Wednesday, June 28, 2023

He was restored, and saw every man clearly (John 9)

John chapter nine is actually a rather humorous story about Jesus healing a blind man, and the fallout from this act. You really need to understand cultural context here, and remember that the Pharisees hate Jesus and are looking for excuses to attack him and anyone who follows him.

So Jesus and his disciples see this blind man, and since they find out he's been blind since birth, the disciples want to know who's sin caused the blindness, the man's, or his parents? While Jesus doesn't disabuse them of the general notion that sickness is caused by sin, he clarifies that it's not the case here, but rather the man was blind for the purpose of allowing Jesus to do a miracle. Jesus heals the man by putting clay on his eyes made from spit and dust, and has him wash in the pool of Siloam.

Now that the man can see, everyone seems to be freaking out. People who know the previously blind man think it can't be him. They all are amazed, of course. The man tells the story, and while he knows that Jesus healed him, he doesn't know anything about Jesus, including of course what he looks like. Anyway, they take him to the Sanhedrin, and it turns out that this is once again a miracle performed on the sabbath. So a lot of the Pharisees, rather than being amazed by the miracle, are saying Jesus is a bad person for not keeping the sabbath! Some of them are saying, but how could a bad person heal blindness? So the Pharisees decide this must be a hoax, and they call the man's parents. Now you have to understand that the Sanhedrin had the power to kick people out of society, essentially, and everyone knows by now how they feel about Jesus, so when the parents arrive, they want no part of this. They stick to the bare facts and verify that he was born blind, but beyond that, they're saying, he's an adult, ask him! So the Pharisees turn back to the man and demand he denounce Jesus as a sinner. The man says he doesn't know anything about Jesus but that he performed a miracle. The Pharisees ask for more details, and the man says, why are you asking so many questions? Do you want to be Jesus's disciples? They get angry and go, non you're his disciple, we're disciples of Moses! We know God spoke to Moses, but we don't know about this Jesus guy! The man says, that's amazing; you don't know anything about him, but he cured my blindness! Nobody in the history of the world has ever done that! How could someone do that if they weren't from God? They have nothing left to say, so they kick him out (not just temporarily out of the Temple, but essentially out of Jewish society!).

So Jesus finds this guy, and tells him that he's the son of God, and the man believes and worships him. This is another important thing about Jesus for those who believe he's just a good person and not God: he accepts people worshipping him. There are a few instances in the Bible in which a person meets an angel, and starts to worship him; in every instance, the angel stops them and tells them they should only worship God. Jesus receiving worship is either appropriate because he's God, or it's actually a form of blasphemy. Anyway, Jesus says this cryptic thing about making people blind, although that's a miracle that we never see in the Bible; I believe it's because Jesus is talking about a sort of spiritual blindness. He's really saying that the spiritual leaders of the day are just going to be blind to the truth about Jesus.

Who makes people blind? There is no contradiction here because none of these verses are blanket statements. Some people are made blind by God, some are made blind by "fouls spirits", some are made blind by angels, and some are made blind by just natural processes. How did Jesus cure the blind man? There's no contradiction here. While there are similarities between these two passages, these are clearly two different blind men. The question of whether Jesus came to judge was answered in John chapter five.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 8:12-59)

So, back to John chapter eight, where Jesus is still arguing in the Temple. The questions about Jesus's witness of himself were answered in my super-long post on John chapter five, although I don't think I mentioned there the interesting claim, that Jesus makes here about being two witnesses, since he is a witness for himself and the Father is a witness; I'm not sure if he's talking about the Father's voice on the day of his baptism, or more generally the scripture, perhaps. I also talked about Jesus judging people earlier in that post.

Jesus mentions in verses 21 and 24 that people who don't believe in him "die in your sins." This is a reference to the idea that faith in Jesus is necessary for salvation, although as I've discussed several times in this blog, it's potentially more complicated. It's interesting that the SAB likes "the truth shall make you free" in verse 32, because while yes, I think we can all agree the truth is a good thing, Jesus is talking about himself (see John 14:6). Jesus is the truth, and he will set you free from the bondage of sin.(When he says "servant" in verses 34 and 35, think "slave".)

Interestingly, in verse 41, the Pharisees speak of being "born of fornication" which strongly implies they somehow know Jesus's parents weren't married when he was conceived. I find it interesting that this fact might be common knowledge. Jesus says of the Pharisees that their father is the devil, which is definitely some strong language, as the SAB notes.

Jesus says in verse 31, "If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death." This provokes the SAB to ask, Must everyone die? which I answered in Genesis chapter five, but I should reexamine here. The thing about what Jesus is saying here is, well, taken literally, it's obviously not true. Christians die; ones of all denominations throughout the 2,000 years of church history without known exception have died. So what is Jesus really trying to tell his audience? I talked about this a bit elsewhere, including in my discussion on Hell in chapter five, where in verse 24, Jesus says, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." There's a theological idea here that in addition to the physical life and death of the body, there is a spiritual life and death of the soul. Whether this "death" is eternal condemnation to Hell or an actual destruction of the soul through Hell fire is not entirely clear, but it's talked about several times in the book of Revelation, notably in 2:11b, "He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death," and 20:14, "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death."

There's an interesting line by Jesus here in verse 58, "Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am." A lot of people say that Jesus never claimed to be God, but as the SAB notes, and the Pharisees as well, who pick up stones to kill him for blasphemy, Jesus is claiming to be God here. I answered the question of whether Jesus was God in John chapter one, where of course I said yes.

Friday, June 23, 2023

As the scripture hath said (John 7:53—8:11)

John 7:53—8:11 is an interesting little vignette for a number of reasons. One of them is that more recent scholarship than the King James Version suggests that it simply doesn't belong here. It's interesting to me that while common sense tells you the farther away from an original manuscript in time you go the less you can be sure of accuracy, in actuality, the reverse turns out to be true. The more time that passes, the more archeological evidence you collect, the more study of existing manuscripts, etc., and you actually get a better understanding. The ancient manuscripts that have been collected of the New Testament show that this passage was almost certainly not part of the original book of John, as some don't have it, some have it in other places in the book, and some even have it in a few places in Luke's Gospel. It doesn't belong.

That being said, there's something about this story that seems so appropriately Jesus-like. Jesus stands up against hypocritical morality. Jesus sides with an outcast. Jesus forgives a sinner. If it's fake, it's a remarkably authentic fake, and I, along with many other Christians, really like this story. Anyway, since it's in the KJV, we deal with it.

