Sunday, 24 June 2007

Jesus, Paul and Sex

Have a gander at James Tabor's latest blog entry, where he launches out into a feisty discussion of dualism, sex and the New Testament. To say the least, interesting questions are raised. Enough here, one might fear, to bring on an angina attack for some good folk who feel more anxious than adventurous when it comes to religious security. Those of us who appreciate the spill, splatter and swish of blood from sacred bovines, however, may well let out a hearty cheer.

And to think that James used to fill in by taking classes for "Doc" Meredith when the "leading evangelist" was away from Pasadena...


DennisDiehl said...

There is a very unreal almost erie disconnect in the NT concerning human relationships and sexuality. We have 12 men in the Gospels who only hint at any real human relationships in the form of wives or "girlfriends." The women are either pious or intrigued with Jesus.

It is a world where old barren women give birth to prophets and young virgins to gods.
Women hang around Jesus but he seems not to notice unless there is a "behold" or two to say, or an admonition to be given. Women in the NT give money and support, but not intimacy.

Paul upheld his way of being single as the ideal contradicting a Jesus whose teachings and life he had no knowledge of in reality. If he did, he missed scores of opportunities in his writings to say "remember when Jesus said.." rather than, "I say..and I think I have the Holy Spirit."

Paul shows no practical understanding of human relations or sexuality. For Paul, marriage was to avoid fornication and immorality and if you have to, go ahead, "you have not sinned...but..."

Paul told those "engaged" and starting to get a bit too horny, AND if the virgin (right) was getting on in years (how long do these people stay engaged?) AND he feels he OUGHT to marry, he SHOULD. Paul then makes it clear this is no sin, but the guy that can hold out does "even better." What a loon. I'd like to have had that run by the Jesus of the Gospels to hear his reaction. Some feel, because of Mary's fretting over the wine problem in Cana, as would a host, the wedding Jesus was at was his own.

This is the same man who says "Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised." (I Cor 7: 17). Now while his point here is that "everyman should remain in the situation God called him to," what a ridiculous analogy. Bells can't be unrung so to speak. And besides, why does he get to tell people to stay in the place they find themselves when called, he didn't. Paul broke with the Jerusalem Church in a hurry and did precious little of what he agreed to do in Acts 15. It's somewhat like the modern COG Apostle/evangelist types demanding obedience to Church Government, AFTER they have started their second or third splinter because people work for them, they don't work for people.

Paul goes on to show complete lack of understanding of how humans really work, in the Church or not.
He tells us that unmarried men are concerned with "the Lord's affairs," and that married men, "about how he can please his wife." Unmarried virgins are concerned about only the "Lord's affairs," in body and spirit, but the married ones, now no longer virginal cares only for worldly things like how to please her husband. What planet did this guy come from? Read that as how the single and the married are in any church today and let the snickers begin.

Paul always says what he means by telling you the opposite. "I say this not to restrict you..." "I would like you to be free from concern." "In my judgement, she is happier if she stays single..."
These comments all translate into, "I am restricting your, setting you up to be nothing but concerned and depressed and miserable...and I think I have the Spirit of God." Spoken like a repressed gay male that never enjoyed one intimate, guilt free relationship in his life that we know of. Paul was accused of being large of mouth in writing and weak in bodily presence. This might explain why it was so easy for him to shun relationships...they shunned him.

And let us not forget the bottom line reason for all this control and staying put was "Time is short," which it wasn't. How many lives did Paul ruin as the sincere obeyed his foolish perspectives?

It's extremely difficult to lose faith in just having faith. It's painful to read the Bible with new eyes that are not as gullible or willing to skip over the problems with the story or the silliness of the advice or demands.

My series on "Questions Your Pastor will Hate" was picked up by a major blog and it's all or nothing. "Thank you so much," or "Die you pagan bastard...any fool can answer those questions if they have faith, which you obviously don't." Actually it's very good for me to get both responses.

I am personally convinced, (and I am the only one that I have to convince,) the story we think we know about the Bible is in precious little way, the story that is or was.

In the Bible, those without partners or children are the authorities on intimacy and childrearing. This includes, God, Jesus, the Disciples and Paul as presented in the book. Raging Prophets only see marriage as a type and usually that of whores, harlots and the unfaithful. Strong women are bitches and the Song of Solomon is an allegory of the relationship Christ has with his church. (ewwww...quit looking at my twin fawns of a gazelle and spice covered mountains! And quit browsing among my lilies!) Church smirch...

