Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Until the day in which he was taken up (Luke 24)

Luke 24 is a big one, but what the heck, let's do it all in one big post, shall we?

Was the tomb opened or closed? Were the men (or angels) inside or outside? Were the men or angels sitting or standing? Whom did the women see? Okay, much of the confusion arising from these questions is due to the fact that the verses being cited are describing different events. The tomb was opened; the passage in Matthew describing the angel rolling away the stone is an event that happened before any of the women arrived, and involved the only angel spotted outside of the tomb. When the women looked into the tomb, they saw two angels who looked like men, and thus are described as such in some of the accounts. It's not clear why Mark's gospel says there was only one. At various times they were sitting and standing, notably when Mary Magdalene looks into the tomb, this is much later in the day as she, by herself, had run off to fetch Peter and John, and at the point she examines the tomb more closely, the other women have gone on their way and some time has passed.

Did Jesus forewarn the apostles of his death and resurrection? Yes, but they apparently didn't fully understand it.

Did the women immediately tell the disciples? I believe they did; when it says in Mark's gospel that they told no man, it may mean that they told nobody until they found the disciples. (Mark's gospel is a strange one, as it's believed by many scholars to have ended with verse 8 originally, and someone else edited in the rest later. So the ending there is weird and a little disjointed.)

How many women came? The Bible is far from clear on this, but I think part of the confusion is due to the complexity of the story. It's my belief that there may have been more than one group of women who came to the tomb, as well as more than one group who left separately. In particular, Mary Magdalene was the first woman to come to the tomb, and while she may not have come alone, she did leave alone to run to Peter and John. It would seem that the other women stuck around to see the angels and get instructions, and later caught up with Mary as she was talking to Peter and John. Whoever was with Peter and John seemed either confused and/or skeptical about what they were hearing, but Peter and John went to the tomb to check things out.

To whom did Jesus first appear? Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene; the passages given on that page are describing other, later events. I believe the event that is described in Matthew 28:9 happens after Mary Magdalene becomes separated from the rest of the women. The story here in Luke in which he travels with two disciples clearly takes place long after Peter and John traveled to the tomb (see v. 24), which was around the time that Jesus appeared to M.M. The verse in 1Corinthians makes no claim of who saw Jesus first.

Did Mary Magdalene recognize Jesus? Most of these verses are taken out of context. I already talked about the Matthew verse; if you read a few more verses into the John account, you find that Mary eventually recognizes Jesus; the guys in Luke had only heard the first part of the story, not how Mary had seen Jesus.

Is it OK to call someone a fool? The verse in Matthew 5 that this refers to does not say that you can't call someone a fool, but rather points out that if you start name-calling in anger, you're spiritually endangering yourself.

How many disciples did Jesus appear to in his first post resurrection appearance? The problem with these verses, especially the one in 1Corinthians, is that "the twelve" was sort of a shortcut way of saying "the apostles" even though in many latter cases it excluded Judas Iscariot, similarly "the eleven" is used to refer to the apostles less Judas, and may have been used to refer to them even if one of them, namely Thomas, happened to be missing. The answer is ten.

Where did Jesus first appear to the disciples? Note that the Matthew verse says "where Jesus had appointed them", suggesting that this was not the first meeting they'd had with him.

Did the eleven disciples believe the two men? I think they didn't believe at first until more reports started coming in of sightings of Jesus.

Were the disciples frightened or gladdened when they saw Jesus? I think they were afraid at first, and then glad. Note that if you read the verses leading up to the verse quoted from John, it says that they were glad after he spoke with them and showed them his wounds.

Was it OK to touch the risen Jesus? It's not really clear what it is that Jesus is telling Mary in John 20:17, because he does seem to be rather generous with other people who want to touch him in other situations. Different Greek verbs are used for touching in all of these verses, which might lend a hint, but I'm not sure what that might be. I suspect that while many people were merely touching Jesus, Mary may have been clinging to him rather strongly, and Jesus was reminding her that she couldn't keep him. That's my guess anyway. Does God have a body? God the Father has no body, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't have an appearance.

