I’m not entirely sure how to start this week. I’ve said before that the New Testament is pretty much new territory to me, but what I wasn’t expecting is how much it’s pissing me off. I knew I’d be annoyed at the Old Testament because God’s a dick, but the NT is annoying me for completely different reasons.
I’ll get to that in a moment – first I must express my continued bafflement at the number of religious people who have started following my blog and liking my posts since I started this project. To me it proves that the majority of the blogosphere doesn’t actually bother reading any posts; all they do is look at the title and hit ‘like’ based on that. And since all my post titles simply list a section of Bible text, I presume they have this misguided idea that I’m a fellow Christian. I’m still waiting for the penny to drop and the backlash to hit.
I should also mention that since Thursday, for reasons I can already no longer remember, I’ve been stuck reading the entire back catalogue of xkcd. I’ve got to number 633 so far, and I’m enjoying myself immensely. I don’t get all the jokes, but there’s a great site explaining the maths/physics/internet phenomena/etc. behind them, and I love a comic which isn’t afraid to be so intellectual that only very few people will get it.
Anyway, in the course of doing that I came across this particular comic:
I thought it quite appropriate to this little project of mine.
Anyway, enough procrastinating. On to the Acts of the Apostles, or Handelingen der Apostelen in Dutch. Means the same thing. This book has 28 chapters in total (so I nearly made it to the end), and I was kind of expecting it to be mostly about what Jesus’ twelve disciples* did after He ascended to heaven. Turns out, not so much. The first bit sort of is, but from about halfway onwards it’s all pretty much about Paul. As is most of the rest of the New Testament, actually, since Paul seems to have had a lot of pen friends among the peoples around the Mediterranean.
*Yes, twelve. They chose a new one after Judas killed himself.
Let’s go through my notes.
Acts 1 – Matthias is chosen as a replacement for Judas.
Acts 2 – The Holy Ghost apparently makes you a polyglot, though to others this sounds like you’ve had too much sweet wine. Does dry wine not have the same effect? Who knows!
Also, everyone is suddenly baptised, and I have no idea where the whole baptism thing comes from, since it was never done in the OT. Is baptism the new circumcision? It may very well be, judging from what’s said further on.
Acts 4 – Perhaps understandably, the apostles keep rubbing it in to all the people they talk to: “You know that dude Jesus, the one you had killed? Well, it’s because of Him we’re all here and healthy and alive!” Understandable or no, it gets repetitive (oh hi, Bible!) and annoying.
Acts 5 – People come to the apostles for salvation, including a couple called Ananias and Saffira. But rather than selling their possessions and giving away all their money, they keep a little back. Presumably because they’re sensible and rational and realise that not everyone can live off the charity of others. Except this is of course bad, so they both die. Just like that. God’s still a dick.
And then the apostles are lashed for some reason or other (probably preaching the resurrection and stuff) and they’re happy, because they’ve been punished because of Jesus. That kind of thinking breeds martyrs, which is bad. (That last bit’s my opinion, not the Bible.)
Acts 6 – Verse 14 actually says that Jesus shall change the mores handed down to us by Moses.
I think what bothers me most about the Bible is the discrepancy between the OT and the NT. There are a few things which are considered bad by both the OT and the NT, but there are so many other things where both parts of the Bible preach more or less opposite views, and it only causes the kind of selective belief that so many ‘devout’ Christians are guilty of. At least the Jewish faith sticks to just the OT stuff (yes, I know that the Torah isn’t exactly the same as the OT).
Acts 7 recounts, yet again, the whole bloody story of Abraham’s pact with God and how that’s eventually led to the Jewish people. Argh!
Acts 8 – The Holy Ghost can teleport! It appears to have spirited* Filippus away all the way to Asdod.
Acts 9 – Things like this are also why the Bible pisses me off: ‘There was in Joppe a female disciple named Tabitha, which means Dorkas’. Neither means any fucking thing! Rargh!
Acts 11 – Everyone is clean in the eyes of God (so it’s no longer necessary to do all that ritual cleansing malarkey, or to sacrifice any animals or whatever, I guess).
Acts 12 – King Herod speaks to the people, but because he doesn’t honour God he is struck down and dies, and worms eat him and he breathes his last breath. And all I can think is ‘in that order? And while he was still on stage talking to the people?’
Acts 13 – Case in point: verse 39. ‘Everything of which you could not be justified by the law of Moses can be justified by Him for everyone who believes.’
Acts 15 – Another case in point: this chapter basically says that there is no need to circumcise heathens, because it is enough that they have given up their wicked ways and have come to the Lord.
Acts 16 – The apostles go somewhere (don’t ask, I totally lose track of all the places they go to) and are followed around by a slave woman who is possessed by a prophesying spirit. Because of this she follows them around for days, shouting that they are the servants of the highest God who will lead the people to salvation, until it pisses off Peter so much that he banishes the spirit from her. Kinda surprised that he didn’t kill her as well.
Acts 19 – God gives Paul so much power that even the sweat cloths and girdle cloths (whatever they are) that have touched his body have healing powers. Yay, but ew.
(So, from here on this book is all about Paul (Paulus in Dutch), who was originally called Saul (Saulus) and who was a zealous persecuter of anyone who believed in Jesus. Then God (Jesus?) sent him a vision and he was converted. I don’t think I like Paul, he comes across to me as a smug, self-righteous git, but that may be my own prejudices coming to the fore.)
So, a bunch of people conspire against Paul and swear a vow that they won’t eat or drink until he is killed. They get him arrested, but none of the people in charge really want to convict him since he’s not really done anything wrong, and Paul eventually demands to be heard by the emperor. In all he spends two years in jail, and people are still trying to get him sentenced to death – but shouldn’t they be dead themselves by now, because of their starvation oath? Nothing more is said of that. Dammit, Bible, don’t leave plot points hanging! Tie off your threads!
I think that’s enough for this week – next week I’ll start on Paul’s various letters to various peoples.