Was Jesus a Jewish Religious Bigot?

The most harden and reveling position Jesus takes in this context is over his love and protection of the exclusive truth of the faith of Israel and its God. As hinted at else where in the Gospels, we see a dark side of Jesus in his cruel and venomous attack on a mother simply requesting his mercy for her possessed daughter (Matt. 15: 21-28)... The Gospel of Mark simply calls her “…a Gentile, of Syrophoenician race.” (Mark 7:26). However, when this verse is redacted in Matt. 15:22, she is call “…a Canaanite woman…” a term used in the time of Jesus equivalent today to an African American being called a “Nigger”. Here Jesus is referenced to the “New Moses” (a theme used by the writer of Matthew) in confronting a non-Jew (Israelite) or a pagan Canaanite woman. His disciples know Jesus’ position on Gentiles; his basic hate for them, but are unable to get rid of her and are forced to file their complaint with Jesus himself who has, up until now ignored her. Now the Jewish Jesus must confront someone his faith and history requires him to hate. Matthew’s Jesus has some cruel fun with her and her sick daughter: “It is not proper to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Dogs (κυναριοις) is Jesus’ Jewish hate term for Gentiles ( Matt. 7:6 “κυσιν “). Finally Jesus heals her daughter, but only after he extracts from her a verbal confirmation before his disciples and the people watching that only the Jews have God’s blessing and she and her daughter are indeed dogs (notice the play on words here θυγατηρ (young girl) with κυναριοις (small dog)).

Although Jesus warns against adults harming any Jewish child’s faith (Matt. 18:1-6), he has (as expressed in the above pericope) no concern about Gentile children since any faith they may have is non-Jewish and pagan. In short, for Jesus, Gentile dogs have no true faith.


Nightmare said...

Ironically, this very issue once realized was the final straw when it came to my deconversion from Christianity (fundamentalist and otherwise).

John W. Loftus said...

Yes, talk about an embarrasing text. Here it is!

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Harry W. McCall,

No, He isn't.

(Forgive the verbosity.)

Peace and mirth!

Bill Gnade

James F. McGrath said...

My own view of the same story is a bit different. It is a story that shows Jesus managing to overcome a prejudice that was typical of his society. As such, it provides a great example both of the humanness of Jesus, and of our need to be open to having our prejudices challenged.

Andrew said...

Why the emphasis on Jewish?

The question is, John, have YOU become a bigot?

Harry McCall said...

I appreciate the comments of which I sure more will to come. This is a “Pucker or Duck” Post that is, get ready to be kissed or hit!

To give credit where credit is due; I would like to thank Krister Stendahl: Mellon Professor of Divinity Emeritus (former Morison Professor of Divinity and Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History) at Harvard University for pointing this out to me doing a discussion with him as a lecturer at my seminary back in 1977.

As a Christian, I was always told that Jesus was just “testing her faith” just as we are tested by God daily. Professor Stendahl changed my perspective on this pericope forever.


Andrew said...

For that matter, how do you feel about Jews, especially orthox jew.

After all, we all know how they feel about "goys" and what "goy" really means.


This raises a real question about where you are coming from John.

I hope you won't just run away from it.

Chris said...


You label yourself athiest and then ask the question "Was Jesus a Jewish Religious Bigot?", referring to Israel's God in the process.

I have read here and elsewhere that there is no case for the historical Jesus. John Loftus answered your question with a resounding "Yes". How can you, John, and others here credibly make a case for their being A) No God, B) No historical Jesus and in this installment of your message C) Jesus being a religious bigot?

Wouldn't the logical answer to your question be "Harry you tricker! There is no Jesus so how can someone who didn't exist be a bigot?"

I'm just asking.

goprairie said...

It seems obvious when you read the gospels that IF they truly are even a) approximate recording about b) an historical person, that person had no inkling that he was 1) starting a new religion and 2) saying and doing things that would be recorded and used as the guiding principles of said religion. Yet we are to accept that he is the 'god' on which this religion is based? Doesn't that in itself kinda debuk 'CHRISTianity'?

Harry McCall said...

Chris stated: Wouldn't the logical answer to your question be "Harry you tricker! There is no Jesus so how can someone who didn't exist be a bigot?"

You've jumped to the wrong conclusion with me and over stated the work of Bultmann and more recently, that of James M Robinson.

Both the Mycenaean Agamemnon (whose grave was located) and Jesus are indeed incrusted in myth since both formed a part of a religious tradition (Homer and the Bible). That there "was a prime mover" named Jesus there can be no doubt since his name in Hebrew (Joshua) was as common among Jews of the first century C.E. as the New Testament names of Paul and John are in our day. So whether we start with one Jesus or several Jesus traditions based on different men (would the real prophet / Son of God stand up), we still have a very limited historical starting point. Fact is, famous religious figures draw myths to them just as a magnet draws iron.

For instance, we have the story of a “pagan” Jesus recorded in Greek called Apollonius of Tyana (Ἀπολλώνιος ὁ Τυανεύς; ca. 40—ca. 120 AD) also a miracle worker who healed the sick and raise the dead. As a Secular Humanist, why should I doubt his story and accept the New Testament? Christianity states Jesus was the only sinless person to have ever lived, but the Jewish Talmud (as well as the Jewish sects of the New Testament) label Jesus as the biggest sinner and blasphemer that ever lived.

Sure, we non-Catholics can question and reject the Perpetual Virginity of Mary and her Bodily Assumption into Heaven since it canonized so recently . But after years of creedal recitations from now, the above two dogmas will find more and more acceptance out side the Catholic Chruch. That is, time has a way to changing the acts of famous people into religious traditions called truth or dogmas.

Joe E. Holman said...

Some of you seem to be missing the main point.

Materialists understand there to be a level of bigotry in every religion because their ideals will necessarily become old and antiquated with time, like the anti-Jewish sentiments that were characteristic of the time before and during Hitler's reign.

Today, if anyone expresses the belief that Jews are ape-like creatures to be shunned and hated by white humanity, we dismiss that individual automatically, but this was the message that permeated parts of Europe in times past. Now apply the same understanding to McCall's article about Jesus.

