I’m nearly at the end! Wohoo! This week I cover the last few tiny booklets before the biggie that is Revelations. I’m hoping I won’t need more than one week to read that, but we’ll see.
It looks like I won’t be quite done with all things biblical after that, as I have another little treasure to work through: What Does the Bible Really Teach? It’s a mini-book I picked up from the Jehovah’s Witnesses who are picketing the pavement between my bus stop and my workplace once a week. They look very friendly, always smiling, and they don’t actually approach you – they just stand there invitingly holding out their little books. So last week I accepted one. And restrained myself from asking ‘So what does the Bible really teach? Because all it’s taught me so far is an unhealthy obsession with foreskins.’
Anyway, this week we start with the Epistle of James, which has thrown me a little, because the Dutch book is called De Brief van Jakobus, which I would have expected to translate to Jacob, not James.
As often before, I seem to have a random set of comments, so let’s just tackle those.
James 1 states that temptation does not come from God, but from your own desires, for God cannot be tempted, nor does he tempt anyone. Bit of a cop-out, if you ask me.
James 2 says that he who keeps to the whole law but trips up on one point, is guilty of breaking all commandments. Because He who said ‘thou shalt not commit adultery’ has also said ‘thou shalt not kill’. If then you don’t commit adultery, but do kill someone, you are a breaker of the law after all. Once again this demonstrates the kind of twisted logic the Bible is full of.
This chapter also says that faith is nothing without deeds to prove it. Which is fair enough, but then the example it gives is Abraham putting his son Isaac on the altar to be sacrificed, which is a bit extreme really.
James 3 mentions the devil! I don’t recall having seen him before (while actually being called the devil, that is. There’s been mention of Satan, but it’s never actually said anywhere that they’re one and the same thing/person/whatever he is).
Moving on to the First Epistle of Peter (De Eerste Brief van Petrus). I was hoping he’d be clearly distinguishable from Paul, but it’s all the same unctuous preaching really. Love thy neighbour, love thy brother (but not like that), etc. etc. Abstain from the fleshly desires that battle against your soul and be a good example to all the heathens that surround you. It then goes on to say that when you do good deeds but have to endure suffering, that is the mercy of God. Which is a very effective way of shutting up all those doubters who question why they’re being shat on when they do good stuff – be happy that God allows you to suffer the same things he put his own son through!
It also says in 1 Peter 4 that he who has suffered in the flesh has been withdrawn from sin. This in turn sounds a bit too simplistic to me, but in general it’s just another case of nothing really making sense to me.
This is another short book, so let’s move on to the Second Epistle of Peter (De Tweede Brief van Petrus). I don’t have much to say about this, other than that towards the end it says to keep to all the stuff they’ve been told already, like in the letters from our darling Paul, who has written to you in his wisdom. Some of the things he has written are hard to understand, which the unknowing and unsteadfast people twist to their own detriment, just like the other scriptures. I guess that makes me unknowing and unsteadfast. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman, and I couldn’t possibly understand all this shit without a man to explain it to me.
On to the First Epistle of John (first of three – in Dutch De Eerste (Tweede en Derde) Brief van Johannes). The beginning of this made me go ‘oookaay’, because it says ‘that which we have seen and heard, we proclaim also to you, so that you too can have intercourse with us. And our intercourse is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.’ Now I know that he means a different kind of intercourse here (or at least I hope he does), but it’s bloody confusing, since the Bible uses the word quite frequently for the regular kind of intercourse, and it squicked me out a bit.
And then in 1 John 2 we’re back to being confusing: ‘Beloved people, I do not write you a new commandment, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. This old commandment is the word you have heard. Yet I write you a new commandment, because blah’.
I mean, make up your mind! Are you writing us a new commandment or not?
In addition to that he tells us ‘not to love the world and what is on it’, and it still pisses me off that everything you do is for the afterlife, not the current one.
And then it mentions the antichrist! Except there’s many of them, apparently, and from that we recognise that it is the last hour.
1 John 3 says that anyone born from God commits no sin, for the seed of God remains within him and he cannot sin, for he is born from God. I’m not entirely sure whether he means people who have accepted Christianity here, or the literal sons of God (angels?), but earlier on he said that to claim you have no sin is to delude yourself. So again, make up your mind please?
Furthermore, we must love each other, not like Cain who was evil and murdered his brother. From that it extrapolates that whoever hates his brother is a people-murderer. That’s like saying that sparrows are birds, so all birds must be sparrows.
1 John 4 claims that no one has seen God. But what about Adam and Eve? and Henoch, who walked with God? And frankly, all the other people in Genesis, half of whom appeared to converse with God on a daily basis? Even Moses talked to him, after that burning bush event!
2 John is ridiculously short. I thought Philemon was short, but this is barely half a page, and it is addressed to the chosen woman and her beloved children. Is this Maria? Fuck knows, because this epistle doesn’t bother mentioning her by name. It’s also pointless, because it ends with ‘I have many things to write to you, but did not want to do this with paper and ink’. I think he means he has a lot to tell her, because at the time I don’t think there was another option for writing. Yes, semantics, but I’m a born pedant.
3 John is equally short, and equally pointless. It talks about some bad dude called Diotrefes and a good dude called Demetrius, but again he doesn’t want to write anything down with paper and ink.
Last before Revelations is the Epistle of Jude. Again this is confusing, because in Dutch this is De Brief van Judas. This is of course not the Judas, which I guess is why in English he’s called Jude instead, but even in the Gospels there already were two Judases, so I don’t understand this discrepancy in English.
Anyway, it’s the usual stuff, and the only thing that interested me was that apparently the archangel Michael fought with the devil over Moses’ body. Gosh, and they didn’t think to mention that in the Old Testament?
Next week, Revelations! I’m really looking forward to that, but I fully expect to be disappointed.