Alright guys. So I wound up splitting my Matthew review into 2 separate posts: A recap post, which you can find here, and an analysis post, which is the one you’re reading now. The book is just so densely packed in with important stories and covers so much territory (from Jesus’ immaculate conception and birth to his death and resurrection) that I felt like I wanted to do it justice in my recap without skipping major events. But putting my analysis in the same post would be way too long, hence the split. If you’re already an expert on the book of Matthew or if you’re only interested in my takeaways from it, you can just start here and skip the recap.
The purpose of this post will be to talk about what I found to be good, bad, weird, or otherwise interesting in the book of Matthew. For most of the recent books in the OT leading into this, I didn’t bother with “Good Stuff” and “Bad Stuff” sections, partly because the things that were good and the things that were bad were so repetitive for so many of the books of the minor prophets. They were also almost all much shorter books, which allowed me to embed my analysis and reactions within each story point in the recap. But this is the first book in quite a while that covers brand new territory, so now it’s time once again to have sections dedicated to each of my different types of findings from the book. Let’s get to it.
One thing I didn’t touch on in my recap was, who the heck wrote the book of Matthew? Was it actually a guy named Matthew? When was it written? Was it written at the time or shortly after all these events happened, or was it written later? There are a couple verses in Matthew that give away the fact that it was written later, e.g.: In chapter 28, when the priests and elders pay off the soldiers to tell Pilate that Jesus’ disciples snuck in and stole his body, the passage ends with, “And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.” Hrmm. To this very day, eh? Sounds like it’s been a while since this all happened.
Indeed, Wikipedia says that “Most scholars believe [Matthew] was composed between AD 80 and 90, with a range of possibility between AD 70 to 110 (a pre-70 date remains a minority view).” So it was written about 50 years or so after Jesus died. And who wrote it? Most Bible books with a clear(ish) author name their author within the text itself. Matthew does not. The “according to Matthew” part of “The gospel according to Matthew” was added some time in the 2nd century, according to Wikipedia. It also says that “The tradition that the author was Matthew the Apostle begins with Papias of Hierapolis (c. AD 100–140), an early bishop and Apostolic Father, who is cited by the Church historian Eusebius (AD 260–340), as follows: ‘Matthew collected the oracles [logia: sayings of or about Jesus] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.'”
But it seems that most scholars agree that Matthew was actually written in Greek, not Aramaic or Hebrew, as claimed by Papias – This is because Matthew’s Greek “reveals none of the telltale marks of a translation,” according to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia vol. 3, page 281. And as Wiki points out, nowhere in the book of Matthew does the author claim to have actually been an eyewitness to any of these events. Usually when that is the case, the author makes it quite clear that he was there witnessing and/or participating in what was going down. It’s actually commonly thought that the author of Matthew used the book of Mark as their the source material. Lastly, the book of Matthew mentions a “Matthew the tax collector” who eventually becomes one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, implying that this is the dude the book is named after. However, the tax collector guy apparently has a different name in the other books. We’ll have to see when we get there.
I’ll say this about Matthew and the New Testament thus far: It certainly does a far better job (x1,000) than the OT at making God seem accessible/understandable and at making the God-approved “way of living” seem doable, beneficial, and even appealing in some ways. In the OT, God used prophets to spread his word around to the people, but even though he used humans to do this, his messages were always so heavy-handed and rife with violent threats that they weren’t exactly relatable. Jesus is a far better marketing person. He’s cool, he’s laid back (a lot of the time), he’s nice (most of the time), he hangs out with you in the countryside teaching you parables, he feeds you, he does parlor tricks like walking on water, and he even magically heals of all your ills if you ask. What more could anyone ask for?
Here are some examples of the good, nice, and pleasant things in Matthew.
Good Thing #1: The Beatitudes – The 8 teachings of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount
- 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
- 5:5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
- 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
- 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
- 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
- 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
- 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The part about being persecuted for righteousness can be problematic in the way humans interpret it, but I love the first 7. Who wouldn’t? Bless the poor, comfort those who mourn, always have hunger and thirst for righteousness, be meek, be merciful, be pure in heart, and be a peacemaker. Aww! Peace, love and hair grease. Then again, I usually think of “meek” as a synonym of “humble”, but Google gives me the following other synonyms: submissive, yielding, obedient, compliant, tame, biddable, tractable, acquiescent, deferential, timid, unprotesting, unresisting. Eek those are a little creepy. Sounds more like “do whatever I say no matter what and we won’t have any trouble, sweetie.” Let’s just think of it like humble and feel warm and fuzzy again.