Jesus was a Jew and believed Judaism (and himself, of course) to have a monopoly on truth, and with that monopoly came various views on races and conduct that characterized his time. Those prejudices are excusable, but NOT if Jesus is a god. Gods don't (shouldn't) hold human prejudices. It doesn't make sense that they would, but Jesus did, so the criticisms here are justified. And this is coming from someone who greatly respects the wisdom and principles of Judaism. I developed great respect for it on my de-conversion path as I discovered how poorly concocted Christianity was, based on a flawed understanding of the Jewish scriptures.

And it doesn't matter whether or not Jesus existed. Many atheists (myself included) believe that there was, in fact, a heretical Jewish person that would later be turned into the mythical figure of the gospels. The point is, the character of the Jesus personage is flawed and bigoted.

Good article, McCall!


Chris said...

"You've jumped to the wrong conclusion with me and over stated the work of Bultmann and more recently, that of James M Robinson."

Forgive me Harry. I don't know who those men are so over-stating their work is not something I am prone to do. I was only reacting to your post in light of the label that you, Joe, John and others have given yourselves; "Atheist". Within the context of a Godless universe, a discussion about God and particularly his Son and what qualities you think he possesses, seems to me pointless.

goprairie said...

"Within the context of a Godless universe, a discussion about God and particularly his Son and what qualities you think he possesses, seems to me pointless."
Is anybody besides me tired of this annoying claim that because we don't beleive in the existance of something or the truth of something, that we cannot discuss the thing's characteristics in order to point out that the thing is flawed? I certainly do not beleive that SANTA CLAUS is real or exists, but with some one who does, I can certainly argue that the likelyhood of flying reindeer pulling a single sleigh full of toys for every single boy and girl MIGHT violate some basic laws of physics. Arguing about details of Santa's sleigh does not mean I beleive Santa or his sleigh exist, but because others might beleive in such things, we can discuss them. I can say "Does Santa have bad fashion sense?" based on how he is portrayed in a red fur trimmed suit without 'beleiving' in him and if others beleive those things, it is a valid discussion. Grrrr.

Chris said...

Mr. Goprairie -I am merely pointing out that within your defense of a Godless universe, the arguments being made here appear to reflect a presupposition of God.

Arguing that God is not good, or that Jesus was a bigot does nothing to refute the existence of God. In fact, it does the opposite.

Or so it seems to me.

And can you really be tired of this annoying claim? Is this site not dedicated to prostelytizing the Godless universe message? I imagine spreading the bad news is tough work requiring tireless efforts. There is a lot of deconverting that needs to happen. If anything I would hope you would thank me for helping you to refine your message; make it more effective.

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Harry McCall,


[An apology. In my first comment here I presented your name with the middle initial, W. The mistake is the result of a curious habit, typing John W. Loftus' name so often. In the end, I've no idea if you even have a middle name.]

This comment is two-fold. The first part will focus on what you've said in your original post, and the second will refer to Krister Stendahl, the great Harvard Div. theologian you mentioned in this thread.

First, I do not understand how you can interpret Jesus as being even remotely bigoted in Matthew 15:21-28. For me, it is startlingly clear that He is acting in the exact opposite sense, for he is not only speaking and ministering to a woman, he is speaking and ministering to a Canaanite woman.

One of the problems I've always had with the Gospels (particularly), is that we cannot hear and see Jesus as he speaks and reacts to people. We can't hear tone. Nuance, stress and accents are all removed from the texts. We can't see body language either; we never know -- when Jesus says (for example) to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan" -- whether Jesus is even looking at Peter: perhaps Jesus is looking behind Peter, or at the ground, or maybe his eyes are even closed. We cannot know this sort of thing. That door is shut.

Permit me to quote for all readers here the whole Matthew passage, one that begins in a pericope that addresses what is "clean" versus what is "unclean" and shows a very iconoclastic Jesus:

22A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession."

23Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us."

24He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."

25The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said.

26He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."

27"Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."

28Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

Please note what the disciples -- all Jews and men -- say to the Lord: Send her -- that Canaanite woman -- away from us Jewish men! Note, too, what the statement implies: Jesus was NOT sending her away. He allowed her to follow, to petition, to persist. Why?

Well, it seems rather simple. He wants to shatter the prejudices of his disciples!

We can't see Jesus here, of course, but to highlight my point, permit me to draw a picture.

When the disciples beg Jesus to do something -- Send her away! -- he doesn't. Instead he says: I have been sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. Is that not significant? Indeed, it is, for if Jesus was a bigot, he would indeed send her away! Besides, note to whom he is speaking -- the disciples. This is said to them and not to the woman, and one can almost see Jesus raising his hands over his head and twitching his fingers, making air quotations: 'I was sent "only to the lost sheep of Israel."' (Note MY double quotes here.) The important point: Jesus is talking to the disciples and he DOES not send the woman away.

Then what happens? The woman kneels before the Lord, petitioning him again. Note what he says and for what purpose he says it. Is he not saying, "Do you understand that everyone watching us thinks that they are the masters who deserve the whole pie, and that you deserve nothing, that they see you as a dog?"

Of course he's saying that. And that is why the woman's reply is so poignant, shrewd and wonderful!

"Yes, my Lord, but even the dogs deserve crumbs that fall from their masters' tables." One can almost see the woman and Jesus winking at each other!

The irony in their conversation is simply wonderful. There is nothing bigoted here -- NOTHING! This exchange is, in fact, a damnation of bigotry: Jesus is chastising his disciples for thinking that the "Canaanite woman" should be sent away! And he refuses to accept their bigotry. Instead, he lets her become a central part of the Church's tradition! She's got more of a speaking part in that tradition than some of the "privileged" disciples -- and she proves that SHE KNOWS SOMETHING they don't, which is exactly why Jesus allows her to speak -- and why the Church has canonized her.

Think of the beauty here: A "scum-of-the-earth" woman teaches us all something; but in context, she teaches the self-righteous and privileged something wonderful.

