A new Testament, a new challenge! Also a new world, because beyond 1 Corinthians 13 (and the bit I apparently read to a bunch of old people in an old people’s home back when I was five) I’ve never read any part of the New Testament. Jesus just never really interested me, I was more into the Old Testament’s smiting.
So we start with Matthew, or more precisely ‘The gospel according to Matthew’. In Dutch this is ‘Het evangelie naar Matteüs’, with evangelie being the Dutch word for gospel. Matthew’s name is a little more Latin than what any English translation makes of it, which is the same for the remaining three gospels.
Anyway, it started off interesting straightaway, because Matthew 1 lists the genealogy of Jesus, starting with Abraham, working its way down to David (because Jesus was prophesied to be the Son of David), all the way down to… Joseph.
This would be the Joseph who isn’t Jesus’ father, if we have to believe this very same gospel which proclaims him to be the son of God, born of the virgin Mary. Joseph is just the mug whose wife got knocked up by a spirit. (Except when Jesus is born she isn’t his wife yet apparently, but I’m getting ahead of myself because that’s in Luke.)
Matthew 4 talks of the Devil, which I’m sure is the first time in the Bible. In the Old Testament he was mainly Satan (if it is even the same being of course, because nothing is ever that explicit in the Bible). In Matthew 4 Jesus also picks up four disciples from among the fishermen, who very irresponsibly leave their fathers in the lurch just to follow Jesus.
Matthew 5 shows Jesus preaching that if you look upon a woman and desire her, you have already committed adultery in your heart. Should your eye tempt you, tear it out. This all seems a tad excessive to me, but that’s the atheist in me coming to the fore, of course.
Matthew 6 gives the Lord’s Prayer, and also speaks of Heaven, which didn’t exist in the Old Testament, where everyone went to the underworld instead. I predict that my biggest problem with the New Testament will be how on earth people reconcile it with the Old Testament.
In Matthew 8 it appears that the apostle Peter (whose real name is Simon, apparently) had a mother in law. Presumably that means he also had a wife, whom he must have left to follow Jesus. One of the other apostles asks Jesus if it’s okay if he buries his father first (I hope it’s just coincidence that he died just then), upon which Jesus tells him to ‘follow me and let the dead bury the dead’. This, understandably, left me a bit baffled.
Matthew 9 has a bunch of miracles, like feeding the thousands with five loaves of bread and two fish and a number of miraculous healings.
In Matthew 10 Jesus announces that he hasn’t come to bring peace, but the sword.
Matthew 15 has a message that every child will probably take to heart with relish: Jesus says you don’t have to wash your hands before you eat, because nothing that goes into the mouth makes a man unclean. Only what comes out of the mouth makes a man unclean. And no, he didn’t mean vomit here, he meant that people’s words make them unclean, not what they eat. I guess that means it’s okay to eat pig, after all.
Matthew 18 has a nice parable about a slave who owes his master ten thousand talents but is unable to pay, so he begs and pleads until the master takes pity and lets him off. The slave then goes off and meets another slave who owes him a hundred shekels, and even though that slave also begs and pleads, the other slave locks him up until he’s paid. It’s a nice story, but all throughout all I could think was ‘how do slaves have money? They’re slaves!’
I’m guessing that Matthew 19 is why the church frowns on divorce, because Jesus basically condemns it here. Unless your wife is a whore.
Matthew 21 proves that Jesus takes after his dad, because when he is hungry he goes to a fig tree, which doesn’t have any figs because it’s not the season for figs. Jesus then curses the tree and it withers at once. This episode strikes me as both dickish and childish, but I suppose Jesus was hangry. Oh, and since I can now draw upon the awesome Brick Testament again, you can see this particular story here in lego.
In Matthew 27 I found out that Judas felt remorse for betraying Jesus and hung himself. Never knew that. What I did sort of know (well, remembered after reading it) was that when Jesus was close to death upon the cross, he shouted ‘eli, eli, lama sabachtani?’ which means ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’ Just one of these weird little things that stick with you.
This gospel ends at chapter 28. I haven’t really made a lot of notes to do with the actual teachings of Jesus, or any of his miracles, because it’s all old hat to me. I really did get a lot of Bible stories poured into me at school, and right now the gospels are interesting to me mostly because there’s four of them and they all tell pretty much the same story, so I’m interested in the differences.
So on to Mark, and the main difference is that he doesn’t really say much about the birth of Jesus, he just goes straight into him being baptised (by John the Baptist), having twelve disciples and going around the country doing miracles. Other than that everything is pretty much the same as what I’ve already read in Matthew. I finished the week at chapter 12, and I really don’t have anything to say about Mark so far.
Mark in Dutch is called Marcus, so again a slightly more Latin version of the name. Next week I’ll move on to Luke, who gives a bit more screen time to the events prior to Jesus’ birth.