Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mark, chapter 10

6 "But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE. 7 "FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, 8 AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."
So what is that supposed to mean? That you have to stay with person that you had first sex with or that you've married (whichever comes first) your whole life? Even if your partner turns out to be a cheater, loser, alcoholic and wife/man-beater? And doesn't this then also mean that God CHOSE ('has joined together') this horrible person for you?
8 And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.So Jesus doesn't consider himself either good nor God? That's quite a surprise but noted. And so much for the Trinity. 23 And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, "How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!"
So a high income diminishes your chances to enter Heaven? Somebody better tell the Vatican and the televangelists this!
47 When he (a blind beggar) heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"51 And answering him, Jesus said, "What do you want Me to do for you?" And the blind man said to Him, "Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!"
D'oh! Jesus surely is slow at times ... What do most of the blind people want from a well-known healer when they address him? Come on, try to guess this and hit it on the spot the first time!

29 comments:

Wonders for Oyarsa said...

Hi Daldianus,

You mentioned over at my blog that "we probably won't agree." Doubtless this is so. I read the Bible with an identity and a loyalty that you don't seem to share. It's my book - it's part of what shapes the community I belong to - for better or for worse. The Bible is no stranger to me - it's more like a dear family member. So, while you may see me frustrated or confused by it, or angry with it, what you will not see is me sarcastically mocking it.

Which is what disturbs me about your blog here. What is the point of reading the Bible just to make fun of it, and to feel superior to it? If you think the Bible so worthless, why not spend your time reading something you find valuable?

I have no problem with anyone reading the Bible if they are looking for wisdom, even if they disagree with the Bible. But it seems to me a horrible waste to pick up a classic book and dissect it looking for flaws - whether that book be the Bible, or the Iliad, or Shakespeare, or Plato, or whatever.

The Bible is an ancient text, speaking to us from a very distant world and culture. When you travel to a foreign country, you will only hurt yourself if you choose to spend your whole time thinking about how much better your customs are than theirs. To gain pleasure and wisdom in your travels, you must first enter sympathetically into a new world - suspending quick judgments in order to truly understand. Otherwise you will only reinforce your own prejudice, and not actually encounter the other country in any meaningful way.

The same is true when reading an ancient text. Rather than pulling out something that seems strange, ridiculing it, and moving on, perhaps you should ask if there is more to the picture that you aren't seeing. With this approach - the one of sympathetic listening - you will gain wisdom and perspective, rather than simply reinforcing your own prejudices.

Daldianus said...

Hi,

I'm aware that the Bible constitutes for many a common element around which they can gather in order to form communities. I'm fine with that, as long as they respect the non-believers. Which of course a lot of Christians don't do. That's why I thought it would be interesting to dissect the Bible and see what's really written there. And not just read the polished, mixed, feel-good versions from Sunday School.

I don't think the Bible is totally worthless but it's not the total fountain of wisdom either as it's so often proclaimed. People who claim this usually ignore the silly parts. Which I find amusing and interesting to highlight.

As for the love & peace message of the Bible I'm also fine with it and I even agree with it. But that doesn't mean I have to believe the nonsense parts as well.

Have a nice day.

Wonders for Oyarsa said...

But Daldianus, my point is that you have already decided what sorts of thing will be "peace and love" and what will be "nonsense". You will learn nothing in using the Bible or any book as an echo chamber for your own prejudices. Sophistry is not a noble way to read someone else's writing.

I've read over a good many of your posts, and much of what you find "stupid" actually makes a good deal of sense if you have a deeper understanding of the context of the story. My frustration is that you seem not even interested in learning this - you would rather engage in ignorant rants about how stupid it all as.

Imagine a person who had never read a book before, ranting about how idiotic it is that people stare at these pages with ink on them all day. Try to explain about the alphabet, and the symbolic meaning of words and characters, and the person says - "Look, I don't deny that maybe there are some interesting things on paper - pictures for instance. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to mock the pages of boring repetitive symbols." The person thinks he's smarter - thinks he's above the crowd - but is actually actively imprisoning himself in his own ignorance.

So I appeal to you, as someone who seems to have a desire to encounter new things, why not come to the Bible to learn what it is trying to say, rather than to preemptively ridicule everything that doesn't immediately resonate? Why not treat the Bible the way any honest reader would treat Plato? You may of course decide that you disagree strongly with the Bible, but why not seek to understand it first, so that your disagreement can be based on understanding and not prejudice?

Daldianus said...

wonders:

It's not the first time that I've opened the Bible. I'm even a Catholic on paper (but simply because it's free and I'm too lazy to get me removed from the list, though I should indeed do this some time).

But these things that I point out, or at least most, can't make any sense except if you spin everything heavily and declare the obvious oddities to allegories and the like. But then what's your criteria for what's an allegory and what isn't?