Good Thing #2: Scratch That Whole “Eye for an Eye” Thing
5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 5:39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 5:40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 5:41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 5:42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Yes, in real life this might not always work well in all situations and sometimes bullies deserve to be punched, but I’m a heck of a lot more comfortable with my religious text telling me to take the peaceful route rather than telling me to go seek revenge on all my enemies. If I want to punch a bully I’d rather just accept that I’m sinning than to have my religious text instruct me to be violent. Chapter 5 also tells us to love and pray for our enemies.
Good Thing #3: Give to the Needy, Don’t Be Showy About It
Chapter 6 tells us to give to the needy. It tells us not to do this in front of others, like, essentially telling us not to be showy about it. Don’t run down the street being like “Hey everyone look how great and generous I am!!” You’ll look like a douchebag and you won’t get into heaven. A lot of people don’t follow this one very well.
This chapter also tells us not to be showy about the way we pray and worship. 6:5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” Wow, lots and lots of people don’t follow this one either.
Good Thing #4: Do Unto Others
Chapter 7 actually starts with a teaching not to judge others, “or you too will be judged.” “7:3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 7:4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” Great point, book of Matthew.
Then we get to my favorite verse in the entire Bible: “7:12 … in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” I would honestly far prefer if the entire Bible consisted of only this one verse. It would make life SO much easier. What other code do you really need to live by? If you’re doing something to someone that you wouldn’t want done to you, stop. Otherwise, you’re probably doing o.k. You can say stuff like “give to the poor” and “love thy neighbor” and all this stuff, and it still fits under this one verse. e.g. When looking at a poor person, what would you want someone to do to/for you if you were in that poor person’s shoes? You’d want some help, that’s what. So yeah, this covers it. End of story.
Good Thing #5: Jesus’ Instructions to His Disciples
When Jesus sends out his disciples in chapter 10, he tells them, “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 10:6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 10:7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 10:8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
Well, maybe the beginning of this verse isn’t so great, because it seems to be telling the disciples to avoid “outsiders”, if I’m reading it right. But I do like that Jesus tells them to target those in need … so long as they are Israelites, I guess. Heh. Hrm. Did they ever really have the power to perform these miracles? Believing that is a huge jump to have to make, and I’m not the type to make those kinds of leaps. But I do like the instruction to freely give, as you have freely received.
Good Thing #6: Forgiveness, Take The Lowly Position of a Child
O.k. some of these I’m just combining together because they fall into the same chapter, lol. It’s easier that way. In chapter 18 Jesus gives us the instructions that “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 18:4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 18:5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” I mean yeah can get with this, it kinda goes with the humility concept I mentioned earlier.
Chapter 18 also gives us Jesus’ teachings on forgiveness: “18:21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ 18:22 Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'” This is an oddly specific number, but I think Jesus is basically saying to always forgive them. This is again one of those teachings that may cause you trouble in real life if someone keeps walking all over you like a doormat, but I prefer my religious text to teach it to me this way rather than telling me something like “Thou shalt forgive thy brother once. Should he sin against you again, tell him to get thee hence and fuck himself.”
Good Thing #7: Give to the Poor
I mentioned this one in my recap: In chapter 19, a man asks Jesus how he can attain eternal life. Jesus lists the “10” commandments (only actually listing 5 of them plus a new one he adds in), and then says, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
It is the first day of 2018 as I type this. I live in the U.S. of A. and Donald fucking Trump, rich comic book villain and the human embodiment of Scrooge McDuck, is our president. He claims that the Bible is his favorite book. By citing “Two Corinthians” as an example, he proves that he has not only never read the Bible, he didn’t even pay attention in Sunday School as a kid. I barely paid attention as a kid and even I knew before I started this blog that you’re not supposed to call it “Two Corinthians”, or “Two Kings”, or “Two Samuel”. Please!! Mortifying. And Evangelicals voted for Trump in droves. I’ll probably devote an entire blog post to this at some point, but what fucking book are these people reading!? What would Trump say in response to Jesus’ instruction to sell all his possessions and give to the poor in order to get into heaven?
Good Thing #8: Love Thy Neighbor
I mentioned earlier that in chapter 19 Jesus lists the “10” commandments, but really only lists 5 of them and then adds an extra one at the end. That extra commandment is “love your neighbor as yourself.” This one isn’t much different than “do unto others” in my eyes. And I stated that I think that’s the most important rule to live by. The “golden rule”, if you will. Heh. In chapter 22, Jesus states that “love your neighbor as yourself” is actually the second greatest commandment of the law. So I’m into that. (The first greatest is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” which is eh o.k. but all hinges on what it is that God is teaching us.)
