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.