Friday, February 1, 2008

Matthew, chapter 5

1 When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them
How did speakers in the ancient world address large crowds? How could they make themselves heard over these distances without microphones? Or did they have people who were relying what they've heard to the people standing behind them? This reminds me of the Life Of Brian from Monty Python and 'blessed are the cheesemakers!' ...
3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
I can understand the blessings in the subsequent verses quite well and they're nice but this one doesn't make quite sense. Does it mean that the kingdom of Heaven is for the stupid? Or for the unbelievers? Depending on how you interpret 'spirit' ... Or does 'poor in spirit' mean the depressed?
17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
So in this Gospel Jesus is obviously for maintaining the Jewish Law (since this Gospel has been written for potential Jewish converts, not Gentiles). Paul later on nixes this of course and that was a very wise marketing coup: lots of new potential customers outside the very limited core base!
19 "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Seems like Paul and most Christians today will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Not quite what they expected, right?
27 "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Oh, my. If that's adultery then there isn't even one non-adulterer out there I guess. And what about the women? Are they allowed to look at men with lust? But it seems like women didn't have these rights at the time yet anyway ...
29 "If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 "If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.
So self-mutilation is a way to get to Heaven?
37 "But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil.
It's funny that nowadays 'Yes, yes' means 'Yeah, whatever' and 'no, no' sounds dubious.
39 "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.
Personally I'm all for peaceful resolutions of conflicts but this is maybe a tad bit naive. If some jerk hits you once, he will probably also hit you twice. And how many Christians have sued other people instead of simply giving in? How many Christian presidents have waged wars of retaliation instead of just giving in? Did Bush invite Bin Laden to attack two more towers?
46 "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Here Jesus, speaking to an audience of potential Jewish converts to his new sect, definitely trashes the tax collectors and Gentiles. While in other Gospels he is friend with the tax collectors and later Paul will recruit the Gentiles for his cause.