Was Jesus a Good Righteous Person? August 6, 2008

Was Jesus a Good Righteous Person?

According to Rochelle Weiss, not so much.

Does a good righteous person steal or order others to steal for him?

Jesus did. In Matthew 21:1–3, it states that Jesus ordered some of his followers to steal for him: They were now nearing Jerusalem; and when they reached Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: “Go to the village opposite, where you will at once find a donkey tethered with her foal beside her; untie them, and bring them to me. If anyone speaks to you, say, Our Master needs them, and he will let you take them at once.”…

Does a good righteous person only have disciples who hate their parents?

Jesus did. In Luke 14:26, Jesus states, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple (a Christian).”

Does a good righteous person treat animals cruelly?

Jesus did. In Matthew 8:28–32, Jesus transferred demons from two men to a herd of innocent pigs, which then perished. Jesus did not even seek out the owner of the pigs, or care how it would affect the owner’s livelihood or even try to compensate the owner for his loss.

Those are just three of the twelve questions Weiss asks.

I suspect some Christians have heard these questions before.

I’m curious as to what their rebuttals would be.

(via Freethought Today)

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  • Adrian

    One the one hand, hating your parents may be an exaggeration or not meant to be taken literally. However, since respecting your parents is one of the Ten Commandments, it’s hard to see how even a non-literal interpretation could be seen as anything other than encouraging people to commit one of the top-ten sins against god.

    And let’s not forget that Jesus beat the money-changers. Actions speak louder than words, and his actions showed he believed in vigilante violence.

    The most common rebuttal I’ve heard is that, since Jesus was the son of God, he made the rules and could do what he wanted. (Sort of a Might Makes Right thing.) If this infantile morality wasn’t bad enough, one of the arguments most commonly used to say Jesus was the Son of God was that he lived a sin-free life that was so clearly beyond the capability of humans that he must be divine. Sure, provided you re-define “sin” which makes it a circular mess.

  • Fergus Gallagher

    A quick google found this rebuttal, where the author tries to reinterpret the use of the word “hate”.

    If one does this, then anything is possible…

  • the Shaggy

    I’ve heard an argument for the taking of donkeys as “It was already God’s, the mortal owner was just borrowing it.”

  • Jesus’ anti-family attitude was a reaction against the Jews of the time. Jews were very family-based; Judaism is, of course, passed down by the mothers. Jesus, in contrast, wanted more of a God’s family, which anyone could join.

    Which is all to say that much of Jesus’ message is grounded in his own time.

  • Joseph R.

    There are some passages and references in the bible that are backed up by actual historical evidence, however…

    My rebuttal is: Why is this topic being debated? The bible is a book of fables and legends. If someone wants to analyze the text, great, but if you present the material in a historical context, then I just lost interest.

  • For that argument Shaggy mentions…

    Is it not the bible itself that says god created all creatures on earth for the humans to use?

    Then they aren’t god’s property. It was a gift made to humankind.

    I mean, when I give a birthday present then I don’t go taking that back whenever I wish. Specially if the given present is something big and valuable or used daily for a sustenance by the receiver, as it would be with the donkeys.

  • Erp

    The first incident doesn’t sound like stealing. It sounds like Jesus had arranged for the donkeys to be there.

  • Larry Huffman

    I agree with the sentiment that the bible is fictitious and so the question is not even entirely valid. Much like debating the characteristics of Gandalf or Bildo. (Yes, they were good as far as entirely made up people go…hehe)

    But…if you examine Jesus as the bible does portray him…I think you will see a man very desperately trying to be made to look good with certain statemetns he makes…clearly defied by many of his actions.

    For example…would a good and righteous man ever pick up a whip and drive people out of their established businesses? If he were who he claimed he would have realized these people are generations removed from those who brought the activity about, and so a good and righteous man would discuss this with them and teach them the error of their ways, etc. Not just pick up a whip. And I personally do not think anyone who whips people (who do not want it…got to let fetishists off the hook…hehe) other than for actual assigned punishment (these guys were obviously operating within the law since the jews were not trying to run them out) cannot be a good and righteous person.

    There are other times when Jesus comes accross like an arrogant fool rather than the person he is claimed to be. His treatment of his mother…the treatment of families…his refusal to help people for various minor and petty reasons…his imbecilic comparisons and ultimatums. he just comes accross like someone very full of himself and yet unable to really do the right thing or behave as a decent person would.

