Friday, March 25, 2011

The Unholy Bible: A Case Study in Obscene and Perverse Literature


Throughout history, people who have felt that their moral beliefs are superior to those of all who do not think and believe as they do have campaigned and crusaded to censor or destroy books, and more recently movies and music, as part of their declared mission to push their morality on everybody else. The primitive, medieval mindset that conceives and executes book burnings and book banning campaigns is still with us today, and signs of humanity outgrowing this childish and asinine mindset are unfortunately not forthcoming. However, I am convinced that if the Bible had hit bookstore shelves today as a new book that nobody had yet read, many of the same people who campaign to censor and destroy books all over the world would in fact be campaigning to burn and ban the Bible. My aim in this essay is to demonstrate that this is the case.

The Bible is X-rated and obscene, and this is simply irrefutable. In the pages of this revered book, we find vulgar, disgusting and vile passages about eating dung (Isaiah 36:10-13; II Kings 18:27; Ezekiel 4:12-15), divine threats to spread feces on the faces of those who fail to glorify God (Malachi 2:1-4), cannibalism, and human sacrifice. I provide representative examples of the latter two below.

Cannibalism - II Kings 6:24-30

In this passage, the city of Samaria is besieged by Benhadad the king of Syria, which results in a devastating famine in Samaria. Inflation continues to rise as the siege progresses, until a donkey's head is sold for eighty pieces of silver and quarter of "a cab of dove's dung" is sold for five pieces of silver. One day, as the king of Israel is walking upon a wall of the city, a woman cries to him asking for his help. The king tells her that if God is not able to help them, he certainly will not be able to, but then allows her to tell him her problem. The woman answers with this story: "This woman said unto me, 'Give thy son, that we may eat him to day, and we will eat my son to morrow.' So we boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son" (vv. 28-29).

According to this story, at least one woman resorted to killing, boiling and eating her own child because of a plague sent by God. This potently reflects the severity of the situation and the desperation to survive on the part of these women, although there is also a disturbing sense of relish in the way the report is delivered, betraying the voice of the writer of the narrative and not the despairing character herself. But it bears mentioning here that while there is a voluminous amount of creepy and disturbing content in the Bible, the biblical writer may in many such passages be trying to make a point or take a stand against what is being related. There are times in our hermeneutic approach when we must be careful to discern whether characters, events or concepts are being portrayed as good or evil [1].

However, the point I am trying to make here is a different matter. Whether or not, for example, the two women in this tale of cannibalism are villains not acting in accord with the will of the "good," the point is that any book would have been banned or heavily censored for this content if it were found in any other than the Bible [2].

Human Sacrifice - Judges 11:29-40

This account speaks for itself:
Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon.

And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, "If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering."

So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands. And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.

And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, "Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back." And she said unto him, "My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon."

And she said unto her father, "Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows." And he said, "Go." And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains.

And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel, That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.

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Ezekiel 23 paints a potent metaphoric picture of the judgments levied against two harlots named Aholah and Aholibah (who represent Samaria and Jerusalem respectively). While both sisters commit spiritual adultery with the Assyrians, the younger sister Aholibah goes further and becomes a whore of Babylon. Verse 20 of this chapter describes Aholibah's paramours as being endowed with genitals the size of donkeys, and whose emissions are compared to that of horses: "For she doted upon their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue is like the issue of horses."

This verse is obviously obscene, vile and disgusting in terms of what is being described. Of course, the writer of Ezekiel is not portraying this as something good. But the context is irrelevant in this particular case. The point is that this verse is contained in the Bible, and I am not particularly interested in having the image as given in this verse impressed upon my mind's eye. But avoiding the image is difficult, because reading it compels me to wonder how the writer (and his audience) would even know how much ejaculate a horse produces. I suppose work done in animal husbandry would give one an idea of this, but there is certainly no reason this information should be included in a book that is claimed to be holy and inspired by the all-wise and all-knowing Supreme Being. Now, I do not support censorship of any kind. My only scruple here is in suspecting that very few people, myself included, have any interest in being privy to these details or in discussing them. It is nothing short of baffling to me that people joyfully and willingly hand this book to their children and believe that God will bless those who read it. There are sacrilegious and crude jokes on late-night HBO specials about religion that are far tamer than what is contained in this book.

