- Verse 4: Jesus decides to go and resurrect one man, out of all the people who die every day, causing no end of sadness, "so that God's Son may be glorified." Sick. He would have gotten a lot more glory if he'd taught people to wash their hands before they eat, and especially if he'd explained why.
- Verses 25 - 26: "He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." Christians want to make a huge metaphorical allowance here: Jesus didn't mean that the body will never die. Rather, he meant that the soul would not experience the "second death".
- My first problem with this interpretation, the trump card, is that the concept of "second death" is mentioned in only one book of the bible: the preposterous "Revelation of Jesus Christ" to John of Patmos. This book barely made it into the New Testament canon, back there in Nicea when a group of superstitious ninnies voted on whether it was the inspired word of the Supreme Being. It would not have been voted into the canon but for one small error: most, or perhaps all, of the voters believed that the author was the same man who wrote the Gospel according to John. We now know that this is simply not true. It's a fluke that this book, with its semi-pornographic description of worldwide destruction, ever made it into the bible. I expect that I won't even blog about it beyond what I've said here. I have to rule out the possibility that Jesus was alluding to the "second death".
- My second problem with this interpretation begins to take shape in the verses leading up to this strange, self-contradictory declaration from Jesus. In Verse 11, Jesus tells his disciples, "Lazarus has fallen asleep". In Verse 13, the author says that Jesus is talking about Lazarus' death. In Verse 14, Jesus confirms the metaphorical nature of his first statement, saying explicitly, "Lazarus is dead". But then he paints himself into a corner. He should have stopped at the end of Verse 25, simply saying that those who believe in him will experience death only as a temporary state. But then he has to screw it up in Verse 26, saying that those who live and believe in him will never die. Christians may wish to say that Jesus has gone back into metaphor mode here, but why would the author not tell us so, here, where there is ample opportunity for confusion, while he told us so when there was no possibility of confusion, given that Jesus explicitly announces that Lazarus is literally dead? There is something seriously wrong with Jesus' discourse concerning Lazarus.
- Verse 26 again: "Do you believe this?" Jesus is a cruel bastard. Why can't he just tell Martha, who obviously doesn't understand, that he is about to bring Lazarus back to life? Why leave her in suspense, believing that her brother is permanently dead? This looks like grandstanding to me. Or perhaps a lack of confidence, especially considering Verse 35. If he knew that he could do it, and he knew that everyone was hurting so much, why didn't he just come out with the amazing and joyful news that he was about to bring Lazarus back to life before their very eyes?
- Verse 35: "Jesus wept." Why? Let me guess: because he was sad that even Mary, who believed that he was the Christ, did not believe that he could raise Lazarus from the dead? Or perhaps he was showing his human side, allowing himself to be moved by all these sad people? Given Jesus' short fuse with people who lack faith in him, I have to rule out both of these possibilities. If either were true, he would have nailed them with ye olde "Ye of little faith" hammer. I find the following far more likely: none of the miracle stories is true, but instead they all slipped in during decade after decade of people making copies without the benefit of critical thinking skills or training or education, without even our modern conventions of paragraphs, punctuation, and even spaces between words. The oldest somewhat recognizable copies of the Gospels and the Epistles date only back to around the year 200, a minimum of some 150 years after the originals were written. And even these copies are not preserved intact. The oldest complete manuscripts go only back to the fourth century, nearly 300 years after the documents were originally written. We have some 5400 Greek copies of all or part of the New Testament, most of which were created during the Middle Ages, many of them a thousand years after Paul and pals...uhh...died. No two of these 5400 copies, except the smallest fragments, agree with each other in their wording. In fact, there are more differences (we're talking six figures here) among the surviving manuscripts than there are words in the entire New Testament. Try this thought experiment: imagine a 700,000-word story written in the year 1710, and copied by hand over the centuries, by eager and good-hearted but also credulous and uneducated people, many of them like those with whom you attend church, but with far lower rates of literacy and basic education. Fill the story with eye-witness accounts of dead people literally being called out of their graves. Add a good measure of contradictions and nonsense that you simply can't take literally, that you are forced to shoehorn into awkward metaphor after awkward metaphor. What would be your reaction to such a story? Worship? Spiritual ecstasy?
- Verse 48: "If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation." So maybe the chief priests and the Pharisees weren't such hypocritical low-lifes after all. They were genuinely concerned that Jesus would start a rebellion that would result in punishment from their cruel overlords in Rome. Was it so bad for them to fear this?
- Verse 54: "Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews". If Obi-wan Kenobi can make imperial stormtroopers ignore him with a wave of his hand, why does Jesus, infinitely more powerful than Old Ben, have to hide?
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Lego Mommy: John, Chapter 11
Part 10 of my "Lego Mommy" Series.