Wednesday, May 2, 2012

When Was the Cut-Off for Death as the Punishment for Sin

Picture this:

I'm a teenager, rebellious as all get out.  I can't stand my mother because all she does is sit in her room, doing her nails, twirling her hair, and complaining to my dad that she doesn't have enough powder on her puff.  On the other hand, I love my dad and feel sorry for the way she treats him.  He works hard for the family and yet gets zero credit for the woman he loves.  And he loves her deeply.  He's told me so.  Her shenanigans fall off his back like water on a duck.

But I'm not going to say anything.  I'm Jewish and the year is 31 CE.  I am well aware of Jewish law which states that, should I give my parents the evil eye, they can drag me down to the temple and have me stoned while they watch.  I want to live.

But something is curious about this point in history.  I hear there is this man named Jesus, traveling the countryside, winning converts to this new way of thinking.  Everyone around here is Jewish and we all think alike except for the weird Pharisees who do everything over the top.  Basically, if the Rabbi at the temple says something is so, then it is so.  You don't argue.  He is the mouthpiece of God, who we fear with great fear and trembling.  I should know.  All of our religious holy days have everything to do about death.  And the death is always Jehovah killing us or killing someone else.  Death is never far from the forefronts of our minds.

This man Jesus, though.  The rumor is, he's talking about life.  Sure, it's kinda weird, but he seems to say that we don't have to worry about this dangerous God anymore.  He says that we can come to him and be cleansed and have all of our sins forgiven.  I know sin.  I can't go three minutes without thinking of sin.  It's all we're about in this god-forsaken land, full of Roman soldiers, who our Rabbi tell us is a curse upon god knows who.  It's not like I did anything bad.  Why should I have to suffer?

But I get that.  After all, Adam screwed it up for me.  Because of his stupidity, we have to suffer.  We have to worry about appeasing the anger of this horrible God who, frankly, I just want to get rid of so I can LIVE!  But I can't.  If I speak my thoughts, I will be stoned.  Rebellion against God is worse than rebellion against your parents.  But you end up the same way for either, really - dead.

And then I hear the rumors again about Jesus.  He says that our thoughts make us sinners as much as our actions.  I don't really like that idea, but I like the fact that he says, if we follow him, we don't have to worry about God's wrath anymore.  That is really intriguing to me.  I can tell my mother what I really think of her without fear of getting my brains bashed in by a large rock.

But, how does this work?  Do I have to wait until the Jewish leaders accept this new religion?  Who is Jesus?  Some say he says he is God.  That is disappointing to me.  Saying stuff like that gets you killed around these parts.  Others say he is just a great teacher.  But if he is, why does he not worry about God killing him for saying we don't have to follow the law anymore?  Or does he say we do?  I don't know.

Another thing.  If he is God and he means what he says, can I tell my mother off now?  He's here, right?  Could I tell my mother what I really think when he came as a baby?  Or was it only alright when he began his ministry?  When?  I want to be safe here.  I don't want to make a mistake, rebel, and get stoned, just because I got it wrong.

Oh, I don't know.  Dad, I feel so bad for you.  Maybe I'll wait a few more years until Jesus really gets popular.  Maybe his ideas will catch on and I can do what I feel is right and not get killed for it.  Yeah.  I'll just wait. 


So when was it?  At what point in Jesus' life was the line crossed where this teen could tell his mother what for and not get stoned?  Was it when Jesus was a baby?  Was it when he was twelve?  When he began his ministry at thirty years of age?  Was it when he died and the temple curtain was ripped?  Was it when he rose from the dead?  Was it when he ascended into heaven?  At what point could the rebellious teen do what was right and tell his mother that she was doing something naughty and be good before God? 

When did that line get drawn where God said, "Today, your life is required of you for your actions...wait...what? bad!  Jesus did what he needed to do and the line has been crossed.  You're good!"

Even more complex, why did Jesus, as God, transcend all of time, past, present, and future, as a living God, and yet, had no ability to transcend his action of forgiving all sin throughout all time?  Why did millions of people have to die, as in Noah's flood, while they begged for God to send the Messiah to save them?  Why did God require the sacrifices and force all of humanity to get his law just right in order to be blessed and not to be murdered by the deity (except when you just got screwed by God when he didn't follow his own rules, as in the case of Job)?  Why?  Why is humanity after Jesus' point in time, whenever it was, where we no longer were judged by that awful law, so special?

