The Good: Well no, not good, but at least I finally found something fascinating – V 4. “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman…” (NLT) When the right time came – Why did Yahweh wait for millennia before sending Jesus to save his people? Anyone think about that? Why did he wait until after the Jews had been decimated by the exile? God was, as my Dad used to say, ‘a day late and a dime short’.
Next clause – born of a woman. Yep, Jesus was a demigod – the hybrid offspring of a god and a mortal. Nothing unusual there, the Greeks had a number of demigods: Helen of Troy, the daughter of Zeus and Leda (queen of Sparta); Heracles, son of Zeus and Alcmene; Orion, son of Poseiden and Euryale; etc. Isn’t it interesting that around the time that the Jews came into contact with other cultures – like Persians, Babylonians, Greeks – their religion began to take on some of the characteristics of those cultures? Dying and rising gods, end-times prophesy, and demigods? Hmmmm.
V 12 might be viewed as positive, in a way. Paul declares that he is now free from those old laws. Yay for Paul! Except that he has merely traded them for another set of laws, also based on no evidence… that makes religion a zero-sum game for him. Too bad.
The Bad: For the first 3 verses, Paul finishes his explanation of why the old laws no longer apply. Does anyone besides me feel like telling him to just give it a rest already?
The Ugly: V 8-9 Intolerance – all those other gods are false, only mine is the real one. Yeah, we’ve heard this line before. Ditto v 17-18, and Paul doesn’t see himself in the mirror here.
The last section, about Abraham’s sons, is just sick. Paul has the gist of the story correct (Genesis 16-25), and it was twisted back then, too. One son is favored over the other, and Ishmael gets the short end of the stick by an accident of birth (he was born to a slave). I’m not rehashing this story now. The point is that Paul seems to be OK with it; another nail in the coffin for those who claim that the NT is somehow better or more moral than the OT. I don’t see Paul condemning past injustices any more than he condemns slavery.
The Good: V 14. But don’t think it’s a quote from Jesus; it’s from Leviticus 19:18.
The Bad: Paul’s ranting about those OT laws again; he seems to particularly have it in for circumcision. I’m starting to tune this crap out. OK Paul, we get it – you can’t “make yourself right with god” merely by following Mosaic laws. And in v 7-10 he’s railing against false teachers again, and back to the yeast and dough analogy. This is becoming very repetitive and boring.
How about the clause in the middle of v 13? “only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh” (KJV); interpreted as “But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature.” (NLT) or “But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh” (NLT). Hard to tell exactly what Paul means but I don’t think it’s good; it sounds like it’s a prohibition against fun – sex comes first to mind, but perhaps also dancing, food and wine, or just general festivity. Of course, he could also intend this admonition to be positive, like instructing people not to use their freedom to sin against others. But I doubt it, given the verses that come next….
The Ugly: V 16-17 reflect the belief of many Christians, particularly fundamentalists, Calvinists, and generally the more strict denominations (not my liberal church) that people are born in sin, born wicked or evil, that religion/God/Jesus is the only thing that keeps us from rape and murder. They teach it to kids! That’s child abuse to me… but here is the philosophy laid out plainly, so now I know where they get it.
Paul has a lot to answer for; I don’t remember Jesus saying anything like this in the gospels. And in case there is any doubt, v 19-21 contains the laundry list of ‘sins’ that will result in eternal torture. Didn’t we already read a list like this in Romans 1? This list is similar – in the language of the KJV the sins are “Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like”; updated in modern English to “sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these” (NLT).
I’ll refrain from commenting on whether or not these are all sins and to what degree, and if they belong together on any list! And in v 22, do you think Paul believes that his version of Christianity is the only way to achieve these positive emotions and outcomes? I’d bet on it!
Quotes: Why am I not surprised that yet again, Christian memes feature the verses I find most repugnant?
The Good: V 1-10. It’s been a while since we’ve had anything positive. But leave out the superstition and it would be quite uplifting. For example, in the NLT v 1-6 reads:
“if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. 2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. 4 Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. 5 For we are each responsible for our own conduct. 6 Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them.”
if a friend or family member is overcome by some wrongdoing , you should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. 2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way help and support each other. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. 4 Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. 5 For we are each responsible for our own conduct. 6 Those who receive lessons should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them. Voila!
The Bad: V 11 – huh? In my NLT online, this verse is set apart in caps, but there is no footnote explaining that. It’s bizarre – large letters? Who cares how big Paul’s handwriting is? Perhaps he means he has written a long letter? Or perhaps he is drawing attention to the fact that he is writing the conclusion in his own handwriting (as opposed to dictating it to a scribe), ie maybe he is just becoming literate?
V 12-13 also appear bizarre, but I think that when he refers to circumcision here, he is accusing people of being hypocrites and following the Mosaic laws just for show and to avoid argument. Which really, is similar to what lots of people do now – make a show of going along with the family religion just to keep the peace.
The Ugly: V 17 – another reminder that suffering is a laudable goal – the more the better!