Movie Review: “Son of God”

“Son of God” movie atheist

I attended a free showing of Son of God, sponsored by Seattle’s Mars Hill church. They bought out three screens, and they encouraged their membership to attend and bring an unbeliever. The gospel story may be as good an occasion as any to evangelize, but I can’t imagine any unbeliever hearing much that was new.

Though the movie ended with the Great Commission and I was wearing my “Atheist: I believe in you!” t-shirt, I wasn’t able to tempt any Christians.

Beach Boy Jesus

The movie was based on the recent 10-part miniseries, The Bible. Jesus was played by Diogo Morgado, a 6′ 3″ model from Portugal. I suspect that a Jew from 2000 years ago would have looked substantially browner, shorter, and less gorgeous.

Megyn Kelly from Fox News got into this debate last Christmas when she said, “Jesus was a white man, too … he’s a historical figure—that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa.” Assuming she’s talking about St. Nicholas, the 4th-century bishop from Lycia (now Turkey), “Santa” probably wasn’t white either.

Overall impressions

This is a feel-good movie for Christians, with plenty of agony to make them appreciate Jesus’s sacrifice (which doesn’t do much for me, BTW). While atheists may find many individual elements of the gospel story that are new to them, very few Americans aren’t familiar with the Jesus story.

The main plot shows Pilate the Roman governor and Caiaphas the high priest trying to keep order in the prelude to the Passover. Interwoven is Jesus preaching, but much of this devolves into familiar but out-of-context platitudes. For example, in one vignette we get “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” and then “Love your neighbor.” In like manner the obligatory John 3:16 was shoehorned in somewhere.

How do you make a Jesus movie?

In the late second century, church father Tatian harmonized the four gospels into the Diatessaron, a big, fat amalgam of the four gospels. Though the Diatessaron did not become popular, Christian apologists today often harmonize conflicting passages in a similar way by arguing that they’re all true.

That struggle was evident with this movie. We would see a story element from one gospel, but then this would highlight the absence of the conflicting version from another gospel. For example, we see Mary and Joseph early in the story with baby Jesus and the Luke nativity story (which doesn’t have magi) combined with the Matthew nativity story (which doesn’t have shepherds).

Mary reappears later in the story, but this conflicts with Mark, which makes clear that Jesus’s family thinks that he’s crazy. According to Mark, his family is not a part of his adult ministry.

On Palm Sunday, Jesus rides triumphantly into Jerusalem on a donkey, but this conflicts with Matthew, which says he rode on two donkeys.

Jesus next cleanses the temple of money changers, but this conflicts with John, who has the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of the ministry.

During the crucifixion, we see the darkness and earthquake from Matthew, but Matthew’s zombie apocalypse is omitted.

Jesus preaches for 40 days after his resurrection, but this conflicts with Luke, which has him return to heaven after just one day.

The gross part

The movie was rated PG-13 for “intense and bloody depiction of The Crucifixion, and for some sequences of violence.” I’m sure Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was much worse, but this was pretty gruesome. And that’s a conflict, too. The movie takes the flogging and crown of thorns from Mark, but Luke and John have no flogging and a placid Jesus, who seems to be more concerned about those around him than about his own pain.

It’s impossible to tell a Jesus story that respects all of the gospels.

Final thoughts

  • John the disciple is our story teller, and appearances of him as an old man on Patmos bookends the movie (yes, I know that these may not be the same guy). He says that all the other disciples died as martyrs, which isn’t true.
  • When Jesus realizes at the Last Supper that he is to die a painful death, it comes as a shock. This makes sense of his plea to God, “may this cup be taken from me,” but this conflicts with the omniscient Jesus according to John, who knew things from the beginning of time.
  • The story is completely Jewish, and it ends with Peter carrying on the tradition of Jesus. The fact that the gospels were written within a Greek context (not Aramaic) and that the movie includes nothing of Paul isn’t mentioned. This makes for a simpler though less complete story.
  • The Obama-Satan was cut from the movie (I suppose the scene would be Satan’s tempting of Jesus).
  • When Pilate asked who he should release from prison, I had a hard time not channeling Monty Python’s Pilate from Life of Brian and shouting out (with an Elmer Fudd speech problem), “Welease Wodewick!”

The movie ends with Jesus assuring John that he’s coming soon. No, I’m afraid that didn’t happen, either.

Many false prophets have gone out into the world.
— 1 John 4:1

Photo credit: Christian Film Database

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  • Greg G.

    Did Jesus do any miracles? Were the disciples dumbfounded when they saw them? Did they have nude scenes like the demonaic or the boy at Gethsemane?

    • Lots of miracles–raising Lazarus, walking on water, feeding the 5000 (the basket of fish magically becomes full). Everyone was appropriately amazed.

      No nudity, just lots of violence, as is the American custom.

      • adam

        Nudity is shameful.
        Violence is GODLY…

    • SparklingMoon-

      Did Jesus do any miracles?
      There are described many miracles of Jesus in the Bible but Jesus by himself had claimed only for one miracle to show and that is written in Matthew :”Then some scribes and Pharisees said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign.” He responded, “The people of an evil and unfaithful era look for a miraculous sign. But the only sign they will get is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”(Matthew 12:38-40)

      As Jesus was a true prophet and as he knew that God, whose beloved he was, would save him from an accursed death, he made a prophecy in the form of a parable, revealed to him by God, in which he hinted that he would not die on the Cross, nor would he give up the ghost on the accursed wood; on the contrary, like the prophet Jonah, he would only pass through a state of swoon.

      It is described in Matthew 12:40 that ”just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, so the Son of Man shall be three days and three nights in the bowels of the earth. Now it is clear that Jonah did not die in the belly of the fish; the utmost that happened was that he was in a swoon or a fit of fainting.The holy books of God bear witness that Jonah, by the grace of God, remained alive in the belly of the fish, and came out alive; and his people ultimately accepted him.(Jesus in India)

      • Greg G.

        Matthew 12:38-40 is taken from Mark 8:11-13 where Jesus simply says that no sign will be given:

        11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.

        There was nothing about Jonah in the story. Matthew made that up. Mark made up his version by starting with one of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 1:22

        For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom,

        The swoon theory is a myth, Jesus in India is a myth, Jesus in Jerusalem is a myth. The stories don’t stand to scrutiny.

        The question I asked about the miracles was in regard to the movie. The miracles attributed to Jesus in the Bible were exaggerations of miracles done by Moses, Elijah, and Elisha. They never really happened.

        • SparklingMoon-

          Matthew 12:38-40 is taken from Mark 8:11-13 where Jesus simply says that no sign will be given
          what I had written about the miracle, promised by Jesus to be shown to the people of his time,is described not only in the Gospel of Matthew but also in the Luke. This sayings of Jesus is described in Gospel Matthew:
          (40)Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” (41) For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (42)The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (43) The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. (Matthew-12:40-43)

          And the same saying of Jesus is described in Gospel of Luke in these words: ”When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah (30) For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. (31)The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. (32)The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah,and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Luke-11:29)

          The Gospels are mixture of revelation, sayings of Jesus and personal descriptions of other narrators.If a prophecy of any Gospel proves its truth with the time by its fulfillment then a good nature person should accept that description as a part of the revelation God or sayings of Jesus .

  • Pofarmer

    Most of the people won’t have any idea that the film is a mashup, because that’s the way they’ve heard it their whole lives. Most christians have never read anything but disjointed passages. One other thought. Jesus was ressurected nd walking through walls and stuff for 40 days? Why not just appear to the pharisees and clear this all up?

    • Remember in the movie T2 where John Connor and the terminator go to get John’s mom? The warden (who had dismissed the mother’s statement about the first terminator as her begin crazy) is there to see it all. He doesn’t think that she’s crazy anymore.

      But, no, I guess that’s just not how the gospels roll. Jesus appears to many (500 if Paul is to be believed, though the gospels apparently didn’t), but never to anyone in power.

  • Kodie

    How do they think this movie is any more convincing than Thor? Bring an atheist to a superhero movie! I was immediately reminded of the confusion at the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking, when (a) people did not realize that really happened and wasn’t just a movie, and (b) thought the movie was filmed live. Is there anything happening on twitter from this that I can laugh at?

    • Pofarmer

      Here is what I am interested in, in part. Kids and young adults today are thoroughly used to superhero movies. Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Thor, Ironman, and a host of action movies which portray the heros doing impossible feats. Will young people make the connection that this is really just one more of those?

      • Kodie

        I don’t plan to see it myself, so I can’t say for sure, but I think most of the audience will go to see an entertaining version of what they already believe. I don’t even think, based on Bob’s description of it, it has entertainment value to anyone else that maybe Passion of the Christ did (didn’t see that either, but it was produced as a feature film with name stars and not a TV movie that was released in a theater). As opposed to a blockbuster Batman release, I don’t think anyone interested a mere entertainment factor will even go. People went to all 3 of the Star Wars prequels because they were completionists and from what I heard, it was dissatisfying. No matter how many bad (or good) new Star Wars movies come out in the future, true fans will go, and let’s assume they can tell fact from fiction, they need to know what will happen in the story even if it stinks. Christians already know what happened. Everyone, just about, knows what happens. Is it portrayed excitingly? Is it meant to be convincing? Am I the only one who comes out of a movie theater thinking I saw something pretty good and have to come down before I recognize all the flaws and plotholes? It is called suspension of disbelief, and I suppose Jesus can be a fascinating character to get to know, but what don’t we already know? It’s not like in the sequel, he gets a new sidekick and goes on super new adventures. There might be variables in the gospels, but the adventure is always the same and the hero dies at the end. No sequel.

        Jesus Christ, Superstar, Godspell, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat were entertaining musical plays even for non-believers, but possibly emotional fortification to a believer. I was in a high school production of Joseph and was a techie on a summer repertory production of Godspell and they aren’t too boring if you don’t hate musicals. Funny thing about watching Godspell, which the tech crew was required* to view a late rehearsal of, one of the other people cried when Jesus was on the makeshift cross and died because, she said, she “wasn’t expecting it.” Lol.

        *Required as in, I think it’s a thing in theater not to deprive the people working on a play from watching it or being tempted to lose their place from watching it from backstage or messing up the sidelines and getting in the way.

        • People went to all 3 of the Star Wars prequels because they were completionists and from what I heard, it was dissatisfying.

          That was my complaint about the next two Matrix movies.

          It’s not like in the sequel, he gets a new sidekick and goes on super new adventures. There might be variables in the gospels, but the adventure is always the same and the hero dies at the end. No sequel.

          I suppose Jesus could have new adventures. You’re aware of the couple dozen noncanonical gospels (Gospel of Judas, Gospel of Thomas, etc.). There are a couple of Infancy Gospels. Do a prequel! Jesus is portrayed as quite a hell-raiser.

          But, of course, those are out of the canon. Perhaps it would be like a dialed-up version of new Star Wars movies where not only would people talk about whether it fit with what they wanted to happen, but you’d also have theologians telling people how blasphemous it was (for real, unlike fans doing it metaphorically).

          There are a swarm of upcoming religious movies—Noah, God’s Not Dead, and Heaven Is For Real (all with previews before this one, of course).

        • Kodie

          John Prine’s “Jesus – The Missing Years”

        • avalpert

          “but you’d also have theologians telling people how blasphemous it was (for real, unlike fans doing it metaphorically).”

          I think you underestimate the zealotry of some Star Wars fans. I’m not sure it is correct to say of some of the more deeply beloved sci-fi/fantasy stories that the fans are completely able to separate reality from fantasy and I also wouldn’t doubt them spawning quasi-religions after a couple of generations either.

          It’s not like it hasn’t happened before…

        • Kodie

          I don’t know if they can’t tell fact from fiction, but maybe just passionate to an over-extent of how their favorite art project turns out at the hands of another. I read a message board for a soap opera I watch, and people just seem to have preferences such that if the show does something different, it seems to affect their lives somehow, but I still think they know it’s fiction, they’re just voicing disapproval at the direction that the story goes in. To make another example, I know how… for example, The Brady Bunch turns out, but I still cringe when the plot of an episode sets a character up for a severe lesson in life. I still get distracted by details that aren’t cleaned up and glossed over. People get pretty emotional how no one on tv seems to work for a living, instead of, well, they work within the other 279 hours of the week they’re awake, I don’t know how fierce Star Wars fans can be in particular, but if a show or movie attracts you to be a fan, you sort of look for clues to future story arcs and are disappointed when they go another direction, for example. If the story seems to be heading a certain way you don’t want it to go, or they seem to be shipping characters that you don’t want to be together, the art touches the viewer in a way, that they can get emotional, even though it’s not really happening. And yet, let the story-teller tell their story, and if it goes the way you thought it would anyway, it lacks surprise, and maybe gains good writing. It could twist another way, fans get nervous like I do when I’m watching The Brady Bunch for some reason. Someone is going to get humiliated and how will they recover???? It’s almost like the storyteller isn’t going to save your characters.

        • Fair enough. The connection between movie fans (or sports fans) and religious people is already pretty strong. I’m happy to see it strengthened.

        • adam

          It doesn’t take a couple of generations.

      • Great point.

        There was a bit of CGI (of Jerusalem and the Temple), but a movie can make you believe in Pandora. Hollywood has left ancient imagination far behind.

