The Lost Art of Resurrection

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“How come nobody resurrects anymore!” You hear it all the time. A church is only as good as its padded kneelers, its reliably saliva-free holy water, and its ability to bring about a modern miracle from time to time.

And don’t think that bringing people back from the dead is a thing of the past! It was commanded by Jesus himself, who knew a thing or two about how the whole resurrection thing worked.

Jesus sent out the twelve apostles with these instructions…Heal the sick, raise the dead. —Matthew 10:5,8

Churches are pretty confident about the healing the sick part. Prayers for the ill and infirmed abound, though God evidently has a longer wait time than your HMO’s GI specialist as he often needs cure requests repeated on multiple Sundays.

But why are churches so reluctant to try their hand at resurrections. If any church could find a successful revival incantation, its congregation would soon include most of the entire world.

But most of us know the likelihood of raising the dead (I mean the dead-dead, not the near-dead, medically revivable types) is 0.000%. So part of the problem of a church even trying is that no one would believe you if you succeeded. How do we know that? Let’s look at what happened to our most famous resurrected case study: Jesus of Nazareth.

After seeing the empty tomb, here’s what Mark said happened.

The women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone.
—Mark 16:8

None of us would have heard about the resurrection if Mark’s version was not totally contradicted by the other three gospels:

So they left the tomb quickly, with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
—Matthew 28:8

Later, when Jesus showed up, it was not just Thomas who doubted:

When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. —Matthew 28:17

That’s right, they saw Him and were still doubtful. I just can’t see how, if a preacher I knew came back to life, I would hang out with him, worship him, but in the back of my mind be saying, “Meh, it’s probably not him.”

While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have ye here any meat?” —Luke 24:41

“Verily I say unto you, what’s in the fridge?”

Furthermore, on the Road to Emmaus, two disciples walk and talk with what we are told is the risen Jesus, yet through it all they don’t recognize him. Again suspicious.

Adding even more to the suspect nature of the reporting of the resurrected Jesus is the blatant inconsistencies of the evangelists. Of all the Crucifixion and Resurrection inconsistencies, and there are many, one of the worst may be the list of who saw the resurrected Jesus. As so much of the religion relies on this supernatural event, detailing who the witnesses were would seem like a high priority. The reality reveals just the opposite.

Screen shot 2016-03-24 at 8.55.12 PMA more likely explanation of events, like the accounts of Elvis’ return in the late 1970s, comes from William Greg’s 1875 book The Creed of Christendom:

We may believe that the minds of the disciples, excited by the disappearance of the body, and the announcement by the women of his resurrection, mistook some passing individual for their crucified Lord, and that from such an origin multiplied rumors of his re-appearance arose and spread.

In addition to the question of veracity, it’s important to ask what any resurrection, including Jesus’, actually proves.

Even though Acts 26:23 insists that Jesus was the first person to rise from the dead, the Bible has over eight resurrections that predate Jesus’ return to the land of the living, and two that followed.

  • The widow of Zarephath’s son (resurrected by Elijah) —1 Kings 17:17–24
  • The Shunammite’s son (Elisha) —2 Kings 4:32–37
  • The corpse thrown into Elisha’s tomb (Elisha’s bones) —2 Kings 13:21
  • The widow of Nain’s son (Jesus) —Luke 7:11-15
  • Jairus’ daughter (Jesus) —Luke 8:49-56
  • Lazarus (Jesus) —John 11:39–44
  • The post-crucifixion saints of Jerusalem (Spontaneous and simultaneous revivals) —Matthew 27:51-53
  • Dorcas of Joppa (Peter) —Acts 9:36-43
  • Eutychus (Paul) —Acts 20:9–12

If resurrecting proves you are God worthy of adoration or that all your teachings are true, then why does no one worship Lazarus? It seems that either your teachings are without peer or they’re not. Whether you ate meat after you died or not should maybe be of secondary importance. Still it’s a pretty cool trick.

