« Never Read a Bible Verse series Part 6 (Video) | Main | Can We Make the Pro-Life Movement "Cool?" »

December 15, 2009

Comments

There was a news article related to this the other day entitled, "Why Do Men Cheat On Their Wives?". Coming from a worldly perspective, it was filled with all sorts of excuses.

Missing was the REAL reason; the root cause... SIN.

People don't need psycho-babble about "How to improve your___(fill in the blank"). We don't need motivational speakers or marriage workshops to build our self-esteem or strengthen our marriages. The solution to all of lifes problems is actually quite simple.... "READ THE BIBLE, DO WHAT IT SAYS".

"READ THE BIBLE, DO WHAT IT SAYS"

Stone adulterers?

Joe's comment shows why you should never read a bible verse.

Sorry, just taking John at his word.

Don't worry. I know that we've thrown out all of those OT laws. Except for the ones that we haven't thrown out.

Our culture has already traded Billy Graham for Oprah. This is no surprise.


>>"Sorry, just taking John at his word."

You're not sorry. You knew exactly what you were doing.

>>"Joe's comment shows why you should never read a bible verse."

Joe's comment shows why you should never read Joe.

Did I miss something? Doesn't the Bible say to stone adulterers?

Okay, Joe. I'll take you at your word:

No, the Bible doesn't "say" anything. It "reads."

Now that we understand that ;) ...the fact that you indicated OT laws in your next post is a strong indicator of the intended sarcasm.

>>"Did I miss something? Doesn't the Bible say to stone adulterers?"


There are three convenants in the Scriptures:

1. Noahic (OT)
2. Mosaic (OT)
3. Christ Himself (NT)

Christ didn't come to negate the previous laws...He came to fulfill them. It is important to know the Old Testament, as it speaks to Christian history and the character of God. Despite the first two convenants, we (His people) still couldn't get it right. So He had to show up in person to demonstrate His character. His arrival, the New Covenant, changed everything.

There are a plethora of OT laws that we are no longer bound by in terms of CONSEQUENCES because Christ's arrival, death, and resurrection fullfilled them. However, His fulfilling of certain laws...like dying on the cross so the adulterer wouldn't have to...in no way detracts from our responsibility to still behave. It does, however, allow us the alternative to avoid what we deserve to happen to us.

Tiger can repent, too. Perhaps he already has. Christ made that option available to us all. Judging Tiger in that regard is God's labor and delight alone. We, however, can certainly judge the nature of adultery.

Didn't say the Bible says you can't judge adultery. I said that the Bible said that the penalty was stoning, and I don't remember Jesus repealing this particular penalty. Where does Jesus specifically say, "when I rise from the dead, that ends all of the OT death penalties"?

"His arrival, the New Covenant, changed everything."

We don't stone people for commiting adultery anymore, and I think that's a good thing. But I don't think this has much to any "New Covenent". It seems much more likely to me that what has changed has been human culture, in general, and as cultures change, we "re-interpret" our sacred texts to fit the occasion. In this case, we're repelled by the thought of killing adulterer by throwing rocks at them, so we don't do this anymore. Then we justify the changes by saying things like "New Covenent".

There's nothing new about trading X for Y, be it Oprah for Graham, or whatever. This has happend countless times for countless "sins". There was a time when we stoned adulterers, and now we don't. Human cultures change. That's just the way it is with human cultures.

So, what things are we allowed to penalize and what things are we not allowed to penalize? What's left? We can't judge Tiger? We can't penalize any sins anymore? Can't penalize adultery, theft, murder, etc.?

Obviously we still judge and obviously we still penalize. No stoning, in this case, but we still penalize sin. You can say "judging Tiger in that regard is God's labor and delight alone", but who are we kidding? Whether it's right or wrong to do so, we do the judging. We judge all of the time. Pretending that it's God that's judging is a cop out.

Joe, specifically to your point, what was Jesus' response when he was presented with the occasion to stone an adulterer? In that instance and many others I believe he was showing the purpose and fulfillemt of the law. In like manner, can you show an example in the Bible where an adulterer was stoned? I'm not denying that it was prescribed, but I don't know of an occasion that it was carried out.

It seems that the OT laws are ignored by Christians when following them would be inconvenient, but are justified when they become politically expedient. In the debate in Uganda about the "kill the gays bill" christian pastors in Uganda were using the OT to bolster the claims that homosexuality was so evil it had to be destroyed.

(this is off topic but I follow quit a few christian blogs and none of them have addressed the Uganda issue even though this is a reprehensible law being supported by the christian majority with ties to mainstream American evangelical leaders. Does anyone know of any christian sites or bloggers that are taking a look at this issue? Just curious)

Topher go read getreligion blog to see how all that you just said is a gross manipulation and distortion of the actual events going on in Uganda and American evangelical involvement.

