Sunday, December 23, 2012

Galatians, Chapters 1-3: Curses

Chapter 1

Paul and the other apostles are writing to the church in Galatia, which is apparently already worshiping other gospels. He curses the false preachers and says if he was trying to win a popularity contest, he'd tell them what they wanted to hear, but he's a servant of Christ, so he tells them what they need to hear.

He reminds us about how he used to persecute Christians, until god spoke to him on the road to Damascus. Or possibly he was in Arabia. Anyway, he was somewhere, and he spoke to god. Then he went to Jerusalem and spoke to Peter and James.

Chapter 2

Paul went around hectoring people for a few years, but then had a revelation that sent him back to Jerusalem to get his new message for the Gentiles approved. They agreed and didn't make his companion Titus get circumcised, for which I'm sure Titus was eternally grateful. They had this conversation because of some false christians who wanted to kidnap them and sell them into slavery. But they were careful, because they wanted to get to evangelising. The apostles approved the message, with the proviso that they also had to remember the poor.

Later, at Antioch, he got into an argument with Peter, who refused to eat with the gentiles in public, which led other Jewish christians to act the same, so he pointed out that salvation is through Jesus, not circumcision.

Chapter 3

Paul calls the Galatians fools, which seems like the easiest way to lose your audience. He asks if they got the word through obeying the law, or faith, and why they're so materialistic.

Following the law makes you cursed, because Jesus. The laws were just a temporary thing between Abraham and Jesus. A prison guard, or a teacher. Then he tells us we're all one under Jesus, conveniently forgetting that part in just the last book where he said women shouldn't speak in church.

Monday, December 17, 2012

2 Corinthians, Chapters 11-13: Virgins for Jesus

Chapter 11

Paul asks us to bear with his foolishness, then admits that he's jealous because we'll be going to our marriage beds with Jesus as virgins. Of course he also thinks we're dummies who'll do it with Satan, because during the apocalypse, there will be a lot of people claiming to be Christ.

Paul changes topic so he can humble-brag that though his speech isn't polished, he's at least as awesome as all the other apostles. Like Peter, who jumped out of a boat that one time, then spent a whole night pretending not to know Jesus? Set your sights high, Paul.

He also reminds us that he's doing this gratis for the Corinthians, since other churches already paid him. He also admits that he's not actually coming to Corinth, all Godot-like, not because he doesn't love them, but because you get what you pay for. Also, other places need him more.

He then riffs some more on the fools theme, saying he acts like a fool because ye suffer fools gladly (v. 19), which I did not know was a biblical expression. Not only do they like fools, they like slavers and people who slap them across the face. Next, he starts ranting about how superior he is to all the false prophets, after all, he's more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. (v. 23) He then starts listing off all the things he's suffered. Highlights include 3 non-hyperbolic-at-all shipwrecks, an entire day spent in the ocean, 195 lashings doled out over 5 sessions, and being lowered out of a prison window in a basket.

Chapter 12

Now Paul wants to tell us about the visions he's received from god. Once, he was high as a kite, possibly having an out-of-body experience and he met a fellow christian who went to heaven and heard things so amazing no human could possibly express them. And that's literally all we find out about this guy. Because telling us this story would be bragging, and Paul only wants to tell us about his weaknesses.

At one point, Paul had either a literal or a metaphorical thorn in his flesh. He kept asking god to take it out, but god kept saying his grace was enough. So now Paul likes his weaknesses, because somehow it means he's stronger in Christ.

He does promise to visit the Corinthians again, even though the more he loves them, the less they love him. He says he lured them in through deceit, but says it's so they'll see the truth. Also, it's so they won't disappoint him when he finally arrives.

Chapter 13

Paul reiterates his promise to visit the Corinthians so he can judge them. He says he'll only try cases that have 2 or 3 witnesses, and therefore he won't be lenient. Here's how to tell if you're a reprobate, which is a word I always thought my mother just made up: if Jesus is in you, you're fine. Also, don't do evil shit. Paul promises to come in a couple of months. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

2 Corinthians, Chapters 9 & 10: Spare us the speeches

Chapter 9

Paul changes tactic and starts telling the Corinthians how he's been bragging about their generosity to the Macedonians. He's sending some other disciples to pick up the money, and he hopes they won't be disappointed. Of course, this is all freely chosen, it's just that he'd look awfully silly if he boasted about this and didn't deliver. Besides all that, it also helps them to get into heaven, because God loveth a cheerful giver (v. 7).

Chapter 10

Paul claims he's shy in person, but bold in print, so he hopes he won't get into any confrontations when he finally puts down his pen and heads for Corinth. His only weapons are his ability to hector people into converting just to shut him up. He also promises to punish the disobedient in the future.

Apparently, there is already a schism as Paul is writing, with each side saying they're the true heirs of Christ. He urges them to see that they're all christians. He says he's not trying to frighten them with his letters, he just feels more comfortable writing, as people have said his speeches suck. He does promise that he's been practising and he'll be better in person. However, they won't go too far, just evangelising.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

2 Corinthians, Chapters 7 & 8: Competitive Donating

Chapter 7

Paul advises us to cleanse ourselves for the apocalypse. He also urges us to make rooms in our hearts for him and his friends, and claims they haven't corrupted anyone. He says he's proud of the Corinthians for making Macedonia safe for him and Titus, who has told him how much they miss him. He says he doesn't regret sending his last letter, even though it made them sad for awhile, but it did make them repent, and hopefully stop banging their stepmothers, so he's happy he sent it.

Apparently holy sorrow leads us to heaven, but worldly sorrow leads us to hell. But now the Corinthians are back on the right track. He closes by reassuring them that Titus loves them in his heart and that he himself is confident in them.

Chapter 8

Paul will now give us a list of all the good things the churches have done in Macedonia. The congregation is poor in monetary terms, but spiritually generous. They gave a big donation to the poor Christians in Jerusalem. They can expect a future begging visit from Titus. Paul isn't commanding them, just setting them up for a friendly competition with other churches to see who can raise the most cash, just like Jesus. He says the Corinthians have a good shot, since they won last year, but reminds them not to give more than they can afford. He assures them that later on, when they need money, the Jerusalem crowd will pay it forward. Unless the world ends, of course.

Paul promises to send someone along with Titus for extra exhorting, but supposedly because the church wants to be completely transparent in its cash dealings, the first and last time one of them made that claim.

Monday, December 3, 2012

2 Corinthians, Chapters 5 & 6: Watch out for people walking by faith

Chapter 5

It doesn't matter if your life sucks here on earth, if you're homeless, naked and sick, because soon you'll die and go to heaven, where you'll have nice things. Also, faithful people walk by faith, not by sight (v. 6). 

You have to be good, because after you die, Jesus is going to judge you and he's terrifying. Or god is, but since they're all one, it's also Jesus. If christians are acting all crazy, it's because of god, but if they're normal, it's because they want to save you. Either way, it's all controlled by Jesus. 

Christians are to stop considering other people from a worldly perspective. Even though they once did that with Jesus, they have to stop. Also, Jesus was made in sin, which somehow absolved all the actual sinners.

Chapter 6

There's no waiting! You have to choose salvation now or never. But no pressure or anything. The apostles won't put any stumbling blocks in your way. Rather, they'll endure patiently, even lashings, secure in the holy ghost's love. They extend this love to the Corinthians, who are holding their love in their bowels. Seems as good a place as any. 

Finally, don't associate with non-Christians, because they might turn you evil.    

Saturday, December 1, 2012

2 Corinthians, Chapters 3 & 4: Slagging off Moses

Chapter 3

Paul informs us that christians don't need letters of introductions, because they're written in their hearts. We're also told that all our competences are given by god. He promises a new covenant with god, given not by a set of laws, but by the holy spirit. Much easier for getting converts that way. Also good? Telling people the old way leads to death. And that they can get to know god through the new way.

Now, with all our newfound glory, we can be direct, unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so people wouldn't see the shine of god fading. Apparently the people of Israel still wear this veil over their hearts. If they turn to god, though, the veil will be lifted.

Chapter 4

Now that we have this awesome new relationship with god, we need to be forthright in telling people about it. If their hearts remain veiled, Satan did it. After all, they aren't preaching about themselves, but about Jesus, because god turned a light on in our hearts. This allows us to be troubled but not distressed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not foresaken, cast down but not destroyed. Our suffering is supposed to remind us of Jesus, and give life to others.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

2 Corinthians, Chapters 1 & 2: Deoderant is holy

Chapter 1

Paul and Timothy are writing this letter to tell the parishioners in Corinth about the trouble they had in Asia, where they were sentenced to death, but clearly didn't die, because now they're writing. They credit god and the congregation's prayers for their rescue.

Jesus is coming, but since that might not be for awhile yet, Paul plans to visit Corinth again. He asks them if they think he made a change in his itinerary on  a whim? Because he didn't get travel insurance and this is going to cost him an arm and a leg.

Chapter 2

Paul has decided this visit won't be as painful as the last one, because they're the only people he knows there, and if they're upset, he won't have anyone to talk to. He is confident they won't do anything to upset him, either. It's like visiting in-laws.