    And yes…Jesus actions were squarely set in his times. His disresepct for his mother…and parents…his words and actions…all speak to the time he lived. A savior of the world who is omnipotent and omniscient (or has his father backing him who is those things, depending on your view of the godhead) would surely teach and behave as is proper…adn not merely for his own time. Especailly since he is having people record these things for future generations to come to him through. It is mind boggling to think the god portrayed in the bible could not once teach a lesson that would harmonize with the direction our social evolution has taken us. Instead, we deem most of his laws and commandments…and yes actions…as below what any decent man today would do. Even christians do, without stating so, by their extreme willingness to ignore large portions of god’s laws.

    Good men can sledom rise above what the world is while they are alive…and many men have done bad things with good intentions because the very time period they lived in did not know better. A savior and/or diety should be able to transcend their time and teach truths that are universal, and not just seated in their current times and be pointless to the vast majority of people who would live on the planet.

    Of course, it is debatable whether there was ever a Jesus at all…and at best, he was not the son of god or anything like that. He was a man and a zealot and his followers built a religion on his legend and memory. To be fair to whomever the real jesus was (again, if he was)…he may have never once said what is recorded…he may have never once claimed to be what the bible says…and he may have been appalled to see what has been put forward in his name.

  • Larry Huffman

    Oh…and for the most part…the notion of hell was foreign to the jews until Jesus. Hell came in with christainity. Since Jesus seems to be the author of hell…then no…he was not a decent or righteous man. Any person who dreams up hell, even as a place to threaten others with…is not good.

    Actually…it makes him hypocritical at his core, based on other statements. Of course, it is kind of easy to see the platitude nature of Jesus words. It comes accross like someone had to do PR job on this Jesus guy and put some decent things into his mouth. Too bad the best lesson the goober taught was really from Sidartha (The Buddha) some 500 years earlier.

  • False Prophet

    Christianity started out as a millennial cult. The early Christians believed that the Second Coming was just around the corner and thus they didn’t have to plan for the future. Hence the lack of concern over material goods, procreation, making nice with your non-Christian neighbours, etc. Many early Christians were praised by their fellows for practicing absolute chastity and celibacy–even within marriage! These were not people who were planning to build a long-lasting society based on their values.

    After the first century or so, most Christians had come to the realization that the Second Coming wasn’t imminent, and started reinterpreting Scripture accordingly.

  • dbest

    Jesus could have made the donkeys appear in a thicket like the ram that showed up just in time to save Isaac. I guess that wouldn’t have been a test of the disciples’ faith, to see if they would go against their natural moral code. I know I would have been thinking to myself: I can’t just go in to town and just take someone’s donkeys.

    Let’s make it more modern, shall we?

    They were now nearing Jerusalem; and when they reached Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: “Go to the next town, where you will at once find a Ford F150 with a trailer; the key is in the ignition. Bring them to me. If anyone speaks to you, say, Our Master needs them, and then he will not call the police.

    It seems like stealing to me because the donkeys were in the village and tethered — someoene owned them. I guess the mind of the owner would change after hearing “Our Master needs them.” Wouldn’t they be stealing up until that point in time? Taking something without permission is stealing. Permission is apparently granted after god fiddles with the owners mind, not at the time they untie the donkeys.

  • Larry Huffman

    Well…according to the scripture…the reason they thought his second coming was imminent was because the scripture quotes him as saying he would return in their lifetimes. The verses in the bbile are pretty clear…that many there would be alive for the second coming. Obviously that did not happen…which also makes Jesus a liar.

    The term millenial cult is does not fit…it was the cult of the person, who claimed he would return soon.

    And…would a good and righteous man mislead or outrightly lie to so many people who are willing to wait passionately for the second coming of their savior? Lie to them and tell them he would come in their life time?

    No…decent and righteous men do not lie either…especailly when the repurcussions are what they were with the early followers believing it was imminent. And trhe icing on the cake is he is reportedly omniscient…so, much for that. lol.

  • Riksa

    @ Larry:

    The term “millennial cult” does fit, as it isn’t about the turn of any millennium, but rather about a “new kingdom” that would last for a thousand years and would, as far as I know, be heaven on Earth. Supposedly the purpose of the apocalypse is to destroy the old kingdom to make way for the new.