The SAB says "Jesus claims that his suffering and death were a fulfillment of prophecy. But there is no such prophecy in the Old Testament." There certainly is no specific place in the O.T. that says right out that the Messiah has to suffer and die, but that doesn't mean that there are no passages that are prophetic of this concept. Two that come to mind are Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22.

Where did Jesus tell his disciples to go after his resurrection? It would seem that he told them to go to two places, first to go to Galilee where they would see him on a mountaintop, and then to go wait in Jerusalem for Pentecost.

When did Jesus ascend into heaven? First of all, he may very well have ascended into heaven more than once. However his final ascension was forty days after his resurrection.I think the real problem verse is the one at the end of Luke. As the SAB itself points out, the phrase "and carried up into heaven" may not have been in the original manuscript, but more important than that, I don't think we are meant to take the events of Luke 24 to have all occurred on a single day.

Monday, May 26, 2014

And king Herod heard of him (Luke 23)

The first question the SAB brings up on Luke 23 is Who put the robe on Jesus? This is a fascinating question because it highlights an even bigger question that the SAB fails to ask. Why is Luke's gospel the only one that mentions Jesus making a trip to see Herod? It's funny because the idea that Herod and his men put the robe on Jesus almost makes a sort of twisted sense--at least I can't see why the Romans would bother. Luke's gospel as a whole has a number of interesting little vignettes that are missing from the other three, and you end up wondering where Luke got his information. Perhaps as the only non-Jewish writer, he was able to get inside information from the Romans, but that's only speculation on my part.

Who carried Jesus' cross? This one is pretty simple: Jesus carried his own cross part of the way, and Simon of Cyrene carried it for the other part.

What did the soldiers give Jesus to drink? I think there were two points in time that the soldiers offered Jesus a drink. First, they offered him wine, which he refused, and the second time they offered him vinegar, which he took a little bit of.

What did the sign over Jesus say? Yes, it's very interesting that all four gospels get the sign different, but the essential message is the same.

Did both thieves revile Jesus? The general understanding of this supposed contradiction is that while both of the thieves reviled Jesus at first, one of them was moved for unknown reason to repent and defend Jesus. The SAB has a side-note on verse 43 that is worth addressing, even though I'm not a Jehovah's Witness. The thing is, there's a lot of speculation theologically as to what went on between the time Jesus died and the time he was resurrected. Some believe, and with fairly good reason, that when Jesus died, he didn't go to heaven, but rather went to a place known as Sheol where he preached the Gospel to all dead people who were waiting to go to the afterlife. This is more than I really want to go into here, but I do believe that it's written about in one of the later epistles. Actually, I guess the SAB talks a bit about it on the page for Did Jesus go to heaven after he died but before his ascension? Jesus seems to be saying to Mary Magdalene that he hasn't been to heaven, but he could simply mean that he hasn't made his final ascension yet. I'm almost babbling here, but the point in the end is I'm just not sure, so let's move on to a simpler question.

Can thieves go to heaven? I can answer this one! The contradiction page quotes 1 Cor. 6:9-10, which is a verse I have a love/hate relationship with. Yes, Paul mentions a whole list of sorts of people who can't go to heaven, but then in verse 11, he says, "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." The important takeaway? Sin will keep us from heaven, but Jesus is in the business of forgiving sin. There will be no thieves in heaven, but there will be a whole lot of ex-thieves.

When did the Temple curtain rip? I don't think that any of these verses are trying to nail down an exact time; the idea is that the curtain ripped when Jesus died.(See comments for more musing on this topic.)

What were the last words of Jesus? I don't know.

What did the Centurion call Jesus when he died? The accepted understanding is that there were two centurions at Jesus' crucifixion, and they each had something to say when Jesus died.

From where were the women watching? I think that there was more than one group of women at Jesus' crucifixion, and while most watched from afar, a small group, along with the Apostle John, was much closer to the cross.

Who buried Jesus? The thing to understand here is that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were members of the Sanhedrin who happened to be sympathetic to Jesus, so there is no contradiction here.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice (Luke 22)

Luke 22 opens with the intriguing question Did Satan enter Judas before or after the last supper? I suppose the SAB can see this as a contradiction, but it's quite possible that Satan entered into him more than once.