Thomas Paine once stated that "any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be a true system." He was referring specifically to the Bible in this statement, and he makes an excellent point. The Judaeo-Christian scriptures are frequently called the "Good Book" and the "Holy Bible," and a strong case can be made that those who refer to the book using these titles have not read the Bible in its entirety, if at all. After all, even Christians (both fundamentalist and moderate), do not follow the morality of the Bible any longer. Most Christians do not even know what is written in their own holy book, and would readily label as morally objectionable many of the concepts and actions endorsed in its pages if presented in any other context. How many Christians who believe the Bible to be their God's inerrant, infallible and unchanging guide to life have actually followed the Bible's command to take their children to the edge of town if they have been unruly and rebellious and stone them (Deuteronomy 21:18-21, Exodus 21:15, Leviticus 20:9, Mark 7:9-13, Matthew 15:4-9)?

It is in light of these considerations that I find news stories such as the one below very fascinating by virtue of its extreme irony. This was reported by Reuters on May 16, 2007:

Hong Kong - More than 800 Hong Kong residents have called on authorities to reclassify the Bible as "indecent" due to its sexual and violent content, following an uproar over a sex column in a university student journal.

A spokesperson for Hong Kong's Television and Entertainment Licensing authority (TELA) said it had received 838 complaints about the Bible by noon Wednesday.

The complaints follow the launch of an anonymous Web site -- www.truthbible.net -- which said the holy book "made one tremble" given its sexual and violent content, including rape and incest.

The Web site said the Bible's sexual content "far exceeds" that of a recent sex column published in the Chinese University's "Student Press" magazine, which had asked readers whether they'd ever fantasized about incest or bestiality.

That column was later deemed "indecent" by the Obscene Articles Tribunal, sparking a storm of debate about social morality and freedom of speech. Student editors of the journal defended it, saying open sexual debate was a basic right.

If the Bible is similarly classified as "indecent" by authorities, only those over 18 could buy the holy book and it would need to be sealed in a wrapper with a statutory warning notice.

TELA said it was still undecided on whether the Bible had violated Hong Kong's obscene and indecent articles laws.

But a local protestant minister shrugged off this possibility.

"If there is rape mentioned in the Bible, it doesn't mean it encourages those activities," said Reverend Wu Chi-wai. "It's just common sense ... I don't think that criticism will have strong support from the public," he added [3].

The next time I hear Christians attack and seek to ban or censor any book, movie or music for containing rape or incest or some such thing, I will definitely be quoting the Reverend Wu Chi-wai, who obviously does not know his Bible. After all, the vast majority of books, movies and music that are attacked by Christians for these reasons do not encourage the activities depicted in any conceivable way. The even greater irony is that this cannot be said about the Bible.

Rape in the Bible

Rape is definitely found in the Bible, and not always in a negative light. There are in fact a number of passages in the Bible which, for all intents and purposes, not only implicitly endorse rape but actually instruct people to rape. For example, in Numbers 31, God commands Moses and his army of Israelites to kill everyone in Midian (all men, male children, every woman who has known a man and any child still in the womb) but "all the women children that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves" (v. 18). The intent behind this command is not for these girls to bake cookies for the Israelite soldiers! Further, the command is not simply "Thou shalt rape," but apparently that "Thou shalt statutorily rape."

One of the first questions that presents itself is how the soldiers were able to tell who was a virgin and who was not. Simply asking them surely would not have been a very reliable method, since most of the young women who had known a man would presumably catch on quickly enough to say they were virgins in order to avoid certain death. Virginity, it would seem, was never so popular as after that particular battle [4]. Numbers 31:35 gives the total number of virgins captured as booty as 32,000.

When Moses instructed his army to kill the Midianites, he was doing so as a messenger delivering the instructions of God himself (v. 1). Personally, I do not believe that any god exists; if this story actually took place (which I highly doubt), Moses came up with the instructions himself. But for those who believe that God exists and that the Bible is the literal truth by which this God reveals himself, a number of uncomfortable facts simply cannot be avoided: God first killed 24,000 of his own people with a plague in Numbers 25 (that story forms something of a prologue or backstory to the story in Numbers 31), then instructed Moses and his army to head out and destroy an entire tribe and city and to keep 32,000 virgin girls for themselves. God's murder of all the firstborn children of Egypt in Exodus pales in comparison to this, as well as to the destruction of hundreds of tribes and cities he facilitates throughout the Old Testament.

A more blatant and clear example is found in Deuteronomy 21:10-14:
When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife: Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails. And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that, thou shalt go in unto her and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will, but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.

