Friday, January 12, 2007

Jesus came to abolish animal sacrifice--not the Law

Steve Kaufman wrote:

> I don't have such disregard for Paul.
> I think he offers some excellent
> insights into problems of human
> community and ways to generate
> peaceful, loving communities. I think
> a problem is that many Christians conflate
> Paul with Jesus, and I find Jesus' teachings
> generally more insightful and helpful. In my
> ongoing essay series Christianity and the
> Problem of Human Violence (distributed
> weekly to the Christian Vegetarian Association
> e-newsletter list), I cite Paul's writings
> extensively.

In Broken Thread, Keith Akers writes: "Paul's letters are moving documents for many Christians. They make an impression today on us and on anyone raised as a Christian who seeks to make sense out of the religion they have come to know. They also made a deep impression on those who read them in the early church the consequences of which we live with even today.

"No one can read the synoptic gospels and the letters of Paul without becoming aware of great differences in their pictures of Jesus. For Paul, Jesus is the Son of God raised from the dead as a sign of God's grace; faith in Jesus replaces the Law of Judaism and transforms us into spiritual beings. For the gospels, Jesus is a miracle-worker and preacher urging the people to repentance; living in accordance with the Law is the path to life. The preponderance of what the Jesus of the gospels talks about has very little to do with the preponderance of what Paul talks about. Jesus seems to be interested in purifying and intensifying what Paul considers 'so much garbage.' "

Keith writes: "There are passages in the Old Testament which are clearly against animal sacrifice--not against this or that aspect of animal sacrifice, or against the way it is offered, or even against the people making the offerings, but against the practice itself. This is strange because apparently the Old Testament also mandates, or at the very least allows, animal sacrifice. Those wishing to defend the consistency of the sacrificial legislation with Isaiah, might say that Isaiah's objection is not to the practice of animal sacrifice itself, but to the sins of the Israelites, and that in view of these sins, the sacrifice was still rejected by God. However, such an interpretation is clearly contrary to the text.

" 'I have no desire for the blood of bulls' is stated without qualification; God (quoted by Isaiah) does not say 'Because your sins are so great, or because you still have a hard heart, I have no desire for the blood of *these* bulls you are offering Me,' but simply, 'I have no desire for the blood of bulls.'

"No qualification is offered, either for the statement 'The reek of sacrifice is abhorrent to Me.' It is not 'Your sins are abhorrent to Me,' or 'Your hypocrisy is abhorrent to Me'; the objection is to the stench of slaughter itself. Further, the question which is asked 'Whenever you come to enter My presence--who asked you for this?' does not make sense unless it is the sacrificial cult itself which is in question. If one accepts Leviticus as commanding animal sacrifice, the answer to the question 'who asked you for this?' is that it is precisely God Himself who asked for the bloody sacrifices. In this case the question becomes meaningless or we have to suppose that God is suffering from some sort of memory lapse. That God is asking this question clearly implies that (for Isaiah) God never asked for these sacrifices.

"Finally, we have the question of what 'this' is in the question, 'Who asked you for this?' 'This' is precisely the behavior cited in the previous verse--namely, the multitude of sacrifices of the people, which God through Isaiah views as 'trampling My courts.' The Temple is God's court, and it is thus not the sinful behavior of the people generally which is being objected to (though there is probably enough of that as well), but rather some *specific* sinful behavior performed in the Temple--namely, the animal sacrifices."

Keith cites Amos 5:25, which quotes God as asking, "Did you bring to Me sacrifices and offerings for forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?" He writes, "The text is initially puzzling because something has been left out--the answer to the rhetorical question. Were sacrifices and offerings made to God in the wilderness? The context suggests that the answer must be 'no!' Otherwise, the denunciation of sacrifice makes no sense, since Israel was supposed to be in an especially holy and pure state in the wilderness."

Abba Hillel Silver, in his 1961 book, Moses and the Original Torah, similarly observes that when the prophet Amos quoted God as asking, "Did you bring to Me sacrifices and offerings for forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?" he was clearly expecting a negative answer. But he couldn't have made such a statement, unless there was an earlier tradition, an earlier Torah, which did not call for animal sacrifice. According to Silver, the sacrificial system was a pagan practice which became incorporated into Mosaic Law.

