Saturday, July 25, 2015
From the Sources 2
The Israelites as described in the Hebrew book of Leviticus believed strongly that Yahweh desired, indeed demanded, sacrifice for the expiation of sins. There are numerous rules for making such sacrifices in order to get back in the good graces of God.
Here's an example, from Leviticus 5:
If a person touches anything unclean, such as the dead body of an unclean animal, whether wild or domestic, or of an unclean reptile, or it he touches anything unclean in a man [not sure what that means] ... and it is concealed by him although he is aware of it , he shall incur guilt."
"Unclean," in this passage, does not refer to physical dirt, but to a spiritual or ritual uncleanness. In the Roman church today, it might reference something like missing Mass on Sunday morning, or dropping the Host out of your mouth. In fundy Christian churches it could mean masturbation or failing to tithe.
The point we're making is that in order to get back into harmony with Yahweh, the ancient Israelites had to offer a sacrifice, usually of a bull or goat or even two turtle doves or two young pigeons. "[T]he priest shall make expiation for the sin the man has committed and it shall be forgiven him."
Such a theology is best described as a sacrificial cult.
In the book of Matthew - written a generation after Paul came on the scene, which means Paul never had access to it - Jesus is presented as one who insists on upholding the entire Law as laid down in the olden days. But, he carries things much further!
He does NOT say that he will become a human sacrifice which will save people from their sins if they just have "faith" in him.
He goes back to the Law and then way beyond. Jesus is all about action, real action in the real world, not about ritual action in a temple. One needs to change his life not his offering at an altar!
From Matthew 5:21ff: "You have learned that our forefathers were told, 'Do not commit murder; anyone who commits murder must be brought to judgement.' But what I tell you is this: Anyone who nurses anger against his brother must be brought to judgement. If he abuses his brother he must answer for it to the court; if he sneers at him he will have to answer for it in the fires of hell. ...
"If someone sues you, come to terms with him promptly while you are both on your way to court; otherwise he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the constable, and you will be put in jail. ...
"You have learned that they were told, 'Do not commit adultery.' But what I tell you is this: If a man looks on a woman with a lustful eye, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ...
"You have learned that they were told, 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' But what I tell you is this: Do not set yourself against the man who wrongs you. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn and offer him your left. If a man wants to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well. If a man in authority makes you go one mile, go with him two. ...
"You have learned that they were told, 'Love your neighbour, hate your enemy.' But what I tell you is this: Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors; only so can you be children of your heavenly Father, who makes the sun rise on good and bad alike, and sends the rain on the honest and the dishonest."
Now, we're beginning to get an idea why Paul, the itinerant preacher, would not care much for what Jesus is reported to have done and said. All of these passages blow Paul's theology out of the water. The religion of Jesus had to do with acting in loving and responsible ways; going the extra mile; turning the other cheek.
Those things are hard to do. It's much easier to say "I accept Jesus into my heart," as the fundy's insist you must do to be saved; or to go to church and sing hymns of praise or to go to confession and admit you've sinned.
You may remember the scene from "The Godfather," where a mafia family gathers in a church to witness a baptism of one of their own at the same time their orders to murder a rival are being carried out.
Not that Paul was a murderer, but that is an explicit example of the difference between what Jesus taught and what Paul preached.
Let's bring Jesus up-to-date. How many self-described Christians these days follow his admonitions? Christians in 2015, for the most part, totally ignore and thus deny what Jesus taught, betting all their chips on Paul's notion that one is saved by "faith."
One cannot expect that non-Christians follow the teachers of Jesus, but ask yourself if Ben Carson, a Seventh-Day Adventist and a pious man, or Rick Santorum, a strict Roman Catholic who thinks the Pope is walking the wrong road, or Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist preacher who lies as a matter of course, etc., show any evidence they have read or heard of or remember or give a damn what Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew.
To claim to follow Jesus and then neglect to do so is, I believe, a powerful example of hypocrisy!