    • And we just missed Ragnarok (the Norse end-of-days) a few days ago, so having atheists believe in Thor would’ve been quite appropriate.

  • Blessed Jim

    “On Palm Sunday, Jesus rides triumphantly into Jerusalem on a donkey, but this conflicts with Matthew, which says he rode on two donkeys.”
    Well DUH! He had to change donkeys at the cross town donkey depot. Probably lost his luggage too. Explains why he was in such a snit when he reached the temple. You atheists are so IGNORANT.

    • shart of turin

      Should have rode in standing on two galloping asses – don’t say asses don’t gallop, because I’ve known some galloping asses in my time – Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show-style.

  • Pofarmer

    Just an aside. But I had mentioned before that the Priest at my kids school was having the kids read “the whole bible.” Well, he apparently announced last week that they will be “skipping around in Numbers.” I asked my son why he thought he was doing that and he said, “Because Numbers 5 is a problem.” In fact, there are many problematic things in Numbers, which tend to discredit the historicity of Exodus and the other tales. I thought it was kind of humorous, and typical.

    • Greg G.

      So the priest suddenly realized that the Bible was not suitable to be read by children. How long will it be before he realizes that it is not suitable to be believed by adults?

      • Pofarmer

        Well, heh, the Catholic church convinced me. ;0)

    • I’d like to see a graph of Bible verses vs. number of times those verses are preached in a sermon.

      Doesn’t the Good Book say, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”? Let’s see a little more tough love from the Old Testament.

      • Pofarmer

        I would just about Guarantee you that Numbers 5 has never been preached anywhere, at least in modern times. Numbers, in General, reveals what a dreadful, dreadful society it was that came up with that stuff.

      • Ron

        It’d be great to see Pastor Steve Anderson deliver a sermon on Ezekiel 23:20 –

        “There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.”

        Should be a hoot. He did such a wonderful job explaining the wholesomeness of “him that pisseth against the wall.”

    • Ron

      Abortion, biblical style. Teach the controversy.

    • avalpert

      I don’t understand, what about Numbers 5 is a problem? If the problem is undercutting the historicity of the bible you’ve taken care of that before you are out of the first chapter of Genesis; if it is descriptions of ancient humanity we now find repulsive you don’t get past Genesis 9 (you also have to whitewash all historical figures, most historical cultures and any version of crime and punishment up to (and in some cases including) the 21st century).

      • Pofarmer

        Have you read Numbers 5?

        “11 Then the Lord said to Moses, 12 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him 13 so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), 14 and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure— 15 then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah[c] of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.

        16 “‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. 17 Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. 18 After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. 19 Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. 20 But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— 21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse[d] among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. 22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”

        “‘Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.”

        23 “‘The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. 24 He shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering will enter her. 25 The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the Lord and bring it to the altar. 26 The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial[e] offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. 27 If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse. 28 If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.

        29 “‘This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and makes herself impure while married to her husband, 30 or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the Lord and is to apply this entire law to her. 31 The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.’””

        It’s rather problematic for Catholics.

        • avalpert

          Yeah, it describes an odd and inhumane form of punishment – what makes it particularly problematic? What makes it worse than say the story of Ham and Noah or Sodom and Gomorrah?

        • purr

          abortion in cases of suspected adultery

        • avalpert

          That actually isn’t in the text – that is an interpretation that requires reading in things that aren’t explicit at all such as the notion that the woman was pregnant (and certainly could be avoided by a teacher in a class with children).

        • purr

          If the husband suspects her of sleeping around, the ‘proof’ is going to be if she is pregnant.

          And ingredient in the bitter water is rotting grain (used as a sacrifice) from the temple floor. That grain = an abortifacient. And the text clearly describes what is a misacarriage – which will PROVE she has been sleeping around.

        • avalpert

          Really? People never suspect their spouse (or significant other) of sleeping around without pregnancy being involved? Does that really conform to what you’ve seen in this world?

          And what rotted grain in water is an effective abortifacient? And if it always acts as one than why have verse 28 that describes what happens if she is innocent – if she just took an effective abortifacient and was pregnant it wouldn’t matter whether she cheated on him or not.

          And finally, I’ve witnessed a miscarriage, ‘swollen belly’ and ‘thigh falling away’ don’t clearly describe it at all. I mean really – does that really clearly say miscarriage to you?

        • purr

          The husband has no way of telling if his wife is pregnant with his child or not. This ‘trial by ordeal’ will induce a miscarriage IF she is carrying another man’s seed, yes.

          And the rotted grain contains ergot, which is an abortifacient.

          And the swollen belly and ‘thigh falling away’ is basically describing a miscarriage.

        • avalpert

          But you are assuming the existence of a pregnancy which is certainly not the only thing that drives a man to jealousy and suspecting his wife is cheating – and your source says ‘ergot’ only works late in pregnancy and seems to have not been recognized as a poison (or at least understood as such) until the middle ages which would make it both ineffective and unavailable as the magic elixir.

          Like I said, you are interpreting the text and reading into it something which is not obviously there.

        • It always seemed obvious to me. So what does it say then?

        • avalpert

          In short hand it says if a guy suspect his wife cheated on him but can’t prove it, we have this ritual trial that will uncover the truth. There will be a little sacrifice and then the woman will drink some bitter water than magic water, if she is guilty ‘her belly will swell and her thighs fall’ and if she isn’t she can go have a fruitful life.

        • Are you saying that you’re certain that it has nothing to do with miscarriage? Or are you saying that there’s a plausible reading that doesn’t include miscarriage?

        • avalpert

          I’m saying that the most natural and plausible reading doesn’t involve miscarriage. I wouldn’t say I am certain it isn’t about miscarriage because, well its author is long dead and I don’t like ruling out even stretched readings as impossible if I can’t verify it.

        • purr

          Why wouldn’t it involve miscarriage? The man suspects her of adultery (which back then, in the absence of reliable birth control, would inevitably lead to pregnancy).

          So the trial by ordeal is going to be some stomach upset + diarrhea? For realz?

        • avalpert

          ” (which back then, in the absence of reliable birth control, would inevitably lead to pregnancy)”

          Wow, I don’t think you understand human sexuality too well.

        • purr

          If she is spending a lot of time fucking another guy, and not her husband, there is a high chance that she will become pregnant with the other dude’s offspring, yes.

          And yes, I know all about human ovulation cycles. Speaking of which, sperm can trigger ovulation.

        • Pofarmer

          Mirable has pretty well stated my position. If you do a little searching around, you will find that the Ancient romans and others had fermented drinks that could cause abortions, I imagine that is what the Barley is about. And, even if the ritual wasn’t explicitly to cause an abortion, they certainly didn’t seem to concerned if it did result in one. As an aside, what happened to an unmarried woman in Ancient Israel that came up pregnant?

        • purr

          Wrong person.

        • Pofarmer

          the way disqus is acting on my mobile, I was surprised I got to comment at all.

        • avalpert

          “If she is spending a lot of time fucking another guy, and not her husband,”

          So it’s only adultery if it happens frequently and repeatedly? And men only get jealous when it wasn’t a one night stand?

        • purr

          Purposely obtuse for 1, Alex.

        • Kodie

          THANK YOU! ‘Obtuse’ is the word I was trying to think of.

        • avalpert

          Purposely ignoring the actual text for 1000, Alex…

        • Pofarmer

          Holy cow folks. Would it help to note that the experts don’t 100% agree on it?

        • Kodie

          I don’t think you do.

        • avalpert

          Color me surprised that you believe that having sex without birth control automatically leads to pregnancy. Your parents and educators really failed you, didn’t they.

          Anyway, how is that relationship with your sister coming – have you been able to have that honest discussion with her you need yet?

        • Kodie

          Now you’re just trolling, you useless piece of shit make your children so proud. Color me surprised that you can read far more into everything except what’s obvious in Numbers 5.

        • avalpert

          Ah, I guess you haven’t been able to work it out with your sister yet. Too bad, family is important even if you are too immature to realize it.

        • Kodie

          I meant what I said, what’s it to you now?

        • avalpert

          I just want you to work it out that’s all – hate to see a girl get herself all twisted because of whatever issues she has with her sister.

        • Kodie

          I’m sure you’re even more concerned about me than you are about your own children, you autopilot. Good luck with that.

        • avalpert

          Um, I may be more concerned with you because my children are healthy and well adjusted and not harboring some deep issues with each other. But in general I certainly care about them more, if you can’t work it out with your sister I won’t lose any sleep over it.

        • Kodie

          You’re actively harassing me, so I think your children might not come out as well-balanced as you think they are. You’re obsessed with me.

        • avalpert

          Actively harassing you? I spend a few seconds typing into a comment box after you responded inanely in a thread to me – you have a very odd understanding of what harassment is.

          Just give your sister a ring and put your mind at ease.

        • Kodie

          Don’t take everything I say so fucking personally, let’s start with that. I responded to your comment, I wasn’t assessing your parenting skills or generalizing you, but you seem to have psychopath tendencies. Why don’t you fucking cool it a while and try to have a normal conversation with people or GTFO. My sister has nothing to do with this topic or any other topic. You are just very sensitive about being criticized about your parenting skills, but you are clearly doing everything the best and the best example for children. Thank goodness you spawned, the world will become a marvelous place because you obviously can’t go two days without bringing up my sister just because you saw my post after yours. WTF. That’s not normal. Maybe I was right? Maybe you know I’m right?

          Maybe you ought to call my sister, maybe you will have some things in common, you hairtrigger psycho.

        • avalpert

          I haven’t taken anything you said personally. I am happy to have normal conversation with people – but when someone’s entry to a conversation is ‘I don’t think you do’ its hard to care enough to get them to a point where they are intelligently contributing So we can just fall back on checking in on whether they have worked out their relationship issues with their sister.

          Don’t worry, I didn’t think you would have by now, but I’m sure you will keep working on it.

        • Kodie

          I think you could just let it go instead of harass and troll me? Falling back into having an active conversation with me about my personal life that’s not only off-topic, but assholish, is not the only option. But I understand you want to prove what a great parent you are. I don’t think you do know how human reproduction works, and that’s all I said, and that’s all I felt like saying at the time. Do you want me to draw you a diagram? Do you want my sister’s phone number so you can harass my family too?

        • avalpert

          I could let it go, but seeing you react like this is more amusing.

        • Kodie

          That’s what the troll does say. I’m here, you’re not going to chase me away with your weak shit and inadequate parenting.

        • avalpert

          Why would I want to chase you away? That wouldn’t be amusing at all – is that what your parents have done to you? Or is that how you feel your sister acts towards you?

        • purr

          It is obvious to others that you have been on the defensive and trolling. And I am not just talking about myself. Other posters have noted your overly defensive behavior .

        • avalpert

          Who? Where?

        • purr

          People I know read this blog.

        • avalpert

          Ah, ok. Well if it is obvious to you and your friends who read this blog it must be true…

        • Then let it go. The rest of us have better things to do than endure your game playing.

        • Idea! Let’s keep other people’s families out of the conversation. Is this just friendly banter? ‘Cause it sounds like harassment.

        • purr

          Having sex without birth control does not automatically lead to pregnancy. However, as I stated, semen can trigger ovulation. Also, even if the woman has not yet ovulated, sperm can survive in the reproductive tract for a few days.

          The point being, which you keep missing, is that if he suspects his wife is sleeping around, he is not going to assume, as we do in modern times, that she took precautions by making her lover use a condom or going on the pill. It is relatively easy, in the modern world, to conceal the evidence of an illicit affair. Not so much in ancient times.

        • avalpert

          “The point being, which you keep missing, is that if he suspects his wife is sleeping around, he is not going to assume, as we do in modern times, that she took precautions by making her lover use a condom or going on the pill.”

          No, that really isn’t the point at all. The point is that in the husbands mind she is guilty of adultery and deserves punishment whether or not it resulted in pregnancy – you are limiting the ritual’s punishment only to those adulterous liaisons that resulted in pregnancy, why?

        • purr

          Except I’m not. Try to keep up. I already explained in great detail. Seems everybody understood but you.

        • avalpert

          Except you are – you are asserting that the punishment is describing a miscarriage even though the crime need not involve pregnancy.

        • purr

          It can lead to miscarriage *if* she happens to be pregnant.

        • avalpert

          Ok, that’s fine but there is only one punishment described in the text (‘belly swells and thigh falls away’) – are you saying that that is referring to miscarriage (in which case she would never be punished if she wasn’t pregnant) or are you saying that it is describing some other physical punishment part of which may include miscarriage if she happens to be pregnant?

        • purr

          Which is what I explained hours ago…

        • Kodie

          Holy crap – if nothing bad happens to her, her husband doesn’t think she slept with anyone. It’s not a punishment for infidelity, it’s a test. Do you get that? If she is maimed by the poison, her husband’s suspicions are indicated. If she is not, well, she will be because that’s the effect of the poison. It’s not magical juice that can tell the difference between guilty of infidelity and not guilty.

        • avalpert

          “It’s not magical juice that can tell the difference between guilty of infidelity and not guilty”

          Holy crap – that’s exactly what the text is saying it can do.

        • Kodie

          Do you… believe… it?

          Is your reading comprehension really so bad?

        • avalpert

          None of this has anything to do with if it is true (and of course whether it is true has nothing to do with whether you comprehend what was being said).

          You seem to be incapable of keeping up here.

