Elson Elizaga .
SOMETIMES when I criticize a government official, someone would confront me with these questions: “Are you perfect? Are you better than the president?” The background of this response is religious, but I will explain it later.
Converted into a syllogism, the reasoning becomes this: If someone is not perfect, then the president is correct. You are not perfect. Therefore, the president is correct.
So, it’s ad hominem and non-sequitur. But it’s a powerful attack, possibly designed by the psychologists of Cambridge Analytica, because it makes people reflect on their weaknesses, shortcomings, and sins. It makes them ask, “Am I good parent?” “Am I a true friend?” “Am I an honest employee?” “Am I faithful to my spouse?”
The answers, of course, are “Maybe” or “No”, because nobody is perfect.
“Are you perfect?” hits everyone in the guts. A male teacher who gives a passing grade to a female student because she is his secret girlfriend is not perfect. A wife working abroad and has a sexual relationship with another OFW is not perfect. A pedophile priest is not perfect. A cook who spits on the food for his master is not perfect. And a president who curses the Pope, who admits to have killed 1,700 people, is not perfect.
And, so, the argument goes, because we are all imperfect, therefore, we must stop complaining about their president, the drug war, the rising prices, and the invasion of China.
Sometimes when people ask “Are you perfect?” they support their idea with two familiar Biblical passages. The first is from the Gospel of Matthew 7:3-5, which contains this supposed words of Jesus: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
The other reference is the story of the woman in adultery as narrated in the Gospel of John 7:53—8:11: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees … made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ … [Jesus said:] ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her ….’”
These are convincing passages, but unfortunately they are pockmarked with several problems. The authors of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are unknown. The books are not original, but “copies of copies of copies of copies” of ancient manuscripts already lost. The stories about Jesus are not written by his disciples or by Jesus himself but are “oral traditions”, an euphemism for hearsay. And the dates of composition are between 40 to 100 years after Jesus’s death. Jesus and his disciples likely spoke Aramaic, but the stories about them are in Greek. So, we don’t really know if the stories are accurate. These are the findings of Biblical scholars, both Catholic and Protestant, who use literary-historical criticism, among other techniques.
Also, the story of the woman in adultery is likely a foreign insertion to John and Luke. Stop reading now, switch on your computer, and check biblegateway.org (http://tinyurl.com/yawxaayc). You will find this footnote: “[The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53—8:11. A few manuscripts include these verses, wholly or in part, after John 7:36, John 21:25, Luke 21:38 or Luke 24:53.]
A long explanation is in gotquestions.org (http://tinyurl.com/yd7h3oa5) and Wikipedia.
What this all means is your story about Jesus and other personalities in the Bible are uncertain. One who claims to be a follower of Jesus should seriously study these tough findings and stop picking up passages in the Bible at random. Stop accepting them at face value. Stop using them to fit a personal or political agenda, because this approach is not real Bible study. It is Bible worship. It is infantile and nothing less than idolatry because the Bible is not perfect.
See also http://elson.elizaga.net