Ok, I am at a long lunch involving beers with friends who are Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist and Buddhist (no, it’s not a joke, that’s the sort of life I have), and the topic of religion comes up (from the Baptist, of course). We go through the usual points, and then the typical exchange comes up about the sacrifice that Jesus made for my “sins.” Well, well….
First, let’s set aside the whole issue of whether there was a real Jesus (I have mixed feelings on this, as I suspect that there was some catalyst historical figure, but with little or no relevancy to the doctrinal Jesus). Also, let’s accept His divinity as granted too.
Furthermore, to be charitable, let’s assume that he was crucified and died for three days (even if dying on a Friday and resurrecting on a Sunday doesn’t really add up to three days) before coming back from the dead. We will also reject all the gnostic arguments and take the mainstream view that He was both “True God and True Man.” I never really understood that one, but doctrinally it means he felt all the same things an ordinary human would, but not all the normal human emotions like lust, anger, greed, jealousy, etc. I am not sure what kind of a human is one who doesn’t experience emotions that wrack all humans every day of our existence, but let’s set that aside. He is both God and Man, he feels pain and talks to Himself as the Father (slightly schizophrenic?) and visits Himself as the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. (If it was me, I would have been in the form of an eagle or a condor, or maybe a flying peacock, but no one asked me.)
As our Baptist friend is also a young earth creationist, let’s also assume that the earth was created only 6,000 years ago. (Mostly because I HATE discussing this with people, the same way I dislike discussing why I am not riding a unicorn, walking my jabberwocky, or floating into space since we all know that gravity “is only a theory.”)
So, where does that leave us? And why all the assumptions? Because it goes to the heart of how material the “Passion” of the Christ actually was. Please follow along, and I promise not to use algebra or calculus.
Jesus (as part of the triune 1 God – remember the 3 points on a triangle if this makes your brain hurt, and if it still hurts after considering the triangle, then have a beer) has been around for 6,000 years, give or take (I know, He is eternal, but let’s give Him the benefit of the doubt for this exercise, plus I hate doing calculations with ∞ as an input.
So, a “life-time” of 6,000 years, at 365.25 days a year (we will use approximations throughout, so if this bothers you, go watch a cat video), gives us 2,191,500 days.
Now the period within which he was tortured, crucified and then went to hell and resurrected was 3 days and a bit (what was he doing there in hell anyway? Sightseeing?). Now one thing that always bothered me was why he died so quickly on the cross. I mean most people, unless they bribed the executioner to nail them through an artery, lasted at least a day and many times a couple of days. That’s why it was such an agonizing and fearful torment. But for Jesus, it was “lights out” in a matter of a few hours (not that there was anyone there with a watch or perhaps a sundial).
And while I am on the subject of crucifixion, did it ever occur to you to think what it says about us as human beings that someone could invent something like this? I mean it didn’t come from Satan whispering in someone’s ear. Some supposedly sane human being (probably a man) had to think it up. “Hey, let’s nail this guy to a piece of wood and see how long it takes him to die.” I bet they weren’t even drunk at the time. This is what happens when you lack popular entertainment. Nowadays, we see people dying in horrible pain all the time in movies, TV and video games in ever more realistic gore, but we know its fake so somehow it’s ok that we enjoy it or get a thrill from it. No one knows how crucifixion originated, but it was used by Alexander the Great and down through the centuries in a testament of our perverse enjoyment in the prolonged suffering of other people. If people had wristwatches back then, I am sure they would have gambled on how long the sufferers would have lived.
But, I digress; back to our math. Let’s be charitable and agree that Jesus suffered for 3 full days of agony, and that His trip to hell was not an enjoyable one and that Satan (or Lucifer or Beelzebub, or whichever demonic name you prefer) got to do some hash spanking (at least) of the divine booty while He was there. (If believers want to say he suffered longer than that, maybe for a full day more, it doesn’t matter, for reasons you will see in a moment.)