        • Kodie

          Do you really think you’re keeping up if people keep explaining to you and you just aren’t buying it? First you thought it was a punishment, I was fucking clarifying that for you, because you clearly can’t read. Where did you get the idea that I’m the one who isn’t keeping up? Something here seems to be way over your head, but you just keep protesting, and then lying to cover up how bad you are at interpreting words.

        • avalpert

          Um, yeah when you receive a physical ailment and a permanent curse because you committed adultery that isn’t a punishment it’s a test.

          I got the idea you were the one not keeping up because you are…

        • Kodie

          It has the effect of a punishment because it’s poison. She will be punished for doing things she probably didn’t do as an outcome of a test using poison to see whether or not she’s adulterous because the poison cannot actually distinguish such a thing. But it is not dispensed as a punishment like you keep saying. So, thanks for talking down to me, I’m following along just fine.

        • avalpert

          Huh, I never said the water was dispensed as a punishment – back to that reading comprehension problem of yours. I have said the punishment is the physical result of drinking the water.

          Whether it is a fair way of determining guilt or administering justice really is completely immaterial. If misapplication of justice were the problem you would think the killing of all the first born (even infants) would have tripped them up long before they got to Numbers.

        • Sister? How is that relevant to the conversation?

        • avalpert

          Sorry, it was a reference to an earlier fruitless conversation with her – I will drop it

        • Appreciated.

        • Huh? 5:21 says “makes your womb miscarry” (NIV). It’s obviously about miscarriage.

        • avalpert

          That is not a literal translation – what it says is “when the LORD makes the thigh fall away, and the belly to swell”

          (you can see the hebrew and english translation along side it here:

        • The NET Bible for the “make your abdomen swell” passage has this comment:

          Most commentators take the expressions to be euphemisms of miscarriage or stillbirth, meaning that there would be no fruit from an illegitimate union. The idea of the abdomen swelling has been reinterpreted by NEB to mean “fall away.” If this interpretation stands, then the idea is that the woman has become pregnant, and that has aroused the suspicion of the husband for some reason.”

        • purr


        • avalpert

          I hadn’t heard of NET Bible before, I’d appreciate citations rather than phrases like ‘most commentators’ because it makes it easier to understand what type of sources they look to for their commentary.

        • Here’s the NET Bible link to that verse.

        • avalpert

          Thanks for the link – I was actually saying I would like it if they used citations when they say ‘most commentators’

        • Agreed. I can’t do much about that, though, I’m afraid.

        • avalpert

          Nope, you can’t. Just one of those things (not limited to the internet of course – I mean Habermas’ handwaving on the consensus for the resurrection is of the same vein).

        • purr

          1) the man suspects his wife of adultery

          2) she may or may not have been pregnant

          3) the man has NO way of knowing if she is pregnant with his child or not (if she even is)

          4) if she is sleeping around, god will kill the other man’s child and make her barren

          5) But god will know that she’s been sleeping around

          6) if the grain contains ergot, and it does induce a miscarriage, then he has his proof that she’s a slutty slut

          7) if it doesn’t contain it, and nothing happens, then she’s off the hook – and if she is pregnant, as far as he is concerned, she will have his kid

          8) they don’t need to ‘understand’ that ergot is a poison to use it as such. As far as they are concerned the holy water is a magic elixir that discerns truth cuz God

        • avalpert

          But 2 and 3 aren’t in the text at all (no mention of pregnancy, your addition), 4 is an interpretative reading of the physical description and assumes 2 and 3, 6 also assumes 2 and 3 which you introduced into the text, 8 isn’t merely a problem of them understanding that it was a poison – rye (from where ergot comes) was not part of the sacrifices whose crumbs would be on the floor.

        • We’re talking magic here. It works, not because ergot is a poison, but because it is part of God’s magic brew.

        • avalpert

          Yes, but it only works if you assume she was pregnant – which I don’t see why you should.

          If you really want to dig into it one telling piece is the use of the word ‘beten’ which means belly and occasionally womb, but almost exclusively empty wombs – the hebrew word typically used to describe the womb carrying a fetus would be ‘rehem’.

        • purr

          The ancient Israelites grew wheat, barley, oats, rye, spelt, and other grains.

          The thing is, *something* in that holy water was poisonous, whether or not it was from rotting rye or not – otherwise, every woman would have escaped unscathed! As bob said…God’s magic!

          2 and 3 don’t have to be in the text. People back then were obsessed with adultery – the wife was his property, and her job was to give him children to inherit his property. If she was sleeping around, it was very very very serious bizness. People didn’t view adultery back then the way we do today. And to have to expend precious resources on another man’s offspring when you are literally living hand to mouth on subsistence farming is not something to shrug your shoulders about.

          The point is, he suspects her of adultery. If she is sleeping around, the ‘evidence’ will be in the discharge from her uterus. That is God punishing her. If she isn’t sleeping around, nothing will happen.

        • avalpert

          “otherwise, every woman would have escaped unscathed! ”

          How do you know they didn’t?

          ” People back then were obsessed with adultery”

          They sure were – and that is why you would expect the punishment to happen whether or not the adultery resulted in pregnancy yet your reading doesn’t allow for that.

        • purr

          “otherwise, every woman would have escaped unscathed! ”

          How do you know they didn’t?

          Because there’d be no point to the ritual, then.

          that is why you would expect the punishment to happen whether or not the adultery resulted in pregnancy yet your reading doesn’t allow for that.

          It could happen whether or not she was pregnant at the time. It would have expelled any embryos or fetuses within her body, and also rendered her infertile.

          The key word being ‘barren’. Either way, she’s guilty of adultery if something bad happens. If a fetus pops out, well there’s your proof. If her uterus prolapses, well there’s your proof as well.

        • avalpert

          “Because there’d be no point to the ritual, then.”

          Really, you can’t come up with any reason why a ritual may have been written about unless it led to woman being punished?

          Here are a few ideas – maybe the ritual was designed to give the husband piece of mind while avoiding arbitrarily punishing a woman who has no evidence against here. Or maybe the ritual was invented years later based on the creativity of the writers. Or maybe it was a myth that evolved from far less interesting proceedings (like the myths that have developed around the Salem witch trials). I’m sure with a few minutes of reflection you could come up with several more.

          “It would have expelled any embryos or fetuses within her body, and also rendered her infertile”

          Now your magic poison both induces miscarriages and causes infertility? What substance is that?

        • purr

          Its not a trial by ordeal if nobody ever gets hurt. And yes, the text does actually say that it will make her barren if she is guilty. Not surprisingly, a prolapsed uterus will also result in an abortion.

        • avalpert

          But the ergot you asserted was what cause the miscarriage doesn’t cause a prolapsed uterus

        • purr

          It causes the uterus to cramp rather severely. Whatever damage is done is obvious to onlookers – whether she is pregnant or not. If she is guilty it makes her barren. A side effect of which is abortion. Point being, god was never all that concerned about fetal life.

        • avalpert

          “Point being, god was never all that concerned about fetal life”

          Well of course he wasn’t, but you didn’t need to read all the way to Numbers 5 to learn that – which brings us back to the original point above as to why would that all of suddenly be problematic to explain to kids (particularly when it is abstract and distance to their experiences) and all of God other wanton destruction of life that came prior to this in the Bible not be.

        • Pofarmer

          Uhm, this got a wee bit out of hand. The reason that it is problematic, especially for the Catholic Church, is that it certainly can be read to indicate that it’s O.K. for a husband to cause his wife to have an abortion if she’s been screwing around. The other passages where there are folks killed in wars, floods, etc, etc, are O.K. because well, “just war”, the people were wicked, etc,etc. But these are actions brought on by one person, the husband, against anther person, the wife, that I think very reasonable indicate that it’s O.K. to harm a woman if she has been an adulterer. Can we calm down?

        • avalpert

          Sure, we can calm down over it. I would just point out that, since the abortion aspect is based on an interpretative and not literal reading I’d have to think any experience teacher of the bible would be able to get kids through it without having to get into the question of abortion much more easily than they could get through say Genesis 19 without having to address complicated, awkward questions.

        • Pofarmer

          Remember these are Catholics. Sodom and Gomorrah is about punishing teh Gays and Promiscuous. Those people are bad, so, no problem. Numbers 5 is about a husband punishing his wife for possibly having an affair, with, in the most charitable possible reading, no thought to whether or not the ordeal might cause the woman to lose any unborn fetus. This is unthinkable for Catholics. Can’t even broach the idea. And the plain reading of the text, would indicate the woman would be getting what she deserved.

        • avalpert

          I was actually thinking more of Lot offering his virgin daughters to the crowd to do as they please as the challenging part.

          I probably don’t have enough appreciation for the Catholic perspective as to how this would be more unthinkable idea – but I’ll take your word for it.

        • Pofarmer

          My boys said they glossed over that too, and nobody asked a question on it, so it didn’t get discussed, but they know about it. When they didn’t have the scene with Lot offering his daughters to the crowd in the Bible miniseries, that’s when I quit watching it. What was the point if they weren’t even going to be faithful to the text?

        • Did they have the part about Lot getting it on with his two daughters?

        • avalpert

          That’s really all I am saying – if they could gloss over that without question I find it hard to believe they couldn’t make there way through this without incident. It may be that induced miscarriage is a bigger deal to the Catholic church than offering your daughters up for rape but I would think children would be more likely to react to the rape.

        • Kodie

          Could we just go over this one time:

          If a husband suspects his wife of being unfaithful, he is to take her for a magic test involving poison. Let’s even say, it’s not because she is showing signs of pregnancy, and that she may not actually be pregnant. It is only that she may, in fact, be, as a normal side effect of having sex. Whether or not she is pregnant, the potion will probably cause some physical damage.

          According to Numbers 5, whether or not this happens to abort a precious little unique life, nobody much cares, as long as she gets justice brought upon her for infidelity, which may or may not have taken place. Only upon the result of taking the poison test can we rely for truth.

          It is problematic for a religious school claiming to teach “the whole bible” to include passages where, in certain circumstances, it is just dandy to perform incidental abortions. Can we at least agree that incidentally occurring abortions as a result of this procedure (a) happen, and (b) do not seem to dissuade anyone from performing it, at least as far as the bible goes?

          It is problematic in religion because they are cherry-pickers who may skip around a lot, and not delve into detail about others. You are completely right- the bible is full of shitty things to expose children to, if we are reading in order, well before Numbers 5. Nobody is disputing that. It is just an observation from a parent what goes on at his child’s school, that they are purposely avoiding Numbers 5 currently, and expressing that it is “problematic” for them to teach. You are just focusing on what the passage does or does not say, and yes, the rest of the bible contains some strange and violent customs that might not only scare children but give them ideas that the religion wants to suppress about what the bible actually says.

          They are admitting that the bible isn’t perfect, or admitting it’s not perfect for children who might take it “the wrong way”, i.e., not what they want them to get out of it, because it can’t adequately be explained another way by the teachers, because it’s actually awful. If the authors of the bible had any prophetic senses, they might have explicitly stated that no fetuses were harmed as a result of this test, and so they might very well teach children that it’s perfectly fine to be jealous and suspicious of your wife because they don’t seem to have a problem treating women like property or blaming women for men’s lack of trust. I don’t think the school would (if they’re offering religious and bible-based education) necessarily avoid a passage from the bible solely on account of its misogynistic applications of a test to validate men’s insecurities when they can’t keep tabs on their wives 100% of the time.

        • avalpert

          “It is problematic for a religious school claiming to teach “the whole bible” to include passages where, in certain circumstances, it is just dandy to perform incidental abortions”

          But all the passages that describe God killing or ordering the death of women (which starts from the flood on through to ordering the slaughter of the existing settlers of canaan) say it is dandy to perform incidental abortions. After all, it has to be assumed that when God drowned everyone except Noah and his brood he must have drowned at least one pregnant woman.

          If it took the school until they had gone through 60% of the books to realize that God has no problem with abortion under certain circumstances than they aren’t very good readers. And if they can look the other way all the previous times, it just seems odd to me that the description of an obscure ritual that the kids will have difficulty relating to at all that when read literally can be said to be just a physical punishment meant to have permanent visible damage (like Hester’s A) is where they draw the line.

        • Kodie

          It definitely seems odd to me, but to try to think where they are coming from. From my perspective, and it seems like yours, the bible is full of horrendous things permitting people to do to other people for a righteous cause. Even if they are women or children or women withchild, it is god’s own choice to rid the world of whatever arbitrary wickedness he thinks is in these people just because of their tribal affiliations. The whole bible is written by uneducated people who think that if the woman takes this potion and she wasn’t unfaithful, she will be fine. A lot of the fetus-killing in the bible is implied and righteous will of god. It is not explicit like in Numbers 5, what a husband may decide to do to his own wife, ranging from his own insecurities to an actual infidelity on her part – it’s all ok, and if it happens to result in a miscarriage, that’s fine too. Other men’s potential offspring do not matter, they don’t count, it’s ok. This just happens to contrast with their pro-life arguments that all life is sacred, that a pre-born child should not have to “suffer” death just because a woman isn’t married or got raped or cheated on her husband. Numbers 5 contradicts their tactics in the pro-life agenda.