There's a number of noteworthy things about this story. The men who bring this woman supposedly caught in adultery seem to be missing something; adultery is usually committed with a partner, yes? Where is the man? Also, it's a great mystery what Jesus is writing on the ground, but many have suspected that whatever he wrote, it played a part in what unfolded. Perhaps he wrote the names of the men and their own sins? One more thing, and I admit I'm not 100% sure about this, but I think in the Talmud it actually says that when someone is to be stoned to death, the people throwing the stones must be free of sin, so Jesus is using their own rule against them. Oh and I thought of another: Jesus never says adultery isn't a capital crime, he simply refuses to carry out the sentence.

The SAB asks how should adultery be punished? Well, it's pretty clear there in Leviticus, isn't it? As I just said in the last paragraph, Jesus never denied the Law. However, the Law was for the Jews, and doesn't apply to anyone else. I'm surprised that the SAB only puts these two verses there as there are a lot of instances in the Bible of adultery both being punished and not being punished. When I eventually get back to finish the Old Testament, I've got a heck of a story for 2Samuel 11.

Does God approve of capital punishment? Without even looking at the given verses, I know the answer is yes. There are a lot of things in the Mosaic Law that are capital crimes. The fact that there are people who committed these crimes without being put to death (and as I said above about adultery, I'm sure there are more than two instances in the Bible) doesn't negate the fact that these penalties exist. Once again, these are laws specifically for Jews.

Now, back to verse 12, which should be immediately following chapter seven without interruption.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

A righteous man hateth lying (John 7)

There's an important thing to say about the opening verse of John chapter seven that's related to antisemitism which I may have already noted elsewhere. When the Bible says Jesus is avoiding "the Jews" it's important to understand that generally with that definite article, the Bible is referring to the Sanhedrin, the council of Jewish leaders who were located in Jerusalem. It's definitely not talking about Jews in general, because Galilee was an area primarily populated by Jews as well. It's actually rather unfortunate that many of the writers of the New Testament used this shorthand because I imagine it has been used historically as an excuse for antisemitism among Christians.

The SAB says it's absurd that Jesus's brothers didn't believe in him, but I'm not sure why. I imagine having grown up with Jesus as a brother made him seem too mundane to possibly be the Messiah.

Now, the SAB brings up the meaty question Is it OK to lie? Now I thought I would have covered this in Exodus chapter one, but apparently I didn't; I've no idea why. The reason it's particularly meaty here is that it appears in verse eight of our chapter that Jesus lies! While I can certainly point out that Jesus says, "I go not up yet unto this feast," making it technically not a lie, one can't deny that Jesus is making a statement with the intent to deceive. So what is the Bible's stance on lying, and is there a contradiction here? My position on this matter has always been that while lying in general is bad, there is such a thing as situational ethics; you should tell the truth unless telling the truth will cause something terrible to happen. In most of the examples given of people lying in the Bible and being right to do so, there's a matter of life or death. The Egyptian midwives are lying to save the lives of Jewish babies; Rahab is lying to save the lives of the Israelite spies; David is lying to save his own life; and that may be the reason Jesus says what he does here, because letting his disciples know that he's going to the feast might in some way endanger him. (Perhaps the reason Elisha lies to the king of Syria is so that events unfold as they do in the next few verses, and that serves to save lives in some way? I don't know.)

So Jesus goes to the feast eventually, and we see there's a lot of controversy about him. Some people like him, while others--perhaps the Sanhedrin in particular, or various others who are listening to the Sanhedrin--think he's a charlatan. Eventually, Jesus appears at the Temple to preach, and a lot of people are impressed with what he has to say. When Jesus says that there are people trying to kill him, some people accuse him of being possessed which, as the SAB rightly notes, is apparently a common thing (either in actuality, or simply the culture assumed anyone with mental problems must be possessed). Jesus brings up the issue that is between him and the Sanhedrin: the sabbath. Whether you should keep the sabbath was addressed in John chapter five, but Jesus brings up something that I meant to bring up there, but no matter, because the discussion is here in the text: circumcision. As Jesus points out here, a male child is circumcised on his eighth day, and if that day happens to be the sabbath, they don't postpone the procedure to the ninth day. It's arguably a breaking of the sabbath, but Jews do it all the time! As I said about situational ethics in the last post about lying, so it applies to the sabbath; it's a rule...unless something more important comes up. If circumcision is important enough, surely healing a paraplegic should be acceptable.

To judge or not to judge? The SAB brings up this question, which is actually one of the more common questions non-Christians have, or at least they know Matthew 7:1, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." While there does appear to be a contradiction here, the real distinction is that there are different kinds of judgment. It's just a natural fact that humans judge each other, and there's nothing wrong with most kinds of judgment. The places where the Bible warns us not to judge are referring to the kind of judgment where you condemn another person, whether you fully think, "That person is going to Hell," or maybe even just, "That person is really evil." In a few of these verses, it's said that when you judge, you make yourself answerable to the same standards of judgment, and you probably wouldn't want that.

Jesus makes another reference to "scripture" in this speech that, as the SAB notes, is not really at all clear as to what scripture he's referring to. There are a few references to "living water" in the Old Testament, but none of them are anything like what Jesus is saying here, so it's a mystery.

When was the Holy Ghost given? I'm sure I covered this one before, but I'll answer it again rather than hunt it down. In addition to the New Testament verses given here, there are a few Old Testament references to "the Spirit of God" that probably fit here. The thing of it is, there was a specific event at Pentecost when the Holy Ghost was given en masse to all of the believers, and thereafter, upon conversion to Christianity, to all other Christians. The Holy Ghost was always there (from Genesis 1:2!), but the "giving of the Holy Ghost" is referring to the time from Pentecost onwards.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Only be sure that thou eat not the blood (John 6)

John chapter six thankfully looks a lot easier than chapter five was. Especially since I already answered "Can God be seen?" in chapter one.

