The Final Stretch

Hey folks,

I just wanted to give you yet another reassurance that I haven’t abandoned you. I have exactly nine days of college left. (Cue the dramatic music.) Four papers and one exam from now, this blog will again become my writing priority. I will post daily! I will gradually catch up on the reading schedule! I will finish in a year or close to it! I will find unprecedented numbers of silly images to include! I will come up with more reader challenges and distribute more certificates of glory! I will! I will! I will!

Keep the faith,

Chelsea

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John the BAMFist Is Back!

Okay, folks. It’s my roommate’s birthday and we other roomies are waiting to surprise her when she comes home from rehearsal, so I’m just going to dip into the gospel of Mark until that happens. Speaking of which, here is an important PSA: through a series of rigorous scientific experiments (i.e. eating the extra cupcake batter that we baked in a mug), my co-birthday-surprise-conspirator and I have determined that this is the greatest recipe of all time. In fact, when we graduate, we are going to start a bakery that sells only this cake. Get on it.

Also, exciting news! Thanks to all you beautiful people, this blog’s all-time views broke 20,000 yesterday! Thanks for reading, sharing, and commenting!

NT: Mark 1

Mark 1

It's people! Soylent Fish is PEOPLE!

Mark starts by telling us, unsurprisingly, that Jesus’s coming happened just as Isaiah predicted. John is wandering around the wilderness baptizing people and getting them to change their hearts and lives. We get a lot of the same details as in Matthew: John wears camel’s hair and leather, eats locusts and honey (BAMF), and tells people that somebody cooler than him is coming and he (John) is unworthy to loose his (Jesus’s) sandal and so on. John baptizes Jesus, and then Jesus sees heaven split and a voice from heaven tells him “You are my Son” (11). Jesus goes into the wilderness for 40 days to be tempted by Satan but angels take care of him. John is arrested, and Jesus comes to Galilee and announces the good news that God’s kingdom is coming and tells people to change their hearts and lives. Jesus finds Simon and Andrew fishing and promises to teach them how to fish for people. Ditto with James and John. Jesus goes to Capernaum and teaches with authority and casts out a demon and freaks everyone out. Also he heals Simon’s mother-in-law, which I don’t remember from Matthew. People bring their sick and/or possessed loved ones to Jesus and he heals and/or exorcises all of them. He goes to a deserted place at dawn to pray alone, but Simon finds him and tells him everyone is looking for him (Jesus), so he (Jesus) decides to go in the opposite direction and keep preaching because “That’s why I’ve come” (38). Jesus heals a leper and tells him not to say anything about it to anyone, but the leper tells EVERYBODY and then Jesus tries to avoid the paparazzi by staying outside city walls, but it doesn’t work because people come to him.

Okay dudes, I’m actually falling asleep, so I’m going to hang up on myself before the sleepy-talk gets out of hand. This might have something to do with the impromptu wine-and-backrubs party I threw last night. But let’s not play the blame game.

Six Verses: A Conversation with Matthew Vines

Reblogged from NonProphet Status. Since it’s Bible-y, I thought you all might enjoy it. I promise more actual Bible content is coming tomorrow! Next week is my last week of college classes EVER, so – with likely intermittent absences due to those pesky final papers – you can start getting excited for all the catching up I’ll be doing here once I don’t have a trillion pages of reading to do every night. In the meantime, enjoy the interview below!

About this time two years ago, as the residents of my dorm were beginning to pack up for the summer, one was preparing for a much longer break. My friend Matthew, who was a sophomore like me, had decided not to return to school in the fall. I have never been as happy anywhere in my life as I have at Harvard, so I couldn’t understand why anybody would voluntarily go anywhere else. He kept saying he needed time to study some things on his own, and he promised all of us that he was going to do something big before he came back. Sure you are, I thought. This was one of the first instances of what has now become something of a pattern: Matthew makes a big claim, I am skeptical, and then he follows through and blows me away.

