“What is love?” asked the older Sunday school student.
The professor replied, “Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me no more.”
Alas, the student did not get the joke. The professor tried to turn the tables with another song lyric: “I want to know what love is. I want you to show me.”
Being the Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature the professor ceased playing with rock song lyrics and required the answer to come from 1 Corinthians 13. This segued into what was sometimes a mantic or divinatory reading of the passage. Thus to render this ancient passage relevant to modern and personal interests there were times when they interpreted it the way ancient priests read meaning from the entrails of a sacrificed sheep or the way astrologers have always interpreted the heavenly lights. Apply the rule that scripture is a self-explaining system and see what meanings emerge when the word “love” is treated as a cipher for God, or for oneself. (The semantic game itself is flawed, however, because 1 Corinthians does not “define” the word for “love” per se; rather, it offers a series of things love “does” or how it is expressed.)
A more reliable way to understand what the Bible means by “love” is to take Professor Hector Avalos‘s approach in the opening chapter of The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics and examine the way the word is used in the biblical literature as well as in the literature of the wider cultural context (Near Eastern, Greco-Roman) of those scriptural texts.
Though Avalos’s focus is on the figure of Jesus his discussion embraces the wider context of the cultural and literary heritage as it comes together in the words attributed to Christianity’s beloved Son of God. Avalos expresses some dismay that so many biblical scholars (and not only Christian ones) routinely attribute to Jesus an ethic of love that was astonishingly advanced for his day. If these scholars were as well informed about the wider world of ideas from which the Bible emerged as they are about the Bible itself they could scarcely make such claims, Avalos argues.
Take Jesus’ teaching to love one’s neighbour as oneself. Many of us know that this is not really original but is really a citation of Leviticus 19:18. Jesus was quoting the Old Testament. Avalos reminds readers that “your neighbour” in the Leviticus passage
is actually best understood as ‘your fellow Israelite’.
For the details he refers to Harry Orlinsky’s essay, “Nationalism-Universalism and Internationalism in Ancient Israel” in Translating and Understanding the Old Testament; Essays in Honor of Herbert Gordon May (1970), and to John Meier’s fourth volume in his Marginal Jew series, Law and Love (2009).
Indeed, Lev. 19:18 does not obligate universal love, but, in fact, is premised on privileging love for fellow Israelites over love for non-Israelites. (p. 33)
Attempts to reinterpret the passage to make it conform to ideals of universal brotherhood are without “sound linguistic parallels” and “supporting documentation” — and are entirely speculative.
Not that the ancient world was bereft of the concept of “unconditional universal humanity”. The moral teaching of early Christianity was “conditioned by adherence to a particular religion.” To find “modern” ideas of the universality of human kinship one must turn to the predominant philosophy in the Roman world, Stoicism. (The link is to Wikipedia’s notes on the social philosophy of Stoicism.) Avalos cites various scholars including the following (although I have quoted my own selections from them):
In short, Stoic theory is decidedly universalistic in its scope and makes no ethical differentiation between particular groups of people. (Runar M. Thorsteinsson, Roman Christianity and Roman Stoicism: A Comparative Study of Ancient Morality, p. 192)
Thorsteinsson certainly grants that various moral teachings in the New Testament epistles enjoin a peaceful disposition towards society at large,
However, a closer examination of the texts shows . . . there is a fundamental division between those within and those outside the Christ-believing community. (p. 205. The reference here is specifically to 1 Peter and the epistle of Romans.)
Love for enemies — it’s so BC
The most radical aspect of Jesus’ teaching is supposedly his instruction to love one’s enemies. But compare the explicit teaching of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus . . .
Epictetus . . . calls for a sort of “love of enemies”: the sage (i.e., the ideal philosopher and human being) “must needs be flogged like an ass, and while he is being flogged he must love [φιλεῖν] the men who flog him, as though he were the father or brother of them all.”
(2010-11-01). Stoicism in Early Christianity (Kindle Locations 875-877). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Not that the Stoics were the first to conceive of the idea, either.
Avalos takes us farther yet, however. The concept of loving enemies is found in Near Eastern and other texts long before the Roman era. In the Akkadian Counsels of Wisdom we find
Requite with kindness your evil doer. Maintain justice to your enemy. Smile on your adversary.
Avalos further cites similar a passage in ancient Egyptian wisdom literature, and finds the comparable ethic expounded at length by the Jewish philosopher Philo. In fact, Philo extrapolates a “wider human kinship” from passages in the Pentateuch that require kindness towards animals owned by enemies. This gives the lie to those who have tried to make Jesus’ teachings unique by insisting that the Old Testament was not so understood by Jewish interpreters of the day.
Avalos’s chapter enriches the catalogue of evidence for the ethical ideal of loving enemies with passages from the Dead Sea Scrolls (1QS 10:17-18) and a first century BCE historical narrative by Diodorus Siculus (Historia, 13:21-24). In the latter a counselor argues (although in vain) for his colleagues to choose to treat their enemy prisoners with kindness and so be highly renowned for their ability to practice the highest ideals of humanity.
A knowledge of the literature and ideas current throughout the ancient world is unfortunately lacking among many biblical scholars and this allows them to erroneously impute revolutionary (“astonishing”, “radically new”) ideas to Jesus. Avalos supports this point by pointing to the evidence that should not be new to scholars of the ancient world at all.
