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A Bald Man, Two Bears, and Forty-two “Children”: Misinterpreted Bible Passages #6

It’s been awhile since the last installment of this series (lots more to come), but this one should be fairly straightforward. 2 Kings 2:23–24 tells of the prophet Elisha calling a curse down upon a group of “children” (KJV), “youths” (NIV), “boys,” (NRSV/ESV), or “lads” (NASB), resulting in two bears (she-bears, if you must) mauling forty two of them. Here’s the passage:

וַיַּעַל מִשָּׁם בֵּית־אֵל וְהוּא עֹלֶה בַדֶּרֶךְ וּנְעָרִים קְטַנִּים יָצְאוּ מִן־הָעִיר וַיִּתְקַלְּסוּ־בוֹ וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ עֲלֵה קֵרֵחַ עֲלֵה קֵרֵחַ׃
‎‏ וַיִּפֶן אַחֲרָיו וַיִּרְאֵם וַיְקַלְלֵם בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה וַתֵּצֶאנָה שְׁתַּיִם דֻּבִּים מִן־הַיַּעַר וַתְּבַקַּעְנָה מֵהֶם אַרְבָּעִים וּשְׁנֵי יְלָדִים׃

“And [Elisha] went up from there to Bethel. While he was on his way, young juveniles* came out from the city and mocked him, saying, ‘Go up, bald-head! Go up, bald-head!’ When he turned back and saw them, he cursed them in the name of YHWH. Then two female bears came out from the forest and mauled forty two of those juveniles.”

* The Hebrew word underlying what I have translated “juveniles” is notoriously difficult to translate in this context. The word can mean “child,” “servant,” “young man,” or several other possibilities, depending on the context. For example, it is used of the “young man” Absalom (1 Sam 18:5) and a group of 400 Amalekite warriors 1 Sam 30:17. The generally agreed meaning is that it is used of a young man (& can include females in the plural) who is not yet betrothed, setting the range from a mere boy to a young warrior. This passage uses the additional adjective “little” or “young” in the first case, which may tilt the meaning more towards the “children” end of the spectrum, but it’s certainly not clear. I’ve chosen the somewhat clunky “juveniles” to reflect this range, though the translation is admittedly less than ideal.

A Difficult Passage

This passage has disturbed many a reader, bringing up the question of how a prophet of YHWH could call a deadly curse down upon a group of kids for taunting him about something as insignificant as baldness. The following video is an outstanding (and, frankly, hilarious) example of this sort of misgiving (WARNING: a couple bits of language might be offensive for some):

The video actually depicts the “youths” at the older end of the spectrum (given younger kids, it would look even worse), but the basic sentiment is still there: as one of the video characters declares, “this seems like a disproportionate response” to insulting Elisha’s lack of hair.

Are Bald People Just Temperamental?

The first thing to dismiss is that this was an older man who reacted badly to taunts about his male pattern balding. According to 2 Kings, this event immediately followed Elisha taking over for Elijah; Elisha was still quite a young man at this point in the story, living about 60 years after this event (through the reigns of four more kings and into a fifth’s reign: Ahaziah, Joram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, & Jehoash/Joash). He wasn’t exactly an old monk as portrayed in the video, probably coming closer to the age of the older “children” in the group taunting him than to their parents. As an aside, given Elisha’s young age (and the possibility that his head would have been covered anyway), it isn’t clear the reference is to male-pattern baldness. It is just as likely that (were he actually bald) that his baldness was the result of the fulfillment of a vow before YHWH (which would make sense in the time immediately following Elijah’s departure). Some have also suggested that “baldy” was a reference to lepers or other outcasts who had to shave their heads. Either way, the baldness referenced in the passage is neither clear nor is it especially important.

Secondly, the emphasis in the passage isn’t Elisha’s baldness or that the juveniles bring it up—it’s that the youth of Bethel reject and scorn YHWH’s prophet (signaling a rejection of God himself). The problem is that, rather than receiving the prophet, they tell him to “go up”—the exact word (עלה) used to describe Elijah’s departure to heaven twelve verses earlier. That is, they tell him to stay away, that they wanted nothing to do with him or his God, that he should go join Elijah in heaven if he was really such a powerful prophet. That they call him “baldy,” though certainly disrespectful, was not the cause of the cursing.