He admits that he was pretty teary when he last wrote, but he only wants to show them how much he loves them. He also tells them that whoever caused all the grief from before hurt them more than he did Paul. Still, the man has been punished by ostracism, so that's enough and now they should forgive him, lest he get depressed.

He also wants to know if they've been forgiving and obedient, because otherwise, Satan will get them. He also informs us that saved people smell nicer to god, but worse to Satan.

Monday, November 26, 2012

1 Corinthians, Chapters 15 & 16: Zombie Apocalypse

Chapter 15

You'll go to heaven if you can just keep the following facts straight in your head: Jesus died for our sins, Simon Peter/Peter/Cephas saw him 3 days later, as did the apostles and 500 other people who are mostly still alive, then James, then finally Paul, who humble-brags that he isn't worthy of being an apostle, but works harder than any of them.So you should believe what he preaches.

Now, some questions: how can people think Jesus didn't rise from the dead, even though Paul has said it happened? Because if it doesn't happen, Paul & co are liars and we're all still sinners. Yup. But don't worry your pretty little heads, dearies, Paul can assure you that Jesus did die and rise from the dead, and just like Adam brought death to the world, Jesus will bring eternal life again when he comes back. Someday. Then there will be an apocalypse, where Jesus will vanquish all of his enemies, including death.

Have you heard those creepy stories about Mormons constantly baptising Anne Frank? Verse 29: Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? sure makes it sound like the early christians did it, too. 

Another question: Why do christians risk their lives every day? For preaching the gospel. Also, Paul claims to have fought wild beasts in Ephesus, so why can't we hear that story? Then he says something that I did not know was biblical: let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die (v. 32).

Next we're told that evil makes us rude. Then another question: how are the dead raised? and whose body are they using? But Paul has a very biologically sound answer for us: seeds are dead, and we don't know what they'll grow up as, because god decides. Also, there are three kinds of flesh: animal, human and fish. Creationists have a field day with that one. Anyway, human bodies that die and are resurrected as spiritual bodies are uncorrupted. Somehow, this means that Adam gave us flesh but Christ will give us spiritual bodies and we'll all look like him.

A few words about heaven: you can't go there alive, but you won't die, you'll just change.

Chapter 16

A bit about church collections for the poor: save some each week so that Paul doesn't have to gather it when he arrives. He'll send their approved messengers to Jerusalem with the money. He might also go back with them, his plans are flexible.

He'll also go to Macedonia, but he'll spend winter in Corinth, at the very least. Then he might go to Ephesus for spring, just in case there's some animal wrestling to be done.

Timothy might come instead of Paul, so they shouldn't hurt him. Paul wanted Apollos to come, but he couldn't fit it into his calendar. He promises to come later. Some advice: be faithful and loving. He thanks his helpers, sends out some props, and signs off.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

1 Corinthians, Chapters 13 & 14: STFU, ladies

Chapter 13

Paul claims he loves us, otherwise he'd sound pretty brassy. He could know everything and be the most faithful person in the world, but with out his narrow version of hetero-normative love, he's nothing. He then says some nice things about charity, but you're probably more familiar with the NIV, which says Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud (v. 4), which sounds lovely until you consider everything else in the entire book like just a few chapters ago, when Paul was going on about sleeping with your stepmother and making sure your sons have short hair. Then he says a couple of other well-known things: When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things (v. 11) and  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known (v. 12).

Chapter 14

Paul urges us to look for love's spiritual gifts, especially prophecy, which should be a hint that maybe a Middle Eastern religious zealot writing 2000 years ago wasn't quite working from the same definition as a 21st-century westerner. He tells us that speaking in tongues is great, because you're speaking to god and edifying yourself, but prophecy is better because other people understand you, so if you can only have one gift, take prophecy. Also, if you're going to play a musical instrument, use it to make music, not senseless noise, so people will know it's war time. Same thing when praying, otherwise the others won't know when to say Amen.

Paul claims to speak a bunch of languages, more than anyone else, but says he'd rather say 5 words in a language people understand than 10 000 in something they won't, and for once, I wholeheartedly agree.

He tells us to be mature in our understanding, and for gosh sakes, stop speaking in tongues lest outsiders think you're insane. If you must, bring an interpreter along. If you don't have one, talk to god in your head, at least at church. And if at all possible, just prophecy, which has a chance of convincing an unbeliever.

Then he gets into everyone's favourite subject, women speaking in church. Not allowed. If you have questions, ladies, ask your husband after you get home. Finally, if men want to prophecy, but don't follow Paul's rules, the rest of you should ignore them. And keep order.

Monday, November 5, 2012

1 Corinthians, Chapters 11 & 12: Was Jesus' long hair shameful?

Chapter 11

Paul informs us that we should follow his teachings. Then he teaches us the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man (v. 3). Which only works so long as your man isn't a serial killer, or a drug addict, or a politician. Then you're on your own, ladies. Next we're told that men shouldn't cover their heads in church, but women should, because otherwise it's the same as being shaved. Women can work around this by cutting their hair, but it's shameful. The reasoning for all this is a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. (v. 7) Gross. Also, men don't need women, but women need men, and women were created for men. However, we're not independent as women are still needed for their reproductive function. 

Some rhetorical questions about tonsorial fashion: first, do we think it's appropriate for uncovered women to pray in public? Second, is long hair on a dude shameful? I guess he's never seen a picture of Jesus Third, doesn't long hair make a woman attractive? If you don't like those rules, tough luck for you, it's tradition and Paul is sticking to it. 

After 17 verses, Paul gets off the subject of hair and moves on to church gossip. This congregation hasn't been getting along so well, and their communal eating has become a mockery, with no one sharing and some going home hungry while others just come for a piss-up. He reminds them about Jesus' instructions to eat his body and drink his blood, and tells them anyone who partakes of the sacrament but isn't worthy is sinning and is going to hell. That's why some of them have got sick and died. Not because they lacked antibiotics or proper sanitation, no. Finally, if you're really hungry, eat at home, because you should share at church.

Chapter 12

Paul now wants to talk to us about what powers the holy spirit can and cannot imbue us with, because this congregation was full of pagans until recently, so they may not know all the ins and outs quite properly yet. 

First, the holy spirit would never, ever, make anyone under its influence curse Jesus, but nor would it make them say he's the lord. 

It does bring other gifts, and requires other services, and god has different ways of working through all of us. We all have a gift, which contributes to the common good. One may be wise, another may have special knowledge, though again, not of epidemiology or sanitation engineering. Some people are faithful, which doesn't seem like much of a gift, and others have healing powers, though not in any useful form. Other people can do miracles, while some can prophesy. Others can talk to the spirit world, while still others can speak in tongues and others can interpret what they say. This is because we're all one body and god has given us gifts that compliment each other and are needed in the church. He promises to show us a most excellent way of living in his next chapter.   

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

1 Corinthians, Chapters 9 & 10: Paul is a 47 percenter

Chapter 9

Paul reminds us that he was an apostle and in a nifty bit of historical revisionism, saw Jesus.  I suppose it's possible, given that their lives overlapped. Then he argues that he and Barnabas shouldn't have to work, given that soldiers don't start wars and people eat the things they grow. Clearly, they're Democrats. After all, Mosaic law specifies that you have to feed your oxen, so the congregation should feed him. Also, temple workers get fed by their temples. Except that Paul isn't a Jew anymore, so why that rule applies is beyond me. I mean, you're in or out, no cherry-picking the bits you like.

Oh, but Paul isn't writing to assert any of these entitlements. He's doing it because he must. He admits that he fakes being a member of whatever community he's living in, to the point where he'll follow Jewish law if he's in a Jewish neighbourhood, or he'll act like a gentile when he's among them. But it's all for a good cause, so it's fine.

Chapter 10

Paul dwells on Moses for a bit, reminding his audience about Moses parting the Red Sea, but how most of them displeased god, so he punished them, to the tune of 23 000 deaths in a single day. So no fornicating, because the end is nigh.

He reminds us not to be tempted, and to take communion, because it makes them all one flesh. This is not to say that all sacrifices are to real gods, no sir. When gentiles make sacrifices, it's to the devil. So you need to choose: in our out. Just like Paul himself, when he says he should be paid just like a Jewish temple worker. He tells us that anything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial, and we should think about others.

You can eat anything the butcher sells, and eat everything that's put on your plate, even brussels sprouts, but try not to offend others with your cooking.

Monday, October 22, 2012

1 Corinthians, Chapters 7 & 8: Biblical marriage rules

Chapter 7

Paul informs us that it's better not to have sex at all, but if you must, for god's sake don't fornicate and stay heterosexually monogamous. Also, you have to have sex unless it's prayer time, but then you have to do it again right away lest Satan tempt you. Amazingly, you can still choose the position yourself.

He would actually prefer it if we were all celibate like him, especially widows. But he realises it's quite hard to do, and after all, it is better to marry than to burn (v. 9).

On to divorce: women can leave their husbands, but if one does, she can't remarry anyone except the original version. And yet, no one is calling for us to enforce this particular bit of biblically-mandated claptrap, even though it's in the same chapter that would seem to preclude gay marriage or sister wives. 