I’ll complete this in the next post where I’ll comment on other aspects of “the love of Jesus”. After making the point that Jesus’ highest ethical ideals were definitely not revolutionary innovations he shows how other ethical commands fell far short of being high ideals. The core concept actually has some very unsavory aspects.
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53 thoughts on “What Did Love Mean to Jesus? Pt 1 (Hector Avalos’s The Bad Jesus)”
I think that the ancient use of the word “love” is often used in this vein…
“Now when their father Hyrcanus was dead, the eldest son Aristobulus, intending to change the government into a kingdom…first put a diadem on his head, four hundred and eighty-one years and three months after the people had been delivered from the Babylonian slavery…This Aristobulus loved his next brother Antigonus, and treated him as his equal…” Antiquities of the Jews XIII.Xi.1
Political allies were loved…others were starved to death in prison, like Aristobulus did to his own mother.
I have addressed this kind of “love” (political contexts) in my newest post. In that post I cited an article by Susan Ackerman but the same article has more to say that may be of more direct relevance to your interesting point from Josephus:
I think that although there are many permutations and combinations of Christian love, the ideal type of love is to love in a self-sacrificing way, the way God loved the world: “16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:16-17).” Paul makes the same point when he writes: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things (Romans 8:32).”
Read a bit further in John 3, “He who does not believe is condemned already.” Sounds more like spousal abuse. If you don’t believe such and such about Jesus, to hell with you. Thanks God for all those forgiving options.
Besides which, can an infinite Being suffer? If God is by definition a perfect Being, then there is no suffering in God at all. And since Jesus was resurrected, his suffering was more like a hazing.
But worst of all is the intolerance in the Gospel. People imagine it’s about love, but it’s about apocalyptic fears and trying to act your best before the final judgment. It’s also about joining a cult and everyone who doesn’t leap immediately on the bandwagon is damned forever. You think the “least of these” in Matthew are everyone? No, they are missionaries. And Matthew is saying everyone needs to help Christian missionaries, or be damned. Statements in Matthew are about what the world owes the church and how harshly people will be judged for not treating Jesus’ missionaries well: http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/01/heavenly-extortion-according-to-author.html
By the time the Gospel of John was written, all mention of loving one’s neighbor or enemy is gone, and the message is about Christians loving each other in unity as a witness to the damned world, and if you don’t leap on the bandwagon and believe the right things about Jesus you are “damned already”–the Gospel of John consists of “anti-language” say social science investigations of its content. It is not a Gospel that even mentions the necessity of loving one’s neighbor/enemies. Instead it’s about indoctrination, or in the idiom of cults, “love bombing,” and maintaining in-group thinking: http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-gospel-of-john-consists-of-anti.html
The marvel is that Christians who read the Bible often misinterpret the “least of these” and the “loved the world” passages and make something better and more inclusive out of them than their original authors did! Which makes me suspect there is something better in humanity than there is in the Bible. The best theology is no theology, it’s simply to love.
The “least of these” are Christians faced with neglect or persecution, and those who ill-treat them are threatened with eternal torture!
Why should self-sacrifice be “ideal”?
What is so exemplary about a father sacrificing his own son to torture and death? Even with the prior knowledge of survival, recovery, physical transformation and heavenly elevation?
What is the significance of a “divine death” on a cross without the notion of original sin – Calvary as a 4000 years-later answer to Eden?
Or even then?
I do not see as irrational, or immoral, kindness towards family and friends, or voluntary charity towards the unfortunate, or a helping hand for others, but personal self-destruction to promote the “self interests” of others does seem abhorrent, and not less so if they are unknown and remote.
At best, self-destruction could be justified only on the unfathomable orders of a Creator already predefined as Infinitely Good, and that would depend in turn on (i) the demonstrable existence of such an entity, and (ii) the demonstrable authenticity of such orders.
Furthermore, to “hate” my family but “love” my enemies may be the advice of a crazed ascetic in first-century Galilee, but not a practicable or desirable rule for me.
Now my hands are fully restored for access to my computer and home library, may I develop these points separately in comment on Tim Widowfield’s reference to Christian ethics, with another apology – for his name being misheard and misspelled by my bedside amanuensis? The hospital staff no doubt had personal and professional satisfaction from such assistance, in addition to (poor) payment, but they did not sacrifice themselves in the process.
Self sacrifice has as its essence: “thinking of others before thinking of yourself.”
Paul says love “does not seek its own (1 Corinthians 13:5).”
Paul was a fanatic through and through, and every flower-selling Moonie on the street corner, every Hare Krishna at the airport spouts “love” and “selfless devotion” to the CULT. Here is more than enough proof, from Paul himself: http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-apostle-paul-fanaticus-extremus-all_11.html
Here is an interesting account of the character traits of Paul: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1385-some-character-traits-of-paul-the-apostle . I would call Paul passionate, not fanatic.
When someone give up a kidney that is thinking of others. When someone give up an eye to save someone that is thinking of others. What is great about a God who self abuses himself for a few hours and then rewards himself with eternal life even though he has immortal life? Selfish evil God puts his suffering on the cross before the suffering of those who he gave the stain of original sin? Your God on the cross says, “accept my weekend self abuse/suffering of else…” God created original sin and when he was a baby he made sure he doesn’t stain himself with it. Is this thinking of others or selfish? God rewards himself after a few hours of divinely abusing himself , this is not about putting others first this is about God abusing himself to cool off because he created original sin.