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

When You ASS-U-ME the Bible Will Give You the Right Answer…

GogAndMagogI am repeatedly shocked by how often the Wall Street Journal runs ill-conceived and plainly second-rate op-eds on their editorial pages. As long as your political philosophy aligns with the editorial board, they seem willing to run just about anything. So when I read this, I couldn’t keep myself away from the B-fun blog.

Tevi Troy’s assertion that many American Presidents have been influenced by the Bible (“The Presidential Bible Class”) was as inarguable as it was superficial. It left unasked two vital questions: Have presidential Bible consultations yielded universally positive results? and Should the Bible be relied upon as an unerring counsel for political leaders?

To answer the first question we need only travel back in time to 2003 to recall the account of former French President Jacques Chirac who claimed President Bush tried to convince him to join the invasion of Iraq because “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East.” Gog and Magog are not Mr. Magoo’s adorable nephews, but rather they are creatures prophesied in the Book of Revelation to bring destruction upon Israel. Given that a recent Gallup poll shows that 53% of Americans believe that invading Iraq was a mistake, we may have been better served if Bush had studied more about the tensions between Shiites and Sunnis and worried less about Gog and Magog.

A one-time US Senator and Secretary of War once said, “It (slavery) was established by decree of Almighty God and is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments from Genesis to Revelation.” The author of this quote was also a President of sorts: the Confederate States’ President Jefferson Davis.

Slavery is famously not outlawed in the Bible with passages like

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling.” —Ephesians 6:5

and

“Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters.” —Titus 2:9

That could explain that despite being fully aware of the Bible, 10 of the first 10 US Presidents (who were not named Adams) owned slaves at some point in their lives. But that was a different time. No politician today would really think the Bible meant what it said about slavery, right? Well there is the case of state representative Loy Mauch of Arkansas who claimed in 2012,

“If slavery were so God-awful, why didn’t Jesus or Paul condemn it?”

So consulting the Bible has been no guarantor of inerrant advice for past politicians. But is there a place for the Bible as an aide in informing today’s weighty political issues?

In my own study of the Bible, I have endeavored to catalogue the most surprising and arcane passages of the Old and New Testaments, and I discovered that for every Bible verse used to support a given political opinion, it was not difficult to find a verse that would support just the opposite.

There are the more lighthearted contradictions:

“Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing.” —Proverbs 18:22

and

“It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” —1 Corinthians 7:1

Then there are the confusing directives:

“Even so let your light shine before men.” —Matthew 5:16

and

“Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men.” —Matthew 6:1

Some are deeply theological:

“The Father is greater than I am.” —John 14:28

and

“I and my Father are one.” —John 10:30

And others have important public policy ramifications:

“Sell everything you have and give it to the poor.” —Luke 18:22

and

“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” —John 12:8

When I combed through every single saying of Jesus in the gospels looking for those with either a hint of liberal or conservative sentiments, I was surprised to find that Jesus was not wholly one or the other, though by my count his liberal-leaning statements outnumbered his conservative ones by a ration of 2 to 1. Given this mixed message in the gospels, what does it mean to rely upon the Bible as a source of political inspiration. Rather than hearing one consistent message, it seems highly likely that one would be tempted to seek out those verses that conform to one’s preexisting ideology also known as confirmation bias. When is the last time you heard a politician say that even though it goes completely against their political leanings, the Bible made them change a deeply held belief.

I mention this as a cautionary tale. Being well-versed in the Bible does not necessarily equal unparalleled political decision-making. Even Abraham Lincoln understood his limited ability to discern the ideal course of action when he said,

“My concern is not whether God is on our side. My greatest concern is to be on God’s side.”

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

The Beatles Foretold: The 12 Bible Verses That Prophesied the Coming of The Beatles!

BeatlesForetoldYou say you want a Revelation!

