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.