On that front, it is not insignificant that this event happens just outside Bethel, one of the two state-sponsored centers of idolatry (Dan being the other), complete with a golden calf set up by Jeroboam after the kingdoms divided. Bethel had been the center of another prophetic confrontation before—in 1 Kings 13, an unnamed young prophet cursed the altar of Bethel and its priests, with a sign performed when Jeroboam’s arm withered when he ordered the prophet siezed. A generation after Elisha, Bethel would again be the center of prophetic controversy, when Amos declared his prophecy against Israel (which we have in the book of Amos) in Bethel, cursing Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, declaring, “Thus says YHWH, ‘Your wife will become a whore in the city, your sons and daughters will fall by the sword, your land will be divided up by a measuring line, and you yourself will die upon unclean soil'” (Amos 7:10–17). In addition, if forty two of these young comedians were mauled by the bears, exactly how many are we to assume were actually present for this scene of mockery? When a couple large wild bears run out of the woods and begin wreaking havoc, people tend to scatter rather quickly. In my experience, such large groups of people rarely form accidentally; from the numbers involved, this appears to be an organized public demonstration against Elisha and his God.

Bethel’s rejection of YHWH—reflected in these youngsters’ behavior towards the prophet—is what leads Elisha to curse these youthful hooligans “in the name of the Lord.” In fact, like Amos after him, Elisha’s curse appears to be a repetition of (part of) the curse for rejecting YHWH in the covenant from Sinai: “If then you act with hostility and are unwilling to hear/obey me … I will send the wild beasts among you and bereave you of your children” (Lev 26:22–23), exactly what happens in this case. Much is made about the blessings contained in the covenant and the many blessings promised by God, but not many want to remember the other side of the equation—disobedience calls forth awful curses. That Elisha’s curse brings about swift comeuppance is no less a sign of his authority as a prophet and representative of the covenant (and thus the truth of his protests against idolatry) than Elijah’s victorious confrontation on Carmel had been. Recall that in his first act as Elijah’s successor, Elisha had just miraculously purified the accursed, polluted water of Jericho, bringing blessing to those who received YHWH; this second act serves as a sign of God’s continued judgment upon covenant-breakers. Such a visible sign of judgment serves—just as Elijah’s drought and victory on Carmel (complete with the slaughter of 450 false prophets)—as a sign of YHWH’s reality and his covenantal claim upon Israel. In addition, given the fact that Elijah had been sought by the king and threatened with death by the queen, this kind of mockery and aggressive behavior serves as a threat—and as with Elijah before him, it becomes immediately clear that YHWH himself will look after the safety of his prophet(s), much to the disadvantage of their opponents.

God Will Not Be Mocked, So Don’t Taunt a Prophet of YHWH (Even if he is bald)

So, Elisha’s curse was not simply a case of a temperamental guy getting bit touchy about his appearance and calling down curses upon a group of kids for drawing attention to his baldness. Rather, it was a prophetic sign—at the very beginning of his service as God’s spokesperson—of YHWH’s displeasure at Israel’s covenantal disobedience, a warning that, without repentance, the other curses stipulated in the covenant were soon to come. Granted, modern sensibilities tend to be at odds with any sort of divine retribution—”How dare God kill anyone!” (Then again, a rather high percentage of people tend to die at the end of their lives anyway, suggesting it’s just a matter of when God chooses to “kill.”) This tends to be even more the case when involving children. But such a complaint involves more of a problem with the essential worldview reflected in the Bible at large; this is by no means a problematic passage if one is willing to take the worldview reflected in the text and accept God’s authority as judge. It is also important to note that God is the one who defends himself/his prophet here—no human being is taking into his/her own hands to defend God or himself against others in a violent manner. Elisha’s curse simply marks yet another occasion in which Israel’s rejection of God results in receiving the curses of the covenant, yet another milestone on the downward path towards the final, most serious of covenantal curses promised for disobedience—being scattered among the nations in exile.

Comments

  1. Mr. Jason Staples I just wanted to let you know that I’ve read all of your blogs about the misinterpreted scriptures. Keep doing what you’re doing because these things need to be known since many things are taught in the church incorrectly. God bless you.

    • What a made up bunch of BS. There is no substantiation for any of these claims. To bad you believe in fairy tales that you have to go way way out to justify. Your Bible is trash.

