Thursday, August 31, 2023

Now Absalom had commanded his servants (2Samuel 15)

2Samuel chapter 15 opens with Absalom hatching a plot against David. He stands by the gate of the city and implies to people that he would be a better judge than his father is, and people believe him. When did Absalom rebel against David? I think there are a couple things that could be said in response to this supposed contradiction. One is that when it says David reigned 40 years, it may mean that David reigned 40 years until Absalom took over, although I think that's unlikely. What is more likely is that "after forty years" is rather unclear. "After forty years" of what? After David had been king forty years? After Absalom stood at the gate for forty years? After Absalom was forty years old? I suggested the first was a possibility, but unlikely; the second one is extremely unlikely, although it's what it sounds like in context; the third is a real possibility, but once again, it's unclear. I think you can't base a contradiction on such a vague statement.(See the comments for possible explanation.)

So Absalom goes to Hebron with the excuse that he made a vow of some sort, and David lets him go. However, this is the time that Absalom sets his rebellion in motion, and David hears about it in time to flee Jerusalem. He brings most of his household except for notably a few concubines to look after the house. Also, after some distance, he sends back the Levites and the Ark. There's an exchange in which David is told that Ahithophel, one of David's counselors, is with Absalom, and David prays that God would turn his counsel into foolishness. At about this time, a man named Hushai shows up, and David tells him he can serve him better by staying behind and making trouble for Ahithophel, and communicating stealthily with David through the priests.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

And they made reconciliation (2Samuel 14)

2Samuel chapter 14 opens with an interesting story that's in many ways similar to the opening of chapter 12. Joab gets a woman to come to David and tell a made-up story of one of her sons murdering the other. She expresses that if the remaining son is put to death for his crime, her deceased husband will have no heirs. David assures the woman that he will protect her son. Then the woman asks why David hasn't given similar protection to Absolom. David realizes this is a setup. He calls Joab and has him retrieve Absolom to Jerusalem, but requests not to see Absalom in person.

Now there's some stuff about Absalom and how popular he is, partially because he's so handsome. There's a note about how Absolom has an immense amount of hair on his head, which ends up being significant later in the story. How many sons did Absalom have? It seems clear that Absalom had (at least) three sons, as stated here. What appears to be a contradiction with the chapter 18 passage has at least a couple of possibilities. One is that Absalom's children died at some point, maybe during the battle. Another one, and one I think more likely, is to note that the chapter 18 passage is clearly not in chronological order, as it comes after Absslom's death. Perhaps Absalom created the monument before he had any children.

The chapter ends with a strange story where Absalom has been living in Jerusalem for two years and still hasn't seen his father. He sends word to Joab twice to fix this, and when Joab doesn't answer, Absalom sends his servants to burn up Joab's barley. Joab finally comes, and Absalom insists that he wants to see David even if it means dying. Joab brings Absolom to David, Absalom bows before him, and David kisses him. Is everything okay now? We'll see.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

One daughter, whose name was Tamar (2Samuel 13)

2Samuel chapter 13 is a very sad chapter for many reasons. I know Greek has several words for "love" but I'm not sure where Hebrew stands. The word "love" is used several times here for the way Amnon felt towards Absalom's sister Tamar (who was his half sister, of course), but it's very clear that what's being talked about is lust. I've known men who have this sort of attitude towards women; they're crazy about them, until they actually get them in bed, and then they're suddenly trash. Of course anyone rational knows it's the man who is truly trash.

It's interesting that Tamar actually tries to reason with Amnon. She suggests that they should ask David for permission to marry. (I don't know whether it's reasonable to think David would approve, or if she's just looking for a way out.) Once Amnon has taken advantage of her, she pleads to not be sent away, because--just in case you didn't know--she's now no longer a virgin, and therefore essentially a ruined woman in her culture, and her only hope is that Amnon might marry her after the fact. But she is kicked out.

