Monday, May 24, 2010

Jesus the Letdown: Revisiting Matthew, Chapters 1 - 2

The book of Matthew was my first serious attempt at reading the bible. This was my response to receiving the hideous news that the hell waiting for me was eternal torment, rather than the orphanage–like conditions I had always imagined as a little kid. I've recounted my experience of reading Matthew for the first time in a different post. Now it seems time to revisit the book and see what it means to me now.

Chapter I:
  • Verses 1 - 17: a waste of time: a genealogy purportedly linking Jesus back to Adam via the line of King David and the Patriarch Abraham.
  • Verse 25: But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. A clumsy attempt to underscore Jesus' paternity--if Joseph hadn't refrained from having "union" with Mary, it might have been suggested that Jesus was simply Joseph's son.
Chapter II:
  • Verses 13 - 23: an "angel of the Lord" gives Joseph a message in a dream: go to Egypt and wait for Herod to die, as Herod is having infants killed to avoid having his throne usurped. Then, an "angel of the Lord" appears again, telling Joseph to go back to Israel. Joseph packs up the family and goes back, but finds that Archaleus is now in power, and Joseph is afraid to return to Jesus' birthplace. Fortunately, Joseph has yet another dream, the details of which are not specified, but which provides him some kind of warning. Why couldn't this all have happened in a single dream? "Joseph, go to Egypt until Herod dies, then go to Nazareth." Would that have been so hard? I could even understand two dreams: one to warn him to go to Egypt and one to tell him to come back. What I can't understand is why a third dream would have been required. Why couldn't the Supreme Being of All Things have told Joseph in the second dream (or the first!) that he should go to Nazareth instead of back to Judea?
  • Note especially verse 16, where Herod has all the boys under two years old in the Bethlehem area slaughtered. No help from God? No tip-off to someone to smuggle their children to safety? The more I think of it, the uglier it seems. If you knew that someone was coming to kill the children in your town, would you sneak out without telling anyone?
  • Note especially verses 6, 15, 23: the author works awfully hard to emphasize that Jesus is the fulfillment of many Old Testament prefigurations of Jesus. These are, respectively:
    • The Messiah will come from Bethlehem
    • "Out of Egypt I have called my son" -- a reference to the Hebrew exodus from Egypt (which probably never happened)?
    • "He will be called a Nazarene."
    Seems like an awful lot of contrivance to squeeze Jesus into old prophecies. Also note that no one has ever found any prophet claiming that the Messiah would be "called a Nazarene." I find a typical defense of this obvious error to be a typical Christian tactic: when it makes God look good, God inspired it, and when it makes God look bad, fallible humans are to blame.

No comments:

Post a Comment