Saturday, 10 May 2014

Smorgasbord morality

Christians on internet fora will often make a big deal about Christian morality, which is odd, when Christian morality is such a vague thing. Christian morality is a Smörgåsbord morality (apologies to any Swedish-speakers; this blog software does not seem to allow accented characters in titles) , it picks what it wants from the Bible, and ignores what is inconvenient.

Taken from the Bible


Okay, Christian morality says murder and stealing are wrong, but cultures have been saying that for thousands of years; there is nothing unique to Christianity there, and it is no surprise that Christians want these laws in place.

Taken despite the Bible

Christian morality says that child rape and slavery is wrong, but these are not prohibited in the Bible. Our society has decided that things things are wrong (in the case of slavery, despite what it says in the Bible), and Christianity has adopted them.

Ignored despite the Bible

There are a lot of rules in the Bible that Christians just ignore. The eating of shellfish is abominable to God, but that does not stop Christians eating prawns and lobsters. Wearing garments made of two different types of threads is prohibited, but how many Christians even know that?

Many Christians claim these do not apply, because Jesus fulfilled the law, but that is just a corruption of what Jesus meant. Others claim that those laws were only given to the Jews. But they are throwing the baby out with the bath water! If rules about eating shellfish apply only to Jews, so do the Ten Commandments - clearly also God's instructions to his chosen people.

It is interesting at this point to read Matthew 19. This can certainly be understood to be Jesus giving commands to everyone, not just Jews, as he is taking about how a person can get to heaven (though an argument can still be made he was only considering Jews).

17 And He said unto him, “Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but One, that is, God. But if thou wilt enter into Life, keep the commandments.”
18 He said unto Him, “Which?” Jesus said, “‘Thou shalt do no murder; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness;
19 honor thy father and thy mother; and, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’”
All well and good, and a great basis for Christian morality. Jesus, however, goes on:
20 The young man said unto Him, “All these things have I kept from my youth up. What lack I yet?”
21 Jesus said unto him, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come and follow Me.”
Christians are strangely unwilling to adhere to this part.

So Christian morality is a Smörgåsbord morality. They take what they want from the Bible, and ignore the parts that are inconvenient, and in the end they have a capitalism morality, not a religious morality at all.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Jesus Fulfilled The Law?

Matthew 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
What does this mean? Jesus is going to fulfil the law? Most Christians claim that this means that they are free to break the numerous commands on the Old Testament, such as eating shellfish. But Jesus is quite clear that he is not abolishing the law.

The Law and the Prophets

He also says he has not come to abolish the prophets. But the prophets were all dead by this time, what did he mean? Jesus is refering to part of the Hebrew Bible, the Nevi'im, consisting of the writings of the nineteen prophets. The "Prophets" is the second part of the Hebrew Bible. The first part, the Five Books of Moses, contains Gods commands to his people, his laws. This is what Jesus means when he says the Law. He is not talking about abolishing the rules, he is talking about get rid of the books of the Old Testament.

This, then, is what Jesus was saying:
Matthew 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to replace the books of the Old Testament; I have not come to replace them but to fulfill them.
18 "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the books of the Old Testament until all is accomplished.
Here is how Luke has it, for reference:
Luke 16:16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John. Since that time the Kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. 17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than one tittle of the law to fail.
Again, the Law and the Prophets are linked together - because the phrase refers to the Hebrew Bible. In fact, what Jesus was saying was not that the rules would never change, but that the sentiments and importance of the Old Testament would never change (though that does include the rules).

Here is more:
Matthew 22:36 “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said unto him, “‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
How could the prophets themselves hang from two laws? What Jesus is saying is that the books of the Old Testament are founded on these two principles.

And here:
Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

See also:
http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pd...9-4_harris.pdf

Jesus and the Pharisees

Jesus' argument with the Pharisees was that they bent the laws of the Old Testament for their own purposes. Jesus was not arguing against the law, but about the Pharisees' interpretation of it.

Read Matthew 5. After saying how he has not come to change the wisdom of the Old Testament, Jesus goes on to explain what people should understand the commandments to mean.