(The SAB makes a side note on her garment, comparing it to Joseph's coat of many colors. I didn't discuss it there, but yes, Joseph's coat was gender nonconforming, and it's not often talked about by Biblical scholars as far as I know. It is interesting speculation that perhaps Joseph was transgender in some fashion, and the issue is at least tangentially touched on in the Bible.)

Absalom finds his sister distraught, and takes her into his house, where she stays for the rest of her life. He doesn't really say much to comfort her, but he plots revenge on Amnon. David hears about what happened, and he's very angry, but it doesn't seem that he does anything about it. The SAB has a strange note for them, in that while they usually stick with the text of the KJV, here they take a detour into the NRSV, where there is added text about Amnon being David's favorite son. I looked and hardly any English translations have this text, although it apparently comes from the Septuagint (an early Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible). I'm not really sure why this apparently rare variant text is needed to supply us with something to complain about. The simple fact that David does nothing about Amnon seems enough of an injustice without a spurious reason why.

Anyway, after waiting two years, Absalom has Amnon killed. Absalom and his men flee from David, apparently assuming they will be in trouble. Someone tells David that Absalom has killed all his brothers, and David mourns. Someone else corrects the story and tells David that just Amnon is dead, and it's likely in retribution for Tamar's rape. Eventually, David is sad and misses Absalom. Nowhere in this story is it said what David, God, or Tamar thinks about Amnon's killing. However, Deuteronomy 22 in most cases sentences a rapist to death.

[Edited to add: The SAB says, "This chapter, which includes incest, rape, murder, should be rated NC-17." I agree, and I think the point being made is appropriate; that there are certain parts of the Bible that are not appropriate for children, and should be shocking to adults. A lot of Christians don't recognize this fact.]

How much then is a man better than a sheep? (2Samuel 12)

2Samuel chapter 12 is the fallout from David's actions in the previous chapter, and while I shared there someone's explanation of why David did nothing wrong, it's hard to reconcile with Nathan's statements in verse nine here. Anyway, Nathan comes to David with a story about sheep theft, and David is enraged by the story; then Nathan reveals that the story was a parable of what David himself had done. David realizes he royally messed up.

Is polygamy OK? Well, it's not a sin, but it's not ideal, and most of modern society frowns on it. I've often wondered, if a Muslim man with four wives converted to Christianity, would the church tell him he needed to divorce three of his wives? I wouldn't think it was necessary, but I wonder... Anyway, let me address the verses on that page. First of all, like so many things in the Bible, just because it's there doesn't mean God is okay with it. As noted, the Torah says that a king shouldn't have too many wives, and I think a lot of these kings were likely over that unspecified limit; certainly Solomon was. The story Jesus tells of the ten virgins is not about a man marrying ten women, but a man whose wedding has ten bridesmaids. Talking about Adam and Eve as a monogamous relationship is not inherently a condemnation of polygamy, and neither is any verse that speaks of a man and his wife. Oh, and as a final note on this subject, if you ever meet a polygamist, ask him how he would feel about one of his wives getting a second husband; I assure you from experience that the reaction will be comical.

Are we punished for the sins of others? I'm just going to answer this directly and then address individual verses. Yes, we are punished for the sins of others, not because God wants to punish us, but because sin tends to affect the people around the person committing the sin. If I sin as a parent, it affects my spouse and children, maybe even grandchildren and other relatives. This is just a natural consequence, and has nothing to do with justice. Now, the first thing I should address is this chapter, and the fact that God seems to be punishing David's child for David's sin. I'm going to have to say first of all that death isn't a punishment for a child, because they simply go to the afterlife, so the question remains of how much the child suffered from his sickness. I don't know how to answer that, but I think that it can be said that a parent greatly suffers when their child is sick, and it certainly may be that David's emotional anguish was the worst suffering that anyone felt at this time; the story certainly seems to support that it was extreme. I know that may ring hollow for many reading this story, but that's what I have.