Mixed marriages: they're fine. The resulting spawn are christians. However, if your unbelieving spouse leaves, NBD. 

Be content with your lot in life. Don't get uncircumcised if you are (Yes, it's a thing) and don't get circumcised if you aren't. If you're a slave, don't sweat it, but take your freedom if it comes available. Unbelievably, this will still be a thing in 2012 that multiple candidates for office will still be saying. 

Virgins: god hasn't said much, but Paul has an opinion, which is that it is a good thing to be. If you're married, fine, stay that way, but if you aren't, stay that way, too. If you must, it's fine, but it will cause you a lot of heartache in life. Also, the world is ending soon. 

Finally, he get's down to the brass tacks: being married makes you think of worldly things, like how to please your spouse, but staying single means you can focus on god. Hah! If a woman is getting on in years, it's fine to marry her, but better not to. And if her husband dies, she can't remarry anyone except a fellow christian. 

Chapter 8

Knowledge is bad, charity is good. If you think you know something, you don't. If you love god, he'll love you. It's fine to eat animals sacrificed to other gods, but try not to do it in front of people of weak faith lest they sin. Being a vegetarian is also fine.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

1 Corinthians, Chapters 5 & 6: Sex-obsessed

Chapter 5

Things take a sharp turn for the quasi-incestuous as Paul addresses rumours of fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. (v. 1) Not only that, according to Paul, they're proud to have a dude who banged one of his stepmothers amongst them. Naturally, he advises removing the creep so Satan can deal with him, because this kind of thing has a way of spreading. 

Other people to avoid: regular fornicators, the covetous, extortioners, idolators, slanderers or drunkards. Fun people, in other words. You can't even eat with them, just leave them for god to judge.

Chapter 6

Don't take other believers to court, because some day believers will take over the world and then they'll have to administer it for themselves, so they might as well start learning now. Eventually, they'll even have the power to judge angels. He advises finding someone smart among the congregation and setting him up as the judge rather than turning to a court of non-believers. 

Next, he lists all the people who won't be going to heaven: fornicators, idolators, adulterers, male prostitutes (though possibly just masturbators), homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, haters or swindlers. So basically, nobody's going to heaven. Apparently, some of them used to be some or all of those things. Paul admits that everything is permissible, but not everything is good for you. For once I agree with him, but that agreement is tempered by the fact that three verses ago he barred the entire LGTBQ community from heaven. 

Even though one could argue that the flesh is made for sex, and sex for the flesh, Paul urges us to keep it in our pants, because our bodies are for god. So no visiting prostitutes, because that would be polluting Christ's flesh. 

Did you know that if you have sex with a prostitute, you become one flesh? I knew that. I think Paul's a prude. He'd rather be one spirit (v. 17) with god. 

Paul still isn't done obsessing about what you do in your bedroom. He instructs us to flee fornication, because it's a crime against your own body, while all the other sins are external. Also, your body is a temple for the holy spirit, and god bought you, so keep things in good shape for him. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

1 Corinthians, Chapters 3 & 4: Paul gets kinky

Chapter 3

Paul informs the congregation that he can't address them as adults spiritual people, but rather as flesh-and-blood people, or babies. He keeps going with the infant metaphor, telling them he had to feed them milk rather than solid food. Even now, they're not quite ready for pablum, because they're fighting too much about whether Paul or Apollos should be their spiritual guru. As for Paul, he insists he only planted the seeds, which Apollos watered, but god was the sunlight that caused the plants to grow.

He then starts with a building metaphor, saying each person helps build the structure, and at the judgement day, god will figure out how much they've contributed by huffing and puffing and blowing the house down. If it's still standing, like the third little pig's, the wolf won't eat you.

A couple of rules: if you deface the temple, John Cleese will come along and torture you into proper conjugation of your Latin verbs. Also, in order to be truly wise, you'll need to become a fool, because god is ever so much smarter than you. Finally, no glorying in human intellect or achievement.

Chapter 4

Paul instructs the congregation to view Apollos and him as explainers of god's mysteries. He admits that a preacher must be trustworthy, but says none of them are qualified to do it, which is mighty convenient. No, only god knows whether he's a good guy or not. He asks them again to stop fighting over who their true spiritual leader ought to be, and to stop acting like they're already in heaven. As for Paul and Apollos, well, they're naked, hungry, starving, homeless, cursed and persecuted which must have made them very convincing. Certainly it has the effect of convincing them.

He's saying all this not to shame them, but to warn them that though they may have many instructors, they have only a couple of fathers, and he urges them to follow him. He says he's sending Timothy to them, but promises to try to get god to send him personally so he can find out who's behind the rumours and whether they're really holy. He then asks shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness? (v. 21) A rod, man, always a rod.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

1 Corinthians, Chapters 1 & 2: Intellectual midgets

Chapter 1

Paul writes a letter to a congregation in, duh, Corinth, to tell them how to prepare for the End Times, which are, of course, coming right up. First, they all need to be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (v. 10) because he's heard they've been fighting about whether Paul, ApollosCephas (Who was Simon Peter, then just Peter and has now taken on a third fucking name) or Christ himself. Paul points out that he wasn't crucified, nor does he baptize people in his own name. In fact, he shouldn't even baptize, since really he's only here to preach, but he has done it for a few powerful donors friends, most of whom shall remain anonymous. 

If you think the story about the cross is a bunch of baloney, you're doomed, because as god said, he's going to destroy the smart people. You know who else did that? Pol Pot. I feel this is an acceptable violation of Godwin's Law because in the grand discussion of crazy 20th-century dictators, Pol Pot does not come up nearly enough. He has an extremely complex argument for this: god's wisdom makes us look like intellectual midgets, but he did allow us to get saved through foolish human preaching.

Stereotyping time! Jews want to know their Messiah through miracles, the Greeks insist on wisdom. So when you tell them that Jesus was crucified, both think it's bunkum. He next admits that god can be both foolish and weak, but he's still smarter and stronger than any human. 

Paul reminds the congregation of how they were before they got saved: not educated, powerful or noble, but they were chosen by god to overturn the power structure. 

Chapter 2 

When Paul first came to Corinth, he was a poor speaker and sort of dumb and weak, nervous and shaking, because he had resolved to forget everything except Jesus.  He didn't rely on rhetoric to convert them, but on parlour tricks miracles. He admits that he speaks with wisdom sometimes, but not earthly wisdom, because our leaders are so quickly forgotten. Of course if our leaders had any wisdom, they wouldn't have crucified Jesus. 

Paul goes on for weeks and weeks about divine wisdom versus silly human wisdom before finally concluding that only spiritual people can understand what the spirit means. They are also capable of judging all things, but should not be judged in return, because he has the mind of Christ. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Romans, Chapters 15 & 16: Women apostles

Chapter 15

Weakness is failure and the strong just have to bear it. Be nice to your neighbours, because Jesus didn`t live for himself and people who insulted him were insulting god. Things were written in the past to give us hope now, while we wait for the end.

Jesus was a servant to the Jews (or, as the KJV puts it minister of the circumcision (v. 8) to serve as proof that god was real. But the Gentiles also wanted to get in on the action, so they went back and pored over the scriptures until they found something from Isaiah, which says that Jesus would rule over them as well.

Paul explains that he`s writing this letter because he`s been too busy to visit, but does promise to swing by on his way to Spain, whenever that happens. First, though, he`s got to go back to Jerusalem. He asks them to pray for him in the meantime.

Chapter 16

Paul introduces us to Phebe, whom he appoints as a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: (v. 1) and someone who has been very important to him spiritually. He also mentions a number of other important evangelists many of them women, including Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles (v. 7), which would seem to indicate that there were women apostles, though most conservative commentators try to dismiss them both as either only ministering to women or as simply good friends of the apostles, so they can continue to be horrible to women.

He also calls on christians to weed out suppressive persons and shun them, which they won`t have to do for long because the end is nigh, as usual.  

And so ends what was perhaps the most difficult and dense book of the bible so far. Here`s hoping the rest of the New Testament turns out to be an easier read. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Romans, Chapters 13 & 14: Wait, why do you have to pay taxes in a theocracy?

Chapter 13

God is the only power. Any earthly powers were ordained by him. Anyone who resists is going to hell. Anyone who is doing right has nothing to fear from the authorities. That's why theocracies are such popular places to live in. Also, pay your taxes, because even though the authorities are doing god's work, god doesn't pay them.

Don't owe anyone anything except brotherly love. He gives an incomplete list of the ten commandments, then adds one: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (v. 9), which apparently allows you to fulfill the law. Except that it has never, ever happened. It doesn't matter if your neighbours live miles away or on the other side of a thin wall, everybody in the entire history of the world has had some reason to hate the people next door.

Of course no book of the bible can end without warning us that the world is going to end imminently, and Paul is winding down here, so he reminds us. He wants us to spend our last days in austere abstemiousness, no rioting, drinking, orgies, debauchery, quarreling or jealousy and instead in prayer and self-denial. You can see how if you had to stop with all that, you'd be looking forward to the end of the world. 

Chapter 14

Accept people of weak faith, don't get into arguments with them. Gotta hold onto those C&E (Christmas and Easter) christians to keep the numbers up, you know. Did you know that weak people get that way because they're vegetarians? The bible says so.

