Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Confusing Testament

I am almost done reading the New Testament and have only Revelation left.  The major sections of the New Testament are:  1. 'Firsthand' accounts of Jesus' life  2.  Letters written by apostles and prophets  3.  Revelation. The first group of writings are the ones most often quoted I would expect as they contain all the basic Jesus stories and his sayings and parables.  The second group is less famous because it does not have the story element and I expect it is mostly used to support whatever ideas any given person happens to believe.

There are two things you will find in the Letters primarily.  Firstly you find random blathering using the words love, God, sin, Jesus and punishment interspersed without pattern.  The various prophets rant on about Jesus, their ministries and the nature of holiness and most of the statements they make are either tautologies or make absolutely no sense.  In an amusing twist I recognize the pattern of speech distinctly from my sales experience;  there is a specific way of speaking which uses a lot of emotionally charged words and positive references while not giving any detailed information.  The prophets and apostles seem very interested in convincing the reader to believe (*cough* open their wallets) but are clearly unwilling to provide evidence or firm answers, just like a salesperson would be if he doesn't actually know anything about the product he is pitching.

As one who knows, I will tell you that the mark of a really amazing salesperson is the ability to make a great presentation on something they know virtually nothing about on the spot.  Repeating a canned pitch requires very little aside from a minimal amount of memory work and a smile but managing to find things to say that aren't made up and yet sound wonderfully complimentary on an unfamiliar topic is the sign of a master.  The Letters section of the New Testament is written by some *very* successful salesmen.

The second thing that is found in Letters is clear instructions.  This comprises about 5% of the total text but the same instructions appear over and over making it abundantly clear what policies the New Testament supports.  Primarily these are:

1.  Slaves must obey their masters.  Even if the slave is righteous and the master is not God wants slaves to obey their masters happily and without complaint.
2.  Women must be subservient to men.  They must be silent in church and must only ask their husbands privately if they have questions.
3.  Sex outside the bounds of marriage is evil.
4.  Murder, slander, lying, stealing and idolatry are wrong.
5.  Money is evil and desiring money or power on earth makes it nearly impossible to get into heaven.

The first in that list is incredibly disturbing.  The Catholic church supported slavery longer than nearly every nation on earth because the Bible so clearly comes down in favour of it.  The second is obviously there because all the religious figures were men and they lived in a male dominated society.  Might as well put it in religious code that women have to do what we say... The third and fourth are actually pretty good rulesets, particularly considering the state of medicine at the time.  As for the fifth, the dislike of riches is extremely bizarre when contrasted with the fact that owning *people* is completely ok by the Bible.  Owning objects = bad.  Owning people = good.

These letters are full of truly bizarre statements and riddled with contradictions.  On one hand we are supposed to obey all worldly authorities because God put them in positions of power and on the other hand we should ignore all of the antichrists and others who would lead us astray.  Clearly this is exactly what you would expect if you got a dozen different people over several centuries to write down their ideas on holiness, righteousness and good living and mashed them all together.  Unfortunately it serves very well to support pretty much any sort of philosophy you care to name if you quote it properly.

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