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Amputation to Prevent Child Rape in Matthew 18:7-9?

 

downloadWhat is this verse really about? I’m not 100% sure but this image came up in my newsfeed today and it got me thinking. I’m not claiming any authority to know what this means but I have written down my thinking process o you can read along and see if you come to similar conclusions.

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.” (Matthew 18:7-9 NIV)

This is the version of this verse most Christians will be familiar with. As a young single Christian man struggling with reigning in my bodily desires, my main area of persistent struggle involved two eyes and at least one hand so this verse appeared to have a very clear meaning to me. What prevented any serious self-inflicted body modifications at that time was the knowledge that being a blind amputee probably wouldn’t be a great witness to the redemptive power of Christ in my life. I was given some pretty terrible advice around masturbation at that time, but I’m thankful that nobody ever suggested “Well if it is causing you this much of a problem, just cut off your hand and gouge your eyes out”.

But why? For a church that believed the Bible to be the literal word of God, why pick and choose what verses you’re going to follow? I thought about that a lot at the time. Then, like most Christians, I packed that verse away in the closet with the verses about beating your wife and never trimming your facial hair. Today though, I want to kick away the cobwebs and bring this verse out into the open to see what it really says. So let’s break it down.

Firstly, let’s make a note that this chunk is located after Jesus putting a child amongst the disciples and telling them that whoever is least in society will be greatest in heaven Immediately after he tells the disciples not to hate those who are least in society because God care for each one.

Before we get too deep into the specifics, it is important to note that there is no single “correct translation” for words in this context. The Hebrew language and the Hebrew usage of Ancient Greek in the first century are heavy with double and triple meanings. Every word choice carries cultural innuendo and connotations and the correct understanding includes these subtexts for the words rather than attempting to completely substitute an English word in place of the original word. In breaking down the meanings of individual words, I will attempt to determine the active use of the word in context but also reveal the subtle secondary meanings that a native speaker would have understood as part of the meaning.

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin!”
The single word that this version converts into “temptation to sin” is σκανδαλίζω (skan-dal-id’-zo). The roots of the word are to do with falling into a trap and its use at the time could mean anything from tripping over something on the ground to becoming indignant. It could also mean to be caused to sin. So this sentence starts with exasperation; follows with the subject which can be the physical world or society at large, which is being affected by something causing a trip or indignation. We could translate this as “Damn it all for these scandals!”

For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!

This section doesn’t go into why it is necessary for temptations to come but it does call it necessary. The word here is ἀνάγκη, ης, ἡ (an-ang-kay’). The roots imply a timely action to meet an immediate need and are generally positive in their connotation. The word can imply compulsion or even violent force. So temptation is a force for good that is forced onto society and all of the individual members of society.

“but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!”

Woah there! It is a good thing but woe to the person who brings it? Pretty much. So if the temptation is my lustful thoughts toward beautiful women then the one who brings temptation or indignation must be the woman right? So fuck her right? Just a second! Check the context, we’re right in the middle of two verses saying that those who are least in society (and women and children were about as low is you could get in that culture) are the greatest in God’s kingdom. So who is responsible for sexually objectifying women? Whose fault is it if a woman who is dressed provocatively is sexually assaulted? Let’s read on!
And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away

Boom! You are responsible for what you do with your own body. Jesus doesn’t tell women to cover up to avoid becoming a temptation to men. He instead tells a room full of men that if they are worried that their hands will cause them to commit an act that would cause outrage and indignation in the community that it would be better to mutilate their own body then to act on those impulses. More importantly, he makes it clear where the responsibility lies.

The word here for hand is χείρ, χειρός, ἡ (khire) which can mean the thing at the end of your arm or in can be the means you use to carry out an action. So if your broadband connect is causing you to sin then it would be better to unplug it. The cause is still clear, it is the thing the sinner uses to act on their temptation that causes the sin, NOT the object of their desire. I’ve gone into a lot of detail in a previous post about what the Bible means when it talks about “feet”. This chunk could easily be seen as saying that if your penis causes you to rape, then it would be better to chop it off than to rape somebody.

And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.

The new word here is ὀφθαλμός, οῦ, ὁ (of-thal-mos’) which can mean a physical eye but is also talking about the imagination. Again, there is no blame placed on the thing or person you are looking at. The one who brings temptation to men in terms of sexual sin is your mind, your means of action, and your dick.

It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire… It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire

There’s only a few things to address here. The word that translates as one eyed has no added meaning as it would in English. It just means having only one eye. The references to eternal fire and hell fire are both referencing a belief held by Pharisees (a Jewish sect who differed from the traditionalist Sadducees for their belief in eternal life, angels, demons, eternal punishment beyond death, and an emphasis on oral tradition over the authority of scripture).