      • Thanks, Tim. Your carefully thought out response has made me question my faith, and renounce my beliefs entirely.
        Yeah, no. What a sad, sorry little person you are, needing to go on a site that is strictly for Bible verses, and then railing against people for their faith or belief.
        Your personality is trash.

        • Yeh, Tim is right. There is no need to justify immoral behaviour. God or not, killing 42 children for verbally insulting you is horrid.

          • I don’t think the authors of the text see much difference between God killing children and God waiting until they’re older to kill them of old age. For these authors, God is always the one who ends a life.

      • Na, Tim’s actually right.

  2. this is a very fucked up verse, like many others in the “good book”…..justify it all you want, you disgust me

    • Wow… Nice use of language and good job on completely lacking of an actual argument. I think if there is anything disgusting on this page it’s your use of language. I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t even read the page that you are commenting on. Good job.

      • OMG it’s just a word get over it. How can a word be any more disgusting than another? That’s retarded.

      • The article lacks an actual argument.

        • That’s mainly because it’s not trying to make one. It’s explaining a particular oft-misinterpreted biblical passage, that’s all. The only arguments involve pointing out where the passage is often misunderstood. What you want to do with the passage after you understand it is up to you.

          • Jason, at the beginning there you asserted that the article is not trying to make an argument but you then proceed to inform Tim of the argument that you just stated is not there. I agree with Tim; you are not making an argument, you’re attempting to manipulate the definitions of things to make yourself feel better about believing in something so innately ridiculous. “Oh no they were maybe not young lets linger on minute details in a desperate attempt to alter the entire story. Even though god clearly ripped 42 children asunder in the form of two bears, we can make it sound better. It’s out of context. ” Young juveniles. It’s sad that you even made an attempt to twist that interpretation. It means kids. You’re not intelligent. The end. Fuck you.

          • Jon, where in the article does it suggest any sort of apology for the text? Objections about the subject matter are no excuse for being a poor reader. My concern here is that people learn to be better readers. After that, what they choose to do with the text is up to them. But refusing to read well is ignorance at its essence.

  3. NowItsEvenWorse says:

    Victims of serious emotional and physical abuse often get to the stage where they will justify their captor’s actions, highlighting once again that if there is a god (YHWH), he is an evil, psychopathic entity with very, very low self esteem and rage issues second to none. Elisha being touchy about his baldness is understandable as he is a human, but god being touchy about a bunch of young upstarts, now that speaks volumes about the kind of entity which christians so masochistically wish to prostrate themselves before. We would have to be very afraid of a god like that and worship/respect would only be given out of pure fear, much like a kidnap victim will respect the wishes of the kidnapper if enough violence is dished out. Oh I forgot, he does all this bad shit to us…..but he luvs us?!?! Fortunately there is not a god.

    • Alex Pyun says:

      He explained that it is not about baldness. It that they rejected God. In the Old Testament, there was a law. A just God is required to give the punishment. It is not something God wants. And your last statement is just wrong. You cannot prove “there is not a god.”

      • You can’t prove there is, so what’s your point? There is not a god until you can come up with the compelling evidence for there being one. For all the things that may or may not be, we don’t consider them to exist until we see reason for them to be so.
        Funny how indirectly rejecting god can be taken, making fun of a bald man, is somehow to be known as rejecting god just because he was a prophet, so that’s deserving to be mauled by bears? LOL. Nice intellectual gymnastics to protect your psychopath in the sky.

      • Why don’t you worship Zeus then?

      • Can you prove there is?

  4. Professor Chaos says:

    I don’t see your point. It’s still a disproportionate response. Even the worst verbal abuse and hate speech and slander imaginable could never ever warrant physical violence, especially the kind delivered of she-bears onto 42 people. Who cares how old the priest is and how old the youths are?(Although if you ask me, youths don’t have full beards.) The fact that God cares if you mock him should be a flashing neon sign flashing that god is a whining little girl with an ego problem. And by the way, I blaspheme every chance I get and have never felt the wrath of God. So this story, if anything, teaches me first that God isn’t real, and second, if he was he’d be evil.

    • Alex Pyun says:

      I don’t see your point. ANY punishment for the rejection of God would be a disproportionate response to someone who doesn’t believe in God. lol!