All this to say, letting unmarried, repressed, non-relationship, non-partnered, non-intimate, wrong about the times in which they live, prophets, priests, apostles, disciples and assorted repressed and sincerely damaged people tell others what "god" demands, is unreal and spirit killing, to say the least.

It's even a bit depressing to think of Jesus today, single and living alone with his never partnered father, waiting to be told when he can leave home and come back to tell us all how to be happy and live once again under the leadership of the single Apostles and Paul in the Wonderful World Tomorrow just shoot me.

Sorry too long, but 'tis a troublesome topic and it never works out when you give your personal intimacies and relationships over to a church for scrutiny. You end getting scru..tinized.


Douglas Becker said...

For Christians who have passed through the fire of the WCG and some of the more rotten xCoGs, Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

Here is yet another instance in which Herbert Armstrong and the ministry have completely violated Scripture: It isn't any business what married folk do. Period.

The unwelcome manipulative intrusions which inevitably harmed marriages is denied to ministers [transforming themselves into ministers of light], [false] prophets and [would be] apostles.

Not only will whoremongers and adulterers God will judge -- among them far too many of the WCG and xCG ministry [who hope we don't know but we do], but the evil interference of cultmeisters, particularly those from Australia who nearly broke up three marriages we know about and many more we probably don't, will be met with staunch resistance and may even allow them entry into the lake of fire.

If we are to believe the Apostle Paul, John, Peter and Jude.

Or if not, the Universe seems to have a way with Karma for these jerks....

Felix Taylor, Jr. said...


You do have a point. Apostle Paul was not the easiest man to get a long with at times. Saying that, I know that has bound to get some people quickly and irrationally upset. My own uncle (who is an elder in a Baptist church and who has studied in seminaty) made some kind of similiar assessment. Even when my mom read Bible stories about Paul, I just found him to be perplexing, enigmatic and proud of it! Yes, I do feel that Paul was on an intellectual ivory tower disconnected from emphathizing with the concerns you just described. If I was Prime Minister of Canada (or provincial premier) and had a guy like Paul in my cabinet or in caucas, you would definately hear a raising tone of my voice at that person: daily. I would probably Stephen Harper (and former Ontario Premier Mike Harris) blush. Paul was Paul---he wasn't Paul McCartney---as some wish to imagine.

Felix Taylor, Jr. said...

((Even when my mom read Bible stories about Paul, I just found him to be perplexing, enigmatic and proud of it! ))

By the way, we're talking about when I was 10 to 11 years old. Yes, I did find Paul perplexing at that impressionable age.

Douglas Becker said...

Some believe that the Apostle Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin and that, as such, it would be required that he would have to have been married.

From his writing it is evident that later he was not at the time of his Apostleship.

James Tabor is certainly not the first to take on ancient antiquities nor will be the last. It is often more difficult to perform forensics on history than one would think.

For example, European scholars had been puzzling over cuneiform since the seventeenth century. Three different kinds of cuneiform inscriptions had been discovered at the ancient Persian capital of Persepolis. By 1778 one of them had been shown to be a 42 character alphabetic script but two others were much more complex and no one knew which language these characters represented. It is difficult to even begin decrypting a language without knowing something about where it even came from. Francois Champolion was able to decipher hieroglypics because he had the use of the Rosetta Stone which presented Egyptian text in two kinds of Egyptian script, plus a translation into Greek. No "Rosetta Stone" was found for cuneiform.

Toward the end of the eighteenth century, a German high school teacher, Georg Friedrich Grotefend, whose hobby was solving puzzles, went looking for a repetitive phrase in the Persepolis inscriptions for a clue. He found clusters of repeated words, the most frequent of which was 7 letters meaning "king." By trial and error, he was able to claim identification of 22 of 42 characters by 1803.

In 1856, an Englishman, Henry Creswicke Rawlinson worked out 13 letters on his own and began studying a Persian inscription in three scripts of cuneiform on a 1700 high cliff in Persia. He worked out a nearly complete translation of 200 lines by January 1838. The inscriptions were in Persian, Babylonian and Assyrian.

In 1851, Rawlinson made public a translation of an event described in the Bible -- the defeat of King Hezekiah of Judah by armies of the Assyrian king Sennacherib ["As for Hezekiah, the Jew, who had not submitted to my yoke, 46 of his strong walled cities and cities of their environs, which were numberless, I besieged, I captured, as booty I counted them."]

