Limitations in Historical Analysis of the New Testament

Limitations in Historical Analysis of the New Testament October 30, 2013

Historians use textual and historical criticism (also called lower and higher criticism, respectively) as they sift through mountains of manuscripts to decide how old they are, where they came from, who wrote them, and what the original probably said. Despite their power, however, these techniques are hobbled by an important and obvious limitation.

Let’s first look into some of the impressive successes by looking at three important New Testament passages that are widely considered to not be original.

Success #1: the Comma Johanneum

This comma (that is, phrase) is the bold part in the epistle of 1 John below:

For there are three that testify in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. And there are three that testify on earth: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. (1 John 5:7–8)

This phrase is the clearest biblical statement in support of the concept of the Trinity. (I’ve written more on the long road to the Trinity here.) This fundamental doctrine became an important point of debate, and it was resolved only at the First Council of Constantinople in 381. And that’s an important clue. The Comma would’ve surely been a central piece of evidence in the debate, but it was never brought forth. The early church fathers clearly didn’t know about it. Our oldest manuscript evidence is from a seventh-century Latin manuscript, and it’s in none of the early Greek copies.

With the best manuscripts not having the Comma and early fathers oddly silent, this one is easy to resolve.

Success #2: The woman caught in adultery

In this story (John 8:1–11), the Pharisees bring to Jesus a woman accused of adultery. The Law says that such a woman should be stoned to death, so what does Jesus say? Jesus replies, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” As Jesus writes in the dirt, the men drift away. When they are gone, he admonishes the woman to sin no more.

The evidence is similar to the case of the Comma Johanneum. The story is absent from copies of John from the early third century and from the earliest complete New Testaments (the Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, from the fourth century).

The story is referenced by third- and fourth-century church fathers, but the first copy of John to include it is from the fifth century. The New Testament manuscripts that include it don’t always put it in the same place, as if it was a cherished story that scribes inserted in various spots.

Though Augustine (fourth century) thought that the story might’ve been omitted to avoid the impression that Jesus sanctioned adultery, the consensus is that this story is not original.

There are other important disputed sections of the New Testament that are handled in similar ways, but these along with the long ending of Mark are the most substantial.

That and the limitation to this method are in Part 2.

Be hard on your opinions.
A famous bon mot asserts that opinions are like a**holes
in that everyone has one.
There is great wisdom in this but I would add
that opinions differ significantly from a**holes in that
yours should be constantly and thoroughly examined.
— Tim Minchin

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  • Y. A. Warren

    I believe it is time that we stop parsing the words and start acting in the spirit of Jesus and his earthly parents. I don’t give a _ _ _ _ whether Mary had sex with Joseph; whether Jesus had sex, ever, or whether anybody’s bodies came back to physical life. What I do care about is The Sacred Spirit manifested on earth and continuing into eternity, through lives that practice responsible compassion for all in existence.

    • Kodie

      That’s stupid metaphorical shit and taking one arbitrary story to demonstrate a wishful thought is worming your way out of the issue. Tell me one reason to pay attention to this story and try to live my life accordingly.

      • Y. A. Warren

        Back up, Kodie. What part of what I entered is “stupid metaphorical shit”? Should I have said, “the historical or metaphorical” Jesus? I don’t care which is the case with the (real or mythical) physical “holy family”; I do like their way of walking their familial and communal walk.

        • Kodie

          What “Sacred Spirit” eternity mumbo-jumbo are you talking about?

        • Y. A. Warren

          The part of being human that allows us to reject all inherited earthly influence and choose who we will be. I apologize for not having a better name for this power.

        • Greg G.

          Did the SS practice responsible compassion before it manifested (and how?) or did it even exist before it manifested in responsible compassion?

        • Y. A. Warren

          I believe that The Sacred Spirit IS responsible compassion.

        • Oh–“Sacred Spirit.” I was thinking “semisweet.”
          My bad–I guess I have Halloween on my mind.

        • Greg G.

          Come over to the dark side of the chocolate.

          It’s supposed to rain tomorrow night so I got extra candy-my favorites – ya know, in case we have leftovers.

        • Y. A. Warren

          Halloween is on my mind because it is the birthday of my son, who is definitely semisweet. There are none who have any touch with earthly reality that don’t understand the manifestations of The Sacred Spirit are all in what we make of existence on earth. every scientist can look at supernovas as an end or as a a beautiful beginning.

        • But why see through the Sacred Spirit lens? Doesn’t the natural viewpoint explain things best?

        • Y. A. Warren

          I have wrestled with what science defines as humanity’s propensity toward seeking “gods.” I believe that much fear in the sentient being is precipitated by not knowing, and that religions have capitalized on these fears, pretending that their gurus, priests. prophets, etc. know the unknowable.

          I horrify my religious friends when I say the if “God” is a father, he has a penis, and if “Godess” is a mother she has menstrual cycles and mood swings. The only omnipresent energy I accept is the energy that is manifested in all we physical beings can touch, taste, see, and smell.

          I am attempting to put an amorphous definition on what we homo sapiens with judgement can attribute to experiences of a universal omnipresent energy, which the most modern cosmology calls the “Highs Boson.”

        • JohnH2

          Actually, Mormons really don’t have any sort of problem with God having a penis and being a father, nor with our Heavenly Mother having female sex organs and functions. Not sure about mood swings and menstrual cycles but okay.

        • Y. A. Warren

          What about virgin birth and “original” sin?

        • JohnH2

          Brigham Young had a theory about virgin birth, but it has been discounted more recently: It seems entirely possible today to impregnate a virgin in vitro.

          Not sure what you are asking about with original sin. Whatever it is I am pretty sure the answer is going to be contrary to your expectation.

        • Y. A. Warren

          For any value system to base membership in “the club” on adherence to a creed, rather than on committed, compassionate deeds is laughable to me.

          I am painfully aware that many who are unwilling to adopt children are now recreating their own genetic mini-mes through in vitro fertilizations. It is only painful for me, in light of all those who protest abortion without the accompanying commitment to adoption of the unwanted babies.

          The Roman Catholic Church created a political system that they pretended was based on Jesus as their “Christ” and all the protesting (protestant) religions have been teenage children of this religion, ever since.Protesting must stop.

          It is time that we all understand that Jesus said that we all have a chance to start over, based on the two great commandments and to include others as “family” based on acceptance of a certain way of life. There is even a prescription for committed communities reconciling their differences in Matthew: 18:15-22.

          Jesus is not the author of “Christianity”, other than for those who follow the example of the life (not only the death) of Jesus as their “Christ.”

