I had been bouncing ideas around for my last entry, Five Tips For Bible Bashers, for a while when I saw something in a December 30 newspaper that exemplified what I intended to talk about. I figured it would be a perfect example. Then when I actually wrote and posted the article, I forgot to include it. That's OK, in retrospect; I think the original article was long enough, thanks.
As I've hopefully made clear by now, I like people to know what they're talking about if they're going to seriously discuss Biblical matters. That's why I was happy to see columnist Gwynne Dyer take Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to task for his (M.A.'s) statements about Jesus's political views. The first part is a quotation from the Iranian president's speech, and then Dyer's apt response:
"If Christ were on Earth today, undoubtedly He would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers. . . . He would hoist the banner of love and justice for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over."
Really? Christ lived in the Roman Empire, the very epitome of a bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist power, and his own native land, Palestine, was under Roman occupation, but he didn't hoist the banner to oppose anything.
M.A. is trying to slyly insinuate that Jesus would be on Iran's side against the United States (and, presumably, Hamas' side versus Israel). Dyer, apparently having learned a thing or two about Jesus, knows better. That's good, and this is exactly the kind of rebuke to Biblical ignorance (again, in the non-pejorative sense) that I like to see.
However, Dyer then blows it big time a few paragraphs later, badly damaging his credibility (emphasis added):
Abraham and Muhammad were both prominent and powerful men. Christ was not. He was almost certainly illiterate, and he never showed the slightest interest in politics.
This set off all kinds of warning bells, and it took me about twenty seconds to look up this passage:
(Jesus) went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me..."
There are also many passages in the Gospels where Jesus responds to challenges with "Have you not read" or "it is written" - highly unlikely responses if He was illiterate. Consider too the fact that He was called Rabbi, a title which generally implies extensive learning. I could continue, but I hope the point is now made. It is easily demonstrated that there is no chance, based on the Gospels, that Jesus was illiterate.
Maybe basic research really is too much to ask. I don't mean to slam Dyer individually here - his carelessness is simply typical of the cheerful guessing that passes for commentary these days.
Here's all I ask, whether you're preaching from a pulpit or doing your worst to tear down the church from the outside: before you start expounding on "What would Jesus do", find out what He did.
Read it for yourself. Don't embarrass yourself with easily refuted claims. When that happens, it damages the credibility of everything else you say.
This warning is for myself at least as much as for anyone else.
Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the stuff my son got for Christmas. So much for avoiding an orgy of materialism.