The Cross: I think the idea is that just as God gave the best part of Himself for humanity, so too should we give the best parts of ourselves to benefit humanity. We should act toward others out of a spirit of compassion, good will, and charity.
Christianity can be portrayed as a god feeling guilty for having created such an easily corruptible and promptly corrupted world and having not done anything about it (aside from overreact with worldwide genocide). And rather than actually putting the world back together, is just looking to feel better for being such a dead beat deity, and so decides to punish himself. But being so vain, he can’t admit to himself that that’s really what he’s doing, and so has to pretend like he’s doing it for everyone else. Then, once he gets over his guilt, he goes on to neglecting the world again for 2,000 years and counting. Every year (like a human trying to get on that diet) he tells himself he’ll get around to fixing the world he left to disaster, but just sort of keeps letting it go.
You make your god sound like a cow which has good meat parts and not so good meat parts. Your God has bad meat part too? Can you explain how a diety which has no flesh has parts? To who did God give his flesh too? To his divine violence?
Paul was passionate, cute. Just like Reverend Moon and Joseph Smith, and any number of politicans whose views probably both of us abhor. People do love passion though. Just read some Eric Hoffer to find out more about how and why people become true believers, and what kinds of passionate leaders they are attracted to.
Apparently you didn’t read my quotations demonstrating Paul to be a false prophet mixing fear-based wrath and heavenly promises, and so proud of his own sacrifices he couldn’t wait for the world to end. Go ahead read my two pieces on Paul. And while you are at it consider this for “love,” God as a parent sucks by any commonsense standards or morality and rationality. He’s all over the place with his commands, and keeps killing his own children. An infinite Being with nearly infinite access to all manner of knowledge of what motivates and moves people and the ability to influence people, but the devil is winning more souls than God. Huh? At least admit that universalist Christianity makes the most rational and heartfelt sense.
7 Parenting Tips for God
I like universalism. Luke 3:6 says “all flesh shall see the salvation of God”
I’m not sure why you think Paul is a fanatic just because there is apocalyptic elements in his writing. The New Testament conception of the end times drew primarily on a movement within Jewish thought known as apocalypticism. This movement refined and re-thought earlier ideas about what would happen at the end of history. Jewish writings with apocalyptic contents composed in the centuries immediately before and after the time of Jesus include 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch, the Book of Jubilees, the Psalms of Solomon, the Apocalypse of Abraham and the Apocalypse of Zephaniah. A number of New Testament passages deal with the end times (notably Mk. 13 and Rev. 19-20), and some make specific mention of the Day of the Lord:
But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief….
(1 Thess. 5.4)
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless….
(Phil. 1.6, 9-10)
….the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done.
(1 Cor. 3.13)
….on the day of the Lord Jesus we are your boast even as you are our boast.
(2 Cor. 1.14)
But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one’s deeds….
They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.
(Rom. 2.5-6, 15-16)
Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement than for that town.
From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
(2 Tim. 4.8)
And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgement of the great day.
Then the kings of the earth and the magnates and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgement and destruction of the godless.
Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire?
(2 Pet. 3.7, 11-12)
Would you say they were all fanatics?
It seems more like a God cooling down through violent self abuse because he gave original sin
Nothing wrong with good will towards others, unless they threaten or harm you or your own family and friends. But you should love yourselves first, try to improve yourself, without threatening or harming others. Humans need to co-operate to make progress, but self-hatred, self-abnegation and self-destruction are not justifiable acts; in fact, these suicidal impulses undermine co-operation. All this theological gobbledegook is frankly nonsense, and certainly provides no “morality” for atheists to copy. Nietzsche pointed all this out long ago, but the penny still hasn’t dropped.
Why always “before”? What is the ethical SENSE of putting the presumed self-interest of every other individual while neglecting your own? This is not the same as avoiding injury to others or giving people a helping hand or exchanging values voluntarily with others. Self-sacrifice as a form of self-destruction would put an end to personal achievement and therefore the collective achievements of mankind. It may store up spiritual rewards in heaven, but heaven is an imaginary world.
Jesus was temporarily inconvenienced for your sins that one weekend. Aren’t you impressed?
It truly staggers my mind that any thinking person in 2015 is willing to attach themselves to the absolute caveman lunacy of the Christian doctrine of blood sacrifice.
Or even the idea that the Creator of the Cosmos 14 billion years ago decided to turn itself into a man and trot around a small group of superstitious, goat sacrificing religious fanatics two thousand years ago, as though the idea just suddenly occurred to him.
Good grief but religion is outrageously stupid.
Is Jesus’ “love” truly remarkable? A Universalist Christian has the right to think so, but I’m not so sure a damnationist Christian does.
Dr. Avalos views Jesus’ love in context with his other teachings as a form of “deferred violence.” We are taught to love our enemies, but God will punish his eternally.
Jesus “love” must be viewed in context with his first century apocalyptic notions of a final judgment, hell, i.e., “Do not fear him who can kill the body, but he who can toss both body and soul into hell…” And there’s his judging of the cities that “rejected” him “It shall be easier on Sodom and Gommorah than on those cities.” In context, how loving is deferred ETERNAL VIOLENCE against those who don’t leap on board the bandwagon of one’s cult? A dis-empowered earthly Jesus may be shown to have unleashed just a smidgen of that fury in the episode of making a whip and assaulting the moneychangers in the temple court (prominently shown on the cover of Dr. Avalos’ book, The Bad Jesus).
