blasphemy is the worst kind of sin. The Pharisees challenge him to prove his divinity. He refuses, on the grounds that An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it (v. 40), and also because he can't, but he does promise to spend 3 days in the ground later, just like Jonah and the whale.

Next we find out what happens to evil spirits after an exorcism: first they wander around for awhile, then decide to go back to the old host, but always find the house abandoned. Then they'll go and find seven even worse spirits and they'll possess a new person who will be ever so much worse off than the first.

While Jesus is talking, Mary shows up with some of his brothers. But he won't acknowledge her, instead calling his disciples his family. It's very heart-warming.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 10: Couch surfing

Jesus settles on his 12 Bachelor finalists: Simon, who is called Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, another James, Lebbaeus, another Simon who is just called Simon, and Judas. On the TV Bachelor show, there are always several people where I'm like, 'Huh? Have we seen this person before?' I'm feeling the same way here. Who has ever heard of Labbaeus? Anyway, he imbues them with exorcism powers, and the ability to cure diseases and/or raise the dead, and sends them off to spread the good word, warning them not to go to Samaria or be tempted by the Gentiles. On the journey, they are not to carry any money and should travel light, only the clothes on their backs, barefoot, and not even a walking stick. They may accept any and all hospitality, as long as the house is worthy.

If anyone refuses to listen to these barefoot, no doubt smelly people with no money who nevertheless expect food and a bed, they are to continue on their way, because the town will be destroyed on the judgement day. They can expect arrests and flogging and hatred and for families to tear themselves apart, but in the end, salvation. What a fun religion! They should not fear death, only eternal damnation. People who confess will be allowed into heaven, deniers are going the other way.

Jesus confesses that he is here not to send peace, but a sword (v. 34) and to spread major family conflict at Thanksgiving, because He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (v. 37). Being killed in the pursuit of salvation is fine. Jerry Falwell, for the record, completely glosses over those happy verses.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 9

Jesus' cruise returns to port and he is immediately asked to heal a man who is sick with palsy as a punishment some unknown sin. Jesus not only cures the palsy, he forgives the mans. Some scribes look at him askance for this, because only god is supposed to be able to forgive sin, but Jesus answers that it's totally cool, because he has a permission slip from god.

As Jesus is leaving, he sees Matthew the tax collector sitting in his office. This may or may not be the person this book is named after. Anyway, he invites Jesus over for lunch, along with a bunch of other tax collectors and sinners.

The Pharisees then show up to be all judgey about Jesus eating with vagabonds and Jesus tells them to mind their own business. They persist, asking why they fast and Jesus doesn't, and Jesus says it's like a wedding: you party now, and when the groom dies, you fast.

Jesus' lunch is further interrupted by a local official whose daughter has just died. While he's on the way, an old woman with a blood disorder touches his robe and asks to be healed. He turns and says, thy faith hath made thee whole. (v. 22) Odd that you don't see many Christians, even literalists, trying that one out.

When he finally arrives, he says that the girl isn't dead, she's just resting. He wakes her up by taking her hand.

I'm only nine chapters in, and I'm already bored of recounting all Jesus' miracles. And if I understand correctly, all the gospels repeat these same stories. Urgh. In a nutshell: 2 blind men and a dumb (as in non-speaking) man. The Pharisees, of course, are skeptical and say it's the work of the devil, not god, but no one listens to them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 8: Devil pigs

Jesus finally finishes the Sermon on the Mount and comes down, where millions of new converts are waiting to greet him. And here's the part where being famous starts to become a pain in the ass. The first person to approach him is a leper, who asks him to heal his illness. Jesus touches him, and he's cured. Next, a Roman centurion has a story about a sick slave. Jesus amiably agrees to go home with him, but the centurion is too embarrassed to admit that his house is a mess and he has no idea where the slave keeps the coffee, so he insists it's enough for Jesus to say the slave is healed.

Now, Jesus, the guy who was supposedly all about brotherhood and equality, doesn't pause here to tell the guy to set his slave free. Oh no, he's got plenty of time to tell us about how Jews are going to hell, but no space to condemn slavery.

Next up is Peter's mother-in-law. According to his Wikipedia page, Peter was the first pope, so I don't know how they reconcile that one. Anyway, she has a fever, and Jesus heals her. Then he sets about exorcising a number of anonymous demons.

All the while, he's collecting more and more followers. Some of them have personal difficulties, like one who says he needs to go home for a bit to tend to his sick father. Jesus is less sympathetic than you might expect: Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead (v. 22).

Somewhat later, Jesus and his disciples go on a cruise. One night, either due to bad weather or bad seafood, the ship starts pitching back and forth. The disciples get scared, so they go to Jesus, who is grouchy at them for waking him up, then calms the sea down.

They were on their way to a place called Gergesenes, where two men have been possessed by devils. They taunt him, and tell him to cast them into a nearby herd of swine. So Jesus does, then he makes the whole herd jump off a cliff into the sea. The swineherds flee to the city to tell their story, then the residents ask Jesus & co. to leave and really, who can blame them? No bacon for them all winter now.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 7: Why don't Christians take this one literally?

Because it starts with maybe my favourite verse in the entire bible: Judge not, that ye be not judged (v. 1). Then there are a bunch of good verses about avoiding hypocrisy and not criticising the faults of others.

Then there are a couple of verses that I did not know were biblical: neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find. (v. 6-7) Of course, the second forms part of the basis of the prosperity gospel, and it's a giant lie, because once again, it didn't come with, you know, vaccines or nitrogen fixation or microcredit or anything, so I don't know why I'm surprised.

Wow, this chapter is just chock-a-block with famous sayings! Next we get the Golden Rule, followed by strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (v. 14). And again, how do you know which gate, exactly? Catholic? Mormon? and then a bit about wolves in sheep's clothing, which in my mind had somehow become a line out of Little Red Riding Hood.