As for the rest? I'm going to say that many if not all of the verses in which God says he will punish children for the sins of their parents, it's indicating what I said above. I don't know why God sets limits on bastard children and their descendants, but it's interesting to note that David is supposedly the tenth generation descendant of Judah and Tamar, who were not married. The verse in Isaiah is probably another instance of God wanting to wippe out a people group who were particularly steeped in sin to end the cycle of violence; and yes, I know violence to end violence is somewhat ironic, but it's not evident that the Babylonians were completely destroyed unlike some other people. The nature of the curse of Canaan is mysterious, and I pondered it at length in Genesis chapter nine and the comments, unfortunately without concrete conclusion. The curse on King Abimelech's family was temporary, and God told him how to end it if I recall correctly, so I don't think it's particularly serious. Coming back to David and the whole upcoming business with Absolom, I think it's possible once again that this is a partially natural consequence of what David did here; he killed someone and stole his wife, and then declared his new wife's son to be his heir, all the while Absolom was almost certainly alive and a witness to all of what unfolded in these two chapters. That certainly could have had a negative influence on Absolom. The famine which was a punishment for the slaughter of the Gibeonites is a mystery to me, and I admit I can't make sense of it, nor can I fully make sense of the justice required by the Gibeonites later in that story, which God seems to be okay with, since the story seems to say that God ended the famine as a result of it. The matter of David's census is a curious one, as God seems to make David do something and then punishes him for doing it. (Yes, 1Chronicles 21 says Satan tempted David, but this is not a contradiction in itself if you understand the Hebrew concept of Satan as a servant of God.) There may have been something else God was mad at David for, and God was testing David with the census idea. (As for why taking a census was bad, I've heard it explained that it showed a lack of faith, in that David doesn't trust God to provide strength for him in battle, but needs to figure out how many fighting men he has.) As for God punishing Solomon by taking away the kingdom under his son, I think that's a punishment for both. Also in the case of Ahab, giving punishment to his son Ahaziah is arguably a punishment for his own evil. The punishment of Gehazi's descendants is probably just a natural consequence of Gehazi having leprosy, but yeah, it's still iffy since arguably it didn't have to be that way. I think it can be argued that the punishment of Shemaiah's children can be chalked up to Shemaiah's influence.

It's actually really great that the SAB includes the Romans five passage on this page, because there is a real sense in which it belongs, and is the ultimate question in this category. Why does the entire human race get cursed for the sin of one man? Why does an innocent man have to be killed to fix that curse? And while the SAB doesn't bring it up specifically here, why does the fix in some ways seem to be almost a half measure, since people still die after Jesus's death? These are actually huge theological questions, and they have to do with our relationship with God. Somehow Adam broke the relationship between mankind and God in a way that was so profound, it essentially broke the world. Theologians argue that in some way, all the evil in the world traces back to the fall in the garden. I don't know that I'm really qualified to answer this question, but I started attempting a discussion back in Genesis chapter three.

Was Solomon David's second or fourth son by Bathsheba? Second; the fact that Solomon is listed fourth doesn't mean he was the fourth child. The SAB notes that the crown David takes would have been very heavy; it's worth noting that Biblical measures are often rounded, but it was probably pretty close to a talent if they called it that, so yeah. And the chapter ends with more cruelty against the Ammonites.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite (2Samuel 11)

2Samuel chapter 11 is a story that a lot of people know, and the objections to the content are pretty standard. King David is not at war while all his soldiers are, and hanging out in Jerusalem, he sees Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite, bathing. So he sends for her and has sex with her. However, as the timing was that she had just been purified from her period, she gets pregnant. David wants to cover up that he's responsible, so he sends for Uriah and tells him to go sleep with his wife. Uriah doesn't. So David has Uriah sent back to war with a letter to Joab essentially arranging for Uriah's death. Uriah dies, Bathsheba mourns, and David marries her. So, sex, violence, deception, and it's all a big mess, and David is pretty awful.


This is not my view on this chapter, but is a view shared with me by an Orthodox Rabbi. I put it out here to highlight the subjectivity of Biblical interpretation.