          All the other stuff you mentioned and more is extremely violent and horrific and disgusting, but it doesn’t contradict the church so much. Perhaps the school set out to teach the whole bible, and later found out that it said some stuff they were previously unaware of. Who knows. It is horrific that they want to teach this to children and then ignore the gory parts, but that’s Christians for you. That’s sort of the, well, I’m an atheist so I don’t see the sense in exposing them to any of it except to show how awful it is. They seem to have a long history of promoting the flood story as wholesome and upbeat as far as offering children – you got boats, and animals, and a family, and there’s a birdie in there, and a rainbow. It is the ultimate “yadda yadda yadda” – God wanted to start over, yadda yadda yadda, put some animals on the boat while it rained a bunch, and then there was a rainbow, isn’t that uplifting and demonstrates how much god loves us?

          They’re not going to highlight all the dead people in that story, and if someone asks, they were wicked. In case you were wondering, like, when there’s a devastating tornado or something, and people thank god they weren’t killed, it’s because god only seems to devastate the wicked. If you were devastated, it’s still because god has an awesome plan for you that necessitated going through this. I don’t think the church is averse to steering young kids in that direction.

        • Pofarmer

          I dunno, I’ve never heard a priest directly take that passage on, if you can imagine that, but it just seems terribly thorny. It’s O.K. for a husband to demand that his wife go through an ordeal, which may or may not kill her or any unborn child. If that be the case, then why wouldn’t it be O.K for a womans father, for instance, demand the same if she became pregnant? Although, I think the penalty for that was stoning. See, all life is sacred, until it’s not.

        • Kodie

          Well, tangentially, I googled “what does the bible say about unmarried daughters” and found this horrifying article:

          I think this might be a job for someone familiar with what the bible says about what a father is allowed to do when his unmarried daughter has sex with a man.

          I am sorry to lay upon you yet another tangent. As we were sort of skimming the Noah’s Ark story for some reason, I thought back to Jonah and the Whale. For someone like me who had no religious teaching at home, Noah’s Ark and Jonah and the Whale stand out as biblical stories from the atmosphere of my secular childhood. So I read Jonah. It is good, pretty short. What happened though? What happens to Jonah after he complains and wants to die? I didn’t know that part from before, I just learned it today. I read an article about Jonah and apparently he is regarded as a great prophet to Nineveh and something of a proto-Jesus. He thinks god should punish Nineveh, even though he was sent to minister them, and they repented, and god forgave them, and he’s all WTF, god. And god says, U MAD, JONAH? Then he shades him with a plant, the plant dies, and Jonah says he would rather die than deal with this fuckery. The end.

          I need to know what the hell is up with that ending and why it ends there, and why biblical history regards Jonah so highly. He got broken and did what he was told, and he didn’t like it, and then he preferred to die. And god said, that’s just how I roll. Here’s Micah now.

        • purr

          If I was in the snuff/torture porn biz, I’d totes be cribbing from the bible.

        • Kodie

          As I recall from childhood, it was a great story about being swallowed by a whale. The thing of it is, he denied god, and went on a boat to somewhere else. The sea riled up just to notify Jonah. His shipmates were fuh-reaked out. Jonah says, throw me overboard, and meanwhile, the sea stopped thrashing. Jonah chilled inside some sea creature for a few days, apparently making his peace and accepting death. Some kind of bargain. This is when Paul Harvey would introduce “the rest of the story”. A fucking sea animal went close to the shore to puke up Jonah after 3 days’ indigestion, and, normally this beaching behavior would have killed the animal. But we never hear about that. With no intervening trouble, Jonah found himself in Nineveh, finding it rather large and populous. He didn’t gather Ninevens to hear him speak and minister. Within hours, every fucking moron in Nineveh believed Jonah was fur reallz and repented. Apparently Jonah expected god to smite them anyway (and as long as he was there, with his death wish and all, also him).

          So he said, god, I know you’re such a nice forgiving god, why’d I have to come all the way to Ninevah for this shit? God made a plant to shade Jonah at his little camping place, and then made a bug eat the plant so it would cease to shade Jonah. And Jonah gets burned by the sun and complains, and god says, why you didn’t plant that plant to shade you, I did, and then I fucked with you and took away your comfort as easily as I provided it to you.

          To me, this is not a story about a man being eaten by a whale. This is something of a rational character. He knows who butters his bread but he hates his boss. He does his job begrudgingly, but points out the boss’s inconsistencies as much as you or I would. Then the story abruptly ends. God is fucking with someone, admits to it, the guy would rather die than live with these shitty pranks and power trips, and then, the end. Turn the page, nothing.

          He is yet regarded as a great prophet, but even there, we don’t see this unfold in the bible. He goes to Nineveh, preaches vaguely, they agree without question, and yet, he hopes god would have killed them anyway because they were praying to some other god before. Yet, he has converted a city of – god admits they are fucking stupid and gullible anyway, so why waste them since they converted so quickly.

          Why does he need Jonah to go? Because god can talk to Jonah, but he can’t talk to the average Ninevan. He can’t threaten them with near-death so they believe he has the power. He needs Jonah to go for him and speak on his behalf, meanwhile, he can act in Jonah’s life and fuck him up pretty good. I don’t get it.

        • Ella Warnock

          This is about the best version of the Jonah fish tale I’ve ever read.

        • Ella Warnock

          It’s the filthiest thing I’ve ever read.

        • Greg G.

          Live animals were brought in and slaughtered. The dust of the floor of the tabernacle would have decaying blood, considered to be a bio-hazard today, and fecal matter. Maybe the woman gets sick and maybe she doesn’t. It depends on what happens to be in her mixed drink. If she gets sick, it could be from any number of things depending on what was in her drink. If a woman had a miscarriage, it was taken as proof that she cheated. If she had a prolapsed uterus decades later, it was a sign she had cheated. If she died soon after, that’s God’s answer. They expected justice from a non-existent being. They would have misinterpreted any outcome.

        • I still think that finding a natural explanation (the dust on the floor is filthy, so it might have caused some sort of illness) isn’t the way to go. The same “bitter water” must cause a miscarriage in the unfaithful woman and be benign to the faithful one. It has to be based on magic.

          (However, that they used something potentially disease-causing instead of pure water, say, may show that they knew they needed to give God a little helping hand.)

        • avalpert

          “If a woman had a miscarriage, it was taken as proof that she cheated. If she had a prolapsed uterus decades later, it was a sign she had cheated. If she died soon after, that’s God’s answer. ”

          The problem with that reading is the description seems to indicate an immediate resolution – not a future one. So I’m not sure you can connect any future ailments to this event.

        • Greg G.

          Sure, that’s the way that practice is supposed to work in theory but these practices work better in theory then the theory works in practice.

          If the husband is suspicious and jealous, a witch doctor ceremony isn’t going to completely dispel the suspicion. When confirmation bias sets in, that first cough will weigh heavier in his mind than the survival of the muddy water.

        • avalpert

          That’s a nice story, but again it is just that – within the context of the text here it would be difficult to accept a punishment that could arise at any point in the future with the declaration that if shown innocent the woman will ‘be clean, be freed and will conceive seed’.

        • Greg G.

          As far as the priest is concerned, the matter would be settled if she didn’t fall ill. But it depends on how superstitious and gullible the husband is. When the baby starts looking like the guy down the street, or the husband gets that idea in his head, he’s going to be suspicious again, despite the outcome of the ritual. Then any misfortune that happens to her will trigger the husband’s confirmation bias.

          Remember that the ritual does not give an actual indication of whether the woman cheated. The fear might bring a confession but an innocent woman has no good option. She either gives a false confession or drinks something that she is led to believe could kill her child and destroy her health, which is quite likely. If she happens to survive, she is still stuck with a jealous husband who is willing to risk her health over his jealousy.

        • But the story says that she will come to no harm if she’s innocent, right?

        • Greg G.

          Of course, and if you are righteous, you won’t die of snakebites either. It says so in some ancient texts. How could an uneducated woman be so bold to question the word of somebody who wears fancy clothes and hats to offer sacrifices to God?

        • I don’t think worrying about ergot or whatever is helpful. Magic is the only way to make sense of it.

          The accused woman drinks the “bitter water.” She will either have bad effects or not depending on her guilt (decided by God’s magic). If it’s just a universal poison (or abortifactant), her guilt wouldn’t enter into it.

        • Greg G.

          Verses 21 & 22 have “miscarry” which implies pregnancy. The husband wouldn’t put a woman through it if he wasn’t suspicious. 4 is just their superstition. 6 sometimes works and sometimes it doesn’t If it works, it proves she was fooling around to everybody’s satisfaction except the woman’s who doesn’t matter. It’s like playing Russian Roulette. If you blow your brains out, you were guilty. If you get sick from drinking the dirt where animals are slaughtered, you were found guilty. It doesn’t matter whether you were actually guilty.

        • avalpert

          You put miscarry in quotes but the text doesn’t actually say that does it?

          Sure, the premise of these trials is that god will determine whether you are guilty – but none of that overcomes the fact that the text never restricts the trial to when the woman is pregnant.

        • Greg G.

          Those weren’t scare quotes. I was talking about the word.

          Here’s the NIV translation of Numbers 5:20-22:

          20 But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— 21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. 22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”

          If you have a problem, show us how they are wrong. Then I’ll change my mind.

        • avalpert

          Sure, below I’ll give the pertinent original Hebrew and highlight the two big problems in that translation:

          The phrase in 22 (which is the same terminology as 21) is “la’tzbot beten v’lanpil yarech” – none of those words mean miscarriage, the literal word would be ‘mishacala; as used in Exodus 23:26. At best the ‘translation’ is replacing the literal meaning with what it is supposedly a euphemism for. The problem is that is not how the bible refers to miscarriage elsewhere. For example, Exodus 21 uses the phrase ‘yatzu yeladeha’ – her fruit (or child) departed her – to refer to an induced miscarriage.

          The second big problem with the translation in 22 is the use of the word ‘or’ between the swelling belly and thigh falling when the Hebrew ‘v’ means ‘and’. It seems to really change the story when you go from needing an explanation that encapsulates both descriptions happening to one where either one may happen.

        • Greg G.

          The two Exodus passages come from the Jehovah text. You have one case where the word for miscarry is used and one euphemism. The Numbers passage is a Priestly text written a century or two later in exile in Babylon where the writer would be exposed to new languages and new euphemisms. I don’t see how two examples with different expressions for the concept limits the Bible to just those two ways of saying it. That is not even a little problem.

          I am looking at verses 21 & 22 here. I can find the words in the text at the top but the verb rootss appear to be conjugated. I do not see the “v” you are talking about. Are you saying it is there or is not? Are there inclusive “or’s” and exclusive “or’s” in Hebrew? How are they distinguished? Symptoms for a cold are sneezing, coughing, congestion and sore throat. The “and” in that sentence does not imply that you will experience each of the symptoms.

        • avalpert

          Actually, these two particular Exodus passages are part of E in the classic version of the documentary hypothesis (Friedman’s Bible with Sources Revealed is available online And it isn’t that simple to assert the dating for the sources – the field has come along way since Wellhausen and, for example, Friedman places E and P in the same generation in the lath 8th/early 7th century. In any case, while it is possible they were using different euphemism you need to offer evidence to support it – here you are just trying to come up with possible ways the conclusion (that it refers to miscarriage) could be true but without any reason why it should be true. So yes, without evidence for that euphemism elsewhere, and without any direct textual suggestion that we are even dealing with a pregnant woman it is much more than a little problem.

          For the ‘v’, in 21 the third word from the end is ‘v’et’, the straight line letter at the start with two dots under it is a ‘vav’ that provides the sound ‘v’ and means ‘and’. In Hebrew the ‘and’ is incorporated into the word and not a stand alone word. In the case the whole word means ‘and the’, the next two words mean belly swells so the whole phrase means ‘and the belly swells’. In contrast, ‘oh’ which means ‘or’ is a stand alone word as for example the 6th word in verse 6.

          While there can be contexts where an ‘and’ is not part of an exclusionary list such as the list symptoms that may occur (sometimes a list of symptoms would not be exclusionary) the context here doesn’t suggest that. It seems very clear that the two symptoms together are the curse as noted in verse 27, it would be out of character for the text to list multiple aspects of one of God’s curses without expecting them all to occur.

        • you are just trying to come up with possible ways the conclusion (that it refers to miscarriage) could be true but without any reason why it should be true.

          How about: many scholars think it’s true? That makes it a good tentative conclusion for me.

        • avalpert

          But many scholars don’t – what do we do then. Are both good tentative conclusions for you? I

        • Don’t they? Suppose they translate it as “your thigh wastes away and your belly swells,” and then you ask them what that means. They’re going to say that it means just what it says and nothing more? Some will, I imagine. But many of those will also be in the miscarriage camp.

          What is the larger point here? Simply that we should be careful in what we read into the text?

        • avalpert

          The larger point here was that a teacher working there way through this passage shouldn’t have any more difficulty explaining this without implying a fetus is not equivalent to born human than they would have Exodus 21 – if anything this text should be much easier for them since the plain reading gives them an out.

          But to the question of what does it mean – well in a story of magic potions why should it mean anything more than an odd process of physical dis-figuration that must have been brought on by God?

        • And, off topic: Friedman’s book is quite a resource. Thanks for the link. But I can’t imagine that Harper One is OK with it being online. I wonder how that happened.

          That it’s hosted in the Czech Republic also suggests that it’s pirated.