Matthew recently delivered a speech called “The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality” at a church in Wichita, Kansas. (Here is a transcript if you are short on time, though I recommend the video if you happen to have one hour, seven minutes, and nineteen seconds free, since Matthew is a very persuasive speaker.) In this speech – which is the result of the extensive independent research he has performed over the last two years – Matthew analyzes six key Bible verses and turns their traditional anti-LGBTQ interpretations on their heads. Again, I went into the video skeptical, expecting it to be another instance of people twisting words to mean what they want them to mean. But by the end, I was sold. I’m no theologian, but as a person with an interest in the Bible and a general academic background, I found it extremely compelling.

To be clear, I obviously disagree with Matthew on some key premises here. Most importantly, I don’t think the Bible is the word of God, so I don’t think its contents should actually have any bearing at all on how we evaluate the moral status of different types of human relationships. Matthew, as a Christian, clearly feels differently. But I think what he has to say is important for even non-Christians to hear, for a variety of reasons. First of all, Matthew’s main purpose here is combating anti-LGBTQ bigotry among Christians, which is a goal pretty much anybody reading this blog is probably on board with. If Christianity is here to stay – which I’m pretty sure it is, at least for the foreseeable future – then we might as well do our best to make it as harmless as possible, and ending or reducing Bible-based homophobia would be a huge victory. People of all beliefs can use the arguments Matthew presents to help have productive conversations about this topic with their Christian friends. We can also help by sharing the video widely in order to get it into the hands of as many Christians as possible, so it can help LGBTQ Christians feel less alone, arm them with talking points for difficult conversations with family and friends, give similar tools to LGBTQ allies within the Christian community, and maybe even change the minds of some of the more conservative Christians who watch it.

Since I was so intrigued and excited by Matthew’s project, I was delighted when he took the time to answer a few of my questions about it. I had been planning on editing my questions and his answers into a more synthetic form, but he is so thorough and eloquent in his responses that I thought it would be a shame to mangle them. So, in its raw majesty, I give you a conversation with Matthew Vines, Christian Gay Rights Activist Extraordinaire.

Chelsea Link: Can you tell me more about the path that led you from college to giving this speech?

Matthew Vines: Long story short: I was raised in a conservative evangelical church in Kansas, so I suppressed awareness of my sexual orientation growing up. But Harvard was a very different atmosphere, and by my sophomore fall, I’d come to terms with being gay. And though I might’ve liked simply to have come out and moved on, I couldn’t do that without losing or fracturing many relationships, so I took a leave of absence to study—among other things—the Bible and homosexuality. The traditional interpretation of these six verses in the Bible is the main sticking point on this subject for a lot of Christians, and the grounds on which gay Christians can expect to be rejected by straight Christians if and when that happens. And unfortunately, that still happens far too frequently, so gay Christians really have to take the time to learn their theology if they want to be well-prepared.

But obviously, I didn’t just want to learn the theology in a personally satisfying way, but also in a way that would equip me for substantive dialogue and engagement with Christians who disagree. There’s a real wealth of literature out there on this subject by now, as it’s been a hot topic in the Christian world for a good three decades, but it can seem quite unwieldy and intimidating at first. There are almost too many books and too many resources, so that it isn’t at all clear where one should start. And most of the best scholarship is written at a pretty high level, which makes it difficult for your average lay Christian to access and absorb easily. Consequently, gay Christians in conservative communities remain without the resources that they need to stand up for themselves and challenge the prejudices within their own communities. That was my driving motivation in doing this research: to produce a clear, comprehensive, and cogent argument that gay Christians in unfriendly places will find directly instructive and helpful.

