Angels can be bad-asses! – Revelations 9-11 (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassOne theme in the book of Revelations is the importance of the holy numbers. Threes and sevens are littered throughout the book. Three angels. Seven seals. Seven trumpets. John wanted to make sure that we knew divine numbers are in use here. Expect many more instances of the divine numbers, and we’ll be adding in twelve to go with them soon.

In the previous chapters, the destruction of earth begins. And then begins in a slightly different way. The sun, moon and stars are either darkened or turned black and blood-red. People all over the planet are getting killed. Again and again, by plague, famine, you name it. We left off after the fourth angel blew his trumpet, and an eagle warned that things up until this point have been tame compared to what comes next…

Chapter 9

Every time I think that this book can’t get weirder, it does. And in this chapter, things quickly change from weird to bizarre! It is definitely a trip down the rabbit hole.

The fifth angel blows his trumpet, and a plague of locusts invades the earth. These aren’t ordinary locusts, though. They looked like horses with human faces. They had hair like a woman’s, teeth like lion’s, they were wearing breastplates, they had scorpion tails, stinger and all. The locusts were allowed to torture people for five months.
The sixth angel blows his trumpet, and four more angels are released. One thing to note here: angels can be bad-asses! First the horsemen of the apocalypse, then the angels with the trumpets, and now angels who were imprisoned at the Euphrates river. These angels ride with an army of 200 million calvary troops, and are allowed to kill one-third of humanity. The horses in this attack breathed three plauges – fire, smoke and sulfur. These plagues killed another third of humanity.
The remaining third had not learned their lesson, and did not repent of their sins.

I have to say, that’s pretty fucking stupid. If I were to see fire and brimstone rain down from the skies, the oceans boil, the sun and moon blackened, a plague of mutated scorpion/locust hybrids wiping out a third of humanity and mounted army of 200 million come sweeping across the world, killing another third of the world’s population, you can rest assured that I’d be saying “okay, I was wrong. I’m sorry!”

Chapter 10

We’re going back to the bad-ass angels. The next has legs that were like columns of fire, and his face was like the sun. He speaks with the roar of a lion, and is big enough that he can set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on land. The angel speaks, and then seven thunders (???) cried out. God wouldn’t let John write down what the thunders said, however. Which I take to mean that John couldn’t figure out how thunder could talk, nor what it would say. But that’s just me being cynical.

The Seven Trumpets and the angel with a censer
The Seven Trumpets
Image via Wikipedia

The giant angel holds a scroll in his hand. God tells John to eat the scroll. John does, and finds that the scroll tastes like honey, but sours in his stomach. And look, I know that this is symbolic of something. The scroll stands for something – maybe the teachings of a false prophet? I am not completely blind to imagery. I don’t have a lot of patience for it, though. I am too literal a person to make these types of connections. My brain doesn’t work that way. I don’t like imagery, and this chapter is one great big batch of symbolism.

*blegh*

Chapter 11

John is told to measure the temple of God, but I’m not sure why because his measurements are never used. God does say that the Holy City (Jerusalem, I presume) will be trampled by representatives of all nations for 42 months. During this time, there will be two witnesses (who are each an olive tree and a lampstand) who will prophesy of things to come. These two witnesses will have the power to rain down plagues upon the land. In the end, they will do battle with the beast from the bottomless pit. Never fear, though: the Beast will conquer and kill the witnesses.

No, wait, what?

The peoples of the earth rejoice, since the two witnesses had been saying things like “you’re a sinner living in a land of evil!” Who wouldn’t want to be able to put a sock into a self-righteous party pooper? The witnesses aren’t buried, and lay displayed for three and a half days. At that point, God resurrected them and took them into heaven. Then there was a powerful earthquake, destroying 1/10th of the city (I’m surprised there’s that much still standing) and killing 7,000 people.

Getting back to the angels and the trumpets, the seventh angel finally steps up to bat and blows his trumpet. There was singing from heaven. The Elders fall to their knees to praise God. The heavenly temple of God is finally opened – oh, look, there’s the ark of the covenant!