Good Thing #9: Those Who Get Into Heaven
You’ll see in my “Bad Stuff” section that some of these good things also have bad things attached to them. But let’s focus on the good stuff here. In chapter 25, Jesus lets us in on his method for picking who gets to go to heaven when they die: “25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 25:36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'” He doesn’t mean that these people necessarily did these things for him personally, but rather, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Yeah. Totes. Those all seem like good qualifications and good things to strive for in life. The scary part is what happens to those who don’t meet them, but we’ll get to that in the Bad Stuff section.
Good Thing #10: Jesus’ General Vibe
I said this earlier, but Jesus’ general approach to his people is mostly super groovy in a classic hippie sense. He preaches love and peace and forgiveness and helping the needy, tells you don’t worry be happy, and he softens some of those harsh rules of your father’s Bible (the Old Testament). When the priests and elders send their goons to arrest him and one of his friends tries to fight back by slashing off the ear of one of the goons, Jesus tells his buddy, “It’s o.k. dude. Chill with the swordplay, I’m not about that.” When his captors bully and torture and even kill him, he just takes it, rather than going all Game of Thrones on them and effing their shit right up. And he could, you know! He could. Living the chill life is mostly his M.O. … except when it’s not, which I’ll get to in the next section.
Bad Thing #1: Peace on Earth? Don’t Be Ridiculous
I’m jumping ahead to chapter 10 for this first one because it may be the strangest Jesus quote in the book of Matthew. After Jesus has chosen his disciples and has given them their marching orders to heal the sick and find the “lost sheep of Israel”, he warns them to be very wary because people will persecute them and try to arrest and even try to kill them for what they are doing. That’s when he says this:
10:32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 10:33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
10:34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 10:35 For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 10:36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ 10:37 Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 10:38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 10:39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
Yeesh. You’re kinda harshing our mellow, Jesus. What happened to chillaxing on the mountainside teaching us those parables? Now you’re telling us to disown our moms and dads and siblings? Now, to a large extent, it sounds like Jesus is basically trying to warn the disciples that the people who betray them and try to have them arrested for following Jesus might actually be their own family members. You’re supposed to choose Jesus over your family. Which, I mean, to be fair, if your fam would betray you that easily maybe they aren’t worth it anyway. But I think you basically have to choose your Christian life over your family no matter what, even if your fam aren’t terrible people but just politely try to take a higher priority in your life. I dunno that I’d call this “bad” across the board, but it could become problematic in certain scenarios.
Bad Thing #2: John the Baptist’s Intro & His Intro of Jesus
Chapter 3 introduces John the B and makes him sound super pleasant, just baptizing people and being totes humble and wearing drab clothes. Then the Pharisees and Sadducees walk up and John flips out. “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 3:8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 3:9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 3:10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Then, he references Jesus: “3:11 I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 3:12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire. 3:12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Then Jesus shows up and John baptizes him and everything is super pleasant again.
Bad Thing #3: What’ll Happen to You if You Break the Commandments
Jesus spends half of chapter 5 giving revisions to several of God’s original 10 Commandments. And while he usually updates them to soften them (e.g. eye for an eye), he updates “Thou shalt not kill” in a strange way: He’s like, you’re not supposed to murder people, but also let’s take this a step further: “I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ [an Aramaic term of contempt] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Uhh … yikes. I would have gone to hell about a million times as a kid.
Jesus then updates the “thou shalt not commit adultery” commandment to say that you can’t even look at another woman lustfully (these commandments are all aimed at men obviously because women are basically just objects for the men to use for childbearing, child rearing and housekeeping). “5:29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 5:30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” Oh my. Jesus is starting to sound a little like the mean puritanical dad in Footloose at this point.
Bad Thing #4: What Will Happen to the Subjects of the Kingdom
I mentioned in my recap that in chapter 8, Jesus agrees to heal the servant of a centurion, who is so worried about his (male) servant that you wonder what their relationship might be. Jesus seems really impressed with this dude when talking to him and says, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” Then he says, “8:11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 8:12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” That … sucks for them.
Bad Thing #5: What Will Happen to Towns Who Reject Jesus’ Disciples
In chapter 10 when Jesus is giving his disciples their marching orders, he tells them not to bring any money with them and to basically search for people who are willing to let them crash for a night based solely on the merits of their teachings and healing. He says, “10:12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 10:13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 10:14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 10:15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” Jesus’ chill disappears very quickly when he’s talking about the “or else” part of all his instructions.