        • avalpert

          Quite possibly, I’ve gotten into the habit of searching to see if the source is online before citing it and haven’t really thought to ask how it got there.

        • Greg G.

          I have Friedman’s Bible with Sources Revealed and Who Wrote the Bible. I may have the first edition of the latter in a box somewhere, too. When I looked at the text last night, I thought it was E but wasn’t quite sure so I looked it up online, since I wasn’t home where my books were. I found a list for Numbers that appeared to be material for a class taught by a Bible researcher at a Christian college so I figured it was good enough, so there is some dispute over what is E and J. Nevertheless, it is not P.

          My understanding of Hebrew history for the time period has increased since I last read Friedman. Other theories resonate better now. I can see that when the kingdom was split after Solomon died, the texts may have diverged into J and E. When the Assyrians invaded during Hezekiah’s reign, the priests had to accommodate the beliefs of the refugees and unite all the people, making a redacted J/E. After the generations of the refugees were gone, it was time for reform whichbegan in Josiah’s time and Deuteronomy was introduced. But before it could be implemented, Babylon paid a visit and interrupted the reformation plans.

          P has a very different concept of God. This god is cosmic and doesn’t interact directly with humans. I have seen that P may have been written during the exile. This idea resonates better for my mind and the set of facts that I understand. The priests would be influenced by other priests of other persuasions with new ideas. It answers the question of where the new concept arose and became accepted better than a pre-Assyrian Judea or Israel. But I can be convinced by a better argument.

          Thank you for the Hebrew lesson. I can usually use the concordance to match up root words to get the gist of the saying but there’s a lot of nuance lost in the modifications.

          The NIV footnotes say the curse in Numbers 5:21 and 27 are that the woman’s name would be used as a curse toward others as in:

          Jeremiah 29:22 (NRSV)
          22 And on account of them this curse shall be used by all the exiles from Judah in Babylon: “The Lord make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire,”

          Jeremiah 29:22 (NIV)
          22 Because of them, all the exiles from Judah who are in Babylon will use this curse: ‘May the Lord treat you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon burned in the fire.’

          I know that the NIV is a theologically driven translation and the footnotes may be as well, but could they be correct here?

        • Does it much matter whether P was written during the exile or just afterwards, after the return to Judah? The new influences would be the same in either case.

        • Greg G.

          During or after the exile wouldn’t matter in this case. I’m not sure what kind of evidence could show that. avalpert said that Friedman says that P and E were written in the same generation. I would think it would be J and E put to paper, or parchment, around the same time but I hadn’t noticed that claim when I had both books at hand.

          The P seems to have Egyptian influence, too. The Egyptians had just been defeated by Babylon, too, so the Hebrew priests may have been in proximity to the Egyptian priests.

        • Wikipedia says that P and E were written at very different times (500 BCE vs. 850 BCE)

        • Greg G.

          Wikipedia has the timeline I have in my mind – rounded off to the nearest half-century with lots of “circas”.. I think the J and E may have started as the same document written around 950 BC but were both modified while the kingdom was split. By Hezekiah’s time, both would have been copied many times so I’m not sure how they could determine which was written 100 years before and which wasn’t. It’s like when an amoeba reproduces – which is the original? So it seems to me they should say the proto-P/E document was written around 950BC while the P and E are just the state they happened to be in when the Assyrians forced the redaction.

        • avalpert

          Wikipedia has the classic Wellhausen timeline – but a lot has been learnt since then, particularly in linguistics and our understanding of the development of ancient Hebrew, that has challenged those dates. There are a lot of different views out there – though I’m not sure any still really agree with those dates and I can’t recall the last time I saw someone put P in or after the exile, and it has been trendy over the last decade or so to assert that P never existed as a stand alone document at all.

        • Greg G.

          From the PDF of Who Wrote the Bible?

          The third main source is known as P because one of its central concerns is the priesthood. In critical scholarship, there are two main views of when it was composed. One view is that P was the latest of the sources, composed in the sixth or fifth century BCE. The other view is that P was composed not long after J and E were combined—specifically, that it was produced by the Jerusalem priesthood as an alternative to the history told in JE. Linguistic evidence now supports the latter view and virtually rules out the late date for P.

          The footnote at the end of that passage:

          This is d i s c u s s e d below. I have also brought evidence for the earlier date for P in The Exile and Biblical Narrative, in Who Wrote the Bible?, and in “Torah” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), vol. 6, pp. 605-622.

          Perhaps it is time to recalibrate my thinking on JEDP.

        • avalpert

          If your interested in the field – and by that I mean more generally the application of linguistics to dating texts – try to get your hands on Avi Hurvitz’s A Linguistic Study of the Relationship Between the Priestly Source and the Book of Ezekiel. It’s not the most recent but one of the earlier works to dig into it.

          I don’t think it is still in print but if you have a access to a University library you should be able to get it.

        • Greg G.

          Thank you, again. I had developed an interest in the Roman Empire about a decade ago and much of the writings from the era were Christian writings. That led me to a non-religious interest in the New Testament so I started reading Ehrman books which led to other scholars. Then I got interested in the Gospel of Mark. Lately, I have been looking at the sources used by Mark and Paul, which has taken me to the Old Testament and the Apocrypha. So my interests are all over the place.

          My wife and I had a foreign college student staying with us until about six months ago. That would have given me access to the college library. A Google search for the book provided this link. It uses Hurvitz’s book as a reference.

        • Interesting. I wonder if there are any anomalies where P looks to have a Babylonian influence that must be explained without pointing to the exile. Of course, Babylon, Sumeria, Akkadia, et al were right next door, so it’s not like an exile would’ve been required to pick up new ideas.

        • Greg G.

          Apparently the linguistics points to a different time and I don’t think I can argue that. Hebrew is all Greek to me.

          I am wondering if they were experimenting with the texts to make them acceptable to the locals and the refugees who grew up with either J or E. I’ve seen something like the priests were required to read the scripture aloud every seven years (if that practice was in place before the split kingdom), so it’s not like any lay people would have it memorized but they would have their favorite stories. Perhaps the J/E redaction wasn’t good enough so they started putting in the P while intending to phase out the J/E to reform the scripture. It may have been easier to insert new text than it was to remove any. So they decided to scrap it and wrote up Deuteronomy so they could “find” it on the pretext that it was “more korrecter” than what they had been using.

        • avalpert

          Yeah, that is basically what is meant by curse and swear – that others will curse that this thing that happened to (woman who went through the ordeal) should happen to (person they are cursing at) or will swear that if they are not telling the truth than what happened to (woman who went through the ordeal) should happen to them.

          Basically, their suffering will be used as a cursed and they will forever be remembered for that suffering.

        • Greg G.

          I tried the link to I got the website but it didn’t know the page.

        • avalpert

          Sorry, seemed to leave an extra parenthesis on the link:

        • Greg G.

          Thanks! I was trying to find just a little of this last night.

        • Kodie

          As I mentioned in the other thread, men don’t really lose anything if they kill their own child just in case. But if it makes him feel better to believe that god can tell that it’s someone else’s, this gives him permission to be jealous for no good reason after his wife miscarries his child from the poison.

        • Kodie

          What is obviously there? A man is poisoning his wife because he even just thinks she is having sex with someone else. And you think if the magic potion proves she is guilty, she will be deformed from it and not have anything at all to do with inducing a miscarriage? If you want to be charitable with a biblical passage, I think that’s by itself bad enough or problematic enough to exclude from scholastic readings for school-aged children.

        • avalpert

          “If you want to be charitable with a biblical passage, I think that’s by itself bad enough or problematic enough to exclude from scholastic readings for school-aged children.”

          More so than the four books that came before it? Is this really more problematic than killing all the first born of Egypt, or drowning all living things save for Noah who was raped by his son? Or any number of other times God let his wrath show? Is it really a stretched euphemism for abortion that has to be avoided when everything before it was perfectly ok?

        • Kodie

          What exactly is your reading comprehension problem, bitch?

        • avalpert

          I have none, it seems you do though. Maybe you need to scroll up and see what this little side thread is all about.

        • Ella Warnock

          Actually, you’re right. It’s all problematic.

        • “Cause your genital organs to shrink” is the NET Bible’s interpretation.

        • Greg G.

          Words like “thigh” and “foot” are often used as euphemisms. A thigh falling away probably means a prolapsed uterus.

        • purr

          Yep. Thigh is a euphemism for reproductive organs.

        • Pofarmer

          Isn’t hair sometimes used the same way?

        • Greg G.

          Do you have an example? Nothing comes to mind off the top of my head.

        • Pofarmer

          Thinking of the scene where Mary Magdalene ? Washes Jesus feet with her hair. It’s been suggested that it could have been a euphamism for a bj. Bart Ehrman discussed it, but it’s been a while.

        • Greg G.

          I have pointed out the feet = genitals euphemism with Jesus washing the feet of the disciples before but not as a serious argument. The passage you cite reminds me of the movie There’s Something About Mary where she mistakes jism for hair conditioner.

          In The Odyssey , there’s a scene where a woman washes the feet of Odysseus and notices a scar on his leg and recognizes him. So it seems that washing feet means washing the feet sometimes.

        • Pofarmer

          That’s what Ehrman concluded, as well, “sometimes washing feet is just washing feet.” The feet thing is also used with the daughters of Lot, where they “Lay at their fathers feet”. It’s interesting that that is another element used by Homer, though.

        • Greg G.

          See Ruth 3. Ruth introduces herself to Boaz by uncovering his feet and laying there. If it was just feet, it would have been annoying but she wanted to be redeemed so she had to make a good impression.

        • “A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.”

          Sometimes hair is just hair, I think.

        • Greg G.

          If you read the following passage with the bold font as euphemisms (or just bleep out the bold text), it’s a provocative piece.

          Luke 7:36-50
          36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” 41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

          OK, I have a dirty mind and I’ve polluted everybody else’s.

          Here I have expurgated the “f” words.

          Luke 7:36-39, 44-50 (NRSV Expurgated)
          36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38 She stood behind him at his bleep, weeping, and began to bathe his bleep with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his bleep and anointing them with the ointment.

          44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my bleep, but she has bathed my bleep with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my bleep. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my bleep with ointment. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your bleep has saved you; go in peace.”

        • avalpert

          Can you share any reference in the bible or even contemporary literature (being generous let’s say between the 15th and 5th century bc) that uses the same euphemism for a miscarriage?

        • Greg G.

          I didn’t say it was a euphemism for a miscarriage. I said it was a euphemism for a prolapsed uterus. I don’t expect that is a common topic in ancient literature, especially when they feel they must use euphemisms to refer to genitals. Perhaps the topic comes up regarding livestock where the writer might be less uptight.

        • Ron

          From Strong’s Concordance

          thy thigh H3409 yarek – thigh, side, loin, base

          to rot, H5307 naphal – to fall, lie, be cast down, fail

          and thy belly H990 beten – belly, womb, body

          to swell; H6639 tsabeh – swell

        • Baby_Raptor

          The text says that drinking the “curse” will cause a miscarriage.

          In other words, it’s no different than undergoing the pill abortion.

          And god ordered it, so it pretty bluntly goes against the “god says life starts when the dad cums!” opinion of a lot of today’s religionists.

        • avalpert

          I don’t want to rehash the whole discussion – but that is not a literal translation of the text, the word ‘miscarry’ is not actually in there.

        • Baby_Raptor

          Yes, I saw the entire discussion. What I saw was you continually refusing to see what was plainly there.

          But I don’t really have the will to rehash it either, so…

        • avalpert

          Good for you, it’s so cute when people think reading their favorite made up story into the actual words is what constitutes ‘plainly’ there whereas reading the actual literal text that is there is refusing to see.

        • Then it must be positively precious seeing Bible scholars find miscarriage in that passage.

        • avalpert

          Bible scholars are hardly int he business of finding what is ‘plainly’ there – quite the contrary they keep in business because they are look for contortions of what could be there. If it was plainly obvious they wouldn’t be needed at all.

        • True, but neither is the term “lady bits,” and yet that’s in there as well.

          If your point is that it doesn’t, on the face of it, refer to abortion, perhaps you’re right. My conclusion then is that this is only likely (not 100% certainly) about causing a deliberate abortion. If that’s it, perhaps we can agree and move on.

        • avalpert

          I’m not sure what you mean by ‘lady bits’ being in there – but yes euphemisms are certainly in the bible (though it also doesn’t always shy away from literal description).

          And yes, we can move on. The one point I will just reiterate in trying to interpret the euphemism – that it is a miscarriage assume pregnancy which also is nowhere hinted at in the text and is not how it was understood by the early Jewish Rabbis in the Mishna (which is the closest you will have to accounts of the ritual actually being carried out) where pregnancy is not only not assumed it is granted a specific exception to undergoing the ordeal itself.

          I haven’t been able to trace the origin of the miscarriage interpretation, if you happen to know the source I would be interested in.

        • “thigh” = “lady bits”

          No, I don’t know the source. In a culture that may not have understood quite how sex works the way we do (what fraction of sexual encounters result in a viable pregnancy?) and which valued paternity very highly, getting rid of another man’s baby may have been 99% of the concern. It sure seems like pregnancy is hinted to me.

          Since the “bitter water” is described exactly like an abortifacient, that’s another clue to pregnancy.

        • purr

          That’s crazy talk Bob!