    @ Original post:

    I’m wondering about translations of the quoted passages. I have here with me the Finnish new translation from circa 1990, and instead of hating one’s parents it talks about not being willing to abandon one’s parents. As for the donkeys, instead of “Our Master needs them, and he will let you take them at once” in the Finnish translation Jesus tells the men to say “The Lord needs them, but He will return them shortly.” Obviosly, remarkable difference in both cases. I’m thinking that the original language is probably somewhere in between these translations.

  • Darryl

    These are trivial and disingenuous questions. Unless, of course, someone is so simpled-minded in their understanding of the Gospels that they think they have caught Jesus in errors.

  • Larry Huffman

    OK…so the reign of jesus for a thousand years after his second coming preceeded him? They were just waiting for someone to come and reign for a milenia and here was this Jesus guy, so they picked him?

    Sorry…Jesus was the cult…his message gave them the notion of the milenia of epace upon his return. he told his followers (who were already following him) that he would come again…and reign for a thousand years.

    Pretty easy to see actually…that if the milenia is related to his return then the cult is about him.

  • Apologies in advance for the self-promotion, but it really is relevant:

    If you’re interested in this piece, y’all might be interested in a piece I wrote a little while back called The Messed-Up Teachings of Jesus. It’s essentially an attempt to rebut the progressive Christianity trope, “I’m not a fundamentalist, I don’t believe in every word of the Bible — but I do believe in the teachings of Jesus. They’re so full of love and peace and tolerance.” I basically went through the New Testament and found every example I could of Jesus’ teachings that run directly counter to modern progressive ideals.

    And boy, howdy, are there a lot.

  • Larry Huffman


    If that was sarcasm implying that jesus really was in error, you made me laugh.

    And…if you are really trying to say that Jesus and his gospels were not in error, well that makes me laugh even harder.

  • Xeonicus

    Okay, slightly off-topic, but Adrian’s comment about the Ten Commandments got me thinking. Can anyone explain to me why the Ten Commandments are even relevant anymore? Don’t Christian’s always say that Jesus brought the new Covenant and the Old Testament doesn’t apply anymore. At least, that’s how they explain away all the undesirable things in Leviticus. I don’t get it. Either it is or it isn’t relevant anymore. Damn cherry picking.

  • EKM

    I find some of Larry Huffman’s longer posts interesting and insightful. Is there a post where you have introduced yourself?

  • Darryl

    Neither, Larry. In my brevity I caused you to miss my point. The questions are not about true errors–it’s the frickin’ NT! Raising arguments that seem to be seriously-intended against a fairy tale that has its own inner logic that justifies everything its protagonist said and did that targets an audience that worships the man is beyond silly. Clear enough?

  • Pseudonym

    Oh, dear, not this again.

    Everything that Jesus said was delivered to a certain people in a certain place at a certain time in history, and often was intended to make a point about something specific, the context of which may not be obvious to a modern casual reader. The example that miller gave is a good one.

    Moreover, pretty much everything that Jesus is recorded as doing usually has some significance (to the person who recorded it at least) beyond the simple act presented.

    The story of the pigs is a case in point. We all know that for the Jewish people of the time, pigs were considered unclean animals, right? Yes, by modern standards, we don’t mind pigs. But back in the day and place, they thought they were unclean. If they were Jewish property (which may well be implied), they shouldn’t have been there in the first place. So the story gives you an extra take-home message: Getting rid of “unclean things”.

    There are indeed things in the Bible which are problematic for modern folks, even if you do understand the historical context, but this stuff is truly clutching at straws.

  • Stephen

    The above link to Weiss is a silly set of arguments that will convince no christain. I am an atheist (though believe their probably was someone called Jesus who preached, of which we have an inaccurate record).

    Even assuming Jesus said those things, most are to be regarded as allegorical or similar. E.g ” I have come not to bring peace….” can mean many things, from a physical, to emotional, to spiritual frame. Also indeed it is quite possible for a god to require us to be peace loving, while not being so himself (who said that morality had to apply to Gods)

  • Darryl

    Pseudo, don’t carry this relativism thing too far. That was not my point. It’s just a waste of time to build a logical case against the Jesus story (a fantastic narrative). Who’s it going to challenge?

  • Fr. Terry Donahue, CC

    Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse” or “My feet are killing me”? We know exactly what they mean because we’re familiar with these exaggerated figures of speech.

    When Jesus says, “If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother… he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27), it’s an exaggeration.