Up next: The anti-Christ, the mark of the Beast, and the number of the Beast (sorta)

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

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The Four Horsemen of the apocalypse – Revelation 6-8 (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassThere are a few theories tossed about regarding why, exactly Revelation is so bizarre. Some of my favorite theories are:

  • John was stoned out of his mind
  • John was extremely drunk, or had sobered up and was having the DTs
  • John was starving/dehydrated during his imprisonment and banishment, and his fevered brain pulled up a number of hallucinations.

Whatever the true source, Revelation is one hell of a trip.

Chapter 6

The seven seals are opened in a faster manner than I remembered. The first four seals are, of course, the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The rider of the white horse is given a bow and sent out to conquer. The rider of the red horse is given a sword and sent to take peace from the world. The rider of the black horse was given a scale, and sent out to go grocery shopping. Or something like that. He is instructed to take a quart of wheat for a denarius or three quarts of barley. But he was not supposed to damage olive oil nor wine. I guess this actually means he is to bring famine to the world. What an odd way to say that, though. The rider of the pale horse was Death, and Hades followed. They were given control over a quarter of the earth, to destroy with war, famine, and plagues.

Thr first horseman
Thr first horseman
Image via Wikipedia

There are more seals, though! When the fifth is open, the souls of everyone martyred in the lords name cry out for vengance. The martyrs were given robes and told to be patient for just a while longer, until the last martyr is killed and joins them. When the sixth seal is opened, destruction came. There was a terrible earthquake, the sun turned black, the moon turned red as blood. The stars fell out of the sky, and the sky itself vanished. People on the earth fled to caves and the mountains, hoping to escape the wrath of god.

Chapter 7

Finally, an angel declares that the four horsemen stop what they are doing. The servants of God – both Jew and Gentile – needed to be marked with a seal on their foreheads.

The Revelation of St John: 4. The Four Riders ...
The Four Riders …
Image via Wikipedia

Chapter 8

The seventh seal is opened. There is silence in heaven for a half hour, then seven angels step forward, each holding a trumpet. The angels take turns sounding their horns. The first angel blows his trumpet, and a mixture of hail, fire and blood were thrown on the earth. A third of the earth, trees and grass were burnt. The second angel blows his trumpet, and a volcano opens in the sea. A third of the sea is turned to blood, and one-third of all sea life is killed. The third angel blows his trumpet, and the star Wormood falls from heaven onto the earth, destroying a third of the rivers and springs. One-third of all water is turned into wormwood, sickening and killing those who drink from it.

One more angel for this chapter: the fourth angel blows his trumpet and a third of the sun, moon and stars were turned dark. (So ignore that bit up above where the sun turned black, the moon turned red and the stars fell out of the sky. Apparently, that didn’t really happen when the sixth seal was opened. Or it did, but John was so stoned that he forgot that detail.)

An eagle flies overhead, warning that things are going to be even more terrible for people of the earth when the other three angels blow their trumpets.

Up next: Angels can be bad-asses!

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

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John takes a spiritwalk – Revelation 3-5 (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassIn the last entry, Jesus was sending nasty letters to the seven churches of Asia. These letters contained everything from praise to condoning the murder of children. There were also some bits about stars and candlesticks and whatnot. I dunno, it isn’t my hallucination…

Chapter 3

Three more churches to go. Three more messages to read. I am starting to grow weary of this book, but I know far weirder things lie ahead.

The church in Sardis appears to be alive and healthy, but Jesus declares them dead. He wants them to work to strengthen those few things that remain in the church, to try and keep those from dying, too. There are a few Sardisians (Sardines?) who are worthy; those will walk beside the Lord and will remain in the Book of Life.

The chuch in Philadelphia is weak, but have continued in their belief of Christ. Jesus will reward them for this by making the disbelievers and slanderers bow at their feet. Their endurance in their faith has won them a reward: the Philadelphian church will not have to suffer the hour of testing that is to come for the rest of the world.

Finally, the church in Laodicea. This church takes a middle road, neither being on fire in faith for Jesus, nor being cold towards Christ and his teachings. Instead they are content with their own wealth and comfort. Jesus says he would rather they be cold than lukewarm, it is better to choose one side or the other. There’s no room to sit on the fence.

