Why Freethought? Part 6 of 8

This post is parsed thusly:
“Was Jesus A Good Example?”
Cursed Tree
Sabbaterian Corn Thief
Horse Rustling
Humbler Than Thou
Lord of Paranoia

“Was Jesus A Good Example?”

The next section will reveal that it is Dan Barker and the FFRF who are not good examples of discernment or scholarship. Of course, I will not merely assert this but substantiate my claim. This section states the following:

This post is parsed thusly:
“Was Jesus A Good Example?”
Cursed Tree
Sabbaterian Corn Thief
Horse Rustling
Humbler Than Thou
Lord of Paranoia

“Was Jesus A Good Example?”

The next section will reveal that it is Dan Barker and the FFRF who are not good examples of discernment or scholarship. Of course, I will not merely assert this but substantiate my claim. This section states the following:

“He irrationally cursed a fig tree for being fruitless out of season (Matthew 21:18-19, and Mark 11:13-14). He broke the law by stealing corn on the Sabbath (Mark 2:23), and he encouraged his disciples to take a horse without asking permission (Matthew 21). The ‘humble’ Jesus said that he was ‘greater than the temple’ (Matt 12:6), ‘greater than Jonah’ (Matthew 12:41), and ‘greater than Solomon’ (Matthew 12:42). He appeared to suffer from a dictator’s ‘paranoia’ when he said, ‘He that is not with me is against me’ (Matthew 12:30).”

Cursed Tree

Dan Barker claims:

“He irrationally cursed a fig tree for being fruitless out of season (Matthew 21:18-19, and Mark 11:13-14).”

The true problem with this text is that Dan Barker appears to not be taking literary vehicles and parabolic actions into consideration thus, he states that Jesus “irrationally cursed a fig tree_” One familiar with the Bible, or at least the New Testament, will note that the fig-tree was symbolic of Israel. Certainly, anyone reading in order to gain at least understanding of the text of the New Testament could not miss this. This is particularly so since in Luke 13:6-9 Jesus tells a parable about a fig-tree that is not producing fruit:

“He also spoke this parable: A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard. And he came and sought fruit on it, and found none. And he said to the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none. Cut it down, why does it encumber the ground? And answering, he said to him, Lord, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and throw manure. And if it bears fruit, well; and if not, then after that you shall cut it down.”

Moreover, Matthew 24:32-33 refers to the fig-tree as indicative of times and seasons.

“Now learn a parable of the fig tree. When its branch is still tender and puts out leaves, you know that summer is near. So you, likewise, when you see all these things, shall know that it is near, at the doors.”


In any case, it appears that the issue was not the irrationality of seeking fruit before its time but that the tree was not producing fruit when it was supposed to. But how can this be considering that Mark 11:13b states “He found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs”? There are at least two reasonable answers here: either the parabolic action was meant to demonstrate that we ought to “be prepared in season and out of season” (2nd Timothy 4:2), another thing that someone reading for greater context would know. Or, the reference is to the lack of ripe figs since, from what I understand, green figs are produced along with the leaves in April and then ripen in June-ergo, figs should have been present even in an unripe form.

Sabbaterian Corn Thief

Dan Barker claims:

“He broke the law by stealing corn on the Sabbath (Mark 2:23)”

In this case, Dan Barker is wrong about who did it, wrong about breaking the law and wrong about stealing. The text reads thusly:

“And it happened that He went through the grainfields on the sabbath day. And as they walked His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain [stachus: ear of corn or growing grain]”

First, note that it was the disciples, this is of no real importance except to demonstrate that Dan Barker cannot even get simple facts correct.

Were they stealing? What would posses Dan Barker to make this claim? The text states that they went through the grainfields and plucked. Since, for whatever reason, Dan Barker considers this text to be referring to thievery we might as well correct him on that account as well. Deuteronomy 23:25 states:

“When you come into the standing grain of your neighbor, then you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not move a sickle into your neighbor’s standing grain.”


