The Most Embarrassing Verse in the Bible

The Most Embarrassing Verse in the Bible March 25, 2015

C. S. Lewis Quote

I saw the above quote on Facebook and wanted to comment on it, since it takes something that C. S. Lewis attributes to others, and treats it as though it were his own viewpoint. You can read a fuller excerpt here.

Lewis has a point that the inclusion of things that were difficult and uncomfortable provides a solid ground for arguing against the claim that these authors were simply inventing whatever suited them. But I don’t think that, for conservative Christians at any rate, makes the problem of Jesus’ wrongness on this topic any less serious.

And so the quote is extremely misleading when taken out of context. But ultimately Lewis is honest enough to acknowledge the problem. And this highlights that his outlook is often misconstrued as being more conservative than it actually was, both by those who quote him in their support and those who criticize him.


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  • The verse is embarrassing for biblical interpreters who assert that Jesus never spoke with hyperbole and juxtaposition of concepts that at first glance appear in conflict.

    • The Second Coming may be described with hyperbolic imagery, but the specific prophecy that it would arrive in the lifetime of the disciples is not hyperbole – it is a failed prediction.

      Even the great apologist, Lewis, admits that it is a mistaken prediction.

      • Hi Beau, There were first-century prefigurations of all the signs that Jesus described. Those prefigurations partially fulfilled the prophecy to that generation. Only a literal interpretation insists that the prophecy failed while the various imagery in the prophecy does not suggest a literal interpretation. Peace, Jim

        • Sure, there are apologists who think that his second coming prediction was fulfilled in the destruction of the temple c.70. But interpretations based on the notion of inerrancy cause other problems, such as the resolution of conflicting passages (e.g. the opposing genealogies of Jesus, the tales of Judas’s death, the conflicting birth narratives, etc.)

          Of course, Lewis was apparently an apologist who did see Mark 13:30-32 as a mistake on Jesus’s part.

          • Andrew Dowling

            “Sure, there are apologists who think that his second coming prediction was fulfilled in the destruction of the temple c.70.”

            Which then equates the second coming of Jesus to an event filled with widespread rape, torture, and mass killings of Jewish women and children . . . preterists have a lot of

            ‘splainin to do to say the least to rationalize that one away.

          • Out of the frying pan …

      • John MacDonald

        Paul also clearly thought the general resurrection was imminent because he called Jesus the “firstfruits.”

    • There are dozens of predictions in the NT that the Son of Man would come soon, or the Lord would come soon. I list many of them in this piece:

    • Edward Adams proves that N.T. Wright (among other conservative theologians) did not study the many first-century instances where a genuine final judgment of the world was envisioned, and that Wright’s plan of turning all such talk into pure metaphor is doomed to exegetical failure:

    • A purely metaphorical interpretation also fails for the reasons discussed in a chapter of The Human Faces of God by Thom Stark:

      • Hi Edward, Partial preterism with futurist typology is a far cry from “a purely metaphorical interpretation.” Peace, Jim

  • Lewis always tends to take a little scholarship on such topics and generalize it into grand over-arching apologetic statements. In this case he concludes from the passage:

    “… unless later copyists were equally honest they would never have preserved the (apparently) mistaken prediction about “this generation” after the passage of time had shown the (apparent) mistake. This passage (Mark 13:30-32) and the cry “Why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) together make up the strongest proof that the New Testament is historically reliable.”

    The whole New Testament?!!

    Certainly, the preservation of mistaken prophecies gives an indication that the passage in which the prophecy occurs may reflect a historical saying (or at least that the copyists believed it to be so). But the New Testament itself, even the gospel of Mark itself, is so clearly an amalgamation of disparate sources and stories, that it’s silly to make conclusions about the whole text based on a bit of scholarship about a few passages.

    Typical Lewis apologetics. As with his “Liar, Lunatic, or Lord” nonsense, he treats biblical scholarship like a sledge hammer – referencing it or ignoring it to suit his own apologetic ends.

    • Andrew Dowling

      Yeah, I love Lewis as a fiction writer and he was clearly a sharp mind, but his apologetics is pretty disappointing in its lack of critical thinking.