Don't judge other people's slaves, god will decide whether they'll stand up or not. Some people are holy every day of the week, others only when they have to be so. 

The bible reminds us that as people, we are social creatures who neither live nor die alone. Except rather than saying we're part of a society, it tells us that we live for god. Don't judge your brother, that's god's job. 

Jesus apparently told us that no food is unclean, but if there's something you don't like, that's fine, you needn't finish your broccoli. But if your eating something distresses someone else, you should stop eating it, rather than telling them to mind their own fucking business. But at the same time, defend your beliefs, because heaven won't be about food and drink, but rather about righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (v. 17).

Paul also advocates for not eating meat or consuming alcohol, lest they stumbleth (v. 21) us. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Romans, Chapters 11 & 12: Love thine enemy, but not today

Chapter 11

So, has god rejected his people then? By no means! Remember when Elijah bitched that the Israelites had killed all the other prophets and were gunning for him, too? And god said he saved 7000 men from Baal worship? Well, now he's decided to save some number of the population, selected at random rather than through their good works. The rest he has hardened against Jesus, while at the same time punishing them for all eternity. Totally fair and just, that god. And why did he do this? Well, to teach the gentiles about grace, because they're proving easier to convert to this new religion than those argumentative, riot-prone Jews.

Paul informs us that he's saying this to the Gentiles in order to make the Jews jealous and to convince them to come over to his side. He also tells them they're just branches that have been grafted onto a tree, not the root, so be careful, because look what god did to the old branches.

But not to fear! This is all temporary, and one day the Jews will accept Jesus and Israel will be whole again. Until then, though, they're our enemies.

Chapter 12

Paul urges us to turn our minds and bodies over to god. Then he says some things that would be good advice if they were taken out of context, but given that they are written in the bible, they're worth the proverbial hill of beans. See chapter 11, for example.

Nonetheless: Judge yourself fairly, and remember that any organisation needs more indians than chiefs. Only use your talents in proportion to your faith. Love should be sincere, hate is evil. Keep hold of the good things. Be nice to other people. Work hard, be hopeful, but be patient in troubled times, keep praying. Be hospitable to strangers. Don't swear, rather, bless people. Be empathetic to others' feelings. Live harmoniously, striving to get to know people from other social classes. Don't be arrogant. Don't seek revenge,that's god's job, rather act honourably. If your enemy is suffering, give him food and drink. Don't be subsumed by evil, but by good.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Romans, Chapters 9 & 10: Go ahead and stay in bed eating ice cream today, it's clearly god's plan for you

Chapter 9

The author would cut himself off from Christ if only it would save his fellow Jews. He reminds us that not everyone in Israel is a Jew, since only the descendants of Abraham's son Isaac - the one god ordered him to sacrifice for no apparent reason - are Jews. The descendants of his other son, Ishmael, are not. And so it has gone for the past 2000 years or so. He informs us that god decided long before Jacob and Esau were born what their fates were, as he does for the rest of us. So that means god makes me a secular humanist? Weird.

So is god unjust then, for hating on a zygote and deciding it would have a bad outcome for no apparent reason? Not according to Paul, because he told Moses I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion (v. 15). I don't see how that helps his case, because you can't change your fate. And again, I've never understood why that means I can't and shouldn't just goof off and eat potato chips all day, since if I did, that would clearly be what god wanted me to do. 

We're also reminded of how god used Pharaoh like a tissue. Someone points out that if god chooses your opinions, he can hardly fault you for them, can he? Paul's answer is to tell us to shut up and stop questioning god. According to him, bad people exist to show good people look even better. 

God didn't like Gentiles so much before, but now he's cool with them. Still, only a few of them will be saved, because the end is nigh, folks. 

Chapter 10

More on how Paul wishes the Israelites would just open their eyes and see the truth, just like every prophet who has ever come to Jerusalem. Since this new religion is significantly easier to follow than the old one, otherwise it won't attract many converts, a lot of the laws have to be dispatched, which Paul does with frightening alacrity, informing us that we don't have to fulfill Mosaic law in any way, because Jesus does all of it for us. Except the gays. We can ignore that bit. 

We're not supposed to speculate about who's going to heaven, which must have left people with very little to talk about. Rather, we're supposed to say that Jesus is the lord, and then we're saved. But what about the people who don't know about Jesus? Apparently, that's why they say How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (v. 15) I wouldn't know. I mostly shut the door as soon as I realise who they are. So did the Israelis understand? Yup. They just ignored it.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Romans, Chapters 7 & 8: Not my sins

Chapter 7

Men are bound by the law until death, but women only are until their husbands die. This also means she can remarry, which she couldn't do before, if I recall correctly. Why? Babies.The old laws are dead, which means we will be able to keep our pants on and think of new ways to serve god instead. My prediction: that edict didn't even last until he'd finished saying that sentence.

Is the law sin? No, but it's how we know what sin is. Can't argue with that. Also, it will kill us. So: keep to the laws, which are holy. It's humans that are sinful. The author admits that he's a little confused: he doesn't do what he knows is right and instead wastes a lot of time playing Angry Birds like the rest of us. But the fact that he knows it's wrong proves the law is right. These people really need to learn what tautologies are. Then he claims that when he sins, it's the sin, not him what's doing it and he wants to do what's right, but can't because of the sin. And this is yet another one of those chapters that makes me so glad I'm not a Christian.

Chapter 8

Now, thanks to Jesus, there is no sin. Also because if you require people to wear tassels on their sleeves and kill goats all the time, your recruiting numbers go way down. People who only think about the flesh only do fleshy things, but people who are more spiritually-minded only do spiritual things  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (v. 6) because if you're always thinking about sex, you can't think about god. Or go to heaven. This must have made Christianity awfully hard on teenage boys.

People filled with the spirit are children of god and co-inheritors along with Jesus. And they don't even have to go through that whole nasty crucifixion bit! Nope, they just leave this terrible world for the spiritual reward beyond it. The description is vague, of course, because paradise is boring. Hell is much more fun to describe.

The spirit is right alongside us the whole way, because we're so dumb we don't even know what god wants us to pray for. Also, your fate is sealed, a concept I've never understood. If god already knows what's going to happen to me, why shouldn't I sleep until noon every day and steal from my neighbours? It's not like not doing those things will get me into heaven.

The author asks another question that has always been a personal bugbear: If God be for us, who can be against us? (v. 31). How do people who think god told them to run for president then justify it when they lose? Or on a simpler level, people who pray for their football team to win, only to be disappointed? Anyway, nothing can separate us from god.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Romans, Chapters 5 & 6: Sex and Death

Chapter 5

You know when you have a bad day and you take it to Facebook, and one of your weirdo Christian friends comments something like, 'God never puts more on your shoulders than you can hold?' I'm pretty sure they have Romans 5 in mind, which is all about how everything is leading up to the big moment when you'll be reunited with Jesus in heaven, so suffering is a good thing, because it makes you patient, which gives us experience, which gives us hope, and we can never be disappointed, because Christ died for our sins. Ugh. There has to be some point where you can no longer play that card.

Paul further points out that most of us would not be willing to die for a good person. That's true. I, for one, would not die for most people, good or bad. Anyway, the end result is, now Jesus will protect us from god's wrath. Again, not by giving us vaccines or clean water or anything. And now we're even sort of friends with god through Jesus.

Apparently, all the people before Moses sinned, but it doesn't count because they didn't have the Ten Commandments yet, and the punishment was death. Now, though, the circle has closed and we'll no longer die or something. Or we'll go to heaven, where we'll be immortal. As long as Jesus likes us. Or something.

Chapter 6

So does all this mean we can go on sinning and achieve grace? No, that would be fun. Rather, we parted ways with sin when we all died with Jesus, and we'll go on to eternal life like him when we die.

Did you know that old man  (v. 6) is a biblical expression? I did not. But it doesn't refer to your father, it refers to your self before Jesus, the one who sinned. And what is sin? Giving into lust, basically. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God (v. 13). Alas, it does not specify how one might wield one's penis as a holy weapon.

But now we have a choice: we can be slaves to sin or slaves to obedience and we can use our naughty bits accordingly. Except if you choose wrong, you'll die because the wages of sin is death (v. 23). It's like an abstinence video.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Romans, Chapters 3 & 4: Endless discussion of foreskins

Chapter 3

Paul asks what the advantages of being a Jew, i.e., of being circumcised, are. Well, if you're going to narrow it down to the presence of a tiny band of skin, there aren't any, are there? But according to him, that little penis covering punches way above its weight, because Jews have been entrusted with god's own words, and because god is faithful to them even when they're not faithful in return.

Then he starts asking rhetorical questions about humans and god, like if we sin, doesn't it just show how righteous god is? So isn't it unfair for god to judge us? And answering them with God forbid (v. 4, 6) which I did not know was a biblical expression. By the way, the answer is, god can't judge the world unless he's totally fair, which he is, because he's god. Apparently they knew about rhetorical questions then, but not tautology.

