by Liam Scheff
It’s a strange thought to consider that the most popular western religion (Christianity, at 73% of the US) exists thanks to and at the expense of the west’s second most popular religion (Judaism, at a paltry 1.2% of the US) – but, it’s worth the trouble. Not to generate sympathy for Jews, or anger toward Christians, but to understand how they both connect.
Judaism is the basis for the first half of the Christian double-feature, “The Bible.” The Jewish Torah or Pentateuch forms the biggest chunk of what we think of as the GOD stories in the Bible, from Genesis and Adam and Eve, to Moses and the Pharaoh, to Leviticus – home of the 400 ‘thou shalts’ that haunt our days and ways…to “Numbers,” which is about…numbers! Numbers of Jews and their numerous failures to do what Yahweh said…to Deuteronomy, which is a very weird name and gives us more Moses, Moses, Moses and more laws, laws, laws – for the Jews.
This is clearly a tribal religion for a near-eastern group who followed the imagined dictates of an angry, spiteful, manipulative, coercive, vengeful thunder god, (like Indra, Cronos, Zeus, Odin and others).
So, Why is this in the Christian Bible?
After a long time suffering under their own rules and the violence of Rome, which didn’t like their politics, the Jews decided that the ‘God of Vengeance’ argument was a little too risky and inflammatory – and they renamed him as the quiet, peaceful “Son of God,” who was sent by Yahweh (the angry god from the first movie) to suck it up for humanity, and show us the way by…well. Confusing stuff. Magic, water walking, fish doubling, wine-making and sick-healing. Also riding a donkey and preaching tolerance and forgiveness, generally. Except to the few greedy Jews and nasty overlords. So, he was nailed to two planks of wood, died, but caught a return flight and was back in no time, only to leave again.
Really, that’s…well. Close. Anyway.
The Jewish story was eventually, a few centuries later, at the Council of Nicaea (lovely place to go, Nicaea, very Turkish) in 325, subsumed into the overarching narrative. They threw in some songs, sayings, and sexy bits, too, and they excluded a whole lot of stuff. They pulled together the contradictory stories about at least one of the many Joshuas (Jesuses) who’d been stirring the pot in Galilee and Judea – and they added a wild sci-fi ending to really give the audience what it wanted: fire from the sky and all the special effects that make going to the movies so much fun.
But the strange bit is this: the Bible asks us to understand that the first half was a miserable slog through a barren wasteland of slavery, torture and sadistic, Draconian rule-making, governed by a capricious God. But, the second half starts with the “fulfillment of the promise” or “covenant” offered in the first part – which makes the angry God go away, and everybody can have iPods.
(But was there a promise made there? Or did the scriptwriters just add that in, like George Lucas remaking his Star Wars movies, adding child actors, plastic special effects, and killing every working myth in them?)
The Bible rests on the premise that the Jews (the people who were “chosen” until Josh…Jesus came along) failed somehow to make it all the way because they didn’t follow along with the new program. I mean, they COULD convert, (it’s as easy as “spectacles testicles wallet and watch” and chewing the wafer with the wine), but most don’t (most Jews stay modestly Jewish, which means Chinese food at Christmas – or used to – now it’s Thai fusion or macrobiotic home cooking); but, you see, Jewishness is, apparently, failed Christianity.
Or, that’s the story that the Bible tells us. Which is a pretty weird story.
Oh well. It’s a very f*cked up world. Try to find some love and have a laugh and a cry. Both are useful. And if you follow the teachings of Joshua – well, do it, because he said: “love, forgive, be generous and be kind,” and the world will be a better place. At least, your world will be.
Liam Scheff is author of Official Stories – because official stories exist to protect officials.