    Jesus is using a Hebrew figure of speech which means: “love me more than you love your father or mother.” Now it might not sound like that to us 20th century westerners, but that’s simply because we’re not familiar with figures of speech from another language and culture from 2000 years ago.

    Now some argue that the Greek word used in Luke 14:26 is miseo, which means “hate”, not “love less”. But figures of speech often do not use the literal meanings of words.

    A clear example of the Greek miseo (“hate”) being used to mean “love less” appears in Genesis 29 in the Greek Septuagint. Here it is in English translation:
    “And he [Jacob] went in to Rachel, and he loved Rachel more than Leia… Now when the Lord saw that Leia was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.” (Genesis 29:30-31).

    Notice that in verse 30, Rachel is described as being “loved… more than Leia”, but in verse 31, the same situation is described as “Leia was hated”. A conjugation of the Greek miseo is used, but the context shows clearly that it is a figure of speech meaning “loved less”.

    Finally, this same interpretation is supported up by the parallel passage in Matthew which covers the same topics, but has this statement of Jesus instead: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me…and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37-38).

    Or, as the NAB commentary puts it, “The disciple’s family must take second place to the absolute dedication involved in following Jesus.” One can do this and still “Honor your father and your mother.” (Exodus 20:12)

  • Darryl

    Brother Donahue, my thought exactly. The whole set of accusations was silly.

  • Pseudonym


    Who’s it going to challenge?

    As Greta noted in her piece (I have the deepest respect for Greta, but hers was only a bit less silly than this), it challenges people who feel so strongly that the Jesus presented in the NT was such a good person that they want to follow the teachings and (presumably non-miraculous) example set forth therein.

    Which, by the way, covers a lot of people. There are more “secular Christians” than a lot of people realise.

  • Riksa

    @ Terry Donahue:

    If what you say about “miseo” is true, then it is just as I presumed from the Finnish translation. I also checked the Finnish translation of Matthew, and it pretty much the same as the passage you quoted. About loving one’s parents more than Jesus, I mean.

    @ Larry:

    Sorry, it seems I misunderstood you. I think I just went and assumed that you thought the word “millennial cult” necessarily had something to do with the turn of millennia, which is quite a common error. You are of course right about early Christianity being a personality cult, but this doesn’t exclude millenialism. The millennialism cannot, of course, precede Jesus, because he was the Head Honcho from the beginning, as they say. So, in other words, I agree with you.

  • Adrian


    I addressed that in my first post. Even if it is an exaggeration or an expression, and I entirely expect that it is, the message is still that we should disobey the commandment to “honor your father and your mother”.

    You’ve also ignored the issue that Weiss brought up in the main article, that of whether Jesus placed much value on family relationships. Even watering down the statement, the conclusion is clearly no, he did not.

  • Fr. Terry Donahue, CC


    If someone loved his or her spouse more than they loved his or her father or mother, would that mean that they were necessarily disobeying the commandment “honor your father and your mother?” I think not. One can have a preferential love for one’s spouse while still loving, honouring one’s parents and doing everything that the 4th commandment entails.

    In a similar way, one can be a disciple of Jesus, who loves Jesus more than his or her father and mother, while still obeying the commandment “honor your father and your mother.”

    The issue of how much value Jesus placed on family relationships is important. It involves looking at a wide variety of sayings of Jesus, interpreting them correctly, and understanding them in light of Jesus’ overall identity, message and mission.

    In my post above I chose to specifically address the proper interpretation of Luke 14:26, in response to Mr. Mehta’s statement “I’m curious as to what their rebuttals would be.”

    Finally, I think the issue is not so much “watering down” the statement of Jesus, but determining what its actual meaning is. This type of literary interpretation is a necessary step in understanding the meaning of any ancient text.

  • Adrian

    Fr. Terry Donahue,

    I take the point re spouses, but I am really struggling to see how an exaggeration can become its direct opposite. “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse” should not be interpreted as “I’m slightly less stuffed than if I ate a water buffalo” which is what you seem to be arguing. If you can turn ‘hate’ to mean ‘love’ then what can’t you do? What are you basing this on?

    Incidentally, Weiss’s article mentions families several times, not just the one Hemant quoted. If he was supportive in some places, he seems dismissive or contemptuous in others.

