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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Not everything biblical is Christian Part 21 - Phinehas the murderous priest esteemed for his zealotry

I have two Bible stories for you.

One day the Israelite people are camped on the border of the country of Moab. They were getting along swimmingly and romance blossomed. Moses, their leader, was upset because the Israelite men were enjoying not only Moabite ladies but their tribal god as well. Moses hears his God tell him to kill all the leaders who tolerated this behavior. Moses orders his priests to kill the offenders. Just then some Israeli dude and his Midianite (another tribe) girlfriend walk into his tent before Moses and his priests. One of the priests, Phinehas, took Moses literally and walked into the guys tent with a spear and skewered the two of them. Apparently this stopped some sort of plague going through the camp. Moses tells them God totally approves and honors Phinehas for his great deed and God wants them to kill all the Midianites. It's all in Numbers 25.

Jesus appears and acts like a new Moses. He overrules Moses, see parts two and four. Jesus even gives a law from the mountain like Moses. In Luke 9 he even has an encounter with Moses who then disapparates and God says listen to my son. Later in the same chapter, Jesus and his crew are hanging out in non-Jewish territory and those people have zero interest in Jesus. Two of the crew, fiery brothers (probably red heads), ask Jesus if they can go nuclear on those people for rejecting him. They are feeling all Phinehas. Jesus tells them to knock it off. Later on, in Matthew's Passion narrative, Jesus is betrayed by one his crew, and about to be arrested. One of his main guys, Peter, tries to get all Phinehas and whips out his sword and manages to take a swing at the one unarmed guy. Jesus shuts him down as well, Matthew 26:52-53.

Phinehas is not cut from the same cloth as Jesus. But plenty of Phinehas wanna-be's swarm the ranks of the unofficial internet Christian defense league. I used to be one. In the confrontation at Jesus' arrest, Jesus tells Peter, "if God wanted to change this situation, he's got way more resources than your lousy sword play."

Phinehas is not an example of love. He is not a Christ-like model. Christ's model of interaction with his enemies is to love them and absorb their evil. Phinehas is biblical but not Christian.

I talked about a similar situation with Ezra the priest. The stories of the Maccabees, post-Ezra pre-Jesus, Israeli terrorists are also cut from the cloth of Phinehas. But they are not cut from the cloth of Jesus. Jesus is the flesh and blood embodiment of God, see Paul's discourse in Colossians 1. Phinehas got God wrong.

Jesus is the surprise ending to the story. But the story includes false starts, including people with good ideas but bad implementation of those ideas, like Phinehas and Ezra. Although they were not judged at their part of the story, Jesus' appearance in the story, the climax of the story, is their evaluation. The short of it is, not everything Biblical is Christian.


This is part 21 of the series, Not everything Biblical is ChristianPart one points out that the words of Satan recorded in the Bible are not Christian doctrine. Part two shows the Sermon on the Mount overruling the cursing of enemies exhibited in Psalm 137. Parts three and four show Moses getting overruled by Ezekiel and Jesus. Part five merely brushes the concept of source criticism.  Part six looks at the Old Testament application in the early church: a brief summary of the book of Acts. Part seven looks at how the church has worked this out regarding slavery. Part eight, showed one example of how an unchristian part of the Bible helps tell the Christian story. Part nine asks who would Jesus hate? Part 10 discusses women as Biblically approved spoils of war. Part 11 discusses divorce. Part 12 discusses the imposition of Bronze Age social constructs onto our diverse and complex modern world. Part 13 discusses women as property in the Biblical world. Part 14 discusses dehumanization of people with Biblical support. Part 15 discusses the evangelical culture that tends to proclaim the terrible day of the Lord is around the next corner. Part 16 shows how the end of the book of Job overrules 90% of the soliloquies in the book. Part 17 discusses a Psalm of confession. Part 18 discusses more Psalmist theology. Part 19 discusses something in the New Testament writings of Paul. Part 20 discusses condemnation.

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