Tag Archives: Bible

Viktor Orbán rewrites the Bible and falsifies the words of Jesus

Before I come to the main topic of the day, I want to call attention to an opportunity offered by the Magyar Nemzeti Filmarchivum (Hungarian National Film Archives). Between December 22 and January 12 sixty famous Hungarian films can be viewed free of charge. An added bonus is that they are subtitled in English.

Over the holidays I watched a comedy from 1965 called “A tizedes és a többiek” (The corporal and the others), which is about a bunch of deserters in the last days of the war. Their encounters with the Germans, Russians, and Arrow Cross loyalists are hilarious. I can highly recommend it. You can find the list of the available movies here.

Now onto something less amusing.

On December 23 Viktor Orbán addressed his people on the subject of “the great holy day of our Lord Jesus Christ,” which turned out to be the usual mixture of misinterpretation and outright falsification. In part, Orbán’s message bears a certain resemblance to Donald Trump’s recurring theme of Christians being deprived of their holy days by evil forces, primarily on the left. In Orbán’s case the culprit is the Muslim hordes, who are invading Europe while politicians west of Hungary either claim that the problem doesn’t exist or believe that multiculturalism means progress. But Hungary under Orbán’s guidance is different. Hungary will defend its right to protect the Christian way of life.

Unlike Trump, Orbán engaged in a reinterpretation of the Holy Scriptures, on the basis of which he tried to justify his own anti-migrant policies. The result was a most cynical game played with the holiest book of Christianity, which he considers to be the guiding light of the Hungarian nation and the salvation of mankind. His twisted interpretation of the words of Jesus, whom he allegedly holds in such great esteem, is outright disgusting. Let me translate the crucial passage: “According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’s second commandment is ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Recently one has frequently heard this commandment of Christ in Europe. They reproach us for not wanting, nay, not allowing, millions from other continents to settle in Europe despite our Christian faith. But they forget about the second half of that commandment, although the commandment has two parts: we must love both our neighbors and ourselves.”

At this point I will rely on the expertise of György Gábor, a philosopher of religion, who responded to this interpretation in the strongest possible terms. According to Gábor, Orbán commits “blasphemy when he cynically rewrites the holy book of Christianity” in his own corrupt image and for his cheap political purposes. In fact, Jesus here [Mark 12:31] is commenting on Leviticus 19:18: “You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus doesn’t command anyone to love himself; he simply states the degree of love that one ought to extend to one’s neighbor.

The first page of the Gospel of Mark / Károli Biblia, 1590

This passage in Mark is also repeated in Luke 10:27 when the lawyer repeats God’s command about the love of God and one’s neighbor. It is here that Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan. But one can return to Leviticus 19:33, which reads: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

As Gábor sarcastically remarks, these passages seem to be missing from the bibles of Viktor Orbán and Zoltán Balog. He is appalled that no minister or priest has raised his voice against this gross reinterpretation–actually a rewriting–of the Bible. This is especially regrettable because Christian teaching condemns self-love. Gábor quotes Saint Augustine’s City of God (Book XIV:28), in which Augustine says that “two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self.” As Gábor explains, the earthly city, which Augustine describes as a city characterized by self-love (theft, fraud, libel, lawlessness, infringement of the law), leads to God’s contempt, while the city of God is the love of God, leading to self-denial.

I remember hearing a long time ago that Gábor Bethlen, prince of Transylvania, reread the Bible forty times in his lifetime. I’m not surprised. Hungarian Calvinists, even the peasants, were avid readers of the Bible. Calvinist ministers normally spend the larger part of the service on a detailed explication of the biblical passage chosen for the day. I can’t imagine any Hungarian Calvinist minister suggesting that God commands one to love oneself. Yet Orbán’s followers may well fall for this nonsense because they are about as well educated about the Bible as Orbán is himself. I don’t know whether it is Zoltán Balog, the Calvinist minister, who is responsible for particular rewriting of Jesus’s words, but he was apparently the man who led Orbán onto the road to salvation.