To that end, I bought dozens of books on the subject from all viewpoints and tried to delve as deeply as possible into every nook and cranny of the theological debate as I could. That meant finding the best articles and essays on every aspect of the debate, and then finding the best rejoinders to those articles—on and on until I felt like I had seen all of the best material from both sides on every point and could then make an informed judgment. And there are many more levels to this debate than just these six verses; there are a plethora of ways of framing the issue biblically, historically, and theologically, and those must be carefully considered as well. All the while that I was doing this solitary study, I was also meeting and dialoguing with other Christians about the subject on a regular basis—mainly those who disagreed with me, so that they could challenge my thinking and force me to reconsider any questionable arguments I was making. In total, I probably spent somewhere in the vicinity of three to four thousand hours studying this since 2010, and of course, I could easily invest another three to four thousand and learn even more. But after having read at least fifty books on the subject (and probably even more journal articles), watched or listened to countless debates and interviews, and had many dozens of drawn-out conversations about it with other Christians, I felt ready and prepared to make a formal presentation about it.

CL: What do you hope to accomplish with this work, short-term and long-term?

MV: My short-term goal is to continue to build traffic for the video, with the hope of reaching LGBT people in conservative Christian communities in particular. That way, even if they aren’t ready to come out yet, they could still share the video with friends and family and start a dialogue about the subject in a less personal way. Hopefully, that could get at least some of their friends to start thinking about the issue more critically while also allowing LGBT people to find out who their allies are. Another core group to reach in the short-term are straight Christians in conservative communities who may already quietly support LGBT people but need better resources to nudge others in a similar direction.

In the long term, my goal is to help to permanently reform Christianity so that homophobia is a thing of the past. Homophobia meets all of the biblical criteria for sin in a way that homosexuality never could, and I and many others will not let up until that is recognized across the board in church teaching.

CL: How has it been received so far by your fellow Christians?

MV: So far, the responses from other Christians have been quite positive. Most people who’ve contacted me have expressed agreement and appreciation. One woman who came to my presentation let me know a few days later that she found it sufficiently compelling that she was changing her position because of it. And she hasn’t been alone among the more traditional Christians who’ve watched the video. That’s not to say that everyone agrees, because they don’t, but of the negative responses I’ve received so far, few of them have offered well thought-out counterarguments to the arguments that I put forward. I am hopeful that that will change, and that those who disagree will begin to engage more deeply with my scriptural arguments, but many of those who hold negative views about this have never had their views challenged before biblically, so they may not be prepared to engage in this dialogue yet.

CL: Part of your argument rests on the fact that certain rules in Leviticus only applied to Jews, and should not constrain the behavior of Christians today. But what were gay Jews supposed to do? Do you think God did want them to be alone in life? Or that God wouldn’t make any Jews gay? Or is there an alternative explanation?

MV: First of all, no one is identified as a gay Jew in the Old Testament. Our entire discussion about sexual orientation is very recent and doesn’t appear anywhere in the Bible. So it’s fairly speculative to be talking about God’s will for a group of people that are never even mentioned in the text.

That said, however, there are indeed alternative explanations of the Levitical prohibitions of male same-sex intercourse. I didn’t discuss these in my talk because my basic point—that the prohibitions are inapplicable to Christians—is the most important one for a Christian audience. But the precise meaning of the verses remains very important for Orthodox Jews today, so they are worth studying more carefully. Modern scholarship (cf. Daniel Boyarin, Saul Olyan, et al.) has convincingly demonstrated philologically that Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 specifically prohibit male anal sex, but only that act. And it’s on those grounds that some in Orthodox Judaism are moving toward accepting sexual relationships for gay Jews so long as that particular act is avoided. But even beyond that, it’s important to consider the meaning of the word “abomination” (toevah in the Hebrew). This word is almost always tied to issues of idolatry and cultic ritual in the Old Testament, not intrinsic wrong (although those categories can overlap as well). And Leviticus 18 and 20 specifically state that the reason that these various behaviors are prohibited is because they were practiced by the Egyptians and the Canaanites, who were in the land before the Israelites. So there is an argument to be made that male anal sex was specifically prohibited because of its associations with idolatrous pagan practices rather than due to the act itself, and therefore, that the Torah’s prohibition even on male anal sex should not be understood as binding on Orthodox Jews in loving, monogamous relationships today.

