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Meditation 774
The Week's Christian Follies

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I am somewhat bemused by Governor (of South Carolina) Mark Sanford's claim that he need not resign due to adultery because King David did not resign after adultery with Bathsheba. I'd tend to agree that adultery is not necessarily a reason to leave political office, but it does take a lot of gall to claim biblical precedent. After all, he could use exactly the same incident to have his lover's husband sent to his death. And somehow, in using the Bible to condone his adultery, he seems to be forgetting the implications of Leviticus 20:10. He should beware of his constituents gathering with stones in hand.

It's just another case which you can read into the Bible practically whatever you want to support your actions.

But what if you can't? Then of course it's time to publish your own version of the Bible. In this vein, I note with interest the recently released American Patriot's Bible. Apparently, in this version of the Bible it is claimed that the USA has benefitted from godly founding fathers, godly presidents, and a godly military. Strangely enough, in my own ancient Revised Standard Edition, there is no mention of the USA except on the copyright page. Someone is reading a lot into the supposed word of God, much of which is entirely contrary to the historical record.

This new version of the Bible is edited by Richard G. Lee, a Georgia pastor who claims his intention was to create a non-partisan Bible, yet who seems to think that Christianity and patriotism are the exclusive preserve of the Republican Party. Of former president Jimmy Carter, Lee claims not to know if Carter* is a Christian or not. And he says of President Obama: "I haven't seen any patriotism from him yet."

Spare us from preachers misusing their Bible to push a political agenda.

Presumably, Richard Lee's version of the Bible still has a major element of the New Testament attributed to the Apostle Paul. And Paul made the news this week. The Pope thinks that he possesses Paul's bones.

I have to give the Catholic Church credit for its willingness on occasion to have ancient relics subjected to scientific scrutiny. And the bones in the sarcophagus buried under the Basilica of St. Pauls Outside the Walls in Rome were recently tested.

Based on the tests, the Pope proclaimed “This seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that they are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul.” When I read this, my reaction was "waitaminit - what scientific test could possibly confirm this? or even seem to confirm this?" After all, given Paul's pathological distaste for sex, we don't have any descendent's DNA to compare with the bones.

What the carbon testing actually showed was that the bone fragments date from the first or second century, CE. Compare this with the tradition that Paul died about 65 CE. Not exactly conclusive is it?

And the coffin which contained the bones - well it dates from about 390 CE. And of course there is no record of where the bones were in the intervening three centuries. All we have is tradition that Paul died in Rome and tradition saying that it was his bones (except his head which is claimed by another Roman church) that went into the coffin.

I think the Pope is overstating the results of the investigation. At best, the scientific evidence is not inconsistent with tradition; but, it is quite questionable to claim the evidence supports the tradition.

Strange folks these Christians. And they wonder why we might at times mock them.


* Carter, like Pastor Lee is from Georgia, like Lee is a Baptist, and while not a minister, is a long time Sunday School teacher.