So, this chapter has a few miracles, the first of which was feeding five thousand men. Funny thing that occurs to me about this miracle is that I've heard many sermons on Jesus feeding large crowds, and typically they will say at some point, "This is five thousand men; imagine how big the crowd was if you counted women and children, too!" I think this is making a bit of a possibly unwarranted assumption: that the Apostles literally did a head count, but said, "Let's not count the women and children." While I don't think there's a reason to think the number is hyperbole, I really doubt that it was anything more than a rough estimate, and if it was, who knows what exactly was counted? Some people have suggested that rather than a miracle, this is a story about a crowd of people who became very generous when they saw a young boy give up his lunch for Jesus. It's not out of the question, but the fact that there was so much food gathered up afterwards makes it seem unlikely; would these people be so generous they gave more than was needed to feed everyone? Anyway, shortly after this, Jesus walks on water which, as a miracle, is of course antiscientific and absurd to the SAB. Go figure.

Verse 29 is an interesting note in the discussion of salvation by faith vs. works: Jesus says believing in him is "the work of God". Verse 46 once again raises the question of whether God can be seen, which I answered in John chapter one.

Verse 53 has Jesus talking for the first time in this Gospel about eating his body and drinking his blood. Christians of all denominations take this to be talking about communion, but there is a lot of disagreement on what communion really is, when it should be taken, and other things. As the SAB seems to be implying in a clever way, Catholics believe that when the elements of communion are blessed, they literally become the flesh and blood of Jesus, a process known as transubstantiation, while Protestants believe it's entirely symbolic. I once heard a pastor point out that since Christians are taking the communion, and it becomes part of them, then since Christians as a whole are called by the Bible "the body of Christ" then there is a sense that transubstantiation happens in the end anyway.

Is it OK to eat blood? This is a straightforward no, since it is forbidden not just to Jews, but it was forbidden before the Jewish Law and by the leaders of the early church. Yes, Jesus tells people to drink his blood, but this is obviously a special exception, whether it's only symbolic drinking of his blood, or somehow literal. And going back to the subject communion, in case John 6:55 is not quite clear enough in the KJV, the New International Version reads, "For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink." So Jesus does seem very serious about this. However, the wine and bread of communion originated from the Jewish Passover, where it is also symbolic of blood in part.

Lastly, the SAB makes note on verse 70, about Jesus saying one of the Apostles is a "devil", that supposedly Jesus made a mistake. It's definitely not a mistake, as Jesus knows about Judas's betrayal before Judas is even called. You can see here that Jesus is aware already, and when you look at the evening of Jesus's betrayal, you see that Jesus doesn't just know he's going to be betrayed, he actually tells Judas to betray him! More on this when I get to John 13:27-30.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

There is no new thing under the sun (language, negatives and absolute statements)

In my last post, I had to deal with a supposed contradiction that I really didn't think was a contradiction at all. When David said in the Psalms, "There is none that doeth good, no not one," I didn't think we're meant to take it as absolutely as it was implied. Most likely, he was saying that he didn't know of anyone who does good, or at least couldn't bring one to mind.

I had a song lyric from Jamiroquai's "Virtual Insanity" stuck in my head all morning:
And nothin's going to change the way we live
'Cause we can always take, but never give
There's a lot of negatives and absolutes in those two short lines! "Nothing", "always", and "never"; the language is pretty strong, but how absolute is it actually meant to mean? Taken fully literally, the first line could be thought to be satlying there is no possible thing at all that can change our lives. However, there are physical things that would; like if someone have me a million dollars in cash, it would almost certainly change the way I live. There are also things that are abstract concept, like changing our economy from a capitalist one to a socialist one, that would greatly change the way most of us live. So is the lyricist wrong? Not if you understand idiomatically what staements like "nothing is ever going to change" really mean. Generally, when someone makes such a statement, they are saying they have little to no expectation that any substantial changes will arise.

What about the second line? Well, there's possible additional vagueness there because it's a compound clause, so does the verb "can" just refer to the part before "but", or also the part after it? I'll explain what I mean later. So are we meant to take "we can always take" literally? Probably not, since everyone sleeps, and while we sleep, we can't really take anything except oxygen. So do we take constantly in the time that we're awake? No, that also doesn't quite make sense. I believe once again, we need to see that "always take" is also an idiomatic phrase that means, every time we have the opportunity to take, we will, which even phrased that way is usually hyperbolic. What about "never give"? Is the word "can" at the beginning of the clause implying "can never give"? This is actually a possibility; that the lyric is saying that giving is a physical impossibility. It does seem unlikely, however. One could argue that we're always giving something, of course; in an abstract sense we're always giving people a chance to see what sort of people we are, we are giving off some amount of odor, and a lot of us are giving an attitude. Whatever this might be saying, it's actually pretty obvious that generalizing that nobody ever gives anything is simply not true. What I believe is implied here is that people tend to take without giving back, perhaps. It seems to me to be the most likely interpretation.

So, that's my take on the meaning, and it may be potentially vague, but, "I have little to no expectation that any substantial changes will arise/because people tend to take from the world without giving back to it" doesn't make a good song lyric.

So bringing this back to the subject of Biblical interpretation, the thing I'm trying to say here is that people on both sides--those who are looking to the Bible as a guide for life and those who are looking to it to find problems--should consider that strict literal interpretation can often be misleading. When Solomon says, "there is no new thing under the sun," he's obviously talking in a more non-specific way, as obviously every day there are new people being born, new works of art being created, and new buildings and machines being constructed. It's just that perhaps there is little that is substantially different. This is always the case with language.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren (John 5:19-47)

The rest of John chapter five is a big flowery speech by Jesus about himself, which is what a lot of the book of John is comprised of.

Does Jesus judge people? This is going to be a very complicated answer to what is honestly a very straightforward question. Jesus, in his time on earth living as a human prophet and Messiah, didn't come to judge; nonetheless, after Jesus's death on the cross and ascension, he was put into a place of authority to judge the dead. So, when it says that the Father gave Jesus authority to judge, this is what it is referring to: that Jesus, having been judged on behalf of humanity for their sin, is in a special position to judge. When Jesus says, "For judgment I am come into this world," he is talking about how his ultimate purpose in life was to be sacrificed to attain that position. So, Jesus doesn't judge people in his life, but in his death.