CL: You mention yourself that, although the Bible does not seem to actually condemn same-sex relationships, there are no positive representations of same-sex relationships in the Bible as there are of opposite-sex relationships. Why do you think that is?

MV: Well, had I had more time to discuss this, I would’ve said that there is not absolutely conclusive proof of any same-sex relationships in the Bible. However, there may be three positive examples of gay relationships in Scripture, but because our understanding of them hinges largely on speculation, I didn’t include them in my argument. The first and most famous potentially gay relationship in the Bible is that between David and Jonathan in the Old Testament. The second is Ruth and Naomi, and the third is the account of the Roman centurion and his slave in Matthew 8. (The Greek term used for slave or servant in that passage—pais—was also used to denote a same-sex romantic partner at the time, and the centurion does express unusually strong, personal interest in healing his slave.)

The problem with these cases, as I said, is that they rely on speculation, and it’s possible that that speculation is mistaken. So the more conservative argument is that the Bible is silent on the subject of loving gay relationships and that it does not condemn them, the latter point of which is undoubtedly true regardless of what people believe about the aforementioned relationships. And in general, when operating on the premise that the Bible doesn’t contain explicit positive statements about same-sex relationships, we need to pay more attention to the historical context before casting a judgment about what that might or might not mean. Specifically, the most well-known and widely discussed model of same-sex behavior in the biblical world was pederasty, a very disturbing practice involving an adult man and an adolescent boy. (We would simply call this pedophilia and/or child abuse.) That’s not to say that loving same-sex unions between adults didn’t also exist, but they were far less visible than pederastic relationships. So in some ways, it’s somewhat surprising that there is not greater condemnation of same-sex relationships in the Bible – with the focus specifically being on pederasty.

CL: You make a pretty convincing case, in my opinion at least, for why the Bible might actually support homosexuality and same-sex relationships. But I’m curious what you think the Bible can tell us about other types of alternative sexualities and gender identities. What, if anything, can the Bible tells us about bisexuality? And what, if anything, can it tell us about intersex and transgendered people? I’m curious about these topics because your argument seems to rest largely on the idea that God created people with certain desires and orientations on purpose, and that everybody should be true to their natural orientation – whether a man is attracted to men or to women, he should find a partner of his preferred gender. Can somebody be naturally oriented toward both genders? And what if somebody feels that they have been born with the wrong gender in the first place? Are they meant to stick with the body they were given because God gave them that body on purpose, or are they meant to switch to the gender they feel like they are because God gave them that impulse on purpose?

MV: First, the Bible tells us nothing directly about sexual orientation and gender identity. Our modern discourse about these subjects is worlds apart from the biblical canon. So my view that sexual orientation is created is something gleaned from general revelation; it’s of a piece with Christians’ views now about things like the solar system and the universe. The Bible doesn’t teach the specifics of our modern astronomical understandings, but those of us who believe in a creator also believe that the creator designed the universe in that way, even if Scripture doesn’t spell it out precisely. It’s the same with sexual orientation and gender identity. We can’t know for sure that God created people with different sexualities on purpose, but the Bible offers no reason to think otherwise, and so that would be the natural conclusion to reach.

As for your specific questions: Of course people can be naturally oriented toward both genders; that’s what it means to be bisexual. Now, from a Christian standpoint, we would expect bisexual people who pursue relationships to enter into a monogamous marriage just like everyone else; they simply have a wider pool of potential partners for that marriage. There exists an ongoing misperception that being bi means being disposed toward promiscuity or polyamory in a way that gay/straight people are not. But this isn’t true, so really, bisexual orientation raises no issues theologically that gay orientation doesn’t already.