      • I read Chronicles of Narnia as a child and enjoyed it well enough then, but when I picked it up again as an adult, I found it derivative, platitudinous, and ultimately boring. I felt the same about his adult fiction – Out of the Silent Planet. And I was still a Christian!

        For my own children, instead of the Chronicles of Narnia I have recommended (among other books, and at different ages):

        Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz series
        Anything by Roald Dahl
        Rowling’s Harry Potter series
        Anything by Terry Pratchet
        Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee and The Prince and the Pauper
        Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
        Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked
        Pullman’s Golden Compass series

        All far superior literature to anything Lewis offers.

        • Andrew Dowling

          Well I must admit I haven’t read the Chronicles since I was 13 . .

  • Of course, when I was a Christian, I found far more embarrassing verses in the bible:

    1 Timothy 2:12
    I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.

    1 Corinthians 14:34
    Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says.

    Ephesians 6:5
    Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ.

    1 Peter 2:18
    Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh.

    Colossians 3:22
    Slaves, obey your earthly masters[a] in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.

    2 Thessalonians 1:6-8
    It is indeed just of God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to the afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

    Matthew 13:49-50
    So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    Luke 12:4-5
    I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

    I could go on …

    • Michael Wilson

      Beau, might many of these be embarrassing only if one rejects the idea that contentment can only be achieved by exercising power over others? their is good reason to think that Christianity is quite happy with a pacifistic stance that doesn’t ask people to revolt against unjust power.

      • Quite the contrary, Michael, these verses are all about power being exercised over others. It is these verses that grant authority to unjust power (in the case of slaves) and that exercise unjust power (in the case of women). Do you agree with Paul that women should be quiet in church?

        Some of the most active pacifists in history were the Quakers; they were also huge proponents of the abolitionist movement, actively helping slaves escape their masters.

        • Michael Wilson

          I don’t agree with Paul, no but am not arguing about how I feel about it but the writers of the verses.

          I don’t think these verses grant authority to unjust powers, it just assumes them. Jesus said “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” that is not a recognition of the evil persons authority, it just refuses to resist their predation. Classical society decreed their be slaves and it could be argued that Jesus said not to challenge their force. If your boss says walk a mile, walk two. while I think the verses about women are from pseudo Pauline letters, this two could be a reflection of this hyper pacifist ideal, church should have no arguments, the men think that women speaking is causing too much disquiet.
          I wonder if it the first followers of Jesus would have supported the Quaker position. They seem to think the end is upon them and all societies ills will be magically fixed. I never read about them agitating with the ruling elite for social change.

          • What?! Paul did not say, “women, do not resist a man who forces you to keep silent,” he said “I do not permit …”, “they are not permitted”. If you want to compare this to Matthew 5:39, the the writer of 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians are the evil person, that Jesus tells you not to resist. And apparently it was a problem that needed to be “addressed”; there were clearly women speaking in the church. Paul is not asking the women to be passive. He is telling the church (1 Timothy in particular is about church leadership) not to permit women. These are not passages that are preaching submission to oppressors; these are passages instituting the oppression!

            As I said in another post:

            “Paul’s attitude towards slavery is precisely what one would expect of a free Roman citizen living in the 1st century. Acceptance of the status quo, even to the extent of borrowing the practice as an analogy for a theological relationship between Christians and their God.

            We now understand human ownership as a brutal and immoral system, plagued with physical and sexual abuse, and the inhumane tearing apart of families in every age in which it has been practiced. While we might not judge Paul any more harshly than anyone else of the first century for his acceptance of the system, his “advice” in the matter of slavery is a teaching we should completely reject today.

            I am not the first to point out that when Paul uses slavery as a metaphor for the Christian’s relationship to God, this is an analogy that could only have been made by someone who was culturally desensitized to the physical, sexual, and psychological abuses inherent in the institution of slavery. Christians inherited this slave analogy from Paul. I don’t fault Paul particularly for this; he was like most Roman citizens of his time. I only see it as another aspect of the cultural blindness that makes Paul’s writings on slavery archaic, facile, and philosophically irrelevant today.”

