The Cult of Melinda

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

My Least Favorite Christian Myths

Re: my last post. If you're going to practice a religion founded by Jesus of Nazareth or simply respect him as a moral leader, you should know more about the man. So, here is a little debunking of my least favorite Christian myths.

1. Jesus was an unmarried rabbi. That's an oxymoron. Either he was a rabbi or he was unmarried. You couldn't be both in the first century. All Jewish males were expected to marry between the ages of 18 and 20, with a limited extension granted for students of the law. Failing to marry was considered a horrible sin by first century Jews, with the exception of some of the Essenes, who were waiting for the end times. Anyway, a man who was not yet married didn't have the moral or social standing to be made a rabbi according to Jewish tradition.

There were extremely rare cases of religious scholars not being married but this provoked huge controversies. If Jesus had somehow been celibate and a rabbi, one of the many texts about him would be expected to explain how Jesus could be celibate but not be committing a grievous sin. We would especially expect to see this where Jesus himself discusses various types of "eunuchs," including those limited few who chose celibacy, and asked the people to be more understanding of these types of people.

2. Jesus was an Essene. FALSE. His actions and teachings, as described in multiple texts, violated the basic principles of Essene teachings. For instance, Essenes were forbidden to worship in the temple or the synagogues, to eat meat, to carry out even the simplest act on the Sabbath, to commit any act of violence whatsoever, and to have any physical contact with women who weren't related to them. If Jesus had been an Essene, he would have been kicked out of the community, especially since he openly condemned many of the Essene principles.

3. Jesus was poor. Highly unlikely given his obvious education, his family's very expensive trip to Egypt, his connections to prominent citizens and the fact that he traveled with a treasurer. Considering his family background and what we know of his life, he was middle class at worst before beginning his ministry. However, he chose a life far less prosperous and secure than he would have had at home.

4. Jesus was illiterate. Not even remotely possible. Some people interpret the fact that he didn't write his teachings as proof of his illiteracy. No rabbi living at that time wrote his teachings down. They were always passed through oral tradition and were later written down only after the Romans exiled the Jews, making written texts a necessity for the now-scattered Jewish community.

5. Jesus execution was unique in its brutality. Not even close. The quick manner in which Jesus died was the unique part. Scourging then crucifixion was THE major form of execution in Roman-occupied territories. Usually, the Romans made every effort to extend the period of crucifixion for days if not weeks. Some scholars theorize that some injury from his fall or some other factor hastened Jesus' death on the cross so that he died within hours. Or that he was actually killed when the Roman soldier speared him to see if he was still alive.

There are so many more obvious defects in the way some people interpret certain teachings and events, but I'll stick with these top 5.

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