Uriah, living among Jews with a Jewish wife, would have adopted Jewish customs. You won't find it in the Bible, but a custom among Jews is, if you go to fight in a war, you divorce your wife, because she can't remarry without a bill of divorce or a dead body. In the unfortunate event that your body is lost, she'd be stuck married to you forever. So, Bathsheba being divorced means David is not technically committing adultery.

Why does David kill Uriah? Well, Uriah tips his hand by referring to Joab as, " lord Joab..." David knows Joab is fomenting a rebellion, and Uriah is part of it. So David has Uriah killed to get rid of a traitor, and send a message to Joab. So it's not technically murder.

Again, I don't agree with this view; I think it has problems, such as why is David trying to cover up what he did if he didn't do anything wrong? And why does God punish David in the next chapter, and why does he punish him in that particular manner? Still, I think it's food for thought, and I don't personally have any good responses to the SAB for this chapter.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

And David smote Hadarezer king of Zobah (2Samuel 10)

2Samuel chapter ten has a story that the SAB marks as absurd that I can see absurdity on multiple levels. David decides to send some emissaries to king Hanun because he apparently had a good relationship with his father. Hanun is told by his advisors that the men are spies, so he shaves half their beards and cuts off half of their clothes (although it's not really clear which half, probably the bottom). This of course sounds pretty absurd on the face of it, but there's something strange even if you understand that this was intended to embarrass the men. If Hanun really thought they were spies, why not kill them or imprison them rather than shame them? There's a lot of weird going on here.

So the Ammonites realize that David doesn't like them anymore, and they get some help from Syria to fight against the Israelites. It ends up being a very confusing battle, where the Israelite fighters show up, and the Syrians run away, so the Ammonites run away, too, and then somehow David comes face to face with the Syrians and they fight, with David being victorious.

How many men did David kill? You know, not only is this clearly an error, but the numbers in either case are pretty questionable. Didn't it say earlier in the chapter that there were 33,000 Syrians? Where did the extra ones come from? I guess they came with this guy Hadarezer in verse 16? Oh, Chronicles says Hadarezer is the king of Zoba, so who knows if these are new soldiers? I've got nothing here, honestly.

So, the battle ends, and Hadarezer's people serve Israel while the rest of the Syrians are too scared to fight anymore.

And his name was Mephibosheth (2Samuel 9)

2Samuel 9 is much easier than the last chapter. In fact, the SAB only really has one note, and it's absurdity, which I usually don't bother to address, since it's incredibly subjective.

David feels bad about the death of Saul and Jonathan, so he starts looking into whether Saul has any living descendants that he can show kindness to. He finds out Jonathan's son Mephibosheth is still alive, so he has him brought to him. When Mephibosheth arrives, he falls on his face, which is the "absurdity" the SAB notes. This is just Mephibosheth showing reverence to the king, not just because he's the king, but because he may be afraid of what David may do to him. David tells him not to be afraid, and informs him that he is going to see to it that he will give him everything that belonged to Saul, and furthermore, Mephibosheth is going to be a dinner guest of David forever.

See, David has a good side! (So much better than last chapter...)

Monday, August 14, 2023

Abiathar the son of Ahimelech (2Samuel 8)

So, back to 2Samuel chapter eight, which was clearly a trap because the SAB sees a lot of violence and injustice, which is hard to deny here. You do have to realize that Israel is at war with all these nations, and nobody has invented the Geneva Convention yet. It's ugly. David is killing two-thirds of the Moabites (it seems reasonable to assume these are POWs) and enslaving the other third; which is a better fate? Hopefully the slaves were treated well, but we can only guess. Why does David hough the chariot horses? I don't know, as it seems pointless and cruel, although a bit of research suggests this doesn't kill the horse, but makes it unsuitable for war use. How many horsemen did David take? This may be a scribal error, or perhaps the writer of Chronicles felt that since there were thousands of footmen, there ought more likely have been thousands of horsemen; who knows?

