RJB VI: A Few Problems with the Gospels

A few problems have to be named when reading the Gospels. First, when we study nature, there is no final judgment, no life after death, no god, no hellfire, and also there’s no discourse in the Bible to explain these as metaphors. We are left with a mythological worldview that is incompatible with the nature of things.

The use of parables in the Gospels also suffers from lack of clarity. Some of the problems with the following passages arise out of this: throughout history, many fundamentalist Christians have failed to see the parables as symbols, instead choosing a literal reading of them. This either distorts the value of the teaching, or in some cases entirely makes it useless and evil.

And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.  But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.

But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? – Matthew 20:9-15

The Kingdom of God is often described as a Kingdom of justice and righteousness, however in this one parable, there seem to be some serious issues concerning workers’ rights. Furthermore, it is pointless for workers to air their grievances in labor, as their exploitation is deemed “lawful”. Workers who have been exploited and not paid fairly for their work, after working long hours in the heat of the day, are simply dismissed arrogantly and condescendingly, with this parable being set as an example of what the Kingdom of God is like.

“But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me!” – Luke 19:27

For most of us who grew up with long-haired, hippie, pacifist Jesus as a superhero and as a role model, it is easy to brush aside the sudden transformation into a Middle Eastern dictator that happens in a flash, then subsides. It is also difficult to figure out what to make of the fact that this “Slay them before me!” statement is said in the middle of a parable, so that the problem of lack of clarity in the parables can be catastrophic. During the Middle Ages, Inquisitors removed the eyes of sinners–as per Jesus’ instructions elsewhere in the Gospels, who said that if your hand or your eye makes you sin, remove it! Based on this historical precedent, it must be said that teachers who are perceived to have spiritual authority that speak in obscure parables before credulous masses are, therefore, a serious danger and threat to humanity.

When discussing ethical matters upon which hinge important choices and avoidances that determine the nature of human interaction, it is imperative that we make use of clear speech and that words are clearly defined so that the matter is not confused. Philodemus of Gadara, while voicing the opinions of the Epicurean Scholarchs in his Rhetorica, is a major defender of the virtue of clear speech.

Further Reading:

Reasonings About Philodemus’ Rhetorica

About hiramcrespo

Hiram Crespo is the author of 'Tending the Epicurean Garden' and founder of societyofepicurus.com. He's also written for The Humanist, Eidolon, Occupy, The New Humanism, The Secular Web, Europa Laica, AteístasPR, and many other outlets.
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