Matthew 19

For some reason, Twitter is promoting something called "Reagan Coalition" into my feed, which: ick, but the tease was intriguing enough that I clicked and ended up on a rubbish heap of a website called "Downtrend.com," which is so over-the-top preposterous and badly-written ("Barrack Obama") that I wondered if it was a Poe. After some careful examination, I think it's earnest. Incredibly stupid, but earnest. From there I found a link to some idiot on Piers Morgan's show citing the Bible at Morgan, emphasizing strongly Matthew 19, and I thought, why not, let's go ahead and annotate Matthew 19. I'm using the New International Version, because that's the one I found first, and seriously, who cares, because whatever version you choose, it's a nonsensical mismash of idiotic superstition written by semi-literate goat herders 2 000 years ago in an entirely different language. It's hilarious that anyone has a preferred translation of this nightmarish collection of foolishness.

19 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan.
How come pastors never cite mundane verses like this? It's always money shots like John 3:16, but we never hear about exciting river-crossings from today's top preachers. That and the "begats" - they never spend a whole lot of time on the geneaology verses. For my money, the best geneaology in the bible are the two entirely separate lineages it produces linking Jesus' father Joseph to King David, as if that weren't a) completely contradictory and b) irrelevant if Mary was a virgin. Infallible!

2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
This never happened. Matthew was written many decades after Jesus' supposed life, as were the other gospels. If you thought the 24 hour news cycle was intense, get a look at the 50-year news cycle. Also, is it not fishy to anyone else that all of these miracles and healing happened during a very short time interval, one where no one had videocameras or, apparently, skepticism?

3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
Springing the trap! Those crafty Pharisees.

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
A "no" would have sufficed. But let's dig deeper into this "one flesh" thing. That doesn't really happen. Married people maintain their own bodies. They just can't have sex with other people without legal repercussions, and often have the same last name.

7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Maybe she was running around on him? Maybe because the bible is completely lacking in internal consistency and authorship?

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.
Oh, that explains it all! Silly us! We'll just be on our way, then, with this perfectly logical explanation.

I love in the Old Testament when God, taking a break from genocidal insanity, takes time to "harden [guy]'s heart," as if that's physiologically possible. When did the Great Heart Softening happen?Seriously, Bible reader, don't you get to those parts sometimes and think, "this whole thing is crazy"? You don't?

But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
Lots to unpack here. First of all, modern Xtian men, this is pretty straightforward: you cannot divorce unless your wife cheats on you. There are hundreds of thousands of modern American men straight-up violating this, who still hide behind their bible and go around condemning gay people and doing other dumb shit like that.

The catholic church offers the comical "annulment" to sidestep the stigma this passage puts on divorce, but that seems like semantics to me. And I'm aware that the annulment formally means that the marriage never actually happened, which, you know, everyone saw you get married and all that.

And finally, this is plainly dumb. If a husband and wife aren't getting along, they should separate. Only a psychopath would suggest otherwise. This is, at least in part, why marriage is viewed as an outdated institution by many.

Also, look at the wording! "anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality...commits adultery." So if a man goes out and has an affair, he can freely divorce, according to this. There's sexual immorality there - the old NIV just never says by whom. In fact, it doesn't even say that one of the parties needs to engage in said adultery - it just said "for sexual immorality." You could seek a divorce for having written a book about sexual immorality, according to an open reading of this line. Hey, if people are going to cherry-pick stuff out of this hideously-written text to justify their bigotry, I'm going to gleefully throw it back at them.

10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
Rock on, disciples.

11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given.
For a paragon of wisdom, Jesus said a lot of weird things, this included. This is the Jebus version of "because I said so."

12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb.

13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
WTF, disciples? This obtuse non-lesson on divorce was so important that you rebuked parents for trying to get their little kids healed? It seems Jesus' message of peace and love hadn't quite sunk in, even to his closest allies.

14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
Moving on...

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
Nothing. Live your life for real while you're here, bro.

