Monday, January 30, 2012

Matthew 16

The Pharisees and Sadducees Demand Signs

They ask Jesus for a sign from heaven. He says they can read the sky, but not the sign of the times. "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah"

Is this a variant of "Don't test God"?

The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees

Jesus and the disciples are travelling in the land of Pharisees and Sadducees and they realize they don't have any bread. Jesus says to beware of the Leaven of those guys. His disciples say that they have no bread. Jesus says "ye of little faith", reminds his followers of the feeding of the five thousand and four thousand. Then he points out that he isn't actually talking about bread ("how is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread?"), but the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

The more I think about this passage the more I dislike it. First, he says "ye of little faith" when his followers point out that they don't have bread. He makes it a negative thing to ask questions, point out a problem, and potentially try to get the problem solved before it is a crisis.

Second, he complains that his followers didn't realize he was not actually talking about bread, even though he used bread as a metaphor for knowledge during a time when bread is a real problem. Seems to me the problem is his for being confusing, not theirs for being confused.

Finally and most importantly, the whole point of this is for him to not want his people to hear the teachings of the Sadducees and Pharisees. This is an issue I have with the bible going all the way back to the tree of knowledge. Acquiring knowledge should always be a good thing.

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

Jesus asks his disciples who the people say the Son of Man is. They reply John the Baptsists, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. They Jesus asks "Who do you say I am?" and they reply that he is the son of God. He says yes, he says he will build his church to prevail against hell. "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven." Then he tells them not to tell anyone that he is the Christ.

This sounds to me like Jesus is trying to get his friends to tell him how awesome he is. "They say that guy is the best, but I am right fellas" "oh yeah boss, you are the best". I'm sorry if that is offensive, I'm not trying to be, it is just how it reads to me.

What is up with the "whatever you bind of earth shall be bound in heaven" thing? Doesn't that go against lay up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21)?

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

Jesus says he must go to Jerusalem, suffer and die and then be resurrected after 3 days. Peter said it should not happen and Jesus calls him Satan. "You are not setting your mind on God, but on the things of man"

Basically saying don't cling to life. There are more important things.

Take up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

If you want to follow me take up your cross and lose your life as well. What good is the whole world if you lose your soul?

"Truly I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom"

This again, is Jesus pretty explicitly saying the world will end soon right? Is there another way to interpret that? Why would you follow this 2000 years later?


  1. Lol @the stroking of Ego thing. That's a hilarious take.. To ME, its always seemed like God had a bit of an ego problem. If he was the only God, then why would he get so jealous about other "Gods." Of course, there are a lot of interesting passages where God seems to hint at other Gods. For example, Genesis 1:26 “Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. .. ” or Genesis 3:22 “Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. ...” If you'd like I can cite a lot of them (it would however take a lot of space in your blog.) I hear that the “holy trinity” is the explanation for this apparent contradiction. However, the trinity was never mentioned in the bible and didn't seem to be a problem until  Theophilus of Antioch came up with the idea of the trinity in about 170 (taken from wiki) to explain away all the contradictions where Jesus says he's god and where he seems to be separate from God. I grew up Catholic and did not realize until I started to study and read about Church history that I realized how much of it was only “revealed” as time went by. For example, the policy of not blaming ALL the Jews anymore for killing Christ didn't come about until Vatican II (which was in 1965 I believe?). The Vatican paper actually had a lot of antisemitism articles up until WWI. It wasn't just the Catholic Church that was guilty. Martin Luther said some really horrible stuff about Jews as well. Hitler in a few speeches used the bible to justify what he did. (He was a nutjob and his opinions on anything have no bearing on whether the Bible is true or not, to me anyway). A quick search pulled this book up on Amazon. Sorry to get off topic..

    To go back to the beginning of this Chapter. He says that the evil generation seeks a sign, but he won't give it. The pharisees and people were probably worried about following false prophets. I don't see the problem in asking. However, as cited before, we shall see later on, that the other gospels tell a very different story.
    Mark 16:20 “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs”
    John 3:2 “This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him." ”
    John 20:30 “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; ”
    and Acts 2:22 “ "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God withmighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know-- ”

    1. I know I can be “picky” about contradictions. However, this is why, and forgive me for ranting. I did stray from the church for a bit and then decided to really examine and “test” things, since if they were true, they would hold up to some intense scrutiny and I would surely come back much stronger.
      The bible is almost like being summoned to Jury duty where some guys have given some written testimony as to an event that has happened. Yet, they are no longer alive. As a juror, one would want to hold these stories to a high standard to find the truth. However, there is a problem when they don't match up. If person A says that the suspect was at a dinner at the same time person B says they were at the bank, there is a problem. Or if one says he had a club, and the other one said he had a gun. The explanations I hear, some plausible, but many seem to just say “oh they BOTH must have happened.” He must have had a gun AND a club. The first testimony didn't say he DIDN'T have a gun and the second DIDN'T say he didn't have a club, so they are both plausible.
      I tried to hold the Bible to a much higher standard. This isn't just some trial. I'm of course not saying justice is important. But this is potentially my immortal soul. I took this stuff very seriously.