Sometimes Christians cite the word "full" in the phrase "I am full of burnt offerings" found in Isaiah 1:11,15, where sacrifices are denounced, as proof that God accepted the sacrifices. However, in Isaiah 43:23-24, Isaiah quotes God as saying, "You have not honored Me with your sacrifices...rather you have burdened Me with your sins, you have wearied Me with your iniquities." This suggests, as Moses Maimonides taught, that "the sacrifices were a concession to barbarism."

In his excellent A Guide to the Misled, Rabbi Shmuel Golding explains the orthodox Jewish position concerning animal sacrifices: "When G-d gave our ancestors permission to make sacrifices to Him, it was a concession, just as when He allowed us to have a king (I Samuel 8), but He gave us a whole set of rules and regulations concerning sacrifice that, when followed, would be superior to and distinct from the sacrificial system of the heathens."

There is nothing in the synoptic gospels of Jesus to suggest a fundamental break with Judaism. Jesus was called Rabbi meaning Master or Teacher 42 times in the gospels. The ministry of Jesus was a rabbinic one. Jesus related Scripture and God's laws to everyday life, teaching by personal example. He engaged in healing and acts of mercy. He told stories or parables--a rabbinic method of teaching. He went to the synagogue (Matthew 12:9), taught in the synagogues (Matthew 4:23, 13:54; Mark 1:39), expressed concern for Jairus, "one of the rulers of the synagogue" (Mark 5:36) and it "was his custom" to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16).

Jesus blessed the meek, repeating Psalm 37:11, saying they would inherit the earth. Here Jesus refers to Isaiah's vision (11:6-9) of the future Kingdom of Peace, where the earth is restored to a vegetarian paradise (Genesis 1:29-31). Jesus taught his followers to pray for the coming of this Kingdom and to do God's will "on earth as it is in heaven." The synoptic gospels suggest that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law, but instead made it more severe. Although the Ten Commandments teach "thou shalt not kill", Jesus extended this morality to the point where one must never get angry without cause. Although the Ten Commandments teach "thou shalt not commit adultery," Jesus taught that "whoever looks upon a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

The Bible limits compensation to "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth", but Jesus taught his followers not to defend themselves against attack or aggression. "All who take up the sword must perish by the sword," Jesus warned. Instead of teaching men to love their neighbors and hate their enemies, Jesus taught them to love their enemies and bless and pray for their persecutors. (Matthew 5:38-44; Luke 6:27-29) Jesus forbade divorce, except for unfaithfulness. When asked why Moses permitted divorce, Jesus replied that it was a concession to the hardness of the heart. He insisted upon the moral standards given by God at the beginning. (Matthew 5:31-32, 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18)

"Do not suppose I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets," insisted Jesus. "I did not come to destroy but to fulfill...till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle pass from the Law till all is fulfilled. Whoever, therefore, breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven...unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-20) Jesus also upheld Mosaic Law in Luke 16:17: "And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass than for the smallest portion of the Law to become invalid."

Nor do these texts refer merely to the Ten Commandments: Jesus meant the entire Law; 613 commandments. When a man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus replied, "You know the commandments." He then quoted not just the Ten Commandments, but a commandment from Leviticus 19:13 as well, "Do not defraud." (Mark 10:17-22) When Jesus was accused of violating the Sabbath with his disciples, he tried to illustrate how his actions were consistent with the Torah. (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5) Jesus' disciples were once accused by the scribes and Pharisees of violating rabbinical tradition (Matthew 15:1-2; Mark 7:5), but not biblical law. At no place in the entire New Testament does Jesus ever proclaim Mosaic Law to be abolished; this was the theology of Paul, a former Pharisee who never knew Jesus, but who used to persecute his followers.

When a scribe asked Jesus what is the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus began with "Hear O Israel, the Lord thy God is One Lord." This is the Shema, which is still heard in every synagogue service to this day. "And you shall love the Lord with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength...And you shall love your neighbor as yourself," Jesus concluded. When the scribe agreed that God is one and that to love Him completely and also love one's neighbor as oneself is "more important than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices," Jesus replied, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." (Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:29-34; Luke 10:25-28)

Jesus' words in Matthew 7:12, "Accordingly, whatever you would have people do for you, do the same for them; for this covers the Law and the Prophets", are sometimes taken to mean the Law has been abolished, one need only "do unto others". However, Jesus' response to the scribe proves otherwise. To believe in one God and love Him with all one's heart, soul and mind is not "covered" by "do unto others", which is merely a secular humanist moral philosophy. Nor is it a new teaching. Jesus was merely repeating in the positive what Rabbi Hillel had stated a generation earlier. Hillel's words were never taken to mean the Law was abolished, why should we assume this of Jesus?

