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Aug 30 2007

Chapter and verse

jesusdude.jpg

I was lying dormant around the patio at Flipnotics the other day, listening to Stingray decant her anguished soul of bilious stories about the racist old bat she works with, when suddenly there hove into view this strolling Jesus dude. He wore a Jesus outfit and, somewhat hilariously, bore his Jesus propaganda not like a chalice, but like a drum majorette’s baton.

It would’ve been even more burlesque and delightful if he’d been schlepping a giant rough-hewn wooden cross down Barton Springs Boulevard instead of flitting along with that flimsy little professionally printed placard. These traveling Jesus freaks today, I swear. No sense of authenticity, of theater, of poetry. Lazier’n spinster aunts, most of’em. But I suppose I should be grateful this guy wasn’t wearing a tie, ringing my doorbell, and trying to extort protection money.

The passage in the Christian self-help book to which the slogan-schlepping Jesus-dude’s sign alluded, if you can’t make it out from the picture, is Luke, chapter 6, verses 27 through 35 (see below). You’re reading this atheist blog, which means you’re probably no Bible scholar, so I’ll enlarge: it’s the bit where the mystic Jesus character pretty much stuffs the whole of Jesusian philosophy into an executive nutshell. You know, “love your enemy,” the part that Christian monarchs and popes and other godbag despots who claim divine rights appear never to have read. Probably because they prefer not to acknowledge that their holy superhero would subvert the venerable eye-for-an-eye scenario upon which the entire social order was, and still is, predicated. “It’s nice to be nice to the nice,” the little fellow seems to be saying, “but it’s fucking awesome to be nice to schmucks.”

Too bad the Bible never had a decent editor, someone more interested in the natural economy of truth than in patriarchy. The whole unsavory Christian culture-of-domination situation might have been avoided entirely if Luke chapter 6 verses 27 through 35 was all the godly types had to go on. Instead of all that crap about penis placement and unclean whores and don’t eat shrimp.

Anyway, I present herewith two versions of the passage in question. The first is from the lyric KJV. The second is from something called New American Standard Bible. P.U.! I imagine the New American Standard Bible was published so that New Americans — a patriotic euphemism for “morons”?– could sound out a higher percentage of the words, as well as be spared the terror and the taint of any accidental proximity to literature. As BibleGateway.com puts it, the “Old English” has been sanitized of, among other things, its apparently obfuscatory “thee’s and thou’s.”

Note that, although both versions presume that the default human and the default god are male, the New American Standard edition actually changes the word “children” to “sons,” presumably for the patriotic purpose of excluding women from the rewarding (though highly unpopular) pursuit of enemy-loving.

***********************

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,

Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.

Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.

And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.

And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

**************************

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.

Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.

Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.

If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.

If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount.

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

**************************

I’m sorry, but I can’t get behind this ill-advised substitution of the word “hit” for “smite.” And I don’t see how the delusional fanatics can, either; don’t they require giddy romance to complete the fantasy? Once you toddlerize the poetry out of it, a bible’s just fanfic.

Say, is there any real Jesus fanfic? You bet there is! Of the slash variety? Heck yeah!

55 comments

  1. thebewilderness

    So, what happened is, the 1901 version was waaay too liberal, and the sixties versions were even worse, so, in 1995 the godbags got hold of it and purged all that crappy women are human Jesus talk right the hell out of there. Next thing you know they’re pronouncing it the irrefutable word of God, cuz like everybody knows God speaks American, not English like that King James feller.

  2. Jodie

    Jesus fanfic. Now I’ve seen everything.

  3. Antelope

    The New, Improved, Twice as Much Cleaning Power Testament was written in Aramaic.

    I’m betting that Aramaic, like a gajillion other languages, including Hebrew & I think most Middle Eastern languages today, uses the masculine plural whenever there’s at least one masculine person, place or thing in the group described. So what we might call children or sons would be the same word. Only if it’s nothing but girls do you say girls.

    So just to be persnickety, both translations are correct.

    Of course, that also means there’s no reason to change the word to sons unless you really want to, so Twisty’s interpretation is still correct.

    Maybe they noticed women are such pros at enemy-loving that they figured we didn’t need that advice?