Is death final? Well, in the sense of whether one comes back to life after dying, yes, there are very few exceptions. But in the sense of whether bodily death means the end of an individual's experience, the answer is no, there is an afterlife. So, to address the verses that say yes... Joshua 23:14 isn't making a claim about the finality of death, only that everyone dies. All of the verses from Job are just Job's personal reflection from a limited point of view; Job is neither a prophet nor a theologian. Psalm 6:5 needs context, as in reading it alone, I misunderstood what it was talking about, which is the suggestion that after one dies, one has no relationship with God. While David was considered a prophet, that doesn't mean he understood everything, and the Old Testament doesn't talk much on the afterlife, so David had no solid basis to believe in one (although 2Samuel 12:23 "I shall go to him [my dead son]" is somewhat suggestive). Psalm 31:17, while also written by David, and thus could be dismissed likewise, doesn't say anything about the afterlife, but simply states that dead people don't talk to the living. Psalm 39:13 is also David talking about death, and not knowing what may come after. Psalm 88 as a whole is about death generally, but once again, Heman the Ezrahite simply doesn't know what may be after death. Psalm 115:17 is a strange statement; I could say what I've already said about David saying pretty much the same thing as the first part, but the second part is quizzical. What could be meant by "neither any that go down into silence"? I mean, it sounds like they are talking about the dead, but then, why "neither," like this is a second category of people? Strange. Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon, when he was very old, and apparently more than a little depressed; like his father David, he had little evidence to believe in an afterlife. Isaiah is tricky, because not only is he a prophet, but his book of prophecy has verses that the SAB puts on either side of this apparent dilemma; so what does Isaiah really believe about the afterlife? It's worth noting that two of these verses that seem to contradict each other come right after one another in chapter 26, which would suggest it's not an accident, but a purposeful juxtaposition; Isaiah is making a bold statement about coming back from the dead. I believe in verse 14, "They are dead," refers to the wicked, while in verse 19, "Thy dead men shall live," refers to the righteous men of Israel; Isaiah is talking in the middle of this very long passage (chapters 24-27) about a coming prophetic event where the righteous will be raised from the dead. Isaiah 38:18 however is a bit of a stumper, as Isaiah has already said there is a day coming when the dead shall rise; it's possible that he's referring to the state that the dead are in temporarily between the day of death and the day of resurrection, which is a bit of a sticky point theologically. There is definitely some discussion among theologians as to whether a person goes immediately to the afterlife upon dying or whether there is a waiting period much like sleeping; there's scripture that seems to support either side, and the book of Revelation does seem to have different moments where different classes of people are given a bodily resurrection (see Revelation 20:13 for instance).

"How are people judged by God?" was answered in John chapter three (where it specifically asked about being "born again"), as was "Is salvation by faith alone?", but in the second part of that chapter; they're closely related questions.

Does Hell exist? This is a big question, and there are important related questions that the SAB seems to have rolled up into one page. That's to say that whether Hell exists is really a separate question from (assuming it exists) who goes there. First of all, I think it's worth reflecting on whether "Hell" even exists as a word in the Bible; the King James Version certainly has the word "hell" 23 times in the New Testament, but I don't believe it's a Greek word. "Hell" is translated 13 times from "Gehenna", 10 times from "Hades", and once from "Tartarus"; "Gehenna" (from Hebrew "ge Hinnom") is a valley in Israel where pagan sacrifices used to be made and in Jesus's time was a burning trash dump, "Hades" is a Greek word signifying the place where the dead go, "Tartarus" is the lowest level of the underworld where the enemies of the Greek gods were imprisoned. So...there are three separate concepts that sort of come together to form the Christian doctrine of "a fiery place where dead people are imprisoned," and you could ask whether they really belong together like that, but for now, since the KJV treats them all the same, we'll say they are. (sigh This is really going to be a long post...)

So does a place exist where all three of these concepts are true? Yes. I take Luke 16:22-24 as the prime example:
And it came to pass, that the beggar [Lazarus] died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
Here we have a description of a place where the dead go, they seem to be imprisoned there, and there is a fire tormenting them (Jesus uses "Hades" in this discussion). However, there are also people separate from the fire being comforted. So what does that mean? Ephesians 4:8-10 suggests a doctrine that everyone who died before the crucifixion would go to Hell and wait for sin to be paid for:
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
So, assuming that is saying that Jesus went to Hell and staged a massive spiritual prison break, there are at least some people who went to Hell temporarily.

It is possible that this jailbreak involved every human soul and Hell essentially closed up shop (excepting the fallen angels mentioned in 2Peter 2:4 imprisoned in Hell (Tartarus) who are waiting for a final judgment), and there are many Christians who believe this based on (among others) 1Corinthians 15:22. I personally believe that the other two verses in the "everyone goes to Heaven" section don't necessarily mean that, however. Note that 1Timothy 4:10 says, "...specially of those that believe," suggesting the criteria for going to Heaven still includes belief. As for 1John 2:2, yes, Jesus died for the sin of the world, but it's like a blank check given to you, and even if a billionaire gave you a blank check, you don't get anything unless you believe that the check is real, so you sign the back and bring it to the bank!

So, seeing as all of the verses in the "no Heaven or Hell" category were addressed in the "Is death final?" question above, that leaves the "No, those that don't go to heaven, just die." category. Actually, once again, there are Christians who believe this doctrine. Supposedly, while the fires of Hell are never extinguished, the souls that they burn do eventually get destroyed. Those who don't believe in this doctrine explain away these verses in various ways. First of all, most of these verses that talk about death, are actually referring to death, no metaphor. Everyone is a sinner, so everyone dies. Revelation 20:14-15--which I'm surprised the SAB didn't put in this category--is the metaphorical death: "the second death." This, and the New Testament verses in this category discussing destruction, corruption, and perishing, are describing an ongoing eternal process of these things. Yes, morbid, but that's the doctrine. And Jesus seems to be supporting that view in Matthew 7:13-14:
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
I don't think I have anything to add to the What the Bible says about Hell page.

Does anyone ever do anything good? I've answered a lot of similar questions in the past, and I think they're all listed at the bottom of the linked page. Once again, this is slightly different, and deserves its own answer. Without even looking, the answer is "yes", but what about the verses that the SAB groups under "no"? In Psalm 14:3, I think David is using a bit of hyperbole, because obviously he thinks he himself does good, more often than bad, at least. When Paul quotes David in the book of Romans, he is trying to make the point that all people are sinners. I think that's what most of these verses are saying, particularly clear in the Ecclesiastes verse, that there is nobody who does good all the time. The verse from Isaiah doesn't really belong here at all, but is saying in a hyperbolic way that human righteousness is like "filthy rags" (I've been told the Hebrew here actually says "used menstrual cloths"! Yes, the word translated "filthy" is "עִדִּים" which pertains to menstrual issue) when compared to the righteousness of God.