Of course most of this chapter is threatening bad people, especially bad prophets, with eternal damnation. He informs us that saying his name won't be enough, though it is for Jerry, we'll actually have to, you know, do stuff.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 6

Not getting into heaven: braggarts, which is fine, because they're boring. Also, people who pray in public. Surely there's an exception for Tebowing though! In fact, Jesus instructs us when thou prayest, enter into thy closet (v. 6), which gives a delightful new meaning to the expression that I am so going to use the next time I meet an anti-gay Christian, of which there are fortunately very few in Europe.

Anyway, people who pray for too long will not get extra rewards. Amen. And I mean that sincerely. Then he recites the Lord's Prayer, or at least a version of it. We're told not to look sad while fasting, which just strikes me as unreasonable. He reminds us that we can't take it with us and tells us we can't love two masters. He's talking about gods here, but he could just as easily be talking about bosses.

Jesus then makes the absurd claim that swallows don't work, god feeds them. Jerry Falwell seems to think it means we don't have to worry about using up the earth's resources, because god will take care of us. God that country sucks sometimes.

He also tells us not to worry about clothing ourselves and says to Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin (v. 28). I did not know that was biblical. Anyway, he says not even king Solomon was as pretty as a lily, though I bet ole Joseph and his technicolor dreamcoat were. Then he tells us not to worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 5: Every single one of us is going to hell

This chapter contains the sermon on the mount, where Jesus outlines who will be rewarded and how. There are some nice things about the meek inheriting heaven and merciful people being shown mercy. Also he uses the expression salt of the earth (v. 13) which I did not know was biblical.

He assures everybody that he's not here to overturn the law, he's just fulfilling some prophecies. He in fact explicitly says that people who break the Old Testament laws will be punished in heaven. Note, too, that although Matthew is the first book in the New Testament, it was written about 80 years after the events it depicts ended, so clearly lots of OT laws were still being followed.

Of course none of this applies the Pharisees. They will never get into heaven. Who else is going to hell? Cursers and people who fight with their brothers. In fact, patching things up with your brother is so important, you should alter your sacrificing schedule to do it.

Other people not making the cut? Adulterers, which now include men who just look at women lustily have committed. In other words, everyone is going to hell.

How can we avoid sin? Plucking out our eyes and cutting off our hands. Yes, in the same chapter as that famous bit about the poor and downtrodden inheriting the earth, we get the other famous bit about cutting off the body parts that are causing you to sin. Wonderful.

Apparently in other gospels, Jesus will tell us that divorce is wrong and bad and never okay, but here he tells us that if a wife commits adultery, the husband is cleared for separation.

We're also instructed never to make oaths in heaven's name. So that locks the pearly gates to every woman who has ever been nine and tried to convince people that a lie is true by saying 'I swear to god!' Also, anyone who has ever been asked to tell 'The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god.'

This chapter is extraordinarily muddled. First all the good people, then the bad, now we're back to good people again, who are supposed to turn the other cheek when someone hits them, and give their coats to people who steal them. In short Love your enemies (v. 44) which rings a little hollow after all that condemning to hell in the middle bit.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 4: Jesus goes to Burning Man

Jesus and the holy spirit go off into the desert to be tempted of the devil (v. 1). Hoyay!

After 40 days, Jesus is pretty hungry, because the thoughtless holy ghost forgot to even pack some beef jerky. Unsurprisingly, he hallucinates that satan appears, if only so he can quit the desert and go find a 24-hour waffle house. Satan taunts that if he's really the son of god, he should turn some rocks into bread. Jesus priggishly replies that Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (v. 4). But he does at least get a free ride back to Jerusalem, where satan puts him on a tower and challenges him to jump off and get the angels to save him. Jesus is no dummy, though, and refuses, reminding us that we shouldn't test god. Except for those times in Judges and 1 and 2 Kings, that is. Because he'll fail. Is something that isn't in there, but should be. Satan, note, does not push him.

Anyway, satan's next bizarro test is to take Jesus up to the top of a mountain and tell him he can rule over everything he sees if he'll just turn over to the dark side. Jesus again refuses, saying we should only worship and serve god. Satan gives up at this point, and some angels come down to minister to Jesus. And hopefully give him some food.

In verse 14, we get yet another of the bible's awkward transitions to a completely unrelated story where suddenly John is in prison, so Jesus leaves Nazareth for Galilee, home of the Gentiles. Where he doesn't free his friend, but rather, starts preaching. One day, he heads down to the beach and finds two men fishing, Simon Peter and Andrew. He convinces them to become his followers. Then he meets two more fishermen, James and John, still not the John in prison, and convinces them to come along as well.

This bunch of merry pranksters heads all over Galilee, preaching and healing people and casting out devils, and soon he's known all over Syria.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Matthew, Chapter 3: More shrieking crazies

The first appearance of John the Baptist. It's not promising. He comes out of the wilderness, wearing a camel-hair dress and a leather belt, shrieking about how he eats locusts and honey and urging people to repent now, because the day of the lord is nigh. Honestly, le plus ça change, le plus c'est la même chose, man.

But actually, something has changed, because unlike in the days of the Old Testament prophets, when everyone just ignored the weird guy telling you you were going to die, people are convinced by his message and follow him over to the Jordan River to get baptized. But not the Pharisees or the Sadducees, who he calls vipers (v. 7). He tells them they can prove their dedication to god by producing fruit. Failure to do so will result in death by fire. I always thought this was the hippy, non-violent bit of the bible. This is only chapter 3 and we're already discussing mass slaughter. They also need to stop thinking they're fine because they're also descendants of Abraham. So much for the credo of tolerance.

John also tells them that he baptizes with water, but that the coming saviour will baptize with fire and the Holy Ghost. There are a lot of other references to burning. For a book that's supposed to be about peace and brotherhood.

One day, Jesus comes along to be baptized, because it's what all the cool kids are doing. But John refuses, pointing out that he's actually the one who should be baptized here. Jesus says that rules are rules, so John just shrugs and does it.

