(4) Wisdom as a strange woman …

Continuing on our theme of “Folly to be wise ..”.

Wisdom is spoken of highly in the Bible, something to be sort after, something to be treasured.  A gift that will bring a person wealth and prosperity, but if ignored, or treated unkindly, or unjustly, could also turn on the person and cause them great harm.  Is it folly to seek wisdom knowing that it is fickle and untrustworthy?  And why describe it as a woman?  Was that the patriarchal view of the women in the centuries over which the instructions in the Book of Proverbs was collected?  Or could there be a more interesting challenge?  Was Wisdom a being that interacted with the living, much as the angels do today?  People experience God’s grace today, through miracles of many sorts, through visions and prophecy.  Could Wisdom have been one of the messengers that humans were meant to trust, and in falling, then become a being people were warned against?  Could the description in Chapter 9 of the wise woman and the foolish one, so very much alike, be a subtle way of reminding people not to trust someone who offers you treasures from unknown sources? (Proverbs 9:2 compared with 9:17)

If we did a direct comparison between the first section and the second section of the chapter we can clearly see the differences between the wise woman and the the woman given many names ‘strange’ or ‘loose’.  She is described as a prostitute, loud and ignorant, but her words are the same as the woman who would be wise .. so why do we differentiate between the two?  How does this confusing, and often threatening, speech teach us wisdom?  The motto of this Book is “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline”.  How do we apply it here?

Wisdom seems to have two different messages.  To the wise she offers food and wine she has mixed herself, to the simple she offers illicit pleasures.  My first thought was what had she mixed in the wine?  She still believes the wise are immature and require her guidance or need to be led.  What measuring stick do we use to review Wisdom’s character?  Do we find it in the New Testament in James 3:13-18?

Proverbs 9:1

1  Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars.

Why does Wisdom specify seven pillars in her house?  The number seven means ‘complete’ – God took six days to create the world and on the seventh day he rested.  Does that relate to what is written?  There does not seem to be a clear answer, so let us begin by reviewing them through James 3:13-18?

James 1:13-18

13 Who is wise and understanding among you?  Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.
14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth.
15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish.
16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.
17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full   of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.
18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Given Wisdom’s behaviour in Proverbs 1:24-28 I do not think we can describe ‘her’ as pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits or partiality (given she only calls to the simple(-minded)) or hypocrisy .

Another writer (1) says that the seven pillars of ‘wisdom’s solid foundation’ (of her house) are found in Proverbs 8:12-14

12 I, wisdom, live with prudence, and I attain knowledge and discretion.
13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.  Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
14 I have good advice and sound wisdom; I have insight, I have strength.

I enjoyed that webpage for the show of confusion that the Wisdom literature creates.  To start with, it was not the best translation, but after the writer says that Wisdom lives in a house with a woman called Prudence I had to keep reading.  I read it four times just to make sure I was not mistaken.  I do not think the writer realised exactly how the words would be taken, but it is a good example of how we see what we want to see in the Bible – myself included.  And to stretch the point, another writer on the internet decided that Wisdom and Prudence were married to each other .. only many churches are not happy with same sex marriages, and certainly not during the centuries when the ‘wisdom’ was gathered, so perhaps we will discount that one.

And this lady (2) gives us another version.  She writes: “I’ve always wondered what the seven pillars of wisdom were. After studying the seven-fold anointing spoken of in Isaiah 11:2, I concluded that the seven pillars of wisdom must be the seven aspects of the Holy Spirit of the Lord. Isaiah 11:2 says, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord“.  But there are only six, so I guess it is disqualified.

Wikipedia (3) gives us a slightly different set, calling them the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord .. which they define as ‘wonder’.

Where does that get us?  We agree that no one is sure what the seven pillars of Wisdom’s house are.  The notes in my NOAB (4) state “9:1 Seven pillars may allude simply to the pillars of Wisdom’s house or may suggest the pillars on which the earth was founded”.  (Job 9:6, 26:11, Ps 74:3)  (Can we read that as the commentator appearing to believe that Wisdom was a living person?)  And everyone appears to agree that we should fear the Lord, apart from me.

And then there is the possibility that the building of the house refers to when Wisdom says she helped create the world, an ‘understanding’ which was anticipated in the Babylonian Talmud (6) where the Talmud explains the purpose of Adam’s creation on the even of the sabbath “that he might straightway go in to the banquet. The matter may be compared to a kind of flesh and blood who built palaces and furnished them, prepared a banquet, and thereafter brought in guests”.

We shall move on …

Proverbs 2 – 18

2  She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table.
3  She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls from the highest places in the town,
4  “You that are simple, turn in here!”

Were the servant girls Wisdom’s procurers?  In modern times we see them in the streets outside restaurants, cafes, bars and brothels.  The verse continues ..

To those without sense she says
5  “Come and drink of the wine I have mixed.
6  Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight”.

Why address this to only ‘those without sense’?  Wouldn’t the wise also like to join a feast?  I wonder if the ancients had hallucinogenic drinks that provided ‘insight’, or certainly visions of some kind?  The seers at Delphi would sit over volcanic fumes and then the priests would interpret their ‘prophecies’.  Mixing wine with spices was not unusual, but what was mixed into it  that required a person to ‘grow up’ (something we say to immature people even today) and ‘live, and walk in the way of insight’ (while smoking the peyote smoked by the Amerindians to get advice from their gods? Or modern people getting stoned for fun? (7))

And then did someone so severely doubt her that they said so at which point a comment like this might sound wise.  Was she trying to tell them to “fear the Lord” and they scoffed at her ..