So, is Jesus a bigot? No.


You mentioned the great Krister Stendahl, and I am glad you did. He has had a moderate impact on me, too; I recall him specifically impacting me during the fall semester of my junior year at college. But though I am currently in the process of converting to Catholicism, meaning, I do not share many of Mr. Stendahl's convictions, I must direct readers to this extremely moving and powerful essay by Stendahl published in the Harvard Divinity Bulletin. The essay, entitled, "Why I love the Bible," is one of the best testimonials I've ever read. It is wonderful.

It's even the sort of thing I hope John W. Loftus will post in one of his essays. It is well worth reading, for believer and non-believer alike.

Peace to you,

Bill Gnade

Chris said...

Bill- Amen Brother!

goprairie said...

chris - are you sexist for placing a mr. in front of my pseudonym?

Chris said...

I'm a Christian so of course I'm a sexist. Don't forget a bigot and a homophobe as well. ; )

In my defense however, you claim that The Blues Brothers is your favorite movie.

goprairie said...

'the arguments being made here appear to reflect a presupposition of God.
Arguing that God is not good, or that Jesus was a bigot does nothing to refute the existence of God. In fact, it does the opposite.'

Arguing that god is not good and therefore cannot exist when your definition says he is good is the common language of logic, not an admission of existance. Are you serious? When we say God is not good, we mean the god YOU descibe, not one that WE beleive in. we are saying that the characteristics you give him are inconsistent with the actions you describe him going. we are saying this inconsistency means god as you describe cannot exist. Surely you can understand that.

When we argue that because the Jesus, as you describe him, said bigoted things, he cannot be god -we are not saying we beleive he existed. we are merely pointing out inconsistencies in the claims you make about him.

that is the assumption of how discussion occurs: that we are discussing the god or jesus or prophet that the beleiver claims to beleive in, and by pointing out inconsistencies in the claims that make the thing godly, we point out that the thing is therefore NOT god.

there is a video out there that shows a blue shape on a gas station video camera. people claim it is a spirit - an angel or a demon. proof of the supernatural. it moves in a jerky manner like an insect and is consistent with what an insect would look like on the lens of a fixed-focus camera. if you tell me it is a spirit and i argue that your spirit moves in a jerky motion like a bug, that does not imply i beleive in the spirit. i might beleive something existed and is NOT a spirit.

goprairie said...

"In my defense however, you claim that The Blues Brothers is your favorite movie."
relevance being? what do you think that says about me?

Chris said...

It appears to indicate, among other things, that you have a fine and well developed sense of humor.

Leopardus said...

I don't agree with the bigotry conclusion. I can easily see this as Jesus parroting the bigotry of his disciples and other Jews only to turn the tables on them completely when he tells the woman how great her faith is. Then he heals her daughter to boot.

Comes across as Jesus the anti-bigot that way.

Of course, like anything in the Bible, any reader can find what they want there. Jesus the bigot, Jesus the anti-bigot, Jesus the dog lover, jesus the cat hater, and so on.

I like your sense of humor. And you are right about getting tired of "annoying claims". Just take them and refine the message.
Of course there are some, like me, who aren't out to de-convert the non-heathen.
To paraphrase the Blues Brothers, "We aren't on a mission from God."

Harry McCall said...

Thanks for your Critics, Bill.

In addressing the observation: “First, I do not understand how you can interpret Jesus as being even remotely bigoted in Matthew 15:21-28. For me, it is startlingly clear that He is acting in the exact opposite sense…” and “Well, it seems rather simple. He wants to shatter the prejudices of his disciples!”

If you are correct in your reading of this pericope and that the whole section is to instruct the disciples to stop their bigotry toward the gentiles / nations, then based on the Jerusalem Council action in Acts 15, the promotion of Jewish law by Peter in Galatians 2 and the opponents of Paul in 2 Corinthians (Probably send by Peter) highly defeats you thesis. Peter is so indoctrinated in his Lord’s pro-Jewish / anti-gentile rhetoric that Luke in Acts simply has to dismiss this major Jesus figure with the simple statement that Peter went off elsewhere, now Luke sets the stage for the real pro non-bigoted mission to the gentles though Paul.

Moreover, if Jesus was indeed seeking to brake the bigotry of the disciples he dose much to counter this very cause by demanding they avoid gentiles and preach only to Israel (Matt. 10:5-6), Calling gentiles “dogs” and “pigs” (two very unclean animals in Torah (Matt. 7:6) in their presence and that the Matthenian redactor of Mark makes sure Jesus is Kosher by not entering into this same gentile women’s house (Compare Mark 7:24 to Matt. 22). The above pro-Jewish slogans originating, if not with Jesus, at least in the Jerusalem church were remembered and attributed to Jesus as being consonant with his own mission.

Plus Bill, had Jesus in fact intended a pro-gentile mission, it is improbable that Paul would have met such hostility to his own mission or that those pro-Jewish saying would have become associated with Jesus himself.


Lorena said...

"There is no Jesus so how can someone who didn't exist be a bigot?"

Well, Jesus doesn't need to be historical to be real. The concept of Jesus is and has been real for centuries. The imagination of millions of Christians throughout history has built the image of the so-called son of God into a symbol worth attacking and discussing.

And yes, whether fictitious or not, Jesus was a bigot. Perhaps not as much as his contemporaries, but he still upheld many 1st-century Jewish prejudices today considered politically incorrect.

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Mr. McCall,

Greetings, and thanks. I am honored that you should take the time to reply to my comments. Thanks.

You said regarding my comments:

If you are correct in your reading of this pericope and that the whole section is to instruct the disciples to stop their bigotry toward the gentiles / nations, then based on the Jerusalem Council action in Acts 15, the promotion of Jewish law by Peter in Galatians 2 and the opponents of Paul in 2 Corinthians (Probably send by Peter) highly defeats you thesis. [sic]

Alas, as you can guess, all I can do is disagree with you. First, I have no thesis; it is your thesis to which I am responding. Here's your thesis:

The most harden[ed] and reveling position Jesus takes in this context [Matthew 15, et al] is over his love and protection of the exclusive truth of the faith of Israel and its God. ...