When Jesus reemerges, he sees a window in the clouds that looks straight into heaven, where he sees god, who is pleased.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Matthew, Chapters 1-2: Jesus in da house

Chapter 1

The New Testament does not start out promisingly. The first 17 verses are Christ's genealogy, starting with Abraham. Some funny names if you're a 12 year old boy: Booz of Rachab (v. 5). Well, that's the only one, really. Apparently it has been 14 generations since the sack of Jerusalem.

The fourteenth generation since the Babylonian exile is Joseph, who we are immediately informed is a cuckold. See, his fiancée, Mary, and he, had not had sex yet, but she is found to be pregnant. She claims it's the Holy Spirit's, but Joseph is no dummy and looks into divorcing her quietly. While he's doing that, an angel of the lord visits him in a dream and convinces him it really IS the Holy Spirit's baby, and thus the biggest lie ever perpetuated is born. The angel also tells him to call the baby Jesus and insists it's the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah, even though the baby in that one was supposed to be called Emmanuel. So Joseph puts off the big night for another 9 months while Mary gestates someone else's baby. This would seem to indicate that it did indeed happen, which makes Catholic doctrine even harder for a lapsed Protestant to understand.

Chapter 2

We get right into the familiar stuff, with Herod the king and the wise men following a star. They make a wrong turn and end up in Jerusalem, thus proving the extent of their wisdom, and end up in Herod's palace. Herod hears about this and gathers his advisors to find out where this rival ruler will be born. Never mind that Herod is an adult and by the time this usurper is old enough to be a threat he'll likely be dead, what with the lack of sanitation and vaccines and all. Once they predict Bethlehem, he sends for the wise men and asks them to let him know when they've found the baby so he can come and worship, too.

The Stooges wise men get back on the star trail, which leads them directly to Jesus, who is in a house, mind, not a manger. They bow down and offer him their familiar gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Mary tries not to roll her eyes, because what she actually needs are diapers and cigarettes.

The wise men dream that Herod is up to no good, so they omit to send word back to him, which is a pretty strong argument against Four Square. Joseph also dreams about the angel, who tells him to go to Egypt before Herod can kill this damned baby who isn't even a threat to him. So the family goes off to Egypt in the middle of the night, where they stay until Herod dies, thus supposedly fulfilling the prophecy in Hosea that the saviour will come out of Egypt.

Meanwhile, this brain trust didn't even think to leave a note warning people about Herod's treachery, so while they're safe in Egypt, Herod kills off all the kids under two in a fit of rage.

Anyway, skip forward a couple of years, when Jesus is still described as a young child (v. 20) and Herod dies a natural death. The angel appears yet again and tells them it's safe to go back to Israel. This time they stop in Nazareth, supposedly because an Old Testament prophecy says that in addition to coming from Bethlehem and Egypt, the Messiah will also be a Nazarene.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Malachi, Chapters 1-4: Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse

Chapter 1

God confesses that he always hated Esau, and he deliberately gave his inheritance to the dragons. If the Edomites, whom, you will remember, are his descendants, ever try to rebuild, he'll just keep knocking them down. Somehow this will make Israel look better.

Then he starts criticising the sacrifices, accusing them of offering sickly animals. He announces he's not going to accept any more barbecue from them, he's going to let the gentiles cook for him instead.

Chapter 2

Here's a cute one for all you priests out there: Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces (v. 3). Seriously, watch Pastor Deacon Fred say it. Won't that be embarrassing if it turns out that Mormons really was the correct answer all along.

Next, he's angry with the tribe of Judah for intermarrying with foreign wives when they had perfectly good Israelite ones. Suddenly he's against divorcing practicing polygamy. That's reserved for kings and early prophets, damnit!

Chapter 3

God is sending a messenger to purify the priesthood. Then there will be punishments for the uncharitable and the xenophobic. Also, people who don't tithe will be cursed.

Chapter 4

Some day soon, god will burn the wicked and the good people will walk around in their ashes. He reminds us to follow the Mosaic law and promises to send Elijah back to reunite troubled families. If that fails, well, the final words of the Old Testament are Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse (v. 6).

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Zechariah, Chapters

Chapter 8

God promises that both old and young people will live in Jerusalem again, and vows to set his people free. He says that in the bad old days, there was high unemployment and neighbours fought constantly. But this time, he'll make the fruit grow and he'll send rain, as long as they stop lying and are peaceful and don't have bad thoughts and fast 4 months out of the year and pray. Somehow, I don't see this lasting. And after they've been doing that for awhile, the Gentiles will all convert.

Chapter 9

One frigging chapter after promising all that peace and brotherhood, god is right back to threats of violence against Israel's neighbours. As long as you can fanwank that Christ was a military leader who kept all the enemies out of Jerusalem, he's in there too. Jerry Falwell does this with aplomb.

Chapter 10

God confesses that Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats (v. 3). This time, though, he'll have their backs, and he'll make the Nile go dry.

Chapter 11

I guess Zech is well and truly over his weird drug-fueled trip from earlier in this book. Now he's been reduced to telling the story of the time god took two barrel staves and went around beating bad shepherds up with them. Note that his story has now changed and he's no longer punishing the goats.

Chapter 12

Smitey smite smite. All for the greater glory of Jerusalem

Chapter 13

God will get all the false prophets' parents to kill them. The survivors, presumably already orphans, will become cattlemen instead.

Chapter 14

There will be a giant battle in Jerusalem, which will be so violent it will rip the Mount of Olives in half. It will be a foggy day, and the water will flow away from Jerusalem. Then he'll send a plague for all Israel's enemies. People who don't convert will also suffer drought and diseased animals. The Israelites' pots will become holy and the Canaanites will finally die off. What a cheery ending!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Zechariah, Chapters 4-7: Biblical bongs

Chapter 4

Zechariah is awakened by the angel, who asks him what he sees. A candlestick with a bowl and seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof (v. 2). In other words, a 7-man bong. That explains a lot. This bong is sitting under some olive trees in case of munchies.