7  Whoever corrects a scoffer wins abuse; whoever rebukes the wicked gets hurt.
8  A scoffer who is rebuked will only hate you; the wise, when rebuked, will love you.
9  Give instruction to the wise, and they will become wiser still; teach the righteous and they will gain in learning.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
11 For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life.
12 If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it.

Is this a promise she thought she could make – to multiply the days and years of someone’s life literally, or do we take it as an allegory, that Wisdom will help a person live longer?  Did she think she could do this herself, or that the Lord would do this for anyone she directed to him?

And then the theme changes completely, and we are advised that this next woman is a fool, called Dame Folly in the NIB, and yet her behaviour is much the same as the wise woman ..

13 The foolish woman is loud; she is ignorant and knows nothing.
14 She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the high places of the town,
15 calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way,
16 “You who are simple, turn in here!” And to those without sense she says,
17 “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant”.

Perhaps she was being more honest than Wisdom? She offered the foolish ‘stolen water’ and secret bread, which in the end would kill them (v. 18). My NOAB (5) comments that the ‘stolen water’ is probably a euphemism for illicit sex, with a reference to Proverbs 5:15-21. The comment about those ‘who are going straight on their way’ might suggest that the lady wants to lead them off the straight/right path and into iniquity, if not death?

18 But they do not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.

Who else would have her guests in Sheol, a name given to hell, than a fallen angel?

Strangely, but not unexpectedly, here is a perfect example of where the commentators choose to ignore what they cannot explain.  The NOAB (8) completely ignores verses 11-16 and the brief comment in the NIB (9) is “9:13-18  The chapter and the book’s first major section now conclude.  Dame Folly is an explicit contrast to Wisdom in v 16, even to the point of making an identical invitation (v. 4 = v. 16).  But this passage also sums up virtually every theme expressed in Proverbs 1-9 by means of its repetition of key words.  In particular, Dame Folly masterfully integrates the portrait of Folly as a seduction to bogus good, in contrast to the genuine good of Wisdom.”

Only Wisdom is definitely not genuinely good.

A few last thoughts – were the sayings gathered together in these chapters of Proverbs because the lady was writing her autobiography, and/or someone later thought them wise?  To some degree this whole section reminds me of God in Job professing the wonder of being God while punishing the innocent.  Either that or someone, in the far future, is going to find a book like Anne Rice’s “Interview with a Vampire” and think its actually history. If someone came to me offering me sweet words and sweet wine, I would be wondering what they wanted. Does that make me wise or the fool? When a couple came from a Christian Sect offering me “God their way”, I tested their waters through their writings briefly and then they ran away. Don’t question someone too deeply or they might get very uncomfortable. Is that what wasn’t done here, the words were accepted, confusion and all, by Irenaeus and his cohort, much as they accepted Job, because it appears they are wise .. but on close reading you find the snake still in the garden whispering “bite the apple, Eve”.

(Yes, I know it wasn’t an apple, but when I was a child I was taught that it was by a number of ministers of various Christian churches, different denominations. You have to wonder who trained them!)

Thank you for reading …

(1)  Wisdom creates confusion http://www.bridgetothebible.com/Bible%20Lists/7%20Pillars%20of%20Wisdom.htm
(2)  Seven Pillars of Wisdom – http://www.charismamag.com/spirit/devotionals/around-the-word-in-365-days/?aid=2939
(3)  Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_gifts_of_the_Holy_Spirit
(4) The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 4th Edition, New Revised, Standard Version, with the Apocrypha. MD Coogan, Editor, Oxford University Press, 2010, page 907
(5) ibid page 903
(6) The New Interpreter’s Bible, A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1997, Proverbs 9, page 101
(7) Hallucinogenics in Ancient Israel – http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/israeli-town-yavneh-had-thriving-drug-culture-3000-years-ago-003159
(8) The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 4th Edition, New Revised, Standard Version, with the Apocrypha. MD Coogan, Editor, Oxford University Press, 2010, Proverbs, page 907
(9) The New Interpreter’s Bible, A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1997, Proverbs 9, page 103

Why do we keep punishing Jesus?

Jesus was hung on a cross for humanity’s sins. We know he was crucified because we have proof now, but the ‘why’ of this is up for interpretation. Christian folk have been taught that he was an innocent man tortured to save each of us, condemned for no reason but that he spoke out against the Roman dictatorship over the Jewish people, and the churches dictatorship over its own people. Oh yes, he broke a few tables along the way, but he never broke any ‘heads’, so he was calmer and quieter than some of the rabble who called themselves God’s representatives at the time. His message was one of love, peace and forgiveness – but that got lost along the way when the writer of Revelation turned him into the Vengeful Messiah the Jewish folk were craving .. sorry, the Christian folk were craving, after they converted.

Two thousand years later how much has changed? There are still people selling holy relics in the churches, only we call them music CDs and meditation tapes these days (or bits of the stone wall, imported direct from Mecca). Money still changes hands to buy redemption .. only now it’s called ‘give to the churches favourite charity’ (itself?). And our behaviour hasn’t improved, even after all this time, and all the sermons (or lectures) delivered from various pulpits. The Ten Commandments are still being ignored by most people, who go ahead and lust, steal and murder whenever it suits them. How many of them do you think care what God or Jesus will actually do to them after they die? Oh no, they’ve already turned their backs on that belief system .. and even if they haven’t .. the good Christians are murdering the commandments day by day.

