But Abram said, “O LORD God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus.” (Genesis 15:2)
Ugh! Not all around dorkus and widely known doofus, Eliezer of Damascus! The tone of this line that Abram just tosses out there, devoid of any context, as if everyone, including the Most High, should already know what a notorious trainwreck E of D is, never fails to crack me up. I imagine some poor schmuck in the corner just trying to sip his tea and forget about another long day of menial chores ahead for someone who is never going to treat him as anything other than a second-class tagalong. He overhears Abram muttering in his prayers, “Blecckk, Eliezer of Damascus…," throws up his arms, “Me!? What did I ever do besides shovel your goat manure for these last fifteen years!?”
Ok, truthfully, the issue at hand is that Eliezer is not a biological heir, not necessarily that he himself is a bungler. But sometimes, with the Bible, you have to opt for the funnier reading. It will always make me laugh regardless.
I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else). (1 Corinthians 1:14-16)
I love the “but let’s be honest, it’s just Stephanas” aside. You have to understand what a baptism junky Paul is. He’s used to going into a new town and just drenching the place in holy water. When Paul goes on a baptizing spree, no one is marked safe. Hence the point he is trying to make by not baptizing any Corinthians, because they’re being such dingleberries about it. But an addiction is an addiction, and the more he thinks about it, “Well, yes, I did baptize Crispus and Gaius to be fair. But who wouldn’t? It’s Crispus and Gaius!...And come to mention, yeah, sure, in a moment of weakness, I did baptize Stephanas…-es entire household…After that…honestly there were probably others tbh.” Like an unfaithful spouse, who can’t explain why he keeps cheating, his point is totally undercut by the fact that he keeps on slipping up. But in this case, he's only cheating on his resolve not to bring anyone else to the Lord for a bit. The man. Can't. Do it. He's a fiend. And his writing style is so stream of consciousness, that he’s actually coming to terms with the extent of his problem in real time. How is that not the funniest thing!?
Add to that the fact that baptism, in the best of Paul’s theology, is the most leveling of all playing field levelers. That’s really the whole point of this epistle—king or pauper, slave or free, male or female, we are all made equal servants under Christ when we emerge from those ego-drowning waters. But crap! He can’t say he’s been too totally consistent on his don’t-baptize-anyone-in-Corinth-until-they-humble-themselves policy, because there was that one…and of course his friend who was with him that day…and then of course the other dude…and his family and household servants and everyone…and probably others…Anyway it’s just Stephanas…whatever…
“I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12)
Here again, we have Paul. Here again, he is almost speaking off the cuff, totally oblivious that these words might become ensconced in holy writ for the rest of history. There is of course a hyperbolic play on words here. He is addressing a situation, similar to that in Corinth, where some group is failing to understand the fundamental equity of the Gospel and trying to privilege themselves as some kind of insiders. In this case, it’s the Jewish Christians of Galatia, who would have already been circumcised since birth, saying that their belonging is somehow more valid than the uncircumcised gentiles. Hence, the implication in Paul’s words (importantly, himself a circumcised Jew, who is not trying to make an anti-semitic point, but who is speaking about a very specific faction within the church of this region): “They love circumcision so damn much. Wish they’d go a little further with that knife and be done with it.”
It’s so over the top! And you can maybe kind of get it. Paul has finally found freedom from religious factionalism and status-seeking in the Gospel. Perhaps a bit naively, he hopes that people will stop acting like people at the end of the day in light of that, and he is livid at anyone who would jeopardize it. But reading it now, two thousand years later, it’s hard not to see just normal church politics at play. It could even have the flavor of something odd which simply no one had really thought about before, and one group is speaking out of turn, but they’ll all work it out eventually. In which case, it feels like the punishment hardly fits the crime. And this throw-away line has a real washroom vibe to it, like he’d said what he wanted to say on stage and now doesn’t realize that the microphone is still on. If the fact that that line is in our holy scriptures doesn’t bring a smile to your face, I give up.
Cheers and Peace,
A blog that is too churchy for your drinking buddies and too drinky for your churching buddies.