Sadly, it is to easy to just read a few ideological blogs that are anti-evangelical and form a concrete opinion.

Last I cannot think of one OT law that Christians "ignore" because it is inconvenient. This is simply something that is constantly said by those who are to lazy to actually read and understand the Bible in its context.

To make it clear for you (and simple) Christians are not Jews. We are not under the OT law but rather the law of love and grace which Jesus institutes with his followers through the work of the cross and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Salvation and right standing is not earned by keeping the 600 laws of the OT, but by grace through faith, period.

So lets move on from the nonsense that if Christians read the Bible rightly they would stone adulterers, this only shows that you have not read the Bible rightly.

"What was Jesus' response when he was presented with the occasion to stone an adulterer?"

First, this story only appears in John, the last gospel written. There is no corroboration, and the events unique to the last gospel are also the events most likely to have been invented. Maybe it happened, maybe it didn't. Given that Jesus said that he did not come to abolish the Law (any "fulfillment" would not have happened at this point in time), this would seem to be an odd response to a case in which the death penalty is clearly prescribed.

Second, I believe that those who favor the idea that Jesus is pro-death penalty (in favor, in general, not just death penalty for adultery) will interpret Jesus' comments as Jesus refusing to be trapped. The trap, in this case, is that only the woman is present, and adultery is a two person crime and both parties are to be stoned. In other words, you can't just kill the woman. It's not that Jesus is against all stonings of adulterers, it's just that he's against unjust stonings. Got to follow the law, after all. Now, I'm not presenting this as my interpretation, I just present this as yet another example of how one can interpret as one sees fit.

"In like manner, can you show an example in the Bible where an adulterer was stoned?"

Are you suggesting that there was a law on the OT books that was never enforced? Ever?

"I cannot think of one OT law that Christians "ignore" because it is inconvenient."

Adult circumcision, anyone?

"You have not read the Bible rightly".

Ah, yes, "read the Bible rightly". Meaning, I assume, the way you read the Bible.

What about adult circumcision?

I am aware of the questionable-ness of the John passage, and I knew you wouldn't miss an opportunity to reinforce that. However, my case is not dependent on its total validity. As you said, maybe it happened, maybe it didn't. Apparenntly it was believable enough in line with the rest of what is reliable about Jesus, that it is not absurd to believe that it did (or could have) happen. My point is that Jesus did come to fulfill the law, in that, to show what the intent of the law to begin with (not to have people commit adultery). The intent was not to punish lawbreakers, the punishment was to entice those under the law not to sin.

As for your second point, I'm not suggesting that there were laws that were never enforced, but I do find it strange that all those that trumpet these outrageous, primitive OT laws as examples of the immoral God of the OT, we don't find any instances of them being fulfilled. Perhaps it is because (many of) the Jews understood the law demanding stoning was not a compulsion (in the sense that not committing adultery was compulsory). I'm just offering you my take.

As for Jesus not having yet fulfilled the law, I don't know why it couldn't have happened at that point (or was in process of being taught).

Do you think Jesus was anti death penalty in general?

Ryan,

There comes a time in these discussions where we have to ask ourselves...Does the one with all the questions genuinely want to learn, or just stand at a distance and lob molotav cocktails composed of disdain and ego? When assertions are made such as some of these, it seems clear to me wisdom is not the goal. The task of being incendiary becomes the end game.

>>"You can say "judging Tiger in that regard is God's labor and delight alone", but who are we kidding? Whether it's right or wrong to do so, we do the judging. We judge all of the time. Pretending that it's God that's judging is a cop out."

Yes we do judge. So? Did you even read my post? Thoughfully?

I am not pretending that it's God who is judging. No need to pretend about that.

It is the phrase "in that regard" that perhaps tripped you up...so did you just choose to ignore it?

I don't have a problem judging whether the actions of another are wrong or right. I hope we can all do that. One of the problems with society is too many refuse to do that very thing. The point is that God's Judgment determines where we reside for eternity. I can judge that adultery is a behavior that's wrong, et al. How I treat the adulterer is the measure of my authenticity as a Christian. Instead of stoning, Jesus told her "Go forth and sin no more." His presence that day trumped the law. His coming was indeed a New Covenenant. Whatever else "seems" to you about it and human cultural tendencies is moot.

Perhaps you should define "judging" here so you are clearer in your accusations.
Thus far, your comments have really gone off the rails.

Here's where the rubber meets the road for you, Joe:

>>"It seems much more likely to me that what has changed has been human culture, in general, and as cultures change, we "re-interpret" our sacred texts to fit the occasion."

Who do you mean by "we?"

Some sects and cults are guilty of this. But is a gross error to supplant the signficance of Christ's convenant with what you purport "seems" to be to you.