I don’t really want to debate the commandments today, even though I think we should all put some serious consideration into re-inventing them. It’s not that they aren’t important, it’s that some of them don’t make sense anymore, given what Jesus taught us about God, and then there’s ‘honouring your parents’ which may end in you being abused by one, or both, of them. So let me get back to the point …

I was listening to Christian radio the other day, happily agreeing with what most of the speaker was saying, until something he said made me realise that we are constantly punishing Jesus. When we choose to sin we are deliberately denying everything he did for us by being hung up on that Cross. The teachings of the church, particularly when I was a child, was that each of us is born into sin .. the sins of our ‘fathers’ (does that make our mother’s relieved?) .. which actually means ‘the sins of our parents’. I have to ask why God would create beings that carried this sin for generation to generation (40 in all?) and how we escape it .. how about the 41st generation .. but no, the sin continues onto and into forever, and we can never be free of it, unless we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour .. (strange how we are lumbered with sin, but not allowed to benefit from the acceptance of our parent’s heartfelt connection back to God. When does the poison stop spreading through humanity’s veins .. and sin is a poison. It does make us ill). So I accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and therefore I am rescued from sin .. in that moment. Ten minutes later I go outside, covet someone’s car or bus or bike, or wife (heaven forbid because I’m female .. and my husband would object :-)) and I am back to being a sinner again.

So I turn myself around, go back into the church, and if it’s appropriate, confess this sin, say the Hail Mary’s or various other prayers we all use to ask for forgiveness and everything is all right again .. until I go outside and, walking home, ‘borrow’ a lemon from the fruit tree down the road (and the sin is not mitigated by making lemon cake and giving the owner half), without asking the owner first. Whoops, there goes sin number eight. Or worse, I tap the statue of Mother Mary on the knee on the way out the door and thank her for everything she’s helped me with (all those prayers) and there’s sin number two, because all thanks should be to God, or so I am taught. And what about if I have to work a shift or two on Sunday .. do I spent Monday on my knees begging forgiveness, not just for that one day, but because I am a repeat sinner. Is the punishment worse if we consciously sin over and over again?

Dear Jesus, who removed the sins of the world (John 1:29) .. turns out you only gave us the grace to turn around and break the rules again. And if you did remove ‘the sins of the world’ why is it that the Christians think you only did it for them?

There are times that I stand outside the Christian faith looking in and wonder what God will truly do to all those hypocrites, liars, cheats and thieves, and that’s just among the clergy. If they are not good enough Christians, and I am only a lay Theologian, what hope is there for me, if I follow their leadership? The church set themselves up as the role model for humanity .. and yet the law is now chasing various churches for not producing their paedophiles on demand, for covering up thousands of cases of abuse, and convincing the innocent that they would be publicly vilified if they tell anyone that a priest was their abuser. And where is Jesus in all this .. still hung up on the cross, because he really needs to stay there otherwise we have no hope at all.

For all the agony that he suffered for us in those three hours or so he was crucified, we have given him two and half million+ hours more through our own thoughts and actions. When do you think it will be enough, and he can come down off the cross and help us to be the people we can be, through his example .. loving, kind, generous, forgiving, tolerant, peaceful, thoughtful, God filled? Sometime soon I hope.

In a world full of fear and hatred being a God-filled person and trying to ‘lead by example’ can be incredibly difficult, but that is no excuse for not trying. Jesus was a human being just like you and me. He put his life on the line for us, as a living example of what we can achieve, with a little determination, a touch of temper and a strong desire to change the world. He started small. Look at the society God chose to drop him into, and the challenges of no ‘mass communication’, apart from anything else. Word of mouth was the best form of advertising then, and it still is. Leading by example still gathers hearts and souls together. Now we have the internet, and tv and movies, and what do we produce .. more programs to create horror and fear .. just look at the nightly news and their focus on disasters ..

But then, I am getting off the topic again ..

When Jesus saved us he knew we were sinners and that we needed a representative between us and God, and so he put himself there, human fears and all. Can we make ourselves a representative who stands up for what Jesus believes in, although society might ignore us or laugh and make fun? Can we ask him to come down off that cross for each of us now? You see, when Jesus was alive, there was no Christianity, there was only God. Jesus was not Christian, he was not exclusive, or inclusive, he wanted to talk to everyone about his Creator. The Christian church is closing its door on its own reality right now, because it is run by sinners seeking Revelationianic outcomes, rather than the truly loving ones that Jesus taught us about. Because .. when you think about it for a moment .. you will realise that, if Vengeful Messiah ‘came’ now, heaven would be very empty, and most of us would be in hell, suffering with the demons. Where would you be?

Love & Peace

Job and God, slave and master

Morning all,

I’ve had a long break thanks to Christmas and a busy beginning to the year. Coming back to Job is a bit of a thud. I would rather not think of what God allowed to happen to this man and his family, if the story is true, which is unlikely, given its history and the knowledge we have of its creation (see my last blog).

Stop over a minute and pop over here to Heather Benson’s very good site Move from this Mountain. Her question sparked my comment on the page, which I have copied here:

“God speaks in the book? Where? Oh I know, at the end where he ignores everything he has put Job through, and Job’s family and servants, and starts pontificating about how wonderous ‘he’ (God) is. How does that help me to understand ‘him’ .. when I am stopped dead by the cruelty of the actions, the lack of love that he showed Job through all the torture, and everyone else by terminating their lives .. just to show the devil that Job ‘might’ remain faithful?

The human mind wants to find answers to everything, its how we were created. Trying to find a ‘good’ answer in all the “I am bigger stronger .. and yes, crueler, than all your little pipsqueaks” .. is not what I think the God of Jesus is about. Jesus taught ‘love everyone as I have loved you’ .. if Job’s God was our God, I think we better hide.

The Book of Job was written by three men, not one, and not God. Using it as a tool to ‘know’ God .. doesn’t work for me.”