And what of Jesus’ call to perfectionism? Filled with the thought of coming change, he [Jesus] insisted that there was but one important thing, and that was for each man to save his soul. He should care nothing for wife or child or property, in the shadow of the coming disaster…He endeavored, as it is said, to induce men to desert all they had, to let the dead bury the dead, and follow him. We know now – if we know anything that Jesus was mistaken about the coming of the end, and we know now that he was greatly controlled in his ideas of life, by that mistake. Believing that the end was near, he said, “Take no thought for the morrow, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink or wherewithal ye shall be clothed.” It was in view of the destruction of the world that he called the attention of his disciples to the lily that toiled not and yet excelled Solomon in the glory of his rainment. [The parable even has an appropriately apocalyptic ending: “The grass of the field that is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace!” Mat 6:30] Having made this mistake, having acted upon it, certainly we cannot now say that he was perfect in knowledge.
New Testament theologian, Robert M. Price, agrees with Ingersoll that Jesus’ plea for “moral perfectionism” directly resulted from his mistaken belief that God’s judgment day was imminent:
Jesus’ eschatology accounts for the radical perfectionism of the application of his values, e.g., “Love your enemies…bless those who curse you…if struck on one cheek, turn the other…lay not up for yourself treasure on earth [do not save money!]…Whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either [leaving you naked, since those two items summed up the clothing worn by ancient Near Easterners]…give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back [!], etc.” I can’t buy Luther’s way out, i.e., that Jesus was showing us how we can’t obey these values, in order to prepare us for the gospel of justification by faith! Sorry, Luther! The text repeatedly says, “Do this to reach the kingdom, do this or be punished.” I am thinking foremost of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus is depicted as saying:
In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets … Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits … Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire [apocalyptic speech]. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.” Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house [apocalyptic speech]; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell and great was its fall. [Matt. 7: 12-27]
Most perfectionists are neurotics: was Jesus? Not if he predicated perfectionism as the only way to live due to the nearness of God’s judgment day! Then it would seem feasible! Though Jesus would also have been a false prophet.
This is an elegant and witty presentation of Dr. Avalos’ content. Righteous.
I think Jesus was also an example of a caring person:
◦John 19:26-27: Even when Jesus was dying on the cross and in much pain, he still cared for his mother. When he saw her standing by the cross he made sure his friend would take care of her after he died.
◦John 11:1-5 & 11:32-44: One of Jesus’ best friends died. The man’s name was Lazarus. Even though Jesus knew he was going to bring him back to life, Jesus still cried. This showed how much he cared for Lazarus and his two sisters.
◦Mark 10:13-16: The parents wanted to have their children touched by Jesus. Jesus cared so much for the little children that when the men tried to stop the children from going to Jesus he responded, “Let the little children come to me!” The children came to Jesus and he blessed them.
◦Matthew 14:14: Jesus spent a lot of time while he was on earth healing those who were sick. He helped a man walk who could not walk, a man see who could not see and a woman who was bleeding to stop bleeding. He did all this and more because he cared for the hurting people.
Crying over Lazarus seems a bit weedy or affected, if he was to come “back to life”. But did this actually happen as an historical event? If not, it tells us nothing about the real Jesus.
Concern for one’s mother is good filial duty, but hardly extra special in human affairs, and of course he would see her later presumably “after had risen”. “Hello, John. Has she been behaving herself? Come on, Mum, yes it’s really me. You’ll have to make the most of my little visits, because I’m going away again soon for a very long time, so how about my favourite fish supper, the one you used to cooked really nicely for me and James here?”
I dote on young children myself (and so did Hitler apparently).
“So central are miracle reports in the Gospels that one could remove them only if one regarded the Gospels as preserving barely any genuine information about Jesus” (Craig S. Keener, “Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts” Vol.I, pp. 23-24 ). If I could restore sight to the blind, enable the lame to walk, stop menstrual problems, cure mental illness, maybe add a missing arm or remove an appendix, by a miracle, I think I’d go round and do a few more than Jesus, and I’m not a particularly “caring” sort of person.
“But we can take comfort and be encouraged by the sure, undeniable truth that God CARES. The promise is clearly given in this wonderful verse: Casting all your care upon him; for he CARETH for you (I Peter 5:7).”
I think that one of the main themes of the Bible is that God cares for us and is there for us when we are at the end of our rope. When our minds cannot comprehend the tragic events we find ourselves in … our hearts can reach to the God of all Comfort to find the strength we need to get through today and to know that there will be help and hope for tomorrow. We can trust Him to be with us in our times of overwhelming stress:
◦God continually calls us to come to Him with our burdens and find rest for our souls. (Matthew 11:28 & 29)
◦He invites us to cast our worries on Him because He cares. (1 Peter 5:7)
◦He invites us to come to His throne and ask for mercy and grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
◦He will be our Comforter in sorrow when our heart is faint. (Jeremiah 8:18)
◦He offers strength when we are weak. (Philippians 4:13)
◦He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.(Psalm 147:3)
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3 & 4)
Notice with that last quote from Paul is the strong ethical mandate that we should be there for others just like God is there for us. This is part of Paul’s mission of love.
Works for some, not for others. This is a coffee-morning faith for dear old ladies. I have met people who think that prayer found them a missing coin in the garden and a clear parking space; I am not making this up. Others have died in atrocious agony, no doubt like the babies whom The Lord drowned in the Deluge of Noah.