So, he suffered for 3 full days out of 2,191,500, or 0.00000137% of His life. Of course, He knew that it would end, that it would not do Him any lasting damage, and that whatever booty punishment was meted out to Him by Satan, He would be sitting pretty on the right-hand side of Himself (God the Father) in just a couple of days’ time, and He wouldn’t even need a pillow on the throne for a sore bottom…
Now, the average human lives for let’s say 65 years, or we can even say 80, but let’s use 65 for the time being. That works out to 23,741.25 days, or 579,790 hours (at 24 hours a day), or 34,187, 400 minutes. At 0.00000137% that works out to 46.84 minutes. At a lifespan of 80 years, its 57.6 minutes. Less than an hour, relatively speaking.
So, I should commit my life to someone who dedicated the equivalent of less than an hour’s worth of pain and torment to me? My wife was in labor (no amniocentesis) for about 4 hours. I was hospitalized with meningitis before and had a very bad kidney stone once. Ok, we lived through it, but think of all the horrible pain that many humans go through. Some live with pain for years. And somehow 0.00000137% of Jesus’s time suffering (most of which was spent in hell, admittedly) is unique? (BTW, its 0.00000182% if it’s four days.)
If you really like gore and human suffering, check out Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Much of it is probably just fabricated, but even so it is worse than anything you will find in the Marquis de Sade’s writings, such as “Justine,” “The 120 Days of Sodom” and “Juliette” among others. We get the phrase “sadism” from his works and imaginings, which are also sexual and political in nature. But he has nothing on the early Christians when it comes to imagining barbaric ways to torture and kill people (although the Christians, in the Book of Martyrs are the victims – they would become the perpetrators once they come to power).
There have been untold millions of humans who have suffered more than Jesus did, and for longer periods. Almost every martyr in the Book of Martyrs suffers more than the physical human Jesus does (the brief excursion to hell excepted). So where is the big sacrifice? Where is the exceptionalism? Even assuming all the assumptions to be in the favor of the Evangelical, we still come out with 0.00000137%.
Some people will point out that we should take the time from Creation to the Crucifixion, rather than to the current date, so instead of 6,000 years it should be 4,000 years. But this point I won’t concede, as God is supposed to be able to know the future, and be eternal. If there was a risk that He wouldn’t survive the Crucifixion, then I would concede the point. But even so, that only brings the percentage to 0.00000205%, or 70 minutes in the life of a 65 year old.
Just think of all the sacrifices people have made without knowing that they are God. I think that any parent, given the choice of 47 minutes of pain or the life of their child, would take the pain, no matter how great. Why did it take Jesus/Father/Holy Ghost 4,000 years from Adam’s fall to come to this conclusion that any human parent would make in an instant? Is He a slow thinker? Especially when the child is facing ETERNAL torture as the ramification of the parent not making the sacrifice. All I can say is that almost every human parent I’ve ever met has more love and compassion in their heart than does Jesus/Father/Holy Ghost.
And even if you don’t have kids, what would you say if someone told you that you had to undergo 47 minutes of excruciating agony in exchange for a wonderful eternal life filled with free beer and rare mesquite grilled steaks and fresh lobster 2 and sexually promiscuous angels of divine proportions? Personally, I would like an Apsara, which leaves Christian Angels in the dust when it comes to raw sexuality, plus they are great dancers 3. All I can say is, sign me up.
Terrific sacrifice, unimaginable agony, or just over-rated and over-hyped? Perspective does that to religion. It challenges how people see things. And in this case, all I can say is “what’s the big deal?”
1 Father, Son (that’s Jesus) and insubstantial Holy Ghost, all coming together as one entity so as to claim the mantle of being a monotheism. Never mind the angels as divine beings either. Just “one triune” godhead. Now, I have a headache….
2 Actually, I don’t drink alcohol or eat beef, but I did once, so I know the feeling – and I love lobster, provided it’s dead before you boil it.