She also commented on the Why did God hate Job? blog, asking “what do you make of Job’s final speech in chapter 42”. It’s a really good question. You can read our discussion there. Let me just reprint a bit of my answer:

“If I did (take the book literally) .. I have more questions. His repetence is to say that he didn’t understand the ‘wonderous’ things God was doing for him (42:3), and so he’s choosing to repent in dust and ashes, anyway”. I don’t understand the wonderous things either, I certainly don’t see any. Since no purpose of God can be thwarted (42:2), in my opinion Job was trying to protect himself from more of God’s wrath. Think what he went through, think of the emotional and physical torture of losing your children and all those illnesses (not to mention the criticisms by people who were supposed to be his friends?) .. Job, unless he was a miracle unto himself, was a wreck. You don’t bounce back from that very easily unless you are insane .. or blocking it all out, which is insanity in itself. Job said to God ‘Hear (me), and I will speak, I will question you and you declare to me,” in other words he’ll believe everything God tells him, regardless of whether it is true or not. Satan has broken Job with God’s permission, and in being broken, if we believe what is written here, Job finally actually ‘sees’ God. What does he see? A monster, thoughtless, uncaring, unkind .. and terrifying. Of course Job gives in and decides to despise himself, because God has proved that ‘he’ despises Job. (To be a true follower of God, what else can he do but do what God wants?) Where does the repenting get him? He gets given gifts, new children, more cattle .. new wife? The old one seems to have turned her back on God? Isn’t that the way the devil wins people, by giving them everything they want before destroying them?

The story of Job unsettles people’s faith in God, and makes them look for answers they cannot find in the book itself, instead they decide to focus on other bits .. the bits that say how wonderous God appears to be .. all the pomposity, and the fall back phrase ‘God works in mysterious ways’. The only mystery here is who was this being pretending to be God? Or why was this book even included in the bible? At least Satan was acting ‘in character’, you can trust him to try and destroy humanity, but .. here .. we have God also trying to destroy one man ‘just because’.

One last thought: why the title of this page – a person with no will of their own is a slave to the person, or being, that broke their will. Job’s will was broken, regardless of what God may have given back to him, his trust was also broken. People also serve in fear instead of Love.

Love & Peace

When is murder not murder …

When is murder not murder? This thought occurred to me when I was asked the question “Is it safe to say you don’t see love–Jesus’ love–in the death penalty?” by Heather from Move from this Mountain, and I started typing notes to myself, between washing the floors and doing general cleaning. Let’s say the whole concept helped to create a lot of furious energy as I thought about the God of the OT, Jehovah, and his sixth commandment, which Moses brought down from the mountain for his people. My first question has to be .. didn’t it apply before Moses time? And then, didn’t it apply to the OT God at all?

Let’s briefly step back into the concept that the Bible is the unerring Word of God, written with no mistakes, add-ins or contradictions, a pure reporting of events of the history before most people could read and write, and from those writings we are supposed to know that God loves us truly and deeply, but not unconditionally, otherwise the entire population of the world in Noah’s time (except him and his family, and one pair each of most of the animals, not all of them) would not have been killed. Does drowning not constitute murder? If modern Western Laws are based on Biblical ones, it must be only loosely, because, by law, if you force someone to drown (say by pouring water over them to levels so deep that no amount of swimming stops them dying from exhaustion), then you have murdered them.

Or how about God saying to Saul, through Samuel, (1 Samuel 15:2-3) “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came out of Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey”. I did a brief search and it seems it was only 400 years since that first attack. I don’t think I am being unfair in wondering why our ‘loving’ God was still angry four hundred years later, or worse, did he choose to act in cold blood? And why wait so long? How many generations of people had been born since then? Did they even remember what happened? Oh, I forgot – God will punish a person’s children to four generations if they turn from him .. no, that doesn’t fit, or does it? What God did ‘they’ worship?

Well, Saul obeyed, but not perfectly. He spared the King, and kept the best of the animals, and ‘all that was valuable”, and the reason for it … according to 1 Samuel 15:20-21 Saul saved the animals and valuables to sacrifice to his God, but burnt offerings were not enough .. God wanted every person He had created in that tribe, and was now angry at, dead – and one man still alive was one man too many. But what did the animals do to deserve this treatment?

Saul and his followers murdered an entire tribe for their God, because King Agag was murdered in the end, and what did Saul achieve for it .. to be terriorized into insanity by a ‘dark angel from the Lord’, the same Lord who demanded he murder all the people in the first place. You will understand why I have doubts about the ‘love’ of this ‘god’?

But the question was ‘Is it safe to say you don’t see love–Jesus’ love–in the death penalty?’ To me that asks ‘do you think Jesus would advocate killing someone just because they killed someone else’? The answer is no. Where is the love of Jesus, his forgiveness of sins, in giving someone a needle that stops their heart, or some other truly unpleasant death, and in doing so stops their ability to learn to be a better person in this lifetime, and to seek God’s forgiveness, if no one else’s, while alive? According to Christian teachings this person, man or woman, is going to go to hell, and be tortured in unspeakable ways .. and what do you learn from that? Where is God’s love in that? Justice, on the other hand, as a form of love, or balance, I can see – but its not for the victim, it is for those who remain behind. Is Jesus’ love found in the example of the lady here in Australia, who, after her daughter’s murderer was caught, forgave the man? Yes, she is a living example of love, and a truly strong and beautiful person and I have no idea if she is Christian.

