the angry, bloody God of the Bible? part 2


This series, the angry, bloody God of the Bible? begins here.

This post jumps right into the data from Jesus.

Jesus told his disciples that by seeing him, they've seen the Father. He is God. The same God as in the Old Testament. One option not available but born out of similar frustration is that of the early church heretic Marcion. His solution was to reject the Old Testament and most of the New Testament. He was Jesus-only to the extreme. But Jesus, himself, says some extreme things.
In Matthew 10 he states,
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ 37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
The fact that conversion brings division in families is nothing new. It doesn't do it in all families. Not everyone who converts risks their lives nowadays. But it is a risk in some cultures today. Jesus' point, with this language is to say he's worth everything we have, family and life.

Jesus also issues violent warning to those who put children at risk. Whether he means spiritual children or literal children is unclear.
Matthew 18:6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
As a parent, I can support this threat of Jesus'. Drowning is a terrible way to go. But Jesus says he has a worse way for these kinds of offenders. It sounds like a threat of deadly torture. Does divine justice have to be this way? I have to go with the data I have. In the same chapter, he explicitly mentions torture for an offense that doesn't seem nearly as bad as hurting children.
Matthew 18:34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Verse 34 is the conclusion of a parable, but verse 35 is the commentary on the parable. It appears God reserves the right to torture those who don't forgive!? In the parable, usually the master figure represents God. In this parable, the master forgave a guy who owed him a lifetime of debt, but then that guy shakes down another guy who owes him chump change. When the master finds out, he gets furious, and rescinds his forgiveness and goes with justice instead. I get the point that forgiveness is extremely important to Jesus. I get that he received torture on my behalf. I get that others (demons in hell) are doing the torturing. The master offered him a chance to live in a new paradigm, but the guy preferred the old paradigm of justice, so he got what he wanted.

The kind of torture, as well as port-mortem desecration, is explained by Jesus before his own trial and crucifixion. I think he is referring to the Jewish leaders who should have recognized him and received him with open arms instead of torturing and killing him.
Matthew 24:45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The point seems to be he has no tolerance for pretenders/actors/hypocrites. Cutting someone to pieces is really extreme though. It's "Silence of the Lambs" crazy. There was a priest in Judges 19 who cut his dead girlfriend to pieces and mailed them around the country as evidence of how crazy the town was where she was killed. Her story was received with sorrow followed by a collective determination to inflict violent justice on her rapist/murderers, Judges 20.

In the next chapter, Jesus tells another parable involving a master and three of his servants. It doesn't go well for the third one, who was paralyzed with fear of his master, and did not invest the wealth left to him during the master's absence.
Matthew 25:24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ 26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
The servant's assessment of the master turns out to be right. The point seems to be fear is a lousy motivator, which contradicts the warning. Doesn't it? At least the guy isn't tortured. He's only kicked to the curb.

This ends my survey of only one of the four gospels. Mark and Luke have plenty of overlap with Matthew, that's why they are the synoptics, so I should be able to survey those two together in the next post.

I'm only looking at the really negative, bloody, gory stuff, because I'm that kind of guy ;-). However, I'm really into God's love and Jesus' turn the other cheek theology. I'm trying to piece together how this violent teaching fits with the loving teaching. I'm open to any suggestions.

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