And as for transgender people, of course they are part of creation as well. It’s hardly my or anyone else’s place to tell trans people that their gender identity is broken simply because it is different from my own experience and identity. Being trans can be an incredibly rich and rewarding experience, and non-trans people need to learn and preach acceptance more than anything—and certainly not think that we should be in the position of pronouncing other people’s gender identities inferior to our own just because they’re different. God’s design is beautifully diverse and multifaceted, and basic Christian humility and compassion should compel us to accept all LGBT people (including the B and the T) and to learn from them rather than pretend we already understand everything there is to know about them.

CL: Any closing thoughts?

The fundamental purpose of the video is to empower LGBT Christians who are being mistreated because of who they are and who they love, so anything people can do to share it would be helpful. There is nothing Christian about the status quo on this issue. Homophobia is un-Christian—and yes, it’s unbiblical, too.

***

So there you have it. If you think Matthew is onto something potentially good for the world, like I do, then you can help him spread his message! Read his HuffPo article! Share the video! Followhim on Twitter! And keep your eye on him. Whatever he does next, I’m sure it’s going to be big.

Do Not Cross

OT: Exodus 29-31

Exodus 29

Like this. Guys, I haven't watched Dexter in soooo long. I still haven't finished Season 5. NO SPOILERS.

Here’s how to ordain priests. Dress them up fancy and send them to the temple with some livestock and artisanal breads. There, now they’re ordained. The priests should touch the livestock, then kill them, then throw the blood around, then set the organs on fire. This will be a “purification offering” (14), because purity consists of biohazardous fluid-flinging and the stench of scorched flesh. Also the priest clothes should be hand-me-downs.

God also decrees that the Israelites should sacrifice a lamb every day, along with some wine and a flour-oil mixture (I can only assume that he trying to make a roux for holy gumbo), and he promises to meet them at the tent to speak with them. Then he goes power-tripping: “I will be at home among the Israelites, and I will be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could make a home among them. I am the LORD their God” (45-46).

Exodus 30

God gives a lot of instructions for building an incense altar and warns people not to burn the wrong kind of incense. #priorities

God also decrees that when the census happens, each person counted should donate half a shekel to support the temple upkeep, as a “compensation for their life” (12). If you pay your half shekel, you won’t get divinely plagued. God also specifies that the rich and the poor should all pay exactly the same amount, which I guess is nice since it signifies that the lives of the rich and of the poor are valued equally.

Completely 100% true science fact: this was the first result when I searched "lowercase punishment only" on Google Images. Seriously, try it yourself. I couldn't resist because, as I may have mentioned, I LOVE DEXTER. Also because I think the message on the tie is appropriate for a discussion of Old Testament Yahweh's picky rules and extreme punishments.

God also specifies that a washbasin has to be put in the temple for people to wash themselves before presenting offerings “so that they don’t die” (20). I feel that the prevalence of capital punishment in this society is…excessive.

God gives Moses a special incense recipe and decides that the punishment for anybody who copies the recipe for non-sacred purposes should be shunned by the tribe. Ditto with some special oil.

Exodus 31

God announces that he has chosen two specific Israelites, Bezalel and Oholiab, and given them the skills required to make all the stuff he just gave instruction for. Which kind of make one (well, me) wonder why he didn’t just give them the instructions to begin with instead of using Moses as a middle man.

God reminds Moses that everybody has to keep the Sabbath holy in order to remind themselves of God, or else they will be put to death.

When God is done talking to Moses, he gives him two stone covenant tablets. Finally.

Highlights

Good news – we are done with the interior design/fashion instructions! The golden calf is up next!

Lowlights

So much capital punishment!

Challenge 2 Winners!

Hey everyone!

Sorry for the delay. I’ve been waiting for someone to send me a video I wanted to post, but now it’s been several days and I’m assuming you’re all dying to know the results of the last Challenge of Biblical Proportions because I’m sure that, like me, you have nothing more interesting going on in your life than looking for poorly drawn eggs next to goats.

For that, indeed, is where it was, in the Flock, Raper, Spitzers, FRUIT! post.