The Revelation of St John: 4. The Four Riders ...
The Four Riders …
Image via Wikipedia

Chapter 4

John’s hallucination kicks in strong. He says “instantly I was in the spirit” and of that I have no doubt. What that spirit was – gin? wine? opium? – I cannot say, but he was into something. John sees a throne in heaven that had someone sitting in it. There were seven flaming torches burning in front of the throne, symbolizing the seven spirits of God. (Seven?) There were also 24 lesser thrones arrayed around the main one, and in these thrones sat 24 elders who were wearing white robes and gold crowns.

Wait, it gets even better! The throne is set on a sea of clear glass or crystal. There were four living creatures surrounding the throne. These were beings that resembled a lion, an ox, a human and an eagle. Each of these creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes. These creatures constantly sang praises to Jesus Christ. The 24 elders join in with this song, also giving glory to God.

Chapter 5

At this point, it is left up to the reader to determine who is actually sitting in the throne. Sure, it is safe to assume that it is God. But that is never expressly stated. One could’ve also thought it was Jesus Christ who sat there. Until this chapter, that is.

The one sitting in the throne had a scroll in his right hand. The scroll was sealed with seven seals. An angel asked who was worthy to open the scroll. Throughout creation, none was deemed worthy. John cried bitterly at this thought. But one of the 24 elders told John to stop crying, and instead look at the throne. There was now a lamb standing in the middle of the throne. The lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, also representing the seven spirits of God. The lamb also looks like it had been slaughtered. The lamb takes the scroll, causing everyone in heaven and in all creation to sing of the worthiness of the lamb.

I had thought that this chapter disproved the theory of unitarianism – or at least made a credible argument against it. After all, how could Jesus be “the one sitting in the throne” if he approached the throne and climbed onto it? But I misread the opening verses. It does not say that the lamb approached the throne, nor had to climb on it, nor wasn’t already seated on it. It simply says that the lamb was standing on the throne. It is conceivably possible that the lamb was sitting on the throne all along, but then rose to stand in the middle of the throne.

Up next: The Four Horsemen of the apocalypse

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

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Down the rabbit hole – Revelations 1-2 (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassAh, the book of Revelations. The capstone of the New Testament. The weirdest book in the whole Bible, and one of the weirdest books ever written. Revelations makes Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland seem pedestrian. The end of the world, the four horsemen, something about swords and seals and locusts…

I have had a life-long fascination with Revelations. I remember back in my high school days ordering a set of three booklets offered on a late-night commercial by the Church of Latter Day Saints. The books were laid out to cover three major topics from this book. I don’t remember what those were, but we’ll know by the end of this book.

One note before we get started: John claims many verses being said by Jesus Christ. I don’t buy it. By the time Revelations is released, Jesus is long dead. John’s experience here conjures up visions of Christ speaking, but these seem to me to be figments of John’s imagination. I will treat anything attributed to Christ in this book as such.

Revelation of John

Chapter 1

John gets the administration out of the way right off the bat. John has been exiled in Patmos. Jesus has commanded this letter is for the 7 churches in Asia. The end times are nigh (don’t let Peter hear you say that!). Jesus has conquered death and rules over all other kings. He has made as a kingdom, and the kingdom awaits.

With the formalities, John moves on to the stranger, more esoteric and mystical parts of his story.

John is on the island one Sunday, minding his own business, when he hears a voice trumpet into his ear. John turns to see who is commanding him, and instead sees seven gold lampstands. In the middle of the lampstands was someone who looked like Jesus – he was wearing a robe and a golden belt. One thing I didn’t remember: Jesus had white hair, white as snow or wool. Jesus also had a two-edged sword sticking out of his mouth, and he held seven stars in his right hand.

I know what you’re thinking: what the hell is up with the sword? I told you this book is esoteric!

John does the wise thing and drops to his knees in fright. Jesus tells him to stop being afraid. Jesus lives forever, and he holds the keys to death and Hades.1 Jesus does try and make sense of some of the symbols for John: the lampstands are the seven churches, and the stars are messengers for the churches. That info is like a map legend; it’ll come in handy later, when we need it.

1Translation note: The KJV has this as “death and hell.” Every other translation I checked had “Death and Hades.” I don’t pretend to know what the difference is, I just find the demarkation between King James and everything else interesting.

