Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pseudepigrapha Psalad Psurgery I: Ephesians

The collection of writings that we know as the New Testament of the Bible is exactly the sort of product that one would expect from a committee effort. And not even a committee of qualified experts, but rather a motley horde of semi-literate cult leaders each competing for ego strokes by ensuring that his opinions (not knowledge!) were accepted as The Truth (with a capital 'T').

When these stories and letters were written, literacy, critical thinking, and good scholarship were still centuries in the future. In those days people tended to pass knowledge around orally, and they tended to believe what they were told without any serious reflection, provided that the teller of the story could speak forcefully or with enough authority and finesse to silence his opponents, regardless of whether the teller was speaking the truth. Sounds a lot like modern religious discourse, now that I think of it.

For these reasons, many writings were accepted into the New Testament canon whose claims of authorship are subject to serious doubt. Six letters explicitly claim to have been written by the Apostle Paul, although we now know this to be false. The letters are Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus. The epistle to the Hebrews, which fails to indicate its authorship, was at times assumed by some to be from Paul's hand, but now that we have tools far more sophisticated than first-millennium tradition and hearsay, we can confidently say that Paul did not write Hebrews.

It is unclear who wrote the Book of James, although there is some consensus that it was James, the half-brother of Jesus. Naturally, anyone who believes that Jesus' mother Mary remained a virgin for her whole life would have to reject this view. First and Second Peter were perhaps written by someone named Peter, but certainly not by the Apostle Peter, the rock on which Jesus intended to build his church. There is considerable scholarly doubt that the Apostle John was involved in any of the five New Testament books that bear his name, and even if he was, it is clear that he was not the author of Revelation.

In this series I will discuss the pseudepigraphal books of the bible, with some emphasis on the doctrines to which Jesusianismists subscribe unnecessarily, given that the instructions come from sources of questionable authenticity and veracity.

The epistle to the Ephesians promises at first to be an empty, frothy pep talk about how great it is to be a Jesusianismist. Surprisingly, it does contain some ideas worth discussing, but one must dig through the fluff to find them.

Chapter 1

Chapter 1 is noteworthy only in its repeated use of the word predestined. This is a disgusting word, and I'm shocked that anyone can even respect, much less claim to love, a god that predestines certain lucky people to be spared from eternal suffering, predestining the rest to an unspeakably horrid fate.

Chapter 2
  • Verse 2: The author refers to "the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." What the hell does that mean? What is the kingdom of the air? Who is its ruler? Jesusianismists will say that this is obviously Satan. I disagree. It is not obvious at all. More likely it's Aang from the children's cartoon Avatar.
  • Verse 17 says, "[Jesus] came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near." Bullshit. "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." Matt 10:34. "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division." Luke 12:51.
Chapter 3
  • Verses 2 - 3: "Surely you have heard about...the mystery made known to me by revelation." Well, no, we heard that you were struck blind and had some sort of auditory hallucination, but you never told us any of the details about what must have been a very long conversation with Jesus. Too bad, the details would have made you a thousand times more credible, regardless of whether you claim to be Paul.
  • Verse 10: the "wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms". What realms are these? What rulers and authorities are these? Seems like this author is similar to Paul in his recreational drug use.
  • Verse 20: Glory "to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine". I don't know, I can imagine a limb being regrown, but Yahweh somehow has never mustered up the power to cause this to happen. I read an article recently about how evil, atheismist scientismists are making progress in this direction. Want to place a bet on whether Yahweh or humans will get there first?
Chapter 4
  • Verse 9: "What does 'he ascended' mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?" This might also be rendered, "...he also descended to the depths of the earth." Either way, it's one of the stupidest suggestions I've ever read in the bible, and that's saying something. Since when does ascending even imply a descent? Paul is glad that he didn't write this crap.
  • Verse 8: Yes, back up to the verse where this word, ascended, is introduced: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train, and gave gifts to men." This quote is a terrible mistranslation of Psalm 68, Verse 18: "When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train, you received gifts from men". This author does a good job of imitating Paul, not only by using mistranslated verses from the Talmud, but also by grossly lifting verses out of context. If the author really wanted to tell us something meaningful about Yahweh and the kind of people who love it, he would have skipped ahead a bit in the Psalm, to Verses 21 - 23: "Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies...The Lord says, 'I will bring them...that you may plunge your feet in the blood of your foes, while the tongues of your dogs have their share.'" What does 'he ascended' mean except that he also descended so fully into barbarism that he couldn't descend any further? The diligent exegete could carry this idea forward in Ephesians 4:11 to illuminating effect: It was he who gave some to be anorexic, some to be paraplegic, some to be epileptic, and some to be poliomyelitic and tubercular. Now that is what we've grown to expect from Yahweh.
Chapter 6, Verse 12: Here we go again with "rulers...authorities...powers of this dark world and...the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." What the hell is he talking about?
    Bullets Dodged

    This epistle lays down some rules for Jesusianismists, but thank goodness that you don't have to follow any of them, not knowing who the heck wrote this silly thing.
    • Chapter 4, Verses 25 - 32: Put off falsehood; don't sin in anger; don't let the sun go down on your anger; stop stealing; do something useful with your own hands; talk not unwholesomely, but only in a way that is helpful for building others up according to their needs; get rid of bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, malice.
    • Chapter 5, Verses 3 - 4: there must be no sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, coarse joking.
    • Chapter 5, Verse 5: "No immoral, impure, or greedy person has any inheritance in the kingdom of God."
    • Chapter 5, Verse 22: "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord."
    • Chapter 6, Verse 1: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord." Good thing we don't have to obey this one: I can't even figure out what it means.
    • Chapter 6, Verse 5: "Slaves, obey your earthly masters". Good thing it was an impostor who wrote this letter; otherwise we might think that Yahweh is ok with slavery.

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