Wednesday, September 18, 2013

But whom say ye that I am? (Matthew 9)

Matthew 9 begins with the story of Jesus healing a sick man. The SAB says that the man is healed by having his sins forgiven, but I don't think that's what the story is telling us. I think the healing and the forgiveness are supposed to be two separate acts. (I have no idea why this passage is marked as "injustice".) The forgiveness does bring up an issue, though. Apparently, this was considered blasphemous, as only God had the authority to forgive sins, so is Jesus God? Well, I'm going to take the position that Jesus is God, so I'm only going to address items in the "No" column of the linked page. In Matthew 19:17, Jesus does not expressly say that he is not God; I'll probably address that more fully when I get there. As for the rest, the confusion arises because of the oddity that is trinitarianism, an issue probably too big for me to tackle, but I suppose I'll have to at some point in the New Testament, so why not here?

Okay, so Christianity of course believes that there is one and only one God, but, as you may have heard, also believes that God is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which can sound like a form of tritheism. (It's actually my understanding that the LDS church in particular is a tritheistic church, but it's more complicated than that in their case.) What is going on, though, is that while God is a single being, He manifests Himself in three persons, each of which has a slightly different role. I was actually talking with an agnostic friend about this recently, and just because he'll be delighted that I used this analogy in the blog, I will: It's sort of like the TV show Doctor Who. If you're not familiar, the show is a British sci-fi action series that features the adventures of "The Doctor", a human-appearing space alien that has a ship known as the TARDIS that allows him to travel through Time And Relative Dimensions In Space. What's important for the analogy, though, is that about a dozen actors have played The Doctor in the main series. Now unlike James Bond, who has been played by about half a dozen actors, but is always supposed to be the same person, each new actor that plays The Doctor is supposed to be taking over when the previous one dies, as death is not permanent for those of The Doctor's race, but leads to a "regeneration" in which one gets a new body and actually a new personality. Thus each regeneration of The Doctor is, while still The Doctor, like a brand new person in many ways. Back to theology, the Father (more often referred to as "God" or "Lord" than the other two), Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit (who doesn't seem to have a personal name) are all God in the end, but each of them has his own personality and role to play in Christianity (although unlike in Doctor Who, they all exist simultaneously). In a manner that is hard for me to fully understand, there also seems to be something like a rank among them, with the Father being primary in a fashion that I don't know to ever be made completely clear.

Does God desire animal sacrifices? I covered that in Genesis 4.

Starting in verse 18, we get the story of Jairus' daughter, who was either dead or at least near death when her father asked Jesus to come and help her. Was she dead? This does seem to be another place where Matthew differs from the other Gospels, but I'm not sure it really matters since I've always chosen to take Jesus at his word in verse 24 that she was never dead at all. Thus the question that the SAB asks in that verse is not an issue here, at least. (It will be eventually, of course.)

In the middle of the story is the story of a woman who was healed on the way to Jairus' house. I don't think that Jesus is saying that "medical science is unnecessary", but that there is some sort of power to be found in having faith in Jesus in addition to medicine. This may very well be just a matter of the healing power of a positive attitude for all I know; I've certainly heard it said that health is in many ways in the mind as well as in the body, and for some sorts of sickness, I don't doubt it. On the other hand, Jesus proceeds to go and heal two blind men and a mute possessed by a devil. I think both of these are undoubtedly a matter of supernatural power on the part of Jesus. No, I don't think the Bible is saying it's generally the case that a person who is mute must be possessed, only that it was the case here.

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