It is apparent that whatever SEEMS to Joe is the way things are. That's okay, I guess. But it would behoove you to question the accuracy - if just on occasion - of the "seems to me" factor. Your hostility to Christianity is really tilting how everything "seems" to you.

It seems to me that OT laws come in two varieties: ceremonial and moral. Ceremonial laws have to do with what you need to do in order to be 'clean' and make sacrifices in the temple. Moral laws have to do with morality (there's a shocker). It seems that the ceremonial laws have largely passed away with the coming of the perfect sacrifice (Christ). But the moral laws are still in full effect.

Now moral laws have two parts:

1) An act that is identified either as supererogatory or as obligatory or as permissible or as impermissible.

2) Punishments for the the impermissible acts and the failures to do one's duty, and rewards for the supererogatory acts.

Now, it seems to me that the former of these should not change much over time. But the latter may change. It may be appropriate to punish some acts differently in an advanced nation-state than it in a quasi-nomadic civilization surrounded by superior enemies.

Here's an analogy. It is always or almost always wrong to steal water. But on a lifeboat at sea the punishment for that crime may be and should be considerably harsher than it should be in suburbia.

Thus Christians should maintain the view, for example, that adultery is morally wrong and sinful (and like any sin, it will send you to hell). But Christians need not hold the view that the punishments appropriate for Israel in 1009 BC are appropriate in America in AD 2009.

An afterthought for Joe...

>>"We don't stone people for commiting adultery anymore, and I think that's a good thing. But I don't think this has much to any "New Covenent"."

You don't think this has much to do with the New Covenant. Is this supposed to be compelling...in terms of supporting your argument?
You can think whatever you want. Whether it is really true or not should be your quest.


>>"In this case, we're repelled by the thought of killing adulterer by throwing rocks at them, so we don't do this anymore. Then we justify the changes by saying things like "New Covenent".

First, you're assuming everyone is repelled at this. I believe you give humanity too much credit here. There have been far too many human-induced atrocities to think this Joe. It's naive.

But, and this is a great big "but"...let's say people ARE repelled by it...

Secondly, and this is really where you go a bit loopy...if we don't do it anymore because we are repelled by it...why the hell does anyone need to justify the "change" by calling it "New Covenant?" You're all over the place here, Joe. It doesn't follow. To quote Cormac MeCarthy, the innate compassion you elude to Joe...well, "Human history subverts it at every turn."

"Hey, this is mean. So let's stop. Let's show some compassion." People en masse would never say that - they would get worse. It had to come from a higher source, Joe. At least it SEEMS to me it would have to. ;)

"Who do you mean by "we?""

We humans. We humans throughout history.

I believe that here's where my "misinterpretation" comes from.

"There are a plethora of OT laws that we are no longer bound by in terms of CONSEQUENCES because Christ's arrival, death, and resurrection fullfilled them."

By CONSEQUENCES, I assumed that you meant eartly penalties and punishments. Well, ok, if "we're no longer bound", then what are the earthly penalties and punishments for a "plethora" of sins? When I use the word "judge", I'm including the penalty phase of the proceedings, and it looks like you are saying the that penalty phase is now out of our hands. For example, adultery is a sin, but there's no eartly punishment anymore, right? What about the other OT sins with death penalties attached?

"Does the one with all the questions genuinely want to learn, or just stand at a distance and lob molotav cocktails composed of disdain and ego?"

Well, that's all well and good, but where did Jesus say that the OT death penalties were now null and void? If a judge decides not to pass a sentence of death on a particular murderer, does that mean that this judge is saying that a murderer can never be executed?

"Whatever else "seems" to you about it and human cultural tendencies is moot...It is apparent that whatever SEEMS to Joe is the way things are."

And your interpretation and belief in a certain passage of a certain text is also as "seems" moment. It "seems" to you that there is a New Convenent. It seems to you that stoning is no longer allowed. Others look at the Bible and find justification for capital punishment for any number of crimes. You have your "seems", they have their "seems", and I have mine.

"Why the hell does anyone need to justify the "change" by calling it "New Covenant?"

Historically, it appears that people like to justify the change in morals, etc., by appealing to higher authority. Gives it a little more ummmph.

...As to the origin of compassion, well, I guess that's a whole 'nother question. Since my dog has compassion, I'm guessing that this is not unique to humans. Maybe it's an evolved trait or maybe God likes dogs, too. Who knows?

>>Didn't say the Bible says you can't judge adultery. I said that the Bible said that the penalty was stoning, and I don't remember Jesus repealing this particular penalty.

Joe, I'm sure we've talked about this before. The Old Testament is the Constitution of ancient Israel, a set of laws to govern a nation that existed. We do not belong to that nation, we do not execute those laws. The punishments were not meant to be moral imperatives for all time, they were written to govern that particular nation at a particular time for a particular purpose. I've mentioned the chapters in Romans before that explain that we've died to this covenant with Christ and we've been raised with Him and joined to Him as the New Covenant.