          • Michael Wilson

            The idea that women ought to submit to men is older than Christianity. Paul’s message seems to sugest that all are equal in Christ, the folks that wrote the psudo Pauline material apparently found it intolerable, a bridge to far.

            On slaves, I don’t like the advice eithier, though I wouldn’t say everyone who is oppressed should fight back. Sometimes that just brings suffering. But I do think that no one should accept oppression, but I’m not a pacifist.

          • Oh, I agree that the prohibitions against women speaking are probably the result of later interpolations into Pauline letters and the forged pastoral letters. But they are still included in every “Bible” I’ve ever seen published, and that just makes the verses even better candidates for the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.

            No one said anything about making all slaves fight back; but Paul advocates accepting oppression. I find it useful to imagine a pre-civil war plantation owner calling his field slaves together on Sunday morning to read 1 Peter 2:18.

            Truly embarrassing verses to find in the holiest book of modern religion.

          • Michael Wilson

            Beau, on women, true.

            Yes, he does. Paul advocates accepting oppression. I think it can be reasonably argued that the New Testament teaches accepting oppression and not resisting. So while we can agree this is stupid, I wouldn’t say that it is embarrassed by its philosophy. That would be like saying Aryan gangs are embarrassed by the claims of racial superiority in mein kamph

          • You wouldn’t say the Bible is embarrassed by it’s philosophy? What does that mean?

          • Michael Wilson

            Its embarrassing that Jesus was wrong about the second coming because Jedus is supposed to be all wise. But saying that his message to go the extra mile and turn the other cheek, while hardly good marxist behavior, are embarrassing to him hoes to far, they are center pieces of his philosophy. It might be embarrassing if he claimed he was here to lead a revolution sgainst the system. We may not like telling a slave to be a good slave, but it certainly arguable that Jesus would. It might just be that hus degree of pacifism isn’t really acceptable to most Christians.

          • The post is a bit vague about who might be embarrassed by a particular verse in the Bible. I’m sure that the writers and speakers in the New Testament (assuming that words are attributed correctly) were not embarrassed by what they said – or they wouldn’t have said it.

            Speaking of going too far, I don’t equate Jesus’s verses about turning the other cheek and going the extra mile as equivalent to promoting passivity in slaves. Jesus may never have struck or rebelled against the Jewish authorities of his day, but neither did he serve them as Paul exhorted slaves to serve their masters. I don’t know how Jesus would have advised slaves; but I’m more concerned with 21st century attitudes towards slavery than 1st century attitudes toward slavery.

            If you’ll remember, I posted those verses as those that embarrassed me when I was a Christian – not Jesus or the NT writers.

          • Michael Wilson

            Well, Jesus wasn’t their slave. But I can understand how someone like Paul would take Jesus’s command to carry bags for an occupying colonial soldier and extend it to carrying bags for a slave master. Paul might support the slave proclaiming the truth of the Gospel to their master even against the masters order, but not shrinking work or seeking escape. Now given the circumstances the Christians were in, that actually makes a certain amount of sense to me, and had Paul or Jesus lived somewhere, somewhen else, they may have had different ideas, or not.

          • Sure, and he might take Jesus’s command about turning the other cheek and extend it allowing the slave master to beat you, or rape you, or sell off your family, or castrate you – all documented practices of the ancient slave trade in the mediterranean.

            Maybe Paul only knew the “nice” slave masters, and never thought his letter would be used to support abusive slave masters. But it’s still an embarrassing perspective to be toting around in holy books to this day.

          • Michael Wilson

            I’m sure Paul knew about the abuse. I’m sure Buddha knew some jerks you would want to kill, but still no killing. I don’t think Jesus asked that people carry bags for nice soldiers and not the bad ones. Its an odd perspective sure, but some people are in to it.

          • Yeah, some people are still into slavery today. Fortunately, most of us these days consider it immoral.

          • Guest

            So you think pacifist are for whatever they are not resisting?

          • No. In fact, pacifists are quite good at resisting great societal evils such as slavery – as the Quakers who led the way for American abolitionists demonstrated bravely in the 19th century.