Chapter 2

I am surprised at how quickly this book lunges down the rabbit hole. This chapter recounts the m

The White Rabbit in a hurry
Image via Wikipedia

essages Jesus wants to send to the lampstands. There’s a consistent structure to this chapter: first Jesus says something good about the church, then something negative, then gives a way to improve. It’s classic “Delivering Feedback” training material, with some very weird examples.

The people of Ephesus works hard for Jesus, does good deeds, and doesn’t tolerate evil. They have been able to root out false apostles. However, they have abandoned the love they once had to favor their discipline in following Christ’s words. The church needs to repent and get back to its original teachings.

On a side note: who are the Nicolaitans, and why does Christ (or John’s vision of Christ) hate them so?

The people of Smyrna live in poverty and suffer for their beliefs. Even worse, others in Smyrna who claim to be Jews say derogative things about Smyrnians. They fear what further sufferings they must endure, though. Rightfully so, for apparently they will suffer 10 days of intense suffering to test their faith. If they are faithful up to death, they will be rewarded.

Holy crap!

Satan apparently rules Pergamum, ‘cuz that’s where his throne is set. The people of the church there hold fast to their belief and love of Christ. A prominent Christian leader – Antipas – is killed in front of the Christians to try and dissuade them from their faiths. The people of the church in Pergamum continue to stand by their belief in Jesus. They are not blameless, however. Some of the membership hold to the teachings of the deceiver Balaam, some are Nicolaitans. The church must repent, and presumably sever ties with these people.

The people of Thyatira are faithful, and they continue to get stronger. But they also allow Jezebel to stay among them. Jesus apparently gave Jezebel the chance to repent, but she did not. So he has thrown Jezebel into a sick bed. Anyone who has sex with her will suffer greatly. Christ will strike all of her children dead.

Again: holy crap! And since when does Jesus condone killing children?

Up next: John takes a spiritwalk

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

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Three Rings for the elven-kings under the sky – 2 John, 3 John, Jude (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassHey, we made it! We are at the end of the Epistles. The last three books of the New Testament before the beast that is Revelations! This has been a long, tough road to haul. I truly wasn’t sure if I’d get through the letters or not. Paul’s batch of letters really did sap a lot of my enthusiasm out. I wondered a few times whether I shouldn’t just give up on this project. As I feared, the epistles don’t lend themselves to this kind of project. There’s no narrative form to them, and this whole premise works best when there’s a narrative to follow.

I’ll talk more about that in a later entry. For now, it is time to wrap up the letters in one quick batch. The last three letters are all one-chapter books.They are all far too short to deserve their own post, so I am going to review all three in today’s article. Strap in! But don’t worry, it’s a lot less painful than it sounds.

Second Epistle of John

I am sure that John has something to say in this letter, but I am distracted trying to figure out who the letter is to. John starts the letter addressing it to “the chosen [elect] lady” and finishes with “the children of your chosen [elect] sister…” Is the woman a church elder? What’s her relationship with John? For part of the chapter, I thought that she might be John’s wife. He asks that the lady and he continue to love each other. He states that he wants to meet with her face-to-face so their joy may be complete. Am I the only person reading this that interpreted this as a romantic relationship between John and this unnamed woman?

Of course, the closing line puts a bit of a damper on that. The children of your elect sister? Is she his aunt? Great aunt? Somehow related by blood?

I am so confused!!!

Third Epistle of John

Apparently, John prefers to meet with everyone face-to-face instead of via letter. I can understand that. There could be weeks between delivery of a letter and receipt of the response. John does give a pretty good account of what is happening. The letter is to one of John’s friends, Gaius. Gaius has the chance to emulate one of two other men. One is Diotrephes, who is covertly working against the apostles by refusing to provide room and board for them, and encouraging others in the church to also not lend aid. The other is Demetrius, who is a good man and presumably would help anyone that came along.

Wait… why is this book in the Bible? This book reminds me of Philemon. Both short, both pointless. Why were these two letters chosen for addition in the New Testament?

That’s not a rhetorical question, by the way. Can someone tell me why these letters were included?

