Skeptical of a Skeptic (Matthew – Luke)

A reaction to the article, “New Testament: Women” at The Skeptics Annotated Bible.

Jesus was subversive and counter cultural at every turn. Humanity had so misconstrued the heart of God that it had turned in on itself and become its worst enemy. The Israelites were called to be a city on a hill, an example to the nations of who and what their God was. They had so mangled the heart of that message they’d become conquerors and they’d been conquered, they were slave owners, and they were slaves. They were far from what God had intended so, he sent Jesus into the misguided illformed culture to be an example of how to act in love and destroy ones enemies by turning them into neighbors.

This message has again been misconstrued and contorted into a puritanical system of control, we have again become slaves. However, the message remains right in front of us. Those who buck the norms and question motives and dig into context may just see the point Jesus was trying to make.

Jesus was operating under a system that didn’t share his values or priorities. He would often overlook the details and cut directly to the heart of an issue. In many situations women were involved. I think if you look at the context of the writings and the actions of Jesus you will be able to see how Jesus was the original champion of women.

1a.Matthew 5:32

“But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

In an attack specifically aimed at the practice of men divorcing and leaving their wives destitute Jesus condemns the practice and only leaves one “out” that is entirely in the control of the wife. Jesus is always raising the standard. Seems like we’ve lowered it a lot since Jesus mandated this.

1b. Matthew 19:9
“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Again, the  commentator completely misses the point of the constriction Jesus has put on the culturally sanctioned practice of men destituting their wives for virtually no reason.

2. Matthew 12:47-49
47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.

This one is rather comical to me because even a cursory reading of the actual comment get’s directly to Jesus’ point. Someone says your Mother and Brothers are here and Jesus indicates “Here are my mother and my brothers.” Jesus is alluding to a cultural shift that his teaching will bring about and that in “The Kingdom” (the counter cultural subversive culture of his followers) that “Family” will be defined spiritually and in community, not simply because of blood relation. This is also the point of Jesus’ comment in Matt. 10:34 “I do not come to bring peace but to bring a sword… a man against his father, a daughter against her mother…”

3. Matthew 19:29
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. 

Um, Dude is a little fatalistic on this one…  I “leave” my wife and children every day. And, then at the end of the day I come back home to them (and my wife comes home from work too). And, when I go on a trip- perhaps a trip to go offer aid to people who need assistance for the sake of Jesus’ (as I follow his teachings) When I do these things and pull myself away from my family for a time I sacrifice my time with them to go away and do something for the sake of Jesus. Just because I “leave” doesn’t mean I wont be coming back.

4. Matthew 24:19 
How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 

In response to this one the skeptic commentator only asks the question, “Why? Does God especially hate pregnant and nursing women?” This passage is Jesus describing the coming destruction of the temple. He begins by warning about false teachers (people). Jesus describes the conflict as Nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom. He even throws in a seemingly random comment, ver 8 “All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Jesus never says that God is the cause of this destruction so why does the skeptic commentator assume this destruction is from God? Not everything bad that happens in the Bible is caused by God, a lot of it is the consequences of bad choices and this is exactly what Jesus is predicting. A destruction 0f the temple by outsiders. To a Jew there was no bigger insult than defiling the temple. It was a common practice that invaders would disembowel conquered enemies, post them on poles lining the streets, even crucify them in public places. Would this not be more dreadful for a pregnant woman? To me it shows the heart of Jesus who specifically identifies those who would suffer the worst. It is also a great argument to garner sympathy to his argument by pointing out the suffering of the family members of the audience.

5. Matthew 25:1-13
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise.3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ 12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ 13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

Virgin = unwed woman, not someone looking to get laid. Bridegroom = someone who is about to get married, not someone who is going to sleep with all 10 virgins. Oil lamps were for the wedding procession. Oh, and this is a PARABLE, a story that makes a point. If you don’t stay prepared you’ll miss the reward. In this case the wedding feast – attended by the entire community, not just the bridegroom and the 10 virgins. By the way, if the characters in the bible are so misogynistic, as you claim, why on earth would the dude turn away 5 more perfectly good virgins just because they came late? That’s just stupid and the worst argument EVER. There must be something else, besides sex, to which Jesus is referring.

I am not so stupid to think that the skeptic author does not get the ultimate point of the parable, but to sexualize in this way is going to far even for a detractor of the text.

There, that’s Matthew done.

And for good measure, here’s Mark:

6. Mark 3:31-34 
31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” 33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. 34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said,“Here are my mother and my brothers!

See num 2 above.

7. Mark 10:29-30
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.

See num 3 above

8. Mark 17 
How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!

See num 4 above

Say it