This chapter starts out on a positive note. At least for v 1-5. I’m not so thrilled about v 6. It sounds xenophobic, in direct contradiction to the ‘love your enemies’ spiel from chapter 5. It sounds cold and arrogant. Apparently it is also one of the passages used by Jehovah’s Witnesses to justify lying to non-JW’s.
V 7-11 are even worse – are you friggin’ kidding me??? How many disappointments and tragedies have these words caused? How many people have deferred solving their real-world problems because they believe this load of crap? Next in v 12 is the Golden Rule. I’m not even so sure about this. It sounds good on the surface, but not everyone wants the same things. A better rule would be ‘do unto others what they would want you to do unto them’.
From v 15-20 we get the idiom ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’. But this advice concerns me. It seems like a recommendation for eugenics – isn’t Jesus saying that we should only breed ‘good’ fruit trees? And it indirectly condemns the offspring of ‘bad stock’. Plenty of innocent children who have a difficult start in life deserve better treatment than to be ill-treated because of the circumstances of their birth. V 21-24 sounds arrogant and elitist. And the end of the chapter Jesus is bragging that his advice is as solid as a rock. We used to sing a song about this in Sunday school; I found the lyrics online but I couldn’t find a recording (bet you’re glad). It was an upbeat pop tune, and it’s stuck in my mind now that I remember it.
We start off with a repeat of the story of the leper that we read in Mark 1:40 – but with a different ending. In Mark, Jesus tells the leper to keep the healing a secret; in Matthew, Jesus tells him to take the required offerings to the temple as proof that he has been cleansed. That’s actually a key change in the gospels; in Mark, Christianity is a secret, mystery cult; in subsequent gospels it becomes public and then increasingly evangelical.
The story of the paralyzed man in v 5-13 is noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First, the details conflict with the same story in Mark 2. Second, it gives us familiar idioms about being cast into outer darkness, and weeping and gnashing of teeth. Third, read it carefully – do you see any evidence that the centurion and the paralyzed man were a gay couple? Me neither. But that’s because you have to know the original language, instead of relying on translations.
V 17 refers back to Isaiah 53:4, which has already been discussed at length. More hokum. The nasty remark that Jesus makes in v 22 to a man who has just lost his father shows the utter callous self-centeredness of a megalomaniac.
And then we get a rehash of calming the storm and casting demons into a heard of swine (except that now there are two men possessed by demons). BTW, did you know that the ‘Sea of Galilee’ in not a sea at all and no one called it that until the gospels did? It’s a tiny lake that can be crossed within a couple of hours, proving that the ‘walking on water’ and ‘calming the storm’ stories are fictitious. This little lake is not capable of the kind of storms in these stories, and a boat would never be so far from shore as to require an overnight crossing and a ‘fourth watch’ (Mark 6:48). Scholars think that the gospel writers exaggerated the size of the lake because, being Greek, they associated heroics with storms at sea, and wanted to create tales around that theme.
And these little factoids about the Sea of Galilee are just a tiny sample of the fascinating information I learned from reading David Fitzgerald‘s book Nailed: Ten Christian Myths that Show Jesus Never Existed at All. Check it out (when you’re done the bible).