Epistle of Jude

Wow, Jude is pretty pissed here. And apparently rightly so. In 1 John, John wrote a list of criteria for churches to use to determine if a person was of god or not. The criteria was “1) does the person say they believe in Jesus, and 2) does the person profess to follow our faith?” Given that anyone could say “yeah sure” without really meaning it, it’s not a surprise that people would infiltrate the church for their own personal gains. Jude has found out about this, and writes a scathing letter to churches in the area.

In the letter, Jude calls the infiltrators ungodly, irrational animals, defilers, stains in the love feasts, fruitless trees. These people care only for themselves, commit “sexual sins” (Paul would be so proud!), they are boastful, and they take advantage of others who try to be nice to them. Jude commands that these people be removed from the church. However, the members of the church shouldn’t just turn their backs on outsiders. Instead they should help them, but be wary.

Conclusion

What an odd trio of stories. We started out with the mystery of the chosen woman, moved on to the boredom of the saints, and finish up with a pure, unadulterated rant. These letters couldn’t be more different. They are a jumble, all read together in a group. But they aren’t any clearer when read individually. They are too short to convey any real meaning. They are a peek into the early church, showing that many things were not all peaches and cream. Otherwise, I can’t think of a reason to want to read these letters.

Up next: The end is here!

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

Be excellent to each other – 1 John 3-5 (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glass
Chapter 3
More “children” stuff, but at least this time John is including himself, and saying everyone is God’s children. This I can handle, since it is consistent with the entire Bible, Old and New testaments. We don’t know what we will truly be like until we meet Jesus in heaven. Just as Jesus was revealed to be the sacrifice that saved humanity from sin and the devil.

One thing I like about John is his repeated command to be nice to one another. He equates helping one another to being righteous and proof that they understand and follow Jesus’s word. Those who turn their back on one another – or mistreat others – have proven themselves to be of the dark. At one point, John equates such behavior with murder. That’s a bit over-dramatic, but the point is taken: John believes Jesus would want the church members to be nice to each other. And from what the Gospels chronicled, he is exactly right.

Chapter 4
John is trying to help his brother and sisters distinguish between a true believer and a deceiver. Unfortunately, John’s criteria is rather vague and easy to get past. “Every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” “The person who knows God listens to us.” That seems like a system that is just aching for someone to game. Someone to walk into a church, say “Yeah, Jesus was the son of God! Hell yeah, I’m hearing what you are saying!” Then that person could take advantage of the kindness towards each other, get free food and board, money, seduce women, etc. Not that I’ve ever seen anything like that happen.

Well, maybe once. Or twice.

One other interesting note in this chapter: John said that the Antichrist is already in the world. I hope that Peter doesn’t get wind that John is spreading such teachings, while Peter is hard at work telling people that it isn’t the end times yet. These two are out-of-sync with each other. They need to get together over coffee at a Starbucks to get back on the same page…

Chapter 5
More of the same from earlier in the letter. Those who believe in Jesus and follow the commandments are of God, of the light, and can be trusted. Anyone who says that the Christ was a spirit and not a flesh-and-blood person is either mistaken or a deceiver. God has given everyone eternal life if they believe in Christ.

One point that is mentioned a few times here that I don’t remember from the gospels at all: that the world lies under the control of the devil. Only Jesus can dispel the devil and save a person. I guess that is equivalent to saying the sin controls the world and Jesus saves people from sin. I haven’t seen this described as “the dark one” before.

[Quick note: The KJV translates this verse as ” the whole world lieth in wickedness.” This is a much less messy translation, but doesn’t match up with any of the other translations I can find. The ISV, ASV and NET all agree that the correct translation is “the evil one” and not “wickedness.”]

Conclusion:
Mostly harmless. Nothing to write home about, nothing to get too annoyed over. There’s some good (being nice to one another) and some condscension (‘cuz we are all little children, apparently). Otherwise, mostly harmless.

Up next: Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

My little children – 1 John 1-2 (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassIn our last installment, Peter tried to answer the question: why hasn’t the world ended? Why hasn’t Jesus returned? Where’s the end-time that you promised us? Peter’s answer was, basically, “screw you guys! God has decided to give you guys more time to repent. Don’t tell me anything, He sets the time frame. I don’t know how well that answer was received, however. since 2 Peter ends at that point. However, I am guessing that it wasn’t taken well. Who would like being blamed for delaying the coming of the lord?