  4. Jerry

    They could have at least used “strike” for “smite”. Or would that be mistaken for the sports term?

  5. Antelope

    Let’s say “spot-on” instead of that second correct – that’s almost as bad as a typo.

  6. K.A.

    That Jesus fanfic site was incredible. I read the erotic story between the Son of God and the Prophet Muhammad. That’s some intense brotherly love, yo!

  7. KathyR

    This post is 10 flavors of awesome. I stopped breathing at “could sound out a higher percentage of the words…”

  8. Pica

    Poetry aside, the KJV is actually a pretty terrible translation. What’s really awful is the NEW KJV, which is the same crappy translation with all the pretty archaism excised.

    Could you post up the “Good News for Groovy People” version?

  9. E

    Speaking of Bible fanfic…

    http://www.thebricktestament.com/
    For blamers who haven’t yet seen the Word in Lego, I really recommend it.

  10. PhysioProf

    “I’m sorry, but I can’t get behind this ill-advised substitution of the word ‘hit’ for ‘smite.’”

    Same here. I’m thinking it hurts a fuck of a lot more to be smote than to be hit.

  11. Roov

    I completely agree that ‘hit’ is a feeble substitute for ‘smite,’ but wouldn’t the form be “hurt more to be smitten than to be hit”?

    As in:
    I smote that dude, but good–in fact, so thoroughly was he smitten by my wrathful self that only a smoking crater remained.

    I know, I know, ‘smitten’ has that sappy ring because it gets used these days to mean ‘enfatuated,’ but I think it’s actually the proper conjugation for ‘smite’ when it’s done to you.

    I may be wrong, though, I’ll just say that right now.

  12. thebewilderness

    Well then Roov, you clearly ought to have smote him. Way better than smitten. Smitten is too much like kitten to be taken seriously by any potential smitee.

  13. Vera

    Ask the Jesus with the sign to perform the miracle of the margaritas and tacos.

  14. thebewilderness

    OK Roove,
    Changed my mind, I think what you are looking for is smited, as in:
    “so thoroughly was he smitted by my wrathful self that only a smoking crater remained.

  15. Aireanne

    Wow. Patriarchy and the passive voice.

    One of these things is the darn Golden Rule, is it not? I remember taking a tour of the UN Headquarters and visiting the room where they hold some of the gifts from countries. Ronald Reagan thought it appropriate to give the UN a mosaic depicting the Golden Rule in action. Oh, the irony!

  16. Ugly In Pink

    Isn’t it sort of the opposite of the Golden Rule? Do unto others (good things, natch) even and especially if they DON’T do unto you.

  17. legallyblondeez

    My family has one of those funny Bibles with several versions side-by-side and I remember when I asked my mom why there were so many she said the KJV was pretty but the people who translated it lied a lot and edited to make it fit their beliefs. By her estimation, it is so hard to know what the truth of the Bible is at this point that it is better to have a bunch of versions and spend some time thinking and praying about which one might be right. And not to ever take it literally, and to remember that all stories were written by dudes and not God directly, so they were probably writing half of it wrong in the first place.

    My mother is a deeply Christian woman, but she is also deeply distrustful of the men who wrote and translated the Bible.

  18. bethany

    While I am sympathetic to your position, I’m a fan of Jesus. And I feel compelled to announce that there are translations of the Bible that do not assume the basic human position is male, among them New Revised Standard Version and Today’s New International Version. It doesn’t delete all the patriarchy, of course, but it begins to pick away at it, and I’m a glass-half-full girl. And my own bible-editor. So I ignore or reinterpret the patriarchy when I can.

  19. bethany

    um, uglyinpink, the golden rule is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” it has nothing to do with their actual behavior.

  20. Bird

    Legallyblondeez, my perspective exactly. If God had to use dudes to write it down, chances are they messed with it along the way. Hell, most of them can’t learn to read the instructions on a box of mac ‘n’ cheese, and we think somehow they could get the rules of the universe right?

  21. K.A.

    I’m not a fan of the edited version, but as long as they have God to pray to, it doesn’t matter if they inhale a patriarchal Bible or not. They’ll feel free to justify whatever feeling they have, especially the most visceral culturally conditioned ones, with the faith that God is mirroring approval back to them whenever they give him a call.