Did Jesus bear witness of himself? and Is Jesus's witness of himself true? are both closely related questions, and the SAB seems to be using the same verses for both. The verse for "no" on the first page simply doesn't say that, so there's no contradiction there. The answer to the second question is "yes" as well, as John 5:31 is not Jesus admitting that he's lying or anything like that; he's just pointing out that when he speaks for himself, the Pharisees aren't going to simply take him at his word. The question Can God be seen? was answered in John chapter one, among other places.

The SAB notes on verse 46 that although Jesus says Moses wrote about him, he doesn't specify where. His listeners would probably think of Deuteronomy 18:15-19 where Moses is directly talking about Jesus, but there are other things in the books of Moses that point to Jesus. Genesis 3:15 is consideredby many to be the first prophecy of Jesus:
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
While a lot of people take this verse to mean that people generally won't like snakes, some have suggested it's talking about the crucifixion. Genesis 18 has three men appearing before Abraham, where the first verse says, "And the LORD appeared unto him..." A few Christian scholars have suggested that this is Jesus with two angels, while some have even suggested that this is an embodiment of the Trinity! Verse 18 in particular of that chapter says, "...all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in [Abraham]," which many have suggested is talking about his descendant, Jesus. (Several times in Genesis, God refers to Abraham and his descendants as being a blessing to all nations, the first being in chapter 12) Abraham's (attempted) sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22 is considered by many to be a prefiguring of Jesus's death on the cross; in fact, some have suggested that "Moriah" was the place where Jesus's crucifixion would later take place. Genesis 49:8-12 is Jacob's special blessing on his son, Judah who, despite not being the firstborn, is described in words suggesting a role as the royal tribe of Israel; the Talmud actually suggests that "until Shiloh come" is a Messianic prophecy, and of course Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, in the line of King David. Leviticus 25:47ff talks about the kinsman redeemer, which is also discussed further in Deuteronomy 25, and as I explored in Ruth chapter four, Jesus is the kinsman redeemer of both Israel and the entire world. In general, there are a lot of parallels between Moses and Jesus that I won't go into details with, but I did find this article very interesting (and it was also a help for some of my verses here).

Monday, June 12, 2023

For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath (John 5:1-18)

John chapter five is another story about a miracle, and the fallout from it. It's worth noting that modern scholarship has decided that verse four and the last six words of verse three were likely not in the original manuscript, but were likely added some time later to give clarity to the story, not that the rest of the story doesn't largely imply what verse four is saying.

So there's a feast going on, and Jesus is in Jerusalem. Apparently there's this pool called Bethesda ("house of mercy" in Hebrew) where supposedly people who were sick could get cured. The catch was every once in a while the pool's water would stir up--supposedly due to the action of an angel--and only the first person in the pool got cured. So there's this guy who is probably a paraplegic who's been waiting by the pool for his turn for 38 years. It sounds weird, and a little pathetic, but the pool must have been the real deal, or why keep waiting? Jesus comes up to this guy and asks him if he wants to be healed. The guy doesn't understand what Jesus is really asking him and compains about how difficult it is to get in the pool in his condition without help. Jesus tells him to pick up his bed and leave. He does, as he's healed!

Now there is a problem here, because it's the sabbath. You can't be carrying even little things around, much less a bed. Some Jews, probably some Pharisees, see him with the bed, and tell him he's breaking sabbath law. He explains what just happened, seemingly implying that if a guy heals you and tells you to carry your bed, that's what you do. They question him and it comes out that he doesn't know who Jesus was. Later, he finds Jesus again, finds out his name, and gets an admonition from Jesus to stay away from sin.

The SAB notes that Jesus's admonition implies that, "Jesus believes people are crippled by God as a punishment for sin." There's a problem with this claim. First of all, and most simply, a lot of sins have the potential for bringing you trouble; Jesus may not be saying anything about the cause of the man's illness, but simply is warning him. Secondly, the Bible doesn't specify what exactly was wrong with the man or how he came to be that way, so it's possible that in his specific case, sin led him to be unable to walk. (You could speculate all day. Maybe he was committing adultery with another man's wife and nearly got caught, so he jumped out a window and broke his back. Maybe he stole something, and the person he stole from beat him so severely he couldn't walk. We of course don't know, but there are all sorts of possibilities.)

The man goes back to the people who were angry at him and tells them that it was Jesus who healed him. These Jews get angry at Jesus not just for telling the man to carry his bed, but apparently they even consider healing on the sabbath to be unlawful! Jesus says that God the Father works on the sabbath, and he will, too. Is it necessary to keep the sabbath? Sort of. The Ten Commandments, which include the law of the sabbath, were given to the Jews, so it's primarily a Jewish thing. That being said, there's nuance. First, to point out something about items in the "yes" column: the author of Hebrews is addressing Jews, and so was Jesus in Matthew 24:20, so the covenant of the sabbath is still definitely for Jews. Nonetheless, Jesus never denied that the sabbath was important; he simply pointed out on several occasions that the Pharisees were failing to remember that there are always exceptions, and a lot of what the Jews decided on their own to classify as "work" was a bit of an overkill. (It's actually a very interesting subject, and here's a good article on it from a Jewish source.) Isaiah 1:13 is one I think I addressed a long time ago for a different reason, but context is important. God isn't angry about the sabbath per se, but rather he's pointing out that the nation of Israel is so evil in general at this point in history that their religious observances are a mockery. I was thinking as a metaphor you could think of a man who keeps cheating on his wife but never takes off his wedding ring; he might as well take it off and throw it away if he's going to continue with that behavior, not because the ring is wrong, though. Paul is really the only writer who addresses the sabbath for Gentile Christians, and as the SAB notes, he's not really particular about it. It's good to keep the sabbath, but if you're not Jewish, the specific day doesn't really matter.

Does God work on the sabbath? This is easy. Yes, he does. The fact that God "rested" on the seventh day of creation doesn't mean he always rests on the seventh day. And I put "rested" in quotes, because I don't believe he actually rested then, either. I don't know how widely theologians would agree with me here, but what God rested from on the seventh day was active creation of the universe. In plenty of other ways, God is continually active. Many theologians believe Colossians 1:17 "And he is before all things, and by him all things consist." implies that the universe as a whole is held together by God in some continual active manner. The word "consist" sounds very passive, but in other translations, it reflects a more active concept. (I think it's far more of a fringe belief, but I've heard it suggested that the strong nuclear force is actually the will of God, which is an interesting idea, truth or fantasy.)