So then we come to the Last Supper, of course in the midst of which, Jesus gives his disciples bread that he says is "my body" and wine which he says is "my blood". The SAB marks this is violent for some reason; I guess they are assuming this is not bread and wine but actual flesh and blood? Even among Christians who believe in transubstantiation (that the bread and wine magically transform into flesh and blood) the Eucharist doesn't start out that way, so I can't see the violence there.

In verse 30, Jesus says the apostles will "sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." The SAB asks which tribe Judas will judge. First of all, it doesn't say that each of them will get a specific tribe to judge; I assume they all will judge all the tribes jointly. Second of all, there's no reason to assume that this applies to Judas.

Now I have no idea why I didn't cover this in Matthew 26 or Mark 14 (I'm pretty sure this isn't a new note in the SAB), but in the book of Mark, Jesus tells Peter that the cock will crow twice when Peter will deny Jesus, which is different from the other three tellings of this story. The thing that may be especially interesting about this discrepancy is that Mark's gospel is considered by some scholars to have been written by Mark based on interviewing Peter about the events within it. So while this discrepancy is a minority reading, it's in the gospel that one would most expect to get the details right. Whichever version is right in the end, this seems to be a small but real contradiction. (The later note about Did the cock crow before or after Peter's denial? is of course closely related, and I would respond to it similarly.)

Is Jesus peaceful? I'm sure I've answered this many times, but it always could use another answer. Jesus was a peaceful person, and he came to bring peace between man and God, but in the end, the controversy that has ever since been brought up because of his teachings has led to a lot of violence. In this passage, Jesus is warning his disciples that with him dead and gone, things are going to be different, and they will need to defend themselves.

Did Jesus ask God to save him from crucifixion? Sort of. You'll find that in each of the gospels he seems to suggest it, but immediately adds something like, "not my will but yours."

I don't know what to say about the note on verses 43-44. I'm sure the book in the footnotes of the page sheds some light on the matter.

Did Judas identify Jesus with a kiss? It seems to be the case, although it also seems to be the case that John did not mention this fact in his gospel.

Was Jesus taken to Caiaphas or Annas first? Some facts need to be clarified about these two men. First of all, they were both acting as high priest, because the Romans had ordered that Annas be made high priest, while the Jews still accepted Caiaphas. Secondly, Caiaphas was the father-in-law of Annas, so whether at home or at the temple, these two men may have very well been together.

However, I have to admit that To whom did Peter deny knowing Jesus? is a question that just has a jumbled mess for an answer, and I've no idea why. In some sense it doesn't matter, but since it's largely accepted that some of the gospel writers copied from each other it seems strange that there would be so much discrepancy.

How did Jesus respond when questioned by the high priest? Well, while technically the gospels give different responses, they're awfully similar. I think a lot of believers know of these slight differences and aren't bothered by them, but I could be only speaking for me. It's been a long chapter.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

For we have seen his star in the east (Luke 21)

Luke 21 opens with Jesus giving commentary on some people giving money at the temple; in particular, he points out a widow who puts in a tiny amount of money as having "cast in more money than they all." The SAB deduces from this that Jesus is in favor of progressive taxation, but as usual I think extending spiritual truths that Jesus teaches into the realm of politics is iffy. Still, there is perhaps a principle at work here, and it may tie in with his claim from two chapters ago that it's hard for rich people to enter heaven. As a political liberal, I'd like to think Jesus favors progressive taxation, I just don't know how strong of a case you can really make from this one passage.

Most of the rest of this chapter is a rambling speech about the second coming: when to expect it, what to expect when it's coming, what sorts of things will happen before it comes, etc. A lot of this stuff sounds very violent and horrible, but I don't think that Jesus is saying he endorses the bad parts, only that they will be coming so be ready. (There's an interesting sub-point in this that the SAB points out, but only in passing; Jesus says some people are going to be put to death and yet "there shall not an hair of your head perish." Seems like a contradiction in terms there, doesn't it?)

