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.