Friday, June 24, 2011

Here Comes the Son?

The first Christian missionaries ever were the Twelve Disciples. According to Matthew, this was a mission only to save the Jews. Jesus sent the Apostles out with a set of instructions, including when to condemn entire towns and why they should not worry about what to say to Gentile kings on this Jew-only mission. Matthew 10 is a chapter's worth of instructions, and we continue along studying them.

Here Comes the Son?
Let us say that you know something is true, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Then you read some other resource which directly contradicts that truth, and yet you know that what you have read is also true. What then? How can white be both black and white simultaneously? That is an enigma, for sure; one common to Christian apologists. The solution typically involves redefining the terms; white and black both become shades of gray, and thus mesh together perfectly while still maintaining their original definitions. It is a neat trick. Let us take a look at one of these tricks to see how it is done.

In Matthew 10:21-22, Jesus warns His Twelve Apostles that Jesus' message is going to cause family members to kill each other, and that everyone will hate them because of Jesus. Why would the Gospel cause such a violent reaction?

You reap what you sow, and God Himself seeded this violence. Read through Deuteronomy 13:6-11 and you will see God's command that if any of your family members tries to get you to worship a different god, that person must be put to death by the community, and you are to be the first one to throw a stone. Have zero tolerance. Jesus was portrayed not as a different god, but rather part of the same God they had always worshiped. However, because neither the Israelites of Jesus' day nor their ancestors knew anything about Jesus (as being part of God), He would be considered a foreign god and thus warrant the killing of Jesus-following family members according to God's own words.

In Matthew 10:23, Jesus wisely tells the Disciples to flee such persecution, and continues with a rather conspicuous line:
“When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” NIV
What does “Son of Man comes” mean? The most intuitive interpretation aligns with verses like Matthew 16:27-28, where it speaks of Jesus' Second Coming, establishing the Kingdom of God and rewarding everyone with what they deserve. There is only one problem; that event has not happened yet!

So now the game is played to redefine truth. Apologists know that the Second Coming has not happened yet, and they know all Scripture to be true, so that must mean that there is some other, less obvious, interpretation which makes it all true again.

The classic Christian commentaries explain that, in this case, the coming of the Son of Man meant Pentecost (the outpouring of the Holy Spirit) according to Matthew Henry, John Gill, and Barton W. Johnson. Or maybe it meant Jesus' resurrection, according to Matthew Henry, John Gill, and John Lightfoot. Or possibly it meant the destruction of Jerusalem, according to Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown, Barton W. Johnson, McGarvey and Pendleton, and John Wesley.

Now, it should be a red flag that there is disagreement amongst scholars between three completely different concepts for the same four words, and that none of those three concepts really have anything to do with Jesus showing up somewhere. Something is rotten in the state of Galilee. The text of the Gospels not only proves the fallacy of their arguments for the Pentecost, Jesus' resurrection, and the destruction of Jerusalem, but also proves the author of Matthew guilty of more haphazard aggregation, as we have seen in the previous study.

Jesus sent out these Disciples on their mission after giving them instructions (Matthew 10:5, Mark 6:12-13, Luke 9:6). Mark and Luke both state that they completed their mission and reported the results to Jesus a little later (Mark 6:30, Luke 9:10)! Matthew does not have this end-of-mission report, but shows the Disciples to have returned to Jesus as early as Matthew 12:1, but certainly by Matthew 14:28 when Peter is mentioned specifically by name.

So the mission is over. They have gone throughout Israel. Yet there was no Pentecost, Jesus was still alive, and Jerusalem was still intact. Oh, and there was no Second Coming. What happened?

Matthew, the aggregator, happened. Just like we saw in the previous study in regards to the Holy Spirit telling the Apostles on this mission what to say to Gentile kings, Mathew has cut-and-pasted this snippet into the story where it did not belong.

The misplaced snippet itself is incredibly interesting, because in some version of the story of Jesus, it did belong, and quite likely belonged with the more-intuitive definition of Jesus' Second Coming and the establishment of His eternal Kingdom. Was that a version where, after Jesus' resurrection, the Great Commission was limited to Israel instead of to the entire world? Was that a version without a crucifixion, where Jesus was just promising that He would go away and then come back with Godly power, wielding eternal judgement? God only knows. ;-)

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