Yes, God is giving David all of these violent victories, but in the end, it's about preserving Israel against violent enemies who probably would have done the same or worse to them. I don't know that there is anything else I can say about it.

Was Abiathar the father or the son of Ahimelech? I did some research, and there are actually two different Ahimelechs in the Bible, but this doesn't clear up the problem as Ahimelech the Hittite doesn't have a genealogy given, and is clearly nothing to do with this. It seems pretty evident that Ahimelech is the father of Abiathar, and this verse is in error; perhaps the verse in 1Chronicles 24 copied the error, as it was written later. However, the verse 1Chronicles 18:16 says, "Abimelech the son of Abiathar" which may not be a scribal error; Ahimelech may have had a grandson named Abimelech. In the Hebrew alphabet h and b don't look as much like each other as they do in the Latin alphabet.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Blessed is he that readeth (post-John intermission)

So it took me eleven weeks to get through John, and I'm not sure where to go next. While Acts seems pretty obvious, there is also the fact that I never finished 2Samuel way back when I was in the Old Testament. (I also never got past Exodus 21 or so in the books of Moses, which I should some day bite the bullet and just go through it all.)

I don't know if anyone is reading this in real time as I post, but if you are, suggestions of where to go next would be welcomed. Actually, even if you're reading this somehow long after I posted it, I'd still welcome suggestions as to what scripture would be most interesting to cover. I'm probably going to continue to skip around.

They inclosed a great multitude of fishes (John 21)

So, as promised, a post on John chapter 21, even though like the first part of John eight, it's probably not part of the original. However, once again, there's a lot of interesting stuff to unpack here.

So the story tells us up front that this is another post-resurrection appearance of Jesus, this time by the sea of Tiberias/Galilee. Peter decides he's going fishing; apparently after everything that's happened, he's not sure what to do next, so he figures he's going back to his old job, I guess. A bunch of the other Apostles go with him. They go fishing at night, but catch nothing. A man appears on the shore and asks them if they have anything to eat; it's Jesus, but they don't recognize him.

I have a personal theory about this repeated business of Jesus not being initially recognized by people in post-resurrection appearances. I don't remember if I came up with this myself or if I heard it from someone else. One of the things we hear about Jesus post-resurrection, is that he still has the scars of his torture on his body. I already talked briefly about what that might imply in John 19, but there's another detail not mentioned there, or even in the New Testament in general. It's a bit of a reach, admittedly, but some people see Isaiah 50:6 as a prophecy of Jesus's torture before his crucifixion, and it reads, "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting." If, in addition to the trauma actually described in the gospels, Jesus's beard was plucked out, he would have a scarred and hairless face on top of everything else. This would certainly make him hard to recognize for anyone used to seeing him with a beard. It's hard to say, though; one of the interesting things about Jesus in the Bible is there is absolutely no physical description of him anywhere at all (unless you count Revelation chapter one, which is probably not what Jesus usually looked like).

Anyway, when they tell Jesus they have no fish, he tells them to cast the net on the right side of the boat, which they do, and subsequently catch so many fish they can't lift the net back in the boat, a call back to the story from Luke chapter five. I've sometimes wondered if this story was meant to be an allegory to the idea of the Gospel going from the Jews to the gentiles, but that's pure speculation. John realizes that the man is Jesus, and says so. Peter, who for some reason was fishing at night naked, puts on his clothes and jumps in the water to swim to shore. The others drag the net to the shore where Jesus is apparently making breakfast for them. The story specifies that they caught 153 fish, which is interesting because it's not a number that has significance, nor is it rounded. It seems that whoever wrote this wanted to show that there was a lot of fish, and that they weren't being hyperbolic about it.

Verses 15-17 are very interesting, but something is lost in translation. As the SAB notes, it sounds like Jesus is asking the same question three times, but it's a shortcoming of the English language, that doesn't have as many words for "love" as Greek. It's been said by many that since Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus asks Peter three times to restore him, which may be true. But the real significance is in the specific words used in the Greek. It's sort of like this:
Jesus: Do you love me more than anyone?