        • JohnH2

          Jesus said a man must be born of water and the spirit to enter into heaven; and authority from heaven is needed for this to be valid. We are judged on our works but knowledge from God requires more than just compassionate deeds but also deeds that God Himself required and set the example.

          I was referring to the virgin birth of Jesus in terms of something like in vitro fertilization; If God used His penis on Mary then Mary would hardly be a virgin when it is stated that she was.

          Mormons are hardly Protestants. Restorationist is more accurate and that goes back to the authority from heaven. The Catholic Church rejects that I am a Christian regardless of my belief in Jesus as Christ and Savior and any works I do. I am to the Catholic Church not even a heretic and an atheist is in a better position with the Catholic Church then a Mormon.

          It is amusing to have the implication of following only the death of Christ be asserted against me, a Mormon. Usually the assertion goes completely in the other direction: Mormons are generally always considered to be very Christ-like in actions but accused of trying to save ourselves through our works through a misunderstanding.

        • busterggi

          “Mormons are hardly Protestants. Restorationist is more accurate and that goes back to the authority from heaven. ”

          Actually Fanfictionist would be the most honest and that goes back to the authority of a man talking through his hat.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I am not very familiar with the Mormon religion, though I have read The Book of Mormon. I know that they do a lot of charitable works. I do know, having worked in the non-profit sector for many years, that much of what we call “charity” is actually enlightened self-interest. I have no problem with doing the right thing, no matter the reason for doing it.

          Each person must give of themselves for their own reasons. This is in all of society, not only in religions. Many, however, make a great show of their generosity to increase their own earthly power. This too is common in all societies, not only on religions.

          I believe that the water and the spirit that brings a person into full humanity is spilled by the mother as she gives birth. I have witnessed too many children who were born to mothers who had damaged or deadened spirits. No matter the amount of religion, it doesn’t seem able to overcome the lack of compassion they received in the womb.

          I resent the implication by the “Christian” churches that sex somehow would make Jesus and his parents less an example of the way to create and nurture values from generation to generation in order to improve the responsible compassion through the ages.

          I completely reject the notion that Jesus was “God” on earth, any more than any human is capable of being, if the person has full free will, proper genetics, and training. Any of us could be perfect if we walked the earth as “God.”

          I reject the notion that any of us can be “converted” by rituals only allowed to be performed by certain “chosen” priests and prophets. I work every day to help create compassion on this earth because I believe we are meant to live in a heaven of our own making right here on earth. I believe this can be achieved by honoring, claiming, and sharing our own interior sacredness and that of all life. I believe this connects us to the eternal, universal Sacred Spirit of life, in which death plays the part of a trans-formative catalyst.

          I believe that we contain The Sacred Spirit much to the degree with which we were born and what we grow through communion and contact with others. So, kill me because I think full responsible, compassionate humanity has “power” to change our earth.

        • JohnH2

          The giving and service by mormons, and most religious people that I know, is motivated by each individual member of the religion desiring to serve their fellow men as this brings to each the greatest possible happiness. Power plays has absolutely nothing to do with it and really doesn’t make a lot of sense anyways.

          You appear to waffle between various religious states and to have thus created a God after your own imagining.

          Baptism is explicitly a re-birth, meaning that birth is likewise important and sacred; the water, blood, and spirit descriptions of baptism found in the Bible only make sense under the knowledge that baptism is being compared to birth. You may find this interesting.

          I am perfectly okay with Jesus having brothers and sisters and with Jesus being married, quite possibly polygamously. Marriage is the most sacred of ordinances for Mormons and a requirement for many priesthood offices, the family is the most important part of the church and all else is auxiliary to the family.

          While we are all potentially God’s that can only happen via the atonement of Jesus Christ who did walk this earth perfectly; even if each of us has the possibility of walking perfectly on this earth, all have failed to do so and fallen short of the glory of God.

          Ordinances do not convert, but the full gift of the Spirit of God can only come by way of the laying on of hands by those having the authority to do so and this after baptism.

          Learning how to love ones neighbor as oneself and to love God and to be perfect even as God is perfect is part of our way here on earth. The vision of Zion is explicitly what Latter-Day Saints are working towards.

        • Y. A. Warren

          You are very fortunate if your faith life includes no power seekers or hypocrites. Enlightened self-interest in our country leads a lot of people to pretend adherence to a religion that they neither really know nor practice.

          It is true that my beliefs are an amalgam of what i see consistently in the religions of humanity, since the earliest of recorded human history. I was brought up hearing that man is created in the image and likeness of a god that seems to shift shapes from generation to generation and religion to religion.

          Though I don’t believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and was a god on earth, I do believe that the stories of his life set a good example for creating responsible compassionate community on earth. I choose to believe that what we make of earth will continue into eternity. I don’t consider this waffling; I consider it incorporation of what i see as great concepts for creating a just society.

          Thank you for the links to both the feminist’s perspective on her LDS religion and to the article on Zion.

          There was much in each article with which my beliefs seem to agree, but there is much with which I cannot agree. i found them very interesting and informative.

          The two trees concept seems to leave out the great sin of Abraham that sent his first-born son out into the desert with the mother of his child, forming the basis of the disconnect that we still experience with the sons and daughters of Ishmael. It seems to me that this formed a third tree that the Judeo-Christians are still shutting out of the process of eternal salvation or inclusion in Zion.

          If the purpose of woman is wife and motherhood, what is to be the role for women who are not approached to become wives and mothers? Are they to be eternal children of their own parents? And to whom is a person married after being widowed and remarried?

          I applaud your religion’s way of envisioning an eternal place of peace through compassionate good works. I simply don’t believe that any religion or person (priest or prophet) has all the answers for the whole earth and all eternity.

        • JohnH2

          If there is a God then God is a particular way and it would seem that God is qualified to answer questions about what way He is.

          There was much in each article with which my beliefs seem to agree, but there is much with which I cannot agree.

          For pretty much anyone looking at another beliefs this should probably be the case. If one can’t see where one agrees with another then they don’t understand the other, if one can’t see where one differs from the other then one doesn’t understand ones own position.

          “what is to be the role for women who are not approached to become wives and mothers?”

          Reproductive status is not what makes a mother and all blessings are assured, as time is measure only by man.

          Not everything is known in regards to marriage in eternity, or polygamy. There are wildly varying opinions on the subject.

          I simply don’t believe that any religion or person (priest or prophet) has all the answers for the whole earth and all eternity

          God has all the answers or He isn’t God; but to any one person or religion only part of the answers are ever given.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I believe you can honestly say that anyone who contemplates the nature of eternity has equal access to “the answers”. Even you, who gave me a link explaining how “God” is mother and father, persist in deferring to “He” in referring to “God.”

