Saturday, May 07, 2005

Holy writ, Batman!

I don't, in general, like fundamentalism, but one thing about it you have to admire is its clarity: if the Quran says "adulterers must be stoned to death" or "thieves should have a hand chopped off", then that is what you do. No nonsense about 'understanding the criminal's environment', and 'we're all guilty', and 'who are we to say...'

I've been looking at Christian theodicy (the explanation of evil and suffering in a world created by God), in the course of which I've come across a wide range of readings of some of the more problematic incidents in the New Testament. My poem Collateral damage deals with one of these, the Massacre of the Innocents by King Herod, as described by Matthew (2 xv-xx).

This is a tough one to reconcile with a benevolent and merciful deity (as the poem implies). I was very surprised to come across the range of commentaries by Christians, which included:

1. It never happened. Matthew was wrong. He made it up because he wanted to demonstrate that Jewish prophecies were fulfilled.
2. As 1, except that Matthew was taking the prophecy as a symbol of a new covenant, not at face value.
3. It did happen, but shows that God can save the worthy (few) from the evil actions of Man (Herod).
4. It did happen, but was just one of those things. You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. (I didn't actually read this one but it seemed implied by various references to the deliberate dropping of the incident from the Nativity story by the modern Church).

But the prize for muddled thinking goes to this argument: "The Bible is true, every word of it. Because it says so in the Bible"


Anonymous said...

A fun-
text has to say that, lest
it'll be open to interpret-

martin said...

I can see that it might say it: a text that went "there was this bloke, see, and he went to a village, no it was a town, well, anyway, these three people came up him, or was it four? And they said -- no, wait a minute, I've got this wrong--- these people left the village and came to see him..." would not carry much conviction. But a text's assertion of its truth is still an assertion that the reader must consider on its merits- and the argument that the text says it needs no interpreation is itself an interpretation about which there may be dispute!