From this you conclude that Jesus is indeed a bigot, citing as your main proof text Matthew 15:21ff (the Bible is conveniently accurate and reliable here, isn't it?).

Second, please note what I did. I merely showed, I believe, that you completely misread the text. You've read way too much into it; in fact, you've read your prejudice into it. How do we know? Well, we know this because you do not reply to me strictly according the text you use (Matt 15)! No, suddenly and inexplicably we discover that you have interests elsewhere, e.g., the Jerusalem Council, Galatians 2, 2 Corinthians, and so on.

But your reply to me also shows something else. You have assumed that the disciples "get it" the second Jesus teaches them something. Of course, even a cursory reading of the gospels shows that the disciples were often remarkably slow-witted; one might expect that when a God Incarnate appears and begins to turn things upside down. Even Jesus Himself expressed exasperation: "How long have I been with you and you still don't understand?" Egads, Mr. McCall, the disciples still did not get it even AFTER the resurrection: "Are you now going to restore Israel to her original glory?" they asked, dumbly (or some of them asked, I should say).

One of my favorite New Testament questions to ask is this: Where in the New Testament does it show exactly when the disciples were "saved" or "born again?" Where is that defining moment in the gospels? The answer, of course, is that there is no report of such a moment; the absence of such a report implies that faith and salvation and transformation are all part of a PROCESS. As such, it is ONLY NATURAL that the disciples take weeks, months, decades -- or even centuries -- to understand the fullness of what it is they experience in Christ. And THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT WE SHOULD EXPECT if Jesus is Who He says He is!

So, all I can say to you is this: In the passage you cite -- which is the only passage you presented to defend your thesis -- Jesus is clearly not acting even remotely like a bigot.

I will add that I have no problem with the interpretation that Jesus Himself learned something through this woman. In fact, Jesus had learned something else (at least one other thing) from a woman: He learned from His mother while at the wedding in Cana that His ministry had indeed begun: "My time has not yet come," He said. Oh, yes it has.) As the Church has always said, Jesus is both God and Man, and "He GREW in wisdom and stature." Surely Jesus can test even the many prejudices He learned from His own people. And when He puts those prejudices to the test before His disciples as He ministers to an outcast woman, He shatters those prejudices forever. Unfortunately, some people have a hard time letting go of old biases, holding on to the mere fragments of prejudice left at Jesus' feet, and at the feet of that great Canaanite woman.

Just some quick thoughts. Be well, dear soul!!

Bill Gnade

Harry McCall said...

Thanks Bill. You are an inspiration to read even if we are going in two entirely different directions (and I did find the essay by Krister Stendhal interesting…though seems he’s mellowed in his old age).

Now on to what you state: “So, all I can say to you is this: In the passage you cite -- which is the only passage you presented to defend your thesis -- Jesus is clearly not acting even remotely like a bigot.”

Bill, as you know from the presidential debates for the forth coming elections, a leader is expected to set the example. Thus, over a decade ago, no matter how hard David Duke tried to clean up his KKK image, his purposefully toned down comments about the overall superiority white race was his down fall.

The reason Jesus has nothing he personally wrote for the propagation of the so-called “Church” is he had no intentions of do what Paul did. The man Jesus could indeed read and write (as recorded in the Gospels) and there is no traditional doubt (Luke 4:16 – 22). However, to over come the damage done by Jesus, Paul reformulates a gentile Christ (see my post of “The Pagan Development of Christianity) and is so often the opposite of Jesus in his view of the Torah / Law of Israel that scholars such as (K. Stendhal) and Princeton professor John Gager (Reinventing Paul, Oxford University Press, 2000) have written much to reverse this anti-Israel / Torah sentiment.

Now as to your claim “…In the passage you cite -- which is the only passage you presented to defend your thesis…” no, Jesus himself had already set the stage much earlier as I pointed out in my above comment “demanding they avoid gentiles and preach only to Israel (Matt. 10:5-6), Calling gentiles “dogs” and “pigs” (two very unclean animals in Torah (Matt. 7:6) …”.

In the final analysis, (and one of the reasons I left Christianity) Jesus is a defective product which needs to be returned to the manufacture for a full and generous refund no matter how hard the company (the Church) pitches him as “safe and effective”.

In my forthcoming post, I’ll show how the Gospels accounts themselves attempt “Damage Control”.

Season Greetings

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Mr. McCall,

Another fine and gracious reply. Thank you.

My sense is that we are not going to reach consensus here. That's fine. I haven't the skills to parry your broad cuts.

But in all of this -- and I note that this is a sidebar sort of issue -- if we accept that the Gospels are skewed and corrupted, fraught with contradictions, elisions, emendations, and other redactions, how is it that the Gospels are nonetheless trustworthy when it comes to the "embarrassing passages?" After all, you take Matthew 15:21ff as if it were accurate. But why? Starting with what I believe is one of the premises of this website -- The Bible is rife with error and is not the Word of God -- then why are we trusting the accuracy of ANY passage at all? Should we even be talking about Scripture and all that it reports? Or do you think the passages you cite are indeed inerrant?

It puzzles me, that's all. I have always noted that my more liberal Christian peers conveniently conclude that the passages that are difficult or controversial are inauthentic, crooked additions; and yet they do not think that "Love your neighbor as yourself," "Feed the poor," and "Be nice" are not the actual additions. My sense is that if we can't use all of the gospels -- for the reasons so often given by the NT's critics -- then we really can't use any portion of them. I mean, for all I know, the "Love your neighbor as yourself"-type passages attributed to Jesus are malicious additions and the miracles are the historically accurate reports.

Besides, if you are right here, then Jesus is not only a bigoted bastard (Who is His father?), He is not at all ethical: the ethical teachings CANNOT come from Him. Therefore, the ethical teachings of Jesus are a fraudulent addition.

In short, I am saying this: We can't know if Jesus was a bigot at all if we accept your premises. The answer then to your question headlining this post is to throw up a big fat null set.

Is Jesus a bigot?