I answered the question of whether Jesus is God in John chapter one.

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water (John 4)

The first two verses of John 4 really belong in the last chapter, and I answered the footnote in my last post. It's worth noting that there's something significant about Jesus and his disciples going through Samaria on their way to Galilee. The Jews didn't like the Samaritans so much that most Jews taking this trip would actually go the long route and go around Samaria rather than through it. This suggests to me that this was not a chance meeting, but rather Jesus purposefully went to Samaria to meet this woman.

It's a very interesting conversation. Jesus talks about "living water" which is something that isn't really clarified, but it seems to be something spiritual. (Edited to add that I really should have noticed that John 7:38-39 (where I got the title) seems to clearly imply that "living water" is the Holy Ghost.) Jesus knows that this woman has been divorced five times and currently lives with a man she's not married to. The SAB's footnote on verse 29 is right in saying this was hardly "all the things [she] ever did," but I find it strange that they chalk it up to the same sort of thing palm readers do; I know how they do that sort of thing, and while you could certainly tell that the woman was a social outcast from her coming to the well mid-day (most women would have come in the morning before it got hot, but this woman apparently wanted to avoid the crowd), I don't see how he could use a "trick" to tell stuff so specific about her.

The woman brings up the matter of the main difference between Jews' religious practice and Samaritans': location. Samaritans didn't have access to the Temple, so they worshipped on a mountain. The woman says that when the Messiah comes, it will all be made known, and Jesus confesses that he's the Messiah.

Does God have a body? Not in any physical sense. This question is very similar to the question of whether God can be seen, which I answered in John 1, but is just different enough to go over separately. Throughout the Bible, as I said there, there are instances of God making something visible that is a representation of himself, as well as people having dreams and visions of a symbolic nature in which they see God as though he has a body. Most of these verses are one of those. God having a voice doesn't imply a body, the word for "spirit" and "breath" are the same in Hebrew, implying perhaps a connection. I don't think the passage in Deuteronomy 23 is saying what the SAB is implying it's saying (even if God had a body, he's omnipotent, so he'd know where to step), it's just an admonition to keep clean.

Did the Samaritans receive Jesus? I don't think there's a contradiction here; these are just two separate incidents at different times in different Samaritan cities.

This chapter ends with a quick story of Jesus healing the son of a nobleman at Capernaum. The SAB marks the passage with absurdity and science, as it does all miracles. Most likely, the reason this miracle is significant is that it shows Jesus can heal people without being physically present. I have to wonder if this is really the second miracle Jesus performed ever, since if it was, how would this guy know Jesus had healing power? I have thoughts, but nothing worth noting.

Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Greater love hath no man than this (John 3:16-36)

John 3:16 is arguably the most famous verse in the Bible, because so many Christians feel that it sums up the Gospel, and it's one verse virtually every Christian has memorized. How does the SAB unpack it?
As an example to parents everywhere and to save the world (from himself), God had his own son tortured and killed.
Yes, this is meant to highlight absurdity, injustice, and violence, and seems a bit irreverent, but honestly, it's spot-on; this is what the verse is saying, and this is what Christianity is about! There are different theological approaches to what this really means when you understand it, but by far the majority view is that humanity was doomed to go to Hell because of Original Sin, and in order to be reconciled with God, there needed to be a perfect sacrifice to erase it, which could only be the killing of a completely innocent human being in the person of Jesus Christ.

Does God love everyone? The answer is yes. Period. Obviously, however, it's complicated. I think it's important to note that it's entirely possible for a person to have more than one emotion towards another person at the same time, so why can't God? Confession time here: I have a daughter with mental health issues. She's been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and her behavior is sometimes erratic. There are times when I find myself hating her, but even when I feel that way, I never stop loving her. I think a lot of what is on this contradiction page is resolved by understanding that God sometimes has a love/hate relationship with certain people. Let's see... Yes, God hates entire nations sometimes, but it's usually because they are so steeped in sin that they are hurting people; sometimes God has felt that the hurting was so bad that they needed to be destroyed. God didn't hate Job; Job was simply suffering so badly that he incorrectly assumed God must hate him. Apparently, God hated Esau; he really wasn't a very good person.

I answered the question of how many sons God has in John 1

Is salvation by faith alone? Sort of. I answered a similar question in the last post, in which I said faith is important, but true faith leads to good words and deeds, so they are found together. It's actually the main theme of James, that faith is not complete without works. It's worth noting that a lot of the verses in the bottom of the page are from the Old Testament, which didn't often deal with the concepts of salvation and the afterlife, and those verses are actually about how to live a good life, which is nonetheless also important. However, "The just shall live by faith," appears several times in the New Testament, but is a quote from Habakkuk 2:4, so the importance of faith is indeed taught in the Old Testament. Matthew 5:20 is not making the claim that you need to be righteous to enter the Kingdom of heaven, but is rather hyperbole essentially saying that it takes more than righteousness. Matthew 19:17 needs context; Jesus is saying that one needs to be perfect and sinless to go to Heaven, but when the man Jesus was talking to claimed to be sinless, Jesus showed him that money was his idol. I believe 2Corinthians 5:10 and Revelation 2:23 (and maybe Revelation 20:12-13, it's not very clear) are referring to a non-salvific judgment; there is a theological understanding of judgment in the afterlife that while faith is what gets you into Heaven, in Heaven, there are different levels of reward waiting for believers based on their amount of good works. The question of how people are judged by God is a closely related matter, which I answered in my last entry.

Verse 22 is worth noting for a minor detail of "came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea." It's not specified where the meeting with Nicodemus occurred, but it's very likely that wherever it happened, it was in Judea already. It may be that John's Gospel is a collection of stories thrown together by an editor. Did Jesus baptize anyone? I think John 4:2, especially following so closely on this passage (remember that as originally written, there were no chapter divisions or verses), gives us the answer to clarify what is said here: Jesus's disciples baptized, but Jesus didn't. While it sounds like a contradiction between this chapter and the next, I think what is going on here is that when John was writing this he realized that he made it sound like Jesus was baptizing, but didn't mean to, so he simply clarified shortly afterward. The baptism of the Holy Ghost is an entirely different thing, and happened first at Pentecost. The timing of the calling of Peter and Andrew I covered in John chapter one.