          Crack is whack! Clearly, they meant her thigh, I mean, obviously, if you suspect your bitch of cheating, you are going to want to punish her thighs!

        • avalpert

          No, you want her dead like all other adulterers, but if you don’t have the witnesses to prove it I suspect you will settle for her being mutilated.

        • avalpert

          “In a culture that may not have understood quite how sex works the way we do (what fraction of sexual encounters result in a viable pregnancy?) ”
          I find that hard to believe – understand what fraction of sexual encounters result in a viable pregnancy doesn’t require any advanced science at all. Every one of them that was married knew how many times they had sex and how many resulted in viable pregnancies.

          “It sure seems like pregnancy is hinted to me.”
          Based on what in the text. I don’t think anyone would argue that men didn’t want (and still do) to get rid babies they don’t believe are theirs but based on what in the text itself implies this situation is about offspring. This situation seems to me to be about getting rid of the woman, not any offspring. And that is how it is understood in early Judaism – if the woman were pregnant she didn’t go through with the ordeal and the man didn’t have to pay her the marriage contract.

          “Since the “bitter water” is described exactly like an abortifacient, that’s another clue to pregnancy.”
          In what way is it ‘described exactly like an abortifacient’ – I think you are being loose with the word ‘exactly’ there, don’t you?

        • Scott_In_OH

          Edit: Comment withdrawn because I now see this discussion has been had already.

        • Kodie

          To an atheist, not much. To a theist, a pro-lifer, a lot. I could see a lot of conservatives in favor of teaching children what happens to bad girls who don’t obey their husbands otherwise.

        • avalpert

          Then all they need to do is teach the literal text and deny that it is a euphemism – wouldn’t even make the top 100 of textual gymnastics they have to pull off just to make it through the gospels stories of Jesus’ birth and resurrection.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Plus Numbers is where god orders abortion, and where he plainly states that causing fetal death does not constitute ending a life.

  • GubbaBumpkin
  • King Dave

    Yeah, I wish they portrayed Jesus as a shy, short, balding fat guy, rather than a white attention seeking camera ham and media whore.

    This movie is doomed for failure. It most likely will be a bomb in Saudi Arabia…Literally

    • I think Simon Helberg would have been good (Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory). He’s actually Jewish, and he happens to be 33 — just the right age. He’d have been able to infuse a little irreverence into it, just like the Jewish carpenter who rebelled against the mainstream religionists might have.

  • purr

    Diogo Morgado is smoking hawt. But he’s no Norm Donnan. All the ladies on Patheos are kicking themeslves for having missed out on Norm Donnan…

    • Norm Donnan

      Oh please stop,you will have Kodie stalking me again.

  • MNb

    My favourite Jesus-movie – not that I’ve seen many – is this one:

    It tells the story from the perspective of Judas. The christian depictions of this character always have seemed a bit weird to me. This Italian TV-movie stresses the rift between the urban Judas and the rural, almost boorish attitude of the others. It also stresses Judas’ political motives, which are based on his hatred against the Romans.
    Oh – Jesus is an annoying prick who refuses to get concrete about his intentions. Combined with his unctuous tone he reminds me of slimy TV-preachers. His shiny eyes makes things even worse (very well done by Danny Quinn). No need to say that many christians take offense, as two reviews show.
    As for the hunk-factor, anyone can judge here:

    Hmmmmm – maybe it’s an idea to organize a “most attractive movie-Jesus contest”?
    Jim Caviezel won’t get my vote.

    • purr

      fuck that.

      Satan was the hottest:

      She wants me, I can tell! (the part was played by a chick)

    • Kodie

      He’ aight.

      • purr

        You’re only saying that cuz Normie got away. That’s why you’re a bitter and barren old spinster.

        • Kodie

          I got eyes.

        • purr

          Me too. Unfortunately, what has been seen (Norm) cannot be unseen!

        • Kodie

          I think we need to try to forget about Norm.

    • And if you imagine that Judas was part of the plan, why does he turn out to be the bad guy in the end? (And how could Jesus be so popular that he was raising followers by the thousands among the peasantry, and yet the leadership needed Judas to identify him?)

      • purr

        Not as gripping a story!

      • One of the Gnostic Gospels (perhaps Thomas? I can’t remember) casts Judas in a good light as fulfilling the prophecy, which The Last Temptation of Christ does as well (both have Judas being actually *ordered* by Jesus to betray for this purpose).

      • MNb

        That’s a point that Italian movie addresses – Judas ain’t a bad guy at all.

      • wtfwjtd

        Yeah, that “identifying him” bit never made any sense to me, either.

        • Kodie

          It provides tension. Judas is made an offer which he accepts (?) and then he is conflicted. It is just like I said about The Brady Bunch. No matter how many times you’ve seen the episode, you still feel like it could turn out worse instead of get all better. In the Jesus story, of course, Judas does “the wrong thing”. If you watch a lot of movies and tv, you know what I’m talking about – I took a “security” quiz for a retail job a long time ago, and one of the questions was “Do you ever root for the bad guy to get away with it in a movie or tv?” Plenty of times, there are characters who commit a crime and the whole movie revolves around them getting away with it, and the way the movie is structured, there is some reason the authorities are some kind of schmuck and you want them to be had by the criminal.

          In the Jesus story, you have this tension. You have Judas, and you hope he keeps his mouth shut when the authorities come looking for the heretic – every time. You know how it goes, but it builds up to this moment, when you think Judas could just be cool. What would this story be if that had happened, anyway? They couldn’t crucify Jesus and all the “good stuff” people need this story to be about would never have happened. The story needs a fall guy. It does seem to contradict the version where Jesus was well-known, but we have to capture the beats of the building drama. His friend betrayed him for money. What an asshole.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yes, that does make sense Kodie, from a story-telling standpoint anyway. I guess you couldn’t have complete loyalty among the happy band, having an “asshole” in the midst helps keep everyone on edge. We actually get more detail about Judas than some of the other guys–he holds the moneybag of the group, we’re told, and we get two different death scenes for him. I guess he feels bad, or something, and then kills himself. That 30 pieces of silver represented an element from another story of the time, but I can’t think right now what it is. All to jazz things up a bit, I guess.

        • Kodie

          The whole thing is from a story-telling standpoint as far as I can tell. This is a story that emotionally grips a lot of people. I cannot speak about the creative fiction of making a myth – I leave that to people who have studied history and theology and found the stories don’t naturally meet to form a biography. But it is like a ghost story. Drama and intrigue and secrecy and moral dilemmas really strike all the appropriate chords – almost especially if you are claiming this really happened. 99% of ghost stories also really happened to someone, a friend of my cousin’s roommate was there. Without the dramatic details, it’s kind of a story of a trouble-making Jesus except he was righteously trouble-making. You want him to get away with it, and you want Judas to decide to do the right thing after all, for a friend. Instead, it turns tragic, and from there, tragically beautiful. Our hero dies at the end, but is this the end for him?

          NO! He lives on in you and me! He ascends to heaven to break the cycle of sin, superheroically! The writers pulled it off!

          And yet, for all its resemblance to any other structure of a story build-up and conclusion, people think Jesus is an actual figure, an actual hero, and all these unlikely series of events actually happened, without any of which the story could not have concluded as happily as it did, and instead of blame Jesus and his big mouth getting him into trouble when, you know, he could have hushed up and saved himself, we can blame Judas. Jesus knew Judas would let him down. Jesus needed to die to provide the magical sacrifice, but as far as the story goes, as much as we needed Judas to name him, Jesus is our friend, our hero. Jesus is like any other living person that we wish wasn’t dead. If a murderer killed your family member, sending that person directly to heaven, you would still prefer your family member alive even if they were sent to “a better place,” even if you could know that heaven existed, because people do. People blame murderers at the same time as proclaim their loved ones in heaven getting all the best stuff and god now. We don’t praise murderers for hastening death and arrival in heaven, no matter what.

        • wtfwjtd

          Interesting that you should mention that at the end there Kodie. I remember reading about a bunch of Christians in the 2nd or 3rd century making a big deal about their faith to the Roman emperor, and then telling him they supposed he was going to have to kill them. He declined, told them nothing was going to happen to them, and to go back home and be good citizens or something like that. There was widespread disappointment among these people, they thought they were going to heaven sooner rather than later! Talk about taking the story too literally, sheesh!

        • MNb

          “you hope he keeps his mouth shut”
          See the difference with that Italian movie I linked to above? In that one you expect him to open his mouth exactly because from his point of view it’s the logical thing to do.

    • purr

      And how about all of the art that has been produced! Jesus has had a six pack for centuries!

  • Pofarmer

    One more quibble. The “feeding” miracles just ring so hollow. Norman Borlaug did much more to equip the world to feed itself than Jesus ever did. Makes feeding the 5000 just look like a cheap trick.

    • He has the ability to feed millions or end all disease. And he doesn’t do it.

      Makes him sound like a narrowly focused local superhero. Christianity today has advanced far beyond the cramped vision of its deity.

      • wtfwjtd

        Clara Barton’s Red Cross during the American Civil War helped standardize sanitation practices, and helped save thousands upon thousands of lives, in just a few years. So, healing a few sick folk, or a dead-raising or two? Count me as underwhelmed(again).

    • wtfwjtd

      How about John Deere? His inventions have helped feed tens of millions of people on planet Earth, and at the time of their introduction increased crop production many fold. So yeah, count me as unimpressed with this Jesus’s parlor-style conjurer’s trick.

      • Pofarmer

        John Deere wasn’t particularly an inventor, he was mainly a marketer. John Deere continues in that mold today.

        • wtfwjtd

          This Wikipedia article says otherwise:

          He was also a good marketer, this helped get his invention into widespread usage.
          I was thinking more of the later stuff his company made and sold, by the early 20th century mechanized farming was drastically increasing crop yields while reducing the required amount of manual labor.

        • Pofarmer

          I’m not gonna fight about it. John Deere was a cog in the wheel that led to today’s mechanized agriculture. No doubt this has resulted in more food for more people and frustrated the peak population crowd.

        • smrnda

          Even a cog in such a machine fed more people than Jesus.

        • Pofarmer

          The story of modern agriculture really is a marvel, and it starts way back with the Romans, and their need to have lot’s of cereals to feed it’s far flung armies. Everything stays pretty stagnant, with fits and starts, until a couple of things come along. Cyrus McCormicks reaper in the 1850’s replaced probably a dozen men in the field, and the Case threshing machine, coupled with a Steam engine, allowed the processing of vast quantities of grain compared to hand threshing and winnowing. Since that time mechanization has impacted every corner of American Agriculture. In the 1940’s two row corn planters were common, and most corn was picked by hand, one ear at a time. Today, 36 row corn planters aren’t uncommon, running 6-8 mph , and combines process 6000 bushels in the time a man would have done 15.

    • Greg G.

      Elijah (or was Elisha?) served five loaves to a party of one hundred. Jesus does even better. That’s where The Odyssey comes in. Telemauchus, Odysseus’ son, visited two kings who happened to be having feasts. He walked to one and sailed to one. So does Jesus. One had 5000 in attendance. Jesus feeds 5000 at one feeding. The other one had 4500. Jesus fed 4000 at his other one. MacDonald lists more similarities.

      The stories are so hollow you can see through them.

      • That’s where The Odyssey comes in. Telemauchus, Odysseus’ son, visited two kings who happened to be having feasts. He walked to one and sailed to one. So does Jesus. One had 5000 in attendance. Jesus feeds 5000 at one feeding. The other one had 4500. Jesus fed 4000 at his other one. MacDonald lists more similarities.

        The stories are so hollow you can see through them.

        That story is pretty flimsy itself.

        • Greg G.

          Read Dennis MacDonald’s The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark. He explains the Greek art of mimesis and shows how Mark uses it over and over and gives a point by point matchup between Mark and Homer for several stories. Where Odysseus travels around the Mediterranean, Jesus travels around the Sea of Galilee. The Passion draws elements for the death of Hector in the Iliad.

          Then read Randel Helm’s Gospel Fictions who shows that the miracles of Jesus in Mark are taken from the miracles of Moses, Elijah, and Elisha. If you read MacDonald’s book first, you see that Mark is doing the same thing with the Old Testament that he does with Homer.

        • I would never dispute that the Jesus stories consciously echoed those of the Jewish patriarchs and prophets. It’s the Homer stuff I think is questionable.

          The “point by point matchup” between the stories where Jesus fed the multitudes and the ones where Telemachus visited Nestor and Menelaus is what we more commonly refer to as “confirmation bias.”

        • Greg G.

          Don’t judge it by what I typed with my thumbs on a cell phone. See Review of The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark where Richard Carrier discusses it better than I.

          Of course, reading the book would be even better.

        • I’ve read a lot of the parallels MacDonald brings up. I’m just not persuaded. It’s an exercise in connecting the dots, regardless of how distant they are.

          Let me ask, Greg, how many points would have to fail to match up before you admit it’s sort of a stretch?

        • What do you see as the better hypothesis?

        • I totally agree that the Jesus story had a lot of echoes of the Jewish patriarchs and prophets: Jonah was in the whale for three days, David was born in Bethlehem, etc. I just think the Homer parallels are a stretch. Look them up and you’ll see.

          I’m an atheist, and I couldn’t care less whether the whole Jesus story was cribbed from Navajo folk tales. I’m just not persuaded that the similarities between the Homer epics and the Jesus story are anything more than confirmation bias.