        • JohnH2

          The Father is the head of council in heaven and the one that through the Son, Jesus Christ, has direct dealings with us (as far as has been revealed as yet); hence it is proper to refer to God as Him.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I simply can’t understand those who must put human names and faces on The Ultimate, Eternal Energy that manifests in all the physical forms we see in the universe.

        • And I can’t understand people who must assign intention to things that have natural explanations (or plausibly do).

        • Y. A. Warren

          I don’t assign intention to these things, but I am in awe of the manifestations of what seem outside our formerly understood boundaries of the “natural.” I only wish I had the power of perception of geniuses, like Einstein.

        • Formerly understood? You mean you marvel at the new terrain that science has shown us? Yes, that is amazing, but we have science (and only science) to thank for that. If you mean what is outside what we now understand, that’s simply speculation.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I believe that our ability to think scientifically is a function of the evolution of human intelligence. I am not sure that all humanity is evolving at the same rate of earthly speed.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I marvel, not only at the “new terrain that science has shown”; I also marvel at the unwillingness of much (most?) of humanity to grow beyond what they already understand (or think they understand). Complex thought seems to me the hallmark of homo sapiens, with responsible compassion being the hallmark of full humanity. True “Christianity” seems to me to be the following of a “Christ” who leads by an example of responsible compassion.

        • Kodie

          It is called the path of least resistance. We are still animals. I think the intelligence gives us kind of an ego boost, like we are supposed to be some kind of gods. But we’re not. We don’t all need to be Einstein to prosper as a species; then again, in large numbers we do ignore or feel threatened by the pioneers of our species bringing back bad news.

          We are not just social species, but I think we like our comfortable rut. If someone can make it more comfortable, we seem to like it as long as we’re young enough. The dividing line is checks vs. debit cards. You thought I was going to say mobile phones or email, you’re wrong. Older generations are becoming increasingly comfortable with new technology as it resembles older technology and becomes easier to use. They’ve been using credit cards for years, but for some reason find it difficult to budge on writing a check for groceries.

          And they don’t need to change. They don’t need to lose their religion, they don’t need to become less racist, or even eat well. They’ve procreated already and retired from their jobs. I’m not saying older people can’t learn or benefit society still, but I am saying it’s just not beneficial to them or the species, and so it pays to stay with your system, no need to adapt or give a fuck. All the technology they adapted to to save time has saved all the time they’re going to get, apparently, and learning something new feels defeating and feels like it will take more time to learn than it will save, having learned to program the VCR once in a lifetime, so how many times do we have to spend time to learn something even newer to save even more time, over a lifetime?

          Most humans are not intelligent examples of the species, but well trained. Watching a recent series of Nova, I mean, we’re each capable of extreme intelligence, but it doesn’t pay. It’s easier to be trained. It’s easier to learn than to think. The question in the show was how smart are (some) animals, but it measures some species against human intelligence, and human intelligence is mostly measured in how easily trained we are by experience. Most animals fall short of human abilities, but the two-fold reason we use dogs to sniff for cocaine at airports is because (a) dogs already know how to smell and we don’t, and (b) are abundant (and (c) – paid cheaply). Why invent a robot that can do this? It is obviously a waste of time – path of least resistance.

          Oh, by the way, animals also have morality. I think the “responsible compassion” is laid on a bit thick. Could humans be better? Yes. If everyone agreed upon what was beneficial and how to cooperate to live cooperatively, sure. But humans are no such animal. Banding together what humans will live for such a cause, you don’t get very many. In my experience, it really does take all kinds. People seem to sort themselves by social committee, and without the committed do-gooders, it would probably be a lot worse. Life is economics. If you are a squirrel, you hoard nuts. If you are an ant, you serve the queen. You face death on a regular basis, so you live to survive. Humans are… really not different. Maybe we are too comfortable now to be so competitive, but I don’t know a lot about evolutionary psychology to know what is bunk and what is not. We can be conscientious enough to learn and overcome our own animal “nature,” but it doesn’t seem so far to be an evolutionary detriment to ignore social progress.

        • Y. A. Warren

          Yes, Kodie, I do agree that we humans are all creatures who are most drawn to “the path of least resistance.” What i hold onto the hope for, is that our special powers of being fully human will give us the power to create our own paths to a better future for all life on earth,

        • Kodie

          I am sorry, that’s a pipe dream.

          Edit: Hang on, let me expand on this a tiny bit (tiny, I promise).

          The very nugget of most religions, I would say is to attract the individual to some ideal such as this. It is an ideal.

          The worst of religion is to (not only attach other conditions to it, but) try to sell this ideal as a requirement for being human. We do the best we can, but we can’t do everything. Some do more, but they can’t resent the animals who don’t care or participate any more than they can count on the sheep who get swept up in an idealism. They’re not creating the ideal situations – they are latching onto enthusiasm and sociability for something.

          And we are getting better. I don’t know if we are, but we seem to be. Our enthusiasm for higher ideals seems to be sticking, at least in the modern world. Humanity from this angle always seems to be moving forward. We don’t train people in obsolete technology, and we have generations that never knew being a homosexual was once against the law. A very few move things ahead intelligently, and most people go along for the ride. Whatever sounds good.

        • Y. A. Warren

          Without dreams, there can be no goals. Without goals, there can be no plans. Without plans there can be no change in the status quo.

        • Kodie

          I edited my post because I thought it was too uninformative. I just don’t think humanity has as much to offer as you say. I don’t think most people have an interest or evolutionary imperative in going to the effort. Some people will anyway, but most are still trained, they’re not intelligent, conscientious, responsible or intentionally compassionate. You get a bunch of Christ-followers who feel that human life is precious (as it appears on the surface that you do!) and they will feel it is their responsibility to picket Planned Parenthood and shame women out of getting abortions, out of compassion for the embryo. That is what “responsible compassion” looks like – people who are sold. People who are pawns for the marketing department of whatever is being sold. People who get passion for doing good, and believe whatever they are told is correct, whatever lies or bullshit to keep them motivated is true, everything against them is propaganda and monsters.

          The main thing about religion is the fight between something that is called “good” against something that is called “evil”. You get some charismatic speakers and writers, and any idea will become “good” or “evil” and anyone who is swayed will be recruited to fight for good against evil. Your idea is exactly the same. You want people to become more conscientious and thoughtful. Well, they fucking aren’t. They feel good picking a team, and they feel righteous fighting for that team.