Therefore, it did not even have to be their own fields and they had every legal right to be there plucking and eating. The book of Ruth is peppered with references to this practice in 2:2, 7-8, 15-16, 23.
Now, to the claim that he broke the law which would not only refer to stealing but to doing it on the Sabbath. Once again, we find that Dan Barker is a victim of his own convenient and partial citation. He references verse 23 while verses 24-28 explain why it could not be considered to be breaking the Sabbath. This charge of Sabbath breaking is not original to Dan Barker but is made by the Pharisees in verse 24:

“And the Pharisees said to Him, Behold, why do they do that which is not lawful on the sabbath day?”

They, and Dan Barker, have their answer in the very next verses:

“And He said to them, Have you never read what David did, when he had need and was hungry, he, and those with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest and ate the showbread, which it is not lawful to eat, except for the priests, and also gave to those with him? And He said to them, The sabbath came into being for man’s sake, and not man for the sabbath’s sake. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the sabbath.”

Since the law was made for man then if a man is hungry on the Sabbath he is not to starve. Jesus and His disciples were itinerant and ate when they could. This happened to be a Sabbath, they happened to be hungry, there happened to be food available and so they fed themselves. Thus, the issue is not about breaking the actual Sabbath law but the traditions built around it which made keeping the Sabbath a burden, which is the exact opposite of its purpose as a day of rest.

Horse Rustling

Dan Barker claims:

“he encouraged his disciples to take a horse without asking permission (Matthew 21).”

Let us consider the text (21:1-3):

“And when they drew near Jerusalem, and had come to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, Go into the village across from you. And immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, The Lord has need of them, and immediately He will send them.”

I can think of two ways to understand the text: either Jesus and or the disciples had prearranged the utilization of the horse or once they were getting it all they had to say is “The Lord has need of them” and the matter would have been settled. There is no problem unless you are very desperate to find one and even then how does Dan Barker justify his complaint? He does not, he merely makes an assertion apparently, without considering historical/cultural norms of the day and without noting that the text virtually implores us to understand that this action was in no way problematic even for the owners-there simply is nothing to it.

Humbler Than Thou

Dan Barker claims:

“The ‘humble’ Jesus said that he was ‘greater than the temple’ (Matt 12:6), ‘greater than Jonah’ (Matthew 12:41), and ‘greater than Solomon’ (Matthew 12:42).”

Again, we are met with mere assertions, this one happens to be presupposition. Since Dan Barker believes that Jesus was not at all great then He surely is not greater than the Temple, Jonah or Solomon. Yet, if one is, in fact, greater than something or someone else it is not at all non-humble to merely state this fact. If we remove our personal opinions and beliefs and simply consider the text of the Bible we find that since within it Jesus is God incarnate then He most certainly is “greater than”-the claim is consistent with the Bible’s context. Moreover, there is another way to counter argue: “greater” is not “better.” “Greater” is indicative of position while “better” is indicative of worth. The President of the United States is greater than me but not better. Of course, I suspect that even granting that Jesus was positionally greater and not ontologically better Dan Barker would still complain that Jesus is neither.

Lord of Paranoia

Dan Barker claims:

” He appeared to suffer from a dictator’s ‘paranoia’ when he said, ‘He that is not with me is against me’ (Matthew 12:30).”

Dan Barker offers the qualifier “appeared.” Quite so, to Dan Barker it appears as such and yet Jesus was not paranoid. As it is said, “Just because you’re paranoid don’t mean they’re not after you.”
Emo Phillips stated:

“I’m walking home from school and I’m watching some men build a new house. All of a sudden the guy hammering on the roof calls me a paranoid little weirdo. In Morse code.”

Let us consider the text (v. 24-33):

“Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, ‘This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.’ But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad. Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.'”

Even if we do not believe what the New Testament claims about Jesus we can admit that it is internally consistent that Jesus presents an absolute dichotomy-for or against. Since any kingdom divided against itself is cannot stand, or is brought to desolation, then a kingdom must be united. Jesus’ kingdom and satan’s kingdom are opposed to each other-we can be for one and against the other but not both.

Part 7 will examine the question: “Why Jesus?”