“Where was God in Auschwitz?” -“Too busy preparing an everlasting version for six billion sinners.”
If there was a loving, caring, personal God who watches over us and has a plan for our life, there wouldn’t be two year olds dying of cancer. That’s not love.
We can all reach for a Biblical Concordance, and select similar phrases or verses we like or dislike. So what? Whether they reflect reality or offer proverbial wisdom is another matter. As the little schoolboy said, “Shakespeare’s like the Bible, Miss. It’s full of quotations.” May we call a moratorium on these lists yet, Mr MacDonald?
I cite specific scripture when I’m talking about the bible so you know my interpretation reflects what is actually in scripture, and that I’m not just pulling an interpretation of the bible that has no basis in scripture out of my ass.
God no doubt cares for his own, for those who submit to him as his mindless slaves, like an Abraham who would kill his own son for Him or a Son who would suffer torment to obey Him.
And yet, there are passages that can be read to suggest that all people will be saved: “6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. (Luke 3:6).” And there are passages that suggest that the blessings of God go out to ALL people: Psalm 145:8-9 reminds everyone that: “8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. 9 The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.” Luke 2:10, states that Jesus is here for all people: “10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” Jesus’ message is not for a specific small group, but to all who are lost: Luke 19:9-10 and Matthew 18:11 show that Jesus came to save the lost: “9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” 11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” Jesus will not condemn the world for not believing in him: John 12:47, Jesus stated: 47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world…
Revelation 15:3-4, states:
“Great and marvelous are Your works,
Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways,
O King of the saints!
4 Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested.”
Notice that all the nations shall come and worship God.
1 Timothy 4:9-11, is Paul teaching that Jesus is the Savior of all men or only a few? “9 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. 10 For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. 11 These things command and teach.”
Hebrews 7:24-27 teaches: “25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” Notice that Jesus is able to save the uttermost–they are those that are not now near to Him. Also, notice that Jesus died for all and not just a small amount of elect.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Paul teaches: “14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Notice that Paul clearly teaches that Jesus has died for all. Not a few elect (like the Calvinists teach), not the relative few that accept Christ in this age (as most Protestant/Baptist/Evangelicals teach), not a minority of humankind (as most Roman Catholics teach).”
And as I said in another post, the Christian message is one of social justice too. Paul said “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3 & 4) Notice with that last quote from Paul is the strong ethical mandate that we should be there for others just like God is there for us. This is part of Paul’s mission of love.
Do you think the ancients had concepts like “social justice”? Justice, yes, since that’s a universal, mere “reciprocity”. But “social justice” is something else. The texts need to be read in the context of their day. Pharaohs and Emperors spoke of justice and righting wrongs and were worshiped as gods and bringing salvation and benefits to the world, restoring “justice”, etc. This is the world and context in which we need to read the texts.
If not “social justice,” I think a case can be made that the bible writers were trying to work out a “social ethics.” These are the 78 passages that are traditionally pointed to as evidence that the bible writers were working out a primitive “social justice” or “social ethics,” along with the number of votes each passage received on line as being helpful for explaining how the bible helps to promote social justice:
Isaiah 1:17 ESV / 681 helpful votes
Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
Zechariah 7:9-10 ESV / 368 helpful votes
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”
Proverbs 31:9 ESV / 334 helpful votes
Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Jeremiah 22:3 ESV / 302 helpful votes
Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.
Romans 12:15-18 ESV / 283 helpful votes
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Micah 6:8 ESV / 245 helpful votes
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Proverbs 31:8-9 ESV / 227 helpful votes
Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Luke 10:30-37 ESV / 181 helpful votes
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. …
Psalm 82:3 ESV / 167 helpful votes
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Matthew 7:12 ESV / 164 helpful votes
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
1 John 3:17-18 ESV / 129 helpful votes
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
Amos 5:11-15 ESV / 97 helpful votes
Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate. Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time, for it is an evil time. Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
Isaiah 58:6-12 ESV / 92 helpful votes
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. …
Leviticus 19:15 ESV / 82 helpful votes
“You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.
Ezekiel 16:49-50 ESV / 73 helpful votes
Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.
Matthew 19:21 ESV / 72 helpful votes
Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Amos 5:24 ESV / 68 helpful votes
But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
James 1:27 ESV / 67 helpful votes
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Luke 4:18-19 ESV / 66 helpful votes
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Deuteronomy 16:20 ESV / 58 helpful votes
Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Proverbs 22:16 ESV / 54 helpful votes
Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.
Deuteronomy 15:7-11 ESV / 53 helpful votes
“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
Proverbs 14:31 ESV / 51 helpful votes
Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
Matthew 25:31-46 ESV / 48 helpful votes
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, …
Matthew 5:3 ESV / 43 helpful votes
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Galatians 3:28 ESV / 41 helpful votes
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Amos 5:21-24 ESV / 39 helpful votes
“I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Proverbs 29:7 ESV / 39 helpful votes
A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.
Isaiah 61:1 ESV / 37 helpful votes
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
Micah 6:6-8 ESV / 34 helpful votes
“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
James 5:1-5 ESV / 32 helpful votes
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.
Jeremiah 22:13-17 ESV / 29 helpful votes
“Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice, who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages, who says, ‘I will build myself a great house with spacious upper rooms,’ who cuts out windows for it, paneling it with cedar and painting it with vermilion. Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? declares the Lord. But you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence.”
Proverbs 28:27 ESV / 29 helpful votes
Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.