    • Bible defenders quickly find ways to correct those who “misinterpret” passages, no matter how clearly they are stated. “juveniles came out of the city and mocked him” does not mean they mocked him. “Ask, and it shall be given you” does not mean you will be given what you ask for. If it doesn’t fit the narrative then you just misunderstood. You would think the divinely inspired word of god would not need interpretation. My writings often leave the reader wondering what I intended, I would expect more from a supreme being.

      • Perhaps it’s because “a supreme being” didn’t write 2 Kings, human beings did. And human beings have transmitted it through the ages and translated it into English.

        That fact doesn’t, however, negate the need to read the text properly and correct misinterpretation.

        • Matthew 5:44
          But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

          Thank you Jason Staples dont stop its obviously impacting peoples lives although its hard to see because of all the slander but you keep doing what you are doing BROTHER.

  5. children call it the way they see it. They don’t hold back to be polite like adults. Elisha was bald because he had a shaved head. He was mourning…17th of tammuz is the beginning of 21 days of mourning ending on the 9th of Av. 21 more days brings you to the end of the year… INGATHERING. Each bear averaged 21 kills for a total of 42. This is also the 127 days (provinces) plus one week feast of King Ahasuerus (Esther 1)…134 days from Passover (Nisan 15). It is also one month after a major feast. Just as Moses and Hezekiah understood that the feast of Tabernacles could be celebrated a month later, this ingathering feast is exactly one month after the true Pentecost which was 102 days after Passover (Elijah called for a captain plus 50=51 to be struck dead twice over for a total of 102). Ingathering is at the turn of the year. Elul is the new year for tithing animals. Ingathering happens a day before this obscure new year. New wine needs to go into new wine skins! peter lindner

  6. Dear Jason,

    From this blog, I understand that you are justifying, or at least trying to justify, that God destroys those who oppose him. I have a hard time believing this. Yes, it was wrong for all those people to gather to mock God and his prophet. However, does this justify killing them? When Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s directions, were they punished with death? When Jesus was crucified, did God sentence those responsible for His son’s crucifixion to death? You cannot have a God who wants to be in loving relationship (covenant) with you and say that Him killing all those people in the Bible is ok. Please think this over and answer my question when you can Jason. Thanks!

    Sincerely,

    Alex

    • Excellent questions, Alex. First of all, I want to make it clear that this “Misunderstanding the Bible” series isn’t really about justifying the various passages under discussion. Rather, the point is to discuss passages that have been misread and misinterpreted and suggest better ways of reading these passages. As for your questions themselves:

      1) Yes, Adam and Eve were punished with death for their disobedience. That’s actually the point of the story. They’re told that if they disobey, they will die, and when they disobey, they are cast out of the garden, cut off from the Tree of Life (the fruit of which presumably would have made them immortal), and ultimately die as promised. Like I said, that’s pretty much the point of the whole story.

      2) Yes, every person responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion (and all those not responsible also) died.

      Ultimately, presuming the existence of God, God is responsible for the death of every human since God could presumably keep everyone from dying were he so to choose. Once that’s understood, the question isn’t really about death or whether it’s “okay” for God to “kill” people (since he does so every day), it’s really about the timing of each individual death. One thing that the biblical authors fundamentally agree upon is the idea that God has the authority to create and to destroy/kill. Human beings, on the other hand, are commanded not to murder one another, as they do not have this authority since they are not God.

      Actually, this notion of God’s authority is foundational to the “turn the other cheek” concept in the Sermon on the Mount, as it rests upon the assumption that God, being just, will ultimately set things right and repay everyone according to what he/she deserves. Given that, people should never repay evil for evil or respond with violence, as doing so only makes them equally ripe for God’s judgment. This isn’t the only concept underlying this teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, but it’s definitely one upon which it all rests. The basic concept is “God will judge justly and has authority to dispense whatever is right, so leave it to him.”

      Finally, the Israelite covenant that you mention actually included the promise that if Israel was unfaithful to the covenant, God would cause the wild animals to attack and kill them. This was part of the “loving relationship (covenant)” spelled out in the Torah. It’s certainly distasteful to us moderns, but it’s internally coherent and we should read it on its own terms if we want to see how they understood the character of the God of Israel.

      Does this help?

      • Thank you very much for answering my questions Jason. This does help me in a way to understand how some things in life work. It’s 12:24 A.M. and my mind is a bit elsewhere so I’m going to re-read your reply again in the morning for it to be ingrained in my mind. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions Jason! Hope you have a great day/night.