On the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ First Coming to America, the Bible verses that predicted the incarnation of The Beatles are finally coming to light:

1. He sendeth among them the beetle. —Psalm 78:45
2. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. —John 1:6
3. John spoke out against the ruler. —Luke 3:19
4. Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region. —Acts 18:23
5. When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted. —Acts 14:11
6. He kept silent and did not answer. —Mark 14:61
7. A man of understanding remains silent. —Proverbs 11:12
8. And I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. —Ezekiel 16:12
9. As to these four lads, God hath given to them knowledge and understanding in every kind of literature, and wisdom. —Daniel 1:17
10. They will be holy. They must let their hair grow long. —Numbers 6:5
11. And Jesus came down with them to a level place, and a great band.” —Luke 6:17
12. Upon this rock I will build my church. —Matthew 16:18

Eerily accurate or extraordinarily unerring? The answer seems obvious.The Beatles Bigger Than Jesus

This may appear to be a frivolous exercise in cherry-picking Bible verses to fit a predetermined narrative, but in much the same way, the gospel writers scoured the Hebrew Bible to find quotes that “prophesied” Jesus’ life and death (coincidentally about 50 years afterwards). The gospel writers misquoted the Bible, took quotes out of context, and distorted Jesus’ biography to create their “prophecies.” And while fundamentalist Christians would scoff at the Beatles Prophesy above, they frequently point to the Jesus “prophecies” as proof that the Bible is true.

Which brings us to the Bible Funmentionables Core Principle #6:

If your holy scriptures can “prove” either side of any issue, it’s not really proof at all.

Now excuse me while I get back to my Bible to definitively prove that the Walrus really was the most ironically named member of the Beatles, Pete Best.

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

I’m Jesus, and I Approve This Message

Celebrity endorsements can be tricky. Kid Rock endorsed his biggest fan, Mitt Romney. Gary Busey endorsed Donald Trump, before he endorsed Newt Gingrich, before he took back his endorsement of Newt Gingrich.  And now Jesus, a man who wants us to drink wine in his memory, is being used to endorse a pro-Prohibition ballot measure in Kentucky.

If you thought alcohol prohibition ended in 1933, you’d be right…and wrong. There are still 200 dry counties in the USA, and every year there are ballot measures to change counties from dry to wet. Not surprisingly, many of these dry areas are in the nation’s Bible Belt, and many pro-Prohibition proponents employ religious appeals: “Serve Jesus, not alcohol” reads an ad in a small Kentucky town’s newspaper.

And we find sentiments like this from Matthew Ratliffe of Williamsburg, Kentucky: “I do have a moral obligation as a follower of Jesus Christ to be against alcohol.”

But wait, isn’t this the same Jesus who had a reputation for excessively enjoying the fruit of the vine?

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard!” —Matthew 11:19

This is also the guy who at the Last Supper urged his followers to drink wine as if it were his blood, and he was looking forward to drinking in heaven too:

But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. —Matthew 26:29

Okay, Jesus seems to be cool with alcohol, but God never drank, right?

And the vine said to them, “Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man?” —Judges 9:13

It sounds like God not only drinks wine, but gets a little tipsy, if my interpretation is correct. And he helps his people do the same:

The Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine. —Isaiah 25:6

So Yahweh and Jesus seem to enjoy the occasional drink, but what does the rest of the Bible say on the matter. As usual, it is of two minds:

PRO

  • Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart. —Ecclesiastes 9:7
  • Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto the bitter of soul. —Proverbs 31:6
  • Take a little wine for the good of your stomach and because you are frequently ill. —1 Timothy 5:23


CON

  • Cursed are those who are strong to take wine and great in making mixed drinks! —Isaiah 5:22
  • Woe to him that giveth drink to his friend, and presenteth his gall, and maketh him drunk, that he may behold his nakedness…Drink thou also…and shameful vomiting shall be on thy glory.” —Habakkuk 2:15-16
  • Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. —Ephesians 5:18

The Bible’s coming down on both sides of the issue doesn’t help settle the case for or against Prohibition. But its ambivalence did give us one of the best oxymorons in the scriptures when it tells us that the one thing that “is health to soul and body” is

Sober drinking. —Sirach 31:37

I’m sure teetotaling advocates have their reasons for keeping Prohibition alive in their counties, but it may be time to find a new spokessavior. After all, if Jesus were really against alcohol, he would have chosen his first miracle ever performed to be turning wine into water instead of the other way around. That may have pleased some of his current day followers, but he would certainly have gone down in history, not just as a miracle worker, but also as one of the world’s worst wedding guests ever.