          That’s not to say all ideas are terrible, but idealists of every kind depend on what motivates people to make an army for free. Saving the world takes numbers, and numbers are consumers. They don’t have responsible compassion, they are joiners. All causes depend on joiners.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I agree with you, Kodie, but I am a cold-hearted bastard who believes that we can win with a way of life that promotes enlightened self-interest. Convince them that they can win by screwing everybody else, an everybody else will eventually win.

        • Kodie

          believes that we can win with a way of life that promotes enlightened self-interest

          That’s a religion.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I’m sorry, Kodie, but I respectfully disagree. Religion seems to say that what I believe is the only truth. Enlightened self-interest is, in my experience, doing what is not necessarily evidently immediately beneficial, but looks to be beneficial in the short term to promote long-term goals.

        • Kodie

          That’s economics.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I would like to have those who understand the language of enlightened self-interest of religion and enlightened self-interest of economics, understand the languages of each other.

        • Kodie

          They are married. I guess in our current “Family Feud” sense of what marriage is, that doesn’t say a whole lot, but that’s not what I mean. “I would like” statements are optimistic. I would like a world where people don’t talk on their cell phones while they’re driving because they’re obviously distracted, but they don’t think they’re distracted. They think they’re the only ones who can handle driving with a phone in their hand, and I’m waiting at an intersection behind someone who is letting everyone make a left turn opposite them even though they have the right of way. And I can see they are on the phone. And I can see they don’t want to multi-task and get in an accident, so they are no longer driving, they are just talking on the phone. But they are still in a vehicle blocking traffic, so which is it?

          If we can’t solve these little issues, I don’t see a bright future with your great hope. People want to be selfish and they aren’t punished evolutionarily for it.

        • Y. A. Warren
        • Kodie

          Most people aren’t punished evolutionarily for being selfish or making selfish decisions, even if they turn out poorly in the short term, and I rarely see evidence that many of them do. Instead, people are rewarded for selfish behavior by gaining an immediate advantage and not suffering a direct consequence. This is also related to risk management and economics. If it hurt to be on the cell phone while driving, people wouldn’t do it – if they always got in an accident or always got caught. It’s easy enough to avoid accidents and avoid getting caught while still being a selfish jerk that it seems to be “ok” even as many say it’s unsafe and outlaw it in many states. Not having the manpower to crack down on it doesn’t help. This is a situation in which statistics plays a part, but experience does not. Many people engage in behaviors that never caused them any problems for them personally before so it’s ok, right? It’s those other people who are spacing out and incompetent. You just have to know how to multi-task, so, you see people know how to avoid accidents, but they don’t care if they avoid pissing people off. There doesn’t seem to be an exceptional evolutionary advantage to giving a shit about a lot of other people. You have to give a shit about a minimal amount of people. The rest you can pay money for, and if you act like a shit, people will still be reasonable enough to do business with you.

          I don’t see “responsible compassion” getting a lot of favor.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I agree with you, Kodie, but because I procreated, before I knew I had a choice, I choose to act in a manner that may give the children that I brought into existence a better path than animal evolution as their values that I pass down.

        • Kodie

          I don’t think that’s an evolutionary disadvantage either. Then again, I’m not a biologist, so I don’t know. I just see that it’s ok to be kind of a prick, you still get to have a family and train your kids to be pricks. Whatever evolution is selecting for, it’s not the highest intelligence or the most compassion. It seems whatever great effort you want to have to start a movement may or may not interfere with one’s child-rearing goals. At least as far as I can tell, if you have giant aspirations to be a leader in some movement of “responsible compassion” or whatever it may be, it will probably necessarily supersede procreating simply because of the amount of energy and not that it makes you unattractive or anything. I am wondering if this is one of the reasons Catholics like their priests to be celibate. They don’t want their leaders tangled up in families and having to make tough choices or naturally prefer their own family to their congregation. Having a family and a demanding job takes a lot of juggling and calls for a lot of stress. In case you haven’t heard a little song called “Cats in the Cradle.”

        • Y. A. Warren

          You are correct about the great effort required to bring up children with any sense of responsibility or compassion. I waited until my children and grandchildren had no further need of me to put myself fully into advocacy for intelligent compassion.

          It is my understanding that the Roman catholic Church allowed marriage of priests and popes until about 1,000 C.E. This was to protect the wealth of the church from being divided among the families of the clergy.

          I am very familiar with “Cat’s in the Cradle.” It is one of my favorite reminders of how precious is the gift of time. I refuse gifts from family and friends. If they have no time for me, I want nothing.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I agree with you, Kodie. This is why I’m a fan of the humanism movement. Religions have been married to politics for many years, using infantilization by spreading fear to control the masses.The religions are based on “gods” who bully people to get what they want.

          I believe in change through creating critical mass inside communities of people who live intentionally. The internet makes growing these communities so much easier. We, the people of the earth, can change things through nonviolent resistance, if we have the will and the patience to persevere.

          Call me a dreamer, but we have seen it work with Gandhi and his followers, as well as with MLK. The famous Jew, Jesus, whether mythical or real, seemed to do the same, but his way was dragged backward by hooking up with politic power.

          Of course we have to keep in mind that we may be martyred, but I really am okay with dying. It’s better than bowing to assholes who think they can scare me.

        • YA: You’re not a conventional Christian, right? This sounds rather Christian.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I am not a convention “Christian” I have been accused of not being a conventional anything. “Enigma” has recently been used to describe me.

        • MNb

          “It is time that we all understand that Jesus said”
          Good for Jesus. Other people said other things. Doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s relevant.

        • Greg G.

          Jesus is not the author of “Christianity”,

          In other news, Luke Skywalker is not the author of Star Wars.

        • So God = Nature?

        • GubbaBumpkin

          … which the most modern cosmology calls the “Highs Boson.”

          You sound high alright.

        • Greg G.

          If certain creatures had a genetic mutation that caused them to care about their offspring which benefitted the offspring, mutation would be passed on. If the gene further mutated so that their offspring gained the benefit of long term parental interest, the new gene would spread.

          If some the creatures offspring had a further mutation that expanded the care to benefit more distant kin, that mutation would spread, and so on until the caring could be applied to many things.

          For example, my old dog could catch a low flying bird. One day she seemed to have heard something in the grass. Then I heard the cheep of a small sparrow and my dog was in mid-pounce. But her expression changed in mid-air to how she looked with her puppies a couple of years before. Instead of trapping the bird with her forepaws, she curled up around it to protect it.

