There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4(18)
At a certain point after venturing into The New Testament, I sent our local priest an email asking if I could purchase the Bible that I had borrowed.
What I had in mind was to highlight my favourite passages after writing notes during my reading of The Old Testament, and to my delight I was told that I could keep the Bible as a gift.
It has a symbolic value to me personally and I love the fact that it is so old and worn that other people have also written their names in it.
The New Testament makes for a remarkably quick read, considering its influence, and consists mainly of Paul’s letters.
I guess this can explain in part people’s fascination with non-canonical gospels, as if thought desperate to find more material regarding what Jesus actually said during his short life-time. Much is made of the fact that few know what Jesus was up to before he was baptised by John The Baptist.
What strikes me as odd when it comes to the Christian faith are all of the various denominations and all of the disagreements that are present within Christianity.
One body – one church.
That was the goal at least, yet that is not how things have played out sadly.
Building bridges between various Christian denominations ought to be a priority if living by the Biblical principle of: one body, one church.
“Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common.” Acts 4(32)
“…for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognised.” 1 Corinthians 11(19)
There are some misconceptions and malpractice within various Christian denominations that strike me as especially peculiar, considering what The New Testament actually says.
Celibacy among priests, as in Catholicism, is not advocated in The New Testament, quite on the contrary. It is described that Bishops and Deacons need to have orderly households.
It is also mentioned that women involved with the church (even though the role isn’t specified) are meant to be of good, steady character.
Abstaining from alcohol is also not advocated in the Bible. So strict Scandinavian interpretations, where a merciless war is to be fought against wine and spirits, is actually quite off the mark.
Circumcision, so favoured by Americans, is also not advocated in The New Testament. Nor is money worship and/or extreme capitalism. Selfish materialism is at odds with Holy Texts consistently highlighting the importance of collectivism within the church.
“For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.” 1 Timothy 6(10)
What I personally struggled with were the sections condemning rebellion against ones government (see Romans 13, Titus 3, Hebrews 13(17), Peter 2(13)). It makes sense if someone loves you and care for you that they wouldn’t be interested in the State coming after you. Then again; the disciples were persecuted and Jesus was killed on the cross due to their rebellion. The disciples and his followers saw Jesus as a fulfilment of Isaiah, but to the Jewish establishment he was the leader of a spiritual revolt, a heresy, that had to be rooted out. The Christian narrative was one that deserved to be squashed to pieces, especially before it reached more people.
The sections concerning slavery, (see Ephesians 6(5), 1 Timothy 6, Titus 2(9), Peter 2(18)) and the whole air that one should be happy in whatever position that one has been born into, fly in the face of the “pursuit of happiness” principle/doctrine; it can also be argued that a slave rebellion is more aligned with justice than accepting physical bondage, at least from a modern perspective.
Yet again, rebellions have a tendency to fail if they aren’t planned well, and the fate of those who are/were dissenters is seldom bright.
The sections concerning women is also at odds with the Western world of today:
“For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” 1 Corinthians 14(35)
You can read about women and faith here: “The Gender Agenda” by Lis Goddard & Clare Hendry.
The last aspect of The New Testament that had me wondering was the idea that Abraham’s descendants are the people of faith. This contradicts the Jewish people and their historical obsession with lineage. The Christian perspective is that you are Abraham’s descendant if you are “of him” in spirit.
This is certainly a radical notion, but fits in with other passages in The New Testament concerning a non-Ethnocentric spirituality, that was first intended for “the lost sheep of Israel,” but became accessible to all as Jesus progressed through his mission.
There are several instances where Jesus praises the faith of non-Jewish characters and openly lament those Jews who reject him.
In fact The New Testament can be read as the 2nd rescued operation initiated to save the tribes of Israel. After God’s ranting in The Old Testament, he sends his son, as an incarnation of “The Word” into the world to interact with the Jews. They react to this by killing the one who was sent to save them, driving out his disciples who then do what they can to spread the word to “the Gentiles.”
In killing Jesus the Jewish establishment fulfilled the prophesy and emphasised, in fact confirmed, his Messiah status. Yet there are many today who would still argue that this is/was not the case.
I find it very realistic that humans would react with disbelief if faced with Jesus or anything celestial; humans would either bend the knee or laugh, and even if a miracle was to be performed it would be too far-fetched to expect generation after generation to still believe. Those who witnessed the miracles would know, but how many others? Especially without any tangible, worldly, evidence! That one thing upon which everything rests in this day and age!
I enjoy The Holy Bible’s realistic descriptions of human behaviour.
It is interesting to note for example that Moses is more loyal to his ethnic tribe than to those who adopted him and raised him. He could have lived in luxury and remained comfortable, but decided to throw all of that away in order to fight against social injustice and follow God. (See Hebrews 11(24))
Some of my favourite passages in The New Testament are the ones concerning the celestial:
“For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10(3)
“For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6(12)
Jesus is normally portrayed as an accepting entity, perfectly aligned with our current culture where everything goes, yet the Bible completely contradicts this:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.” Matthew 10(34)
“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?” Luke 11(17)
“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division;” Luke 12(51)
“The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil.” John 7(7)
“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15(19)
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2(15)
“We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one.” 1 John 5(19)
Jesus demands that his disciples leave everything behind in order to follow him:
“So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14(33)
“…and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need.” Acts 2(45)
There are several passages where Jesus orders people to stay quiet about his miracles.
Much emphasis is put on “false prophets,” religious hypocrisy, and showing off:
“Beware of practising your piety before men in order to be seen by them; then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 6
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” Matthew 7 (15)
“It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you make it a den of robbers.” Matthew 21(13)
“So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” Matthew 23(28)
The Jewish establishment is repeatedly referred to as envious of Jesus’ popularity:
“For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up.” Mark 15(10)
“And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death; for they feared the people.” Luke 22(2)
“This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” John 5(18)
“Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.” John 8(58)
The Jewish establishment go on to persecuted Jesus’ disciples and followers after Jesus’ crucifixion:
“But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with jealousy, and contradicted what was spoken by Paul and reviled him.” Acts 13(44)
“But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren.” Acts 14(2)
Much is said of people’s blindness since they don’t recognise the prophets among them, not even the Messiah. These passages are some of the most beautiful in the Bible:
“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by deeds.” Matthew 11(18)
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Luke 13(34)
“If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.” Luke 16(31)
Salvation isn’t something that can be bought for money, nor do privilege in this world guarantee privilege in the spiritual world:
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” Matthew 9(12)
“… and be content with your wages.” Luke 3(14)
“…for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12(15)
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 12(34)
The New Testament acknowledges diversity and patriotism/tribalism:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28(19)
“If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5(8)
In Revelation it sounds like God is an eater of men and/or a vampire (see Revelation 14(18)):
“He is not God of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.” Mark 12(27)
“Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” Revelation 19(17)