    Less hoping to great-granddad in the sky, and more purely reasoned action, I say.

  22. Cara-he

    Just wanted to say, I actually am a biblical scholar. As in, Ph.d in Hebrew Bible (from a non-religious school). So biblical scholars do, in fact, both read and delight in your blog. We basically agree with you all the time, too. It’s a notorious effect of studying the bible in the original and with reference to critical theory that even the worst fundamentalist comes to throw out the religious value of 99% of the Bible. Basically with the exception of the passage you just quoted.

    Good on you.

    (Also, in Aramaic, the word for “sons,” plural, is entirely different than the word for “children,” plural. And in the original, the word for “children” not “sons” is used. Yes, the patriarchy actually lies about what is, and what is not in the Bible!

    Shocking, I know.

  23. Hawise

    The golden rule is – And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. Translated into action it is that you can only control your own actions and not those of others. Of course that means that everything comes down to personal responsibility and we know that the patriarchs are a little leery of that. Heaven forbid that we be judged for our own actions when judging others is way more fun. I prefer smite to hit as well, it sounds more satisfying.

  24. yankee transplant

    This is brilliant.

  25. rafalah

    When I finally left the Fear Cult for good almost 10 years ago, I did one final walk-through reading of the bible.

    But first. I spent about a week with a yellow highlighter, marking any and all verses that had the word “woman” or “female” or “girl” or “daughter” or “wife”. I wanted to read what the giant Y Chromosone/male anatomy possessed-obsessed god had to say to me.

    I sat down and read ONLY the highlighted female verses.

    Haven’t spent one second since regretting closing that book of hateful drivel forever.

  26. Ms Kate

    Sad to say, but the purported sayings of that radical hippy dippy peace dude would never have flown so high had, as Twisty says, the Bible had a good editor more interested in truth than patriarchal support.

    If you have read any Marcus Borg, you might know his take on the contributions of Paul to the mess. Paul pretty much intentionally took the radical message of the egalitarian and anarchistic Galilean carpenter and made it palatable to those who would reject it were it not served in carefully watered down, pieces with the local patriarchal traditions fully affirmed.

    Sounds kind of roman, doesn’t it? I once read a book called the Far Arena, where an exiled gladiator is found frozen in the alps and thawed to life. He visits St. Paul’s cathedral and, knowing the original Paul through his Christian Jewish wife, looks up at the grandeur and says “You were the most Roman of them all”.

  27. rootlesscosmo

    “Toddlerize” is a great addition to my vocabulary, and there’s certainly no shortage of occasions to use it; thanks, Twisty.

    But wait a minute–shrimp? Even, you know, Chinese takeout shrimp?

  28. slythwolf

    I’ve written Jesus fanfic. Well, not exactly; it was YHWH/Satan, but. The cool thing about biblefic is that nobody can sue you because all the characters and stories are in the public domain!

  29. slythwolf

    (I’ve also written Lilith/Satan with Lilith choosing to become the mother of the Antichrist to get back at YHWH, Eve and especially Adam for fucking her over.)

  30. ozma

    Christianity is divided between those people who are struck by the Book of Luke and those who like Mark. Or Paul. If you ignore Paul and just read Luke, it’s hard not to be a Christian–or at least agree with Jesus.

    Evangelists in Central America would eventually flee from me and my desire to convert them to Christianity as derived primarily from the Book of Luke.

  31. Ron Sullivan

    Rootlesscosmo: Yes, shrimp. Also cheeseburgers and lasagna. (I mean the real full-bore artery-slamming all-stops-pulled glorious Bolognese-n-three-cheeses lasagna, not that dainty spinach stuff.)

    Cheeses fanfic, now that I could get into.

  32. ivieee

    Ms Kate, I think that Paul was rather more in the tradition than the hippy dude Jesus. Between Jesus and Jehovah, the godbags get to have it both ways. If you don’t like Jehovah’s smiting and killing everybody, well then there is this Jesus who has the whole new peace and love-your-enemies PR campaign.

    Slythwolf, your stories would interest me!