WL is exactly right with his comment about the punishments changing over time, even though the act remains wrong over time, and the lifeboat is a great example to show why the cultural situation in which the punishment is carried out matters. You can read more about all this in an earlier post and the links you'll find there.

Amy,

I understand what you are saying, but I don’t think that it solves the problem (i.e., why not stone adulterers?). I understand the concept of a New Convenant, but when it comes to specifics, it all appears rather arbitrary, both in terms of what is a sin and in terms of punishment for a given sin.

In the OT, we have an endless list of sins with specific punishments, often capital punishments. Ok, along comes Jesus, and now, many, many of those sins are not sins anymore (eating pork, not being circumcised, mixing fabrics, gathering sticks on the Sabbath, etc.). What exactly are the criteria for de-listing a sin? Where I understand that some sins might become irrelevant over time, but why would pork eating suddenly go from sin to non-sin in the first century?

Where does Jesus list which sins are not sins anymore, and which sins are still sins? Frankly, for all its horror, the OT is much clearer than the NT about what is a sin and what isn’t a sin.

I understand the OT offers laws for governing a nation, but in the OT, “illegal” also equals “immoral” or “sinful”. This is quite different from the U.S Constitution and or U.S. penal codes. So when you say that something isn’t illegal anymore, because we’ve moved beyond a “constitution” designed to govern a nation, then you are also saying that something that was once a sin is no longer a sin. This isn’t just changing the punishment or changing a rule, this is literally changing morality.

Then we also have sins that appear to remain sins (adultery, etc.), but what happens to the earthly penalties associated with those sins? In the specific case of stoning for adultery, where does Jesus say that death penalty is null and void? Where does Jesus say that the death penalties for any OT capital crime are null and void? Where did Jesus say that all earthly penalties associated with all of the sins of the OT were all null and void? How hard would it have been to be crystal clear about this?

I understand that the folks who expanded Christianity in the first century were creating a trans-national religion, but still, I don’t see any revoking of OT penalties along the way. Obviously, the early Christians had no political power, so they couldn’t enforce any penalties even if they wanted to, and I suspect that why there is little mention of earthly penalties. But they didn’t clearly reject the penalties, either.

Romans is nice, but there are not the words of Jesus (and to be honest, I find the whole passage unclear with respect to “the law”). These are not even the words of a man who heard Jesus speak. I understand that the word “fulfill” can mean many things, but “I did not come to abolish the law” looks pretty clear and straightforward to me. “Not abolish” means “not abolish”, and one would assume that “not abolish” means the earthly penalties, too. If adultery is still a sin, then when Christians have political power, they should apply the biblical penalties. I see no reason why they shouldn't, unless you're going to suggest that there aren't any earthly penalities for sin anymore.

In the end, what are saying about earthly penalties? Are you saying that the NT says that there are no longer any God-given earthly penalties for anything?

(Joe, sorry about the length of this answer, but when you ask huge questions, you need huge answers!)

>but why would pork eating suddenly go from sin to non-sin in the first century?

Because God created these particular laws for Israel to set them apart as a nation from the other nations (for various reasons, not the least of which was to demonstrate God's holiness and separateness from sin). There's no moral component to eating pork in itself. Jesus actually says this specifically here. The moral component comes in because once these laws became part of the covenant they made with God, to break them was to rebel against God as ruler over Israel. So eating pork became a sin because it broke the covenant (that is, the constitution they agreed to follow) with God. The rebellion against God was the moral component involved.

Look at it this way: It's illegal to park in a red zone today. Is it a sin to park next to the color red? Well, not in itself, correct? But when our country created this law as part of the way it runs society, it became a sin because to break it is to break faith with our authorities who rule over us, keeping order in God's place. However, sometime in the future, painting the curb red might mean nothing at all, and at that time, it would not be a sin to park next to the color red. In other words, the thing is not immoral in itself, at all times in history; but in this case, because it is a law created for a particular reason to accomplish a purpose at this time, it is immoral to break that law.

I really recommend the link I had at the end of that post I linked to to help explain this better.

>>Where did Jesus say that all earthly penalties associated with all of the sins of the OT were all null and void?

He doesn't. Since God no longer governs a political nation meant to reflect Him, this is left up to the countries to determine.

>>How hard would it have been to be crystal clear about this?

Crystal clear about punishments? Not hard at all, but since the New Covenant is not about creating a political nation, He doesn't give rules to create one. You may have wanted Him to, but He's the boss and He didn't want to gather His people that way.

>>Romans is nice, but there are not the words of Jesus

I can't speak for a religion that only looks at Jesus' words in the Gospels and ignores the rest of the equally inspired-by-God words of the New Testament. I can only comment on Christianity.