I talked to my daughter about this question and she said that perhaps the victim was glad to have been murdered, because they did not have the courage to kill themselves. Is then the murderer not helping the person it murdered? How do we punish an act of kindness – because I can easily relate this to ‘assisted suicides’ of people with terminal illnesses. That was the act of Love, by a parent on the tv program I watched the other night on ‘Moses and the Laws’. The woman killed her son who was dying from a crippling illness. She smothered him with a pillow when he was half dead from an overdose of heroin, by his own hand. Would I have the strength to do that to save my children from suffering? I hesitate, but think yes. Would I kill someone who was trying to kill my child? Don’t put me in a position to choose .. because, for all that I think murder of any kind is unjustifiable, I do not know what I would do .. or perhaps I do. Anything can become a weapon used well, even words.

Jesus taught ‘turn the other cheek’, and ‘Love as I have loved you’, and yet … Should we apply this to a murderer, though I know that it might be hard for some people, but by asking for God’s help, perhaps we all could? Would it be enough to chop off the hand that used the weapon? It seems not, because, according to Jesus’ teachings (Matthew 5:28-30), we have to also chop off the mind that thought up the deed as well. It is justice, not love, that provides retribution for the family of the victim, because no one can ask the victim how they would see justice done, and so the courts of a country have to decide how a person is to be punished for their crime .. or their sin – and what is their example .. Exodus 21:23 “If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe,” and Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:29-30 “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if you right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell”, and “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” and I have read plenty of messages from people who apply the same to murder … so … as the Red Queen said ‘Off with his head …”

Love & Peace

Did Jesus love in accordance to the law …

I have spent the last few days answering comments from people on a couple of my blog pages, as well as the usual work I do, so had no time to blog. I was considering many questions in the process, and was given a very good one (actually two, but the other will have to wait) by a lady in one of the comments. I ended up writing over 1500 words, as a comment, and realised that it fits well as a blog, with a bit of restructuring and explaining .. so here goes.

Let’s define the Law as the Ten Commandments, for those are the ones that I think apply to Christianity.

A few days ago I watched a program on Moses and the Ten Commandments by a very intense Catholic lady, who, when someone did not agree with what she was saying, or say what she wanted, would talk straight over the top of them, and demand they answer in a way to suit her needs. Well, the program never said it was unbiased, but, going by the reaction of my family who are not madly Christian, it would have once again confirmed that staying away from Christianity and their judgmental beliefs and attitudes is a good idea. I don’t agree with that, but I do think the lady was a living example of why people run away from the church .. and in doing so run away from God, and that, to me, is heartbreaking.

And then Heather from Move From This Mountain asked me if I believed that “Jesus loved in accordance to the Law”, and at first I thought ‘Yes, he did’, but when I took it apart, I had questions. This is my reasoning –

I do not believe that all Ten Commandments provide a set of boundaries for moral behaviour, given that the first four are all about who God is and what He wants as suitable worship. But I do think it’s good to have those guidelines as honouring God is very important to me. The rest of the commandments do give us structure, but I have reservations …

1) I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other God’s before me.

I am grateful to God for my whole life, but I not aware of any ancestors from Egypt, nor Jewish ones, thought we can only follow our family lines back to Charles 2nd in England most clearly, though you never know. Does that part apply to me? It might? Do I put any other God before Him .. well, I was taught there was only one God .. so where do I find any others? Or were the preachers lying when they said there was only one God? Yes, Moses followers did make a golden calf and worship it, or whatever God it represented, but if it didn’t represent a real ‘god’ then why were we told not to put any other god’s before Jehovah?

2) You shall not make yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven, above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

There’s a heck of a lot of stuff to answer in this one:

Do I believe in a jealous God, who will punish the children for the sins of the parents .. no. What did the children do to deserve that, or is that a threat to frighten anyone considering having children? But didn’t God say ‘go forth and multiply’, or words to that effect? So by not having children, because you fear what God will do to them when you sin, aren’t you sinning already, by not doing what God wants? I will honour and worship Jesus’ God, but I have no time for a God that fears that I will not follow It so much that It has to be jealous of a graven image? If you take the words of the Bible literally, I think paintings are out .. so God and Adam touching fingers (The Creation of Adam) means that Michelangelo has gone to hell, though he’s probably there already, given that he was not interested in women.

In my experience, God is not that small, that frightened, that fragile an ego, that It has to demand our undivided attention – otherwise we would all be monks and nuns .. and why doesn’t He/it appear to be doing so now? Where’s the smiting? Why did it stop? And why are there all those statues of Jesus, Mary and various saints in many churches of many faiths? Why aren’t the buildings burnt to the ground? Perhaps God understands that some people need a statue of Jesus up there in front of them, to help them focus their thoughts as they talk TO Him, not the statue. I agree a cow might not be a good symbol, but .. then I have wonder, if Jesus had been a cattleman, would cows have been ok? Did Moses ask God specifically to ban idols when he went to get the second set of tablets, just to put a stop to the cow worship? We will never know, and I have always wondered what the difference might have been between the first set of tablets that Moses brought down to the people, after being in God’s presence all that time, and the second set when he went back up the mountain in a flaming temper!

And the last question .. if God has steadfast love to the thousandth generation of one of his followers, what happens if the 627th generation decide to go with Buddha instead? Will he break his promise to the 1st generation to damn the children of this one for their parents change of belief?

3) You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Do I take the Lord’s name in vain .. I might sound like I do, usually when I am groaning about someone’s puzzling behaviour .. I even look to the sky when I said ‘oh God!’ .. it means ‘help me to understand, to be kinder, and more loving, because I need your help’. Does this mean I am damned or not? And what happens if we say it by mistake .. which anyone is capable of doing .. oh yes, we can go to confession and be forgiven by a living man, hopefully God is not mad at him and accepts our repentance – at least if we are Catholic.

4) Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy.

I love having the 7th day off, but I do not follow the Jewish custom of doing nothing on those days .. but that doesn’t mean I am not talking to God in my heart and my mind while I am tilling the garden to grow food .. or attempting to .. this amount of rain is killing my plants. The ground is just too wet where the vegetable gardens are. I respect the strength of the Jewish people who honour God this way but can only imagine the struggle it must be ‘not’ to do things I would not ordinary consider as work. And then there is the thought of which day is the 7th day? What day of the week did God start making the earth on? That comes from a midnight conversation with my partner about this question. Personally I can’t decide whether Saturday (a couple of religions), Sunday (Christianity) or Monday (the beginning of the business week) is suitable.

5) Honour your mother and father, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

Honour thy mother and father – that’s a tough one .. I believe honour and respect are earned, and should not just be handed out to anyone. I taught my children to respect their elders, as I was taught, but once they were old enough to see that the elders can often be nastier than children, how could I ‘make’ them continue to do so? I show respect to all people, even after they prove themselves unworthy of it, but I find it hard to respect someone such as a paedophile, and would not expect my family to honour them even if they ‘were’ a close relative.

6) You shall not murder.

Do not murder .. I’ll get back to that one. I’m going to end up turning that into a blog. Your question about the death penalty led to some interesting musings while I was cleaning my home this morning. Short answer is – I agree for the most part, but my question is ‘when is murder not murder’?

7) You shall not commit adultery.

I agree it shows no respect for any of the parties, including one’s self.

8.) You shall not steal.

Do not steal – I agree, and in a perfect world that would be logical in a society where everyone had enough of everything to live comfortably, but society isn’t like that. If you respect yourself, you can respect others and allow them to have what they have, without envying them so much that you have to ‘take’ what they have. But then, some people have nothing, and would die if they didn’t steal to eat .. does God see such extreme cases and understand, or are the laws arbitrarily applied? The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and they do what they must to survive, because we don’t hear about God helping them by putting money in their hands – otherwise it seems the rich are getting more help than the poor, and yet the poor will inherit the earth – so who is helping the rich, and why?

9) You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

Do not bear false witness – do not lie. I agree with that one. Morally it is simply wrong. You have to be very clever to be able to lie well, and maintain the facade it creates around you. Far simpler to tell the truth, also far more hurtful at times, and what do we do in circumstances where lying would save someone’s life? Do we honour our moralistic stand, or do we keep someone safe?

10) You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; wife; male or female slave; ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour. (my paraphrasing)

Do not covet your neighbour’s ‘anything’. Do not look upon what s/he has with envy in your heart, because it is a poison that can twist you up in knots, and our society is a nightmare for this with the ‘be like the Jones’ attitude, which is simply greed. I prefer my simple life. But I have a lot, when I stop and look around me – my family and friends, my safe place I live in, good food, clean water, beautiful surroundings (we live in an orchard), and bookcases covered in books, and other modern trappings, like the computers. I am very much blessed and thank God for the blessings He has bestowed on all of us, even when we are struggling, or think we are. But we have no idea of true suffering, for we do not live the way people in the third world live, and where is God there, at revival meetings knocking people down when His/its power touches them, or heals them, or filling their minds full of rapture, but not their stomaches. Can you starve to death on God’s Word, or are we supposed to eat the pages? Whoops, I just realised I have lost my temper for a minute (which is what happened when I wrote this yesterday).

The ordinances then go on to discuss slavery .. something I do not agree with.

The other night in the TV program I mentioned at the beginning one of the speakers lost his temper and made some very angry comments on the Commandments oppressing society, not benefiting it. At the time I didn’t agree with him, but having sat here writing this out .. in truth he might be right. Oh yes, they are great to give lip service to, but in reality our world stomps on the poor, those who have to steal to eat. And the rich get richer, just look at the Catholic Church and their abundance. They could feed the poor a million times over, and do they .. with their great collections of gold, jewels and other ‘idols’? What frustrates me most is that people see the wealth of most churches, the greed of some of them, and blame God for it, not man. They turn away from God because of it.

I prefer Jesus’ commandments “Love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and love others as yourself”.

Did Jesus love in accordance to the Law .. not in my opinion. He loved everyone, he talked about God with everyone, and I don’t remember him mentioning that El was a jealous God. Since jealousy and envy are sins, and Jehovah is jealous .. where does that leave us? And Jesus was not exclusive. He reached to everyone from the cross, if you believe what Athanasius wrote on the Atonement .. and I do. Maybe Paul is right, maybe Jesus did free people from the Law, since the Law came from Jehovah .. but I don’t think He freed us from moral behaviour. You cannot harm anyone if you think each thought through based in Love. And being me, I also think Jesus freed us from that jealous God. And God bless Him for that.

One last thought: Jesus said “until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished”. (Matt 5:18) We find it again in Matt 24:35, with whomever wrote Matthew telling us that no one but God knows when that would be. In my opinion, this means that Jesus’ death on the cross did not unbind us from the Laws of Moses, for the passing of heaven and earth are still being waited for in 2 Peter 3:10, and that was written long after Jesus had died. I think that is one of the many contradictions in the Bible. And as I have just said ‘where does that leave us now’?

And always more questions: ]

Do we need to be commanded to be righteous people? I guess we must, since so many people choose to follow a different path.

Can’t we follow our leaders and ask ourselves ‘what would Jesus do’ before each action, or unkind word? What does one do if they do not believe in Jesus, or dispute his nature, or whether he was a good man, a kind teacher, a false teacher, a prophet, God’s son, or a rebel?