Perhaps there’s more follow-up on this in:

The First Epistle of John

Chapter 1

God provides everlasting life. He is full of light and never darkness. Everyone sins: if you say you do not, you are deceiving yourself. Pretty much boilerplate stuff.

Chapter 2

John covers a lot of ground in this chapter. Right off the bat, he hints that this is going to be a condescending chapter, by referring to the recipients as “my little children.” And then continues to refer to the reader as “little children” throughout the entire chapter. Is this some type of term of affection within the church? Or do the church elders look out on their congregation and see them as little children? As inferiors? That would fall in-line with the other apostles, especially Peter (who stated that directly) or Paul, who only hinted at it.

John does not believe that a person’s words alone are an indication of a person’s true nature. Instead, it is a combination of words and acts. In this instance, it is someone who says they know Jesus and follows Jesus’s commandments. The person has to dispell hate from their heart: if that person hates their brother they are still of darkness, no matter how many times they might say they know the light.

And finally, watch for people who would deceive you. God and Jesus are one: you cannot know the one without knowing the other. Anyone who says differently is not teaching the truth.

Up next: Be excellent to each other

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

What happens when the world doesn’t end? (2 Peter)

Bible and magnifying glassEvery now and then, one of the books in the New Testament annoys me so much I can’t even talk about it, and must move on. That was 1 Peter. Hopefully the sequel won’t suck as much.

The Second Epistle of Peter

Chapter 1

The chapter opens with a florid, ostentatious greeting and introduction. This chapter exists to establish credibility for Peter and the church elders. He recounts that he and other disciples were there to hear the heavenly voice say “This is my son…” when Jesus was baptized. Was Simon Peter a disciple of Christ’s at that point in Jesus’s life? Because I don’t remember it that way. I thought that Jesus gathered Peter after being baptised and starting his ministry in full. Perhaps I am mistaken in that.

Or not. Re-reading this chapter, I see that Peter is describing two events. In the first is the baptism, and he is not claiming to have been present at that. The second event is when the disciples were with Jesus on the “holy mountain.” This is when the apostles heard the Voice of Heaven.

Chapter 2

My god this chapter is brutal. It is a combination of fearmongering and smearing. It may be one of the meanest chapters in the whole New Testament! The fun starts immediately, the first sentence stating “there are false prophets and false teachers among you trying to use destructive heresies upon members of the church. These people are doomed for destruction. After all, God did not spare angels who sinned, but cast them into hell. He destroyed all humans living on the earth with the exception of Noah and family. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, burning them down to the ground.

Now that fear of what the Lord will do to the false prophets is out of the way, it’s time to smear and slander the false prophets. They indulge in fleshly pleasures, slander glorious things, have parties in the light of day (huh?), commit adultery, seduce others away from the true teachings of the church. One imagines that the “true” teachings are those of Peter and not of others. The false prophets are dogs that return to eat their vomit, or pigs that are back to wallow in the mud.

Dear lord, what caused that all-out attack?

Chapter 3

Jesus Gives the Keys to Peter
Jesus Gives the Keys to Peter
Image via Wikipedia

So what crime was it that inspired the rant that was Chapter 2? What made Peter fly off the handle so completely? Interestingly enough, it is something that I brought up in my review of 1 Peter: the earth didn’t come to an end when the apostles said it would. The apostles had been saying “repent, for the end of the earth is nigh,” but the world kept stubbornly refusing to destroy itself, and Jesus kept stubbornly not returning. More and more people noticed this, and they started complaining about it. They started mocking the apostles, asking why nothing had changed. Peter tries to retcon an answer, saying that earth will be destroyed by fire, but God is waiting to do so to allow others time to repent of their sins.

Well….

Peter insists that the day of the lord will still come like a thief in the night. And that it will be soon. But soon to God is not necessarily soon to man. A single day and a thousands years are equivalent to God. He cannot be rushed. And Peter now has an easy answer to use when someone asks why Jesus hasn’t returned in the future.

Conclusion

That was… weird. This entire book is a response to the growing questions about the earth’s continued existence. It is like Peter believes he can re-write the previous gospels and letters with a single letter of his own. The contents of which is basically: “we were just joking when we said Jesus’s return was coming soon.” I assume that the critic’s arguments were starting to win people away from the church – or at least away from the church the apostles were establishing – at a steady enough rate that they couldn’t be ignored. Instead they were slandered and threatened with being burnt to a crisp and thrown into hell by God’s wrath.