  33. tuckova

    Generally, I just sit here and cheer silently, but if you’re going to throw in “it’s nice to be nice to the nice” and “toddlerize” then I think you should hear my delighted yawps of appreciation. So: Yawp! Twisty, you thrill me.

  34. Ruth

    I’m sure I read somewhere that some churches stopped using KJ and went to New American due to rumors of King James affections for other men, making his translation is suspect. Christians, gotta love ‘em cuz we can’t throw them to the lions anymore.

  35. roswitha

    I LOL with great LOLs. Top post, Twisty, and many thanks.

  36. Ian

    For double extra special persnicketiness, the New Testament was written in Greek — which like Aramaic, Hebrew, Latin, and a gajillion other languages, does in fact use the masculine plural to refer to non-exclusively female pluralities (pais=boy; paides=boys/children).

  37. Erin

    Pasta with four cheeses is some slash I could totally get behind.

  38. CLD

    This post is fantastic! And legallyblondeez, your mother is wonderful — a very intelligent woman.

    Twisty, thank you again!

  39. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Actually, I kinda like the Barton Springs Boulevard Jesus. And I wish more of His followers would pay specific attention to that particular chapter and verse.

  40. Rumblelizard

    I believe Roov is right; you (past tense) smote, he/she/it was smitten.

  41. Marie

    Cara-he, can you recommend any books? Something a tad scholarly but still digestible by a non-theologian? I’d be very grateful

  42. maribelle

    tuckova–”it’s nice to be nice to the nice” is actually a quote from TV’s M*A*S*H. Frank Burns, in a lustful daze, says it to Henry Blake’s teenage girlfriend, much to the annoyance of Margaret Hoolihan.

    http://swamp4077.tripod.com/mashquotes.htm

    Not to take anything away from Twisty’s brilliance or anything; just giving credit where credit is due.

  43. Random Lurker

    To be extra super-duper persnickety, let’s take a look at the political situation at the time of the Sermon on the Mount. Messiah and Son of Man were titles of Davidic kingship, and Judea at the time of Jesus was full of Jewish men claiming they were descendants of David who would expel the Romans and usher in a Jewish golden age. In the Sermon on the Mount, Luke is essentially laying out what he feels is the platform of Jesus’ revolution. These are some fairly modern political ideas (violence isn’t the answer, resisting injustice by being the change you want to see and such) and held out the idea that you could be a Christian without taking up arms against the Roman Empire. Unfortunately for fans of Luke, the gospel was most likely written after the sack of Jerusalem had destroyed the Jewish church and after the death of any Jewish church leader who may have witnessed the sermon. Luke is therefore considered a less accurate representation of Jesus’ teachings than the letters of Paul.

  44. bliss

    now why the hell–oops! excuse me Jesus–why the HECK don’t i come here more often? i need more laughter in my life!!!

    thanks for a good one. :-)

  45. Olivetti

    While it’s an interesting linguistic footnote to know that Greek or Aramaic (or whatever language the New Testament was “originally” written in) uses the same word for “sons” and “children”, the language being translated _into_ is English — which draws a definite distinction between the meaning of “sons” and that of “children.” So the translator faces a dilemma: here is a word that can be interpreted to mean either “a group of male children” or “a group of children, gender not specified.” This is a deliberate choice, and I think it’s fair to argue that a translator who chooses to render the original word as “sons” is not, in fact, being accurate to the source text — not only because it obscures the possibility of the alternate (gender unspecified) meaning, but also because it imposes an exclusionary interpretation of the text. After all, “children” could be taken to mean sons, daughters, or sons and daughters.

    It’s pretty obvious that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” translation. But as a translator (albeit from the Spanish), I’d go as far as to say that using “sons” here instead of “children” — even if in some dubious misguided attempt to be “faithful” to the original language — is actually an example of bad translation.

  46. Medbh

    My eyes glazed over when it came to the quotes. I’ve trained myself to hear “la-la-la” in my head whenever I’m confronted with the jeebus book.

