January 5, 2012 Leave a comment
Before we jump into the good stuff, I have a couple of announcements.
1. My good friend Jack has taken on the same project, and is documenting his quest at Jack Reads the Bible – check it out! He’s reading the King James Version (on a slightly different schedule), and he’s smarter and funnier than I am but equally godless, so it should be a good time all around over there.
2. This blog got 260 views yesterday, which is way beyond the 4 or 5 I was expecting. Thank you all!! Please follow if you like (and I’ll add a follow button on the sidebar to make that even easier).
3. If you like what you see here, you might want to check out the other two blogs I write for: NonProphet Status (covering all things at the intersection of atheism and interfaith) and The Unelectables (following atheists and other religious minority candidates in the 2012 election).
And now, without further ado, more Bible!
OT: Genesis 9-11
Genesis 9 = God blesses Noah and his family and gives them “everything that lives and moves” to eat (Genesis 9:3), which I think is supposed to be an upgrade from Adam & Eve’s presumably vegan diet. But he warns them not to “eat meat with its life, its blood, in it” (Genesis 9:4). So, which is it: they can’t eat living things, or they can’t eat bloody things? Because the latter is really hard to do without just going vegetarian. In any case, I think this explains why the meat at the Harvard Hillel dining hall is so dry. Anyway, God warns the humans that “whoever sheds human blood, by a human his blood will be shed” (Genesis 9:6), which is another appalling ethical standard. Yes, what the world really needs is rampant cascades of revenge a la Renaissance Italy. On a lighter note, he tells everyone to “be fertile and multiply” (Genesis 9:7). Then he makes a covenant with every living thing, promising not to destroy the world by water. He makes the rainbow the symbol of the covenant, so that whenever rain clouds show up and Noah’s family starts having PTSD flashbacks, they can see the rainbow and know God remembers his promise.
Next, “Noah’s sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth came out of the ark” (Genesis 9:18), despite the fact that, in the previous chapter, “Noah went out of the ark with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives” (Genesis 8:18). Maybe they popped back in for a nightcap? Anyway, things are about to get freaky. Noah plants a vineyard, and then we fast forward to when he’s made wine. He drinks his wine, gets drunk, and then I suppose is overcome with an urge to shed his oppressive clothing (which I can totally relate to), because he gets naked in his tent and passes out. Ham, presumably not knowing his father is passed out naked, goes into the tent and, well, sees his dad naked. So he goes outside and tells his brothers. Their unnecessarily complex solution is as follows: they “took a robe, threw it over their shoulders, walked backward, and covered their naked father without looking at him because they turned away” (Genesis 9:23). Personally, I think that sounds much riskier than just running in and throwing a blanket on. All kinds of nasty accidents can happen when you’re walking backwards. Anyway, after this Rube Goldberg-esque solution to a very simple problem, Noah eventually wakes up from his drunken stupor and “discover[s] what his youngest son had done to him” (Genesis 9:24). Not what Noah had inadvertently done to Ham; what Ham had “done to” Noah by accidentally finding him naked and then leaving. Uh-huh. So then Noah responds in the most irrational possible way: by cursing Canaan, Ham’s son, and declaring that “the lowest servant he will be for his brothers” (Genesis 9:25). So again we get kids being blamed for their parents’ “mistakes,” except in this case, the “mistake” is that Ham accidentally saw his dad’s junk because his dad got hammered, stripped, and passed out. Well thank goodness justice was served!
Little known fact: Noah got wicked munchies when he was drunk.
Then Noah lived a few hundred more years and died at age 950.
Genesis 10 = Genealogy. Japheth has a bunch of sons, who have a bunch of sons (presumably by mating with women, who of course aren’t mentioned), and “from these the island-nations were divided into their own countries, each according to their languages and their clans within their nations” (Genesis 10:5). But I thought languages didn’t split off until Babelgate? Anyway, Ham has sons, who have sons, who have sons. One of Ham’s grandsons is “Nimrod, the first great warrior on earth,” which not only makes me giggle, but also puts the kibosh on my theory about the “giants” in Genesis 6 being the ancient Greek heroes like Ajax. Then there’s a long list of the cities Ham’s descendants build and/or rule over, notably including Babel. (Cue dramatic foreshadowing music.) Canaan spawns a bunch of clans – aptly known as “the Canaanite clans” – which then disperse to a bunch of places, notably including Sodom and Gomorrah. (Cue music again.) Shem also has a bunch of kids who have a bunch of kids who occupy a lot of land and all that.