If Jesus really did come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, Peter would not have resisted a divine command to kill and eat both "clean" and "unclean" animals (Acts 10), nor would there have been a dispute in the early church regarding to what extent the gentiles were to observe Mosaic Law (Acts 15). When Paul visited the church at Jerusalem, James and the elders told him all its members were "zealous for the Law," and were worried, because they heard rumors that Paul was preaching against the Law (Acts 21).

Jesus began his ministry by teaching the multitudes not to "give what is sacred to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine." (Matthew 7:6) Dogs, like swine, were considered foul and unclean by the Hebrew people. (Deuteronomy 23:18; I Samuel 24:14; II Kings 8:13; Psalm 22:16,20; Matthew 7:6; Luke 16:21; Revelations 22:15) These words were used by the children of Israel to describe the neighboring heathen populations. When sending his disciples out to preach, Jesus instructed them not to go to the gentiles, but to "go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matthew 10:5-6) When a Canaanite woman asked Jesus to heal her daughter, he replied, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel...It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." (Matthew 15:22-28) Jesus regarded the gentiles as "dogs". His gospel was intended for the Jewish people.

While teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, Jesus healed a woman who had been ill for eighteen years. He justified his healing work on the Sabbath by referring to biblical passages calling for the humane treatment of animals as well as their rest on the Sabbath. "So ought not this woman, being a daughter of loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?" Jesus asked. (Luke 13:10-16) On yet another occasion, Jesus again referred to Torah teaching on compassion for animals to justify healing on the Sabbath. "Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?" (Luke 14:1-5) Jesus compared saving sinners who had gone astray to rescuing lost sheep. He recalled a Jewish legend about Moses' compassion as a shepherd for his flock. (Matthew 18:11-13; Luke 15:3-7,10)

"Mercy and not sacrifice" (Matthew 9:10-13, 12:6-7; Mark 2:15-17; Luke 5:29-32) is the phrase best describing Jesus' ministry. The prophets before Jesus had indicated God is more pleased by acts of mercy and righteousness than with burnt offerings. There are also many verses throughout the Bible indicating that animal sacrifices and bloodshed are abhorrent to a God whose compassion extends to all living creatures. When Jesus entered Jerusalem with his disciples, he went directly into the Temple and drove out all who bought and sold in the Temple. Here he attacked the institution of animal sacrifice. The merchants were selling animals for sacrifice. Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves, sheep and oxen. He did not allow anyone to carry goods through the Temple.

He justified his actions by telling them: "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'" Jesus was quoting a passage from the prophet Jeremiah, which begins at verse 7:11, and concludes at verses 21-22: "Add whole-offerings to sacrifices and eat the flesh if you will. But when I brought your forefathers out of Egypt, I gave them no commands about sacrifices. I said not a word about them." This verse, like others in the prophetic literature, suggests Mosaic Law never condoned animal sacrifice to begin with.

In the January/February 1998 issue of Humane Religion, Reverend J.R. Hyland notes that in some Bible translations, the word "just" was added to Jeremiah 7:21-22, changing the meaning entirely: "For when I brought your forefathers out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not [JUST] give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices." She writes: "Obviously the addition of the word 'just' entirely changes the meaning of the text. It was deliberately inserted, with no pretense by scholars that the Hebrew supported such an addition...It is the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible that altered the text, and this is the most popular translation since the publication of the King James Version in the 17th century. It is widely used by both scholars and laypersons and is the only translation of the seven leading versions of the Bible that has changed the meaning of Jeremiah 7:22."

Jesus healed the blind and the lame in Temple--acts of "mercy and not sacrifice." (Matthew 21:12-14; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-4; John 2:14-17)

In the (updated) 1986 edition of A Vegetarian Sourcebook, Keith Akers notes that there was a link in Judaism between meat-eating and animal sacrifices, that the prophetic tradition to which Jesus belonged attacked animal sacrifices, and that Jesus attacked the practice of animal sacrifice by driving the money-changers out of the Temple. He concludes, "The evidence indicates that for those who first heard the message of Jesus...the rejection of animal sacrifices had directly vegetarian implications."

