(A re-edited version of an older post)
It’s one of the most overlooked questions in the Christian world, the stuff of nightmares for Sunday school teachers, Christian philosophers, and hungry amateur apologists across the planet: If Jesus was God, why didn’t he say anything new or even marginally useful?
In the roughly 12,000 days this self-named Middle Eastern God walked the earth he didn’t once mention bacteria, pasteurization, or the importance of dental hygiene. In the roughly 1,000 sunlit days Jesus was on his ministry, speaking to sets of desperately eager ears, he didn’t once explain the sun, the composition of the atmosphere, clouds, or sooth people’s fears of the terrifying blights of lightning and thunder. In the roughly 1,000 long, long television-free nights Jesus had to say something new or useful, he didn’t once look up and explain to his friends the moon (and the tides), the stars, the planets, our position in the solar system, the galaxy, the nature of gravity, light, radiation, or on a more practical note, dispense the formula for sun block. In the three years of his ministry he didn’t point anyone in the direction of morphine, teach a soul about the nature of asthma, epilepsy, genetics, the periodic table, volcanology, the causes of headaches, muscle cramps, prenatal care, plate tectonics, architecture, evolution, or tell a single living being about the science of corrective-optics. He didn’t mention anything about better, faster, safer forms of transportation, communication technology, math, the metric system, a new swimming technique, scuba diving, blast furnaces, magnetic compasses, quartz watches, wind turbines, the wonders of reinforced concrete, ball bearings, immunization, New Zealand, the physics of flight, thermal dynamics, podiatry, water purification, desalination, stainless steel, umbrellas, telescopes, microscopes, macroeconomics, paper, washing machines, tupperware, bicycles, bras, buttons, refrigeration, or even introduce a single new spice to spruce up otherwise bland Judean recipes. In the 290,000 hours he had go say something new or useful, he made no mention of the link between mosquito’s and malaria, representative democracy, or even electricity. Flushable toilets, a technology based on gravity alone, would have saved thousands of lives lost to dysentery and cholera in the time of his alleged ministry, and tens of millions in the two millennia since. In all of the 1,740,000 minutes he had to say something new or marginally useful, Jesus didn’t utter a solitary constructive word about weather stations, a global language like Esperanto, a world map, or even the wonders of vulcanized rubber; a certain showstopper in the age of sandals.
To have spoken of any of these things, things unknown to 1st Century Palestine, would have been remarkable evidence for his existence and claims. Not saying any of it is more than just a little pathetic. Three year ministry and not a single helpful titbit was offered up by this Palestinian rabbi as he moved about on his purported sojourn on the earthy plateau; a journey we’re told that was rather oddly limited to about 90km2 on a 508,000,000km2 planet, and which somehow miraculously missed all political, philosophical, and scientific hotbeds of the day.
Indeed, speaking some 500 years after the Greek atomists (Leucippus and Democritus) first scratched at a greater understanding of the natural world, Jesus failed entirely to say a word or two about the nature of reality, subatomic particles, or fusion which would not only have been useful, eventually, but utterly astonishing to later audiences. 600 years before Jesus spun his sometimes poetic but otherwise quite bland parables, Aesop’s was telling much, much better stories infused with real practical advice. 500 years before Jesus, Confucius’s worldly wisdom (“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves”) puts the Palestinian rabbi’s efforts to shame. In all truth, Jesus’ only moment of presenting something genuinely useful, something which could be practically applied by people across all cultures and all time, the so-named Golden Rule, was plagiarized. The concept dates back to the Egyptian Middle Kingdom (c. 2040–1650 BCE) “Now this is the command: Do to the doer to cause that he do thus to you.” It also emerged in the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi (1780 BCE), as well as in the Mahabharata (8th Century BCE) “The knowing person is minded to treat all beings as himself,” in Homer’s Odyssey (6th century BCE), “I will be as careful for you as I will be for myself in the same need,” 6th century BCE Taoism, “Regard your neighbour’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbour’s loss as your own loss,” in 5th century BCE Confucianism, “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself,” in 4th century BCE Mohism, “For one would do for others as one would do for oneself,” and was even articulated by the Greek, Pittacus (640–568 BCE), who said: “Do not do to your neighbour what you would take ill from him.”
Even the much touted Beatitudes delivered at the Sermon on the Mount (the first will be last and the last first) is nothing but a poetic re-hash of the concepts of cosmic justice first articulated by Laozi, Rishabha and Mahavira (Jainism), and Siddhartha Gautama, amongst other mystics and thinkers long, long before.
The thought to be “revolutionary idea” of turning the other cheek is, in fact, an ancient utterance. Lao Tzu, said it this way: I treat those who are good with goodness. And I also treat those who are not good with goodness. Thus goodness is attained. Zhuangzi said it this way: Do good to him who has done you an injury. Rishabha said it this way: My Lord! Others have fallen back in showing compassion to their benefactors as you have shown compassion even to your malefactors. All this is unparalleled. Mahavira said it this way: Man should subvert anger by forgiveness, subdue pride by modesty, overcome hypocrisy with simplicity, and greed by contentment. In Hinduism its said this way: A superior being does not render evil for evil; this is a maxim one should observe; the ornament of virtuous persons is their conduct. One should never harm the wicked or the good or even criminals meriting death. A noble soul will ever exercise compassion even towards those who enjoy injuring others or those of cruel deeds when they are actually committing them–for who is without fault? And Siddhartha Gautama said it this way: Conquer anger by love. Conquer evil by good. Conquer the stingy by giving. Conquer the liar by truth.
Even the role Jesus said he was playing, that of messiah, was anything but new. As early as a thousand years before, Zoroaster (who also taught equality irrespective of gender, race, or religion) had spoken of the Saoshyant; the saviour figure who was referred to as the World Renovator and Victorious Benefactor who will defeat “the evil of the progeny of the biped” and establish the Kingdom of Good Thought (righteousness).
Now there is of course a reason why Jesus (nor indeed any of the characters in the books of the New or Old Testaments) mentioned anything even approaching the genuinely new and/or uniquely useful . It’s the same reason why the authors of the works failed to note that an average sized adult is a composite of some 7, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 flavoured atoms arranged on a 4.54 billion year old planet circling a middle-aged 4th or 5th generation star on its 23rd trip around the centre of a galaxy composed of about 200 billion stars in a 13.7 billion year old universe peppered with hundreds of billions of galaxies glued together in super clusters along expanding tendrils held in-place by the indirectly observed but otherwise still utterly mysterious dark matter. That reason, to put it politely, is that the authors of the Bible and the rather dubious characters contained within were not speaking from a position of observed strength. To put it not so politely, the Bible is utter nonsense; a regularly and predictably absurd work of fiction which D. L. Foster noted as missing only the words “Once upon a time” and, “Happily ever after.”