So to bring it all together:

Damn these actions that cause scandal and outrage in our community! Outrage is important and beneficial to social growth but damn you if you’re the one who brings it! You want to blame your circumstances or opportunities for your actions in harming vulnerable people? Well I’ll tell you this! If your position of authority makes you take advantage of the people in your care, then quit. If your penis makes you rape, cut it off. And if your mind is just hard wired to hurt vulnerable people then a lobotomy would be a good step. You don’t have to do those things, but if you can’t control your urges any other way, it would be better to do that than to commit crimes that harm the vulnerable members of society because if I catch you harming kids with your power, your penis or your imagination I will set you on fire forever.

Sorry this isn’t more concise. I’m just rambling through the book at this stage. I might put something together later that is a bit more solid after I’ve had more time to think on it. Do you agree with my conclusions? Do you think the verse means something different? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

What Jesus Said on Homosexuality

10298943_202448230099115_7105373244802606819_n This image has been doing the rounds on social media lately. It isn’t bad, and makes a great starting point for a dialogue about rights for homosexual Christians. Unfortunately it is not a complete argument. Quoting this to Christians who know their New Testament and want to argue that God opposes homosexuality will get you into a tight spot fairly quickly, and not in a good way.

While Jesus himself says nothing on the topic (not strictly true but let’s roll with it), the apostle Paul does seem to say a fair bit. In what is arguably the first book of the New Testament in terms of date of authorship Paul pretty much opens with a story about an arrogant city who God destroyed by making all the straight people gay. It doesn’t list homosexuality itself as their sin but it is a go-to verse for Christians who want to claim that homosexuality and Christianity are mutually exclusive, so it needs to be addressed. Read Romans One carefully and check if it does actually say that it is sinful for people who are naturally homosexual to practice what is natural for them, or does it say something else?

Secondly, Paul claims to be responsible for the doctrine of Gentile Christians not being bound to the Old Testament rules of Mosaic law/lore. The four concessions to complete freedom was that Gentile Christians should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. That last one is what people will cling to because it is repeated ALMOST as many times in the New Testament as the command that male believers are to kiss each other on the lips whenever they meet. This is one of those tricky ones because the word that is translated as “sexual immorality” is a word that Paul seems to have made up and doesn’t appear in texts by any other author. The root word means to “sell off” and is contextually linked to the diagrams temple prostitutes would draw to show what activities they were available for within the context of divine sexuality for profit (this was a practice of some of the Roman temples, the Hebrew temple had largely stamped that out but there is biblical evidence that it had been an issue during the Babylonian occupation). It was translated into the more general “sexual immorality” during a time of schism within the church and has a lot of political motivation behind the choice of words.

So that verse can mean one of two things:
1) Don’t eat food sacrificed to other gods, don’t drink blood as part of a worship ritual of other gods, don’t eat animals killed in an inhumane way for purposes of ritual sacrifice to other gods, don’t be gay.
OR
2) Don’t eat food sacrificed to other gods, don’t drink blood as part of a worship ritual of other gods, don’t eat animals killed in an inhumane way for purposes of ritual sacrifice to other gods, don’t participate in ritual prostitution as part of the worship of other gods.

I know that’s a lot to take in, but I think it is important that people are equipped to engage Christians on their own beliefs and ask “does your bible really say that?” with a bit of solid knowledge to back that up.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Marginalised by Correct Spelling?

I am a big fan of standardised English as an equaliser.

Before there was a standardised English, you could tell where somebody was raised by how they spoke and how they spelled. Since there was no standard set of spellings to refer to as correct, a person’s class of birth could be easily guessed.

The standardisation of the Queen’s English allowed the rules of the language to be set down and the culture of correct English rather than local dialects developed. So now your quality as a person could be gauged by your ability to master the admittedly complex and occasionally inconsistent but Standard and Correct rules. It was the great equaliser because anybody with a wit and will do do so could communicate in a form of English which was not only understood throughout the Empire but would allow the common man to speak and write like a prince.

This holds true today. In formal settings there is formal English. It is a language whose rules are readily available to anybody who cares to learn them. It is not elitist and it is not regional. It is a single language which, when used correctly, can communicate eloquence and education to any other person who speaks it.

Now obviously language is a fluid thing, and vernacular especially so. This is why it is good to have a standardised formal language which everybody can aspire to for formal discourse. Formal language should be the very last part of English to adapt to new norms so that there is always at least some part of the language where there is a definite “correct” way of doing things.

Once we let go of a centralised standard against which all variations are measures then we go back to linguistic tribalism.