Matthew 25:35-36 ESV / 27 helpful votes
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
Ezekiel 22:29 ESV / 22 helpful votes
The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice.
Acts 2:45 ESV / 21 helpful votes
And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
Proverbs 19:17 ESV / 21 helpful votes
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.
Matthew 7:4 ESV / 20 helpful votes
Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?
Amos 5:15 ESV / 20 helpful votes
Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
Ezekiel 16:49 ESV / 20 helpful votes
Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.
Isaiah 42:3 ESV / 20 helpful votes
A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.
Luke 11:39-42 ESV / 19 helpful votes
And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you. “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
Deuteronomy 15:11 ESV / 17 helpful votes
For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
Leviticus 23:22 ESV / 17 helpful votes
“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.”
Exodus 23:9 ESV / 17 helpful votes
“You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
Malachi 3:5 ESV / 16 helpful votes
“Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.
Isaiah 10:1-2 ESV / 16 helpful votes
Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!
Psalm 146:5-9 ESV / 16 helpful votes
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
Leviticus 19:10 ESV / 16 helpful votes
And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.
Romans 10:12 ESV / 14 helpful votes
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.
Jeremiah 21:12 ESV / 14 helpful votes
O house of David! Thus says the Lord: “‘Execute justice in the morning, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed, lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of your evil deeds.’”
Proverbs 24:11 ESV / 13 helpful votes
Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
Psalm 72:12-14 ESV / 13 helpful votes
For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight.
Galatians 5:22-24 ESV / 12 helpful votes
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Proverbs 1:1-17 ESV / 12 helpful votes
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, …
Luke 18:1-8 ESV / 11 helpful votes
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” …
Matthew 11:28 ESV / 11 helpful votes
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 5:46-47 ESV / 10 helpful votes
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
James 2:1-7 ESV / 9 helpful votes
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? …
Mark 10:42-45 ESV / 8 helpful votes
And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark 11:15-17 ESV / 7 helpful votes
And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”
Matthew 19:21-24 ESV / 7 helpful votes
Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
Matthew 5:38-45 ESV / 7 helpful votes
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. …
Psalm 139:13-14 ESV / 7 helpful votes
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
Job 5:15-17 ESV / 7 helpful votes
But he saves the needy from the sword of their mouth and from the hand of the mighty. So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts her mouth. “Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty.
Deuteronomy 1:16-17 ESV / 7 helpful votes
And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’
Exodus 23:3 ESV / 7 helpful votes
Nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.
James 4:1-3 ESV / 6 helpful votes
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
1 Timothy 5:1-25 ESV / 6 helpful votes
Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, …
John 13:1-38 ESV / 6 helpful votes
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. …
John 2:13-16 ESV / 6 helpful votes
The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”
Luke 10:30-42 ESV / 6 helpful votes
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. …
Matthew 21:12-13 ESV / 6 helpful votes
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
Luke 19:45-46 ESV / 5 helpful votes
And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”
Luke 12:48 ESV / 5 helpful votes
But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
Mark 10:21-25 ESV / 4 helpful votes
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
James 2:6-7 ESV / 3 helpful votes
But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
Isaiah 2:3-4 ESV / 3 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
And many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
Are not these sentiments all comparable to the wisdom writings of Egyptians, Mesopatamians, various Greco-Roman philosophers?
I think these bible passages are very comparable to other ancient traditions.
Thank you, but next time just give us the references.
It is understandable that a “social ethics” would be present in the bible. Religion was a way of controlling the masses, and the best way to get people to be nice to one another was to say “God wants you to be kind.” Hence, Lucius Annaeus Seneca pointed out that “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”
This may seem a terrible idea, especially to socialists, but a noble lie to reduce violent crime, dishonesty, lust and hatred can have all-round benefits, if it works. Lenin’s “subordination of morality the class struggle” replaced confession and candles with Chistka and Cheka.
The case for a few being saved is better. Waaaaaay better. And waaaay few, probably.
Everyone *seeing* salvation is not the same as *having* salvation.
And of course Jesus and Yahweh may have the best *intentions* for everyone. That sets up the epic victim blaming when it doesn’t happen.
There’s lots of supporting evidence, but the bottom line is that Jesus is asked direct questions and answers them on the topic. I have my case laid out in argument map for for “few” being saved:
But what does Jesus command of his followers, exactly? How should these commands be interpreted within the context of that time and place? What do the commands of Jesus mean for the bulk of his followers today and how have they been understood between today and then?
I’m more interested in the contents of each book on its own terms. I don’t know how to justify a “biblical teaching” because there was no author of “the bible” — only lots of authors of different books that were collated and redacted much later.
Jesus expected perfection. See: Mark 10:26-27, Matthew 5:20, 5:48, 19:21, 19:25-26, Luke 18:26-27
The rich man who’d followed all the commandments since he was a child was not good enough. He had to be *perfect” and apparently wasn’t. Jesus didn’t then turn to his disciples and say, “Well, he’ll still make it. But I’d hoped for better.” The man goes away weeping as the poster child of falling short of Jesus’ message.
This isn’t surprising as Jesus engages in black and white thinking throughout the gospels. You’re either with him or you’re against him with no in between and no room for honest disagreements or misunderstandings:
It’s a moral mysticism where you either recognize his voice as the True Moral Authority or you’ve exposed that your soul is evil:
What *exactly* did Jesus want? For people to genuinely repent 100% and if they didn’t even just a little, too bad. Forever. They should have wanted heaven more. Supposedly t all boils down to perfect love of Yahweh and one’s neighbor (Jesus’ summary of the law of Moses), but through the superstitious and prejudiced filter of his first century Jewish cult.