          Is “Sacred Spirit” nothing but a metaphor for expanded maternal instincts and such? How do you distinguish it from instincts that were useful in the evolution of certain species and an imaginary sort of spiritualism that might get you laid by naive, impressionable youngsters?

        • Greg G.

          Then what is responsible compassion and when did it manifest? Was it the first creature to guard its eggs and/or care for its young? The first vegetarian species? The first fish to swim in schools? The first termites or ants to live in a colony to care for and feed the young of their relatives? The first vertebrates to do similar things? The first gorillas?

        • Y. A. Warren

          Great question. I’m rather certain that nobody has the answer, but that someone could start a “movement”, cult, or religion pretending that he/she does.

        • Itarion

          While we’re on the subject, what exactly is irresponsible compassion?

        • Kodie

          It’s like when you’re the only car driving behind someone who thinks they’re a good-deed-doer, waving everyone out of their side street. Generally people who disobey the rules of the road, for “good”, when there’s absolutely no reason to that inconveniences people and slows down traffic, are irresponsibly compassionate.

          Another example would be people giving money to their church or any other charity without knowing where the money really goes or what the policies at the charity are for distributing the money. People who think the Salvation Army is a good wholesome organization that helps people, or Mother Teresa was a good person or anything like that.

        • I’ve heard plenty about Mother T being not as good as her billing, but I haven’t heard anything about the Salvation Army (that comes to mind). Is there a darker side?

        • Itarion

          Everything has a darker side…


        • The Salvation Army has a strict no-gays policy, to start with. In the old days, they also tried to stop labor union protesters by playing over their chants. This is referenced in the IWW song “The Preacher and the Slave” (which includes the now famous “You’ll have pie in the sky when you die” line) by calling them the “Starvation Army.”

        • Kodie

          I think the Salvation Army is just a matter of preference, and some donors may not prefer those preferences. They’re a church, basically. Remember that thing churches do like prey on people who are at their most vulnerable? Then there’s the homophobia and proselytizing hungry people. To some people, that’s a feature, but I wish more conscientious people wouldn’t let those bell-ringers’ presence shame them into giving a dollar every time they want to go in a store so they don’t look like a scrooge to someone they might know who might see them, or anyone else.

          Maybe Alcoholics Anonymous is a better example? There’s a bunch of things people believe are very good, like, if you’re an addict, going to these meetings is the cure. AA, Boy Scouts, Salvation Army, Mother Teresa, religion in general. You’re going to find people who are honestly in favor of all of these things and what they stand for, and then you’re going to have other people who just think they are good because on the surface they seem like they would be, and everyone else thinks so, but would be against them if they learned more about them.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          … but I haven’t heard anything about the Salvation Army (that comes to mind). Is there a darker side?

          The Salvation Army is not just a charity, it is a religious sect. They have doctrine which you may or may not agree with. They have a rule against “officers” marrying outside the faith.

          Salvation Army officer suspended over love life

          Thursday, December 11, 2008
          OSHKOSH, Wis. (WLS) —
          Captain Johnny Harsh has come under fire for wanting to marry someone from outside the Salvation Army…

          On a side note: Captain Johnny Harsh: what a great name.

        • tyler

          there are also numerous stories of them discriminating against lgbt people. a lot of this stuff gets exaggerated a lot (e.g. the “homosexuals should be put to death” interview) but there are several cases of transgender individuals being denied entry to homeless shelters, and at least one confirmed death due to that.

        • Itarion

          I don’t think the SS practiced compassion hardly ever. They weren’t really known for compassion.

          In other news, that is a horrible bad choice of abbreviations. Just sayin’.

        • I take that as one more vote for equating “SS” with “semisweet.”

          With more chocolate, the world would be a better place. Or maybe a fatter place.

        • Itarion

          Who’s to say that those are mutually exclusive?

        • RichardSRussell

          Schutzstaffel? Notoriously lacking in compassion.

        • Kodie

          It’s not a “power”. You are attempting to glorify a natural quality.

        • Y. A. Warren

          And I do believe that humans have the “power” to choose whether we will destroy or nurture each other and the earth.

          I am attempting to find common words to describe the best qualities in humanity, words that have not been hijacked by religion and perverted beyond any hope of reaching common language.

        • Is there evidence to support your worldview? Say, evidence that you could confidently point someone else to?

          It sounds like wishful thinking, if you’ll excuse my frankness. But, of course, there’s a lot of that going around.

        • Y. A. Warren

          There is evidence that what we call emotions are affected by, and affect, brain chemistry, which in turn, affects our full physical make-up. (Many call these emotions happy, angry, sad, etc.) There is also evidence that these emotions can be controlled and channeled, with attention and practice.

          There is also evidence that humans are able to think through much more complex decisions that are most other living beings, and to make decisions to act in ways that may harm them, especially for the good of another for whom the person feels responsibility or great emotion.

          I can come up with some brain studies to reference, but I’m certain that anyone interested in doing so can simply search the internet for their own scientific references.

          What you call “wishful thinking”, I call hope for a more enlightened future for humanity. If I thought that all life was simply science playing out with no hope of improvement based on human intervention, I would have no desire to continue being counted among the living.

        • Sure, I want a better future for humanity as well, and I see the value in humans working toward that goal. I just don’t see the supernatural playing any role.

          Every improvement in society that I see (and much of the bad stuff, too, but that’s another story) is due to people. The supernatural being(s) have done nothing.

    • RichardSRussell

      But what basis do you have for holding Jesus up as an admirable standard to emulate? Words, right? Otherwise you could just make up any imaginary critter you wanted and say that’s who you’re following. But you choose to follow this particular critter because of the words written about him. Which is why the words are important.

      • Itarion

        Yes, but what’s important is that there ARE words. What the words actually say is beside the point.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I agree that words can be causative. I choose which words I want to incorporate into my vocabulary, and I choose which examples I want to follow. I believe there actually is no absolute truth on earth. I believe that we live by prevailing theories and our understanding of individual experiences, or we reject the prevailing theories.

          I choose to identify the boundaries by which and in which I live based on both. My problem with religion, as with many groups in society is that they attempt to codify what they believe into absolute, immutable truth for all people in all situations and times.

        • Is “1 + 1 = 2” an absolute truth?

          My guess is that it is (said another way, I wouldn’t want to argue that it wasn’t), though when it comes to claims of moral truths, I reject the idea that those exist.

        • Y. A. Warren

          This is consistent with an agreed upon way of naming the manifestations of quantifiable amounts. In different languages, it would be expressed differently.