Congratulations to everybody who rose to the challenge! Here are the Honorable Mentions:

Kristin B
Gracie H
Ruth H
Ashley K
Elizabeth H
Rebecca M
Eli K
Arun V
Cissy H
Mike 
K

So what have we learned here? We have learned that having a last name beginning with H makes you a winner. If you are stuck with an inferior last name, I recommend that you get it legally changed and/or marry a luckier person as soon as possible so you too can start winning. Because correlation implies causation. That’s the main thing I’ve learned from college, and by college I mean stories by people who claim to have witnessed miracles.

Next, we have our runner up. Now, I don’t usually give prizes to the runner up (although we’re all making this up as we go along, so maybe that can be a thing). But the winner graciously ceded the candy portion of her prize to the second placer. So Adam G will be receiving a candy bar of his choice! Adam, email me at BloggingBiblically@gmail.com to claim your prize.

And, finally, the winner of the second-ever-but-first-realistic Challenge of Biblical Proportions is…

Nora M!

Those are radiating streaks of everlasting glory, because I did promise everlasting glory to the winner after all. I have also sent her, as promised, a very special certificate of completion. If you want to see what it looks like, I guess you’ll just have to win the next challenge!

Unleavened Eggcellence

Happy Eastover!

1) Exciting news for my ego – this blog is currently featured on FlyBy, the Harvard Crimson’s blog! Huge thanks to my friend Seth Riddley for pitching the story to them. Not only does he belong to History & Science (the best major), he also spends his spare time working with Harvard Smiles, an organization dedicated to promoting mental health on campus. While he is busy destigmatizing discussion about emotional challenges, I sit around drinking tea and making fun of the Bible. Seth is a better person than I am.

2) As mentioned in the FlyBy piece, I will be speaking at morning prayers at Memorial Church in Harvard Yard tomorrow (Monday) morning. It’s a fifteen-minute service, from 8:45-9:00. If you are a Harvard student and/or you happen to live in the Cambridge area, please come! I would love to see some friendly faces in the pews!

3) I’ll be writing my church talk (sermon…?) today instead of babbling about the Bible. So, both as a consolation prize and in order to welcome the Elijah Bunny as an adult in the Jewish community, I am hereby announcing the second-ever and first-actually-achievable Challenge of Biblical Proportions!

*drum roll*

I have hidden an Easter egg somewhere on this website. I don’t mean an “Easter egg” in the sense that technically competent computer whizzes use that term. I mean a literal picture of an Easter egg that I clumsily drew in Paint just now. The first person who emails me at BloggingBiblically@gmail.com with the location of the egg will win the grand prize: everlasting fame and glory, a certificate of accomplishment, and a candy bar. Much like the Biblical God, depending on whom you ask, the grand prize is triune: it has three components, but they are all blended together into one delicious compound. But don’t try to eat the certificate of accomplishment. It will be made of paper. Only eat the candy bar. But not the wrapper it comes in. Also, EVERYBODY who finds the egg and reports its location to me by the next time I post will get an honorable mention on the blog! So that’s like getting the everlasting fame and glory part without the other two-thirds of the Holy Prize Trinity. Which is still pretty cool!

Happy hunting!

Hail Mary Passover

 

Get it? Get it?! It’s a pun!

Anyway, this is exciting! I’m kind of glad I got so off-track with my thesis because now I’m on Matthew 26 and Jesus is about to celebrate Passover, just like me! Except Jesus is going to actually talk about God at his seder and also he is going to be betrayed and die. Whereas I will be going to the Harvard Secular Society’s seder, for which we are currently in the process of constructing a Haggadah which is, to say the least, a bit unorthodox. I can’t say for sure how much our Haggadah overlaps with his, but I am guessing that the Haggadah Jesus used contained exactly zero Gil Scott-Heron material. Also, I think we are probably going to make vegetarian matzo ball soup, which would probably make Moses roll in his sandy grave until he made pearls. Oh, and I don’t think there will be any lethal betrayal at our secular seder.

So! Let the passing over begin!