In chapter 11 Jesus gives similar warnings about towns who have refused to repent even after Team Jesus has visited and performed their miracles. Tyre and Sidon are A-O.k. because they repented, but Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum are on Jesus’ shit list, big time. They did not repent and Jesus’ wrath is coming for them. “11:22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 11:23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 11:24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” Wow, even Sodom is looking better in Jesus’ eyes at this point than Capernaum. That’s saying a lot.
Bad Thing #6: Some of Those Parables
You know those parables that Jesus likes to teach? He basically uses stories as metaphors to explain things and give instructions to his people. For instance, he’ll tell a story about a farmer planting seeds and some of the seeds taking root better than others, to represent how people take the “message about the kingdom”. The seed “falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it.” Many of the parables are like this – fairly straight-forward and uncontroversial. But some of them are a little disturbing. A few examples:
Chapter 13: Jesus uses a metaphor of a man planting good seeds while his enemy sprinkles in weeds among the wheat. It represents Jesus trying to teach his people, but the devil sprinkling in badness among them at the same time. “13:40 As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 13:41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 13:42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
More from chapter 13: Jesus uses the parable of the net to explain basically the same thing: You catch fish with a net and then you have to bring it up and pick/toss out the bad fish. “13:49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 13:50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Remember that nice teaching in chapter 18 about how you’re supposed to forgive your bro/sis up to 77 times? Jesus then uses a parable to demonstrate what will happen to you if you don’t follow that rule. It starts with a king’s servant who owes him 10,000 bags of gold. The servant tells the king he can’t afford to pay it and begs him for mercy. The king takes pity on him and cancels his debt and lets him and his family go. The servant then goes out and finds another dude who owes him money, and then bullies that guy and has him thrown in prison instead of being forgiving! What a hypocritical dick. When the king finds out about this, he calls the servant wicked and hands “him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owe[s].” Jesus says, “this is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” So it’s kinda like, forgive people or God will NOT forgive you.
Chapter 21 gives us the parable of the tenants, which is a little involved, but the most entertaining way to read it is via the Brick Testament version. A landowner plants a vineyard and rents the land out to some tenants. When harvest time comes, the landowner sends his servants there to collect the fruit. But the tenants are like “No way screw you!” and they beat/stone/kill the servants. So the landowner sends more servants out, but the tenants jack them up too. So then, for some insane reason, he sends his son, who, in a shocking twist, is also killed by the tenants and they take his inheritance. Jesus asks his people, so what will the landowner do next? “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they say, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” And Jesus is basically like yep, God, as represented by the landowner here, will take the kingdom away from you and give it “to a people who will produce its fruit. 21:44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” I don’t know what the stone represents here. Jesus?
Chapter 22 gives us by far the most effed up parable of them all: the parable of the wedding banquet. A king prepares a wedding banquet for his son, and sends his servants to tell the invitees that it’s time to start. But the invitees are all like, “Nah, actually we have better things to do today.” He sends more servants out to try again, but this time some of the invitees actually mistreat and kill the servants. My god, I’ve made excuses to get out of stuff before, but punching or killing people to get out of a social engagement is a little extreme. The king is enraged and sends his army to destroy those people and burn their city. Reasonable.
So the king gets desperate and tells his servants to go out and literally just get anyone they can find to fill the seats at his son’s wedding. This is all a little sad. So the servants gather a bunch of randos up, good people and bad people, whoever they can find, and fill those seats right up. So the king comes out, and sees that one of the guests is not wearing wedding clothes. Well WTF do you expect dude, you literally just gathered these people up off the street!! He asks, “How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?” The man is speechless. So the king tells the attendants, “Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” WTF?! This dude was just going about his day minding his own business, and he did this stupid king a favor by showing up to his shitty kid’s wedding, and this is the thanks he gets in return?? My god. And Jesus says, this is what heaven will be like. “22:14 For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Ohh k.
OMG WAIT I almost forgot about the parable of the bags of gold! This one is just as twisted as the wedding banquet, maybe even worse. O.k. so chapter 25 says that the kingdom of heaven is like a man going on a journey who entrusts his wealth to his servants in the meantime. He gives the first servant 5 bags of gold, the second servant 2 bags of gold, and the last servant 1 bag of gold, “each according to his ability.” Servant #1 takes his 5 bags, puts them to work and doubles the money. Servant #2 does the same and doubles his as well. Servant #3 is paranoid and rather than investing his money, he just buries his 1 bag of gold to keep it safe.