Otto Pfleiderer, in his 1906 work, Christian Origins, observed: "When he (Jesus) saw the busy activities of the dealers in sacrificial animals and Jewish coins overrunning the outer court he drove them out with their wares. This business was connected with the sacrifice service and therefore Jesus' reformatory action seemed to be an attack on the sacrificial system itself and indirecty on the hierarchs who derived their income from and based their social position of power on the sacrificial service."

Jesus explained that celibacy is not something everyone can practice; it is meant only for those whom God has ordained it. He used the euphemism "eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven," recalling his euphemism about denying or dismembering bodily urges rather than having the entire body destroyed by sin. (Matthew 5:29-30, 18:8-9, 19:10-12) The apparent celibacy of Jesus is unusual by ancient Hebrew standards. The Bible does call for temporary abstinences, under certain circumstances. According to the Talmud, Moses voluntarily chose to give up sexual relations with his wife after he received his call from God. He reasoned that if the Israelites, to whom the Lord spoke only once and briefly, were ordered to abstain from sexual relations temporarily (Exodus 19:10,13), then he--being in continual dialogue with God--should remain celibate.

Philo of Alexandria tells us that to sanctify himself, Moses cleansed himself of "all the mortal calls of nature, food and drink and intercourse with women. This last he had disdained for many a day, almost from the time when, possessed by the Spirit, he entred on his work as a prophet, since he held it fitting to hold himself always in readiness to receive the oracular messages." Given this information, Jesus' apparent voluntary embrace of celibacy, from the time of his baptism and reception of the Spirit of God, becomes meaningful to Jews and Christians alike.

Aside from the Pharisees, the gospels and Book of Acts mention the Sadducees as the only other major school of Judaic thought. The Sadducees tended to be rich, nationalist and secularist. The Jewish historian Josephus, who lived during the time of Jesus, wrote that there were only three sects: the Pharisees, Sadducees and the Essenes. (Antiquities G.13,1,2; Atiquities B.13,5,9; Wars of the Jews B.2,8,2) Josephus wrote that the "Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances...which are not written into the laws of Moses and" which "the Sadducees reject," but they "are able to persuade none but the rich," whereas "the Pharisees have the multitude on their side." Thus, Jesus never rejected Mosaic Law (Matthew 5:17-19; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 16:17); only its Pharisaic excesses.

Paul repeatedly attacked idolatry. (Romans 1:23; I Corinthians 6:9-10; II Corinthians 6:16; Galatians 5:19-21) He recognized the immorality of accepting food offered to idols and pagan gods: "...that which they are sacrifice they are offering to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons." (I Corinthians 10:30) Yet Paul then proceeded to give his followers permission to eat food offered to pagan idols! "You may eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions for conscience: for the earth is the Lord's and everything in it." (I Corinthians 10:14-33)

Paul told his followers they need only abstain from such foods if it offends their "weaker" brethren: "For if someone sees you...sitting at the table in an idol temple,, will not his conscience, weak as it is, encourage him to eat food offered to idols?...If my eating causes my brother to stumble, I shall eat o meat for ever, so that my brother will not be made to fall into sin." (I Corinthians 8:1-13)

Not only does this contradict the Apostles' decree concerning gentile converts (Acts 15), it contradicts the teachings of Jesus himself. In Revelations 2:14-16,20, the resurrected Jesus specificaly instructs John to write to two churches that they not eat food offered to idols. Secular historian Dr. Martin A. Larson writes in The Story of Christian Origins, that the seven Asian churches Jesus wrote to (Revelation 1:4) were Jewish Christian churches that had repudiated Paul. (II Timothy 1:15)

Paul, who once persecuted the brethren, openly identified himself as a Roman (Acts 22:25-26) and an apostate from Judaism (Philippians 3:4-8). Jesus, on the other hand, insisted that even seemingly insignificant demands from the Laws of Moses could not be set aside (Matthew 5:17-19; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 16:17). Jesus taught that God desires "mercy and not sacrifice" (Matthew 9:13, 12:7) and he opposed the buying and selling of animals for sacrifice (Matthew 21:12-14; Mark 11:15; John 2:14-15) Christian doctrine implicitly teaches that Jesus came to do away with animal sacrifice (Hebrews 10:5-10), and the gentile world, beginning with Paul, mistook this for a rejection of the entire Law of Moses.

