The Good: V 2. I would argue that v 14 is good – but not in the way it’s intended by the author. I interpret the words to mean that we should develop critical thinking skills so that we will not be tricked by clever lies… like the ones in this letter! And v 25-31 are full of good advice if we just omit the supernatural references in v 30 and the second half of v 32.
The Bad: V 8 is a misquote of Psalm 68:18 (the wording is changed from ‘received gifts’ to ‘gave gifts’). Of course, it goes without saying that the quote is also out of context and therefore completely irrelevant. V 9 has been subject to a number of interpretations. In the KJV, it refers to the ‘lower parts of the earth’. The SAB notes that “Catholics interpret this verse to mean that Jesus descended into hell (or, to the traditionalists, “limbo”) after his death to preach to those who died before Jesus. (Protestants just ignore this verse entirely.)” But the passage doesn’t necessarily refer to hell or limbo – couldn’t it just mean oceans or valleys? In modern translations, the NIV keeps the suggestion of hell in the phrase ‘lower, earthly regions’. However, the NLT removes that connotation entirely by interpreting the phrase as ‘Christ also descended to our lowly world’.
V 11-16 state that the purpose of church leaders is to build up the church and teach the faith – but they will only be necessary until everyone arrives at unity of faith and measure up to the standards of Christ. We’re still waiting…
The attitude expressed in v 17-19 is intolerant and judgmental. No reason is given for the assertions, and no definition is given for the disparaging words (like ignorance, lasciviousness, impurity, uncleanliness, etc, depending on the translation).
The Ugly: V 21-22 go right back to the misguided beliefs that 1) all people are sinful and 2) only through Christ can people overcome sinfulness. Which should be added to the list of Basic Christian Beliefs:
12. Only through Christ can people overcome their sinful natures.
Quotes: V 5-6 are familiar from somewhere. But the most familiar to almost everybody will be the second half of v 26 – let not the sun go down upon thy wrath. Or in modern English – don’t go to bed angry.
The Good: V 28. But it would be better if it were reciprocal to the advice given to wives. See also v 33 – it sounds good, but it’s not reciprocal. Husbands must love their wives, but wives must respect their husbands. Shouldn’t each one love and respect the other?
The Bad: V 25-27 are probably supposed to be good, but I find the analogy makes my skin crawl. Not sure if that’s just me.
The Ugly: V 2 Are we seriously back to the ‘sweet savor’ motif again? And worse, now it is applied to Jesus. Am I getting this right – that the smell of Jesus dying was a sweet aroma to god? Man, that’s beyond twisted!
V 3-14 are another prudish, judgmental diatribe suggesting that Christians have a monopoly on ‘good’ behavior. Reading this passage, I no longer wonder where monikers like ‘holier-than-thou’ and ‘goody-two-shoes’ come from. The author of this passage obviously thinks he is the epitome of fine character. V 11 is interpreted by some Christians, particularly JW’s, to mean that everything outside their own group is controlled by Satan, and they should refrain from participating in or associating with, groups, activities, or people who are not part of their own church. And BTW, the supposed quotation in v 14 is not from anywhere else in the bible.
V 22-24 – no comment. Just read them.
Quotes: V 31 Read at many weddings and part of this popular 70’s song. I used to love the song and, at the time, never thought of as particularly religious, but now hearing it again I realize it is.
The Good: V 1-4 are basically good, if the religious elements are removed. The level of moral reasoning is pretty primitive, though; children should obey their parents not because they belong to the lord, and not because it is the ‘right thing to do’, but because their parents’ instructions provide for the children’s safety and well-being. And of course, all of this is only true if the parents are capable, functioning people. The whole passage is meaningless for children growing up in dysfunctional families. But that’s par for the course in the bible; you won’t find nuance in it.
The Ugly: V 5-8 Besides the obvious point of condoning slavery, the author also believes that it’s just fine for slaves to tremble in fear before their masters. And not to worry about the injustice, because slaves will be rewarded in the afterlife… That’s how you use the bible to persuade people to tolerate abuse – promise non-existent future rewards. What’s that quote again? Religion is viewed by the rulers as useful…
V 9 contradicts the previous advice and I doubt the author gets the irony of his own words “Don’t threaten [your slaves]; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites.” If god has no favorites, then why does he allow some people to become masters and others to be kept as slaves?
V 10-12 are not only creepy, but as far as I’m concerned, when taught to children constitute emotional abuse. Imagine telling a vulnerable child that the bogeyman is real! And now, having scared the crap out of your kids, let them know that they can protect themselves against the imaginary monsters you yourself have created. Have them put on the ‘Armor of God’. V 13-18 have become the staple of Sunday school lessons, with costumes and games, but the most outrageous product developed from this lesson has to be the ‘Armor of God’ children’s pajamas.