Anyway, Paul concludes that Jews aren't any less sinful than gentiles, no one is righteous, no one understands, no one is actively searching for god, and everyone is a dangerous, murderous liar. Also, the purpose of the law is to show that we're all sinners. I love the positive view of humanity this book is taking, don't you?

Oh, okay, at the end of the chapter he gets mor positive, saying that now there's a way to be righteous without cutting off a part of your dangly bits, and that is believing in Jesus, whether your foreskin is intact or not. So being righteous now is based on faith, not on actions, which does make things significantly easier. Therefore, god can be both for Jews and for gentiles and this new faith will make its own super-fun laws for the rest of us to resent.

Chapter 4

Paul asks us what Abraham would make of all of this. If he really did good things (like what? exiling his child? raping his slave? selling his wife?) he'd have something to boast about, though not to god. But what does the scripture say? According to Paul, that god liked Abraham because he was faithful, and when people work, they get paid because they've earned it. Righteousness doesn't come from work, but from faith. If all of this is confusing, it's because the text is also confusing. I think Romans is the hardest book since Job.

Now we're on to David, who apparently said that you can be righteous without working for it and it's a blessing to be free from sin. Was David ever without sin? That's not how I remember Psalms.

And now we're back on foreskins. It all comes down to how much skin you have on your penis, you know. To repeat: Abraham was righteous because he believed. And did he believe before he was circumcised? Conveniently, yes! So now it's no longer necessary to cut off that pesky bit of skin, you can still inherit the earth, because what is the point of faith if you can achieve salvation just by following the law? To Paul, the rules are just there so god can get angry with you, so there's no point in having them. Abraham was the father of nations because he kept up the belief that his wife would father sons that would found nations, and it happened, never mind that whole laying with the handmaiden bit. Anyway, the point is: Jesus.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Romans, Chapters 1 & 2: Idol worship leads to homosexuality

Chapter 1

Paul writes a letter to a congregation in Rome. He starts off with a very flowery, very flattering, very long introduction that includes the expression God is my witness (v. 9) which I seriously thought was something Margaret Mitchell made up. Learn something new every day.

And why is this letter so full of praise? Well, see, Paul is coming to Rome but lacks funds. He entices them to contribute by telling them that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift (v. 11). This isn't the first time he's promised to come, but this time he really means it.

He assures us that he isn't ashamed of the gospel and thinks all believers can be saved, Jew and Gentile alike. You can show you're saved by living by faith (v. 17). If you don't: wrath of god, which you ought to know for God hath shewed it unto them (v. 19) and there's no excuse for not seeing it. Some people, according to Paul, knew god, but ignored him or made things up, and are confused as a result. They claimed to be wise, but really were foolish, worshipping god in the form of an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things (v. 23) so clearly this is a dig at all those pagan religions, what with their many gods that allow you to hedge your bets, rather than the Jewish god, who forces all your eggs into one highly unpredictable basket that's subject to random divine temper tantrums.

God eventually gave up on those pagans, who had an orgy and worshipped idols as a result. Sounds pretty accurate. Now we get to the fun bit: Paul specifically condemns lesbians and gay men, although if you read the passage carefully God gave them up unto vile affections (v. 26), so homosexuality isn't a choice, it's a punishment from god. I'm sure that's very comforting to the LGBT community. Anyway, god abandons them, and they turn to all sorts of sins. There's a list you can read, and if you haven't done every single thing on it at least once today, you're just not trying. Paul condemns them all to death.

Chapter 2

If only the bible weren't otherwise full of vile bullshit condemning people to death for things god makes them do, I might agree with the first verse of chapter 2: Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.  We're assured that god will judge us any day now, so there's no need to do it for him. People who follow him will be rewarded, people who ignore him will be punished. This is regardless of whether you ever had the chance to find out about god because apparently gentiles can obey the law by instinct, which is probably easier to do now that they don't have to get circumcised. 

As for people who call themselves Jews and claim to know the law, well teach yourselves and don't disobey it by committing adultery or robbing temples. Apparently this has got so bad that gentiles are blaspheming because of the Jews' hypocrisy and breaking the law is the same as de-circumcising yourself. In fact, uncircumcised gentiles who follow the law are better than circumcised Jews who break it, because circumcision is really of the heart, not the penis. Is it not kind of creepy how much attention god pays to a half-inch long piece of skin?  

Friday, August 3, 2012

Acts, Chapters 27 & 28: Lost at Sea

Chapter 27

The Israeli officials decide to wash their hands of Paul and send him to Rome for his trial in the custody of a friendly centurion named Julius. They cruise around the Mediterranean for until it's nearly winter, when Paul goes completely stir crazy and predicts the ship will be wrecked.  Julius sensibly prefers to believe the ship's owner and captain, who thinks they shouldn't winter where they are (someplace called Lasea in Crete), but rather they should go on to another port.

But of course, they run into a wind so strong they give up fighting it and just drift along until they come to an island and manage to drop an anchor. The storm continues for a few days, and the sailors lose their heads and start throwing valuable stuff overboard, like the cargo and tackle.

After another few days of being battered by the storm, Paul, with no sense whatsoever of what an appropriate time and place might be, stands up to say, 'I told you so!' Ironically, no one throws him overboard. He continues that although their lives will be spared, because god wants him to meet Caesar, the ship will be lost. They spend another two weeks floundering about, looking for a port, until they realise the water is getting shallower. They're not sure if it's an island or rocks, tough, so they put the anchors down and wait for day. Some of the sailors let down a lifeboat, pretending to check on the anchors, but Paul tells them god will only rescue the people who stay on board. Rather than putting him on the lifeboat and cutting the ropes, the sailors set the boat adrift.

As morning draws near, Paul urges everyone to eat, so they do, having fasted for 14 days. We are also told there are 276 people on board, which I am skeptical of, but not enough to go and look up the history of shipbuilding.

In the morning, they find an island and beach the boat. The soldiers debate killing the prisoners to prevent them escaping by swimming away. Julius convinces them not to, though, and those who can, swim to shore, while those who can't are towed in.

Chapter 28

Our little band of prisoners realises the island they've come to is the modern-day Malta. Although the people who live there are barbarous (v. 2), they build them a fire. Paul gathers some wood, and as he throws it on the pile, a viper jumps out and bites him. The Maltese people think he must be a murderer, to have survived the sea and yet be killed by a snake. However, when he fails to die, the decide he must be a god. This is what a lack of science education leads to, people.

After the welcome bonfire, Paul & co. are invited to stay at the headman's house. His name is Publius and his father is sick. No worries, though, Paul lays his hands on him and he's cured. Because they don't know anything about how illnesses work, everyone else who's sick shows up for the faith healing.

At the end of the winter, the Maltese people provision them again and they slowly make their way to Italy and on to Rome. On the way, they meet some fellow Christians, but that story doesn't really go anywhere. A few days later, they arrive in Rome. All of the prisoners except Paul are given over to the captain of the guards. Paul is handed over to another centurion.

Paul manages to send word out to the Jewish leaders of the city, to whom he puts his case. They say they haven't heard of him, though they have heard of his new cult. They arrange to meet again soon, and on the appointed day, Paul immediately sets to the hectoring. Some believe him, others are just bored stiff because he talks for an entire day. They all perk up when he announces he's converting gentiles. They go off to argue about what he said. Paul himself stays in his house for 2 years, harassing people constantly. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Acts, Chapters 25 & 26: Kangaroo Court

Chapter 25

Festus finally arrives and the chief priests immediately ask that the proceedings be moved to Jerusalem so they can kill Paul en route. Festus says no, he'd rather go to Caesarea, and invites the ones who want to testify against Paul to join him.

Ten days later, he leaves for court. The Jews have a lot of complaints, but no evidence. Paul simply says he hasn't done anything wrong. So Festus asks him if he wants to come to Jerusalem for yet another trial, and Paul's like, 'Uh, this is the secular court. They want to try me in the religious courts. I'll stay where I am, thanks.' He appeals to Caesar, so Festus decides to shuffle him along through the bureaucracy to Caesar.

A couple of days later, the king and his sister arrive to pay their respects to Festus. Festus asks the king's advice about Paul. The king agrees to act as an appeals court. The next day, Festus introduces the king with a flowery speech.

Chapter 26

The king, Agrippa, invites Paul to speak on his own behalf. Amazingly, he starts off by sucking up to Agrippa, saying I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently (v. 3). He gives his life story, about how he was a fanatical Pharisee who became a fanatical Christian, And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, unto our fathers (v. 6). He wonders why anyone would find it weird that god would raise people from the dead. Someone's been reading too much vampire fanfic.

He talks about how he used to persecute the early Christians (or Jewish heretics, to be more accurate) until he had a hallucination epiphany on the road to Damascus and became a new kind of zealot. Now he's been caught and put on trial, but he still finds people to hector. Festus responds with perhaps the most hilarious thing anyone has said in this entire book, an admittedly low bar to jump over: Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad (v. 24).

Paul insists he isn't crazy and asks Agrippa if he believes the prophets. Agrippa says Paul has almost converted him, and Paul says he'd love to talk at all of them until they're so worn down they also convert just to shut him up.