  47. Tupe

    There’s a Catholic hospital right around the corner from my Nigel’s house, a house which is technically owned by the hospital. When they were trying to get a co-housing project underway the Catholic hospital tried to dissuade them by asking them sign a contract saying that the co-housers would abide by Catholic morals and ethics. Nigel gave the example that our local lesbian politician would be allowed to attend house parties but not to do anything the hospital thought was “in support of being gay.” And I’ll bet if you were dying from a self-induced abortion they’d save your life, but lock you up with the Catholic social worker for eight hours repentance. Anyway, you get the idea. Then yesterday I see two old white dudes taking a stroll around the hospital block with a big red and black sign. It read: “Sterilizations Performed Here / Sterilization Offends God”

    Whassamatter with these people? They don’t seem to know their allies when they smack them upside the cheek with God’s rulebook on manners. Anyway, just my two cents on godbags this week.

  48. SueWho

    E – I just spent a solid hour roaming the Brick Testament. Wow. My favorites – Jacob’s Wives Compete and Instructions for Women. The scary thing? I thought it was farce until I looked up some of the quotes and discovered that it really says “I give no permission for a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. A woman ought to be quiet.” 1 Timothy 2:11-12

    Unbelievable. IBTP.

  49. thebewilderness

    I believe Roov is right; you (past tense) smote, he/she/it was smitten.

    Roove is indeed right, but smitten has been coopted by romance writers and turned into a kitten rhyme.
    If the godbags can edit Jesus, I see no reason why we cannot mangle around until we replace smitten with smoted.

    Neither Luke nor Paul ever met Jesus, but at least Luke did a few interviews. Paul just seems to have run out in front of the parade and declared himself to be the one who knew what Jesus rilly, rilly meant. No big surprise that it was the same patriarchial pharisee crap that Paul was trained in and Jesus repudiated.
    He seems to me to be the model that every organized religion follows to this day.
    As a Christian, I am opposed to organized religion.

  50. Crystal

    The great thing about the Bible is that it has something for everyone. I believe that this is the part intended for the wominfolk, kids, and poor folk. There are other sections for the different segments of society.
    Mr. Kate: I’ve also always been of the opinion that the Roman is definitely the most offensive contribution to the Roman Catholic Church. Combine Romans and religion and what can you expect?
    In defense of the Bible, though, I have to say that while I find it hard to imagine actually using it as the sole basis for my belief system, it’s fascinating on an aesthetic and esoteric level.

  51. Roov

    I would cast my vote for ‘smited’ rather than ‘smoted’ if we’re looking to get away from ‘smitten.’

    Take the roughly similar word ‘fight’ (although there is of course no ‘fitten’ equivalent past tense). ‘Foughted’ would be kind of like ‘smoted,’ in that they’re both doubly past tense, and therefore redundant. ‘Fighted,’ on the other hand, while not good English in our present standard dialect, does conform to the grammatical logic of the language.

    Likewise, ‘smited’ is logically a past tense of the verb ‘smite,’ while ‘smoted’ is the past tense of a past tense. Maybe that’s good for talking about people you smote in past lives?

    (In generations past, I walked the earth in many different forms, forever encountering irritating entitlement-claimers, and I blameded the patriarchy, and thoughted hard on what was to be done, and in the end I smoted those dudes, but good.)

  52. Jessica J

    I took my undergraduate degree in Religious Studies, and one of my New Testament professors was fond of reminding us that the original Greek of the New Testament was far more gender-egalitarian than any modern-day translation into any living language. He especially hated the Living Bible translation, which was basically an entitled dude with no critical, scholastic, or linguistic background paraphrasing and simplifying the New Testament. Most liberal Christians use the New Revised Standard Version, which eliminates some of the gender-exclusive language.

    Marie and others, I would recommend the works of John Shelby Spong, John Dominic Crossan, Elaine Pagels, and Marcus Borg. Start with “Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture” by Spong.

  53. Colleen

    I’d like to place an order for two dozen copies of the Roov Bible as soon as it becomes available. One for personal use, the others to be distributed at high velocity to the many annoying godbags on my street.

  54. thebewilderness

    Roove,
    Whatever you decide to do with it I’m convinced it needs two ‘t’s, and I’ll have a few dozen copies of the Roove testament, too.

  55. magickitty

    Yes, I’m a few days late, but I was on holiday. I loved the fanfic segue so much that I blew mac’n'cheese out of my nose.

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