    • Gary

      Softball NT.
      Hardball OT:
      Num 31: 17Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. 18But all the women-children, that have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

      • Oh yes, the God who rewards his soldiers with young virgins to rape and enslave.

        Oh wait, I can hear the apologist’s hand-waving, “The verse doesn’t tell us what the soldiers did to the virgins. God probably gave the soldiers virgins to teach them about Yahweh and convert to Hebrew faith.”

    • Herro

      I think the verse CS Lewis quotes is more embarassing for more Christians than most of those quotes. The reason being that many Christians (at least on this side of the Atlantic) have no qualms about dismissing the writers of the OT and Paul as silly ancients, while Jesus is their great leader.

      • That’s why I include those last statements from Jesus. Jesus may talk a good game of love and meekness, but he is also (at least according to the texts handed down to us) the one who gave us eternal hell, a particularly insidious fate that doesn’t seem to exist in the OT.

        • Herro

          Jesus talking about eternal hell?! Clearly you haven’t been reading enough of the progressive blogs here on Patheos. Jesus clearly thought that Gehenna was a garbage dump or a metaphor or something 😛

          On a more serious note: I noticed that two of your quotes were from Jesus (and incidentally I wrote a “Top 10 most embarassing Jesus-sayings”-article last year and your Matthew quote was my #2 🙂 ) and I would say that those are more embarassing than the rest.

        • Andrew Dowling

          No, Jesus didn’t preach an eternal hell. That idea didn’t exist in Judaism circa 30 AD.

          • I’ve heard progressive arguments that the hell of the NT is not intended to be eternal. On one hand, I am glad that progressive Christians don’t believe in hell – I think it’s an atrocious belief; on the other hand, I think their textual argument is a bit weak.

            So are you saying that you agree with progressive Christians? Or are you saying that hell is an idea that crept into New Testament writings in the later 1st century – part of the mythologizing of Jesus?

          • Andrew Dowling

            First off, “hell” like “resurrection” is a post-Christian word . . they didn’t exist before the expansion of Christianity. So the references in the Greek NT to Gehenna or Hades have a number of possibilities . .much of Pharisaic Jewish thought by the 1st century had incorporated several ideas about the afterlife from their neighbors (in contrast to the older Jewish belief in which we simply died and that was that; which was another way they differentiated themselves from their pagan neighbors) but Jews didn’t believe in a Platonic “soul” that lived eternally.

            Some did preach judgment in the afterlife for the righteous and unrighteous (and JBap and Jesus certainly did) but for the unrighteous, they either perished completely or went to a type of purgatory area where they would atone for their sins. The idea of someone’s soul going to a place of torture for eternity is completely foreign to Jewish eschatology and didn’t arise until the 2nd century.

          • Ah … English didn’t exist 2000 years ago, so, yes, most words we read in the English New Testament are obviously post-Christian words, the only exceptions being transliterated words. The word “hell” has a proto-Germanic etymology.

            I think there are two questions here. What did the New Testament writers mean when they used “Hades”, or “Gehenna”, or made other references to what we would understand as an after life. A separate question would be what Jesus meant by an afterlife (because I don’t take it for granted that the NT portrayals of Jesus are even remotely historically accurate).

            I have heard the argument that the phrase translated “eternal fire” in Matthew 25:41 or “eternal punishment” in Matthew 25:46 does not mean never ending, but rather means of an eternal or spiritual nature. Of course, the same word is used in the phrase “eternal life”, so if hell is not forever, one would have to wonder whether heaven was forever.

            I’m not a Greek scholar, so I don’t know what to make about other indicators in the NT: “their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” in Mark 9:48, the “punishment of eternal destruction” in 2 Thessalonians 1:9, the “punishment of eternal fire” in Jude 1:7, “the deepest darkness has been reserved forever” in Jude 1:13, or “they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” in Revelation 20:10. Torment is clearly a part of the conceit, however long it is supposed to last.