Answer: ( )

Just musing, really.

Peace to you,

Bill Gnade

Chris said...

"The reason Jesus has nothing he personally wrote for the propagation of the so-called “Church” is he had no intentions of do what Paul did."

While his literacy is ubiquitously attested to in scripture, I would point out that which I no doubt believe you already know; there are those who are doers of history and there are those who are chroniclers of it. I believe the reason Jesus did not write is not as you suggest, some base motive to not be held accountable for actions that might be construed as contradictions to written testimony, but rather he was busy doing what he was commissioned by God to do. He leaves us with the best of all testimony regarding his purpose, something for which writing cannot fully convey; his death and resurrection, and actions speak much louder than words in my humble opinion.

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Mr. McCall,

I probably misstated my case when I so quickly dismissed my skills. I might have the skills; what I meant is that I probably don't have the time (right now).

Also, in response to your observation that Jesus did not write anything, I believe that the reason Jesus did not "write" anything is because He is the message, not His words. That is what makes Christianity so interesting; the Medium -- the Person -- is the Message. Moreover, I believe that Jesus' silence, so to speak (now that's a curious set of phrases), is an act of wisdom.

There are several reasons for this, I believe. First, Jesus knows that we are -- as I've said in several places throughout DC -- estranged from language; there is a split between heart and mind that words are unable to express (see the DC discussion that begins with the very interesting commentary by Brother Crow). Knowing this, Jesus also knows that His Words alone are not enough to satisfy: He is the satisfaction, the Way, the Truth, the Life. Besides, most scholars agree that Jesus spoke Aramaic. So, since we are left with nothing other than Greek texts, we must admit that -- if Jesus is God -- it was His intent we lose His original words. But why would He do that?

I believe it is for this reason, the third point I want to make: If we had Jesus's actual words we would use them as clubs against each other -- weapons by which we'd bring blows down upon our brethren -- and we would turn His words into ends in themselves, in other words, idols. We would worship propositions rather than Christ's position as the Incarnate Word. As it is, those folks who believe that the Bible is the total Word of God do indeed bludgeon their brethren with the words they find therein; and some people do indeed deserve to be called bibliolators, worshipers of printed lines. Not all Christians do this, mind you, but many do.

This is not me saying that the Bible is neither inspired nor even inerrant; that is not my point here. My goal is to explore why Jesus chose to leave translations of His Words as reported by His followers. Part of my answer also includes the idea that Jesus was intent on restoring trust in testimony -- in the testimony of man to man and woman to woman. For surely that is what the gospel witness is predicated upon -- do you love your neighbor enough to trust his testimony that Christ is Lord? If you do not -- if you believe that the early Church was motivated to lie and pervert in order to gain secular power, then you've accepted a very dire view of humanity: Men are so corrupt they would use portraits of the highest ethical ideals and the archetypes of the greatest existential import solely to procure earthly gain. THIS suspicion is not only dire, it is dark, deeply cynical and pessimistic, and more decadent than any view posited by the Church regarding human sinfulness (I do not fail to note that those who hold such a view of the early Church -- that it was a snake -- do not believe themselves to be so serpentine). Jesus' decision to leave us His words in translation -- and to have those words shared in the context of trust -- is reminiscent of Adam and Eve trusting each other; and how the trust that was lost in Eden is regained in the convivial and trusting exchange between guileless men and women eager for good news.

In the end, what I am really saying is that the Catholic Church has a much better position regarding the issue I've posted here. As you have almost all said to a letter here at DC, your battle is with evangelical Protestantism, and that of the most fundamentalistic stripe. But the Church and its testimony bearing witness to the authentic Word, provides a much more holistic and sane starting point in approaching Jesus in the Gospels than those starting points common to most Protestants.

Hopefully I have not estranged some of my Christian brethren who have stood alongside me as we've defended the Faith here. My position is truly orthodox in the full sense of that word. I am a believer to the core.

(To the Corps -- unite and be bold!)

Peace to you,

Bill Gnade

PS. Well, maybe I do have the time.

Bill Gnade said...


You posted while I was processing. Sorry.

What you say is wise and helpful. Or so I believe.


Bill Gnade

Chris said...

I like your sense of humor. And you are right about getting tired of "annoying claims". Just take them and refine the message.
Of course there are some, like me, who aren't out to de-convert the non-heathen.
To paraphrase the Blues Brothers, "We aren't on a mission from God."

Mr Leopardus- Thank you. By the way, your Avatar is exceptionally eye catching and if I may be so bold, you are the yin to our yang, not as to specifics certainly, but as to balance. If you object, then I will be yin, you can be yang. Perhaps we can take turns. ;-)

Harry McCall said...

For Chris and the other Christians Who Think We Atheist Need Religion as a Moral and Ethical Compass:

You asked for it and here it is! The Atheistic Ten Commandments (or should I say 9 since the Nine Commandment is basically counter productive). Plus, notice how many of these (5,6,7,8 and 10) for exceed the Bible’s Moral and Ethical Codes.

The Roy Rogers Riders Club Rules:

1. Be neat and clean.
2. Be courteous and polite.
3. Always obey your parents.
4. Protect the weak and help them.
5. Be brave but never take chances.
6. Study hard and learn all you can.
7. Be kind to animals and take care of them.
8. Eat all your food and never waste any.
9. Love God and go to Sunday school regularly.
10. Always respect our flag and our country.

Chris said...


Two things.

1) We are Christians of differing stripes but Christians to the core. I love you as my Brother in Christ.

2) Your arguments for a church based theology are persuasive and effectively wrestles the hammer of scripture away from those who would use it to damage and estrange. I take your point of making an idol of the written word. I do it. I should reconsider or somehow work it into a more holistic approach.

I thank you for giving me much to consider.

Peace to you,


ps. To All here, please forgive the Christian mushiness. We should probably take it outside.

Harry McCall said...

For the feed back, Thanks.

I have noticed that my name at this post has evolved from “Mr. Harry McCall” to now just “Mr. McCall”. I’m not sure whether it’s just a shorten form on your part or a formal distancing of yourself from me in that you now state we will never agree. That’s realistic enough, and you have my respect so I’ll just return the favor…Mr. Gnad.