Whatever way you slice it, Peter sounds defensive, and his arguments are almost desperate. It’s kind of sad, actually.

Up next: John’s up to bat

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

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Interchangeable apostles – 1 Peter 3-5 (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glass

Chapter 3

Here’s the reason I don’t like Paul’s letters, and I am beginning to dislike Peter’s: they are not about Christ’s teachings, but are instead about seeing Christ as a god figure. Instead of talking about the man, they talk about the concept (“exalt Christ as Lord in your hearts”). Instead of internalizing the message – as James did – Peter keeps everything at an external, exterior level. While James defined sin and why a person should watch their thoughts, Peter brings such wisdom as “who will harm you if you are devoted to doing good” (ignoring the fact that, in Chapter 2, he said that people will be harmed for doing good) and “Baptism […] saves you also, not by removing dirt from the body.”

Another reason to dislike both? Blatant sexism. Just like Paul, Peter exhorts women to submit to their husbands. Women should follow the example of Sarah and obey their husbands in everything. This is the way that holy women have done in the past. What, social progress wasn’t considered a good thing back then, either?

Chapter 4

Paul’s letters made it sounds that he expected Jesus to return soon. Peter states this straight out: “The end of everything is near.” That was 2,000 years ago. Peter “keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Chapter 5

Church elders must be like Shepherds, who will be much like the Chief Shepherd, and will be given a crown of Glory when Jesus returns. I think that Peter reveals a lot about how he views himself and other church elders. He practically puts them on the same level as Christ (they are all shepherds. Jesus is chief, but still a shepherd like the rest of them). Elders will be reward with crowns of power. Church members should be submissive to elders… Well, you get the idea.

Conclusion

Ugh. At least it was a short letter. Peter has turned out to be just as infuriating as Paul. Actually, he sounds pretty much exactly like Paul. You can tell that they were on the same page with many aspects of the new church. Reading one is pretty much the same as reading the other. That provides internal consistency, but it is also preaching to the choir. Peter and Paul have a view for how the church should be arranged, what should be taught, how people should be guided. None if it seems much like what Jesus taught and how Jesus lived.

My recommendation is to skip this letter and re-read James.

Up next: What happens when the world doesn’t end?

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

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Six of Peter, a half-dozen of Paul – 1 Peter 1-2 (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassAs I mentioned when I wrapped up my last entry, the second half of James, I was surprised to find that I liked James. It was a well-written, even-toned, intelligent, introspective work. James did a great job of distilling Christ’s message and giving examples of how that should be lived. The stress was on doing and saying and thinking how Jesus did, not as someone who is trying to co-opt the church does. That’s a huge difference, and major points for James.

And now, we move on to:

The First Epistle of Peter

Chapter 1

Only two sentences in, and I already have doubts about this book. Much of this reminds me of the letters from Paul. Boring, bland, superflous and ingratiating. “Therefore, get your minds ready for action by being fully sober, and set your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Stuff like that. To quote Inigo Montoya, “Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” Jesus’s spirit and blood is going to rescue everyone from sin and make the angels jealous. But people had better be good and not fall back into what they were doing before. Oh, and human glory dries up but the word of God lives forever.

Meh

Chapter 2

What is it with the New Testament authors comparing people to babies? “Like newborn babies, thirst for the pure milk of the word…” That is a very odd comparison to make. It seems condescending to me. It sounded condescending when Paul did it, too. Apparently Peter and Paul are more alike than I thought. Which might make for a painful book to read. Hopefully it’ll go fast though.

Peter comes up with an interesting idea. He is talking about it being good to get persecuted for doing the right thing. But people are going to beat you anyway, so “What credit is it if you sin and patiently receive a beating for it?” In other words, you are going to get your ass kicked one way or another. At least doing something good to deserve it. Enduring the beating will please god. Or something like that.

Oh, Christians are sheep. Seriously, Peter says this! “For you were like sheep that kept going astray…”

Apparently even Peter can be right about a thing or two…

Up next: Interchangeable apostles

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

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