          • Andrew Dowling

            “I have heard the argument that the phrase translated “eternal fire” in
            Matthew 25:41 or “eternal punishment” in Matthew 25:46 does not mean
            never ending, but rather means of an eternal or spiritual nature. Of
            course, the same word is used in the phrase “eternal life”, so if hell
            is not forever, one would have to wonder whether heaven was forever”

            Bingo. Heaven is not found in the Gospels either. “Eternal life” in John is a spiritual state, not some place you go when you die. There’s a reason the Gnostics loved John so much!

            As for the language cited, that kind of metaphoric, apocalyptic language is what it is . . poetic metaphor. It was meant for alliteration, not the establishment of dogma (although of course interpretations after these texts became accepted as ‘Scripture’ back then varied just like they do today)

          • Herro

            Andrew, if the idea of an eternal hell “didn’t exist in Judaism circa 30 AD”, then please explain to me what this verse is talking about:

            “Woe to the nations that rise against my people!
            the Lord Almighty will requite them;
            in the day of judgment he will punish them:
            He will send fire and worms into their flesh,
            and they will weep and suffer forever.” (Judith 16:17)

            God will punish people with fire and eternal torment on the day of judgement. Now what on earth could that be?

          • Andrew Dowling

            That’s called apocalyptic literature; it’s not dogma of any kind. We happen to know a lot about Jewish thought from that era directly from Jewish rabbis and teachers. I’d look to them and not select verses of Judith.

          • Herro

            Andrew, what is it talking about? You claim that the idea of eternal hell didn’t exist in Judaism. Well, here it is!

          • Andrew Dowling

            You are doing what fundamentalists do, which is cherry pick verses out of context and then claim them as the last word. As much as churches love to point to Scripture being the foundation of their dogma, it’s really not true. Since Scriptures can be used to justify a myriad of theological viewpoints, tradition, cultural factors, philosophical norms in vogue etc play just as prominent role. So using a passage of Scripture to say “see, they believed XYZ” doesn’t work. Especially from a tract in which exaggerated metaphor and alliteration abounded.
            I’m saying look at Jewish theological history, read the Rabbinic commentaries . . .Jews don’t believe in eternal hell. This isn’t really a controversial viewpoint.

          • Herro

            >You are doing what fundamentalists do, which is cherry pick verses out of context and then claim them as the last word.

            How am I “cherry picking”? And how is this “out of context”?

            >This isn’t really a controversial viewpoint.

            Your claim that the idea of eternal hell existed in Judaism in 30 AD is not “not really a controversial viewpoint”. It’s blatantly false. As an example I’ve shown that the idea of eternal hell is clearly in the jewish book of Judith.

          • Are you a Greek scholar, Andrew? How does one know which assertions to trust regarding the meaning of a word like “αἰώνιος”. Strong’s Exhaustive concordance defines it as:

            “age-long, and therefore: practically eternal, unending; partaking of the character of that which lasts for an age, as contrasted with that which is brief and fleeting.”

            So … maybe … not literally never ending? But even if not an infinity of time, still a really long, long, time of torment for which the most common association is fire and burning.

            So whether “eternal – αἰώνιος” means an infinite future or just a really long time, I think I’m still warranted in saying that the biblical Jesus is “the one who gave us eternal hell, a particularly insidious fate”.

          • John MacDnald

            Recall that Luke 3:6 says “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
            – probably means no hell

          • Santino

            It means that all men will witness the true God, and see that He is sovereign.

          • John MacDonald

            That’s not what the passage says. It says all flesh will experience the “SALVATION” of God. It explicitly says all people will witness the “salvation” of God, not that all men will see that God is “sovereign.”

          • I think it’s pretty apparent that the actual writers and redactors of the New Testament texts had wide ranging theological views. However, I don’t mind progressive Christians interpreting texts in ways to get rid of hell. It is a awful thing to believe in.

          • John MacDonald

            If God has created an eternal hell to torment and torture “bad people,” or even if God simply annihilates “unsaved souls” at the time of their death, then God is evil, and anyone who worships such a God is also evil by definition. It’s all very silly

          • No argument from me, although I don’t see such ultra-conservative Christians as “evil” – just terribly misguided.

          • John MacDonald

            If you worship an evil God, that makes you evil. Apparently you are not familiar with the rules of Dungeons and Dragons. lol

          • Last played when I was 16. I guess my universe was more black and white at the time.