As for as the New Testament Greek Biblical text goes, scholars must works with what they have. As a budding Catholic, you should know how, for centuries how the, Catholic Church forced the text to remain un-translated in Latin Vulgate, so it was off limits for most people who where literate in their non-Latin vernacular to be able to read.

I’ll be honest, most comments at DC are “knee jerk” reactions by many with little or no educational background in the areas of Form Criticism, Textual Criticism, the Synoptic Tradition, much less the semantics of Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and now Coptic. The Biblical text is, for me, a Midrash on how people view an ideal labeled “God” along with their relation to each other. In short, the Gospels are theological treatises and certainly not histories.

Do I trust the Bible? No. But the fact it’s there means I will engage it, plus the fact that bothers you or other Christians means something. Even if it was totally fiction, I can draw out contradictions and show problems the eyes of faith can’t or refuse to see.

I’m now a spiritual person who can find a warm cup of coffee on a cold night more inspiring than communion (Mass) at some church. I have access to things the ancient Biblical mind did not have access to and the freedom and time to peruse it.

After I left Christianity, I put my life on auto pilot and by watching the Christians around me I realized I was doing better mentally and physical then the faithful. For me, that’s reality.

Plus, the fact that you Christians are so divided, even if there was neither atheists nor agnostics, you would fight among yourselves over who your God / Jesus loves most. I have noticed you and other Christians stay way from my post “Christians Converting Christians to Christianity” (only 3 comments). Fact is Mr. Grade, your religious neighbors could give you more a run for your money than atheist here at DC.

When you hear a knock on your door and two Mormons, two Jehovah Witnesses or two Fundamental Baptists are standing what do you do? I’m sure you don’t say: “To the Corps -- unite and be bold!” since they are there because you a not one of them. You must be corrected! You are either an infidel (an atheist or agnostic) or a heretic and they know a heretic is more dangerous because you have a corrupt faith which most will consider you “snared by Satan” as he is an angle of light and, god knows the Pope of Rome is in the Book of Revelations.

So, is Jesus a bigot, pardon the statement, but did his “shit stink”, did Jesus ever get and erection and oh, Holy God in Heaven, what could he have been thinking at the time.

If Jesus was just a simple man of love who wanted everyone just to love each other and, as Rodney King said: “Can’t we all just get along?” Then he would not have generated the hate than got him killed.

Apart from the text of Matthew in my post, the fact that he died such a violent death meant he had some type of bigoted view that sparked hatred in the people he met.

Anyway, it’s time to work on my next post.

“To the Atheists -- unite and be bold!”


Tim Riddle said...

Unfortunately I saw nothing really interesting in the argument.

goprairie said...

"I’ll be honest, most comments at DC are “knee jerk” reactions by many with little or no educational background in the areas of Form Criticism, Textual Criticism, the Synoptic Tradition, much less the semantics of Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and now Coptic."
Well, it those are the standards for being worthy of making comment or expressing an opinion, then your challenge “To the Atheists -- unite and be bold!” is going to be pretty difficult, for I possess none of your credentials. "I'm not WORTHY" apparently.

Bill Gnade said...

My dear Mr. Harry McCall,

Please take no offense in how I greet you. The more truncated version was simply for expedience. All salutations from here on in may take the fullest possible form:

Dearest, Most Honorable and Ever-Gracious Harry McCall, Archetype of Informed Doubt, Nexus of Reason and Sense, Nemesis of All Mythomania,


My friend, if anything I would much rather show off my fondness for you by declaring that we are at an impasse, with said declaration made in confident trust that friendship trumps metaphysical rectitude on any given day. Of course, I confess immediately that I've no idea what I just said, but that does not in the least impugn my sincerity. But know that I would rather state the obvious than to jeopardize our nascent friendship or bring either of us further consternation. Besides, my exchanges with you and Mr. John W. Loftus bring to mind a conversation had during the glorious sword fight between Westley and Inigo Montoya in the capital movie, "The Princess Bride:"

IM: "You seem a decent fellow… I hate to kill you."

W: "You seem a decent fellow… I hate to die."

Not that I can vouch for its accuracy, but I think the quoted exchange essentially captures my sentiments: You seem a decent fellow.

Now, to the freaking battle at hand!

1. I think the Church showed incredible wisdom NOT encouraging the printing of the Bible in the vernacular, especially since so few people could read (and the Church was teaching those who could…but I digress). The fact is that what the Church feared might happen DID happen: Thousands of little Popes popped up, waving their little vernacular Bibles from newly-formed pulpits. And then what happened? Division upon division. Now the Protestant Church finds itself in a thoroughly Dark Ages-sort of place: People can't read the Bible for themselves without the help of commentaries, lexicons, Greek interlinears; and the ubiquitous PhD-wielding ministers who alone can REALLY, TRULY get at the text. Even the Jesus Seminar brings us back to the time before Jerome, before Gutenberg: We can read, but we read in the dark as idiots. Only the new magisterium, the true cognoscenti, can open our eyes. We have gone nowhere. The Dark Ages remain.

2. "Even if it was totally fiction…" Are you suggesting that it isn't? How do you know the contradictions are not the fictions, the contrafictions, so to speak?

3. I have no problem with any image of Jesus having an erection or of Him having bad gas. Most Christians don't either. However, many do dislike these ideas when framed as sacrilege. I am not suggesting that is what you are doing; I recognize that you at the very least have known Christians too squeamish to see the blood and bile and urine of Incarnation. But I can assure you they have no part in this conversation; surely you cannot confuse me for one of the squeamish. And you may be right, I may be a heretic. Fine. But the Church cannot help but be divided. At the risk of contradicting myself, let me say this: a divided Church is actually in accord with the will of God; there is even a Biblical passage to support my heresy. Surely you will agree that love only works when there are differences and disagreements. Love bridges difficulty, and it is at its heroic best when differences come to the fore within any relationship. Love takes a holiday when difference and conflict subside. Hence, Jesus' injunction that we love one another as He loved us implies that divisions will be part of our experience as Christians.