Jesus likely believed he was the fulfillment of the prophecy in Jeremiah (I think it was) that Yahweh would make it so that his people could fulfill the law naturally. The end was near and so it was that time. The bulk of his teachings are basically meaningless today as it was not the end of the world and no one has access to this kind of magic.
If you know of other perspectives (on how many people would be saved) in the collection of documents that make up the Bible, I’d be happy to adjust my case accordingly. As is, all of the perspectives contained in the Bible that I know of point to the same abysmal conclusion that very few would be saved.
The role of wealth, and how it is obtained, are NT puzzles. Bad to have too much, but those to whom it is given are not thereby damned for being better off than before – there is a “pass the parcel aspect” to this charity process. In the synoptics it seems wrong to have earned or inherited wealth, but OK to get it as a gift or from begging – though again not too much! Jesus no longer works (if he ever did) as a carpenter or builder, but wanders around, occasionally wine bibbing with generous patrons. Giving money to the “poor” may mean giving money to his band of disciples.
Authoritarian mystics are hardly unknown in history. I think the Book of Daniel played a major part in the original story.
Jesus’ teachings were burning the candle at both ends. It wasn’t designed to be sustainable. It was meant to be a personal virtue implosion to up your personal saintly stats. Who cares if you make a poor man a millionaire? The mothership beckons. But yeah, then there’s that practical undertow where Jesus has to mooch off the women in his fan club. And ultimately it’s all designed to put the Church in control of all the money.
The “rich man” and the Kingdom of Heaven, and the need to fund mission if “love of money” is a root of evil, raise questions brought out particularly well in Shaw’s “Major Barbara”. But was Woodbine Willie, for example, just another schmendrick working for the tobacco company or a meshuggah tool of WW1 arms manufacturers? To say that “it’s all designed to put the Church in control of all the money” seems as flippant as to say that Holocaust Remembrance is just a conspiracy to keep Israel in “milk and honey”.
“To say that “it’s all designed to put the Church in control of all the money” seems as flippant…”
And yet that’s exactly what Acts 1:4-5, 2:42-46, 4:32-37, & 5:1-10 sets up and what made the Catholic church rich.
The disciples are praised for leaving all worldly wealth behind: Matthew 8:18-22, 19:27-29, Luke 9:57-62, 14:33
The rich man falls short only because he won’t give up all his money: Matthew 19:21
The story of Zacchaeus functions similarly albeit on a different payment plan: Luke 19:8-9
This might be innocent virtue milking if not for the other half of the story.
Jesus was poor and so the women who accompanied Jesus were fully financing his ministry: Luke 8:1-3
Jesus also clearly doesn’t mind you splurging hardcore on *him*: Mark 14:3-9, Matthew 26:6-13, Luke 7:36-50, Luke 8:1-3, & John 12:1-8 A year’s wages is quite a bit of money to waste like that.
Joseph of Arimathea is the only rich man in the gospels who keeps his money, but this seems to serve the special purpose of donating to the Jesus burial charity fund (and veering off script to fulfill prophecy is just fine, you know): Matthew 27:57-60
Which brings us back around to the practical institution of the Marxist/communist-like entity of the church going forward in the book of Acts where all assets were 100% liquidatable and the funds were then controlled by the church leadership. The texts the (non-legendary) early church selected and perhaps edited derided wealth, praised poverty, but ultimately pointed the arrow of money flow at itself. I don’t see how that is at all deniable.
So I don’t see how this is a conspiracy theory. It’s just the business model that emerged from the early Christian church with obvious representation in its selected holy texts. How exactly it got to be that way I don’t really know since we know so little about who wrote these books and what happened to them before they got to be our earliest manuscripts.
The Buddha, in the parable of the saw sutta, taught: “Monks, even if bandits were to savagely sever you, limb by limb, with a double-handled saw, even then, whoever of you harbors ill will at heart would not be upholding my Teaching. Monks, even in such a situation you should train yourselves thus: ‘Neither shall our minds be affected by this, nor for this matter shall we give vent to evil words, but we shall remain full of concern and pity, with a mind of love, and we shall not give in to hatred. On the contrary, we shall live projecting thoughts of universal love to those very persons, making them as well as the whole world the object of our thoughts of universal love — thoughts that have grown great, exalted and measureless. We shall dwell radiating these thoughts which are void of hostility and ill will.’ It is in this way, monks, that you should train yourselves.
I am not familiar with Jain scripture (which is, in the main, older than Buddhist scripture), but I would be surprised if that teaching was not found there at all. It might even have representation in the Vedas, which would make it very ancient indeed.
Moreover, I suspect that there have been unusual individuals teaching this message throughout human existence, even as the majority of human beings are very well adapted for vengeance.
Yes, that would have been a big help to the Indian victims of the invasions by the Muslim “Religion of Peace” or the Persian victims of the “tolerant multi-faith philosopher” Genghis Khan. Should the Jews in WW2 have taken Gandhi’s advice? This unworldly stuff belongs to another world – a dream world. It may suit a childless mendicant monk, or an ivory-tower Tolstoy protected by the police or armies of other lesser mortals, but is no basis for social order or international security. Buddha reportedly died of food poisoning after a long trek to an obscure village, so experienced no atrocious dismemberment set an “example” – fortunately for him, but also fortunately for the rest of us.