Then they have this nonsensical stoner conversation about meaning and symbology and a mountain that's going to turn into a valley, but not before the summit starts shrieking Grace, grace unto it. (v. 7)

Chapter 5

Whatever Zechariah has been smoking really kicks in as he turns and sees giant flying scrolls that sail over to the houses of thieves and liars and set them on fire. Then there's a basket full of sins. When the leaden lid is lifted off, there's a woman inside. The angel calls her wickedness personified, then shuts the lid again. Two women with stork-wings appear and carry the basket of to Shinar.

Chapter 6

Zech has another trippy vision, this time about chariots pulled by multi-coloured horses that appear between mountains of brass. The chariots ride around as god's representatives on earth. Their task today is to make a crown for Joshua. When they place the crown on his head, they're supposed to say Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD (v. 12).

Chapter 7

Zech is coming down from his high, and now has some deep and probing questions for god. First Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years? (v. 3) God scoffs that the Israelites have been playing at weeping and mourning for 70 years and they should show compassion and mercy if they're sincere.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Zechariah, Chapters 1-3: Playing Bronies

Chapter 1

God starts appearing to Zechariah. First, he is supposed to proselytise to the people to turn their hearts towards god. Then a man appears on a red horse. He stops underneath a myrtle tree and three more red horses appear. Either because he's dumb or because he's on hallucinogens, Z asks what the ponies are. An angel then appears and says they've been sent by god to walk the earth.

Abrupt transition to a new prophesy, in which god mentions that he's still pissed at the Jerusalemites for not rebuilding his temple yet. Then Z looks up and sees four horns. He asks what they're for. The angel says they're the 4 kingdoms of Israel that have been scattered. Finally, 4 carpenters appear to do the scattering.

Chapter 2

Aw shit. Z looks up and sees a guy with a ruler in his hand. Not this again. Mercifully, his bit is short: he's supposed to measure Jerusalem so god can build a wall of fire around it so he can keep the glory inside. My thinking is, if you have to work that hard to keep the glory in, maybe the glory doesn't want to be yours and you should just go find a new one that appreciates you.

Then god informs the Israelites that they are the apple of his eye (v. 8) and promises to smite... somebody. Probably the Babylonians.

Chapter 3

Joshua, Satan and an angel are standing in front of Z. Unfortunately, it's not the beginning of some kind of Aristocrats-style dirty joke. We are apparently in medeas conversation as god rebukes the devil and informs him that he has plucked Josh out of the fire.

Joshua himself is clad in filthy rags. The angel takes them away and informs him he's absolved of sin. Then they dress him in good clothes and a crown. God informs Joshy that he's now king, but to behave because he's also sending his servant the BRANCH (soon to be a Jersey Shore cast member). Also, he's giving him a stone with seven eyes. Then he tells Josh to gather everyone under a fig tree.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Haggai, Chapters 1 & 2

Chapter 1

After King Darius of Persia allows the Jews to return to Israel, they immediately start arguing about their new country. In this case, they can't agree when to rebuild the temple. At this point, god intervenes to point out that while they themselves have nicely rebuilt houses, he's still out in the cold. And when they continued to ignore him in favour of home improvement projects, he caused drought and crop failure. So they rebuild the temple.

Chapter 2

God is going to shake the earth until people start showing up for church. If his shaking happens to loosen a few coins out of a few pockets, well, finders keepers.

He also wants an upgrade for his new temple, in exchange for which he promises peace.

Furthermore, he has some complaints about priestly hygiene standards. Turns out a few people have been carrying the sacrifices in the folds of their robes and it grosses god out. Even grosser, people who have touched dead bodies have been touching sacrificial offerings, and he'd really like that to stop, because that is nasty. But then god just goes too far and declares that basically everybody is unclean.

Then there is some very confusing babble about previous droughts, and this drought, and earthquakes and somehow someone named Zarubbabel is honoured. According to his Wikipedia entry, Zerubbabel was a governor of Persia and eventual king of the Israelites.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Zephaniah, Chapters 1-3: God hates capitalism

Chapter 1

Would it surprise you to know that god is going to kill us all? For worshipping Baal? And he especially has a hate on for the kings and princes (i.e. the secular leaders?) He also promises to destroy the merchant class.

Chapter 2

God expands on his list of cities and countries he plans to destroy in the near future. Nineveh, so important of late, will be literally left to the birds.

Chapter 3

God is going to kill everything and everyone dead, except for a small group of true believers who will then go on to start a just society. This book is a repetitive snooze, but at least it's short.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Habakkuk, Chapters 1-3: God will uncover your foreskin

Chapter 1

Habakkukie wonders why god lets good people like the Israelites suffer while the wicked, like the Chaldeans, prosper. Why, indeed.

Chapter 2

Habakkukout goes up to the top of the tower, where no one can hear his convo with god, natch, and is told: the just shall live by his faith. (v. 4) He also promises to punish the Chaldeans at some later date, as well as bartenders, whom he instructs: drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered (v. 16).

Chapter 3

Habakkitkat gets down on his knees to pray, and god appears. Clearly, our prophet is on drugs again, because in his vision, god has horns on his hands. Wherever he goes, pestilence, fire, war and earthquakes follow. Sounds like an awesome god. Nonetheless, Habakkuk is filled with joy. Because he's insane.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Nahum, Chapters 1-3: The Eve of Destruction

Chapter 1

God is off his meds and is unleashing his frustration in the form of volcanoes, drought, earthquakes and tropical storms. Who is he so pissed at? Nineveh, the city that happily converted to Judaism at the end of Jonah. What did they do? Who knows? God isn't in an explaining mood.

Chapter 2

More threats, this time with promises of larceny. God invites the Israelites to plunder Nineveh after he's finished destroying it. Then lions will move in, but god will kill the young ones.