As for the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons, well, you are comparing apples to oranges there, my friend. I would still love them if they came through my door; I would call them to be bold as theists if Stalin's scourge marched across the earth. But I would not call them my spiritual kin, at least not the way I would the Baptists who came to my humble home; and yes, I would resist their charms and veiled invectives.

For even the Papacy has noted the differences between those Protestant sects and the heretical sects, with the former being recognized as legitimate but mistaken and the latter being illegitimate to the nub. But you can't lure me in to slight those with whom I stand, either as a theist or as a Catholic (or as the Episcopalian-In-Exile I actually am). Besides, in the end, I expect the Body of Christ to be diverse -- e pluribus unum, if you will. It is the monolith that to me portends death, while division suggests that something dynamic is going on: A living body is full of diversity, while the corpse is about as monolithic a thing as one can find. And the Catholic Church, as I see it, is a pretty diverse body, one that even permits Protestantism (to a degree).

I am glad that you have found peace, Mr. Harry McCall, and I am glad that even your coffee is a sacrament. My morning tea -- Twinings' "Earl Grey" with a teaspoon of honey and a splash of cream -- is my sacrament, as is the blood and body of my Lord in chalice and on paten. Indeed, I find sacraments everywhere, and I find life teeming with symbols. Yes, I love gold and spiders and barred owls; they need not be transcendent. But it would seem that if you and I were in a competition, dear soul, over who can pull more out of life, well, I think I win hands down. For I can be simultaneously mundane and transcendent. You have denied yourself that secondary source, or is it a primary one? You must take life literally, as is. So may I, and yet I can see it as metaphor and allegory and symbol, too. If the universe is closed, well, then symbols are mere play. But if it is open -- as I believe it is -- then I can enjoy the here and now, and the luminous beyond where strict literalism can never go. My tea is just my tea, but it is also mighty, a blessed symbol of the libations of heaven, of water at the Well, of healing herbs mixed in the palm of the Savior and poured into my mouth as gift.

You know, I noted to myself that I used to think a bit like you when I read your statement that you "have access to things the ancient Biblical mind did not have access to." But I came to doubt myself there, because I knew that I was framing my idea on a very unjustified premise. I was certain that that which preceded me was inferior, primitive; I was certain that I was on some more complex end of a scale coursing towards greater and greater sophistication. But I learned that I was being utterly presumptuous. In part, I learned that it was much more likely that those who lived as witnesses to a thing, or were closer to humanity's origins, might have actually understood things more clearly than I could ever understand them now. Surely the person who commits a murder knows far better what happened than the man who writes about it 100 years later. You get the picture. Please let me add to it: Modern man has lost so much. So very much.

Yes, you are right. Jesus was a bigoted man. That is why He was crucified. He was bigoted against the bigoted, the self-righteous, the conceited and proud. Truly I say to you, that sort of Holy Bigotry will indeed get One killed.

Peace to you, dear Harry!

Bill Gnade

PS. "I know something you don't know. I ... am not left-handed!"


Bill Gnade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Gnade said...

Dear Harry!

A postscript: I should not have referred to your morning cup of coffee as
being -- for you -- a sacrament. I believe I should have said that it is a substitute for one, or so that is how I thought you meant it.



Chris said...

The Body of Christ is indeed diverse and as I mentioned in your "Christians converting Christians" thread, the one thing that ties us all together, notwithstanding Bill's comments about illegitimacy, is faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. No Christian of any stripe quibbles with that, despite our doctrinal particulars. I have come to believe that The Church, properly understood, does not reside within the confines of the RCC, or Protestantism, or any other man made organization. The Church is the collection of souls whose hearts are inclined towards God and who put their faith in his Son to fulfill the will of God. I have met Catholics and Protestants alike who have the truth in their hearts and on their lips and just because they don't worship in the way I do, it ultimately matters not what I or any man thinks. What matters is that when the Shepherd calls to us that we hear his voice.

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Chris,

Is it permissible to say "Amen!" here? I hope so.

I believe!

My sense is that all Christians who accept the Incarnation would agree that we are united in a Person, not a creed, a liturgy, or catechism. Just like a family that is bound together by the love and vows of the mother and father -- that they "incarnate" the family and vice versa -- so too is the family of the Church bound together in this filial sense around the unity of Christ's purpose, presence and promise. But all families have other things that bind them together as well, like vacation homes or favorite ice cream haunts or a tradition at the race track or holiday customs in the backyard. All sorts of things bind people together in a family; but nearly every family knows what ultimately binds them when the parents die or their conjugal love grows cold and estranged. There is a central fact to the family, earthly or heavenly: it is bound together by a Promise forged in Love. For Christians, that Promise bleeds and has bled, and cannot be held down by death.

Christianity is filled with division, most of it good and a sign of life; some of it bad, a sign of the Church's rootedness in the reality of estrangement, sin, selfishness; the desire to be in control, to be noticed, to be more special than someone else. The golden ladder may reach the heavens, but it rests upon the earth. There is no other way.

Peace to you, dear Chris.

Bill Gnade

EgoMakarios said...

"In short, for Jesus, Gentile dogs have no true faith."

Do you draw this conclusion from verse 28 (of Matt 15) where he tells this very woman (this Gentile woman) "O woman, great is thy faith"?? Or perhaps from the passage about the Gentile centurion where Jesus says of him "I have not found so great a faith, no not in Israel!"?