How much power did Jesus have? Jesus was essentially all-powerful. The reason why he couldn't grant John and James's mother's request was, at least I always believed, that they didn't realize that what they were asking was to be crucified with Jesus, and that wasn't meant for them. The reason Jesus was unable to perform many miracles in his home town was that nobody there believed in him, so there simply wasn't enough opportunity!

Monday, June 05, 2023

And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night (John 3:1-15)

John chapter three is mostly the story of Jesus having a conversation with Nicodemus. This conversation and Nicodemus himself are noteworthy, because in much of the Gospels, Jesus is seen in situations being in opposition to the Pharisees, but Nicodemus is "a man of the Pharisees". It's not commonly noted, but not all of the Pharisees were against Jesus, and at least two of them (Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea) performed actions indicating that they believed in him to some extent.

Did Jesus perform many signs and wonders? Yes, Jesus performed a lot of signs and wonders, he just refused to do any just for the sake of showing off. All of Jesus's miracles were performed because there was a need for them, but there were a few times when the Pharisees demanded that he do something on the spot to prove himself, and he refused. Of course, it's understood that the "sign of Jonas" was a reference to the prophet Jonah being three days in the belly of a whale; similarly Jesus would be three days in the grave. (Yes the latter "three days" is questionable, but I don't think this is the place for that subject.)

Must someone be born again to be saved? These discussions are always convoluted because there's a lot the Bible says on this subject, and a lot of subjects that are closely related. The specific issue of being "born again" is a particularly sticky point because John 3:3 is the only place in the Bible where the term appears, at which point it's not very well explained, and yet you'll find a lot of Christians who are very hung up on it. (Ask a Christian like that what it means, and they'll probably say something like, "If you are, you just know!") Nonetheless, how I would respond to what is touched on on the contradiction page is that being born again is believing in Jesus, and the SAB seems to understand that the point here is belief, as they group it together. The thing that seems like a sticking point is when the Bible talks about salvation through words and deeds; the solution to the confusion is understanding that if you have the right beliefs, you will speak the right words and perform the right deeds. A pastor friend of mine told me he teaches this subject with an illustration of a coin, where faith and beliefs are on one side, and good words and deeds are on the other; while they are two different things, they are just two aspects of the same state of being. This does open up a whole can of worms theologically with the question of which may be more important, and there are scriptures that seem to support either side, but I'm not going to get that deep here.

The SAB makes an interesting note on verse 8 about Jesus's statement "The wind bloeth where it listeth, and thou ... canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth." I suppose in a scientific note, the SAB points out that it is quite possible to measure the wind. This is true, but I think what Jesus is saying still stands, even without the fact that methods of measuring the wind didn't exist in first century Palestine. Yes, you can tell what the wind is doing at a specific point in space and time, but just because that's possible, can you really tell where it's coming from or where it's going? Wind is very chaotic, and it's not visible, so you can't really have full knowledge of what the wind is doing in general. This article, which I just Googled and is very recent, talks about the technology used to measure wind, and how difficult it is.
"It's a demonstration of the feasibility for our future satellite mission we are pursuing where we hope to provide the 10-kilometer resolution," Zeng said.
The SAB has a lot to say about verse 12 in the footnote. it's a lot of science stuff linked to on other pages. Let's gather it up:
Jesus believed that Adam and Eve were created "from the beginning." But the universe is 13.8 billion years old, the earth 4.6 billion, and humans (depending on how you define "human") for a couple million years.
This comment is on a passage where Jesus is making a point about divorce by essentially quoting from Genesis 1. So, I'm guessing that the SAB is implying that Jesus is a young-earth creationist, which goes against modern science. Maybe, but just because Jesus is quoting Genesis doesn't mean you know what his view on creation is; Christians all accept Genesis as part of the Bible, but views on what it means vary greatly. Some believe in a literal seven-day creation that happened about 6,000 years ago; some believe that the seven days represent indefinite amounts of time that may be billions of years; some believe that Adam and Eve were not the first human beings, but the first ones to have a special relationship with God. I have a particular view that may not be widespread, but didn't originate with me, that I went over in Genesis 2. The point here is that I think the SAB is reading too much into Jesus quoting Genesis, and nonetheless, the first human beings in fact were male and female, which is what Jesus actually said in that passage.
Jesus believed the story of Noah's ark. He thought it really happened and had no problem with the idea of God drowning everything and everybody.
This is actually a pet peeve of mine. I hear a lot of Christians say, "Jesus says Jonah really happened!" just because Jesus mentioned Jonah being swallowed by a fish. Jesus knows his audience is familiar with the Old Testament, so it makes sense to use it as a common cultural reference; this doesn't mean that Jesus is necessarily saying it's all true. The SAB is doing the same thing here: if Jesus mentions Noah, he has to be signing off on the complete veracity of every single aspect of the complete story of Noah's flood! Again, this is a leap of logic that I don't think is warranted; at most, I'd say you can probably say that Jesus recognizes that Noah was a real historical person. It was my view going through that part of Genesis that the story is problematic scientifically and narratively; does that mean that Jesus, when making a point illustrated by the person of Noah, needs to pause to untangle all the problems of that story? Why would he? Jesus is making a point about urgency and danger, and illustrating it with the story of the flood; discussion of physics and meteorology would be a distraction.
Jesus is incorrect when he says that the mustard seed is the smallest seed. (Orchids have the smallest seeds.) And there are no trees in the mustard family (Brassicaceae).
The SAB is completely missing the point on two levels. Jesus's parable of the mustard seed is trying to make a point about something spiritual. His use of the mustard seed as "the smallest seed" is not intended as a scientific statement of fact, but simply that the mustard seed was likely the smallest seed any of his audience would have been familiar with. And it's important that his audience is familiar with the mustard seed, because they would have known that the idea of a mustard seed growing into a huge tree was absolutely ridiculous! Jesus doesn't think this is normal, he's implying that the kingdom of heaven defies expectations! So to sum up the footnote on verse 12, Jesus is only wrong about those things if you make entirely unwarranted leaps of logic based on things he said in passing in various places in the Gospels.