For example:
Matthew 5:27 “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
Jesus is not saying the commandment against adultery has been nullified by his coming. Far from it! Instead, he is explaining what the law really means.

What did the apostles think?

A lot of Acts is about the argument as to whether gentiles should be circumcised. Why would the disciples think circumcision was necessary if they had heard Jesus state that his coming had nullified the requirement for circumcision? The simple truth is that Jesus never said that!

Of course, you may counter - why then did Paul claim the gentiles should not be circumcised? The stark reason is that he knew his mission to the gentiles would fail if that requirement was laid upon them. He had a political reason for saying the law did not apply (there is also evidence, such as
Acts 21:26 that Paul still observed the law, but again this could be political expediency).

Christianity and God's Laws

The situation today is that most Christians do not follow many of the laws of the Bible, using the excuse that they do not apply because Jesus "fulfilled" the law. This is nonsense! It is based on a corrupted reading of what Jesus actually said.


Addendum (October 2016)  -Meaning of "fulfilled" in Matthew

The Greek word used is πληρῶσαι:
http://biblehub.com/greek/4137.htm

Matthew uses it several times, and mostly in reference to a prophet, or to prophets in scriptures:

Matthew 1:22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

Matthew 2:15 He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON."

Matthew 2:17 Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:

Matthew 2:23 and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: "He shall be called a Nazarene."

Matthew 4:14 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

Matthew 5:17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

Matthew 8:17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: "HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES."

Matthew 12:17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

Matthew 13:35 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: "I WILL OPEN MY MOUTH IN PARABLES; I WILL UTTER THINGS HIDDEN SINCE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD."

Matthew 21:4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

Matthew 26:54 "How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?"

Matthew 26:56 "But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets." Then all the disciples left Him and fled.

Matthew 27:9 Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: "AND THEY TOOK THE THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER, THE PRICE OF THE ONE WHOSE PRICE HAD BEEN SET by the sons of Israel;

Matthew 27:35 And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.

Note: generally I have used the NASB, but for the last one I used the KJV, as the NASB skips the bit about something being fulfilled.

So there are fourteen example of Matthew using the word in relation to a prophet or prophets or scripture. Pretty clearly he uses the word "fulfilled" to indicate a prophecy has come to pass. Are there other examples? There are three:

Matthew 3:15 But Jesus answering said to him, "Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he permitted Him.

I understand this as fulfilling an expectation, just as before. The prophets had expectations, or prophecies, which Matthew said were fulfilled. Here the expectation is not a prophet as such but is a specific event that is expected to occur, and Jesus is telling John the Baptist that they should fulfill that expectation.

Matthew 23:32 "Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers.

Again NASB seems to let us down here; there is no direct mention of guilt in the Greek. Other translations go with "complete what your ancestors started" or "fulfill the standard of your forefathers".

Matthew 13:48 and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away.

In this verse the word indicates the nets were full of fish. The word is used in Luke to mean filling a valley and John to say a house was full of fragrance, so it probably just means full here too.

So it seems the Greeks used the same word for filling a jug as they did for fulfilling a prophecy, and in fact this was true in English; fulfill originally meant to make full.
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=fulfill

So now let us go back to this one, which is the verse I was discussing before:

Matthew 5:17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

What does "fulfill" mean here? Given how Matthew uses the word elsewhere, either to fill up, as with a jug, or to "to carry out, or bring to realization, as a prophecy or promise" (here). From the context, I think we can reject the former - there is no container present. Are there prophecies present? Yes, there are. The Law and the Prophets refers to sections of the Hebrew Bible (see here), and of course Matthew believed the Hebrew Bible was full of prophecies of Jesus.

Consider this verse in Luke:

Luke 24:44 Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Here Jesus is being very specific that it is the prophecies written in the Law and in the Prophets that are being fulfuilled. Also here:

Luke 16:16 “Until John the Baptist, the law of Moses and the messages of the prophets were your guides. But now the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is eager to get in.[d] 17 But that doesn’t mean that the law has lost its force. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the smallest point of God’s law to be overturned.

Again, "the law of Moses and the messages of the prophets" refers to scripture, and as in the verse in Matthew, Jesus again makes it clear that what is written in that scripture is just as important.