You are clearly ignoring parts of the passage, and not only that, but you are ignoring Jesus' mode of operation. The Bible is plain that Jesus' earthly ministry was exclusively for the Jews while his death on the cross and subsequent blessing are for all. Thus, his mission on earth was to seek out Jewish apostates and restore them, then to die on the cross for everyone's sins. When he says to the disciples in Matt 15:24, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" he is referring to his earthly ministry alone, during which he prohibited the disciples from preaching in Gentile cities (Matt 10:5). However, after his resurrection, he says "preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16) and "Go therefore teaching all nations" (Matthew 28). During his earthly ministry he did, however, heal a few Gentiles, and he told the Samaritan woman at the well that he was the Messiah (John 4). He also praised the Samaritan in the parable of the good Samaritan. He clearly was only limiting his ministry among the Gentiles to keep from turning away all the Jews as yet, for you see what sort of problem was caused among the bigoted Jews by Gentile admission into the church after his resurrection! When he says, therefore, "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs" he is not speaking his mind, but is playfully using a phrase that the Jews might use or that indeed one of the disciples might have used. He speaks along the lines that Simon bar Jonah might have been at that moment thinking, who being like Jonah that did not want to preach to the Ninevites also did not want to preach to Gentiles until God forced him to in Acts 10. And it is therefore an instructive moment for the disciples, and a test of faith for the woman. Her answer caused him to praise her faith, so your conclusion is clearly false.

EgoMakarios said...

Indeed I will add that her response shows that Jesus must have said this in a playful tone (as if that were not indicated already by him saying "little dogs" or "puppies" rather than "muts"). When he said, "It is not fitting to take the children's bread, and to cast it to the puppies" and she answered "Truth, Lord: yet the puppies eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table" it is shown that a playful conversation has taken place. Besides this, Gentiles do not despise but love puppies. Indeed, her answer makes this manifest, for in her reply she shows that she finds it no offensive thing to have puppies under the table running around her feet. She doesn't feel like he called her a rat. Do not Gentiles feed their dogs? A rat may happen upon a crumb, but the master of the house makes a point to give the scraps to his puppies. And in this exchange, far from finding that Jesus does not care about Gentiles, when find a priority which later the apostle Paul expresses in Romans 2:9-10 as "to the Jew first and also to the Gentile." It is not that Jesus had no care for the Gentiles, but that the Jews were to come first in order of time, even as Paul the apostle to the Gentiles always preached in the Synagogue first, for the Jews having received the promise through the prophets first were to have the fulfillment announced to them first.

Not that Gentiles would be left out, for indeed we see that Jesus makes a point about this himself in Luke 4:25 and surrounding "But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow."

Again, he says "And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian."

What's the point? That God's blessing have never been for Jews only, although they have been for Jews primarily. Even in the OT the prophets occasionally healed Gentiles, and we find here that Elijah and Elisha did most of their ministry among Gentiles! Jesus is taking this as an example for what he will do after his resurrection. But this upset the Jews, for verse 28 says "And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath," which is why such assertions were kept to a minimal until his earthly ministry was accomplished.

Harry McCall said...

EgoMakarios how easy it is to Christianize Jesus!

Jesus’ Jewish world was shaped by Yahweh’s promise of the land of Israel to Jews ONLY. In this context, Jesus in the Synoptic Tradition, makes no reference of sympathy for the slaughter of the indigenous people in the Hebrew Bible over the so-called “conquest of Palestine”. For Jesus, Yahweh’s wrath on the non-chosen people = nations = gentiles, is what made Jesus proud and caused him to limit his contacts with the gentiles. His comment to his disciples that gentiles were pigs and dogs was just that (bigoted words of hate) as expressed in Matt. 7:6 and shows a Jesus still bitter from the aftermath of the defeat of the Jewish revolt under the Maccabees. In fact, Jesus statement in Matt. 7:6 would be considered as a statement to incite a “Hate Crime” today. Plus, I sincerely doubt that any congregation would keep a pastor who brought a single mother and her child up to the front of the church and treated her as Jesus did in this text just to “test her faith”.

You completely missed the fact of hatred by all religious Jews created when Antiochus Epiphanes carried out his fearful massacres, terminating in the notorious desecration of the Temple and the Hellenization of Holy Jerusalem. Antiochus sacrificed a pig in the Temple, an act which inflamed the Jews under John Hyrcanus and brought about a revolt ending with another gentile occupation of Israel: The Romans.

Jesus, indeed, had much fuel to fire his negative comments toward gentiles. Stories in the Apocryphal such as the one describing how a mother watched all 7 of her sons killed before her eyes by the Seleucid soldiers when they would not eat the gentile food of pork would be highly disturbing to Jesus as it would be to any Jew.

Moreover, if, as some scholars claim, both John the Baptist and Jesus had their origins in the Essenes at Qumran, than the hatred over the liberal Hellenized Jews would run very deep, but not as deep as his hatred for the gentiles who had defiled the Temple and now controlled Israel.

Some notes: Your claim of a mission to “all the world” is an addition to Mark (see Metzger’s “A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament” pp. 102-106). This was probably was picked up by Matthew 28 in the Synoptic tradition.

In light of the above Jewish back ground, to think “that Jesus must have said this in a playful tone” is more wishful thinking than based on Jesus’ national Jewish past history of dealing with the gentile armies with occupied Israel. For effect, just read the books of I and II Maccabees as to Jewish attitude towards gentiles and their occupation of their land.

Jesus had a biased (negative) or bigoted attitude towards the following groups in the Gospels:

Tax Collectors: This group was hated because they were composed of Jews who were viewed by other Jews (and Jesus) as traders in that they collected taxes to support the gentiles (in this case the Romans) who ruled Palestine in N.T. Times.

Harlots: While an acceptable profession in the Hebrew Bible, they were hated by Jesus and other Jews since, as Jewish women, they had sex with the gentile Romans soldiers.

Gentiles: In that the foreigners / gentiles controlled what Yahweh had given ONLY to Israel.

Finally, Jesus’ praise of her faith, “O woman, your faith is great; be it done as you wish.” In the Synoptic Tradition (by the fact that this verse does not occur in the earlier Gospel of Mark), makes it highly likely that it was placed on the lips of Jesus by the redactor of the this gospel (just as the 3 times the word “church” is injected into this gospel) to gain the support of gentiles who made up the majority of the church at the end of the first century or the time when this gospel was composed.

In the end, it was the bigoted views of Jesus over his pro-Jewish nationalism and his hatred of the Roman gentile occupation that cause his crucifixion; a fact that only the Romans could carry out the death penalty and this type of execution.