Should we look for signs in the heavens? This may come across as a bit iffy to a skeptic, but I think that despite the passage mentioning signs, there is no admonition to look for them. It's not clear from context what these "signs" will be, and I actually expect that they will be false signs to confuse people further in the midst of all the chaos already going on. Speaking of which, Does the bible condemn astrology? I'm sure I've addressed it before but in general, the Bible does condemn astrology. Note that the Genesis passage says, "let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years," which suggests to me that the passage is just pointing out the obvious that the positions of stars can work like a calendar. The Judges passage most likely is not talking about actual stars, but rather about angels, which in many prophetic passages are referred to as "stars". The passage here in Luke talks about signs, but once again, I think these may be false signs, which leaves only the Matthew verse to discuss. There are a couple of things to be said about the star of Bethlehem, one being that the people who followed it were not Jews. Secondly, and this is an interesting one that I recently read about in a Jehovah's Witness publication (although I'm not a JW, I read Watchtower Magazine and Awake! just because I find them fascinating), the star of Bethlehem somehow led them to the wrong king and put Jesus in mortal danger, so it has questionable value; the publication I was reading suggested it was a demonic sign, which I find a fascinating theory.

Will Jesus' second coming be visible to all? According to the note at the bottom of the page, I'm apparently not the only one who is interested in the teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses, as the SAB has taken from them in some way this possible contradiction from a verse in John. I think the solution to this contradiction is a simple one, as there is nothing particular that indicates the verse in John will be forever.

In verse 32, Jesus says "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled." The SAB suggests this is failed prophecy since it didn't all happen within the lifetime of his listeners, but that's making the assumption that "this generation" refers to his listeners. It may very well be that Jesus is saying the generation that sees the signs won't pass away until the end of the world. (Note that he talks about a fig tree; some scholars have suggested that the fig tree is symbolic of the nation Israel, and thus the generation that sees Israel restored is the one that will see the end. This idea has gotten a bit less popular as the time span from the reestablishing of Israel has increased.)

Will the earth last forever? I would say that this one is a rather metaphysical question. I think the theological consensus is that the earth will last for all of time, but eventually time itself shall cease to exist. In any case, when the "new earth" is created something about it is going to be fundamentally different on a cosmic level.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Thy dead men shall live (Luke 20)

The Parable in the early part of Luke 20 is once again not a parable that Jesus precedes with "The Kingdom of God is like..." but I think the parallels in this case are too obvious to not assume that the landlord in the parable is representative of God, if only because he sends his son who is killed. Now while the SAB calls the story violent, and I can see that, the injustice label is a little more questionable. These guys who are taking his property have also killed his son, so it's not that surprising that the landlord reacts with violence.

The little story in verses 22-25 are not universally recognized to have the meaning that the SAB appoints to them, but I happen to be in agreement. I think Jesus is definitely saying that people should pay their taxes, and it's not a great stretch to suppose he's suggesting a separation of church and state. (Note that Old Testament laws stated that a man could be a king or a priest, but not both.)

The argument Jesus has with the Sadducees in verses 27-38 is an interesting one, as the Sadducees didn't believe in life after death, and they were trying to set out a ridiculous scenario to confuse Jesus. The general understanding of Jesus' reply is that in the afterlife, there won't be marriage, so the question is meaningless. Is death final? I'm sure I've answered this many times, but no, death is not final, in the sense that when someone dies, they move on to another stage of existence. The SAB suggests jokingly that "Dead people have no God" but it's more proper to note that there's a certain sense in which there are no truly dead people, as their souls last eternally.

Jesus' little speech in verses 41 to 44 is a bit cryptic, as he seems to be claiming that he's not the son of David, even though that's a title he has willingly been referred to in the past. I'm not sure what his point is supposed to be unless perhaps it has something to do with the virgin birth which honestly is not spoken of much in the gospels.

Friday, May 16, 2014

And Jesus went into the temple of God (Luke 19)

After a short little bit about Jesus and Zaccheus, Luke 19 launches into another strange parable. I feel that I should point out that this is not a parable that Jesus introduces with "The Kingdom of God is like..." which may mean that this is not the point Jesus is trying to make. Nonetheless, it's not unreasonable for the SAB to interpret it that way; I think a lot of people do. It might be interesting to check out the SAB's side note on What the Bible says about democracy. It seems odd to me when people make claims that Jesus was conservative or liberal, or they'll even call him a communist; Jesus is most definitely a monarchist, and at his second coming intends to rule as a king with absolute power.