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

Is There a Blessing for a Bain?

Cherry-picking Bible verses is as easy as 10, 11, 12, 13.

God loves a good capitalist. Or so says Rabbi Aryeh Spero who gave Mitt Romney’s work at Bain Capital the Good Lord’s stamp of approval in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. The only problem is that it was less of a divine imprimatur and more of a classic example of a pesky little thing called “confirmation bias.”

Choosing only evidence that vindicates your personal biases is an easy trap, and with its many contradictory and ambiguous passages, the Bible makes confirmation bias that much easier.

Like a desperate kid with a Magic 8 Ball, the Bible is likely to give you the answer you want as long as you just keep trying.

Rabbi Spero begins his commentary by calling President Obama a “redistributionist.” (What has this nation come to when Spero can’t even call the President what he seems to want to: a socialist.) Spero’s broad-brush caricature of liberal positions and his disinterest in the social ramifications of Bain’s tactics make his ideology fairly obvious. He then cherry-picked Bible passages to purportedly absolve Romney and Bain of any possible offenses in their private equity exploits.

Spero’s main contention is that any critique of Bain’s business practice amounts to envy, and envy is forbidden in the Bible. It’s quite an assumption in itself to claim that basically anyone who has a problem with income distribution in America is just jealous. Calling the 99% envious is a way of downplaying the real concern that many have expressed that there is not a level playing field in America today—that the game is rigged in favor of the rich and powerful. And Bain’s story of firing workers, bankrupting companies, and raiding pension funds in order to reward its wealthy investors is a prime example.

But let’s assume that the 60% of Americans that think income distribution is an important issue are all just jealous. If we use a different confirmation bias, we could say that their jealousy is actually making them more godlike:

The Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. —Exodus 34:14

Now let’s see what else the Bible has to say about other views people have about Mitt Romney and Bain Capital.

Opinion 1: “Romney made his money honestly. We should all work to be as rich as he is.”

Bible’s Approval: The poor man is hated even by his neighbor, but the man of wealth has numbers of friends. —Proverbs 14:20

Bible’s Disapproval: Labor not to be rich. —Proverbs 23:4

Opinion 2: “In a capitalist system, it was Romney’s duty to seek the highest return on investment, regardless of societal implications.”

Bible’s Approval: “Why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.” —Matthew 25:27

Bible’s Disapproval: And they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. —Acts 2:45

Opinion 3: “Without lifting a finger, Mitt Romney’s blind trust earns in 16 hours what an average American worker earns in an entire year. It’s not fair.”

Bible’s Approval: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” —Mark 10:25

Bible’s Disapproval: Wealth makes a great number of friends, but the poor man is parted from his friend. —Proverbs 19:4

Opinion 4: “Romney raided companies, walked away with massive wealth, and cared little about the impact on the people affected.”

Bible’s Approval: When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches and dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away. And they were three days in taking the spoil, it was so much. —2 Chronicles 20:25

Bible’s Disapproval:  They slew of their enemy 75,000, but on the spoil they laid not their hand. —Esther 9:16

Opinion 5: “Mitt ‘I’m Not Concerned About The Very Poor’ Romney isn’t concerned about the very poor.”

Bible’s Approval: You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. —John 12:8

Bible’s Disapproval: He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. —Proverbs 14:31

As a bit of an expert on the use and abuse of Bible quotes (at least the outlandish ones), I know confirmation bias when I see it. Rabbi Spero would do better by telling us what he thinks about Mitt Romney’s version of capitalism rather than trying to tell us God’s opinion. It’s hard to precisely pinpoint God’s position on any particular topic these days. God gave numerous and contradictory statements in the past, and for some strange reason he is no longer giving interviews.