Agrippa calls a recess and takes his sister and Festus off to the side to whisper that if Paul hadn't appealed to Caesar, he'd be free by now.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Acts, Chapter 24: Good Ol' Boys

Ananias spends the rest of the week gathering evidence and supporters to take to the governor so he can charge Paul with blasphemy. Someone named Tertullus is elected to speak for the prosecution: Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, we accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness (v. 2-3) which, if you count the number of riots and near riots just in the first few books of the New Testament, you know is an utter load of horsehooey. These people are congenitally incapable of 'living in quietness.'

Case in point: right now, they want to persecute Paul. They first tried with the captain of the guards in Jerusalem, but he just took Paul away for his own safety. Rather than just accept that in 'quietness,' they've taken things up the chain of command. They want Felix to question Paul himself to assess his crimes.

Paul says he only got to Jerusalem 12 days ago and he wasn't stirring the pot at all, nor do they have any proof that he was. He claims to believe in the same god as his accusers and that he follows all the Mosaic laws.

As for what he was doing in the temple, well, he'd been away for many years, see, and he just wanted to clear his conscience and make some sacrifices. When the priests found him in the temple, he wasn't rabble-rousing. He was just hanging around with a group of Asian Jews who haven't brought any charges against him. He says he's already been before the Jewish court, which found him not guilty. In fact, the only objectionable thing to Jewish law that he's done is say  Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day (v. 21)

Felix decides he can't decide anything until he gets the captain's story, so he delays trial once again. He lets Paul out on his own recognizance, and comes to him a few days later with his wife Drusilla. After speaking to Paul for awhile, he sets him free, but warns him he may be called back in future. Hoping for a bribe, he calls Paul back often over the next two years, until he's replaced by the most perfect Dukes of Hazzard name in the history of the world: Porcius Festus (v. 27), who keeps Paul in prison as a way of garnering favour with those 'quiet' Jews. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Acts, Chapter 23: Hell yeah! Moments

Paul tells the audience he's lived his life with a clear conscience and is smacked in the mouth. Hell yeah! Paul curses the chief priest, Ananias and calls him a hypocrite. The others ask him if he knows he's cursing the high priest. Paul does not, and is chastened, because cursing rulers is against the law. Other people are fine, just not leaders. Great moral compass, this book.

Paul realises that the council is made up of Pharisees and Sadducees and claims he's one of the latter. Yesterday he was a Roman. Could you be both? Do I care? No, because this is fiction. Anyway, this causes strife amongst the two groups, not over Paul, but over whether resurrection is possible and angels exist. History is on the side of the Sadducees, who say no to both, but not in this book. The Pharisee scribes now start up, saying if Paul has been talking to angels, they should leave him alone, because otherwise they're fighting god.

The Roman soldiers, fearing that Paul will be torn to pieces, bring him back into the castle. God comes and tells him he's happy with his work in Jerusalem, so he's sending him to Rome.

Meanwhile, 40 Jews vow not to eat or drink anything until they've killed Paul. They go to the chief priests and tell them to call Paul down again tomorrow for questioning, and they'll kill him then.

Paul's nephew overhears this and manages to sneak into the castle to warn his uncle. Paul gets him to tell the captain of the guards, who orders 400 men to take Paul to Caesarea at 3 o'clock in the morning and deposit him with Felix, the governor. Felix reads the letter and decides he'll deal with Paul when his accusers arrive.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Acts, Chapter 22: Only torture the slaves

Paul addresses the crowd in Hebrew. He gives them a brief autobiography: born Saul, in Tarsus, a former persecutor of Christians, he used to go up to Damascus to bind them up and take them to Jerusalem for punishment, until one day, he's heading up there once again when a spotlight shines down from on high and Jesus cried out Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? (v. 7). Oddly, no one who was with him that day heard the voice of Christ, they just saw Saul, soon to be Paul, talking loudly to himself. Anyway, he goes blind then and his followers have to lead him to Damascus, where a man named Ananias restores his sight. He converts and is baptised.

When Paul gets back to Jerusalem, he goes to the temple to pray and falls into a trance, which is the third sign of mental illness after hearing voices and hysterical blindness, for those of you keeping track at home. Anyway, he hears yet another voice telling him to get out of Dodge, and he protests that he's well known as a persecutor, so people will doubly believe him now that he's a sincere Christian. 

The mob is not convinced, so they all throw their clothes off and throw dust in the air. Now I'm just thinking everybody's insane. It's like a biblical Florida. The captain pulls Paul back into the castle and orders him questioned with whips. Paul asks them if it's legal for them to torture a Roman who hasn't been convicted of anything. This gets their attention. They go to the captain, who asks Paul if he's really a Roman. Yup. Freeborn. So they untie him and bring the chief priests back. Stay tuned for tomorrow's episode, when we'll see the conversation.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Acts, Chapter 21: Spring Break

Paul starts on the Girls Gone Wild leg of his tour, stopping off at the Greek party spots of Kos and Rhodes to evangelise. And yeah, it was probably every bit as annoying as the dude in the video. At one point, the whole crowd marches off to the beach to pray amongst the nubile co-eds who only want to drink and flash their moneymakers and not think about eternal salvation when there are free shots around, okay?

The next day, Paul splits. The rest of the group, which shifts back and forth between using the first person plural and the third person plural, and is currently running with the former, goes on to Caesarea to pray with Philip and his four crazy daughters. They all prophesy, but it's okay because they're on the right team. Otherwise they'd be possessed by demons and in need of exorcism.

While they're hanging out there, another prophet named Agabus shows up. He's a big fan of 50 Shades of Grey, because the first thing he does is take off Paul's belt and bind his hands and feet with it, saying the holy ghost has predicted that the Jews of Jerusalem are going to do this same thing to Paul and give him to the gentiles.

Paul's followers beg him not to go to Jerusalem, but he says he's ready to die. So they all go in a little posse and arrive at the home of someone called James. They exchange stories, and James gives Paul a warning that his unstoppable force has met its immovable object, specifically the Jews who are every bit as zealous about their laws as Paul is about Jesus, and how unhappy they are that he's been teaching the Jews in more multi-culti environments that they don't have to keep to the book anymore, even down to circumcision. James has a plan involving four men who are under some sort of vow, possibly Nazarites. He wants Paul to shave his head and join them, so people will think he's obeying the law now. As for the gentiles, they've written to them and told them they have to follow all 613 laws.

Amazingly, Paul actually does it. But after a week, the Jews grab him, crying out to their fellow Jews that this is the guy who's been sullying the temple with Greeks and their delicious, delicious tzaziki. They're about to kill him when word reaches the chief of police that there is yet another riot going on. He runs down to the commotion with some soldiers. The Jews leave off beating Paul and he asks what's going on. When no one has a coherent story, he arrests Paul and brings him into the castle. Paul asks in Greek for a word with the captain, which is surprising in that all the disciples are supposed to be completely uneducated. In fact, the captain has no idea who he is, and mistakes him for an Egyptian terror cell that ran off into the desert. But no, Paul introduces himself and asks to address the people. They let him, but his words will have to wait for tomorrow's entry.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Acts, Chapter 20: Auto-defenestration

Am I still only on Acts? Jeez, the New Testament is going slow.

Paul keeps on rolling and hectoring. At one point, he starts talking at breakfast and keeps going until midnight. It's so fun that someone called Eutychus falls asleep and tumbles out the 3rd floor window and dies. Paul, not wanting to get a reputation for killing his followers, revives him and keeps talking until dawn. His followers, realising that pitching themselves out the window is futile, keep listening.

He starts off again after dawn, determined to get to Ephesus and then on the Jerusalem for Pentecost. In Ephesus, he complains about how those damned Jews are always persecuting him, although if I recall yesterday's chapter correctly, it was actually the silversmith's guild the last go-round.

He tells them he won't see any of them again, so he hopes they're saved, because he's no longer responsible for their salvation. He also tells them that after he's gone shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock (v. 29) and warns them against false prophets. He reminds them that It is more blessed to give than to receive (v. 35) and they escort him, crying, to his ship.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Acts, Chapter 19: Book-burning

Paul goes to Ephesus, where he finds some believers who have nevertheless never heard of the holy ghost. He asks them how far they've read in the book, and they say they stopped at John the Baptist. He reminds them that John was only a placeholder until the real messiah came along in the form of Jesus. So he lays his hands on them, and they immediately start speaking in tongues, which, by the way, never stops being creepy.

Paul also spends some time arguing in the synagogue, but when that doesn't go anywhere, he moves on to a school. Thank god I'm not American so school prayer was never an issue when I was a student. Anyway, within two years, everyone in Asia has been harangued by Paul. He also heals people with just a touch of a handkerchief or an apron, which was probably the most convincing part, frankly, given there was no medicine.

Some vagabond Jews, exorcists (v. 13) decide in the name of science to see if Paul's feats are replicable and try it out on one of the chief priest's seven sons. Alas, the demon replies Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? (v. 15). The poor crazy guy then leaps on them, tears their clothes off, and chases them, naked, out of the house. The other Jews and Greeks, fearing mental illness, turn to Jesus, because heck, nothing else is working. All the magicians, which is the closest you can get to a doctor if you don't have germ theory or anatomy classes, bring their books and burn them, an estimated loss of 50 000 pieces of silver. 

