The Curmudgeon


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Bad Theology

Text for today: John 6 xxxv-lxix

Preaching in the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus proclaims that only those will be saved who eat His flesh and drink His blood. He also states that no-one can come to Him or be raised to eternal life except by His Father's will.

By preaching the consumption of flesh with blood, Jesus insults His fellow Jews at the very foundation of their beliefs. The privilege of consuming live flesh and drinking blood is reserved for God alone (Genesis 9 iv, Leviticus 17 x-xiv), and any human being who does the same is an outlaw cut off from his people. Thus Jesus exhorts the Jews to throw off the very fundamentals of their identity, while at the same time assuring them that none will be able to do so without the will of the very God who originated their law.

The significance of the flesh is life, and specifically the life of priests: God requires that His priests be offered the first choice of any meat killed, on pain of blood-guilt and ostracism, while the priests are required to feed Him the blood and burn the fat because He enjoys the smell (Leviticus 17 iii-vii). In keeping with the backward spirit of His ministry, Jesus offers His own, presumably raw, flesh as part of a similarly primitive covenant, whereby the sacrificial meat is blasphemously eaten by the faithful as a means of cutting themselves off from sinful worldly society.

The significance of the blood is ransom: God requires the blood of sacrificial animals as a ransom for the human souls which He holds captive. Casting Himself as the sacrificial animal, Jesus asserts that those who drink His blood will be raised to God. Far from being a radical new development in human ethics, this is strictly in accordance with the Saviour's accustomed, rabidly reactionary doctrinal position. Since the practice of human sacrifice had been expunged from Jewish culture some centuries before, as manifested in the famous story of God's little joke with Abraham and the young Isaac, the comparatively civilised listeners in the synagogue are understandably puzzled and revolted.


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