What would our leaders do? And then I look at the various politicians in the world, many of who admit not to believing in God at all – and I wonder, as we are drawn into the darkness by the destruction of our faith, where it will all end? There was a reformation once, that split the churches into many pieces, perhaps we need another, to bring us all back together .. but I do not want a dictator for the whole world. Why can’t the ‘leader’ simply be Love?

Love & Peace

Lot – a righteous man?

After the university course I realised I will never be an academic. I don’t think the same way. I am taught to keep things simple and understandable. Dissecting God’s Word to find all the hidden meanings leaves me cold, because I don’t think that, if God had written this book, he/IT would have wanted it to be so complicated that no one could understand what it was about, except God’s especially trained scholars – but who does the training, and where do they get their ideas from? From other scholars, from other eras, and other viewpoints (nations, beliefs and ancient religions) of the world. And where do those scholars get their wisdom? And how much of it is affected by what they ‘want’ to believe, rather than what is actually the Truth? We all measure Truth by our own wants, needs and experiences – for none of us is perfect, and none of us is God. But then, the thought occurs to me, that perhaps this OT God did want the book to be confusing, and need to be explained .. so that IT could get away with behaviour that would be unjustifiable if ‘we’ did it? Or is it simply a record of what happened in those times, to those people, with a God that loved one minute, and smited you the next?

So the ordinary folk were told the basic stories, and perhaps had some of their questions explained away, but how many of them had the intelligence, or the desire, to dig any deeper into what God ‘might’ have meant, or the motives behind what he/IT did? No, it took the minds of men, seeking to make God reasonable and understandable, to make excuses for confusing, or frightening, behaviour.

And I am still in Genesis right now, going from one story to another, looking at Jehovah, while Jehovah is looking at Lot and his family, and the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Sodom and Gomorrah, two towns of five, in the region, that housed unrighteous men. What does righteous actually mean? “Righteousness (also called rectitude) is an important theological concept in Zoroastrianism, Hinduism (dharma), Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is an attribute that implies that a person’s actions are justified, and can have the connotation that the person has been “judged” or “reckoned” as leading a life that is pleasing to God.” Its chief meaning concerns ethical conduct. Righteousness – Wikipedia. Simply put it means integrity, equity, justice and straightness.

So God saw Sodom and sent two angels in to find ten righteous men, thanks to Abraham’s very determined bargaining, for Lot was one of his family and lived there. (Genesis 18:26-33) On the night they arrived all the men of Sodom gathered around Lot’s house and demanded that he send the ‘men’ out to ‘know’ them, which I am told means ‘have sex with them’, and Lot refused. He was happy enough for his two virgin daughters to be used and abused (19:8) by the mob, and he almost took a beating to try and protect God’s messengers, but some of the mob were struck blind, and the doorway was hidden from them, and all the others left. The next morning Lot and his wife and daughters had to be dragged out of town, because he was reluctant to leave. He would not obey the angels when they told him to run to the hills. Instead he sought safety in the next small town. On the way his wife could not restrain her curiosity, so she had turned back to watch her home being destroyed and, in that moment, was turned into a pillar of salt. Why? I was taught that she had disobeyed the angels who said ‘do not look back ..’ and so God punished her.

Before we stop and analyse what was happening, the story has to continue. Lot and his daughters tried to settle in Zoar, but still feeling unsafe moved up into a cave. While in cave the daughters decided that having sex with their father would secure the family line, giving birth to two sons.

And so the questions start. Were the angels/men looking for Lot, since Abraham had pleaded for the town because of him? He obviously acted as a good host to them. Did the men of the town always act that way with newcomers? How did they trade with other towns if the travellers were always accosted after dark if they did? Or could the townsfolk see there was something different about those men? Could Lot tell they were angels after they entered his house? Did they tell him of their mission? Fearing God, and because of that the angels, did Lot then feel he was trapped between a rock and a hard place when the townsfolk came knocking? Why didn’t he trust God to take care of the angels, rather than offering the men outside his virgin daughters .. given that the men were homosexuals anyway, the offer was completely pointless .. perhaps he should have offered them himself? For him God had to be more important than his own offspring, which is one way Lot is described as a righteous man, but I don’t see him that way. He didn’t ‘trust’ God to look after the angels, and therefore himself and his family. The town was already lost, given the behaviour of the mob. What good would it have done to give his daughter’s over to them who were not interested in ‘knowing’ them? It wasn’t going to change the outcome anyway.

To me, Lot is a no hero, nor a righteous man. It appears he was willing to sacrifice his own daughters for his God, even though he didn’t trust God, and he didn’t think the angels could look after themselves. In the morning, knowing the fate of the town, he was still reluctant to leave when he was told to. Perhaps his motive was to try and protect the town, but he was defying God’s wishes in staying. Later he wouldn’t go to the cave when he was told to by the angels. And then how drunk was he actually when his daughters came to him for sex. I believe alcohol tends to stop a man from being able to do the ‘act’, so he couldn’t have been so drunk that he didn’t know what he was doing.

And I have questions about Lot’s daughters. Why did they not seek out husbands to replace those who had died in Sodom? There were still three other towns in the region they could have chosen from? Or were they so frightened by what had happened to Sodom and Gomorrah that they would rather break social norms .. or did they? Was incest acceptable to God, given that Abraham married his half-sister? Some brief research later – it seems that incest was allowable for the first 1500 years, but after that God made a law that outlawed it. (Leviticus 18:6-18) Why did it take so long? Or had the ‘all-knowing’ God not thought of genetic abnormalities?