And if I'm so wrong then why don't you address a few of the examples here and tell me what they are supposed to mean?

Reg Golb said...

verse 6-9 isn't about sex, it is about marriage.
verse 18 is Jesus talking to someone trying to get him to think abou the law, goodness and God.
verse 23 are you saing it is impossible?
verse 47 Here's your sign. Of course he knew what he wanted, he also said "ask and you shall receive?

Jack Payne said...

While I disagree with your conclusions, I certainly am impressed by your analytical style. It's probing, deep, and telling, even if much of the reasoning is faulty.

Great change of pace for a blog. Keep it up. A little controversy never hurt anybody.

slashnull said...

That's a good point about the Trinity. There are many different accounts of who Jesus was in the Gospels as attested by the great debates in early Christianity. Each side could pick verses from the various Gospels to support their claims of the divinity (or not) of JC. It's only when you view the text with the presupposition that, for instance, Jesus is God that you end up needing to explain away some quite obvious parts.

Wonders for Oyarsa said...

Well, take your last note here, for example. You criticize Jesus for asking the blind man what he wants. How stupid of him, you assume.

But why do you need to assume that? Why assume that first century jewish conversation styles are the same as ours? For all you know, it could have been impolite to heal someone without making some sort of response. The objection is silly and unnecessarily hostile - why immediately rush to condemnation?

The more profound answer is that Jesus is gaging the height of the man's faith and hope. Is he going to ask for money - thinking he can do no more? Or his sight? He chooses well.

But the overarching point is that you are not even looking long enough to see any of this - you're too busy mocking it. When all you look for is flaws, that's what you'll find - regardless of whether they are actually flaws. If this is what you want - by all means continue with your present method. But if you want a fuller understanding (not agreement, mind you) you'll need to suspend the quick jabs to enter into another world.

Daldianus said...

reg:

>verse 6-9 isn't about sex, it is about marriage.

I don't disagree, I even gave that as a possibility. But that doesn't change my conclusions: God made you marry and abusive partner and you can't there leave this partner!

>verse 23 are you saing it is impossible?

I'm not. Since God supposedly can bend the rules. But it seems to be very hard for rich people to enter Heaven (see the camel analogy).

>verse 47 Here's your sign. Of course he knew what he wanted, he also said "ask and you shall receive?

If he knew what the blind beggar wanted then why did he ask him as if he didn't knew? Was it just a rhetorical question?

Daldianus said...

jack:

>While I disagree with your conclusions, I certainly am impressed by your analytical style.

Thank you.

>It's probing, deep, and telling, even if much of the reasoning is faulty.

Where is the reasoning faulty?

Daldianus said...

slash:

>That's a good point about the Trinity. There are many different accounts of who Jesus was in the Gospels as attested by the great debates in early Christianity. Each side could pick verses from the various Gospels to support their claims of the divinity (or not) of JC. It's only when you view the text with the presupposition that, for instance, Jesus is God that you end up needing to explain away some quite obvious parts.

I assume you're referring to a comment from another chapter? The Trinity is a later made-up concept. It's obvious in the Gospels that Jesus thinks the Son is separate and distinct from The Father.

Daldianus said...

wonders:

>Well, take your last note here, for example. You criticize Jesus for asking the blind man what he wants. How stupid of him, you assume.

That's one of my lighter accusations. I don't think it's a pressing issue. Unlike others.

>The more profound answer is that Jesus is gaging the height of the man's faith and hope. Is he going to ask for money - thinking he can do no more? Or his sight? He chooses well.

Who would be so dumb as to ask for money when you're in front of a miracle healer who could give you your eyesight back? And if Jesus was able to do that why didn't he just cure blindness once and for all???

> When all you look for is flaws, that's what you'll find - regardless of whether they are actually flaws.

There are flaws, no doubt about it.

Wonders for Oyarsa said...

Who would be so dumb as to ask for money when you're in front of a miracle healer who could give you your eyesight back? And if Jesus was able to do that why didn't he just cure blindness once and for all???

OK Daldianus, steam on ahead then - I won't stop you. Go through life with the attitude that you have nothing to learn and just criticize away the moment something doesn't fit with your framework. You'll find plenty of company.

Daldianus said...

wonders:

Why don't you just answer this question: And if Jesus was able to do that why didn't he just cure blindness once and for all?

Wonders for Oyarsa said...

Because, Daldianus, you are not interested in answers to questions. You are not using words to seek new wisdom and insight, but rather as clubs to beat things with. You aren't genuinely curious - you are mining for nuggets of dirt. Your question is not a question as such - it's an attack.