  • Darryl

    Adrian, Jesus, like John the Baptist and others at the time, was a teacher and a prophet who gathered around himself a band of followers (disciples). Loyalty to the master was essential; it was a virtue, and Jesus spoke about that virtue often.
    Think of it in modern terms like a gang: if the gang is going to survive on the mean streets, with the other rival gangs wanting its turf, its got to stay together, and its got to have complete loyalty–without divided interests.

    That was what Jesus was referring to by his challenge to his disciples to “hate” their families. Jesus frequently used hyperbole in his teaching. It made a big impact, it stressed the seriousness of his subject, and it helped people to remember his sayings (it was a prevalent teaching style of Rabbis). To say that the disciple must hate his family for Jesus’s sake is a striking way to emphasize the level of devotion that a disciple must have for his master.

  • Adrian


    Yes, that’s how I understand it. It’s what I’ve been saying all along, if not so explicit.

    All of this demotes family loyalties, family duty and family obedience to a distant second which was exactly the point. Loyalty is to Jesus/the church and not to your family, as you say “complete loyalty–without divided interests”. It’s all fine and dandy when there’s no conflict but as we’ve seen with many religious groups today that get similar levels of obedience, it does translate effectively to “turn away from your family, neglect them and even hate them if they oppose the church.”

    It seems that Donahue wants to only deal with the light and puffy cases where everyone’s on the same side and doesn’t want to deal with the real message of how to deal with conflicts.

  • Juan

    I find the article mostly weak and biased. I’m an atheist.

  • Darryl

    I know that this statement by Jesus has been used as a justification to divide families, but in my view this statement should be limited to Jesus’s historical band of disciples, and the attitude that the average Christian ought to have toward a non-believing family member or friend should be guided by other precepts like the Golden Rule.

  • As always, when the bible say uncomfortable things, the apologists come right in with “this doesn’t mean what it says”.

    Which is fine, I could accept that – unless, unless they also say about other parts “this means what it says”. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t declare the parts you don’t like to be “figures of speech” unless you accept that the same may well be true of parts you would like to be literal; conversely, you can’t say “I think this is literally true” unless you’re prepared to accept that some of the parts you don’t like may also be literally true.

    It’s astoundingly convenient the way that it’s apparently almost universally only the most inconvenient parts of the bible that are held to be figures of speech (or in some other way should not be taken to mean what they plainly say).

    There’s a name for that. I wonder if you can guess what it’s called? Think on it a while. I’m sure it will come to you…

    – –

    “Okay, here, hate doesn’t mean hate. Actually, it means love, just not quite so much as someone else. But over there, well, it means hate.”

    Even George Orwell didn’t imagine wordplay quite as sinister as that.

    The problem with the “figure of speech” argument is that people of the time sometimes said similar things literally. There’s nothing in the bible to clearly say that the claim of “figure of speech” is in fact so.

    It’s guesswork. Sometimes it’s educated guesswork, but sometimes it’s just a hopeful guess. Where does this supreme authority come from to know with certainty what is literal and what is not?

    What if you guess wrong about what’s literal and what’s not? What could loving Jesus have in store for you? Well, he tells us – infinite torture. For guessing wrong, or believing someone else who claims their guess is right. So before you start casually declaring one bit not literal, and another bit literal, you better be damn sure you’re right. You better have a lot more evidence than is on display here.

    Now if Jesus really did mean that bit about hating parents literally, you could be totally screwed, depending on which other bits are literally true. But then again maybe even Jesus’ tender Hell is also just a figure of speech.

    I see lots of opinion, and precious little fact. Yet, you’ve got the unmitigated arrogance to be happily playing around with your apologetics, putting others in danger of infinite torture.

    Fingers crossed, eh? Good luck with that.

  • Darryl

    efrique, you made your point–many times over.

    Taking a literary critical view of the statements Jesus is purported to have made, you make a valid point. And your point will make fundamentalists everywhere (and many atheists) quite fatuous.

    However, you must remember that theology in the last 300 years has been very busy developing ways to read the Scripture, or more to the point, understanding the Scripture in ways useful and relevant for our times. I realize that you wouldn’t know it by listening to AM radio here in the U.S., but Christianity has in good part left behind a literalist, all-or-nothing approach to interpreting God’s Word.

    Of course, this is all rather moot since even the fundamentalists fudge on the Scriptures. It’s just that the liberal, modernist, radical, emergent, postmodern, Universalist, Humanist, Gay-friendly, Liberation, whatever Christians are honest about what they’re doing.

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