Chapter 3

Nineveh is a whoring, witchy, whore, so god is going to lift up its skirts and let the breeze circulate, then throw shit on it, then put it in the stocks. Then he's going to enslave the people, smash babeis' heads in, and turn them all into drunkards. Still no reasoning as to why.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Micah, Chapters 1-7: Wandering around, shrieking like a dragon

Chapter 1

God is going to melt the mountains and deepen the valleys because of something Jacob did. Then he's going to bury Samaria under stones and smash up all its art galleries for containing irreligious works. Man, if this happened today, we'd be left with like, the Vatican, and that would be it. And it's already hard enough to get into the Vatican as it is. When that happens, Micah the art lover (or possibly god) is going to strip naked and wander the streets howling like a dragon. Oh, good, yet another insane prophet. Maybe he'll have a UFO story, too. He also advises everybody to shave their heads.

Chapter 2

Micah laments people who plot to do evil, then two verses later says thus saith the LORD; Behold, against this family do I devise an evil (v. 3), so explain that one. Then he goes on a long rant about all the other prophets.

Chapter 3

Micah accuses the priests of cannibalism, which is possibly the one thing no Republican has accused Obama of being in this long, long run-up to the 2012 election. Nope, it turns out they let the Poles have that one. Anyway, because they bite and divine for money (v. 11), god is no longer speaking to them. Oddly, Jerry Falwell, who said on the 700 Club that 9/11 was caused by secular abortionists, among others, then asked people to send money to assuage his hurt feelings has nothing to say about the latter.

Chapter 4

God is going to build a temple/school/centre for world peace up in the mountains, someday. But first he's going to help the Israelites defeat all their enemies and consecrate their gain unto the LORD, (v. 13).

Chapter 5

Jesus is coming! At least, that's one way to interpret this chapter, as long as Jesus is a military leader who defeats the Assyrians. But he will be born in Bethlehem! As long as you believe that's the name of a town, not the name of a tribe, as the rest of the verse implies. So that's something. And after his defeat, the tribe of Jacob will destroy the Gentiles, because this book always goes 12 steps too far.

Chapter 6

God is soooo fed up with the Israelites and their ingratitude (for what, exactly? this book has been far more concerned with the smiting than the rewarding) and is now going to infect them with plague.

Chapter 7

There are no good people and you can't trust your friends or even your family members. You can only trust god, who will make all your enemies deaf at the same time as he spouts off about mercy and compassion.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Jonah, Chapters 1-4: Whale Tail

Some biblical literalists will bloviate themselves to exhaustion trying to come up with a rational explanation for Jonah. Not Jerry. To him, the fact that it's in the bible is proof enough that our intrepid prophet managed to stay alive in the belly of a great whale for 3 days. Some even stupider people will inform us that Jonah was an eyewitness to his own story, and we aren't, so shove it up your butt. I prefer Northrop Frye's take, which is that anyone who can only interpret this episode literally has a sad inability to appreciate metaphor.

Chapter One

God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh, but Jonah rebels and tries to flee to Tarshish instead. He gets on a boat, so god sends up a tempest to punish him. The sailors throw everything overboard in the attempt to keep things afloat, praying all the while. Meanwhile, Jonah retires below decks for a snooze. The captain comes down and orders him to pray as well.

That doesn't work, so they 'cast lots' to figure out who is causing the problem. I'm skeptical about this claim of divination here, because Jonah sounds like a real piece of work that anyone would be happy to throw off a boat in the middle of a storm.

Anyway, they determine that the problem is indeed Jonah and they haul him up onto the deck to interrogate him. He admits he's evading god and advises them to throw him overboard. The sailors make a valiant effort to get back to shore, but to no avail. So after an apologetic prayer, they throw him into the sea, which immediately calms down. Jonah is swallowed by a great fish (v. 17), where he stays for 3 nights.

Chapter 2

Jonah passes his three days giving thanks to god for saving him. Never mind that he was only in the water because god sent a storm. Eventually god's ego is stroked enough that he orders the fish to vomit Jonah up on shore.

Chapter 3

Jonah is back with the program, so god tells him to go to Nineveh and tell them that they're doomed, in 40 days, no less. Oddly, unlike all the other prophets, the people of Nineveh believe this one and start wearing sackcloth and fasting, even the king. God calls off the annihilation.

Chapter 4

One person who isn't happy that an entire city didn't get wiped out? Jonah, because now he's a false prophet. He goes out to the desert and sits under a tree to sulk. God makes a gourd vine sprout over Jonah to provide shade. Jonah likes the vine. Then he sends a blight to kill the vine and sends a wind so dry and hot that Jonah faints in the sun and begs god to kill him. God asks him if he's angry about the gourd. Jonah answers in the affirmative. God points out that he didn't cultivate the vine, it just appeared one day and was dead the next, so why shouldn't he spare the city? Yeah, it doesn't make a lot of sense.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Obadiah, Chapter 1: The perfect length for this book

I'm deep in the back 40 of the Old Testament right now, adrift in a sea of minor prophets, only one of whom anybody has ever heard of. FYI, that's Jonah, the guy who lived in a whale for 3 days, a fact Evangelicals will twist themselves into knots to prove, but that's the next entry. For now we've got Obadiah, all 21 verses of him. Would that all bible books were this short.

And what is Obadiah's minor prophesy? War with the Edomites, who have been getting a tad big for their britches recently. This time he's going to single out the wise and learned men, though he's planning to kill everyone. Why? For being mean to Jacob, even though that's just how brothers ARE to each other. At some point in his rant, the locus of god's anger shifts, and he decides that punishing the Edomites isn't enough and he also needs to punish the tribes of Jacob and Joseph as well. How? Fire, then war and exile. But in the end, the land will return to god.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Amos, Chapters 6-9

Chapter 6

A cheery little chapter about how god is going to smite everyone. In particular, the rich, people who like viol music, people who invent new instruments, and people who live in palaces in the city of Jacob, which I think might mean Jerusalem.

Chapter 7

For once, god actually puts a plan into action. First, he sends locusts, but the Jacobites repent, so he calls them off. Then he sets a fire, but again they apologise and he stops.

Then suddenly god is in front of Amos on a wall, holding a plumb line, which is a wall-building doohickey. He tells Amos he's tired of this repent-sin-repent bullshit and he's not going to halt his next attack, which will be against the house of Jeroboam.