Anyway, the parable... This parable is similar to other ones where a master goes off and leaves a group of servants in charge while he's away. Some of the servants manage what they're left with well and get rewarded, some don't manage so well and get punished. If there's a message in this, it's that you should use your resources wisely. The whole business about going off to get a kingdom and people sending a message actually has historical basis. In the days of the Roman Empire, local kings were appointed by Caesar, but he would take into account what the locals had to say about a man who desired to be king. As you may imagine, if a number of people spoke poorly of a potential ruler and he ended up being king anyway, there was always a chance that he might take vengeance on them as in this parable. What this has to do with Jesus exactly is not completely clear. Is Jesus saying that when he comes back, he's going to take revenge on people who spoke against him? Maybe Jesus is saying that while the people are waiting for a good king they may have to tolerate bad kings? I honestly don't know, but of course it is true that when Jesus returns, there is going to be a period of judgment, and some people will be sent to Hell, so that may be the parallel.

On what did Jesus ride into Jerusalem? There's really not so much of a contradiction here as the SAB wants to make. Jesus rode on the colt of an ass, which is the same thing as saying a "young ass" as John's gospel puts it. The real discrepancy is with Matthew's account, but if you take that account literally, then as I pointed out when I covered that passage, you're talking about a physical impossibility.

When did Jesus' temple tantrum occur? I've got to say again that while "temple tantrum" isn't likely to catch on, I personally like the sound of it. Most people believe that this is an event that happened twice, once at the beginning of Jesus' ministry and once again near the end. There is still some discrepancy about whether the event near the end happened on Palm Sunday or the following Monday, but some of the gospel writers may have telescoped some details in their telling of this event.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! (Luke 18)

Luke 18 opens with a parable, and while I have already said that parables are weird, and this one's no exception, I think Jesus explains it pretty plainly. The idea is that if even a judge who seems to care about little can be persuaded to seek justice, then how much more can we depend on God to seek justice?

In verse 17, the SAB asks, Is it good to be childish? I've answered this before, but I'll give a brief response here anyway: While there are some aspects of childishness that are not desirable, the particular childish trait of humility is what Jesus is looking for in this example.

Then comes a story starting in verse 18 that brings up a number of questions. The man in this story is asking Jesus how he can be saved, and Jesus gives him a number of odd responses. First of all, there's "Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God." Is Jesus saying that he's not good, nor is he God? No, I think it's understood by most that Jesus is pointing out a belief held by the Pharisees (that only God is good) and warning that since the Pharisees don't accept that Jesus is God, his question, as worded, could be tantamount to blasphemy. Next, Jesus goes to "Thou knowest the commandments," and tosses out a few. I think it is telling that Jesus mentions none of the commandments that mention God, and that's thematic. When Jesus goes on to tell the man to give everything he has to the poor, and the man is sad to hear this, it shows that this man's true god was money. When Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that it's hard for a rich person to go to heaven, I think that is still the point being made: that for a lot of people who are rich, money is their god. I don't think this means that no rich person can ever go to heaven, only that people need to keep money in proper perspective.

While I don't think verse 27 is making the claim that God can do anything, Can God do anything? is a fair question to ask. Of the three verses in the No column, the first two are really a matter of faith: since these people didn't have faith that God/Jesus could do those things for them, he wasn't able to work with them, but it was their failing, not God's. The third item is a more interesting one, because yes, it is believed that God is incapable of lying. The thing to note about this is that it's not like God doesn't have the ability to lie, but rather that it's against his very nature to do so. So you could take that either way.

In verses 29-30, I don't think that Jesus is asking people to abandon their families, but he's pointing out that some people will lose many things that they hold dear because they chose to follow Jesus, and he assures them that they will receive a greater reward in the end.

Did Jesus forewarn the apostles of his death and resurrection? Yes, he did, and repeatedly, but as the verse in John's gospel points out, they didn't understand it.