Since God is not currently working through a nation, but through a church, no, He has not dictated the details about the way our society will be run. We are to have a just society, yes, and there are certain principles involved in a just society, but He doesn't set up our traffic laws, how many years each crime gets, etc., because He did not set up our political nation.

>>but “I did not come to abolish the law” looks pretty clear and straightforward to me.

Here's just a quick answer: A lot of the laws in the Old Covenant were created, as I said, to set apart the Israelites--to make them clean. They could not touch dead people, eat certain animals, etc., so that they could keep themselves clean in order to come before God. Things that were symbolic of death and sin were therefore not allowed. God wanted to make a statement to the Israelites and the world that He is holy, that we are not, and that we need to be cleansed in order to be able to stand in front of Him without being destroyed.

Now, if you read through Hebrews, you will see how, since Christ cleansed us and perfected us for all time, we are clean in God's eyes, and we are holy in Christ. He is the fulfillment of all those laws they followed in order to be clean. He has freed us from that by cleansing us Himself. Has the requirement to be clean been abolished? Does God's standard of holiness no longer exist? No! On the contrary, He is still just as holy as before, and human beings are still just as unholy. But rather than fulfill this holiness through the law, our holiness is fulfilled in Christ, and we no longer need the law to make us holy.

This is why in Luke 16 Jesus says to the Pharisees as He's trying to show them that they aren't righteous enough to stand before God on their own merits, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God. The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail."

In other words, people are entering the Kingdom of God through Jesus' holiness and His forgiveness, but if they try to enter through the Law, which is as hard and unforgiving as stone and will never be relaxed as a standard, they will never make it. They will never be holy enough because God is blindingly holy.

So the Law continues to exist and will not be relaxed, and anyone who attempts to approach God by means of the Law will fail--the need for holiness will not end. But anyone who is cleansed and made holy by Christ is freed from the Law (see again the discussion in Romans).

There's more, but I have to leave it at that for now because I'm out of time!

Your right David Hawkins.

I just found the hypocrisy of Joe to be blatant. He is clearly saying there is a RIGHT way to read the Bible in his original comments about the Bible commanding adulterers to be stoned, and then lashing out at me for saying there is a right way to read the Bible.

To be honest, part of me is just baffled because I waffle between thinking comments like Joe's come out of ignorance or just a desire to be purposely manipulative.

Even the most secular Bible scholars clearly understand the Bible has a clear meaning in regards to the OT laws and the New Covenant under Christ. They may not agree with it but they are not so dense as to deny that the text clearly proclaims what Amy wrote above.

"I just found the hypocrisy of Joe to be blatant. He is clearly saying there is a RIGHT way to read the Bible in his original comments about the Bible commanding adulterers to be stoned."

Wrong. I'm saying that there is no compelling reason *not* to read the Bible in this way. Obviously, there are a zillion ways to read the Bible. This one is as good as any other.

I read the Bible, it says stone adulterers, this command has not been rescinded. Can you interpret the Bible in another way? Of course, be my guest, that's the beauty of the Bible.

"Lashing out at me for saying there is a right way to read the Bible."

Here's what I said...

Ah, yes, "read the Bible rightly". Meaning, I assume, the way you read the Bible.

Is this lashing out? I assume that you think that you read the Bible rightly. Do you think that you read the Bible wrongly? I'm confused.

Reading the Bible rightly means reading it with good reading comprehension. We're not under the Old Testament law because that is not the covenant God made with us. The end. This is totally clear when you read the whole Bible. It's not clear to you because you don't know the Bible. This is why we're explaining to you what it says.

>>I'm saying that there is no compelling reason *not* to read the Bible in this way.

Except that it explicitly says the opposite. Explicitly.

WL,

Somehow I overlooked your comments earlier, so let me comment now.

I understand your distinction between ceremonial and moral, but it seems to be a little too convenient and arbitrary. I doubt if all of the OT sins that we no longer consider sins will fit neatly into the "ceremonial" category, and I doubt if all of the sins that are still sins will neatly into the "moral" box. Now, since you know which sins you want to put in each box, you can make this come out right if you'd like, but only because you know the answer that you want before you start. In any event, I would have thought that a sin is a sin is a sin. If it's immoral, then it's immoral. Label it as you see fit, but what was once punishable by death as a horrible sin against God is now...not a sin. It's puzzling.

"It may be appropriate to punish some acts differently in an advanced nation-state than it in a quasi-nomadic civilization surrounded by superior enemies."

Again, I understand your argument, but it's a little hard to see how hitting adulterers over the head with rocks is more "appropriate" in a quasi-nomadic civilization".

Except that it explicitly says the opposite. Explicitly."

So, the NT explictly says that there are no God-given earthly penalties of any kind for sin and that all of the death penalties and other earthly penalties have been revoked? Jesus said this? Explicity? Where? And if so, how do we decide what the earthly penalties for sin will be?