The underlying issue, that your attack is a manifestation of, is "if God is all powerful, why doesn't he just zap everything perfect?" The Christian story is one of God setting things right, but through a process that requires our involvement over time. You may find that distasteful, but then others might find it far more interesting than not having us play a part.

To which you may respond something like - "I have an idea - how about it's much more likely that the Bible is a bunch of hooey, and who knows why anyone does anything in it!" But that gives away the game - you're not interesting in hearing what it is saying - only it tearing it up.

slashnull said...

I assume you're referring to a comment from another chapter? The Trinity is a later made-up concept. It's obvious in the Gospels that Jesus thinks the Son is separate and distinct from The Father.

Yup, that's it exactly. Only by reading the text with "Trinity-tinted" glasses can you see it referring to the Trinity - and not at all in Mark, it's quite clear that they are different entities.

Wonders for Oyarsa said...

Anyway, Daldianus, I'm sure at this point you're a little annoyed at me attacking you like this on your blog. And it would be fair for you to be. But I'm saying what I'm saying because I think there is so much you are missing that you could really enjoy - so much knowledge, so much broadening of the mind. With a slight change of attitude - to one of inquiry rather than sarcastic dismissal - you could encounter so much. It's a shame to "read" any classic work of literature and not actually encounter it - the Bible included.

Daldianus said...

wonders:

>Anyway, Daldianus, I'm sure at this point you're a little annoyed at me attacking you like this on your blog. And it would be fair for you to be.

No, that's ok. I like the interaction. It would be boring if we all just agreed ;)

>But I'm saying what I'm saying because I think there is so much you are missing that you could really enjoy - so much knowledge, so much broadening of the mind.

Are you aware what you are missing by not studying Buddhism (for example)? There is so much knowledge in there, so much broadening of the mind! Would you like to learn about Buddhism?

>It's a shame to "read" any classic work of literature and not actually encounter it - the Bible included.

I encounter it. Does not mean I have to take it as literal truth ;)

Wonders for Oyarsa said...

Are you aware what you are missing by not studying Buddhism (for example)? There is so much knowledge in there, so much broadening of the mind! Would you like to learn about Buddhism?

Absolutely. I very much intend to, and know a good bit. I understand the fundamental problem of existence in breaking out of the cycle of death and rebirth and the individuality of personal cravings to obtain universal consciousness. However, my intention is to learn in Asia, because I'm not convinced that American Buddhism is really Buddhism anymore than Americanized Chinese food is real Chinese food.

I encounter it. Does not mean I have to take it as literal truth ;)

No one said you had to take it as literal truth. But you are not encountering it - you are doing the equivalent of tearing the pages out of a book. Sure, you are touching the pages, but you are not actually encountering the message of the book. I would be ashamed to approach a Buddhist text the way you are approaching the Bible here.

Daldianus said...

wonders:

>No one said you had to take it as literal truth.

So Jesus is not literally the only way to salvation? Assuming salvation is needed in the first place.

>But you are not encountering it - you are doing the equivalent of tearing the pages out of a book. Sure, you are touching the pages, but you are not actually encountering the message of the book.

As I've said before, it's not the first time that I've read parts of the Bible and I've even had a religious education at school. And I also said that I'm okay with the peace and love message but that all the supernatural elements are bogus and there's no evidence that they ever happened.

>I would be ashamed to approach a Buddhist text the way you are a
approaching the Bible here.

Why? If they claim something nonsensical or unjust it's fair to point it out.

Wonders for Oyarsa said...

Why? If they claim something nonsensical or unjust it's fair to point it out.

Because I would not be in any position to judge whether or not something is nonsense before I understand the thing. Yes, once you fully appreciate what is being said, then you are in a position to judge. But in your case you criticize preemptively. Your first assumption when encountering anything even slightly unusual is to condemn it as nonsense, rather than as a starting point for inquiry.

If I had that sort of attitude toward Buddhism, I would say something like this:

"Buddhism says that all suffering stems from desire. But to give up desire you must want to give up desire. Thus Buddhism is inherently self-contradictory, and all Buddhists are morons."

The moron would actually be me in this case, for not taking this apparent contradiction as a hint to probe deeper into what a Buddhist means by the word "desire". And this is exactly the sort of thing you are doing with the Bible.

Daldianus said...

wonders:

>Your first assumption when encountering anything even slightly unusual is to condemn it as nonsense, rather than as a starting point for inquiry.

Now you're assuming :)

>"Buddhism says that all suffering stems from desire. But to give up desire you must want to give up desire. Thus Buddhism is inherently self-contradictory, and all Buddhists are morons."

It's of course indeed a little more subtle than this.

But this does not involve any magical events or creatures. Unlike the stories in the Bible. There is no evidence for any of those. So why should I believe them?