The SAB asks of the last story in this chapter How many blind men were healed near Jericho? and When was the blind man (or men) healed? Well, each telling of this story is different enough that it seems to me that it could be actually two or three different events with some similarity. I mean, note also that Jesus touches their eyes in Matthew's gospel, but in the other two he just talks to them. Why does Mark know the name of the blind man, but the others do not? It's possible these are contradictions, but it's also possible that these are completely different stories.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear (Luke 17)

I couldn't remember why I had taken such a long break from writing these entries other than the fact that I'd been a bit more busy lately. Then I looked at Luke 17, and remembered: Luke really is turning out to be tough book, far tougher than I'd imagined it to be!

So there are two things that had been general problems that I'll try to address generally through the first two notes in the SAB. First, statements like "If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you." There was an interesting concept that a friend of mine brought up on Facebook the other day (there was probably an article attached, but I'm not going to hunt it down), that being that it's common in Jewish literature to use hyperbole. Jesus may indeed be literally saying that a person with faith can boss around trees, but it's also quite likely that he's saying more generally that if you have faith, you can do amazing things with that faith to bolster you. Admitting the prevalence of hyperbole and its presence in the Bible opens up a can of worms that may be immediately obvious to some: How can you be sure what to take seriously and literally as opposed to hyperbolically in Jesus' teachings? As I've pointed out before, I don't believe that when Jesus says to cut off your hand to save yourself from sin, nor when he says you have to hate your family to follow him, that he really means that. But what other things might I be taking at face value that are not meant that way? It's a big question worth discussing, but I'm not going to take up the whole post with it.

So the second thing that had been a problem in Luke, and really the New Testament as a whole, is the whole slavery thing. While I feel I've given some possibly good insights into Old Testament slavery, in Jesus' time we're dealing with slavery as defined by the Roman Empire, and I know next to nothing about it. So I decided to read the Wikipedia entry on slavery in ancient Rome, and honestly, I still don't know much. It seems in general that slaves who had rich owners (which were most of them) generally lived better lives than peasants. Roman slaves had the right to own property and make money, and they could use that to be able to buy their freedom. Freedmen had the right to vote, but couldn't run for office and were considered second-class citizens; their children would be full freeborn citizens. Throughout most of Roman history, it seems that slaves could complain in court if their masters treated them with cruelty. All that being said, there are certain aspects of Roman slavery that were not so nice as all that. Slaves that had to work in mines lived under harsh conditions, had little hope for freedom, and tended to die young. Slaves that tried to escape were often branded, and slaves that attempted revolt were often crucified. Also, some slaves were forced into fighting gladiator matches, which was sort of a mixed bag since it was dangerous work, but if you were successful, you learned a skill that might lead to you becoming a freed soldier. So once again, while neither God nor Jesus ever spoke out against slavery in particular, even Roman slavery was not much like 19th century American slavery that most people associate the word with.

Anyway, I think this chapter may have some of Steve Wells' best writing; at least I enjoyed reading the notes here. Jesus says, "The kingdom of God is within you." to which the SAB responds, "That has a nice sound to it, but I don't know what it means." Well, yes, it is a bit of a mystery, isn't it? Jesus is clearly talking about something very spiritual, and I think the meaning is that "the kingdom of God" is not a physical place so much as it is a state of mind to be found in people who believe.

In verse 24, Jesus compares his return to lightning, to which the SAB comments "Like the Wicked Witch of the West writing 'Surrender Dorothy' in the sky. Like that." Cute. Like that indeed.

In the next few verses, Jesus talks about Noah's ark and the destruction of Sodom. The SAB (like many Christians!) takes this talking to imply that Jesus believed that these were real, historical events. I personally have an issue with this interpretation; it's entirely possible that Jesus simply used these two stories as ones that he knew his audience would be familiar with. The point that Jesus is trying to make here may be entirely separate from whether these stories are factual, which does mean that some of the points that the SAB brings up about this passage concerning injustice and cruelty still need to be addressed, as clearly Jesus is saying when he returns, he's going to bring some sort of massive punishment akin to what was told of in those two stories. In the case of injustice, I think it's clear that in all of the cases mentioned, the people being punished were wicked people and had it coming; cruelty is a harder issue to deal with because there is quite a bit of difference in opinion on what makes something cruel, but suffice it to say that in all instances, we're talking about near-instant death. Make of it what you will.

Finally, taking verse 34 to be about homosexuality has got to be a joke, right? If it isn't, I really don't know what to say.