"So the Law continues to exist and will not be relaxed" and "Anyone who is cleansed and made holy by Christ is freed from the Law"?

Oy vey.

"We're not under the Old Testament law because that is not the covenant God made with us."

It's true that I'm not an NT scholar. But I'd bet you a nickel to a doughnut that the historical Jesus would disagree.

"But I'd bet you a nickel to a doughnut that the historical Jesus would disagree"

Joe, if you think Jesus wants us to continue to observe all parts of the law, why did he not keep those commands himself?

-Why did he heal on the sabbath?
-Why did he not return an 'eye for an eye'?
-Why did he not stone the adulteress?

If he was intent on us continuing under that law, he did a poor job of leading by example. And that was to a primarily Jewish audience, let alone Gentiles. If he as a Jew was intentionally not keeping every command, why is it reasonable to think he expects this from non-Jews under the new covenant he established the night he was betrayed?

Is it possible that when he said he came 'not to abolish the law but to fulfill it', that he meant something other than to keep perfectly all the commands? Could it mean that he was not 'abolishing' the penalties of the law, but came to 'fulfill' its righteous requirement (by his death)?

WL,

One other thought about....

It may be appropriate to punish some acts differently in an advanced nation-state than it in a quasi-nomadic civilization surrounded by superior enemies...

What exactly was the difference between civilizations in AD 25 and AD 35 such that stoning was appropriate in AD 25, but apparently, completely wrong in AD 35? If the determining factor in the appropriateness of the punishment is the state of civilization, why is it "lifeboat" in AD 25 and "suburbia" in AD 35?

"Joe, if you think Jesus wants us to continue to observe all parts of the law, why did he not keep those commands himself?"

First, again, we don't know if the story about the adulteress is historically accurate. Second, as Martin Luther would tell you, one can be a reformer without totally rejecting the basic belief system. Wasn't Luther still a Christian?

By the way, can someone explain to me why it's likely that a majority of American evangelical Christians favor the death penalty if the rescinding of death penalties is so "explict" in the Bible? Apparently, I'm not alone in reading the Bible wrong.

Wrong Joe, the beauty of the Bible is not that you can read it any way you want.

That is as uninformed as saying you can read Lord Of The Rings as a cooking book if you like. No, it has specific meaning intended by the author. Same for the Bible.

As I already pointed out, the blatant error your making of choosing to read the Bible with no distinction between OT laws and the New Covenant is made by NO SCHOLAR out there no matter how secular. All agree that there is specific content that cannot mean what you are trying to say it does.

So honestly Joe go ahead and make the Bible say whatever your want, but don't try and tell others your honestly trying to understand what the authors originally meant. Its as absurd as thinking men did not land on the moon and it was a government conspiracy: your welcome to think that even though no reputable expert does.

Hi Joe,

This back-and-forth Q & A is good insofar as it demands a bit of critical thinking and intellectual navigation...

But here's the rub:

Are you considering embracing Christ and a Christian worldview, and you just want to be sure of yourself by way of substantiating every inquiry?

Or are you here merely for the sake of engaging in verbal melee to help hone your skills as a voice for secularism and unbelief?

Or a third reason, perhaps....mere folly?

There are a number of well-informed minds here providing you with sound information (among whom I do NOT count myself)...

It's okay to be a rebel. It is the catalyst for your rebellion/rejection that I'd like to call out in the open.

"First, again, we don't know if the story about the adulteress is historically accurate."

As I said before, I know that this passage is in question, but what about the other examples of Jesus not keeping the commands of the law (in passages that are not in question)? Your point seemed that you thought Jesus wanted us to keep the all the laws, yet he clearly did not.

"By the way, can someone explain to me why...the rescinding of death penalties is so "explict" in the Bible?"

Maybe some have argued this way, but I don't think the death penalty was clearly rescinded (at least in all cases). Since you don't care for the John 8 passage, I will refer to the chance Jesus had on the cross to call for the relieving of the two thieves. If there ever was a time for him to make an appeal against capital punishment, I think it would have been there (not less that he gave himself over to capital punishment). It seems to me he thought there were occasions for the death penalty to be executed by the state, and occasions where it was not.

It does not trouble me that some Christians believe that a gov't has the option to execute criminals guilty of murder, to protect its citizens from that criminal and attempt to deter future criminals. Our gov't is not theocratic but secular, and thus is not obliged to abide by biblical mandates, though its citizens are free to participate in the process of lawmaking according to their own worldview.

"Wrong Joe, the beauty of the Bible is not that you can read it any way you want."

I guess that explains why huge numbers of people read the Bible to say capital punishment is right, and huge numbers read it to say that it's wrong. Same goes for a very long list of issues and ethical questions including war, slavery, torture...and on and on. I'm sorry, but the evidence strongly suggests that lots of different "informed" people read the Bible in very different ways.