And if Jesus did or said something that cannot be rationally explained or justified then it's just delusional nonsense for me.

Wonders for Oyarsa said...

Now you're assuming :)

I've got a good many use cases available to me. I'm observing.

It's of course indeed a little more subtle than this.

To which I could reply, "Yeah - that's just what Buddhists say to try to get off the hook, when someone tries to call them out on their obvious nonsense."

But this does not involve any magical events or creatures. Unlike the stories in the Bible. There is no evidence for any of those. So why should I believe them?

Never said anything about magical anything. Never said anything about believing anything. I did say something about trying to understand something.

And if Jesus did or said something that cannot be rationally explained or justified then it's just delusional nonsense for me.

That's just your prejudice working again. You go at that with an a priori assumption of superstition and unsophistication, and through those glasses you see it everywhere. Thus you miss what the Bible is trying to say, by seeing only a reflection of your own prejudice.

Daldianus said...

wonders:

>To which I could reply, "Yeah - that's just what Buddhists say to try to get off the hook, when someone tries to call them out on their obvious nonsense."

Which indeed would be moronic since even though their concept doesn't hold up until the last instance, the instances before are correct and work. The same for Christianity. I never said the whole system was rubbish or bogus, but big parts. It has of course good elements as well (the love & peace stuff mainly)

>Never said anything about magical anything. Never said anything about believing anything. I did say something about trying to understand something.

The Bible is full of magical stories that I can't take seriously.

>That's just your prejudice working again. You go at that with an a priori assumption of superstition and unsophistication, and through those glasses you see it everywhere. Thus you miss what the Bible is trying to say, by seeing only a reflection of your own prejudice.

I can understand the allegories, at least those that make sense.

But tell me, if the Bible tells a story about Jesus casting out demons, healing people and raising the dead, is that allegorical or literal?

Wonders for Oyarsa said...

I can understand the allegories, at least those that make sense.

Is your mind open to the possibility that something might be rational and sensible, but difficult? That something might be in a context that is hard for you to relate to, and thus might seem hard to understand? That something not making sense might mean that you don't understand it, but that with work and study you might learn to?

But tell me, if the Bible tells a story about Jesus casting out demons, healing people and raising the dead, is that allegorical or literal?

Most likely it is meant to be both - literal, allegorical, as well as political. Jesus' healings were part of his message - he would do things as a way of embodying what he was saying. It was a threat politically by those whose power depended on the ability to deal out death and misery.

Now - you believe a priori that such things are impossible. Fair enough. But to honestly study the Bible, you can't simply write them off because you think it impossible. Something happened, and something was believed to be going on by the people themselves. So, in order to understand the Bible's message, you need to ask what it meant to the people at the time to (perhaps mistakenly) think Jesus was going around healing the sick and (occasionally) raising the dead.

Daldianus said...

wonders:

Is your mind open to the possibility that something might be rational and sensible, but difficult? That something might be in a context that is hard for you to relate to, and thus might seem hard to understand? That something not making sense might mean that you don't understand it, but that with work and study you might learn to?

If the claims contain supernatural elements then they can't be rational. If the claims create paradoxes then they can't be rational.

Most likely it is meant to be both - literal, allegorical, as well as political. Jesus' healings were part of his message - he would do things as a way of embodying what he was saying. It was a threat politically by those whose power depended on the ability to deal out death and misery.

So you believe that demons really exist and that sick people are possessed by them? Or was that just the case in Jesus' time?

Now - you believe a priori that such things are impossible. Fair enough.

And I'm basing this belief on experience and empirical data. And things like that have never reliably been observed. So why believe the supernatural claims of superstitious people from ancient times? You don't believe in Zeus either, do you?

Something happened, and something was believed to be going on by the people themselves.

The ancients believed all kind of crazy, supernatural stuff going on. Why should the Jews have been exempted from that? And the New Testament was written decades after the alleged events. That's enough time to get creative. And there is NO outside source confirming any other supernatural claims of the Bible. And only Josephus even mentions a guy called Jesus and even that mention could be a forgery (in the sense that Josephus didn't say it).

Was there a charismatic, somewhat revolutionary jewish preacher wandering around there? Probably. Was he God? Very improbable. There's no real evidence to suggest this. And not even the Jesus in the Bible claimed to be God. There's only the Bible who claims these things. And the Bible is a quite arbitrary compilation of books and far from perfect.

So, in order to understand the Bible's message, you need to ask what it meant to the people at the time to (perhaps mistakenly) think Jesus was going around healing the sick and (occasionally) raising the dead.

They believed in all sorts of Messiahs who were doing stuff like that. Even the Bible tells of other people healing, casting out demons, etc. It seemed to be quite popular as a hobby at the time. Too bad the art didn't survive ...

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