And why did God rescue Lot and his family? It was not because he and his family were righteous. Lot betrayed God by not trusting him, his wife by her curiosty, and his daughters .. well, the new rule didn’t get made for a few years after that, but I think I would be very angry with my father for his willingness to place me in harms way ‘for God’. But that’s just me. I don’t think doing evil ‘for God’ makes us justified.

Lastly, what does it say about the ‘love everyone’ God? Does ‘everyone’ not mean all the people created by God? Were the people in Sodom and Gomorrah created by someone else? And what about ‘righteous’ women? The men might have been unforgivable, but were all the women? I realise the Bible was written by patriarchal men, and women had little value back then, or did they? But, hang on, I thought God wrote the bible? Does he/IT value women less too?

Always more questions!

Love & Peace

I have questions …

I was talking to my daughter today, who has been reading this blog, and she suggested I put my opinions into all my discussions. Having just read the articles again, I think I already am .. but mostly my opinions come out with about a thousand questions, because I am trying to make sense of what I am reading .. I am in fact, just like Hedley Lamarr, “My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives”. (Blazing Saddles, 1974) My mind leap frogs from one thought to another, trying to understand how the God of the OT can be the same God as the NT, when he/she/it (yes, I will call it IT from now on) does things like let Satan ‘test’ Job by destroying his whole family; not punish Lot’s daughters for sleeping with their father, even after their mother is turned into a pillar of salt for looking back to her home be destroyed; and asking Abraham to kill his own son, to prove his faith; and then IT turns around and says, through Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you”. If we went by actions alone, the OT god has proved ITself totally untrustworthy, and the NT God then turning around and saying ‘trust me’, is kind of like the vampire in Buffy (the movie) doing the same. Why would I want to? I can’t turn my back on you. What’s the other message – incest is just fine, but curiosity isn’t?

So I have questions –

Let’s talk about Abraham. Abraham’s legacy, or legend, is that he had two sons late in life, the first by his wife’s servant/slave, Hagar, and the second by his wife (after God healed her of barrenness), who was his half-sister (same father). Now Sarah, not wanting competition for their legitimate heir, had Abraham turn Hagar out into the desert with Ishmael. My first question would have to be why didn’t God cure Sarah’s barronness before Ishmael was conceived, and after that we hit the cascade – what did Hagar and Ishmael do to deserve being tossed out, and how could Abraham do it, knowing it was entirely possible that both of them would die out there? Does this make Abraham a good man to be the founder of the Jewish faith, not to mention the Christian and Muslim? Is infanticide acceptable to God? Did Ishmael suddenly lose importance to God, not just Abraham, because Sarah had a baby at around 90 years – no, God was there, he was the one who advised Abraham to do what Sarah asked, and afterwards IT came up to Hagar and helped her, but if IT is all-knowing and all-wise, why did IT (God) allow the situation in the first place?

How about this thought – last night I watched a TV program about the history, and legacy, of Abraham and his decision to cast away his first son. It seems that God blessed both Ishamel, and Isaac, Sarah’s son. Ishamel’s descendents became the Muslims, and Isaac’s became the Christians, and the hatred between them .. is still present in the modern day. And why? How does having a willingness to kill your own child prove you are a good man and one worthy of being honoured by God – by IT bestowing the gift of ‘land’ on you and your descendents? Hence the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The Israelites believe God gave them the land the Palestinians live on, and they want it back .. and they are not adverse to just ‘taking’ it .. after all, God gave it to their Ancestor .. but .. which one of the son’s is actually supposed to hold it? Was that what the ‘love everyone’ God was trying to create .. a war that began perhaps 4000 years ago, and continues today? Or was that why IT wanted one of the son’s killed, to simplify the situation? And who’s angel was it that stopped Abraham’s hand? But that’s another thought completely. And then .. which son did God actually ask Abraham to sacrifice to IT? The Jews say it was Isaac, and the Muslims say it was Ishmael. I think it really doesn’t matter. What loving God would demand a sacrifice of anyone’s child, to prove a person’s faith? And not just once . oh no …

Let’s talk about Job.

Job, a true believer, a ‘blameless and upright’ man, who feared God and turned away from evil (Job 1:1), had seven sons and three daughters when God told Satan is was all right with him to test Job’s faith. Job worried for his family, and made sure that all of them were ‘right’ with God, but who looked after him? What did he do to God to make God turn him into an example? Nothing. Up until the moment of Satan’s discussion about Job’s faith, God had blessed Job with abundance, but within minutes it was all gone. What did Job do? He tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshipped God. Was that enough? Oh no. Satan demanded to ‘test’ Job more and God said “very well, he is in your power, only spare his life” (Job 1:6). And Job was then ‘inflicted by loathsome sores’ all over his body. And yet Job still worshipped God. He blamed himself for doing something wrong, rather than questioning God’s judgment upon him (Job 6:24). Even his wife demanded he curse God and die, and his friends turned against him and told him it had to be his fault that the suffering was happening ‘because God doesn’t punish people for no reason’, and yet we know, from the story itself, that the only reason Job lost all his children and possessions was because God told Satan he could be tested. In the end God restored Job’s fortune, and he went on to have more children, but who was Job then, how could what had happened not changed him in some way? Or was he simple crazy, or the story an allegory .. because God is not the loving God in this one. Was Job the sacrifice to show Satan that IT had one true follower? What does that mean for the rest of us, who are not as strong, or as crazy, as Job? What will happen to us when we blame God when things go wrong in our lives, as people so often do?

.. now that is an interesting thought – because, in this age of mass media and instant communication, if God smited someone for losing faith in IT, you would have thought we’d hear? Because people lose faith all the time, and the story of Job is one of the reasons why they do.

So the next question has to be – what changed God? Or did we change one God for another? But that will be for another time.

Love & Peace