Matthew 26-28

Matthew 26

Jesus tells his disciples that Passover is two days away [JUST LIKE FOR ME RIGHT NOW] and he is going to be crucified. Meanwhile, a bunch of priests and elders plot to kill Jesus, but they decide to wait till after Passover so the people don’t get upset. A woman comes to Jesus and pours a container of really expensive perfume on him for no apparent reason. The disciples are like, “wtf, lady? you could have sold that and donated the money to the poor!” But Jesus is like “no it’s all good, she’s just preparing me to be buried.” Because it’s more important that dead people smell like flowers while they decompose than that poor alive people get food. Biblical ethics FTW once again!

Judas Iscariot goes to the scheming priests and asks what they’d pay him to betray Jesus; they give him thirty pieces of silver and he’s satisfied. Jesus sends his disciples to set up the seder at a local dude’s house. During the festive meal, when they’re all celebrating, Jesus decides to be a total buzzkill by announcing that one of them is going to betray him. He warns that the betrayer is going to wish he’d never been born. Each disciple asks if he’s the one who will do it, and when Judas asks, Jesus answers – according to this translation – “You said it” (25).

Jesus blesses bread, gives a piece to everyone, and says, “Take and eat. This is my body” (26). Then, as you can probably predict, he passes around the wine and says, “Drink from this, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many so that their sins may be forgiven.” Everyone sings happy songs and then goes to the Mount of Olives – which, you may remember, is definitely a reference to a take-out restaurant in my hometown. Jesus warns everyone that shit is about to get real. Peter is like “I will stick with you even while the shit gets real!” And Jesus is like “You say that now, but you’re going to deny me three times before the rooster crows.” And Peter is like “Nuh-uh!” but my money is on Jesus because he is God and all.

Next, Jesus goes to the garden of Gethsemane, partly to pray, but mostly to taunt me because “gethsemane” was the word that eliminated me from the freshman spelling bee because this was before I decided to start a ridiculous Bible blog. He tells his disciples, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying” (38), which is not very surprising since he has made it very clear that he knows he is about to die. In all fairness, though, this is one of the most moving parts of the whole Jesus story. Jesus prays to God, but God doesn’t answer him. He says he would really rather not go through with this whole thing, but that he will do whatever he must. Eventually Judas comes over with an armed mob in tow and shows them which one Jesus is by kissing him. (Sorry to ruin the moment, but don’t they all already know who Jesus is because he’s been running around healing lepers and walking on water? What new information does Judas really provide here? I’m not sure the betrayal is necessary for the arrest and crucifixion. Can anybody clear this up for me?)

Anyway, Jesus is a stoic badass about the whole thing, and tells Judas, “Friend, do what you came to do” (50). One of the other disciples tries to defend Jesus by hacking off a priest’s ear with a sword, but Jesus tells him to cool it because “All those who use the sword will die by the sword” (52). Wait a minute. Remember back in chapter 10, when Jesus said that he hadn’t come to bring peace, but a sword? What happened to that? Is this one of those “do what I say, not what I do” things? I think I’m going to have to call bullshit on this one.

Jesus gets put on trial before Caiaphas, the high priest. People give false testimony against Jesus, but he stays silent instead of defending himself. Caiaphas asks him if he is “the Christ, God’s Son” (63), and Jesus again responds, “You said it” (64). He also says people are going to see the Human One sitting next to God in the clouds, and the priest flips a shit and tears his clothes off and yells that Jesus has insulted God, and then the crowd gets worked up into a frenzy and spits on Jesus and beats him.

Meanwhile, Peter has been chilling outside while all this is going down. Three different people come up to him successively and say they think he’s with Jesus, and every time, Peter is like “Nope, I don’t know that guy.” Then a rooster crows and Peter remembers what Jesus said, and he bursts into tears.

