In the comments of my last post (we missed a week because of blog host shenanigans), Ken B. provided links (here and here) that show Christians themselves wondering about the authenticity of the famous gospel story in which Jesus says, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” I also talked with two people I trust, who know a lot more on these things than I do, and their answers were not definitive that the account is airtight.
So, I agree with Ken B. that I shouldn’t place a lot of weight on that particular passage, until I personally investigate the matter more and can be confident that Jesus actually did say it.
Having said all that, I am still quite sure about my stance on what started this whole thing: I had said that although one could argue that Jesus thought marriage should be only between a man and woman, there was no way any Christian could possibly think that Jesus wants him to stone gay people to death.
My thoughts then provoked people to throw Old Testament quotations at me, and passages saying Jesus and the Father are one, etc. etc. (I may not be perfectly reproducing the progression of the discussion, but I am pretty sure this was the spirit of it.)
In this context, I then cited the case of the religious authorities deliberately trying to trap Jesus on His seeming mercy in light of the Mosaic law, by bringing before Him a woman caught in adultery. Since the Old Testament calls for her to be stoned, what would Jesus say? And–according to that gospel account–Jesus neither commanded her to be stoned, nor did He say the law was invalid. Rather, He (allegedly) said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Now, in light of Ken B’s evidence, I recognize that I can’t be certain that this event actually happened. OK fine, there are still plenty of other places in the gospels where Jesus doesn’t endorse His followers actually implementing the harsh penalties prescribed in the Old Testament. Perhaps the most obvious example is Matthew 5: 38-45:
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[h] 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Look carefully at the parts I put in bold. Jesus is clearly saying, “Hey guys, you used to operate under this understanding, but now I’m stepping it up a notch.” Also notice that this older understanding came from the law–it wasn’t some pagan rituals that Jesus is here discussing. For example from Exodus 21: 22-25:
22 “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”
So to repeat my earlier thoughts, if modern agnostics/atheists want to ridicule the crazy, contradictory doctrines of modern Christianity, OK you can make that argument. But it is simply wrong to assert that if you call yourself a Christian, oops you just agreed you have to stone your teenager if he talks back. That is simply not true. That’s not what Jesus taught.
Here are some other examples of Jesus’ teachings that make it hard for me to see how anybody calling himself a Christian can make posters saying, “God hates f*gs” etc.
==> Following perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible is this (Jn 3:17): “17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
==> Or how about this one? Jesus is looking at Jerusalem before His ordeal will begin. He laments (Mt 23: 37), “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”
==> Yet another episode where Jesus clarifies that self-righteous condemnation is not His purpose (Mark 2:15-17):
15 Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. 16 And when the scribes and[a] Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
==> And let’s suppose you convince me that God still wants to destroy people for sinning. OK, does that mean you are supposed to carry it out? If you think that, remember Jesus also said (Mt 7:1 – 5):
7 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
In conclusion, let me reiterate that I am not a Bible scholar. All I have done is read the book (in its modern translations) and go to church. Yet it seems to me that unless the entire gospel is a fabrication, then followers of the man called Jesus Christ are not here to condemn others for sin. That goes against everything Jesus reputedly stood for.