Paul continues on his peripatetic way, pissing people off. One of them is Demetrius, a silversmith who decorates the temples for Diana. He calls the other silversmiths together and notes that Paul is destroying their business, because hardly anyone wants silver shrines anymore. This throws the city into confusion, and they all rush to the theatre with two of Paul's travelling companions. When Paul himself shows up for his next hectoring session, his followers won't let him in. 

Inside the theatre, it's chaos, with some people saying one thing, others another, and most of them not even knowing why they're there. A Jew named Alexander, about whom nothing else is known, is thrust forward to explain, but the Greeks are in a right state and instead spend two hours chanting Great is Diana of the Ephesians (v. 34)

Finally the town clerk manages to settle them down by saying that of course no one is trying to take Diana away and so they shouldn't do anything rash. He points out that Paul's companions haven't done anything, so Demetrius and his followers should settle this in the sane way: lawsuits. This placates everyone, so they all go home. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Acts, Chapter 18: Garment shaking as insult

Paul leaves Athens and goes to Corinth, where he meets a couple of Italian Jewish tentmakers who have been exiled by the Roman emperor, Claudius. Their names are Aquila and Priscilla. He stays with them and makes tents, because apparently that was his trade before he became a zealot. On sabbath days, he hectors people in the synagogue. Eventually they get tired of him, at which point he shook his raiment (v. 6), which I guess is some kind of insult, and declares he's done and he's going off to harangue the Gentiles. The Jews tell him not to let the door hit him in the ass on his way out.

He soon finds himself in the home of a man with the improbably perfect rap name of Justus, whose house abuts the synagogue. He also manages to convert the chief priest, Crispus, and several other members. So much for distancing himself. 

One night, god comes to Paul in a dream and tells him to keep up the good proselytising, and not to worry, because he's moved plenty of eager converts into this city. All goes well for the next 18 months, until some dude named Gallio takes over as governor, at which point the Jews arrest Paul and take him to court. But Gallio just sort of scoffs and tells them to come back when there's a serious crime taking place, and to deal with it themselves. The Greeks take Sosthenes, now the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him, which does not please Gallio. 

Paul stays for another few months, then goes to Syria with Aquila and Priscilla. He also shaves his head, because he's taken some sort of vow. The commentaries are really vague, so I'm not going to think too hard, either. Then he goes to Ephesus to harangue people in the synagogue. Amazingly, they want him to stay, but he refuses, because there's a feast in Jerusalem that he doesn't want to miss. 

In his absence, someone named Apollos shows up and starts preaching, but he isn't very well-versed in the scripture, so Aquila and Priscilla try to give him some lessons. After awhile, he decides to leave as well to go and argue with the Jews in a new place.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Acts, Chapter 17: How NOT to deal with culture shock

Our little band of merry zealots comes to Thessolonica, where they find a synagogue and immediately go inside to start arguing with people on the sabbath that Jesus is the Messiah. A few people believe him, including some of the Greeks and some of the women leaders.

But of course, some of the Jews are resentful that someone has come along and interrupted their peaceful Saturday of arguing amongst themselves, and they rustle up a mob to attack the house where Paul and Silas are staying, which belongs to one Jason. Of course the wily apostles have already hidden, so the crowd finds only Jason at home. Nonetheless, they drag him before the tribal elders to accuse him of harbouring the people who are causing the social unrest, claiming that Jesus is the king when obviously Caesar is the only king. Plus, if you, you know, actually read some of the history of Jews in the Roman empire, you know they were plenty capable of fomenting their own social unrest, thank you very much.

The city fathers arrest Jason and his friends and only let them go when they post bail. They go home and ship the apostles off to Berea, where they instantly find a new synagogue congregation to harangue. This group is slightly less hostile and sets about to poring over the scriptures looking for evidence that Jesus could really be the Messiah.

Somehow, the Jews of Thessolonica find out that Paul & Co. are in Berea, through Facebook party photos or some such means, and go there to stir shit up. Paul pretends to flee in a boat, but Silas and Timotheus stay behind.

Paul soon comes to Athens, where he sends for Silas and Tim. As he's waiting, he looks around and sees a city full of sin and idolatry. You know who else did that? Sayyid Qutb, who looked around dry, square, Greely Colorado in 1949, saw a den of iniquity, and went back to Egypt to lead the Muslim Brotherhood. I mean, culture shock and ethnocentrism are not new. Anyway, Paul's reaction to his culture shock is to go out to the synagogues and marketplaces and argue with people. The philosophers, who have cornered the market on sitting around arguing in public, regard him with amused disdain, saying What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection (v. 18). They take him to a city council meeting and ask him to speak, because as cosmopolitan sophisticates, this is how they respond to new ideas, rather than running him out on the rails like those podunk Thessalonicans.

But Paul has no social graces, only fervency, so he immediately starts hectoring them that they're overly superstitious and worship demons. He tells them god doesn't live in temples, although that certainly seemed to be the point of the temple back in um, Numbers? or possibly Leviticus? I'm getting close to 500 posts, so it's hard to keep track. We're told god doesn't need anything from us, and he decides exactly when we'll live and die, and where we'll live. He did all of this so we can seek him out, because he's planning to end the world soon.

Some of the council members mock Paul, others invite him back at an unspecified future date. But apparently not enough of them are convinced, because Paul flounces off, despite winning some new converts.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Acts, Chapter 16: Holy earthquakes of convenience

Paul comes to Lystra, where he meets Timothy, a young disciple of mixed heritage: Jewish and Greek. Paul wants to take him along, but first gets him circumcised, which is somehow supposed to make the Jews like him more? Well, it works, so I guess having his foreskin cut off as an adult was worth it.

They decide to go into Asia, but the holy spirit forbids it. Asia here means a part of modern-day Turkey. They try to cross over the Bosphorus into Bithynia, but the spirit is adamant. So instead they stay in Troas, in the east of Turkey.

One night, Paul has a dream that a man from Macedonia asks him to come there. According to Google Maps, it's about a 500-km drive on modern roads, no biggie. Shouldn't take them more than the day or so they claim it takes. On the sabbath, they go down to the river and start chatting up the women collecting water there. One of them is called Lydia, and she's a seller of purple (v. 14) and a believer. Her ardor only increases when she speaks to Paul. He baptises her and she asks them to stay at her house.

Later, while they're praying, they meet a woman possessed by a spirit of divination (v. 16), who is very profitable for her handlers. She starts following them, shouting These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation (v. 17) until Paul gets tired of it and exorcises the demon. This causes the leaders of the divination cartel to arrest Paul and Silas and take them to the magistrates, claiming they're a nuisance. The magistrates strip them and beat them and throw them into the stocks, but, undaunted, our two intrepid disciples keep pissing off the whole town, praying and singing and annoying the other prisoners until even god is fed up and destroys the prison with an earthquake.

The warden wakes up and sees all the cell doors open and makes to kill himself with a sword, but Paul calls out Do thyself no harm: for we are all here (v. 28). He converts immediately and he and his family are all baptised that very night.

The next day, word comes to let Paul and Silas go, but Paul refuses to leave until they come and let him go personally. So they do, and also beg them to just go on their way and leave them in peace. After saying goodbye to Lydia, they depart.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Acts, Chapter 15: So much for perfect harmony

Certain men, whose names we are of course not privy to, decide that except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be save (v. 1). S/Paul, who seems to be firmly in the 'Paul' camp now, and Barnabas, rush off to Jerusalem to argue with them, stopping in just two places to convert gentiles.

In Jerusalem they tell the story of what happened with the hunger hallucinations and all that, but those pesky Pharisees argue that it's only fine to convert gentiles as long as they get circumcised and follow Jewish law. There's more arguing until Peter stands up and says that god has been speaking through him to spread the gospel to the gentiles, and god has also sent them the holy ghost. He also points out that none of them exactly likes following Jewish law, so why put it on the gentiles as well?

Next, Barnabas and Paul stand up to tell their story, followed by James, who asks why it's necessary to make conversion difficult and suggests that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood (v. 20). So they write a bunch of letters, which we will find in the following several books, and head back to Antioch, where they declare that circumcision and following Jewish law will no longer be necessary. Except where it's convenient, like in the case of homosexuality. The people rejoice at how easy this new religion is. 

After awhile in Antioch, Paul gets itchy feet and suggests to Barnabas that they should visit all the places they visited before on their tent revival tour. Barnabas suggests taking John, sometimes Mark, sometimes Jamarcus if you're feeling funky, along. But Paul is still smarting from that time that John-Mark deserted them in Pamphylia, and has decided he's no longer a good Christian. Paul and Barnabas have sharp words and go their separate ways, Barnabas and Mark to Cyprus and Paul and Silas to Syria and Cilicia.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Acts, Chapter 14: The Road to... Attalia?

S/Paul and Barnabas go to Iconium, where they preach in the synagogue. But then some dastardly unbelieving Jews stir up the gentiles and convince them that S/P & B are a couple of lying liars. The dissent spreads through the entire city, until everybody has chosen a side. Then the gentiles and the priests grab S/Paul and Barnabas and try to stone him. But like some bad Western film, they escape in an unspecified fashion and head to Lycaonia.