        • Greg G.

          There are some parts of Mark that do come from Homer as they have no points. MacDonald cites the Parable of the Evil Tenants (Mark 12:1-10) as being the basic plot of The Odyssey but I can’t quite accept it. I can see the parallel but it doesn’t seem to be how Mark uses Homer.

          A coincidence here or there isn’t enough. It is the patterns of coincidences. They do not appear randomly. The elements from a storyline in Homer matches up with the elements in specific story in Mark in order, or in reverse order in some cases, as if in a chiastic structure.

          Plato discussed mimesis but Mark’s use may be better termed as Dionysian imitatio.

          Homer’s epics were the most popular books of that era. Students of the time read Homer and were trained to imitate those writings. Virgil’s Aeneid is mimesis of The Odyssey. It shouldn’t seem so far-fetched of an idea that someone writing in Greek would use Homer, especially if they were trained to write in a chiastic structure as well.

          Let me ask you. How many tiimes would it take of ten or 15 parallels of elements within a single storyline of Homer matching up in order, or reverse order, within a 10 to 20 verse pericope in Mark for you to see it as more than coincidence?

        • Well, Greg, I asked you first.

          The “feasts” parallels you mentioned above are illustrative. You mention a few supposed similarities that don’t seem particularly fortuitous: Telemachus walked to one feast and sailed to the other. Hmm. I don’t think it mentioned how many people were actually at the feast of Menelaus, but you claim it was 5000 because that’s how many people Jesus supposedly fed. The figure for Nestor’s feast (4500) doesn’t correspond to how many people were at either of Jesus’s events, but it just seems close enough for jazz. You just ignore all the elements that are completely different in the two tales and focus on the perceived similarities.

          Sounds like confirmation bias to me.

        • Greg G.

          The question you asked was how many misses it would take. It isn’t like Mark is copying word for word like Matthew does for Mark in many places. You can see the hits and the pattern of hits. Mark is also blending in his other sources. I answered as well as I could.

          The post you are responding to was typed when I was in bed and wanted to read a little before going to sleep. It was typed on a cell phone without references so I did misremember the 5000. That was my mistake and not MacDonald’s. Neither could I remember whether it was Elijah or Elisha but I did have a sense of being incorrect there.

          There were nine groups of 500 at the one feast so Mark may have rounded down once and rounded up once just to get a number.

          Do you think all the scholars that say the Aeneid is based on The Odyssey have confirmation bias, too? I think O Brother! Where Art Thou? is based on The Odyssey, too. Is that confirmation bias?

          You can call a half dozen correspondences mere coincidences but when there are dozens, it is a pattern. If it is confirmation bias, it should be possible to create a similar number of correspondences with nearly any story instead of the two most popular stories of the era.

          I happen to have the following in a file but I do not recall where I found it. The filename is “DRMacDonald criteria”.

          For mimetic transvaluation to work one needs both similarities and differences, and both can be evidence of a literary connection.

          (1) its accessibility to the author,
          (2) analogous uses of the model by other authors.
          (3) density (the number or volume of parallels between the two texts),
          (4) order (recognizable affinities in the sequence of the parallels),
          (5) distinctive traits (characteristics found in these two texts and not found widely elsewhere),
          (6) interpretability (why the author imitated the target, which may include emulation or transvaluation).

          Od. 10.1-69 (imit. [B]) Mark 4:1-2 and 35-41
          Odysseus’s crew boarded and sat down.
          Jesus boarded and sat down to teach.

          On a floating island Odysseus told stories On a floating boat to Aelous.
          Jesus told his stories to the crowds.

          After a month he took his leave, boarded, and sailed with twelve ships.
          When it was late, he took his leave, and sailed. “Other boats were with him.”

          Odysseus slept.
          Jesus slept.

          The crew opened the sack of winds and created a storm : “[A]ll the winds rushed out.”
          “A great gale of wind came up.”

          The crew groaned.
          The disciples were helpless and afraid.

          Odysseus awoke and despaired.
          Jesus awoke and stilled the storm.

          Odysseus complained of his crew’s folly.
          Jesus rebuked his disciples for lack of faith.

          Aeolus was master of the winds.
          Jesus was master of winds and sea.

          Each of these parallels is congruent, except for the third from the end; whereas Odysseus awoke and was helpless, Jesus awoke and calmed the sea. The difference is strategic and recognizable as a transvaluation.

          MacDonald admits that there are probably some false positives.

    • Greg G.

      It was Elisha and he started with 20 loaves:

      2 Kings 4:42-44 (NRSV)
      42 A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, “Give it to the people and let them eat.” 43 But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred people?” So he repeated, “Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’” 44 He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.

  • Jose Chung

    I love the picture accompanying your post. Hipster Jesus, swaggering like a rock star surrounded by groupies.

    • Hipster model Jesus.

      • dsmith

        It would surely hurt ticket sales had they portrayed Jesus’ appearance like that of modern days Jews such as Alan Dershowitz, Chuck Shumer or Benjamin Netanyahu.

        I have in the past observed women, mostly single or unhappily married, who think of Jesus as their husband, not unlike Nuns who actually wear a wedding ban to signify their marriage to Jesus. In their fantasy I’m sure he looks like the actor pictured above.

        • avalpert

          I would think Woody Allen would make for an accurate Jesus character.

        • guest

          Surely he’d be better for Muhammed.

  • Ron

    Jesus preaches for 40 days after is resurrection, but this conflicts with Luke, which has him return to heaven after just one day.

    Just out of curiosity, is this post-resurrection preaching directed to large crowds or just a private audience, i.e., his chosen disciples and followers?

    • I think it’s just inner-circle people, according to the gospels.

      In 1 Cor. 15, you get the claim of 500 at one time, but since this wasn’t picked up by the gospels, those authors obviously didn’t think much of the claim (or hadn’t heard of it).

      • Ron

        Sorry for the ambiguity. I meant how was this scene depicted in the movie.

        As you’ve already noted, Matthew and John conflict with Luke/Acts and Paul as to how many people saw the post-crucifixion Jesus and I was just wondering which account the directors decided to run with.

        • Ah–gotcha. In the movie, there’s very little. He preaches to the 11 + Mary (yet more familiar platitudes), and then he vanishes. As our tiny band moves off, the narrator (John) tells us that Peter was in charge.

          Then there’s a wrapup with Jesus appearing to John years later on Patmos (obviously making the unfounded assumption that the two Johns are one) where Jesus says that he’ll return soon.


      • wtfwjtd

        Greg G and I had a discussion about this, he says the same verb “appeared to” is used for appearances before this crowd (the 500+), and for when Paul saw him. In other words, Paul thinks that Jesus appeared to this crowd (and the other apostles) in exactly the same way that he appeared to Paul(by supernatural revelation). It’s boilerplate stuff, and once again shows that Paul wasn’t aware of any physical Jesus stories.

        • Yes, that is a fascinating idea.

        • Greg G.

          That’s supernatural revelation by reading the text in a new way – out of context – to find long hidden mysteries.

        • wtfwjtd

          Nearly all of these “prophesies”, it seems, are a tortured reading of a few words out of context. Very much like Bob’s post about the “Paul is Dead” rumors that were formed from bits and pieces of the Beatles albums in the 1960’s.

          I was wondering Greg,since it appears that Paul never actually had heard of the physical Jesus stories, , where did Paul and the others come up with the idea of death by crucifixion? Was this a fairly common method of execution in ancient times?

        • Greg G.

          Hi wtfwjtd,

          Galatians 3:13 (see below) is a direct quote from Deuteronomy 21:23. The Romans used crucifixion as a deterrent for crimes. They put the crosses where they could be seen by all. They would sometimes line the road for miles with crosses, even more than you see driving across Indiana but the Romans still had the bodies attached.

          The Hebrews that wrote Deuteronomy did not crucify people that way as you can see from the whole sentence that Paul quotemined. Deuteronomy 21:22 says the person is put on the tree after execution.

          I would expect that having seen people suffering, dying and rotting on a cross, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to see a similarity between hanging on a tree and hanging on a timber of a tree. With all the other inferences they make from the scriptures to what they saw in real life, that would be one of the smaller ones.

          1 Corinthians 15:3b (NRSV)
          that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures

          Isaiah 53:5 (NRSV)
          But he was wounded for our transgressions,
          crushed for our iniquities;
          upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
          and by his bruises we are healed.

          1 Corinthians 15:4a (NRSV)
          and that he was buried

          Isaiah 53:9 (NRSV)
          They made his grave with the wicked
          and his tomb with the rich,
          although he had done no violence,
          and there was no deceit in his mouth.

          1 Corinthians 15:4b (NRSV)
          and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,

          Hosea 6:2 (NRSV)
          After two days he will revive us;
          on the third day he will raise us up,
          that we may live before him.

          Psalm 16:10 (NRSV)
          For you do not give me up to Sheol,
          or let your faithful one see the Pit.

          Psalm 41:10 (NRSV)
          But you, O Lord, be gracious to me,
          and raise me up, that I may repay them.

          Galatians 3:13 (NRSV)
          Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—

          Deuteronomy 21:23 (NRSV)
          his corpse must not remain all night upon the tree; you shall bury him that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not defile the land that the Lord your God is giving you for possession.

        • wtfwjtd

          Thanks Greg, that’s great info. I looked up a little info about crucifixion, and discovered that it was a rather common practice from around 5-600 BCE until at least the 4th Century CE. So no stretch there at all to see the connection.
          I’ve also been watching that “Truth Surge” guy’s videos, there’s some really good info there too. I love his videos! Thanks for the link!

  • I hope you’ll review the upcoming evangelical film “God’s Not Dead” once it’s out. It looks to be a doozy.

    As some Christian folklore would have it the disciple John still lives, and has wandered the Earth since the resurrection, which he will do until the end times, to explain away the “some standing here will not taste death” before Jesus’ second coming. Long wait, that.

    I love the idea that “Satan” is to blame for them casting an actor that resembled Obama, which upset people. No, it can’t just be a coincidence, or a poor choice on their part. It all *means* something, you know.

    • Yes, I’m hoping to see that one and “Noah.”

      Is it just me, or are we seeing an unusual burst in Christian movies at the moment?

      • Perhaps due to the rise of atheists such as ourselves? 🙂

    • And you saw my recent Chick tract analysis? Seriously–it’s the same plot (if the trailer is to be believed).

      I’d better see “Based on a teeny, tiny tract by Jack Chick” at the end!

      • Yeah, it seems like a movie-length treatment of that.

  • Pattrsn

    On Palm Sunday, Jesus rides triumphantly into Jerusalem on a donkey, but this conflicts with Matthew, which says he rode on two donkeys.

    There’s no conflict, it’s just math biblical style, 1+1=1

    • Ron

      I always chuckle about Jesus instructing his disciples to go steal untie someone’s property with the addendum that if anyone asks, just say, “The Lord has need of them.”

      Cue Shatner:

      “Excuse me. What does THE LORD need with a colt and an ass?”

      • Good thing Jesus’ horse thieves didn’t meet The Red Headed Stranger.

        ♫ She followed him out as he saddled his stallion
        And laughed as she grabbed at the bay
        He shot her so quick, they had no time to warn her
        She never heard anyone say… ♪

  • guest

    I’d love to see a movie about Jesus from a secular perspective.

    • Zaoldyeck

      They are called documentaries and Christians seem to take issue with the use of historical evidence outside of the bible.

      • What I’m most amazed by is that they also take issue with the use of common sense.

        Crazy story about gods and supernatural stuff? No problem–I got a big bin labeled “Myth” full of other stories just like that.

        Oh, but you say that it’s about my religion? My bad! That’s actually History.

        • Norm Donnan

          The amusing twist to this is of course evolution,hang on I will just dig deep into my Myth bin (which is over flowing)and pull out everything came from an exploding star and file that under common sense.
          Bacteria evolving into bacteria,file that under supernatural,amazing.
          Crazy story about one kind of creature evolving into another, hey thats my faith…I mean thats science your talking about, thats actually history.My bad.

        • Come back after you get your doctorate. Until that point, no one cares about your evaluation of biology. But thanks for trying.

        • Norm Donnan

          Hey talking about the supernatural theres a guy called Reggie Anderson talking on Sid Roths Its Supernatural.
          He’s a doctor of medicine,was an atheist who had his own “heaven experience” and carnt keep quiet about what awaits us in eternity.
          How much of an open minded free thinker are you really?
          Open enough to listen to one of your own?

        • Pofarmer

          Is he the one who’s attending physician says is full of it? Is misrepresenting his condition and treatment? Pretty sure that’s right.

        • Norm Donnan

          I carnt say Ive ever heard him talk of being unwell so I dont know what condition you mean.
          How did your wife find the visiting priest from Australia?

        • Pofarmer

          Unfortunately, he’s all the rage. Catholics are looking for their own crazies to love.

          Ah, I see I had the wrong Chap. Found this.

          “Growing up in rural Alabama in the 1960s, Dr. Reggie Anderson’s childhood sounds like a script from a Hallmark movie. He was raised in a Christian home, and life on the farm was innocent and honest. God was as real to him as the clay beneath his feet, he says.

          But the feel-good story of his life turned into a horror movie one sizzling summer day in 1973.