When the master returns from his trip, he goes to the 3 servants to settle his accounts. Servant #1 gives him 10 bags of gold, having double the original 5. Servant #2 gives him 4 bags, having doubled his original 2. The king tells these 2 servants, Great job guys!! “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” Then servant #3 comes with his 1 bag and says, “Master, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.” Now, first off, what if servants #1 and 2, who took a major risk with the money entrusted to them, had run into bad luck with the economy or something and lost it?? Shouldn’t we at least acknowledge that servant #3 chose the safest route here?
25:26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 25:27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
25:28“ ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 25:29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 25:30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Honestly what the actual fuck!? What does this even mean? This is the only verse so far that I think Donald Trump and Paul Ryan would love. Like, yes, servant #3 did basically insult his master, so at least there’s some prompt for him getting pissed off. But how does this relate to heaven? Why is Jesus saying that whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them?? This sounds terrible. It’s all up to interpretation of course, but the explanation on this site seems reasonable: This parable is told right after Jesus talks about the End Times, and I think the parables that follow are about what people should be doing to be ready for End Times. And when that happens, “Those that believe [God] will be rewarded in His kingdom. The basis of the reward will be their stewardship of His resources entrusted to them. Those who fear and do not believe will be rejected and judged.”
So maybe the point of this parable is that servant #3 feared and didn’t trust his master and that was what he did wrong. But I’m still not buying that “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance … whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them” bit, and I don’t see a great explanation online. Maybe this one.
UPDATE: I later realized that this “Whoever has will be given more” verse exists in chapter 13 too, when Jesus is explaining to his disciples why he speaks to the people in parables. The line didn’t seem significant to me in this section because in this case it seemed to be referencing knowledge or putting forth an effort to understand God’s teachings, rather than money. So it didn’t feel controversial to me then. If this verse is referring to knowledge or trust of God or something like that, I’ll be able to deal with it a lot better than if it refers to money.
Bad Thing #7: Jesus Pulls a Mariah Carey On His Family
Chapter 12 contains a quick exchange while Jesus is talking to a crowd. His mother and brothers stand outside while he’s talking to the crowd, waiting to speak to him. Someone tells Jesus “Hey dude, your mom and bros are here, they want to talk to you.” Jesus replies, “‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ 12:49 Pointing to his disciples, he sa[ys], ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. 12:50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.'”
No dude. RUDE. NOT cool, Jesus. This clearly connects with what I listed in Bad Thing #1 above and I do not approve. I don’t care if you’re the first coming of Christ (har har), you do not just dis your mom like that.
Bad Thing #8: Jesus Rejects The Canaanite Woman
In chapter 15, Jesus goes to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman runs up to him and says, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” In response, Jesus ignores her because she’s a Canaanite. His disciples are like, “Jesus can you get rid of this chick?? She won’t leave us alone.” Jesus is like no get her away, I’ve only been sent to deal with the lost sheep of Israel. So the woman gets on her knees before Jesus and begs, “Lord help me!” And then Jesus is like, nah lady, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” OMG!! Jesus is such a dick! But then the woman convinces him: “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” So then Jesus is like, o.k. fine, you’ve convinced me. “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And then her daughter is instantly healed.
On the bright side, it’s good to know that dogs of like ~30 A.D. were pretty much exactly like dogs of 2018. Relatable.
Other Bad Stuff
There are other bad and questionable things in Matthew, but this post is getting way too long so I’ll just point you to a few others to look at if you’re interested:
- Chapter 5 has a weird story about demons and pigs that I quickly covered in my recap. The Brick Testament version is more fun.
- Chapter 12 tells us that there’s actually a couple things you can never be forgiven for: blasphemy against the Spirit, and speaking against the Holy Spirit.
- Chapter 18 tells us that whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, which is nice. But if you cause Jesus’ “children’ to stumble, “it would be better for [you] to have a large millstone hung around [your] neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” If your hand or foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. “18:9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”
- In chapter 21 Jesus throws a weird temper tantrum with a fig tree and then brags about it to his disciples: “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Uhh, is that really what we’re supposed to be using prayer for, Jesus?
- Chapter 24 describes what will happen in the End Times, and it’s all pretty crazy.
- Check out the “chapter 25” part of my recap for the Sheep vs. Goats parable. Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell.