I don't think the answer is difficult.  Ancient cultures maintained order by fear.  Fear was wielded through religion.  In the old days, God was a deity to be feared.  You explained all sorts of phenomena by saying "God did it."  As knowledge increased and people started to think and study, that sort of God had to die.  And yet we still keep him around and even pretend that somehow, murdering 2.3 million people throughout his holy book, for no other reason than he was a jealous, immature, being, somehow, just somehow, he is defined by the word "love".


  1. My viewpoint, to which I arrived fairly recently, is that the law itself is the knowledge of good and evil which resulted from eating of the tree.

    Living under the OT rules was the curse. Knowing what constitutes perfect 'justice' was death. There is a distinct lack of love in the OT, because the OT is what happens when you judge by the law, and not by the value of a person.

    Adam's example now is turning from God, to a rulebook. The return of Jesus was a reminder that a rulebook was a poor replacement for valuing a person, in this case, the person of God, personified by Christ.

    Both sets are universal constants, forgiveness and love always overruled the dead law, so there was no line to cross in time, but simply in the heart. Jesus showed up and told the Pharisees that they were wrong, not that the rules had changed.

  2. You're implying that it was important and necessary at some point for the teen in question to vent at his mother. Before reaching adulthood.


  3. Vent, sure. How about anything that could be deemed as rebellion. Maybe even just telling his mother that something was amiss. But don't take this allegory, work with anything else. How about sacrifices to god? What about...well...anything that required death?

    1. I wasn't saying I don't get the point, I do. I just don't see why a teenager even needs to confront his parents about their behavior unless their behavior is damaging him. The allegory sounded like a relationship issue that should stay between the parents and for him to get involved would seem inappropriate. IMO. Not worthy of death, obviously.

      But I certainly agree with your point.

  4. I was threatened with the stoning scriptures in 1979. They were read aloud by the elders, with great flourish, but I was banished instead, since mob murder is against the law in the USA. That horrible church is still in existence, and goes by the terrible misnomer Grace Community. Communities that endorse mob violence are not very gracious, even if they only give lip service to such hatred.

    Mrs. Searching,
    It is a normal part of being a teen to question their parents because they are growing into autonomous beings. Good parents are not threatened by this, and even encourage questions and differences of opinion. Fundamentalist parents feel their power threatened by questions and so come down hard on teens for simply growing up. Most activities that fundamentalist parents would call "rebellious" are reactions to finding out that parents are not perfect, and in fact can be flat out wrong, about many things that the parents themselves blindly and foolishly believe. They are not rebelling, they are disagreeing. Good parents, humble parents, sheepishly concede when their teens have a point, and agree to disagree when they think their teens are wrong. Rules and curfews are negotiable and should change with time as teens grow. But for the fundamentalist, who believes they have divine authority and a direct line to God when forming the original rules, don't believe that. They teach that their children are to obey them blindly, without thinking any independent thoughts or wanting any more freedom than fundamentalist parents, mistaking themselves for God, capriciously and stingily deal out.

    Other "rebellions", like searching for someone to love them and listen to them, are only rebellion to parents who are abusive control freaks. It is good for teens and younger children to have friends who care for them outside of their family and church. Only fundamentalist parents fear the influence of people they can't control. Good parents allow all kinds of friendships within healthy parameters (know where they are/who they are with/meet the friends parents/check in regularly). Still others, like cutting, suicide gestures, substance abuse, or law-breaking, are reactions to the pain of living in an emotionally/spiritually and sometimes physically abusive home. They are not "sin" or "rebellion", they are symptoms that something is seriously amiss in your home; your entire family system needs rethought and reformed.

    Joe, Jesus broke the law frequently. He touched dead bodies, let bleeding women touch him, touched lepers, touched blind people, ate and drink with Gentiles, healed on the Sabbath, was alone with and approached the woman at the Well, his disciples reaped and threshed wheat with their own hands on the Sabbath, and did not wash their hands before eating. He was not a "good Jew" at all.