I had to take a Bible break for a while, for reading it straight through proved too much for my frail constitution. But I’ve finally reached the New Testament, 849 pages into the 1108-page book, and things are picking up. (Oy, the books of the minor prophets were deadly: one after another crying out that the Lord would smite Israel for improper worship!).
Just a few observations from what I’ve read so far in Matthew.
1. Many of the wonderful and moral sayings of Jesus are, with some thought, not so inspiring after all. Why, exactly, should I love my enemy? What if my enemy does horrible things? Why, when someone hits me, am I supposed to turn the other cheek and let him hit me again? Wouldn’t it be better to run away, or smite him back? After all, someone who smites might think twice if he’s smitten back. “Resist not evil”? Why not combat evil? And, of course, Jesus importunes the multitudes repeatedly to take no thought for the morrow, for the Lord will provide. “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink” is something I’m simply not going to follow. Anyone who followed Jesus’s commands strictly would give up his job, stop providing for the family, and stop saving money. Is there any Christian who does that? Certainly not the vast majority in my country!
2. Speaking of the multitudes, the book of Matthew repeatedly talks about how many multitudes followed Jesus around and witnessed his miracles. For example, five thousand men (“beside women and children”) got loaves and fishes. Now if that many people witnessed Jesus’s deeds, then he would not have been an obscure apocalyptic prophet, and would surely have been mentioned by contemporary historians. After all, it was because King Herod heard of Jesus that John the Baptist lost his head. Ergo, while a historical Jesus may have existed—and I still am not convinced—Christians have a hard job explaining how, if he worked miracles for the multitudes, the historians ignored him.
3. How do Christians explain these words of Jesus to his disciples (Matthew 16:28)?
Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
Is that some kind of metaphor?
4. Granted, much of what Jesus said involves good advice (though nothing that secularists couldn’t come up with, or did), but there’s also bad stuff, too. Here he works a miracles for a woman only after she begs him and acknowledges him as master.
From Matthew 15:22-28 (King James version):
22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.
27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.
28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
Jesus is being a jerk here, calling the woman a “dog” because she was a Canaanite. He certainly inherited some of the arrogant and preening attitudes that his father amply displayed in the Old Testament.