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.

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