In the town, they meet a man who has been crippled since birth. The bible is always very careful to point this out so so as to avoid awkward conversations such as this one, from Philip Pullman's The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ:
Christ said, ‘There’s a man called Jesus. A holy man, a healer. If he came here—’
      ‘Waste of time,’ said the leper. ‘There’s a dozen or more beggars who come here every day, pretending to be cripples, hiring themselves out to the holy men. A couple of drachmas and they’ll swear they’ve been crippled or blind for years and then stage a bloody miraculous recovery. Holy men? Healers? Don’t make me laugh.’
Anyway, S/Paul just looks at the man and says, Stand upright on thy feet (v. 10), which totally works! Of course, we don't get the second part of the conversation, also from The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ:
‘But he did heal someone,’ said the lame man. ‘Old Hiram. You remember that. He told him to take up his bed and walk.’
      ‘Bloody rubbish,’ said the blind man. ‘Hiram went as far as the temple gate, then he lay down and went on begging. Old Sarah told me. He said what was the use of taking his living away? Begging was the only thing he knew how to do. You and your blether about goodness,’ he said, turning to Christ, ‘where’s the goodness in throwing an old man out into the street without a trade, without a home, without a penny? Eh? That Jesus is asking too much of people.’
This creates tons of new converts, though to what exactly they think they're converting is questionable, given that they rename Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker (v. 12). Then the town's chief priest of Jupiter finds some cows to sacrifice and this is one of the few incidents in the entire bible that makes me actually laugh, especially S/Paul and Barnabas' response, which is to run around shouting at people to stop, because they're just human and the point of this new religion is to give up all these vanities (v. 15) and only think about god. Just as they succeed in convincing the people not to have a barbecue, though, their pursuers show up. They stone S/Paul and drag him away. The other disciples manage to rescue him and they flee to Derbe. Then they go on a long road trip through what is now Turkey, preaching and praying. I'm sure it's every bit as entertaining as a Bob Hope and Bing Crosby Road to... movie.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Acts, Chapter 13: Cypriot vacation

A bunch of dudes are all living together in the church at Antioch, preaching and fasting. One day, the holy ghost reserves Barnabas and Saul for some special tasks he wants done. So after more fasting and praying, they head off to Cyprus with John as their assistant.

As they proselytise their way around Cyprus, the eventually come to a place called Paphos, where they find a sorcerer called Barjesus, who is an assistant to the local Roman official, Sergius Paulus. Sergi wants to hear all about god, but the sorcerer, who is now suddenly called Elymas, interferes. Saul (or possibly Paul, are we all good and confused now?) looks at the sorcerer, calls him a son of the devil, and blinds him. Didn't this just happen with another sorcerer? Or did I stumble into an episode of Passions? Anyway, it's enough to convince Sergi.

S/Paul and Barnabas move on to Perga, but John goes back to Jerusalem. But then they get bored in Cyprus and head back to Antioch, where they settle into the synagogue again. On the sabbath, the chief priests send them a message asking them if they want to address the people. So S/Paul stands up and recites the history of the Jews from the time of Moses, because that never gets boring with repetition, and the story of Jesus, making sure to link him to David and the psalms. He warns us that when David died, god found corruption in him, but that Jesus was perfect and uncorrupted. He also assures them that belief in Jesus allows them to be square with god, unlike the laws of Moses, and urges them to repent.

When the Jews leave, a bunch of gentiles clamour outside the synagogue for S/Paul and Barnabas to come and preach at their church next weekend. Nearly the entire city shows up to hear the preaching, which makes the Jews green with envy. S/Paul and Barnabas coolly tell them they had their chance and didn't listen, so now they're spreading the word to the gentiles as well. So the Jews banish them and they go to Iconium.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Acts, Chapters 11 & 12: Dividing the world by the foreskin

Chapter 11

When word that Peter has been making nice when the gentiles gets out, they that were of the circumcision (v. 2) are NOT happy. Peter has been rehearsing his hunger hallucinations story and has it down pat. And then he proceeds to recap the events of the last chapter, which I already did, in my entry, so I'm not going to do it again.

Anyway, his story convinces the other apostles that gentiles are cool now, which is good, because Stephen is still on his anti-heretic rampage. But they also keep getting reports of converts to their new religion. So they send Barnabas out to Antioch to check. Barnabas is full of the holy spirit (read: super-irritating) and wins more converts and decides to go to Tarsus to find Saul/Paul and bring him back to Antioch with him. There they found the first christian church. Lots of people come to visit the church, including the unfortunately-named Agabus, a cheery little rain cloud of a man who predicts a severe famine throughout the Roman world, which happens during Claudius' reign. The Antioch christians send what they can.

Chapter 12

Herod the king, possibly the same one from Matthew, but more probably his grandson or nephew or something, is persecuting the new christians. First, he kills James, brother of John. It would really help if these people would adopt last names or just get different first names. Then, because that makes the Jews happy, and as Bart D. Ehrman has demonstrated, just keeping them from rioting is a daily chore, he arrests Peter. Ever the drama queen, he assigns 16 soldiers to watch him, intending to start the trial after Easter. 

While Peter is in jail, the new christians pray unceasingly.

The night before his trial, Peter is asleep between to soldiers, and also chained to the wall. An angel with a flashlight shows up, boots him in the side, and tells him to come along. The chains magically fall from his wrists. Peter thinks it's all a vision. The angel leads him to the gate, which he opens with an 'Open Sesame!' Then the angel disappears and Peter comes to.

He makes his way to one of the Marys' houses, where a bunch of people are praying. A chick named Rhoda comes to the door. She recognises Peter's voice, but rather than open the gate, she runs screaming her head off into the house. The others don't believe her, thinking it's a Peter-shaped angel. Finally, though, the do go to the door and they all lose their shit when they see who it is. Peter doesn't want to come in, only telling them to tell the other apostles that he's out.

The next day, there is a great kerfluffle as Peter's absence is discovered. Herod is furious that his Easter present to the Jews has been spoiled and has those responsible put to death. Then he heads down to his villa in Ceasarea to pout. While he's there, he picks a fight with Tyre and Sidon. The people send one of his servants as a peace envoy, because he controls their food supply.

One day, Herod sits on his throne all dressed up and makes a speech. The people shout that his voice is like that of a god, which causes the real god to kill him, right then and there, and feed him to worms because he doesn't give god credit for his speech. That'll teach him to plagiarise.

Meanwhile, Barnabas and Saul/Paul, return to Jerusalem with John, possibly Mark.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Acts, Chapter 10: Circumcision is not the answer

Cornelius is a Roman centurion living in Caesarea. He and his family are very devout. One day, at the oddly specific time of nine o'clock, he hears the voice of god saying that his prayers and alms have been selected as that day's offering, like a first-century post code lottery. Only instead of a new car or swimming pool or something, his reward is that he gets to send to Joppa (Jaffa today) for Simon Peter, currently residing with Simon the Tanner, who will tell him what to do. God I hate riddles. Why can't god just tell him what to do right now? Why does he have to send someone all the way to Joppa? I smell plot contrivance.

Anyway, Cornelius is either too lazy or too busy to go to Joppa himself, so he sends some servants along. As they approach the city, Peter goes up onto a roof. He's hungry, but as his breakfast is being prepared, he falls into a trance. His hunger visions start off with a Magic Carpet being ridden by all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air (v. 12). God tells him Rise, Peter; kill, and eat (v. 13). Peter initially refuses, because he's still a good Jew and many of the animals in this cornucopia are forbidden by Leviticus. God rebukes him, saying everything he makes is clean, but Peter continues to refuse, until the magic carpet is re-levitated back to heaven. Peter doesn't understand what this hunger fantasy means, but he doesn't have time to think about it, because Cornelius' slaves have arrived at the gate. The holy spirit tells him to go and answer, because they've been sent by god. 

Peter lets them in, and the next day they head back to Caesarea. When they arrive, Cornelius bows down to worship him, but Peter briskly nips it in the bud. He's his usual arrogant self, saying he'd never normally go into a gentile's house, but he's making an exception because of what god said up on that rooftop when he was starving. But he doesn't actually know what Cornelius wants. Cornelius informs him that he was also fasting a few days ago when a man in shiny clothing appeared. Does anyone see a pattern here of hunger leading to weird hallucinations? Anyway, Cornelius repeats the story and turns the question about why he's here back on Peter. Peter proclaims this incident as a sign of how god shows no favouritism, he accepts people from any ethnic background. He reminds us of the entire Jesus story, at one point using the expression quick and dead (v. 42), which I always thought meant people who could draw their guns fast, not the living versus the dead, which is what that expression really means. Live and learn.

As he's speaking, the holy spirit possesses everyone in the room, much to the astonishment of the circumcised men who came with Peter. Yes, the bible really does divide you up based on what the tip of your penis looks like. No it doesn't care if you don't have a penis. Anyway, these men are amazed that even gentiles can receive the word and speak in tongues. They ask Peter to baptise them, and to stay awhile. And so begins the conversion of the gentiles as well as the Jews.