17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied.
Because you act like this bigshot rabbi, always preaching and making declarations, that's why. Seriously, this cat spends all his time wandering around making proclamations, and someone asks him a legitimate question right in his wheelhouse, an absolute fucking softball and he's like, what are you asking me for?

“There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
You couldn't have just said this to start with? Had to make the guy feel bad first? Classic.

As for keeping the commandments: there are three distinct versions in the OT. Woulda been cool if Jesus had clarified a bit. Our man is on it, though:

18 “Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[c] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]”
Six. There are [various versions of the] 10 Commandments, and the last one he says here isn't even one of them. Honestly, Jesus people, don't these inconsistencies bother you at all?

20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
A brain? A spine?

21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Just like modern Republicans do! I'm curious how proponents of the "Prosperity Gospel" talk their way past this one. If bible-believers actually did the things the bible told them, we would have well eliminated poverty in the United States by now. We'd also have a lot more stonings, but, hey, no such thing as a free lunch.

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Then he realized that he had great wealth, and became happy again.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

Did people really talk like this in 24 CE?

28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[e] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
People base their entire lives upon this book.


Anonymous said...

Dude, seriously relax. It is a fable. You literally interpreting the fallacies is no different than those reading into these versus as rules for living.

It is called "faith". Some people believe in Santa Claus, some people believe in the Tooth Fairy, some people believe that the Democratic Party actually cares about them, some people believe the Tea Party is for a "Real America". It is all based on misguided faiths.

I believe, I believe, I believe in the simple:

1) Grilled Cheese is still a go to food at this stage of my life.
2) The color blue is extremely underrated.
3) The guy in Captain Phillips looks an awful lot like the Astronaut in Apollo 13.

Andy said...

HI Anonymous,

I'm not sure why I should "relax." I know that they're fallacies but there are a lot of people who really, really believe in this stuff. Religious belief has a corrosive effect on our public discourse and it needs to be challenged. I understand that there are degrees when it comes to bible-belief; some go the full-on literal route, some put their own spin on it. I think it's time to simply consign the book to the dustbin of history.

I disagree sharply with your assertion that my literally interpreting them is no different than those reading into these versus as rules for living. Mine is done critically; belief is generally not.

I know what "faith" is, thanks.

1) Agreed
2) I'm more a red guy
3) The pirate?

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, I imagine a world where the writings of Nietzsche, Zeno, Lao Tze, or any one of a million philosophers has become dominant through history. I try to imagine that people have used these writing for generations to oppress certain people while preserving their own power. That the political dominance of this group of people has faded and continues to fade rapidly, undermining their ability to build a narrative which supports their place and the place of their ideology atop society. In this case, a reasonable person not only has broad capacity, but also duty to expose hypocrisy found in the oft-thumped texts and the actions of words of those thither ascribed. Now perhaps their is an individual who, in this age of ideological interchange (and, let's not forget, political power exchange), who has found some wisdom in these works. That person might be reasonably drawn to defend views raised in these texts which she finds useful. Ahem.

1. The river crossings found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (yes, they're found in all four of Jesus most assuredly unauthorized biographies) actually do have textual significance, and have been commented on at length. For instance, there is a lot of symbolism in Mark and Matthew about the Hellenic/Jewish geopolitical and cultural division located geographically around the Jordan river. In this particular case, crossing from the Galilee to Judea represents a different divide, at least two-fold. First, he's leaving his hometown (which he has already done before), but perhaps more significantly, it marks a point (among others) in the story where he leaves the intensely pharisaic community in Galilee for Judea, more eclectic in is sects of Judaism. Think of it like going from the heart of Bible belt in Tennessee to California or Florida, where you could find much broader set of viewpoints. This, critically, would likely have included the sorts of religious folks who put on a face of righteousness while using religious positions as political vehicles. There's a lot more to be gleaned from that, and I understand that you probably don't care about the details. However, suffice it to say, there's a lot of context this simple sentence could provide. I mean, most good writers set up their stories in time and space, especially if they're not just trying to write dictated history (as some people strangely try to pin the bible), but rather to illustrate what a person was like, or what that person meant.