Excavation of the ruined Assyrian palaces at Ninevah produced whole libraries of clay tablets which contained an encyclopedia of Assyrian science, a cuneiform "book" describing "the system of Assyrian writing, the distinction between phonetic and idographic signs, the grammar of the language, explanation of techinal terms". The royal libraries also contained dictionaries of the Assyrian language.

In 1857, the Royal Asiatic Society of England sponsored an event in which Rawlinson, Hincks, Oppert, and an English scholar named William Fox Talbot were each given copies of an untranslated Babylonian-Assyrian cuneiform text to translate independently. Rawlinson's and Hincks' versions were virtually identical, Oppert's quite similar, and Fox Talbot's, though sometimes vague and incorrect, fairly close in a general way.

The second kind of cuneiform turned out to be in a language Elamitic, was not deciphered until 1879. Sumerian, yet another cuneiform script and the ancestor of all the others was decoded around the same time through the use of Assyrian-Sumerian dictionaries.

While it is possible to understand translations and find various sources, it is still often difficult to frame the society millennia ago without a strong context to guide the translation. Having the Hebrew and Jewish customs and laws is helpful, but many suggest that the documents used to understand the venue are often conflicting and hence confusing. It is very difficult to understand something which happened 40 years ago, let alone nearly 2,000 years ago.

Even some of the better known facts about near ancient history of the Roman Empire is known not so much through text as through technology: Reproducing the Roman five story apartments and devising fire fighting equipment to quench fires from the First Century AD by the Romans and examining the dry cleaning which got the garments of the prosperous white to indicate status, as well as the technology of the aqueducts and Roman Baths, is often more instructive and persuasive evidence than written texts which were often devised by scribes in the pay of those in power who had every reason to lie and exaggerate -- or worse, by zealots who believed in fantasy.

Caveat Emptor is always wise to observe.

DennisDiehl said...

Hi Felix. The enignma of Paul is endless but I have at least gotten over the polyanna idea that He, James, John and Peter were all of one mind and intent. Paul was probably the classic something in the world of psychology.

Aside from his bragging and self promotion, I have my doubts about Paul being a Pharisee with the Gamaliel background Luke gives him in Acts. Luke tells the Damascus road story of Paul's conversion where Paul himself says in Galatians he was called from the womb (with Jeremiah and Jesus) and tells no such story. Seems he knew a man, 14 years earlier who took a trip to the third heaven. (Now if I said that...:) Anyway, not the kind of guy I'd ask or take counsel from on human sexuality or intimacy.

I doubt Paul was anything but a Temple thug working for the Sadducees who sent him on a mission from God to take out some leaders of the Church. Bragging about his Roman citizenship would disqualify him from ever having been a Pharisee like any we know of at least.

Paul is the founder of present day Christianity, not Jesus. Christianity today is the Hellenized pagan Pauline version.

The COG's and get into law/grace problems trying to include him as of one mind with James, Peter and John, who frankly, Paul hated and they him. (Gal 1-2) Add to that the books added in the name of Paul after he died to promote Church disciplines and we have a mess.

Perhaps Paul's thorn in the flesh was unexpressed gayness. He certainly was a troubled man who "beat himself into subjection..." strange.

I was the same way at 10 or 11! Always the Bible questions. I was a goofy kid, way too serious and made a goofy pastor..ha.

Douglas Becker said...

And to think that James used to fill in by taking classes for "Doc" Meredith when the "leading evangelist" was away from Pasadena...

Now here's an amusing thought: Perhaps Dr. Tabor can join Dr. Germano to teach at Living University. Who would be better qualified than someone who has already taken Dr. Merrydebt's classes?

XCGMouse said...

Like history, the idea of sex hadn't been invented yet.

The Greeks didn't think it was a substantial enough concept to warrant it's own category.

No male in Greek society could ascribe to a philosophical position of "being" responsible when a young unmarried women became pregnant in the village.

Later, from a historical perspective, villagers found this not to be the case.

Corky said...

DennisDiehl said...
"There is a very unreal almost erie disconnect in the NT concerning human relationships and sexuality."

Well, you know . . . "the end of all things is at hand" and all that, so what would the purpose of getting married and starting families be?

What with the "short work" that God had "predestinated us" (the first century Christians) to do, there would be no reason to make any future plans since "the time is short".

You know, it's really sad if Paul was wrong about that generation being the end time generation. However, what would be scary is that if he was right and the brief "day of salvation" is long gone.

It'd be something if the "rapture", as the orthodox call it, already occurred 1,900+ years ago. That would mean we're all in the same boat - the left behind boat.