Mark 12-13

Chapter 12

Verses 1-12, the parable of the tenant farmers, is one that I don’t remember from Sunday school. In the church I attended as a child, we only read the soothing, feel-good parts of the gospels. This violent story was never mentioned. So I had to turn to an apologist site to interpret it.

The vineyard is Israel, and the landowner, of course, is Yahweh. The farmers are the rulers of Israel, and the servants are all those prophets who the rulers never heeded. Because the owner (god) was absent, the farmers (rulers) doubted the authority of his emissaries and maybe even his existence. And so finally, god sent his son (guess who? – here Jesus again predicts his own death), but the farmers (rulers) killed him too, figuring that the owner (god) would just give up and let them have the vineyard (Israel). Wrong – the Son was the final messenger. There would be no other. Either they would accept the message of the Son or face certain judgment. Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22-28, although when I look it up I fail to see the connection, except that it contains the line ‘blessed is he that cometh in the name of the lord’, which is what the people chanted when Jesus rode into Jerusalem; and obviously Jesus sees himself as the’ cornerstone’.

The religious leaders understood the parable and realized that it was directed at them, so they begin plotting to kill him. (Or so Mark says – as we read through the gospels you will see that they each provide a different reason for the plot to kill Jesus.)

The next section gives us the ‘render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s….’ quote, which sounds to me like a great argument for separation of church and state. Next up, a group of people pose a conundrum about 7 brothers, posed to try to trip Jesus up. I think the question is hilarious. Jesus responds with a vision of what he believes heaven and angels will be like – but there is no context for his answer. How does he know? Where did he get his ideas? (Hint – from competing pagan religions in the area.) And as for proof or resurrection, he bases his argument on nothing more than the grammar used in an ancient scripture: Long after Abraham et al had died, Yahweh said “I am the god of Abraham…” (not ‘I was the god…’). So that must mean they were resurrected. Seriously? Like that proves anything?

In v 29 Jesus quotes the Shema Yisrael, a prayer that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services. You may remember it from way back in the Deut 6:40. V 29-31 together make up part of the Anglican communion service; I could still recite them backwards and in my sleep. And even Jesus’ critics acknowledge the wisdom of these verses – so why is there so much discord among believers? Exactly what part of v 31 did Fred Phelps not understand?

In v 35-37, Jesus himself poses a conundrum to the religious leaders – if David refers to the Messiah as ‘my lord’ (see Psalm 110:1), how can the Messiah be descended from David? (i.e. a man would not refer to his own son as ‘my lord’). But Jesus sees no problem with this; he must know that the apparent contradiction will be explained away in Revelation 22:16! – Jesus is both the root and the offspring of David.

widow's offeringNext section, Jesus warns the people about hypocrites. Some good advice there; too bad more people don’t heed it. And lastly, we get the story about the poor widow woman who donated to the temple. It can be viewed several ways – the traditional view being that she set an example of generosity and we should all emulate her and give everything we have. That’s how they teach it to children. It could also be viewed as Jesus supporting progressive or proportional taxation. But as a non-believer, I view it as an example of how organized religion sucks scarce resources from the needy and leaves them destitute.

Chapter 13

I know this is gonna be bad because I see 7 icons at the top of the SAB page before I even begin reading – prophesy, absurdities, bad science, injustice, cruelty, contradictions, and questionable interpretation. So here goes… It starts with Jesus predicting the destruction of the temple. That would be the Second Temple, which was destroyed in 70 BC by the Romans during the Siege of Jerusalem during the First Jewish-Roman War (AKA The Great Revolt – the first of 3 major rebellions by the Jews against the Roman Empire). The siege was recorded by the historian Josephus, who estimated the death toll at over 1,000,000; most of them Jews. So that’s a historical fact; but the Book of Mark wasn’t written until after the destruction took place (and that’s how historians know that Mark wasn’t written until after 70.) So much for prophesy.

But at any rate, Jesus’ disciples ask him when this will take place… what, exactly? The destruction of the temple, or the end of the world? It’s not clear – but Jesus gets onto a rambling, incoherent, end-times rant. You gotta read this yourself. After recently reading all those OT prophets, I must say, this fits right in – Jesus was just as wacko as all the mark 13rest of them. In v 9-12 he warns the disciples that they can expect to be persecuted for following his teachings – that would be enough reason for most people to get out of there! V 14 makes references to the Book of Daniel, which, if you have read it, you’ll know is total nonsense. Next is the prediction of more hardships; god doesn’t take pity on anyone. (Not even nursing mothers? Nope). Then we get into some serious end-of-the world scenarios, which will take place when, exactly? Before this generation (or this age, or this nation, depending on translation and interpretation – how convenient) shall pass away (v 30). Or maybe not (v 32); again, how convenient.

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