It's hard to tell if Paul was rejecting the entire Law of Moses, or merely its Pharisaic excesses, since he quoted the Law as spiritual authority (e.g., I Corinthians 14:21,34). On at least one occasion, he acknowledged the Law to be spiritual, but admitted his own inability to observe it. (Romans 7:12,14-25) On another occasion, Paul stated that laws are laid down for the lawless; morality is meant for those who would otherwise lack morals. (I Timothy 1:8-11) Many of Paul's statements are not against the Law itself, but against the hypocrisy with which it was being enforced or observed (Galatians 2:1-14), and the fact that the gentiles were not obliged to follow all of Mosaic Law. (Acts 15)

The Reverend J. Todd Ferrier, founder of the Order of the Cross, wrote in "On Behalf of the Creatures":

"But Paul, great and noble man as he was, never was one of the recognized heads at Jerusalem. He had been a Pharisee of the Pharisees...He strove to be all things to all men that he might gain some. And we admire him for his strenuous endeavors to win the world for Christ. But no one could be all things to all men without running the great risks of most disastrous results...

"But here as a further thought in connection with the teaching of the great Apostle an important question is forced upon our attention, which one of these days must receive the due consideration from biblical scholars that it deserves. It is this:

"How is it that the gospel of Paul is more to many people than the gospel of those privileged souls who sat at the feet of Jesus and heard His secrets in the Upper Room?"

Christian theologian Dr. Upton Clary Ewing also says, "With all due respect for the integrity of Paul, he was not one of the Twelve Apostles...Paul never knew Jesus in life. He never walked and prayed with Him as He went from place to place, teaching the word of God."

Paul told his gentile followers that it is best to abstain from meat and wine or from food offered to pagan idols so as not fo offend the "weaker" brethren. (Romans 14; I Corinthians 8:1-13) Paul's use of the word "weak" has been debated. Dr. Upton Clary Ewing beleves Paul used the word "weak" with a positive connotation. According to Paul, "God has chosen the weak things in the world to shame the strong." (I Corinthians 1:27)

Describing his tribulations for the cause of Christ, being caught up in the heavenly spheres, and a revelation from Jesus, Paul wrote:

"If I must boast, I shall boast of matters that show my weakness....I will boast, but not about myself--unless it be about my weakness...the Lord...he told me, ' strength comes to perfection where there is weakness.' Therefore," Paul concludes, "I am happy to boast in my weaknesses...I delight, then, in weaknesses...for when I am weak, then I am strong." (II Corinthians 11:30, 12:1-10)

Paul wrote further that Jesus "was crucified out of weakness, yet he lives through divine power, and we, too, are weak in him; but we shall live with him for your benefit through the power of God...We are happy to be weak when you are strong." (II Corinthians 13:4,9)

Taken in this context, the word "weak" suggests complete dependence upon God. Since Paul refers not only to Christians who abstain from meat and wine as "weak" (Romans 14), but also Christians who abstain from food offered to pagan idols (I Corinthians 8:1-13), he must have used the word "weak" with a positive connotation, or he was a false prophet who contradicted the resurrected Jesus (Revelations 2:14-16,20) and the other apostles (Acts 15).

Paul says if anyone has any confidence in Mosaic Law, "I am ahead of him." Would that include Jesus, who not only upheld Mosaic Law (Matthew 5:17-19), but said following its commandments is the way to eternal life (Mark 10:17-22), and said it is easier for heaven and earth to pass than for the smallest portion of the Law to become invalid (Luke 16:17) ?

Sometimes Christians cite II Corinthians 12:8-9, where Paul quotes Jesus as having said to him three times, "My grace is sufficient for thee," misinterpreting this to mean they're free to do whatever they want, ignoring Jesus' and Paul's other teachings. Paul gave all kinds of moral instructions elsewhere in his letters:

Paul taught his followers to bless their persecutors and not curse them (Romans 12:14), to care for their enemies by providing them with food and drink (12:20), and to pay their taxes and obey all earthly governments (13:1-7). He mentioned giving all his belongings to feed the hungry (I Corinthians 13:3), and taught giving to the person in need (Ephesians 4:28). He told his followers it was wrong to take their conflicts before non-Christian courts rather than before the saints. (I Corinthians 6:1)