Peter: You know I like you.

J: Do you love me?

P: You know I like you.

J: Do you like me?

P: [grieved to notice the change of verbs] You know all things; you know I like you.
Note once again that just because Jesus is asking a question, it doesn't mean he didn't know the answer; he's trying to draw something out of Peter here, and perhaps teach Peter something.

Jesus says some cryptic things to Peter that apparently are prophetic of the way Peter would die. History says that Peter was crucified, however he requested to be crucified upside down because he wasn't worthy of dying the same death as Jesus. Because of this, an upside-down cross is sometimes considered a symbol of the Apostle Peter. Peter asks about John, and Jesus says, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" Which some people, including apparently the SAB, take to mean that John would live until the second coming, but I think Jesus is just saying, "that's none of your business." (Verse 23 seems to be confirming this.) Nonetheless, John did see the second coming in a vision in writing the book of Revelation.

The chapter and the book end with the claim that all the things that Jesus did probably couldn't be contained in all the books of the world. If we're talking about what Jesus did in his thirty-odd years on earth alone, this is clearly hyperbole. As for the SAB's question of Does the gospel of Luke contain everything that Jesus did? I think the SAB is taking the word "all" in Acts 1:1 too literally. I'm pretty sure Luke just meant "all the things that I thought were important enough to include..."

Saturday, August 12, 2023

He appeared first to Mary Magdalene (John 20)

John chapter 20 picks up the story on the following Sunday. There are definitely a lot of aspects of the story of Jesus's resurrection that are hard to follow among the four gospels, but at some point in the past, I made this rather difficult to read page about it: Resurrection harmony. As I allude to there, I believe that Mary Magdalene was the first of several women to arrive, perhaps even alone. So, let's knock out some supposed contradictions...

When did the women (or woman) arrive at the sepulchre? Mary Magdalene arrived before sunrise; some other women arrived shortly after. How many women came to the sepulchre? At least five, and I believe they came in at least two separate groups. The fact that some of the gospels fail to mention every single woman who came doesn't mean they weren't there. Was the tomb open or closed when the women arrived? It was open. The original Greek in Matthew supports the possible translation "had opened" suggesting he didn't put these verses in strict chronological order. When did the women discover that Jesus's body was missing? The answer is before talking to the angel(s). It doesn't seem like Mary Magdalene talked to an angel at all, actually. Matthew once again is missing some details as to chronological order, as he never mentions the women checking out the tomb. In Mark, they are already in the tomb, so they likely saw the body was missing before the angel actually spoke. Well, that's verse one, let's see what the rest of the chapter has for us.

Did Jesus forewarn the apostles of his death and resurrection? Yes, he did, but they were still confused and a bit hesitant to believe, even after all they had seen Jesus do. Oh, and just a side note about verse eight, I always wonder what exactly it is that John "believed" if the very next verse says they didn't understand the resurrection yet.

Were the men or angels inside or outside the tomb when the when the women arrived? I'm sticking to the idea that the angel rolled away the stone before anyone got to the tomb, so Matthew is once again talking about something that happened when only the soldiers were present. Whom did the women see at the tomb? Yes, there's a contradiction here, but not necessarily as convoluted as the SAB implies. Once again, the verse from Matthew is talking about an event that happened before the women arrived. As for the rest of it, there seems to be some confusion about whether there were two or one, but whether it was angels or men, I think we're dealing with angels that happen to look like men, so they are described variously. Most likely the correct answer is two angels, one of whom spoke. Were the men or angels inside the tomb sitting or standing? Really? They probably changed position at some point.