        Sincerely,

        Alex Le

  7. Edwin North says:

    for the exact word of god do you see how a simple paragraph needed so much in apologetics to shoe horn it into being normal? For a book written by illiterate bronze age shepherds for all people it sure is a mess. So either “god” is a poor example of what a deity is to be, or people are really stupid. But hey we can always happily bash our children on the rocks… I bet you have some bullshit apologetics to fix that..now why does the word of god need fixed so much? Tolkien told a very involved make believe tale and he doesn’t have near the trouble being understood

    • Excuse me? Who said we’re talking about “the exact word of god” here? What is the reasoning for this rant?

    • I find it really offensive that you have such an elitist attitude toward the people who came before us….Why on earth would you think that the people of the bronze age were ignorant and illiterate? If the people of the ages before us were so lame and such a dumber version of the enlightened us, how did we manage to move forward? It is shameful and ridiculously neglectful of the history of human beings to be so close minded and superior thinking. To get from the first ages to now took a whole lot of creativity, ingenuity, and genius. Try picking up a book instead of watching tv for your impression of how we have revolutionized our being. Really you think one or two brilliant minds were enlightened and all the sheeple fell in line generation after generation after generation…..Edwin you are sorely uneducated in your own history, obviously by choice, because you have an opinion….I believe your mind is unable to think true logic because you are self- righteous.

  8. I think most people’s “God” is too human, if you will. God said His thoughts/ways are not OURS! We just want to make Him in OUR image! HE MUST adhere to OUR image of Him! WE are “superior!” to God! He MUST be “Good” on OUR terms! Otherwise, He really Isn’t God!! We can’t understand His actions, Him, therefore, HE doesn’t exist! OR, He isn’t actually “Good!” Of course! Then actually He isn’t really GOD! Inherent in the idea of GOD , is a being who is so far superior to us, that we can’t comprehend Him…because HE is GOD! But we humans INSIST on making HIM ‘bend’ to OUR idea of HIM! Sorry God, didn’t like that passage! Didn’t like that story! But it is so interesting to me, that in that book called the Bible, these stories don’t portray GOD in an “acceptable to Humans’ manner! All the UGLY hangs out in the Bible! Humans are SO human there…and God is SO GODLY there…and so many people just don’t like it!! It is SO real! David has a man sent to the front, hoping he will be killed, and takes his wife. They have a child, but the child dies! Why would God allow that in HIS BOOK, if His goal was to please people, make them think “highly of Him?” No, He wants to let us know THE TRUTH! I LOVE the BIble! It is SO REAL!!! And if God wanted (or the writers of the Bible wanted) better “PR” for God, they would have left all that messy, hard-to-accept.deal with stuff OUT!

    • Well said!..:)…it is amazing ,but understandable, given man’s nature, how people really have such a hard time with the idea of God “judging” these people. If I first recognize that “God is”, and that He created us, not the other way around; then perhaps I can begin to understand that He has a perfect “right” to do with us as He pleases. If He is truly God, and He is, then He knew the Hearts of these people and was/is perfectly justified in what He did…and probably more importantly, He, even though He is perfect and also loving, being God doesn’t need our justification. Skeptics you might want to read Psa. 2..:)..actually you better just start reading the whole Bible since you will have to answer to it….that’s good advice not meant to stir up your hate folks!

  9. Jimmy Rage says:

    You can choose to believe in God or not. That’s the wonderful thing about having free will. I choose to believe, though I find it difficult to subscribe to the religious structures imposed on us.

    What makes people believe children are not worthy of extreme punishment? Or can do no evil? There are enough stories of children stabbing, raping and robbing people today. Do you believe things were better in “uncivilised” times?

    The view of God as a kind and generous being transcends religions. Unfortunately, too many people seem to have fallen under the impression that He is some kind of sap and everything is a one way street. Much in the way of the Adam and Eve story — where it’s been twisted to portray the protaganists living horrible lives and the Master endlessly persecuting them — these tales have been twisted to paint a picture in which the older generations were at fault and those that came after them and wrote the texts were just and wise.