    • Santino

      You must take these verses into context of the culture, in which, women were not schooled or learned, they did housework and made babies. The same with the slaves, they were more of bond servants, like Jacob, who had to work for Laben to marry Rebekah (and Leah). The cultural norm was more of an agreement between the servants and the masters, that they would receive food, shelter, and safety. They would also inherit things, I think. In the Matthew and Luke passages, you are given a glimpse of how holy God is, and see that by His own astounding glory and holiness, the sinners realize how truly guilty they are. The Angels separate the sinners and non-sinners because the sinners have rejected God, and are sent to hell because they are not justified, and are deserving of hellfire due to their sin nature. God justly judges, but is also merciful in that He gives us the ability to receive Christ’s payment for our sins so that we are not judged by our own nature and sin, but by His holy nature and blamelessnes.

      • I’m aware that 1st century attitudes toward women were oppressive; and when i was a Christian, i found it embarrassing that such attitudes are often still being espoused by Christian’s of the 21st century, because of their preservation in the Bible.

        On the topic of slavery, however, you are full of malarkey. Religious apologists will often try to downplay the abusive nature of 1st century slavery in order to get Paul off the hook. Slavery has always been a dehumanizing institution, no less in the first century than in the pre-civil war American south. I would suggest that you read a few legitimate historical sources on the topic of ancient slavery.:

  • Michael Wilson

    I agree with those that conclude that Jesus thought that some supernatural new age would dawn in the near future. I wonder how Christians, even liberal Christians handle the idea that Jesus was not all knowing all wise. Along with the issue that Jesus’ word on a subject are not the last, what does this mean to progressive Christians regarding Jesus’ stature as a person worthy of worship?

    Also, is there in Jesus’ apacalypticism a deeper truth that stands apart from Jesus’ failed end of the age model? I have sympathies with those that take this idea of a near end and stretch it through history. His idea of a kingdom of god sets its standard as an idealized radical practice of universal love that I think human civilization is striving for rather than a conservative acceptance of life as it is now or some golden age of the past. his ideals have conquered the Roman empire and are still expanding. While Jesus may have thought that paradise was just a few years away, I’m not sure Christians are wrong to see paradise as something that starts in Jesus’ time and continues to grow, and a number of Jesus’ parables seem to view it this way.

    • Andrew Dowling

      I wonder how Christians, even liberal Christians handle the idea that Jesus was not all knowing all wise”

      Easy. Most liberal Christians have no issue with Jesus not being omniscient. Apocalyptic/prophetic statements have always been more about an indictment of the current state of things than “predictions about the future” (although I still believe the majority of the apocalyptic utterances attributed to Jesus don’t go back to the historical Jesus)

      • Michael Wilson

        Andrew, if Jesus was wrong about the coming end, perhaps he is wrong about morality? Is Jesus for Christians the supreme authority or simply an influential Christian voice?

        • Andrew Dowling

          I don’t see the relation of being a moral authority to knowing the future . . .

          • Michael Wilson

            The point is that Jesus’ words can’t be trusted. He can be wrong. so what does it mean for Christianity if we say, “Jesus was wrong about divorce (for example we may disagree, I think his advice is not universally true, so is false), it’s ok for people to get divorced ”

          • Andrew Dowling

            Your logic doesn’t follow. By that same token people can’t follow the words and example of MLK Jr because he cheated on his wife.

            Jesus needing to have been 100% perfect to be followed doesn’t gel with the Incarnation (if Jesus is fully man, perfection is not possible). nor is it logical to say because someone is wrong on Y, they can’t be “trusted” on Z. In that case, you can never trust anyone for anything because everyone is wrong sometimes.

          • Michael Wilson

            Andrew, I think you misunderstood, I’m asking how “progressive Christians” understand Jesus. Are you saying that like MLK, Jesus did some bad things, may have been wrong on some philosophical points. but you like the core person? Can one be a worshiper of MLK? Should we replace Jesus with a wiser and more noble Messiah?
            you agree then that whether or not Jesus believed something to be true does matter much for determining if we should? I think we should be skeptical of Jesus’ claims unless they can be verified. I like to challenge my self by imagining how Jesus may have been wrong some issue.