Funny, Weird and Nonsensical Stuff
Matthew definitely has its share of funky elements. Here are a few memorable examples:
- In chapter 8, a teacher of the law tells Jesus “I’ll follow you wherever you go.” So Jesus is like, “O.k. cool come with me let’s go.” And then one of his other disciples is like “oh wait Jesus my dad just died so I have to bury him first.” Jesus responds with, nah dude let’s go, and “let the dead bury their own dead.” That’s … uhh … I’m not sure exactly how that’s gonna work.
- In chapter 11, while talking about John the Baptist, Jesus says, “11:12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.” Wait, what? First off, John the B is still alive. And what kind of violence is going on in heaven? That seems weird.
- In chapter 17, a guy begs Jesus to heal his son because he is “lunatick”. This seems to be a figure of speech meaning that he has seizures (the “lunatick” phrasing is in the King James version). When Jesus heals him, he “rebukes the demon”. There are a lot of “demon-possessed” people being healed in Matthew and I always wonder what “demon-possessed” really means in each case.
- If you check the chapter 21 paragraph(s) of my recap, I talk about how Jesus somehow rides both a donkey and a colt into Jerusalem. This chapter claims that this is fulfilling the prophecy listed in Zechariah 9:9. But the author of Matthew putting Jesus on both a donkey and its colt at once may be a translation error or a misinterpretation of Zechariah 9:9. Also, reference my Zechariah review to see how this Zechariah prophecy partially seems to fit the description of Jesus, but also partially not.
- Check out the chapter 27 section of my recap to see how the bodies of all holy people were raised from the dead after Jesus was crucified. Brraaaiinns.
“Among the female characters in God’s portrait gallery there are many wicked women as we are discovering, but surely Herodias stands out among them as one of the most vile and vicious.” – Herodias entry on biblegateway.com
I’ve pointed out several times in my past reviews that women in the Bible only exist as vessels to bear important sons and to either help or trip up / fuck over the men, who are the ones doing all the things that actually matter. Other than that, women have no reason to exist at all in the Bible. In Matthew, check my recap, the paragraph summarizing chapter 14, for the story of Herodias and her daughter, the evil shrews who are wholly responsible for the beheading of John the Baptist, while poor King Herod feels super uncomfy about the whole thing, but only goes along with it because the wicked women force him.
Chapter 25 gives us the parable of the 10 virgins: During the End Times, the kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins who take their lamps to meet the bridegroom. 5 of the virgins plan ahead, and bring lamp oil with them. The other 5 do not. The groom takes forever to show up, so the 10 girls all fall asleep waiting. By the time the groom shows his ass up, the girls’ lamps are going out. The 5 with the extra oil are in like flint, but the other 5 have to run and try to buy more oil. But by the time they get back, it’s too late. The window has closed and the 5 virgins who planned ahead scored their man. The others might as well all just go kill themselves because they have nothing left to live for. The purpose of the parable is to say that you need to plan well for End Times. But the story itself is just clearly the product of a society in which women are regarded at a level barely higher than cattle. And the Bible is totally fine with that.
Other than Jesus’s mom Mary, who only exists to give birth to him before he completely dumps her later, the one woman who is depicted well in Matthew is Mary Magdalene. But even she falls into the category of only existing to help get the men (Jesus and the disciples) to where they need to be in the plot. She’s basically a glorified messenger to pass information back and forth between the important people: the men.
One additional note: I forgot about one other woman who is actually mentioned in a decent light in Matthew, which is Pontius Pilate’s wife, who seems to at least be smart enough to realize that crucifying Jesus is probably not gonna be a good look for them. She gets one whole sentence devoted to her, which I guess is better than nothing.
Conclusion and Rating
Hmm. I had a tough time with this one. Matthew contained far more good stuff than any book I’ve read in quite a while, but then again, so did Leviticus, and I gave that book a 2.5/10 because there was so much terrible stuff in it too. Matthew’s overall vibe is much nicer though, as Jesus is trying to take a slightly improved and less vicious approach than God’s approach in the OT. But there’s also still plenty of hellfire and damnation stuff in here, and there’s a few bad verses that almost seem to contradict some of the good ones. I’m still trying to understand the parable of the bags of gold. So let’s go with 5.5/10 for now. The ratio of good to questionable/disturbing/bad is probably a bit better than half and half.
Next up we have Mark, which I am really, reeeally hoping will be a far easier book to read and review, as it is shorter than Matthew and should contain a lot of the same stories. Fingers crossed and may we meet again after Mark.