I can make a distinction between OT laws and the New Covenant. The New Covenant says that a long list of sins are no longer sins. It says that the way to fix a potential problem in the afterlife when you commit a sin that is still a sin is to say "I'm a sorry, Jesus" instead of sacrificing a goat. I understand these distinctions.

But there is nothing in the New Covenant, or more specifically, in the words of Jesus, that says that the earthly penalties for sins that are still sins have been revoked. My emphasis has been about earthly penalties for sins that are still sins. The New Covenant appears to be silent on that question, so why not assume that the status quo ante holds?

Thomas,

Thank you for directly addressing my question about earthly penalties.

"so why not assume that the status quo ante holds?"

I think we don't assume this becasue Jesus didn't. His teachings and actions show otherwise.

I'll give an example
Deut 19:21 - If a man was found to be guilty of a crime, the punishment was: "Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot."

Contrast that with Matthew 5:38-39
"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."

Jesus clearly understood what the Mosaic law said, but was offering something different (something new). To say that there is no evidence that the penalties that were commanded for sin in the old covenant are not looked at differently by Jesus is either a misreading, or refusal to take what Jesus taught as valid or clear.

The NT is full examples of Jesus taking an OT text and drawing a new light on it.

David,

To be perfectly honest, I think that I'm mostly motivated by boredom at work. These discussion are like intellectual puzzles, and my brain needs the occasional challenge. Right now, my job is not very challenging. Also, I'm always curious about the workings of the minds of those who think differently than me. And while I may not change my mind very often, and while I doubt if I change anyone else's mind either, I do learn some new things in these discussions.

But if one must be considering embracing Christ and a Christian worldview in order to participate in these discussions, then I suppose I should bow out as this does not really describe me. I say "bow out" without sarcasm or ill feeling. I really don't have a problem with this. Every blog has it's purpose, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Thomas,

I'm not sure that I follow. First, you seem to be saying that Jesus didn't rescind the death penalty. Now, by quoting Matthew, you seem to be saying the opposite. And if we are to "turn the other cheek", can there ever by any earthly penalties for sins?

I think the point of the Matthew quote is that we do not take personal vengence against someone who has committed a wrongdoing agasint us. This does not exclude the right of the state to pursue justice against criminals. That is justified further by his distinction in paying taxes that we honor the state in its jurisdiction.

So, no I do not believe it is a contradiction. It is difficult to know what exactly Jesus thought about the power of the state, so I think I am trying to put together a case that makes sense of the facts. I think one can be in principle for the state kidnapping criminals (putting in prison), though they would not kidnap the criminal themselves (and keep them in their own home). I can be for people serving as firefighters, though not everyone who supports firefighters has to join the academy.

Thanks for the back and forth Joe. I'm afraid I won't be able to continue this as I will be travelling from now through New Year's, but I may try to pop on and see what new at STR.

"I think the point of the Matthew quote is that we do not take personal vengence against someone who has committed a wrongdoing agasint us."

Fair enough. I believe that stoning adulterers and other executions in the OT was were not acts of "personal vengence" either, but instead were "state" acts. So, I think that the conclusion would be that Jesus is not closing the door on state-sponsored executions for certain sins (I'm not saying that this your conclusion, necessarily, I'm saying that this is my conclusion.)

This is too much of a generalization and there's too much inferring going on. Just because you don't hear a pastor being quoted doesn't mean the world wants to omit them. They didn't quote Deepak Chopra either - does that mean they're trying to "omit" his philosophy? No.

Besides, what would a pastor say anyway? "It's a sin and it's against God's will." Ok, well we already know that inherently. Doesn't really add anything new to the table.

I'm sorry but a post like this just sounds whiny and too defensive for something that was so passive. I'm not a fan of things that try to twist things out of context to boost the Christian "martyrdom" sentiment.

Joe-

On the Ceremonial/Moral distinction, this is not something that's up to my tastes. You can tell which is which, because the ceremonial laws always talk about what makes one clean or unclean. That distinction is all about temple worship and the sacrificial system contained therein. Temple worship passed away when the perfect sacrifice came.

You are right that there are still divergences from the practices of Ancient Israel and those of 21st Century Christendom. The way we treat adulterers is one example. I contend that it may have been appropriate to execute them in Ancient Israel, but it might not be appropriate today.

To consider just one important difference between the two contexts, consider the difference in the medical arts in the two societies. STDs are vicious and devastating diseases if left untreated. They can also spread silently for quite a while. In Ancient Israel, they were left untreated by necessity: they had no treatment. As such adultery could be seen as the equivalent of stealing water on a lifeboat. An act of selfishness that threatens the lives of all.

I don't know what the state of medicine was at the time of Christ. Probably better than at the time of Moses and worse than today. I doubt that there was any significant change between AD 25 and 35. Nor do I think that my position requires that there was.