Regarding your point a few posts above about using “the noble lie” to create a loving, peaceful society:
There is a very interesting line in Euripides’ ‘The Bacchae’ where Cadmus says “Even though this man (Dionysus) be no God, as you say, still say that he is. Be guilty of a splendid fraud, declaring him the son of Semele, for this would make it seem that she was the mother of a god, and it would confer honour on all our race.” This makes one wonder, given the parallels between Jesus and ‘The Bacchae,’ if the New Testament writers had picked up on this theme and created the “Son of God” story as a political ploy in order to restore the Jewish people to their “rightful” place in the world – The dying rising godman of myth that everyone in the pagan world always talked about, except with a impressive Jewish pedigree, and this one was a real, existing human being!
There is more to this supposition than one might suspect at first. Although this is not well known, in the bible, lying is permitted under special circumstances when it is done in the service of God. In the Old Testament book of Joshua 2:4-6 (the Hebrew name for Jesus, interestingly), the prostitute Rahab (the one mentioned earlier as part of Jesus’ bloodline) is praised for an act of lying. We read “And the woman [Rahab] took the two men and hid them and said thus: There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were; and it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark that the men went out; whither the men went I wot not; pursue after them quickly, for ye shall overtake them. But she had brought them up to the roof of the house and hid them with the stalks of flax” This was later picked up on in the New Testament in the book of James at 2: 25, where it is said that Rahab was righteous because of telling this lie in the service of God: “Was not Rahab, the harlot, justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” Was this mention of Rahab by James and her presence in the royal bloodline a secret among the writers that they knew the story itself was a deliberate fraud? Recall the words of Pope Pious X, quoted in John Bale, Acta Romanorum Pontificum “For on a time when a cardinall Bembus did move a question out of the Gospell, the Pope gave him a very contemptuous answer saying: All ages can testifie enough howe profitable that fable of Christe hath ben to us and our companie.”
The permission of lying under special circumstances would not separate the Hebrew and Christian scriptures from other ancient spiritualities. It would actually put them all very much in line. The justification of lying hypothesis is very interesting. It resonates with much in spirituality … even shamanism …where the neophyte is taken in with ‘magic’ to attract their attention and then is taken to the Truth… and the understanding that what they initially through was magic was simply deception … and the recognition of how early they were deceived.
Justified lying occurs a lot in ancient spirituality. Confucius, in the ‘Analects,’ indicates “The Governor of She said to Confucius, ‘In our village we have an example of a straight person. When the father stole a sheep, the son gave evidence against him.’ Confucius answered, ‘In our village those who are straight are quite different. Fathers cover up for their sons, and sons cover up for their fathers. In such behaviour is straightness to be found as a matter of course.’ (13.18)” The Holy Lie also has a history of societal structuring intentions. For example, The pious fraud or noble lie is present in Plato’s Republic in Book 2, Sections 414-7, where Plato says a functional stratified society could be realized if they could convince the people of the lie that everyone from different levels of society were created by God to exist in a certain level of society.
This is also true of the Code of Manu. Roger Berkowitz says of the Manu based society, that its division of society into four castes, each with its own particular obligations and rights, is a desired end because it reflects the natural order of society. He says ‘“The order of castes, the highest, the most dominant Gesetz, is only the sanction of a natural-order, natural legal- positing of the first rank, over which no willfulness, no ‘modern idea’ has power. It is nature, not Manu or the Brahmin legislators, that divides the predominantly intellectual from those who are predominantly physically or temperamentally strong, and both of these from the mediocre, who are extraordinary in neither intellect nor strength. The Indian caste system is an artifice, a Holy Lie—but it is a lie that serves natural end.’
Similarly, we see the permission of lying in Islam. In the Pro-Muslim book ‘The Spirit of Islam,’ Afif A. Tabbarah writes, concerning the mandates of Muhammed,
‘Lying is not always bad, to be sure; there are times when telling a lie is more profitable andbetter for the general welfare, and for the settlement of conciliation among people, than tellingthe truth. To this effect, the Prophet says: ‘He is not a false person who (through lies) settlesconciliation among people, supports good or says what is good.’
It is often supposed that lying is prohibited by the bible, but the situation is more complex than that. As we saw in the case of Rahab, it is permissible in special cases, if it is done in circumstances in the service of God and his people. We see, for example, in the Old Testament, Exodus 1: 18-20 “And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men-children alive? And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. Therefore God dealt well with the midwives.”; 1 Kings 22: 21-22 “And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him .. I will goforth and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him and prevail also; go forth and do so.”; 2 Kings 8:10 “And Elisha said unto him, go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the Lordhath showed me that he shall surely die.”
Suppose a group of people a long time ago believed adamantly in a world-view that was impossible because their world was under Roman Rule and subject to a Jewish system that they no longer believed in. Suppose that they would have done anything, even give their lives, to bring about what they considered to be a proper way of life, but did it in such a way that they knew one day, when the world had changed and become a learned, civilized place of their design, their spiritual offspring would be able to see through what they had done and be able to continue on their way of life without needing to believe in the superstition surrounding it.
An interesting, well-informed comment.
I am in general agreement with the interpretation Ben Schuldt puts on almost all the NT quotations, but I do not see “the Church” simply as a giant mercenary racket.