Matthew 27

In the morning, the trial people decide Jesus should be executed, and they turn him over to Pilate. When Judas hears this, he feels bad and tries to return the blood money, but the priests won’t have it, so he throws the money into the temple and goes away to hang himself. The priests can’t put the money in the treasury because it’s unclean blood money, so they use it to buy some spare cemetery space for strangers.

Meanwhile, Jesus is being interrogated by Pilate. When Pilate asks if he’s the king of the Jews, Jesus responds, “That’s what you say” (11). I’m waiting for him to go for “I know you are, but what am I?” Maybe that’s in the Gospel of John. Anyway, Pilate asks some more questions and Jesus stays silent.

Now, Pilate has the opportunity to release one prisoner because it’s a holiday. He wants to release Jesus because he knows the priests only went after him out of jealousy, and because his wife had some bad dreams about killing Jesus. But when he asks the crowd whom to release, they clamor for Barabbas, another prisoner. Pilate relents and releases Barabbas, and washes his hands in front of the crowd in order to show that Jesus’s blood is not on his hands. Then he has Jesus whipped and sends him to be crucified, which sort of negates the whole hand-washing charade.

Some soldiers mock Jesus for a while, dressing him up in military uniform, putting a crown of thorns on his head, spitting on him, etc. On the way, some people try to give him vinegar and wine to drink. After some more torments, Jesus is eventually crucified in between two outlaws. Passersby and priests and so on keep insulting Jesus while he hangs on the cross. Even the two outlaws on the neighboring crosses join in the teasing, which I find a hilariously surreal image.

The whole earth goes dark for three hours. At 3 pm, Jesus yells “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (This translation has “left” – verse 46 – but it’s so much less poetic.) One guy offers Jesus a vinegar-soaked sponge to drink from, but everyone else keeps teasing him. Why do people keep trying to give him vinegar instead of water? Earlier it seemed like a deliberate taunt, but in this case I thought the guy with the sponge was genuinely trying to be nice. Maybe not? In any case, Jesus cries out again and then dies.

Then everything gets freaky! Earthquakes! Rockslides! Lightning! Zombies! The people guarding Jesus are like, “Oh. I guess he really was God’s son. Our bad.” Some women are watching this whole thing, which I think will become relevant later.

A guy named Joseph (not the one who was Jesus’s adopted dad, I think) asks Pilate for Jesus’s body and gets it. He wraps the body in a clean cloth and puts it in a new tomb he’s just carved out of a rock like a badass, then rolls a big rock in front of it. Mary Magdalene and another woman named Mary who was the mother of James and Joseph (a third Joseph, I think? why does everybody have the same names?) are watching in front of the tomb.

The next day, all the Pharisees and assholes remind Pilate that Jesus kept claiming he would rise three days after he was buried. So they ask for permission to seal the tomb in order to prevent Jesus’s followers from stealing the body and claiming he’d been resurrected. Pilate agrees, so the bad guys go seal the tomb and put soldiers all around to guard it so nobody can steal Jesus’s body.

Matthew 28

A few days later, the two Marys come back to check out the tomb, and an angel appears to them and rolls the boulder aside and says, “Hey ladies. I know you’re looking for Jesus, but he’s not here because he’s been resurrected just like he said. Go look at his grave for proof. Then go tells his disciples that he’s gone ahead of them to Galilee.” They go to give the message to the disciples, but they run into Jesus first and worship him, and Jesus reminds them to go tell his posse that he’s going to Galilee.

The soldiers go tell the Pharisees and all what happened, and they bribe the soldiers to tell everyone that the disciples came and stole the body. But wouldn’t they realize by now that Jesus actually is the son of God and it’s in their best interests not to fuck with him anymore?

The eleven remaining disciples go to Galilee and meet Jesus and freak out and some of them don’t believe it but he calms them down and tells them to go spread his message around the world and “make disciples of all nations” (19).

Highlights

I do think that the idea of a god who can relate to humans by having actually experienced human suffering first-hand is really appealing.

Lowlights

I’m really unclear on why Judas is even necessary to the whole story other than to make it more tragic.