          • Andrew Dowling

            I can’t speak for the “progressive” umbrella but I can say that liberal Christians worship more the God pointed to and illuminated by Jesus and less Jesus the person in history.

          • Wolf Williams

            You miss the point, Andrew. Michael’s not making an absolute claim. He’s not saying, “If Jesus is wrong about X, then he must be wrong about Y.” He’s arguing to the point of infallibility, specifically to the way Christians use divine infallibility to make their points.

            You wrote “if Jesus is fully man, perfection is not possible.” Okay, fair enough, but that is NOT the argument Christians make, and you know that. Their God/Jesus=perfection=can-never-be-wrong approach is by far the predominant view of today’s Christians. What Michael implied was if Jesus was wrong about his then-contemporary apocalyptic predictions, then he MIGHT be wrong about everything else he said. Just as we have to take fallibility into account with what our friends and acquaintances tell us, so too we would have to take fallibility into account with Jesus. We don’t automatically distrust everything a friend tells us, if we know that friend to have been wrong about a few things previously. But we do exercise some judgment before believing everything we hear. And that gets to Michael’s point. If Jesus was wrong about one thing, then we are duty-bound to be skeptical about everything else. Fallibility is like pregnancy. It has no intensifiers. You can’t be a little of it. You’re either perfect, or you’re not. And if you’re not, then we’re not using logical fallacies when we say we can or should question everything you say. We’e being logically responsible.

    • I doubt we can credit Jesus’ teachings (turn the other cheek, love your neighbor as yourself, give him your cloak too) with conquering the Roman empire. What was useful in Christianity to the Roman empire was it’s organization into bishoprics and assemblies in every city. Christianity had an authoritative hierarchy that reflected and complemented Roman power once it was adopted.

      At that point, as the official religion of Rome, Christianity was able to spread by the power of the sword and the ruling government. Which is why Christian leaders as wide-ranging as Aquinus and Luther could call for ruling authorities to harass, torture, and expel heretics such as Donatists and Jews.

      • Michael Wilson

        but why did it have all these organized communities? it built them on the stories about Jesus, people liked its message, and Jesus ideals were propagated by the state. How ever cruel the Christian Emperors, they were indoctrinating their citizens with stories about a pacifist unjustly executed by the legal authorities. its subversive. its for the underdog. its anti fascist. its saving grace was that it also taught obedience to authority.

        • I think it likely that the appeal of Christianity was heaven, a resurrection notion for which Greek pagan mythology had laid the groundwork (as Justin Martyr intimates), but made available to all takers. And since Christianity taught obedience to authority, what a brilliant political tool! Serve your rulers faithfully now, and you’ll receive paradise after you die!

          In the gospel depictions of Jesus’ execution, the Roman authorities are not implicated (Pilate sees his innocence and washes his hands of the affair). It is the Jewish authorities that receive the blame for Jesus death.

  • Dan Ortiz

    AM I wrong or is this simply an appeal to the criterion of embarrasment?

  • Rahul

    “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth[a] will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.[b] 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

    32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it[c] is near, right at the door.34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

  • Rahul

    PLS READ Matthew 24:30-36 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven…Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it[c] is near, right at the door.34 Truly I tell you, “this generation” will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened”…Here “this generation” refers not literally to the generation (audience) who are hearing these words from the mouth of Jesus, but “this generation” refers to the generation that will see the signs mentioned in the verses Matthew 24:30-32 !!! I hope this clears all the shred of doubt…God Bless All…in Jesus name AMEN

    • It is not just to assert that Jesus’ statement here about “this generation” is different from all his other statements about “this generation.” I understand why you would want it to be. But you need to make a case that your interpretation fits what the text actually says. Just saying “not literally” is not enough. There are plenty of things that ought not to be taken literally, but you need to present a case for why we should consider this one of them.

    • As James says, “generation” would have to mean something that it doesn’t mean any other time Jesus uses the word. And you would still have to explain Matthew 16:28:

      “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”