Genesis 11 = At this point, “All people on the earth had one language and the same words” (Genesis 11:1), which begs the question of how, in that case, Japheth’s offspring were “divided into their own countries, each according to their languages” (Genesis 10:5). Anyway, all the people in the world travel east and settle in a valley in Shinar and bake bricks and build a city with a skyscraper in it. Really, all the people? The people who were just dispersed all over the world? Then the people building the city – aka everybody on the planet, apparently – says “Let’s make a name for ourselves so that we won’t be dispersed over all the earth” (Genesis 11:4). Says the people who were already dispersed over all the earth. Mm.
God pops in to scope out the city and the tower, and says (to whom, I don’t know), “There is now one people and they all have one language. This is what they have begun to do, and now all that they plan to do will be possible for them. Come, let’s go down and mix up their language there so they won’t understand each other’s language” (Genesis 11:6-7). So, because humans were becoming too capable, God needs to trip them up? It sounds like he’s getting nervous again about being outdone by humans or something. God’s really into keeping people down. Anyway, he mixes up their language and disperses them all over the world – …again? – and that’s why the city is retroactively called Babel.
Then there’s a looooong list of Shem’s descendants, all but one of whom live waaaay past the 120-year limit that God imposed back in Genesis 6. Anyway, the important part of Shem’s genealogy (as far as I can tell) is the end. Terah (one of Shem’s distant descendants) fathers Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran has a son named Lot, a daughter named Milcah, and some other kids with an unspecified woman, then dies. Abram marries Sarai (of unspecified parentage), who is sterile, which I’m guessing is one of the worst things a woman can be in Biblical times. Nahor marries Milcah – who, you may recall, is his fucking niece. Terah and Abram and Sarai and Lot head to Canaan (the place, not the person), and settle in Haran (the place, not the person), and then Terah dies at age 205, again breaking God’s age limit rule.
The rainbow thing is kind of cute.
The whole naked Noah incident. What’s with all the squeamishness about nudity? I’m actually kind of disappointed about this. I know conservative Christians get a lot of flak from non-Christians and liberal Christians and all that for being “anti-sex” and such, and they keep trying to explain that they’re not anti-sex at all; they’re pro-sex-in-the-right-way, and they think the best way to experience human sexuality is as God intended, and so on. And I always feel bad for them because nobody listens to them and people keep straw-manning their position and it’s sad. But so far Genesis has made a big deal about naked human bodies being shameful things, which I really don’t like. Everybody needs to chill the fuck out about genitalia.
NT: Matthew 4
After Jesus’s baptism, the Holy Spirit takes him “into the wilderness so that the devil might tempt him” (Matthew 4:1). because I guess somebody in civilization had put a restraining order on the devil so he couldn’t just tempt Jesus at home. Then, “After Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving” (Matthew 4:2) – slash, if this were real life, he would be dead. The devil is all, “If you’re God’s son, why don’t you turn the stones into bread?” And Jesus is all, “Nuh-uh, Deuteronomy says people will live by God’s word, not only by bread.” (Which I think would leave room to live by bread and God’s word, but no matter.) Then the devil puts Jesus on top of a building and is all, “If you’re so cool, why don’t you jump off the building and see if that psalm about the angels protecting you is really true?” (Note: it has come to my attention, just now, that the Psalms are actually in the Old Testament. My bad.) And Jesus is all, “Nuh-uh, Deuteronomy says not to test God.” Then the devil takes Jesus to a mountain where he can see “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (Matthew 4:8), and is all, “I’ll give you all this if you worship me.” And Jesus is all, “Go away, Satan” (those are his actual words in Matthew 4:10), “Deuteronomy says to only worship God.” Then the devil gives up and goes away.
Jesus hears that John (the Baptist, I assume) has been arrested (for what, I don’t know), so he goes back to Galilee. He settles in some specific part of Galilee in order to fulfill a prophecy in Isaiah. He starts telling everyone, “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” (Matthew 4:17). Jesus finds two fishermen brothers, Simon (later known as Peter) and Andrew, and tells them to come and follow him, and “I’ll show you how to fish for people” (Matthew 4:19). So they do, and then Jesus similarly picks up two more fishermen-brothers-turned-disciples, James and John (not the Baptist, I assume). Jesus travels around Galilee and teaches in synagogues and announces “the good news of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23) and heals everyone who’s sick. Crowds start flocking to him to see what’s up.
Jesus is a total badass about the whole temptation thing.
The “fishing for people” metaphor sort of makes Jesus sound like a sleazy traveling salesman or a tobacco company advertiser or something.