Jeroboam gets wind that Amos is prophesying against him. Amos denies he's a prophet, and insists he was just tending his flock in the field one day when god started telling him about how all of Israel is going to hell in a handcart.

Chapter 8

Now god has a basket of summer fruit, which somehow represents the end. How he intends to do it has nothing to do with the fruit, he's going to kill them through fire, flooding, drought and famine.

Chapter 9

God is going to kill us with swords, and anyone who tries to escape will be chased down, even if he has to send a serpent to the bottom of the sea. Then he'll rebuild David's temple and return the Israelites to their homes.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Amos, Chapters 1-5: Biblical dental care

Chapter 1

God is angry, though he isn't exactly sure why or who at. First he's pissed at Damascus for beating Gilead with threshing instruments, but then he's going to set fire to Hazael. Then he's mad at Damascus again, but he's going to punish the people of Aven. There are a number of other tribes he's got a beef with, most notably the Ammonites, who have been killing the women of Gilead in a territorial expansion effort.

Chapter 2

God is still listing his grievances, but at least the reasons are getting more interesting. Now he's angry at the Moabites for burning the king of Edom's bones until they turned to lime. For that, he's going to burn them and kill their princes. He's going to burn Judah for lying, Israel for trading the poor for a pair of shoes, and for fathers and sons sleeping with the same women. Yuck.

The Amorites are too tall, so clearly they need to go. Also, they day of judgement is coming, and even the bravest men will run away naked.

Chapter 3

God is going to punish the Israelites because you always hurt the ones you love. How exactly? Carrying them off to Syria in the corner of a bed, then tearing down altars and smashing houses together. After 1300+ pages, this is getting old.

Chapter 4

God has done everything to the Israelites: given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities (v. 6), famine, drought, flooding, blasting (v. 9), which apparently means blight, pestilence, war, lack of sanitation, and still the Israelites won't worship him exclusively. What is an abusive deity to do?

Chapter 5

God is going to kill 90% of the Israelites in hopes of convincing the other 10% to just like him on Facebook. For those who survive, he has some advice: Seek good, and not evil (v. 14) and hate the evil, and love the good (v. 15). Wow. Avoid evil. That is some profound thinking that is totally worth killing 9 out of 10 people for.

There will be lots of wailing, followed by a day of Judgement that sounds extraordinarily unpleasant. Then he just gets mean, telling the Israelites he hates their sacrifices, worship, music and festivals so he's going to exile them in Syria.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Joel, Chapters 1-3: At least it's short

Chapter 1

God is in a smiting mood, what else is new? This time he's going to rain down environmental destruction on the Israelites, first with worms that will eat all the fruit, then with something that will kill all the vines and trees, thus rendering all the offerings impossible to offer and making the animals desperately unhappy. Then he'll set fire to everything.

Chapter 2

The day of the lord is coming! And it's going to be dark and gloomy, because for all the bible occasionally pays lip service to rewarding the faithful, it's much more fun to talk about how the sinners will be punished.

First, god will send a fleet of fiery chariots with warriors who cannot be killed, even if you stab them with a sword. Then the sky will turn pitch black and god will tell the people that if they just turn their hearts towards him and repent, he'll forgive them and give them corn again.

A few warning signs that the day of the lord is nigh: Wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood. (v. 30-31)

Chapter 3

Okay, so what else happens before the day of the lord? Well, people will be scattered, mostly for selling their kids in exchange for alcohol. That's probably for the best. Then he'll free all the Israelites that the Tyreans and Zidonians have sold to the Greeks so the Israelites can sell their former slave-owners to the Sabeans. Somehow, that doesn't make it right.

Back in Isaiah, we were promised that we could beat our swords into ploughshares because there would be everlasting peace. Now Joel instructs us to Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruninghooks into spears (v. 10).

Then he repeats the rigamarole about the sky going dark and earthquakes, but adds something new: the banishment of foreigners from Jerusalem. Good luck with that one.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hosea, Chapters 8-14: Biblical family values

Chapter 8

God is going to set fire to Ephraim for flirting with other gods and making peace treaties with Assyria. You may have heard a part of verse 7: For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.

Chapter 9

In return for worshipping other gods on the threshing floor, god is going to kill all the extant children, cause miscarriages in pregnant women, then make them all infertile. Jerry has a lot to say about harvest festivals, but nary a word about god aborting all those innocent little babies.

Chapter 10

In yet another episode of Biblical Family Values, god is going to knock mothers' and children's heads together only unlike the Three Stooges, this will end in actual death for the participants.

Chapter 11

Jerry, of course, has plenty of time to point out how this chapter predicts that Jesus' family will flee to Egypt. Of course he ignores verse 5, which is rather confusing and talks about people who refused to leave Egypt and ended up being ruled by the Assyrians. After all, it's that kind of verse that we'd expect Biblical scholars to be able to explain.

Chapter 12

David Plotz thinks this is the most boring chapter in the entire Old Testament, which is saying a lot when you consider that Leviticus is basically a long list of sacrifices, Numbers has about 10 chapters dedicated to listing family members, and Ezekiel spends half a book recording measurements. What's it about? I don't know, I fell asleep.

Chapter 13

Over 10 years ago, when I was in my early 20s, I broke up with a guy because he's an asshole. Unfortunately, we still have some friends in common, so I occasionally see him at weddings or barbecues. Not only will he not so much as look at me, his wife, who did not know me at the time, also refuses to speak to me. That couple has a lot in common with god, who is STILL smarting over the golden calf incident way back in Exodus. Now he's going to punish the Israelites with wild animals. He's especially going to focus on ripping pregnant women and infants to shreds. Jerry of course is mum. Fortunately, Pastor Deacon Fred has lots to say.

Chapter 14

After all the killing and aborting and animal savagery, god will forgive Ephraim and allow them back into the fold.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hosea, Chapters 3-: Buying a wife for a bushel of barley

Chapter 3

God tells Hosea to take another adulteress as his wife to symbolise god's love of the Israelites despite all their failings. So he buys one for the bargain price of fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley (v. 2). He makes sure to tell this one before the wedding that she shouldn't cheat on him, and promises to do the same. Then he explains that Israel will be without leadership for awhile, but then they'll go back to god.