          As for moral truths, I am looking for something that it seems all who care for a code of human conduct will agree upon. I call it responsible compassion; I’d love to hear other ways of calling it that may include all the universe, as we know it.

        • You point to universally agreed-to moral ideas, and I see just natural morals. Again, no need to invoke the supernatural to explain that.

        • MNb

          “will agree upon”
          Good luck, given the tendency of Homo Sapiens to argue about everything.

        • JohnH2

          x+x=x is true for a certain value of x; and that is just one way in which ‘1+1=2’ is not an absolute.

        • Your equation would hold true for x = 0, but I don’t see how that affects the equation I proposed.

        • Kodie

          I might be thinking too literally, but I don’t always think 1+1=2. It depends a lot on what you’re counting.

          1 apple plus 1 orange isn’t 2 unless you’re counting fruit or food or things that are about the size of your fist. 1 apple plus 1 baseball isn’t 2 for certain values of 2. If I’m at the express lane at the store and I have an apple and a baseball, then it’s 2 items, and 2 items in my shopping bag, or one in each hand because I don’t want a bag, but then I have a receipt to carry also. In what other context is 1 apple and 1 baseball equal to 2? Does a receipt make it 3? It depends on what you’re counting.

          1 family plus 1 family might equal 1 if they blend. 1 shoe plus 1 shoe equals 1 pair of shoes or you could have 2 shoes and 0 pairs of shoes.

          The main thing I think is that mathematics need to apply to something. 1+1=2 on paper, but once you bring things you need to count and add together, it’s not always that simple.

        • Also, 1 haystack + 1 haystack = 1 (larger) haystack, assuming we’re mushing them together.

          My guess is that, with simple qualifications (to avoid the kinds of complications you bring up), 1 + 1 = 2 would be seen as always true.

          It’s curious that YA is arguing against any kind of absolute truth. Normally, it’s quite the opposite, with absolute moral truth being the topic at hand.

        • Kodie

          The complications are kind of important though. One of the things I look back on to my schooling is math lessons and the “dreaded” word problems. Arithmetic problems are abstract and easily solved with no complications, and word problems are how most of us apply math lessons in real life. 1 surfboard + 1 ocean isn’t 2. I don’t know what it is, I guess it depends on whether you surf. If your goal is to eat 5 servings of fruit or vegetable a day like the produce council (or whoever) advises, then 1+1+1+1+1=5, but that can break down to an apple, orange, tomato, banana and zucchini,, or part of 1 melon, a handful of grapes, several spears of asparagus, and an amount of spaghetti sauce when you’re buying food at the store.


          YA is kind of a broadly spacey optimist who is loathe to nail down something definite lest it be mistaken for a religious belief, but ‘Sacred Spirit’ is along the same lines a Karl Udy glorifying human intelligence and gathering his evidence for a deity in art and poetry. Humans have potential for a lot, and in my experience, most of it is careless and selfish, but not in a careless and selfish way. I know that doesn’t make sense. It’s just that we’re animals with a broad range of behaviors. Seeing ‘god’ in the good things and ignoring the bad things, or seeing the good in everything and wishfully thinking that we should or can or could or why can’t we live up to the highest bar of human potential is a set-up. Full-on religious morality can’t even, with the fear of hell, get us out of being animals with a somewhat keen economic sense of what works and what’s easily ignored even if it makes someone not as nice as they could be.

          I had a situation last week that brings this sharp contrast in basic morality. Parking lot perpedicular to the storefront:
          | | | | | | | | | | |

          Leaving one space between my car and another car already parked, I got ready to get out, when a giant box truck parked next to me, leaving me blocked inside my car, unable to open my door more than a few inches. People are fucking shit. For everyone who “restores your faith in humanity,” there’s another fucking goddamn asshole who takes more than their share and doesn’t give a fuck. And there is no amount of “positive thinking” or Sacred Spirit to overcome humanity being what it is. Most people are average, decent manners when they have to but not always, but the worst ones spoil it for everyone else, and the best ones don’t really compensate adequately.

          I used to be like YA, but then I was also a teenage girl with a fixation on the 1960s era of Love&Peace. I’m no longer idealistic. The more I pay it forward, the more people take advantage, and the more I encounter the bullies of the world. It’s not actually economically sensible for me, and it’s taken decades to wear me down. It’s a religion, which all religion is is a plan to structure your life that makes sense to you individually. It is not a code of etiquette or morality or altruism that is universal. Trying to make a formula to make the world “a better place” for everyone is a fool’s errand, in my opinion. Trying to tap into a Sacred Spirit of hope that eventually all people will partake of something vague like “responsible compassion” is a religious fool’s errand. People can be good, but they can’t be made to belong to a united agreement of what good is and how to make good things happen, and I think this is what YA admits. YA can’t be more specific because that would be dictatorial, like “don’t litter”. I’ve known people (admittedly, not one of the best examples of humanity I’ve ever been friends with) who litter on purpose “to keep janitors employed,” which would make people who don’t litter the bad guys.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I agree that I often don’t like YA. I am often confrontational and live a mostly solitary life because i won’t be bullied by assholes, whether personal or political.

          I simply advocate every one of us who believes in the progress of peace, formed by justice, to stick to our beliefs, and act accordingly. My children are grown; I don’t care if I die for my beliefs.

        • JohnH2

          X only has to be 0 in certain systems of additions, in others it doesn’t and MNb has already given other examples.

        • You can’t be saying that you were confused about what I meant by “+”, are you?

          Pick another axiom if you don’t like this one. What does “axiom” mean if not that it is universally true?

        • JohnH2

          An axiom is not universally true, but if one states ones axioms then what follows from the axiom is universally true under the uncertain axioms.

        • Is the definition of axiom “that which isn’t universally true”? I think the flavor is quite the opposite, actually.

          Perhaps you’re simply saying that we can’t know for certain.

        • JohnH2

          It depends on where you are coming from. Axiom was classically thought of as being self-evidently true and needing no proof. Now however that isn’t considered to be the case.and axioms are just taken to be starting premises, which may or may not be true and may or may not be true self-evidently.

        • So, where are you on the question of absolute/objective truth? Does it exist? I guess not, given this critique from you.

          What does this do to claims for objective moral truth?

        • JohnH2

          To be able to say that an axiom is true is to say that it corresponds to the world as it really is; there is absolute truth then but having an axiom doesn’t mean that one has found absolute truth; how the world really is.

          There are moral laws that bind even God, meaning they are objective, at least in some sense. They appear to be a part of how the universe is, even if we sense such things only darkly..