      Verses 13-17: People were fooled again about whether Jesus was God or not. I already said my piece about this I believe in Chapter 14. Also, here Christ is revealed through God to Simon Peter. In John 1:40-41, Andrew tells him instead. One might say that God revealed it through Andrew I guess, but I'm not convinced.

      Verses 18 and 19. Jesus telling Peter he was giving him the keys is a foundation for Catholicism. Peter was the first pope. Protestants revile these verses. In verse 23 I find it funny he calls the first pope “satan.” But I'm sure Satan is associated with doubt or questions.

      Verse 24. He keeps referring to the crucifixion. Does this mean anything “taking up your cross” to the disciples, since they don't know whats going to happen? Dan Barker has a great article on the subject called “cross examination about the cross” in Losing Faith in Faith. If you like, I could try to track this down for you. I made a note in my bible.

      Verse 28. I wonder about this myself, as he says he'll be back before their lifetimes, but never came. Two thousand years later, and we're still waiting.

  2. I would definitely say don't worry about your thoughts here. I think it is cool that you have notes in your bible from when you did an intense review. Contradictions in the bible are an interesting thing. There is the explanation where it is 2 different people seeing the same thing, they will see it in a different way. Some things are reasonable and some are not, and it is interesting to figure out which category they are in. For instance, in your example I might think that one person could have had a terrible view and couldn't see very well and just thought it was a club. Then I could go back to the original account and see if that possibility works with the source material. (hope that makes some sort of sense)

    Anyway, the contradictions you have found are interesting and I like when you share them. I imagine it is also interesting for you to look back as your point of view has undoubtedly changed, who knows what stuff you will take differently now.

    Finally, to do it properly, it requires looking at the chapter the verse is contained in. As was pointed out to me in a comment earlier in Matthew 10, my original take on something was probably not fair and on further reflection I agreed with an alternate perspective on it. When I have time or when something really jumps out at me I like to go check it out, but that probably won't happen every time. What it does do though, if I (or someone else) thinks your interpretation doesn't sound quite right, I can go look it up and try to find a broader context.

  3. "Jesus telling Peter he was giving him the keys is a foundation for Catholicism. Peter was the first pope."

    oh, he was talking specifically to Peter, that does make a bit more sense now.

    As to the losing faith in faith thing, don't worry about it. It sounds interesting but I probably wouldn't get around to it.

  4. There's a lot I want to comment on and I will come back later to discuss some of what was said.

    JKerber: I don't know too much about Catholicism, but I have always seen Catholics as separate from Christianity for many reasons. I'm not saying that Catholics cannot be sincere Christians, but coming from a Protestant background I see some large problems with what is being taught when compared to what the Bible teaches....

    As for the "Losing Faith in Faith book" you keep talking about. I looked it up. I'm not surprised that he lost faith, many people do. It's a struggle for most Christians, I had moments in my life where I wondered about my faith. I found this website:, it gives a critique on the book and goes by chapter, addressing the points made by Barker. I hope it gives you a different perspective and also another source to your Bible study. I also found this website: and also:
    I think these sites will answer some of your questions if you go through them. Take some time to explore the sites and see if they are helpful.

  5. One thing that is always hard for a skeptic to talk to a christian (or any other faith following the bible) is that no two people seem to have the same take on the bible. So, pinpointing stances is really difficult. Another thing is that so many great theologians, people who should know the bible the best, point to very different opinions on the bible.

    Thanks for the info. :) I will definitely give it a read.

  6. Concerning the article, I enjoyed some of it, other parts I thought set him up straw man style. It reminded me of a book I once started to read refuting Dawkins' the God Delusion and I had to put it down after about fifty pages. I could see how someone would think he was an idiot by reading the response without actually reading the book.

    I hold Dawkins in a much higher regard on the subject of skepticism. I had a library of literature on the subject, unfortunately I chucked most of the apologetic s books, but Barker's book has an easy index to look up stuff =P

    I took a belief look at the CARM website. It's VERY difficult to find a source of christian apologetics that doesn't describe atheism as a "denial" of God. "Atheism is a faith/worldview that denies the existence of any supernatural deity. The Oxford English Dictionary provides the following definition: “To believe nothing of a designing Principle or Mind, nor any Cause, Measure, or Rule of things, but Chance . . . is to be a perfect atheist.”" I've never actually talked to another atheist who felt this way. Growing up Catholic, I knew nothing about atheism, other than those people were horrible and to avoid them. I'm not saying you feel this way of course. But atheism just means that one doesn't feel there is sufficient evidence or arguments for god(s). That's it. Nothing else. And I've never meet another atheist who said that if shown good evidence or arguments for god(s) that he would still reject them.
    Another misunderstanding about atheism is this. I often hear people say "well, if you don't believe that God exists, prove that he doesn't." A lot of times its "reaching for the higher ground" when it comes to the burden of proof. I think theists feel like atheists have to prove a positive (that there is no God), and atheists feel like the theists have to prove the positive (there is a god). When say a Muslim or Hindu approaches you and preaches to you. I'm assuming that you probably don't believe what they say. Why? How do you respond when they tell you to prove that they are wrong?

    I will try to check out the third link later when I have a bit more time. :)

    Just letting you know where I am coming from as I never meet, talked too (knowingly), or read anything from the perspective of a non-believer until I was in my twenties. :)


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