Still in the gospels, and the main thing that became apparent to me this week is that Matthew, Mark and Luke are virtually identical. Not literally; everything is described differently, but the event in these three gospels are massively similar.
There’s Jesus walking on water, Jesus raising the dead, Jesus driving out evil spirits (into an entire herd of swine who then promptly run off a cliff – imagine the loss to the owner!), Jesus making the lame walk, making the dumb speak, etc. etc. etc.
That said, I believe that most of what I learnt of the gospels was taken from Luke (Lucas in Dutch). Luke spends a bit more time on the events prior to Jesus’ birth, such as the fact that the parents of John the Baptist were an older couple (flashbacks to Abraham and Sara!) who wouldn’t believe that God would bless them with a child in their old age. In an un-biblical twist of fate it wasn’t the woman who got punished for not believing this time though, it was the man. John’s father doubts the Lord’s word and is therefore struck dumb until John is born.
Interestingly enough I never realised that Elisabeth is a biblical name – she was John the Baptist’s mother.
Anyway, Luke has the angels announcing Jesus’ birth to the shepherds and also mentions that Joseph and Mary weren’t actually married yet when Jesus was born. Luke 3 then lists the full genealogy of Joseph, which goes all the way to Adam. Seeing as Matthew also lists Joseph’s full genealogy I took the liberty of comparing the two. If you work back from Joseph to King David it’s the same but for one name, but beyond David they are completely different. If I could be arsed I’d look up how Bible scholars reconcile that one, but I’m lazy and really not that bothered. I’ve by now long established that I don’t believe any of this stuff anyway, so why waste effort?
Luke does make it slightly more clear why Peter and the other fishermen apostles just up and follow Jesus – he gives them a miraculously big fish catch, so big that the boats nearly capsize.
After that it’s all the same stuff again, but I did make a note about Luke 12, where Jesus says something along the lines of ‘don’t fear those who kill the body and can do no more. Fear Him who can cast you into hell after death’, and that to me just sums up the unhealthy attitude that everything you do in life should be based on what it might do for you after death. Give away all your money to the poor, because by doing that you’ll have all you might ever need in the afterlife. I’m sorry, but while I have no problems with donating to the poor, if you give away everything you own you’ll have sweet fuck all to live on, and you’ll then have to rely on everyone else donating to you. Seems counterproductive. Similarly the advice Jesus gives to his apostles – when you go out preaching the gospel, take nothing with you but live on whatever people give you. If they give you nothing, shake the dust off your feet as you leave them. I’m sorry, but if the entire world lived like that, no one’d have anything whatsoever, because at the very least you’ll need all those farmers and fishermen to get your food for you. Yes, those fishermen whose sons you took away as your disciples without ever looking back. Don’t worry if you starve to death, God will love you all the more for it when you’re in heaven.
Well, God can fuck right off.
Luke 15 tells the story of the prodigal son, who asks for his inheritance, then runs off with it and squanders it. After several years when he’s destitute and desperate he feels remorse and returns home, and daddy is so happy that he slaughters the fattened calf and throws a big party. The elder son (quite rightly) wonders why his wastrel brother gets such a reception when daddy dear never showed that kind of regard to him, and all his dad can say is ‘rejoice, for your brother has returned’. Frankly, I’d be pissed off too.
Lastly, I’ve now read this in three gospels and I can’t ignore it anymore. A bunch of scholars who don’t believe in the afterlife ask Jesus about the part of God’s law that says a brother should marry his dead brother’s wife to ensure his brother has offspring. So they give the example of a man who married a woman and then died, so his brother married her, but then he died too, until she’s eventually married seven (!) brothers, and then she dies. All without children. They then ask whose wife she’ll be in heaven, since she married all seven. Jesus’ response is that there is no marriage in heaven, because everyone will be as angels.
I’m still not sure what to think of that. It sounds kind of boring to me. But then, I’m a bit like my mother, who always imagined that heaven would be a kind of bleached out white place where everyone does nothing but sing hallelujah all day.
I’m hoping to finish off the gospels in the coming week, since after that I’ll be on a three week holiday (yay!).