        • So then you’re agreeing with me. Your point is that we can’t know for sure.

          You’ve nicely resolved the Euthyphro dilemma.

          Do you agree with Wm. Lane Craig’s definition, that objective truths exist that are true whether or not anyone believes in them or not? And if you agree with that, I will, of course, ask for evidence for such a claim.

        • JohnH2

          The universe is how it is regardless of whether anyone knows or believes it to be that way. When everyone believed in Aristotle, Newtonian Physics was still more accurate, when everyone believed in Newtonian Physics the theory of relativity was more accurate, when everyone believed in current physics there is still some yet more accurate (and complete) theory to be discovered.

        • Agreed. That doesn’t illuminate your views on objective moral truth (or lack thereof).

        • JohnH2

          I didn’t understand that you were specifically asking about morality from the question, sorry about that. Even if everyone thought that premeditated murder was an acceptable moral act it would still be wrong; there are some things which are right and wrong regardless of what people believe about the subject.

        • Kodie

          As long as we’re discussing what’s right and what’s wrong, I noticed you did this before, and I let it go, but “irregardless” is not a word. “Regard” is modified by the suffix “-less” to denote lack of regard. The prefix “ir-” makes it a double negative, it means “not”. Think of “care” and “careless”, care: with care; careful, etc.,
          careless: without care

          So to make an analogy, it would be like you saying “uncareless” to mean “careless”.

        • JohnH2

          I sense a prescriptivist, irregardless has been in use in the US since at least the 1790’s per Wikipedia. but it is apparently non-standard English.

        • Kodie

          I don’t think I’m a prescriptivist, but it means the opposite. Why would you want to say the opposite? What bothers me is people who say I’m supposed to say ‘nauseated’ when I normally say ‘nauseous’ because nauseous means you make someone else nauseated. Or something.

          Fuck it. Be wrong if you insist.

        • JohnH2

          I fixed it.

        • Kodie

          I don’t usually pick on people who make spelling or grammar or vocabulary errors, but that was just because we were talking about what was right or wrong…. so what’s strange is you call me a prescriptivist which is, like, the opposite. You’re telling me premeditated murder is wrong no matter who believes it, but I think a careful plan to zero in on and assassinate Osama bin Laden was ok. I mean, someone must have* told you that was wrong before because you knew how long it’s been in usage, and you stuck with it out of preference, supported by the knowledge that a lot of wrong people have been wrongly using ‘irregardless’ for over 200 years.

          *”must of” is rampantly in usage, but that doesn’t mean it’s good or right. What do people even think that means? People don’t say “where of you been?” “I of been on vacation for 2 weeks and I of not checked my email.”

        • I think the problem is that “must’ve” and “must of” sound alike.

        • Kodie

          It probably is, but that still means they read it and use it, and don’t notice it doesn’t make any sense.

        • JohnH2
        • Kodie

          I was contrasting your thoughts on prescriptive language with your thoughts on objective morality.

          there are some things which are right and wrong regardless of what people believe about the subject.

        • I could care less.

        • Kodie

          (As if) I could care less.

        • JohnH2

          I up-voted Bob’s because I was pretty sure that Bob was purposefully using the common usage.

        • Kodie

          I could care less.

        • JohnH2

          Now I am just confused.

        • Kodie

          I don’t have a problem with “I could care less”, because it is used sarcastically and colloquially, and does not need to be taken literally. It is not used in professional documents or correspondence. I think “irregardless” also has its folksy usage, but should not be used as if you think that’s really a word. Prior usage that you refer to is erroneous along the lines of “Bush-isms” or “Palin-isms” that mash up large vocabulary words to in increasify their intellectualency instead of knowing better, clearer, stronger, and more correct vocabulary words that actually exist. People who do not pay attention to language, grammar, vocabulary, or spelling, of which there are many on the internet, learn from reading – as most of us do – which words to use when they want to express an idea later, and this is how “wrong” usage spreads. From the dominant usage by the lowest common denominator of ignorance, we get the right to be wrong.

          Do we understand what they are trying to say? I guess.

        • Next you’ll be telling us not to say “nook-yoo-ler” for nuclear.

        • Kodie

          I don’t care about that. It’s a regional pronunciation, like Worcester=wusster, or using the word “ink” to modify “pen” so as not to be confused with pig pens and stick pins. If you’re going to say “pen” so it sounds like “pin,” it makes sense. It also, and I’m totally guessing here, says more about how people learned to read. I watched Sesame Street and The Electric Company and learned by sounding out. Noo-clee-er, new-clear, nucular is obviously wrong, but whatever, it is sufficiently spelled like it sounds, but then there are also people who pronounce “margarine” like “Katherine,” and some who pronounce it like “gasoline”, and some who call it oleo. WTF. Some things are not really wrong, no matter how they grate on people’s nerves.

          Regionalisms are different than errors and I am extremely tolerant of regionalisms and not so of errors. “Ect.” is an error. People misspell the abbreviation because they hear “eck-cetera” (and probably repeat it that way) and they’ve never seen it spelled out, but they know there is an e, a c, and a t in it. Obviously, if it’s “eck-cetera” the c comes before the t, but then forget why there’s a t. Like ECceTera, or some kind of contraction. It’s the same kind of error where people can and must HAVE read and understood “could have, must have, would’ve” but still use the word “of” when they write. They hear “of” and their teachers did not beat it out of them.

          Here is where I get to the part where I have to wonder why Australians* can spell worth a damn, and if the common mistakes in English from native English-speakers is as common in other English-speaking countries or is primarily an American lack of a solid foundation.

          *because nothing in Australian accent seems to sound like it’s spelled the way I learned phonics, and are the Australian dictionary pronunciation guides different to reflect this.

        • I was using it ironically, actually.

          “I could care less” is a little fingers-on-the-blackboard to me.

        • OK, so you do accept Wm. Lane Craig’s objective morality.

          Even if everyone thought that premeditated
          murder was an acceptable moral act it would still be wrong


          Imagine the same statement about slavery. Well, everyone agrees that it’s wrong. From what standpoint would you say, “Hey, everyone—that belief about slavery is simply widespread. It isn’t actually correct.”?

        • JohnH2

          I dislike being associated with Wm. Lane Craig but I am not familiar enough with what he says in this particular instance to know if I agree with him or not. Do you happen to have a link on the subject?

          To clarify, murder can be justified in particular circumstances given sufficient knowledge; but in doing so the authorized decision maker is placing the good of society against the bad of killing a person and determining that the burden of murder is acceptable given the other considerations. That is part of what sentencing in a trial is about.