    At the same time, we should really reconcile the teachings of Jesus with those of prophets from other religions. From these, we can find common threads of teachings for all people of the world that have not been subjected to tampering. Note, the Christians were being persecuted and were outlawed worldwide. The period between BC and AD is not known, neither is the age of Jesus. Even though we have recorded details of the death of Julius Caesar in 14 BC. What happened after Jesus’ death? We know that the temple was sundered. Was no one punished? The tale ends too abruptly, the dates are fudged… How many years of misery and suffering for those that did not fight for the Lord, who betrayed Him?

    One common thread between ALL religions. A Day of Judgment comes. Call it Judgment Day, Kalyug, or whatever. But all questions will be answered, no doubt. 2000 years is not such a long time ago, if you think about it. Maybe 40-50 generations for all of us.

    – Jimmy Rage

  10. This is one of the passages that made me question my faith, which was absolutely wonderful that it did.

    The old testament is scripture that, as the apostle Paul said, is “God breathed and valuable for inspiration and knowledge.” (I forget his exact words). The new covenant did away with the old covenant though, as Paul put it, it is slowly disappearing to the point it will be entirely gone (and he said that 2000 years ago.)

    This is the time of the Lord’s favor. This is the time where he wants a covenant of love. People make the mistake of melding the old and new testament (and that’s a very clear mistake, why are the old and new covenants glued together like that? They should be distinctly separate, and people should encourage the knowledge of the two covenants as different.)

    God did NOT want a covenant of love back then. He wanted a covenant of obedience from people who had to kill some seriously distasteful folks. Anyone who ever saw the movie “Road warrior” would understand what modern society would be like if we let people like that run the show. We wouldn’t have a United States of America, we’d have barbaric slave pits and burned offerings to baal. We scoff at the notions of “Primitive people” like that, and nobody wants to live in a world like that. Well…that’s why God had to clean house, and he didn’t just use the Israelites.

    People like Alexander the Great also did. He said he was lead by an angel in his dreams to victory, who looked very similar to Israel’s current king (at the time.) There’s no record of Alexander conquering Israel, because he didn’t. God uses everyone to perform his will, whether or not they are his people, provided they have a good enough heart to want to perform good enough change.

    We look down on the murder of the very same people who would have made our current world look like the mongol empire. Sadly, as much as people hate this truth, some people just had to die. If we never offed hitler, how many innocent people would have suffered and died?

    Yet, this is the new covenant — the time of God’s favor. God would have let hitler convert, repent, and stop his murderous ways (preferably before he even started them!) The new covenant literally means everyone has a chance, whereas before God just laid down the law and did as he willed to stop the leaking of sin into the boat, which would have destroyed the whole world.

    My hard time with my faith was the idea that the old testament contradicted Jesus. I didn’t understand, because the Holy Spirit doesn’t contradict himself. They called Elisha humble, and I yelled “What? He killed 42 children!” They called Moses the most humble man who ever lived, and I yelled “He ordered the death of men, women and children — even animals!” Then you have a sobering realization — maybe back then, that was humility. It’s a very scary realization, and it leads you into realizing God knew what he was doing. God could have easily started a second flood, said “Y’know what? Noah didn’t quite work out as I had hoped.” and just started fresh, leaving everyone to a fate in hell. But he gave up his own Son to be able to save people who basically spit in his face, even Christians who at times judge and doubt him.

    He was willing to adopt us…who he has shown quite clearly he has no problem tearing us to pieces with bears. He would rather sigh at our stupidity and continue to rear us like children in the hopes of us becoming a success in his eyes than treat us like enemies — which formerly we were.

    The two biggest problems that modern churches pose in their sermons are this:

    God loves everyone, which makes him seem contradictory to his love. God does love everyone — in modern times — and because of Jesus. God is very strong and very just. He has no problems wiping those out who defy him. His love is in the fact he’s willing to give us a chance; not that he loves us, yet he’s crazy. Some may view this as stockholm syndrome, but in reality, most people even consider the ‘mindless masses’ as ‘virus like locusts, killing the world.’ We can fathom this and we don’t even know the scope of the damage, yet the bible says God knows every hair on your head, every sparrow. We can’t even fathom how enraged he must be.