To whom did Jesus make his first post-resurrection appearance? Definitely Mary Magdalene; none of the other verses besides the one in Mark mention chronological order. Did Mary Magdalene recognize Jesus when he first appeared to her? No, not immediately. The event in Matthew happened later, and it's not particularly clear whether Mary Magdalene was even there. The story in Luke is a second-hand account that is unclear as to when it was heard about or what details were heard. Was Mary Magdalene happy or sad when she saw the risen Jesus? Sad. Once again, these are two separate events. Was it okay to touch the risen Jesus? Apparently it was. The explanation I have been told about this admonition Jesus gives Mary Magdalene is that she probably wasn't just touching him but clinging to him tightly and Jesus was trying to tell her she couldn't keep him. I'm not sure, but other translations do say, "Do not hold on to me..." I already answered the question of who God's children are and if Jesus is God in John chapter one. Did Jesus go to heaven after he died but before his ascension? Yes, this is an apparent contradiction, and one that I noticed myself. I am of the opinion that in the time between Jesus's death and resurrection, he was in Hell, but of course it may be that he went to Hell, set people there loose, and took them to Heaven. I think the thing you can definitely say is that Jesus has not ascended to Heaven for the final time, which would happen in about forty days.

Where did Jesus first appear to the eleven disciples after the resurrection? There is no contradiction here. Once again there is a time issue with Matthew: nowhere in the Matthew passage does it say that was Jesus's first appearance. Were the disciples frightened or glad when they saw Jesus? Frightened initially, but once Jesus reassured them, they were glad. So both. I already answered when the Holy Ghost was given in John chapter seven, but verse 23 is an interesting one, because it sounds like Jesus is giving them the Holy Ghost right now rather than at Pentecost. A bit strange. How many disciples did Jesus appear to in his first post resurrection appearance? I know I addressed this some time previously, but because there were originally twelve Apostles, they are sometimes referred to as "the twelve" even after Judas was gone, and since Judas was gone, sometimes referred to as "the eleven". It's imprecise because they're not always together, and eventually there are more people referred to as "Apostles" (including Junia, a woman, if I am remembering correctly), but this convention is there anyway. The correct answer is ten Apostles, but there may actually have been other, lesser disciples present as well.

When did Jesus ascend into Heaven? The correct answer is 40 days after his resurrection. The verses given in the "on the day" section are not specific about how much time had passed. The other verses do not contradict 40 days. Should we believe in unseen things? Sometimes. The SAB says the second half of verse 29 is equivalent to "Blessed are they that believe stupid things without (or even contrary to) evidence." This is not what it means at all. There are more kinds of evidence than seeing something, a lot more. Right now, I can't see the chair I am sitting on, but I believe it exists, and I believe it will continue to support my weight without collapse. I have never seen Jesus with my eyes, but I have read about him in the Bible, and I have researched the evidence for the accuracy of the Bible to the original manuscripts, and I have witnessed things that make me think the God of the Bible is real. That's enough evidence for me to believe, it certainly is not enough for some people. Note that the Bible never condemns Thomas for doubting; it's not a sin to want more evidence. I already answered whether Jesus performed many signs in John chapter three.

As the SAB notes, this chapter ends in a way that sound like the end of the book, and it's likely chapter 21 is a later addition, but I will do a post on it, of course.

Saturday, August 05, 2023

And they crucified him (John 19)

John chapter 19 opens with Jesus being scourged. The SAB says Jesus gets "whipped", but no, scourged isn't just the archaic term for whipped; it means something quite different. A whip is a thin strip of leather that mostly leaves burn marks on the back. A scourge is a thick strip of leather embedded with things like sharp rocks, pieces of broken glass, and metal spikes that would tear open the back. I've always thought it was strange that when people talk about Jesus's wounds, they tend to mention the four nail holes and spear hole in his side, but forget his back was most likely shredded. It's morbid, but I think it's important to understand fully the extent of the torture Jesus went through in his final hours.