Chapter 4

God has decided to punish the Israelites in a totally new, unique way that has never been seen before: death, whoring and wine. People who worship Baal will be punished with harlot daughters and cheating wives. You know how divorced people say things like, 'I was married to X for 22 years, one of them happy?' That's what this entire book thus far reminds me of. There have been maybe 10 chapters total in which god wasn't punishing his chosen people for some transgression or another.

Chapter 5

Even though Hosea falls well after the Babylonian exile in the Christian bible, he seems much more concerned with the sins of Ephraim and Judah, specifically whoring, which has resulted in strange children (v. 7). The punishment? Death by lions.

Chapter 6

More threats of death against Ephraim and Judah for the sins of lewdness and whoredom. I'm sensing a theme.

Chapter 7

Poor god! There he was, all ready to forgive the Israelites and start healing, but then stupid Ephraim had to come along and mess it all up by fraternising with foreigners. So now he has no choice but to punish them. How? You guessed it! Death.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hosea, Chapters 1 & 2: Son of a whore!

Chapter 1

The things god puts his faithful followers through. He orders Hosea to take a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms (v. 2). Why? To prove a point to the Israelites, of course! So he takes a wife called Gomer, which was a boy's name somewhere else and on TV. Anyway, she has a son called Jezreel, which refers to something that happened back in Kings and means the house of Jehu will be avenged. I'm not interested enough to actually look it up.

Next Gomer has a daughter called Loruhamah, which means 'No Mercy' or 'Unloved.' Finally, she has another son called Loammi, or 'Not My People.' Way to set your kids up for future criminal charges there, god.

God does offer up some hope at the end, promising that even though he's breaking up with his people now, he'll take them back in future so they can take revenge for whatever happened at Jezreel. Okay, I looked it up: Queen Jezebel seizes some land illegally.

Chapter 2

Further ensuring future delinquency, Hosea tells his kids No Mercy and Not My People to tell their mother that she's not his wife and to stop cheating on him. He threatens to strip her naked and leave her to die of thirst in the desert. He's got plans for their siblings as well, namely not to have mercy on them.

He goes on and on in his trauma-counselling-inducing tirade, threatening to destroy all her possessions à la Ronny on Jersey Shore and to exile her to an isolated country estate. That actually sounds much better than being married to this guy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Daniel, Chapters 10-12: Do you understand the thing?

Chapter 10

Daniel sees something true, but it will take a long time. He understands it. But we don't because he doesn't say what it is.

Whatever it is, it causes him so much grief that he doesn't eat or drink for over 3 weeks, until one day, sitting by a river, he hallucinates a very strange man. The people with him can't see the man, presumably because they've eaten in the last few days, but they can feel his presence. It scares them, so they hide. God hates an audience.

What does god need privacy to tell Daniel? Is his fly down? Does he have food in his teeth? No, it seems the Persians are going to invade, followed by the Greeks.

Chapter 11

They say Jerry Falwell died of a heart attack in his office, no doubt brought about by constantly masturbating to the book of Daniel. For example, this chapter is full of 'prophecies' about kings and treaties and wars, all of which, he claims, have come true. Of course he doesn't specify when or how, but let's just take one verse:

And in the end of years they shall join themselves together; for the king's daughter of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement: but she shall not retain the power of the arm; neither shall he stand, nor his arm: but she shall be given up, and they that brought her, and he that begat her, and he that strengthened her in these times. (v. 6)

Wow. So at some point in the last 2600 years, a king has sent his daughter to make a treaty and it will all go wrong? That's some prescient shit right there.

There's a lot more predictions that mostly come down to 'In a war, one side invariably loses,' but no names or dates or locations, which makes it very easy to say that it's all come true.

Chapter 12

At the end of days, someone named Michael, who is possibly an angel, or possibly yet another Messiah, will raise a zombie army... for some reason. Daniel wants to know when he can expect this, but god is predictably vague, only promising that it will happen in the End of Days.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Daniel, Chapters 7-9: Daniel's Bad Trip

Chapter 7

Daniel has a dream about sea monsters with horns making war against saints until a saviour comes along and turns the tide decisively in the saints' favour, at which point a bunch of kings will come along and fight each other, until one prevails. Then he'll start a new, everlasting kingdom. Jerry Falwell just about creams his pants over this chapter, devoting nearly a page of footnotes to explaining how this chapter predicts Jesus and Revelations and End Times and the Antichrist and the Rapture and all that awesome stuff lunatics like him look forward to.

Chapter 8

Daniel has another dream, this time about a goat and a ram that fight. He doesn't get it, so an angel comes along to explain: the goat is Medo-Persia and the ram is Greece. They'll fight and eventually one ruler will prevail. Jerry continues to spin a wild-eyed story about temple schedules and the Antichrist, because he doesn't understand that if you write a second book to conveniently fit all the prophecies in your first book, that doesn't prove anything except that you read the first book.

Chapter 9

Daniel prays to god to forgive his people and let them go back to Jerusalem. Eventually a man, or possibly an archangel named Gabriel comes along and says fine, you can have Jerusalem back in 70 weeks, at which point a prince will come along and help them rebuild it. But then it'll be destroyed again in a war, and then there's a confusing bit about sacrifices and desolation. Meanwhile, Jerry's orgasm, which has been building for 3 chapters now, finally explodes into a full PAGE of commentary about how the Hebrew word for 'week' can represent up to 7 years as long as they're prophetical years and not solar years, and therefore when Jesus is killed exactly 483 years to the day (April 3, AD 33) later, it all fits perfectly. Provided you use 30 day months and skip ahead to the Book of Revelation.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Daniel, Chapters 5 & 6: Not the lion story you thought you knew

Chapter 5

King Neb is dead. Long live the king! And now his son (or most likely not his son) Belshazzar is having a party. As the wine flows, he decides it's a good idea to get the gold and silver vessels from the sacked temple in Jerusalem so he can reenact every photo of the Stanley Cup ever.