Has anyone ever ascended into heaven? You know, I'm inclined to give this one to the SAB. I mean, I could be nitpicky about the stories of Enoch and Elijah (the Bible doesn't actually say Enoch went to heaven, but if he didn't, then what the heck is the Bible trying to say?) and try to weasel out of this, but honestly, I'm at a bit of a loss as to why Jesus overlooked these two men. I guess I can say that Jesus is making a generalized statement that he failed to mention the odd exceptions to, but it feels like the wording should be different; it just feels so absolute. It's probable that his point is that no man has ascended into heaven and come back to talk about it, because that's certainly true, but his wording is technically a contradiction with other parts of scripture as the SAB notes.

This is getting long, so I'll break it at the famous verse 16, and finish this post with the footnote on verse 14. I'll say once again that just because Jesus uses an illustration out of the Old Testament, it doesn't necessarily follow that he takes the referenced story literally, however in this case, I don't see a reason why he shouldn't. The SAB marks the story in Numbers 21 as both absurd and having scientific issues, but we're talking about two miracles, so to a nonbeliever, any miracle is going to seem absurd and nonscientific. I suppose there is the issue of God making a miracle that hurts people and following it by a second miracle to fix the first; yes, that seems absurd, but I think the reason for what happened was to teach the Israelites something about faith. The snakes came because of lack of faith, and they needed to have faith in God's strange cure to deal with it. (The story has more issues, but I'll save them for whenever I get around to blogging Numbers.) The important thing here is that Jesus is comparing himself to the bronze serpent of Numbers 21, because like the issue of faith I described above, people of the world are subject to the effects of Original Sin because of the lack of faith of Adam, and need to be cured by faith in looking to Jesus lifted up on the cross to pay the price for sin. More on this in verse 16 next post.

Drink thy wine with a merry heart (John 2)

John chapter two opens with a marriage on "the third day". The third day of what, however? Contrary to what the SAB implies this is not the third day after Jesus's baptism, but the third day after John the Baptist points out Jesus to his disciples, describing what happened at his baptism.

Is it OK to drink alcohol? What the Bible says about alcohol The Bible says a lot of things about alcohol; most of it can be summed up with: alcohol is okay, but try not to get so drunk you do something to embarrass yourself. Let's talk about some of the things that need explanation. Yes, people who have taken the Nazarite vow are instructed to (among other things) abstain from wine, and in fact grapes as well. Samson was a Nazarite from birth, and for some reason, God commanded his mother not to have grapes or wine while she was pregnant; of course, we know it's not good to have alcohol when pregnant anyway. Many people have suggested that John the Baptist was a Nazarite; the description of him in the Gospels is consistent with this, including the similar announcement of his impending birth to Samson's. I don't think Isaiah 28 is saying priests and prophets can't drink, but once again, when you get drunk, you often make bad choices. I think the reason Daniel didn't drink wine was the same reason he didn't eat meat; he was worried about his food being kosher in a pagan land. I think what's going on in Lamentations 4:21 is actually what the footnote there says. In 1Timothy 5:23, Paul is giving a bit of personal advice to Timothy, which I don't think is meant to be a general commandment. Haggai 2:11-14 is a passage talking about holy things and unclean things in which it's suggested that holy thing (such as a piece of meat from an offering) doesn't transfer its holiness to things it touches, but unclean things (such as a dead body) do spread their uncleanness to things they touch. The point of the passage is the general uncleanness of the nation of Israel, and is not really making any point about alcohol. I'm not sure what point the SAB is making about different "drink offerings" in the book of Numbers; it seems that different offerings often include some amount of wine, and it depends on the offering. It's interesting that the Israelites were commanded to not drink wine when they went to the Tabernacle/Temple, but many offerings there included wine; I think this indicates that wine is a good thing in general, but when you're in worship, you should be sober.

I think that covers drinking, but perhaps I should say a word about the phrase "drunk with blood", since Steve Wells is fascinated by it. This is a fairly common phrase (although there are certainly more common ones), but it should be noted that it's certainly not meant to be literal. Throughout the Bible, and in both Jewish and Christian cultures, there are a lot of instances of wine being used as a symbol for blood. With this symbolism, it apparently works both ways, as this phrase demonstrates. Yeah, it's violent imagery, and the parts of the Bible where it appears are violent, or at least describing violence, but since (as Wells notes in his blog) it's not literal, it doesn't really belong in this discussion.

How should parents be treated? I think generally, parents should be treated with respect, but there are certainly exceptions. I don't know that all of the verses in the bottom part of this page are meant to be disrespectful, I certainly don't think it's the case for the verse here in John; after all, Jesus did take care of the wine issue that his mother brought to his attention. Matthew 23:9 is an interesting one, and I've met Christians who actually do take this literally and don't call their father "father". I don't think that's what Jesus meant, though; I think he meant that you shouldn't use the term for anyone other than God and your actual literal father. Luke 9:59-60 is often misunderstood; this man's father is not dead, he's implying that his father won't approve of him following Jesus, so he wants to wait until his father dies. Luke 14:26 is hyperbole; Jesus says in that list of things to "hate" that one should hate "his own life also" which nobody actually does. Jesus is saying you should love God so much that in comparison, your other loves should seem like hate. The Luke 2 passage is not disrespectful; Jesus's earthly parents knew that his actual father was God, and since he was about to come of age, it made sense he would be at the Temple being "about my Father's business." I would say the last passage listed on that page is the only one that's arguably disrespectful, but really Jesus is making a point that to him, all the people that follow him are his family.

When did Jesus's temple tantrum occur? It's possible that John got mixed up, since he wrote his Gospel about 60 years after the events, and it's possible as I mentioned before that John isn't being chronological in his storytelling, although that's doubtful here. The explanation I personally believe is one I've heard suggested by a few people: Jesus actually had two "Temple tantrums", one at the beginning of his ministry and another at the end. As for the supposed discrepancy between Luke's telling and Matthew and Mark's, I don't think there is any reason to assume that, just because Luke fails to specify the length of time between the triumphal entry and the clearing of the Temple, one must have immediately followed the other.

Who raised Jesus from the dead? There is no contradiction here. Trinitarianism: God raised Jesus from the dead, Jesus is God, the Holy Ghost is God. It's all the same here.

Did Jesus say, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up"? As the question is worded, the answer is "yes"; no problem. Note that on the supposed contradiction page, the false witnesses are misquoting Jesus, saying that he said he personally would destroy the Temple, which is not what he said at all. The SAB also notes on this passage a problem with Jehovah's Witness theology, which claims that the risen Jesus was a spirit and not a physical body. I agree, and would say there are plenty of other scriptures that make this claim problematic; I bet the SAB has caught all of them.