          I am quite a bit more certain that there is morality then I am of any model of morality. All models are wrong but some are useful. The actual morality has consequences regardless of if we know about morality or not; behaving contrary either individually or as a society to what is moral produces on average worse outcomes then behaving morally.

        • I dislike being associated with Wm. Lane Craig but I am not familiar enough with what he says in this particular instance to know if I agree with him or not.

          I wouldn’t like to be associated with him either, but I thought that we could at least use his definition as a starting point and modify it as necessary. Search for that phrase in this blog and you’ll find a post that has a book where this came from. That’s all I have conveniently at hand, I’m afraid.

          Let’s forget WLC. Can you decide whether that definition is yours?

          murder can be justified in particular circumstances given sufficient knowledge

          Not if we define murder as “unjustified killing.” Maybe you meant “killing a person.”

          I am quite a bit more certain that there is morality then I am of any model of morality.

          I’m quite certain that there is morality as well. I simply see no evidence that points outside of humanity for its grounding.

        • JohnH2

          Whether there are moral truths that are true regardless of belief? I suppose that depends on what you mean by ‘belief’ in this case; If the legal, cultural, and religious external structures say one thing there is still the inherent moral sense to distinguish between good and evil and one can come to know that slavery is wrong, for instance, independently and despite society saying otherwise.

        • The “inherent moral sense” doesn’t sound particularly reliable. It told lots of people that slavery was wrong in the U.S. in the 1840s, but it told lots more than it was A-OK.

          Yes, we have moral programming. No, I don’t think there’s any moral truth that’s “valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.”

        • JohnH2


          Whether people listen to or do what is necessary to listen to their moral sense is completely another question as to whether it exists. I must also note that in pointing that out it is your position which is condemned much more then mine; as to you slavery must be taken as being okay for everyone that believes it to be okay even if you disapprove of it and there is no reason for anyone else to listen to any disapproval of slavery.

        • Whether people listen to or do what is necessary to listen to their moral sense is completely another question as to whether it exists.

          What is this “it”? A vague sense that is more or less shared by all people? Sure, that exists. And evolution explains that nicely. Of course we think more or less alike about how to interact with others—we’re the same species.

          as to you slavery must be taken as being okay for everyone that believes it to be okay even if you disapprove of it and there is no reason for anyone else to listen to any disapproval of slavery.

          We could define “morally right” as “what the majority thinks.” I don’t. The prevailing opinion changes over time. That’s easily explained naturally. You don’t have anything unexplained to which “God did it!” needs to be applied.

        • MNb

          No. 1 + 1 doesn’t equal 2 in a binary system. And on a two hours clock (ie only with 0 and 1) 1 + 1 = 0.
          So even 1 + 1 = 2 depends on the axioms you accept. And axioms don’t represent any truth, let alone an absolute one.

        • True, but I don’t think anyone was confused that I was assuming base ten and avoiding modular arithmetic.

          This topic is mental masturbation from my standpoint (that is, it’s not particularly central to this blog). But, to jump in, you don’t think that “1 + 1 = 2” (or take an axiom of logic, if you’d prefer), with disambiguation as necessary, isn’t an absolute truth?

          (Another silly counterexample comes to mind: one cup of water plus one cup of sugar doesn’t make 2 cups.)

  • Very good Bob. Have you looked into snake handling and poison drinking at the end of Mark? That’s killed a few over the last century or so.

    • On the topic of the disciples of Jesus being martyrs for their faith (a weak claim IMO, but that’s another story), someone observed that some modern-day snake handlers are also prepared to die for their faith.

      Three times per week.

      • Itarion

        Can you elaborate on that one? The faith and the prepared to die bit about snake handlers? Is that just how often they handle deadly venomous snakes, or what?

        • Some churches have snake-handling services 3x/week.

          Of course, some people who get bitten go to the hospital. But then others don’t/won’t, and it’s them I had in mind.

        • Alex Harman

          The practice inspired what might be the funniest of all the parody songs written and performed by the Weird Al Yankovics of country music, Sandy Pinkard and Richard Bowden: “Shake a Snake.”

          “On a Sunday-go-to-meetin’-day deep in the South,
          There’s a small congregation gots a big cottonmouth,
          Sayin’ ‘Nice snake, good snake, pretty snake, don’t bite me snake!'”

  • Pofarmer

    Wow, this thread got way, way, way off the mark.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      Gotta love the Interwebs.

  • Rain

    Though Augustine (fourth century) thought that the story might’ve been omitted to avoid the impression that Jesus sanctioned adultery,

    Wow, sounds like a bright guy. It’s a wonder he ever learned to tie his own shoe laces.

  • SparklingMoon-

    In this story (John 8:1–11), the Pharisees bring to Jesus a woman accused of adultery…… Augustine (fourth century) thought that the story might’ve been omitted to avoid the impression that Jesus sanctioned adultery,
    I look this decision of Jesus in the story (John 8:1–11), from another angle . As Jesus,was appoined by God Almighty to reform the people of Children’s Israel of his time(I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.(Matt.15 :26) and to maintain Mosaic Law (Think not that I am come to destroy the law ,or the prophets : I did not come to destroy, but to fulfil.–Matt. 5:1 7)among the people
    of Israel in its original form as it had been revealed to Moses about fourteenth century before the time of Jesus.

    In this story (John 8:1–11),Jesus had not given a punishment of death for the sin
    of adultery to a lady of Israel. It states: ”They say unto him,Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned? When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw
    a stone at her.

    ”At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left,with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. Jesus maintained the Mosaic Law by saying :”Then neither do I condemn you,” ”Go now and leave your life of sin.”

    This decision of Jesus was according to Mosaic Law as he always claimed to be sent to maintain Mosaic Law and had told his addressers,the people of Israel: ”For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, not one letter, not a dot, will disappear from the law until all that must happen has happened. Anyone therefore who sets aside even the least of the law’s demands and teaches others to do the same, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them. the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:1 7-19)

    Jesus was a follower of this Mosaic law and he had a firm belief in its truth and his saying;”who sets aside even the least of the law’s demands and teaches others to do the same, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of heaven.” informs that his every practice was according to this Law and to fulfill it

    It is clear from these sayings and practice of the Jesus that death punishment,in Old Testament, for the sin of adultery,was never a part of the revelation of Mosaic Law and it was later entered by other people and Jesus as a prophet reformed it . He had only advised to this lady of Israel to repent from her sin (as repent was the only suggestion given by God Amighty in Mosaic Law to erase the effects of this sin of adultery)