Standardised language doesn’t marginalise people. Failure to sufficiently standardise language is what marginalises people.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Contextualising the Bible on Marriage Equality

SI ExifQ: What does the Bible say about mixed race marriage, mixed class marriage and same sex marriage?

A: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28)


gaymarriageQ: Will there be “gay marriage” or “traditional marriage” in heaven?

A: “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).
I am following the modern tradition of cherry picking verses to suit an agenda. Have you noticed that every verse quoted regarding homosexuality is actually referring to a specific religious practice which was associated with idol worship in the first century and that there is no condemnation against men cohabiting and loving one another as equals?

Have you noticed people who want to use the bible oppose marriage equality by citing verses that define marriage between a man and a woman and skipping the context that the marriages being referred to generally involved a man buying a young girl from her father without her involvement? Modern marriage bears scant resemblance to any aspect of first century marriage and most people would agree that society is better off for it.

Figure 1.

The verse I’ve quoted does, however, provide a principle which the verses taken out of context to condemn homosexuality do not do. The principle (one which the early baptists died in the thousands for daring to suggest) is that cultural distinctions of class, race and gender are social constructs which it is God’s plan to do away with. It is well in keeping with the original baptist philosophy that equality of all people is a goal to be strived toward and that if that means breaking down some outdated ideas about marriage definitions then so be it.

It is strange to see Baptists even suggest that homosexuals should take a vow of celibacy when the earliest Baptists were raiding convents and liberating cloistered nuns of their vows and their virginity in celebration of a new understanding of God’s word.

Perhaps it would be wise to examine the context of the verses you quote out of a love of telling people what they should do with their genitals before calling somebody else out on the context of the verses they use. Otherwise the measure you use to judge somebody else may be used to judge you also (Matthew 7:1-3).

Marriage equality is about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:23).

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Educational Conflict

Educational Conflict

People often accuse me of being argumentative on facebook. I’m not going to argue with that. I am. Arguments are the best way to provoke people into teaching you the most interesting and useful information. You want to get a free education on anything? Find somebody who knows more about it than you do and start making claims about it, you will get educated! The best part is that in an argument, the person is genuinely motivated to present a full explanation of why you are wrong and they are right. Sometimes they’ll give you reading assignments for further information, but if you don’t want to read it yourself you just say so and they’ll recap the important points for you. Good luck finding a university lecturer who’ll put that much effort into your education.

You want to the best way to get wine stains out of carpet? Go on a cleaning forum and say it is peanut butter. I guarantee you’ll not only learn why it isn’t peanut butter, you’ll learn the top five best methods for different kinds of wine as well. You’ll get a far more thorough response than if you were to just ask.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2014 in Practical

 

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Conservatives vs Progressives

liberalconservativeI think I’ve worked out why conservatives think progressives are hypocrites for supporting the rights of Muslims… and why progressives cannot see it.

Conservatives: We want to use our government to make moral choices for others. If people with a different morality to our own gain control of our government they will force everybody to have their morals. Therefore, we must make sure that people with different values to ours are never given a voice otherwise they will take away our way of controlling people and use it to control us. Give more power to the good guys so they can protect us from the bad guys.
The best way to stop other people from controlling what we do is to control what they do.

Progressives: We want to use our government to ensure that everybody has their basic needs met and is able to participate in society. There are people in our society who want to dictate to other people what their morality should be. Some of them are closer to our moral code than others, but all of them need to be prevented from gaining the power to control all of us. Give more power to the people so that we don’t have people forced into a situation of having to be good guys or bad guys.
The best way to stop other people from controlling what we do is to remove a social mechanisms for control and create a society where people are empowered toward self expression to the extent that they don’t use that to control others.

To the progressive, the conservative approach to human rights is heavy handed, short sighted and counterproductive. It is giving excessive power to the government to control people without consideration of the consequences when the government cannot be controlled by the people.

To the conservative, the progressive approach to human rights is naive and inconsistent. How can you support protecting the rights of somebody who doesn’t respect your rights? How can you be on the side of women’s rights while also being on the side of a religion which marginalises women?

I don’t have the answers yet, but I think I may be slightly closer now to understanding the question.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2014 in Political, Religious

 

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The Earth has Cancer

_70895187_m8650167-prostate_cancer,_sem-splHumans are a cancer on this earth.

I’ve heard that said many times but I’ve just recently grasped what that actually means. Humans aren’t an external invader like a virus or pathogen. Rather we are, like cancer, a part of a delicately balanced and constantly evolving ecosystem which has adapted in a way that gives it a survival advantage within its limited ecosystem but at the expense of altering the ecosystem it relies on for survival.

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Posted by on September 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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