Notice that what is described here does not take into account at all what the captive woman's wishes are or what her will is. The Israelite soldier has captured a woman, brought her to his house, given her a month to cry and moan over the death of her family at the hands of this man's army, only to have this man suddenly have sex with her (The term "go in unto her," in the original Hebrew, is a euphemism for sexual penetration). She then becomes his wife, and it does not matter what she might think of it. However, if the woman does not please her captor, he must then let her go wherever she wants, with the stipulation that he cannot sell her for money. The phrase "because thou hast humbled her" refers to the woman being humiliated, which is the reason provided for why she should not be sold as a slave. In other words, the man can fuck her but cannot sell her off if he does not enjoy the experience.

This should give pause to the careful reader. Imagine you are a woman whose people have all been killed, and you have been captured and forced to shave your head and clip your nails (to ensure that you will not be able to easily defend yourself, yet another reason why this passage is describing sanctioned rape). You have been allotted one month to mourn the loss of your family, after which your captor, who was in the army that killed your people, comes in and has sex with you. Are you going to make any effort at all to be good in bed? Would not your best course of action be to lie there like a limp rag so that the man is dissatisfied at the end and releases you? Of course, it is possible that the one-month mourning period given to the captive girl before being taken sexually may have been intended for a specific clever purpose. The fostering of what we today know as the Stockholm Syndrome may have been in mind, in which the prisoner comes to appreciate or even love their captors. Regardless, whether it be psychological or purely physical manipulation, the result is the same.

On the other hand, where was a captive maiden supposed to go if she was rejected? Presumably, she is in a strange and unfamiliar land. Even if she were to somehow find her way back to her own land, she would most likely not have a home to return to with her family imprisoned or killed.

In Deuteronomy 22:23-27, we find this gem of a law:
If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her: Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife. So thou shalt put away evil from among you. But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her, shall die. But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing, there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter. For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.

This law is fairly straightforward: If a betrothed virgin is seduced in the city, she is absolutely required to cry out. If she does so, that act constitutes rape. If she does not cry out, it constitutes consent and she is thus guilty of a crime punishable by death along with the man. Notice again the term "hath humbled," which refers to rape. But if they are outside the city, isolated from any other people, and the man forces himself onto the virgin, then only the assailant is to be stoned to death since there was no one around to hear the girl cry out.

This law is decidedly unjust, as it does not take into account a number of possible circumstances beyond a woman's control. If a woman is raped within city limits, she may be gagged by her assailant to render it impossible for her to cry out or threatened with even greater harm to render it dangerous to cry out. In either circumstance, the woman will still be condemned to death by stoning. Such a nonsensical law could surely not originate from an all-knowing, all-wise God.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is another example of equally shoddy law design:
If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found: Then the man that lay with her, shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he hath humbled her: he may not put her away all his days.

In other words, if a man wants a woman and she does not want him, he can rape her and then subsequently buy her to be his wife as the penalty by paying fifty shekels of silver to her father. All the rapist has to do to get away with the act and score a wife is pay his victim's father. The woman in this situation is now not only property to be traded, but has no rights and no input. That which is specifically classified as rape even in this text has now become a viable means of ugly trolls obtaining an otherwise non-consenting and uninterested wife whom he cannot keep his penis out of.

To be as fair as possible, the viable means of getting away with rape and getting a wife at the same time may be an unintended consequence of very bad law design. The intent of the formulators of this law was most likely not to provide an incentive to rape, although this was a very probable result. From my informed point of view, the writers of this law had the mindset that once a woman has been raped by a man, no other man is going to want her because she is no longer pure. The best course of action in their mind was to allow the rapist to have his victim as wife for the price of fifty silver shekels. The point we can take from this instance of biblical law is that an all-knowing and all-wise God would certainly never devise such a statute [5].

Jesus' Temple Tantrum

The Bible-believer cannot hide or disguise these things by pointing out passages about turning the other cheek and the meek inheriting the earth (and why would those who are truly meek even want to inherit the earth?) The commonly-used retort that the Jesus of the Gospels disavowed Old Testament barbarism and made its obscene laws null and void is faulty as well. In Matthew 5:17-18, the words attributed to Jesus are: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the Prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle, shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."

In direct contradiction to the very words attributed to him, Jesus is reported in the Gospels to have directly violated all manner of statutes laid out in the Mosaic law, especially those laws concerning the Sabbath. In addition, a number of passages in the Gospels give the lie to the notion that Jesus was a meek and mild sage with a gentle, shepherd-like disposition. The most striking example of this is the scene in John's Gospel in which Jesus makes a scourge and heads into the Temple to chase out all the money changers and the livestock. This story appears in all four of the Gospels, but in the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), there is no mention of him actually making a scourge and using it as a tool to drive people out of the Temple. These three Gospels only mention Jesus overturning tables.