Bad idea. A mysterious, detached hand appears and starts writing on the wall. Unfortunately, the language isn't Babylonian, so nobody can read it. Meaning it could say anything at all. The queen suggests that maybe Danny could be of service here, so the king sends for him. Danny basically tells him what you'd expect to hear: drinking out of the holy vessels was a big no-no and now he's going to die ignominiously and his kingdom will be divided. Rather than get a second opinion, Shazzar rewards him with a promotion to third in command. Then he dies and Darius takes over.

Chapter 6

Daniel is the Tracy Flick of the Babylonian administration, and the other bureaucrats are the Mr McAllisters, trying desperately to find something wrong with him so they can kick him out. Of course they can't, so they draft a law saying anyone who petitions anyone but the king for something in the next 30 days will be thrown into the lions' den. The king happily signs the decree, because in the bible all kings are easily-manipulated fools.

Of course Daniel immediately makes a point of praying three times a day with all the windows open because he's incredibly irritating. And of course the other administrators catch him at it. They tattle to the king, who reluctantly throws him into the lions' den, because again, as the king, he has no power to change the law. As he's shutting the door, the king asks Danny if he really thinks his god will protect him. Danny assures him that he will. Note how few Christians today are willing to take the same leap of faith.

Of course Danny survives the night, and that's where most people think this tale ends. But it doesn't. Instead the other senior officials are gathered up, along with their wives and children, and thrown into the pit, where they are not as lucky as our hero. Then Darius issues another decree, this time that everybody has to worship god.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Daniel, Chapters 3 & 4: Goldmember

Chapter 3

King Neb commissions a giant gold penis substitute statue and orders the people to worship it. Anyone who doesn't will be thrown into a fiery furnace. So of course Daniel's friends refuse.

Neb hears about this and orders them brought to his castle. They confirm it, and he orders the furnace heated to seven times the normal temperature and throws them in. It's so hot it kills the executioners, but Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego get up and walk around. A fourth guy who is like the Son of God (v. 25) even joins them. King Neb stupidly approaches the grate to speak to them, then orders them released. He issues a new decree: now anyone who refuses to worship the Jewish god shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill (v. 27). Seriously? A guy with religious beliefs this flexible is supposed to be an example to us?

Chapter 4

Suddenly Neb takes over the narration so he can tell us his personal testimony. But he's not very good at it and immediately loses half the audience by telling us all about his dream and how Daniel interpreted it for him. Then he loses the other half by telling us about another dream he had about a very tall tree. While Neb is gawping at the tree, a man comes down from heaven and starts shrieking at him to cut it down, no doubt because it's blocking his view and he's a nimbyist. He even wants Neb to put an iron band around the stump so it can't grow higher.

But then! Another weird miracle: the tree will grow a man's heart, which will then be replaced by a beast's heart. Neb challenges Daniel to find meaning in that muddle of gibberish. It takes Danny an entire hour, but then he comes back with this: the tree is Neb himself, and the litigious neighbour is his enemies. Eventually he'll be driven out of society and forced to live amongst the animals, eating grass like a cow. This will go on for 7 years, at which point he'll accept god into his heart and be restored to his rightful throne. Danny Boy advises him to start acting like a good person now and avoid all the hassle of living in fields drinking rainwater, but Neb ignores him and everything comes to pass. The way he frames it, it actually sounds more like a schizophrenic episode, but he comes out of it later and becomes a good Jew.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Daniel, Chapter 2: Dreamweaver

King Neb has a nightmare. He gathers all his prophets and sorcerers around him and tells them to interpret it. They point out that they need to know the contents to explain it, but the king is in a bad mood, so he petulantly tells them that if they can't work it out for themselves, he'll kill them all and turn their houses into a dunghill (v. 5). This goes on back and forth for awhile, until the king gets bored and orders them all killed, including Daniel.

Daniel asks to see the king before he's executed and for some reason the king agrees. He's clearly been watching Inception, because he's able to tell the king that he dreamed about a figure made out of gold and silver and other metals, which gets smashed by a stone, then blows away in the wind. The stone, meanwhile, becomes a mountain.

Can you figure out what this dream might mean? Can you? Because my kitten understood it, and she fell out the window twice last week. The figure in the dream is Neb. Each metal that makes up his body is less precious than the last, until the feet. Those cheap metals are the increasingly-inferior kings that will succeed him. The statue's feet are made of clay and iron, meaning the kingdom will be weak and strong. The smashing is the breaking up of his kingdom. The stone is not explained.

Neb is dumber than my kitten, because he falls down at Danny Boy's feet and starts worshipping him. Danny becomes the most powerful man in the universe.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Daniel, Chapter 1: Jewish Integration Courses

King Nebuchadnezzar, whom you will remember from every book since 2 Kings as the guy who sacked Jerusalem, orders his chief eunuch to find the best and brightest of his new Jewish captives and bring them to the palace so they can learn all about Babylon and hopefully convince their people to stop whinging on about being conquered and taken from their homelands. Good luck.

Our story focuses on 4 of them: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, all of whom are given Babylonian names: unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego (v. 7). Oddly none of these except Daniel is currently in widespread use, except perhaps in certain Israeli sects.

Daniel, of course, being a prophet, decides not to join the cause and refuses to eat the king's meat or drink his wine. Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs (v. 9) which you can interpret as you will. I personally will go with Hoyay!. But the eunuch is still worried that the king will see a bunch of ugly, starving people, and won't be happy. Daniel proposes a test: give him and his friends beans and water to drink for 10 days and see who looks healthier at the end.

Somehow the vegans end up looking fairer and fatter (v. 15) despite how they normally look skinny and self-righteous and so they're allowed to continue their annoying lifestyle. Daniel is soon visited with hunger hallucinations visions and dreams and when King Neb finally calls on him, he finds him ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm (v. 20) though of course we are given no indication of how.