          After a gang of escaped convicts brutally murdered six unsuspecting members of Anderson’s extended family, the heart and soul of the entire community was ravaged. Everyone and everything went into lockdown. The once-open doors, trusting hearts and willing faith of the community were latched and dead-bolted shut.

          A teenager at the time, Anderson began wrestling deeply with God.

          “In my mind and heart, God began to shrink,” he writes in his book Appointments With Heaven, which chronicles his struggle with gut-level honesty. “It was suddenly so obvious to me. He didn’t care because He wasn’t there!”

          Soon Anderson stopped attending church and headed for college, where he decided to become a doctor.

          “It was a point where I consciously decided to become an atheist and started worshipping at the school of science,” he says.

          But his interest in God was slowly revived when some Christian friends began to study religion with him. He went camping one weekend to enjoy a bit of nature and sort out his thoughts—but he never made it into his tent that night.

          After a day of hiking, he did some reading and fell into a deep sleep, finding himself in a dream like no other. His senses took on the kind of otherworldly qualities you hear about in near-death encounters, like ultrasaturated colors and aromatic scents. Suddenly the family that had been killed appeared to him.

          “They didn’t speak with words,” Anderson says, but they somehow communicated to him they were in a world of paradise and had no regrets.

          And then came the ultimate healing. Like a father welcoming his prodigal son into his arms, Jesus appeared as a brilliant presence with an ageless and raceless form. Everything about Him radiated love and warmth. Without speaking, He beckoned Anderson near and told him about his future.

          At dawn, Anderson was still laying on the ground next to the campfire.

          “I woke up, and I was completely different,” he says.

          He felt humbled. The mysterious dream not only sealed his faith, but it also cleansed him of his anger and made him desire more of God.

          “Dreams don’t always change your life,” he says. “[But] this was a Damascus Road event. It actually changed the chemistry of my spirit.”

          Anderson ended up marrying his college sweetheart, Karen, and today they have four children, as foretold in his dream. He is currently a family practice physician at Frist Clinic in Ashland City, Tenn.

          Yet over the years, the sensations Anderson experienced in his dream have come back in his medical practice, particularly as patients cross the veil between life and death. Sights, aromas, temperature changes—“each time is different,” he says.

          The first time Anderson attended a patient who died, he says he felt a warm sensation move through the cold hospital room as the man took his last breath. Then he noticed a momentary soft glow above and to the right of the man’s body, and he felt a “deep sense of peace and an embracing comfort,” he says.

          Since then, Anderson has felt that warm presence many times with dying patients.”

          I don’t see how this is evidence to me of anything other than Mr. Anderson having some sort of experience.

        • Norm Donnan

          Ahh thats true until it happens to you.
          You not being able to answer the hows and whys with the limited understanding of science will be irrelevant because no matter what cynical and sarcastic comments others make,it happened to you.
          Then when you hear someone elses account,even though it may differ from yours you have realized that because you know the spiritual realm exists despite that science as recognized by some carnt prove it,is a reality.
          This is when atheists lose their faith in science.

        • Pofarmer

          What about all the people who say that they HAVE had these experiences, and then later become Atheists? I think that includes both Bart Ehrman and Dan Finke. You might consider, that all the accounts tend to agree, because a) we are generally exposed to the same society and b) our brains misfire in ways that are actually predictable. Scientists can now duplicate out of body experiences in the lab. They know which parts of the brain are involved in “spiritual” encounters. Rather than losing faith in science, it makes me more interested in it.

        • Norm Donnan

          And that is one reason I call atheists denialists because even with things they know to be true and experiences they have had they still need to lie to themselves because to do otherwise demands a response.
          Science has found some of the parts of the brain used by the spirit just like different parts of the brain are used when we are talking or typing.
          The spirit is within you and yes it can be manipulated,damaged,encouraged and strengthened, that is all science is doing with their experiments.
          My wife is a school teacher and was a science specialist.
          We have no problem with science,in fact we love it but we see it for what it is,discovering how things work.

        • Can your wife offer some evidence? If so, perhaps you could put her on. You’ve got nothing.

          Thank you for clarifying your theology, but this doesn’t help skeptics one bit. This is just mental masturbation on your part, and let me assure you that it’s not pretty to watch.

          We need evidence.

        • Norm Donnan

          Ive asked her(along with many others).She finds the arguments and logic not worth the effort(not to mention you dont have the necessary doctorate in Christian theology to be qualified to debate,sorry).
          So I guess from her perspective we are a pair of wankers but I have to admit you are better at it than I am,enjoy!

        • you dont have the necessary doctorate in Christian theology to be qualified to debate

          And she does?

        • MNb

          Note how Norm systematically avoids to tell us which branch of science his wife exactly has studied.
          I think astrology.

        • My vote: alchemy.

        • Norm Donnan

          She is a teacher who is a science specialist

        • Norm Donnan

          A degree not a doctorate,thats your requirement for opinion.

        • MNb

          Ah – if some guy tells you a story that confirms your christian prejudices you shout: “Listen to him/her! Evidence!”. But when that story contradicts your christian prejudices you whine: “He/she lies! He/she is a denialist, because he/she knows what’s true!”
          As always totally convincing, Norm. Especially after reading

          “Science has found some of the parts of the brain used by the spirit”
          Why don’t you go to your sciencey wife and ask her to teach you some actual science? What science has found is that religious people develop a “religious department” in their brains. They haven’t found any “spirit”.

          “The spirit is within you and yes it can be manipulated,damaged,encouraged and strengthened”
          You probably don’t even realize what you write. This implies that this spirit is material.
          Or can you explain the mechanism by which matter (required for manipulation and damage) affects a non-material spirit?
          I’d still like to know in which field your wife was a science specialist. Astrology perhaps?

        • Norm Donnan

          What Christians do know is the reality of Satan as well as God.
          While we dont pretend to know a lot about the spirit realm and there is a lot more than is revealed in the Bible we usually recognize the enemy.
          Your scientific discovery of the “religious department” may please the likes of you but is laughable in its ignorance,and is no threat to anyone who knows the truth.

        • You’re scolding MNb about laughable ignorance, but in the same breath you talk about evil spirits?

          Go back to the 12th century.

        • MNb

          This is the right place to admit that my debating strategy is exactly aimed at getting such results. There is no better way to show the folly of people like Norm by provoking them to write stuff like this.

        • Norm Donnan

          LOL you use strategy,all you need to do is ask

        • Norm Donnan

          Ha,laughable ignorance indeed,
          welcome to the all loving 21st century

        • MNb

          “the reality of Satan as well as God.”
          So you are a polytheist.
          Note that the majority of Dutch christians doesn’t believe in the devil.

          “Your scientific discovery”
          It’s not mine. It’s a discovery by neurobiologists, ie people who have studied the subject. Ask your sciencey wife.

        • Norm Donnan

          I really wont be believing you on what Christians believe knowing your limited understanding

        • MNb

          That’s the right spirit, Norm. Now you’ll understand why we have the same attitude towards the nonsense you produce about science.

        • Norm Donnan

          Its the nonsense that you call science that makes me laugh Mark,fairy tails.
          Then you think you can understand religion HA.

        • I see. Science is the nutty stuff, and religion is firmly grounded in reality. Much clearer.

          I knew you were good for something, Norm.

        • MNb

          Seems that I was premature:

          “Now you’ll understand…”
          Even what I wrote here is beyond your comprehension.

        • Pofarmer

          Yep. Scientists studying the brain for clues about how we comprehend and why we beleive like we do are fairy tales. Unseen spirit world is concrete fact.

        • moon_bucket

          The world Is full of myths and personal experiences. Oddly enough the majority everywhere are led to the majority religion of their birthplace. It’s a miracle! lol

        • Norm Donnan

          That may or may not be true but it doesnt mean that it never happened.

        • MNb

          “You not being able to answer”
          God of the gaps, Norm, god of the gaps. That’s how our ancestors (assuming you’re as white as me) explained thunder and lightning: Thor/Donar was angry.
          You’re not able to answer the question how this

          is possible, hence you conclude that god is sustaining the magnet.
          Indeed – sounds as silly as your comment.

        • What is it with you and superconductivity? It’s like you’ve never heard of “God dun it.” Science ain’t gonna come up with anything simpler or more complete–deal with it.

          But while we’re on the topic, have you seen this video of a superconducting toy train on a Mobius-shaped track? Scroll to 6:30 to see the punch line, and then you can go to the beginning to see all the science.

        • MNb

          Yeah – since I saw it with my own eyes (and as a student got the chance to discuss it with a physicist from the University of Amsterdam) more than 25 years ago it’s a kind of a fetish.
          Awesome video. Tonight I’ll fall asleep as a happy man. You have my eternal gratitude (at least for one night). My religious need for wonder has been satisfied once again.
          So no way I have scrolled; I actually saw it twice. “Superconductivity at room temperature”, replacing copper cables and such totally gets me off spiritually.

        • Pofarmer

          I watched a “Bible mysteries” show one time where they were saying that the “Ark of the Covenant” may have levitated by an ancient discovery of room temperature superconductivity. Really? I think it’s more likely it levitated by being made up. YMMV.

        • MNb

          Awesome explanation a posteriori.
          How about some actual, concrete, detailed predictions?

        • MNb

          Yeah, Norm, we already know you don’t understand and/or reject of the concept of empirical evidence.

        • Merari

          I really, really hope you were being facetious here. Because if not, oh boy.

        • Pofarmer

          Nah, he’s serious.

        • Ashley

          In all actuality, there is a plethora of evidence concerning Jesus and other events expained in the Bible. Most of this has been found in archeologic digs, including evidence of certain empires, buildings, etc. that would prove events that the Bible contains. Also, athiesm IS a belief, however a belief of science, meaning that, to athiests, the “history […of] an exploding star,” trumps the idea that there was a entity that created the world. To me, the latter is more believable because of the absolute perfection in every aspect of life on Earth that allows us to survive (chemical levels, temperature, UV exposure, natural resources, etc.) not even starting on the wonder that is the human body (intricity of organs, blood, pH levels, hormones, brains, etc.
          ). I personally believe in the Son of God wholeheartedly, however, we don’t know his ways- science could be right, it could work with religion… I guess we will find out in the future!
          – Just giving the Christian perspective on things

        • Thanks for your input.

          Science has explained uncountably many puzzles within nature–from why fireflies glow to where the universe came from. Christianity hasn’t explained anything.

          As for perfection, I’ll give the Douglas Adams puddle example. Imagine that a puddle wakes up one day and says, “Y’know, I never noticed how well this pothole fits me. Wherever I go out, it goes out; wherever I go in, it goes it. It must’ve been made for me!”

          The error, of course, is that the puddle conforms to the hole, not the other way around. And that’s why we fit well into our environment. The environment is what it is, and we’ve adapted to fit well in it.

          As for the intricacy of the human body, I’ve written a lot about this. For example, here.

          Or look up “recurrent laryngial nerve” on Wikipedia–a favorite bit of idiotic “design.”

        • MNb

          “the absolute perfection in every aspect of life on Earth that allows us to survive ”
          Just like the fly marvels at the perfection with which the White House was designed to give it a place to rest.
          Btw – do you imply here that the rest of the Universe is less than perfect? Why the overkill? For our survival the Solar System – ok, the Milky Way – would have been sufficient.
          As for the perfection of the Earth:

    • For one directed by a Jesus mythicist, you could watch it today. Just watch a blank TV.

    • Greg G.

      Try the TruthSurge channel on YouTube and look for the “Excavating the Empty Tomb” series. There are more than 20 episodes that are 10 to 15 minutes long on different aspects of the evidence for Jesus. Here is Part 1.

    • avalpert

      It would be very short and very uninteresting.

    • james

      “Monty Python’s The Life Of Brian” is a great secular movie,but only if you conceed that Jesus may have Existed.

      • avalpert

        Life of Brian is my second favorite historical documentary ever after Blazing Saddles. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer would be a distant third.

    • Pasolini’s Gospel According to Matthew was a pretty sober look at the Jesus story. Short on the miracles and long on the Mozart.

  • moon_bucket

    Nice teeth. Jesus flossed.

  • DaWatcher

    I just had a christian comment on some thread last week and it was perhaps the craziest claim I’ve ever heard from a christian. She claims that Josephus wrote that Jesus had blond hair and blue eyes. Last I remember, Josephus never claimed that he actually saw Jesus and never gace a description of him. Can anyone trace this source?

    • She’s misremembering. Anyway, the “Testimonium Flavianum” in Josephus is widely considered to be a Christian addition. Josephus didn’t write it. And it has nothing about Jesus’s appearance.

    • avalpert

      She is confused – or mor elikely took without question the report of someone else who didn’t understand what they were talking about.

      There is a 14th century forged letter claimed to be from Pilate to Tiberius delivered by a Publius Lentulus who describes Jesus’ appearance as blond hair/blue eyes. Josephus mentions Lucius Lentulus from ~50bce and this is sometimes used to ‘corroborate’ that the Lentulus family existed in Judea trying to give credence to the forged letter.

    • Jesus was ginger. The mesmerizing power of alliteration is my authority. 😉

  • pagansister

    And the fable continues—–

  • Kodie

    I got a kick out of this spoof on SNL last night.

  • ╒réé Thinkêr☻

    they should make a movie of moses on how you okay rape and murder

    • I don’t know about a movie, but they did write a book. It’s called the Old Testament.