By contrast, John 2:15 describes the scene with this added detail: "And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the Temple, and the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables ..."

It is important to compare this account with the other three. The Synoptic Gospels' version of this story convey the distinct sense that Jesus' action was a spur-of-the-moment situation in which he simply became irate to the point of righteous anger and threw all the moneychangers out. But in John's account, Jesus makes his own scourge, and this takes a significant amount of time and premeditation. The implication of John's story is that Jesus had to become angry, stop what he was doing at the moment, leave to manufacture a cat o' nine tails, and then head back to the Temple to do his dirty work. It is fascinating to note that the original Greek word used to describe Jesus' scourge is phragellion, which literally means a "whip of rushes or ropes." This is the same Greek word used in Mark 15:15 and Matthew 27:26 (in the verb form phragellOsas) to describe the scourging of Jesus during his Passion ordeal. This is how we can be fairly certain that the writer of John's version of the temple cleansing intended to describe what has come to be called a cat o' nine tails when writing about Jesus' weapon of choice. If the reader has seen Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ, he or she undoubtedly recalls Jesus' flesh being ripped to shreds by such a whip until being reduced to what looks in the film like hamburger meat. What damage might Jesus have wreaked on the people in the Temple with such a bloody device?

But there is even more to this story than I have so far unraveled. Most biblical historians agree that this act on the part of Jesus must certainly have been the deed that signed his death warrant. The Roman authorities and the priestly aristocracy on their payroll likely came to an agreement that this revolutionary had to be taken out of the picture [6]. If this incident occurred at all, it would have taken place in the form of a massive riot. The passage relevant to this striking detail is Mark 11:16, which reads: "And [Jesus] would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the Temple." The vessels referred to here, which Jesus was not allowing any person to carry into the Temple, are sacrificial vessels. The Greek word translated "vessels" in this verse is skeuos, which specifies the sacred vessels that were used in the Temple. This means that Jesus must have had to commandeer all entrances to the Temple, which was more than three football fields in size! In order to carry out this cleansing, Jesus would have had bring in a large armed group, a small army even, and withstand the many Roman guards posted throughout the Temple at all times, precisely in case something of this nature should happen! After all, the national treasury was located in the Temple along with banking facilities, and thus would have attracted experienced criminals. S.G.F. Brandon, the late scholar of comparative religion, thus argued that the author of Mark's Gospel was attempting to tone down what must have been a violent military raid on the Temple by Jesus and his small army by portraying the event as one in which Jesus merely becomes irritated at the commercialism of petty traders [7]. This watered-down and sanitized portrayal accounts for the ubiquitous conception of this event as one in which Jesus throws over a few cardtables in a church basement rummage sale.

The apologist will be quick to point out that the account does not say that Jesus actually hit anybody or physically harmed them in any way. Perhaps he did not, but the odds speak differently in my estimation. If a man comes charging angrily into the Temple, backed by a small army and shaking what we today would call a cat o' nine tails, he would very likely have to hit at least one person in order to chase the lot of them away from their business. In fact, an individual or group effort to interfere with legitimate and necessary business transactions would be met by violent opposition immediately. But even if he did not strike a single person, it would certainly not have been for lack of intention, given the time and resources that went in to making the scourge himself. It is highly doubtful that he would have gone to that trouble if not to threateningly swing the whip around. Whether he struck anybody or not, this is certainly not what one would expect of a peaceful individual. Thus, there are discrepancies between the kind of person Jesus is portrayed to be in the Gospels and the kind of person Christians have traditionally understood him to be. John's version of the Cleansing of the Temple directly contradicts the doctrines we are accustomed to hearing from Christians when they preach about the "Prince of Peace."

Conclusion

Having explored the Bible as an example of obscene and perverse literature, we should conclude by asking ourselves if the Bible qualifies as good or great literature. My contention is that the Bible does not qualify as such. There is certainly fascinating content in the Bible, and that I do not deny. I have studied the Bible a great deal, and I highly enjoy these studies as an intellectual interest. Figuring out what ancient peoples and cultures believed and trying to gain a sense of what ideas the ancient writers of scriptures were originally trying to convey is an academic exercise I enjoy immensely.

That being said, it is simply undeniable that the Bible is an obscene and perverse book. Matt Dillahunty, president of the Atheist Community of Austin and host of The Atheist Experience show, has often issued the challenge I myself am about to put on the table and issue to anyone who disagrees with me on this point: If you believe the Bible is a good and wholesome book full of moral insight, will you allow me to read a Bible passage of my choosing to your young children?