Paul taught that "it is good for a man not to touch a woman," i.e., it is best to be celibate, but because of prevailing immoralities, marriage is acceptable. Divorce, however, is not permissible, except in the case of an unbeliever demanding separation. (I Corinthians 7) Paul repeatedly attacked sexual immorality (I Corinthians 6:15,18) "This is God's will--your sanctification, that you keep yourselves from sexual immorality, that each of you learn how to take his own wife in purity and honor, not in lustful passion, like the gentiles who have no knowledge of God." (I Thessalonians 4:3-5) He told his followers not to associate with sexually immoral people (I Corinthians 5:9-12). He condemned homosexuality (Romans 1:24-27) and incest (I Corinthians 5:1). He taught that profligates, idolaters, adulterers and robbers willnot inherit the kingdom of God. (I Corinthians 6:9-10)

Paul condemned wickedness, immorality, depravity, greed, envy, murder, quarreling, deceit, malignity, gossip, slander, insolence, pride (Romans 1:29-30), drunkenness, carousing, debauchery, jealousy (Romans 13:13), sensuality, magic arts, animosities, bad temper, selfishness, dissensions, envy (Galatians 5:19-21); greediness (Ephesians 4:19; Colossians 3:5), foul speech, anger, clamor, abusive language, malice (Ephesians 4:29-32), dishonesty (Colossians 3:13), materialism (I Timothy 6:6-11), conceit, avarice, boasting and treachery (II Timothy 3:2-4).

Paul told the gentiles to train themselves for godliness, to practice self-control and lead upright, godly lives (Galatians 5:23; I Timothy 4:7; II Timothy 1:7; Titus 2:11-12). He instructed them to ALWAYS pray constantly. (I Thessalonians 5:17)

Paul praised love, joy, peace, kindness, generosity, fidelity and gentleness (Galatians 5:22-23). He told his followers to conduct themselves with humility and gentleness (Ephesians 4:2), to speak to one another in psalms and hymns; to sing heartily and make music to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).

Paul wrote further that women should cover their heads while worshipping, and that long hair on males is dishonorable. (II Corinthians 11:5-14) According to Paul, Christian women are to dress modestly and prudently, and are not to be adorned with braided hair, gold or pearls or expensive clothes. (I Timothy 2:9)

Paul never told the gentiles they're free to do whatever they want--in fact, he specifically warned them:

"Make no mistake: no fornicator or idolater, none who are guilty either of adultery or of homosexual perversion, no thieves or grabbers or drunkards or slanderers or swindlers, will possess the kingdom of God." (I Corinthians 6:9-10 NEB)

Yet there are Christians in name only who ignore the New Testament as a whole, and focus on only one of Paul's statements to justify their hedonism. Reverend Hyland says they're taking Paul out of context. Paul, she notes, was very strict with himself:

"But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." (I Corinthians 9:27)

(Reverend Hyland says this verse also indicates it's possible for one to lose one's salvation.)

My friend Ruth Enero also says they're quoting Paul out of context. Paul, she says, had a "thorn" in his side, and asked the Lord what to do about it. The response was simple: "My grace is sufficient for thee." This was a response to a specific problem, not a license to do as one pleases, or why else would Paul himself have given so many other moral instructions?

They MUST be quoting Paul out of context, because otherwise it doesn't make any sense: on the one hand, Paul is warning that drunkards, thieves, homosexuals, etc. will not inherit the kingdom of God, and on the other, he's saying if you call on Jesus three times you can do whatever you want?!

My argument against "three grace is sufficient for thee" is that if Christians interpret this to mean they're free to do anything they want, ignoring Jesus' and Paul's other teachings, the what about MURDER?

I've found it impossible to engage Christians in serious discussion about animals and their rights, because they think if they call on Jesus three times, they can do whatever they want. So I respond likewise: "Abortion. Abortion. Abortion." Namely, if these people aren't going to take my issue (animal rights) seriously, why should I with theirs?

Reverend Hyland, in one of her other books, Sexism is a Sin, quotes Bertrand Russell as having referred to Paul as the "inventor" of Christianity. I don't think it's possible to reconcile Paul to vegetarianism, and Christianity without Paul would be Judaism. A.F., who is on the SERV e-list, is working on a vegetarian interpretation of Paul. We should invite him to post some of the findings from his research on this e-list.

Best wishes!


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