On the subject of the woman caught in adultery...

Let's assume the story is genuine. Has it occurred to anyone that she might have been innocent? That the test was whether the priests could trick Jesus on the point of fact. Had she really been caught in the very act as the priests claimed, there would have been two adulterers. The priests may well have been lying about the whole thing. The woman might have been as chaste St. Bernadette.

"Ceremonial laws always talk about what makes one clean or unclean."

I'm not sure how clean and unclean would be in issue in the following, but I'm pretty sure that the following is no longer considered sinful, and I can't figure out how this would be "ceremonial law" or about "temple worship".

And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. (Leviticus 19:9)

Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee. (Leviticus 19:19)

In any event, isn't a sin, a sin? Does it really matter why something is immoral? If it's immoral, then it's immoral. If it's an abomination, then it's an abomination. And if you then say that something is no longer a sin, an immorality, and/or an abomination, then you've changed the moral code. Calling a sin a "ceremonial sin" does not change it's basic status as a sin.

"To consider just one important difference between the two contexts, consider the difference in the medical arts in the two societies."

To the best of my knowledge, there were no effective treatments for STDs until the 20th century. Mercury was used to treat syphilis in the 18th and 19th centuries, but it was of limited effectiveness, and obviously, highly toxic. Speaking of syphilis, this disease killed millions in the 19th century. Also, in the 18th and 19th centuries, native populations in the Americas were devastated by STD transmitted by whites. In short, with respect to STDs, if it's a "lifeboat" in ancient Israel, then it's still a "lifeboat" until the 20th century. If stoning is justified in ancient Israel on the grounds of disease transmission, then it remains justified until very recently.

"I doubt that there was any significant change between AD 25 and 35. Nor do I think that my position requires that there was."

Actually, I think that it does require a significant change, because the argument is that the penalty is directly related to the cultural environment. If there is no change in the cultural environment, and no change in the risks and dangers of STD, then there is no rationale for changing the penalty. If we don't go from "lifeboat" to "suburbia" in the first century, then we're still in the lifeboat. There is no reason to stop stoning in AD 35, or for that matter, until the 20th century. And to repeat, I don't see where Jesus says "stop stoning".

"Has it occurred to anyone that she might have been innocent? That the test was whether the priests could trick Jesus on the point of fact. Had she really been caught in the very act as the priests claimed, there would have been two adulterers. The priests may well have been lying about the whole thing."

Could be, but then this incident becomse irrelevant to the question of voiding death penalties for adultery. If she's innocent, then there is no stoning because she's innocent and not because stoning is now forbidden.

>>So, the NT explictly says that there are no God-given earthly penalties of any kind for sin

Joe, you seriously need to improve your reading comprehension skills.

>>"So the Law continues to exist and will not be relaxed" and "Anyone who is cleansed and made holy by Christ is freed from the Law"? Oy vey.

Do you know the difference between the Law and law? Please don't equivocate on the OT Law versus the rule of law. Secondly, you keep saying things like (paraphrased) "how do you know?" and "it doesn't say," and "you're just guessing," etc. Joe, you don't know the Bible, so it seems a little odd that you keep telling us what it doesn't say and what we can't learn from it.

>>It's true that I'm not an NT scholar. But I'd bet you a nickel to a doughnut that the historical Jesus would disagree.

Then once again, you would be quite, quite wrong.

>>if the rescinding of death penalties is so "explict" in the Bible?

You're equivocating again. Saying that we're not under the constitution of the Old Covenant and therefore the punishments are not commanded of us today is not the same thing as saying that the Bible says there's to be no more capital punishment. The principle of the death penalty for murder, as a principle and not merely as part of a law code to govern a particular nation, is given in the Bible long before the OT Law is given.

>>And if we are to "turn the other cheek", can there ever by any earthly penalties for sins?

Joe, did you even read my comments? I explained that Jesus was not setting up a political government, he was speaking to individuals and the Church. This is why he does not give a list of punishments to governments.

>>In any event, isn't a sin, a sin? Does it really matter why something is immoral? If it's immoral, then it's immoral.

Did you not understand the red curb illustration?

Well, much of what I see here is your particular take on a variety of issues, and I think that many of these things can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Frankly, I don't think that I'm the only one who reads things as he or she wants to read them. Seems to me that many people have had different interpretations of the same data, but I don't suppose we're likely to resolve all of these issues.

Can I bring this back to the specific original question? Given my poor reading comprehension, I guess I'm going to have to ask this one last time (sorry I'm so slow to understand).

The Bible says adultery is a sin. That hasn't changed. The penalty for adultery is stoning. Jesus didn't change the penalty. So, why don't we stone adulterers? Is it just that we've decided not to?

Oh, and I did understand the red curb example. Whether or not something is immoral depends on circumstances. I think there's name for this...

The comments to this entry are closed.