I suspect I will never have any takers on this challenge. But if any dissenter does ever take me up on the challenge, I would have to decline to prove him or her wrong by reading an obscene passage. This is because I have far more respect for young children than their parents do who teach them that the Bible is perfect and should be their moral guide, and the last thing I want to do is pollute young minds with this garbage. Instead, I would most likely choose to read passages from the Book of Ecclesiastes, which was written by a non-believer and is by far the Bible's best book and my personal favorite. There are certainly parts of the Bible that may qualify as great literature (Ecclesiastes and several of the Psalms come to mind as examples). There are parts of the Bible that can enlighten, entertain and perhaps even raise one's consciousness level.

But considered as a whole, the Bible falls far short of the standard of great literature. And nobody needs the Bible for enlightenment, entertainment or consciousness-raising. These things can be gleaned from any number of authors who write inspiring works. Read any book by Mark Twain, for example, who never fails to deliver all three of these elements far better than anything found in the Bible. Speaking for myself, I learned far more inspiring and beautiful things from Voltaire and David Hume (the two philosophers with whom I identify the most) than I did from the Bible. Maya Angelou has written far better poetry than is found in the Psalms or Song of Solomon. Charles Darwin's seminal 1859 work The Origin of Species is of far greater importance than the Book of Genesis (or anything else in the Bible for that matter). Contrary to what many people think, Darwin wrote as far more than just a naturalist who collected scientific observations into a book. Darwin wrote surprisingly beautiful prose on the human condition and on his departure from belief in The Origin of Species. On this note, Darwin's autobiography is also a must-read.

Christians who revere the Bible and consider it to be the perfect work of God may confront me by asking who I am to pass judgment on God's book. Who am I to decide whether the "written word of God" is a good moral guide or not? In answering this question, I would like to adopt their framework of belief, to meet them where they stand, so to speak. According to the Bible, I am a creation of God and I was endowed by this God with a functioning brain. That is the reason I am justified in judging the merits of the book God allegedly authored and inspired. Moreover, every single Christian who asks me who I am to judge God and his word also judges their God. A consistent person simply cannot judge God's good actions and choose not to judge God's bad actions. This is called hypocrisy; what I aim to do is evaluate both the good and the bad, and make a reasoned determination from that evaluation. The reason most Christians are bound to object to this essay is because I have not limited my focus to the fluffy, feel-good elements of the "Holy" Bible.


NOTES

1. Many people who are quick to attack a work of literature for what they perceive to be offensive content fail to take into account the possibility that the author may be trying to portray the offensive content in a negative light, not in an endorsing manner but rather to portray such things as villainous or evil. For example, conservative Christians who attack J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series have often quoted a line from the first novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, as evidence that the books promote an amoral worldview: "There is no good and evil, there is only power." What they are either not aware of or are lying about is the fact that this line comes from Lord Voldemort, who is the main villain of the series!

2. Other biblical references to cannibalism include Leviticus 26:29, Deuteronomy 28:53-57, Isaiah 9:19-20, 49:26, Jeremiah 19:9, Lamentations 4:10, Ezekiel 5:8-10, 24:10-12, Micah 3:2-3 and Zechariah 11:9.

3. Reuters, "Bible Drawn Into Sex Publication Controversy," Reuters 16 May 2007, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSHKG26218320070516 (accessed 25 March 2011).

4. In the modern-day Christian subculture, pious young adults often take pacts to remain celibate until marriage, or even to remain celibate for good after becoming a born-again believer. For either case, a faith-based abstinence program called the "Silver Ring Thing" is marketed to Christian teens and young adults, who wear a silver ring on the ring finger of their left hand as a token and reminder of their vow to remain virgins. Seeing these rings on people now always makes me think of this Numbers 31 passage, rather than the I Thessalonians 4:3-4 passage that is inscribed on the rings.

5. A slight variation on this law is given in Exodus 22:16-17, which takes into account situations in which the father of the violated girl refuses to give his daughter to her seducer. In this case, paying a monetary price for the girl to be had as wife is still instituted as something the father must accept, but the price here is set as "according to the dowry of virgins" and not specified as fifty shekels of silver.

6. Mark 11:18: "And the Scribes and chief Priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine." In the very next verse, Mark adds the interesting note that Jesus left the city in the evening, clearly with the intention of avoiding inevitable nocturnal arrest. See also Mark 12:12.

7. S.G.F. Brandon, The Trial of Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Stein and Day Publishers, 1968), pp. 83-85.

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