    Secondly, the churches preach this weird mish-mosh of the old and new covenant. If the old covenant was black and the new was white, they preach the gray covenant. Beyond this, they do it for selfish reasons. The new testament doesn’t talk about specific tithes. They want money, so they make sure we believe the whole bible as one covenant so we give them the same tithe amounts they used to back then, whereas the new covenant basically calls to “Give what you can.” They want the fear of the old covenant as well as the grace of the new covenant, but John clearly states that love as no place with fear and vice versa. They’re pharisees — by choice — because they’d rather lead a church than preach the genuine truth of the new covenant over-riding the old. As Paul said, “Does this mean we go on willfully sinning? God forbid.” Sin is still bad….but it’s a whole new ballgame where we are given the opportunity to keep trying until we get it.

    Before, we were strangers obeying a landlord. Now we are children obeying a Father. The game has changed, and the biggest schism between believers and nonbelievers is nobody knows how to make sense of the convergence of covenants. Yes — we really ought to look at the old covenant as secondary, look at it like something that, valuable because it is God breathed, does not apply anymore. Not in the sense it used to. In fact, in the new testament, there is repeated warnings for trying to fulfill the law because if you do, you’re bound by the whole of it. Losing my faith was the best thing for my faith that ever happened to me, because now I can have faith in Jesus and the ‘new’ plan God has, as opposed to this pharisaic trickery of modern religion (I call it a cult of Christ — and it is patently absurd and wrong, leading many people to hell and leading many away from Jesus — to the point you will never hear Jesus mentioned more than ‘God’ where both Jesus IS Lord, and he is also the intercessor for our sins — whom we place our hopes.)

    Sorry for the rant…I felt the need to get it out :) I think it’s a message more people need to get out, and I think it will help ease a lot of atheist’s misunderstanding of the bible (we’re not here to please men, but how are we ever going to reach lost souls so long as we do not even know what we’re following ourselves, or treat people who believe differently than us as an enemy? Jesus said to love our enemies, but people cling to the old testament, and thus, fight them still. Thus putting more hopes in Elisha than in Jesus, which is wrong and probably hell-bound.)

    • Athiests don’t misunderstand the bible, they understand that people make things up all the time when they are confused. When people are especially confused they think the stuff the just made up is devinely inspired. The only surprising aspect of this set of facts is that there are still mature adults who think these deluded tales are somehow related to the Devine.

  11. I don’t quite understand why people who don’t care for the system of life provided in the Bible feel a need to be so nasty to those who do believe. I would also add that those who do believe should not throw any nastiness towards the unbeliever. God is perfectly willing to let you believe or not believe while you exist during the time when it is possible to have the choice.

  12. But when he is the one actually in dire situation, crucifiction, he didn’t poofed to existence those bears. Instead, he won’t on and doubted his self by calling his self, then just died.

    Whatever reinterpretations you do, the bible is still full of stupid loopholes just like any other fairytales that should’ve not been believed by thinking people.

    • This last comment seems entirely ignorant. it completely ignores the whole premise of Jesus sacrificing himself for the sins of others. I can’t help but wonder why people who don’t know the first thing about the Bible go on forums like this except to simply slander divinity without any real knowledge of the subject matter. I hope that you will sometimes try to read it and try to understand it- it may change your life for the better.

  13. Great blog Jason. I love your thought out explanations. This is really helpful.as I’m still new on this blog I hope I will be able to find an article about a proper understanding of the sermon of the mount re: the intensification of the law. I am always reminded that Jesus said at the end – he that hears and does implying that it is to be obeyed. Yet the argument that it is impossible is so prevalent in so much church teaching.

    Thanks for sharing your insights!
    M

  14. People make up stories all the time and then they repeat them. Jack and Jill went up the hill… Mercury stealing the heard… Zoroaster… Gilgamesh… Noah… Elisha… Yossarian… Harry Potter… Many of these stories are inspired by genius, or idiocy at the same time. But they are all just tales written by smart primates misinterpreted to be anything else. Obviously the bible is an amalgamation of human tales, and obviously most of them are what we now call fiction.

  15. prophecyjeremiah29@yahoo.com says:

    God didnt do it…elijah did the curse..so yu all stop blaming God on this

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  4. Updated: virgin births, biblical inerrancy, or not at Our Daily Train | A blog by Jeremy Styron says:

    [...] message that the Bible presents? Do the contradictions and zany stuff (Forty-two children being mauled by two bears comes to mind) change the soul-saving message of a crucified Christ offering an eternal gift of [...]

  5. […] The youths of Bethel are purposely setting themselves against the Protagonist’s spokesperson (Professor Obvious). In essence, if one mocks the spokesman, one mocks the […]

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