Who put the robe on Jesus? and What color was Jesus's robe? All four gospels mention the robe, but apparently the details vary. On a technicality, it's likely that in Luke's telling of the story, when it says Herod did it, it's really probably meaning Herod supplied the robe and soldiers (probably Romans) actually put it on, but as I said in the last chapter, it's still very strange that only Luke mentions the visit to Herod. The robe was probably purple, as that would have been a royal color, but I have no idea why Matthew says scarlet.

So then there is some back and forth between Pilate and the Sanhedrin, wherein Pilate keeps saying he doesn't understand what Jesus is guilty of, and finally, the Jews tell him that Jesus claimed to be the son of God, which is blasphemy. Pilate goes back to Jesus and asks him why he's not defending himself, as Pilate definitely has the authority to put him to death. Jesus says Pilate's authority comes from God, and therefore those who betrayed him have a greater sin. Pilate presents Jesus as the king, but the Jews say, "We have no king but Ceasar!" So finally, Pilate has him taken away to be crucified.

When (at what time of day) was Jesus crucified? This is a weird one that I don't personally know the answer to, but what I have heard it said about this discrepancy is that there are actually two different methods of measuring time, the Jewish one and the Roman one. Supposedly Mark is using the Roman method while the other gospels use the Jewish method. I already answered what day Jesus was crucified in the last chapter.

Who carried Jesus's cross? Yes, there's a detail of the crucifixion that John fails to mention: the role of Simon the Cyrenian. There is no contradiction here; Jesus carried his cross part of the way, but after being scourged, he didn't have the strength to make it all the way, so the Romans grabbed a random guy from the crowd and made him help. I find it interesting that this is one of a few places in the Bible with what I suppose you'd call representation; Jesus was a Semite, Simon was a Hamite, and the Roman soldier with them would have been a Japhethite. What did the sign over Jesus's head say? Yes, all four of the gospels have a different sign, but they are very close. There is an interesting significance to the sign here in John, however. John says the sign was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin; in Hebrew, "JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS" would be four words, with the initial letters spelling "יהוה" which in the Hebrew Bible is the name of God. The chief priests in verse 21 are not just upset because they don't recognize Jesus as king, but because the sign is accidentally blasphemous.

Where did the women watching the crucifixion stand? I think this supposed contradiction is taking the words too literally. When the OT gospels say "afar off", I don't think it means they are very far away, as obviously they are within view of the cross. Furthermore, it may be that there were more women than the ones John specifies, and those specific four were close enough to the cross to talk to Jesus; certainly his mother was. I briefly discussed the idea of Jesus being gay in chapter 13.

What did the soldiers give Jesus to drink? and Did Jesus drink on the cross? Notice that Mark says two different drinks at two different times, and Jesus refuses the first, and the first was wine, which Jesus said he wouldn't drink again in this world at the last supper. Furthermore, while John says Jesus "received" the vinegar, it doesn't technically say he drank it; he may have simply tasted it. So, in summary, I would say Jesus was given both wine and vinegar, it's unclear what the makeup of the vinegar was, and while Jesus definitely did not drink the wine, he may have had a small sip of the vinegar.

What were the last words of Jesus? Yeah, everyone who has read the gospels knows this is an unclear point. I think it can be reasonably resolved, however. The witnesses of the crucifixion were standing in different places, so it makes sense that they heard different things. Note that Matthew says that Jesus cried out again, so he is not claiming that the quote he gave was Jesus's last saying; I would assume when he cried out, he said what Luke quotes. I would assume that John's "It is finished." was the actual last saying, but since it was quiet, only the people standing at the foot of the cross heard it.

Verse 36 says it's a fulfillment of scripture that none of Jesus's bones were broken. As I mentioned previously, Jesus is serving as the ultimate Passover lamb, and scripture says in Exodus 12:46 of the Passover lamb, "...neither shall ye break a bone thereof." The SAB argues that this is not a prophecy, but I think it's a matter of opinion, and Christians disagree.

The chapter ends up with Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, two members of the Sanhedrin who were secretly disciples of Jesus, preparing Jesus's body for burial and putting it in a nearby sepulcher.