Anonymous said...

2. A lot of histories from back in that time contain instances of miracles. Sometimes, a straw man will exclaim "!!!," but often this won't happen. People long long ago didn't typically ask "How is this possible? It violates scientific principles," but rather "by which god's power did this happen?!" or "why did divine power manifest itself here?!" As you have said, minute details about a man's actions fifty years later could not be expected to be recorded with the same precision we desire today in biographies.
(Here's perhaps a proper moment for me to digress. Most early christians [pre-3rd century AD] considered Jesus an exemplary moral teacher, with things like miracles and especially the resurrection as divine stamps of approval for his teachings. They weren't [typically] worries about finer points of doctrine, though a small number tended to tie them up in knots. The issues addressed by the gospels are not "did these miracles happen" but "what is right living according to Jesus's example and why?")
Perhaps not satisfactory to you? How about this one: in several passages, Jesus touches (TOUCHES!) the sick. It's interesting if that's compared to another old testament passage where Elijah, to heal a man of leprosy, tells him to go away and bathe in a river. The old paradigm was "you're unclean, go away and wash yourself!" Jesus's new paradigm was to get close to people who need help, even to risking your own well-being, which leads to...

11. (I know I've skipped a bunch but too much of your time and mine both van't be spent arguing a two-millenia old book) Many, many different cultures have the "silver rule." In fact, it's practically a mantra of today's lite-humanists: "don't do to others what you don't want them to do to you." It's nice, usually easy. It gives you the warm fuzzies, and almost categorically demands inaction from a person, rather than action. This silver rule was brought to the limelight in Jewish study about a generation before Jesus by Hillel the elder, who was known for his comparatively broad tolerance and peace-loving nature. Now here comes Jesus, who says (in many places, but in this chapter in 18 and 21) to not only refrain from action when it would hurt someone else, but to actually take burdens on yourself, or risk, or give (or die) to make someone else's life better. So now in 11, he's making it clear to those around him (his disciples, not the least of which), that not everyone is called to walk the "golden rule" path.
And sure, plenty of people say things like "if I like getting whipped, Jesus says I should go whip everyone!" Ha! Gotcha! Such people are stupid and clearly trying to wordsmith. It's pretty obvious (from his corpus of word and deed) that Jesus means in ways that alleviate suffering.
But here, Jesus is saying (like he does in many other places) that he knows not everyone will follow his biggest call. This is exactly why the first thing he tells the rich young man is to keep the law. He basically says, if you're happy with not hurting anyone, keep doing it. I'm not going to guilt you. The man wants to feel more righteous, so Jesus cuts him down.
Lots of christians today could use this. We like to masturbate our righteousness by doing things like "mission trips" or donating and volunteering this and that once or twice a year. I think Jesus would throw it back in our faces, personally. He'd say that his path is the narrow one, the one that demands more and that, frankly, not everyone has the chops for.

Anonymous said...

You know what? I'm done for now. I could probably go down the numbers but I've got other stuff to do. One last thing: is it possible that Jesus actually was a person with valuable things to add to humanity's discourse? Maybe he got a lot of things wrong, but maybe he got some things right? Perhaps things that we might write off as obvious today, or that have been said a thousand ways by a million people, but still are not practiced?

And maybe, just maybe, it's possible to convince people who claim to follow his book, in a loving way, that he wants you to live this way, instead of that way?

Andrew said...

I mainly read this post because I knew the comments would be delightful. Total click-bait.

Anonymous said...

The post is too long, Andy. The comments are too long. Dammit, Andy, people just want to see pictures of cats on the internet. PEOPLE JUST WANT TO SEE PICTURES OF CATS!!

Get a clue, will ya? I'm not a kid anymore, I got a lot of bad habits, and I'm not always gonna be here to do your thinking for you …

-- Mister X