Elijah to the Baalites: “Your God Sucks!” (Heretic’s Guide Sampler)

Bible Cliff’s Notes (My dog ate my Bible!)


First Reading

1 Kings 18:20-21, (22-29), 30-39
Elijah challenges the prophets of the god Baal to a standoff. Both will prepare offerings to their gods, and will call on them to consume the offerings with fire. Baal does nothing, much to the chagrin of his prophets, but the God of Abraham consumes the offering with fire. And Elijah kind of rubs their noses in it.

Gospel
Luke 7:1-10
Jesus heals a Roman soldier’s slave. The Jewish people advocate for him as a kind and giving man, and he is humbled by Jesus’ presence in his home. Jesus claims he hasn’t found anyone in Israel as faithful as the solider, and he heals his slave.

Psalm
Psalm 96
A song of praise for the God of Abraham who should be praised above all others. It’s a song of anticipation of God’s judgment on the earth, which will be done with “equity, righteousness and truth.”

Second Reading
Galatians 1:1-12
Paul claims his authority from Jesus to speak as a leader to the Christians in Galatia. He’s bummed by how quickly they stray from the Christian gospel, looking for something else. He assures them that if anyone (including him) promotes a gospel other than the one they received, it’s a lie, because this Gospel was divinely inspired.

 

WTF? (Breaking down scripture in plain language)

Galatians – Galatia was a region in what is now central Turkey, between the Black and Mediterranean seas. Paul’s letter (or epistle) to the Christians in Galatia is considered to be one of the earliest of his letters. And unlike some of the others, this one is believed to be written by Paul himself, whereas some of the later letters may have been attributed to him, but may have been written after his death. A big focus of Galatians is the conversion of Gentiles to Christianity.

Oblation – A fancy word for an offering to God. Generally, they are considered to be sacrificial offerings of some kind.

Baal – This was sort of a catch-all name used to refer to any number of pagan gods worshipped in the time of the Old Testament. Any time it appeared in scripture, it was referring to some god other than Yahweh, the God of Israel. So the name is meant to connote a false god.

Gospel – This literally translates to “Good News.” It refers to the first four books in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These contain the stories of Jesus’ birth. Life, ministry, death and resurrection, though there is also some additional narrative in Acts. 

Elijah – One of the most well-known prophets of the god of Israel, his name actually means, “My God is Yahweh.” He is also a prophet of note in the Muslim Qur’an. He is revered in Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and he was said to have performed miracles in God’s service. He also preached often of end times and God’s coming judgment.

 

Navel-Gazing (First Thoughts)

  • It’s obvious Elijah is putting on a hell of a show for those observing this “Battle Royale of the Gods.” But is it just me, or does he end up sounding kind of like a jerk? I mean, these prophets are wailing and cutting themselves, and he’s teasing them! “Hay, maybe your god took a vacation? Carnival Cruise maybe? Or just napping?” I mean, I know Paul says later in the New Testament that the only thing we should boast about is God, but this seems like the kind of arrogance that turns a lot of people off of religion.
  • There are a couple of interesting conflicts I see in the Gospel reading in Luke. First, we have this Roman centurion who all of the Jews say is a good and fair man. But he still works for “the man,” which is an occupying force in Israel. He’s ashamed of this…and yet in Jesus’ presence he doesn’t abandon his post. Still Jesus sees him as faithful enough to heal his slave. And that’s the other thing – it’s great and all that Jesus heals this guy, but he gets better and he’s still a slave. Bummer! Maybe throw in a pardon here too? Cant’ a slave catch a break?

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About Christian Piatt

Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.


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