The Bible was not the only text that got rewritten in Orbán’s Christmas message. At the end of his article he recalls that Robert Schuman, one of the co-founders of the European Union, 60 years ago insisted that “Europe will become Christian or it will not be.” The only problem is that, as far as I can ascertain, Robert Schuman didn’t say anything of the sort. More than four years ago, while researching my post on “Viktor Orbán and Christian Democracy,” I was unable to come up with this particular Schuman quotation. On the other hand, I found an article that appeared in The Guardian about Christian democracy in which the following sentence appeared: “Konrad Adenaur, Alcide De Gasperi and Robert Schuman … drew from religious faith, professed and lived, and from their political commitment to a common conviction: that only Christianity could be the cement for the European Union. Europe and Christianity are an inseparable pairing. With the same understanding as Leo XIII, they affirmed that Europe and Democracy would either be Christian or not at all. Schumann wrote: ‘All the countries of Europe are imbued with Christian civilization. This is the soul of Europe, it must be reborn’.” If I’m correct, Orbán and/or his helpers found this article and used it for his speeches, but he conveniently left out the word “Democracy” from the quotation. An early Christian Socialist, Frederic Ozanam, said “Democracy will be Christian or will not be.” Schuman said that “Democracy owes its existence to Christianity. It was born on the day when man was called to realize in his temporal life the dignity of the human person, in the individual freedom, in the respect of the rights of each and by the practice of brotherly love with respect to all.” In brief, Orbán rejects the very essence of Christian socialism, democracy.

December 26, 2017

Viktor Orbán and the 4000-year-old history of marriage between one man and one woman

The Budapest Pride, a yearly parade of gays, lesbians, and their supporters, was held on Saturday. About ten years ago these parades normally took place without much to-do, but the growth of the far right changed all that. Instead of being a free-wheeling, joyous affair, it is now a “march” between a wall of policemen. Beyond the cordons are the frenzied, screaming neo-Nazis.

The parade itself went off peacefully enough. But once it was over and the crowd dispersed, three people were brutally attacked by a group of thirty skinheads dressed in black uniforms. Policemen arrived on the scene quickly. But instead of going after the attackers, they demanded ID cards from the victims. They simply let the attackers leave. Opposition parties are demanding a police investigation.

It turned out that Ulrike Lunacek, an Austrian Green member of the European Parliament, was among those marching in the parade. Readers of Hungarian Spectrum may recall her as the person who had a serious run-in with Zsolt Bayer, who talked about her on HírTV in a truly unspeakable manner. I often wondered whether Bayer knew that Lunacek is a lesbian. I suspect that he didn’t, at least at the time. Otherwise, he would have used even stronger and even less acceptable language.

In any case, while Lunacek was in Budapest she had a chat with a reporter for Népszabadság. The conversation soon turned to a discussion of Viktor Orbán’s performance in the European Parliament last week. In his speech Orbán tried to defend the Hungarian parliament’s decision to include in the constitution a definition of marriage as the joining of  “one man and one woman.”  Whatever you think of this definition, as usual he didn’t do a good job researching the topic of marriage from a historical perspective. He asserted that “marriage between one man and one woman is a Judaeo-Christian tradition going back 4,000 years.”

gender symbolsUlrike Lunacek pointed out that marriage in the sense of a civil contract is relatively new, starting only a couple of hundred years ago. She might have added, more to the point, that there is also something dreadfully wrong with the 4,000 years. According to most Biblical scholars, polygyny continued to be practiced well into the biblical period in ancient Israel. In fact, there were instances among the population in Israel as late as the second century CE. The Torah is full of laws governing the practice of polygamy, and we know of several prominent Biblical figures who had more than one wife. For example, Esau, Jacob, David, and Solomon. Even Herod with the special permission of the Romans.

In Greece the situation was the same. The richer the man the more wives he had. Marriages, just as in ancient Israel, were arranged. By the age of fourteen girls were married off to men who were usually a great deal older. The average marriage age for men in ancient Greece was about 30.

Rome was different. It was a strictly monogamous society. Marriage meant the joining in matrimony of one man and one woman. It was a very strict rule, and that’s why Herod had to get special permission from his Roman overlords to have more than one wife.

So, we can forget about the 4,000 years. Our views on marriage today come largely from the teachings of Jesus and the Roman practice of monogamy. I’m no Biblical scholar, so I can’t judge whether there was any connection between Roman marital mores and those of the Judaean society in which Jesus lived.

It is hard to tell from where this erroneous  information about the marital practices of ancient times comes from. But Christian Democratic politicians keep repeating this magic number, which is wrong no matter what calendar they use. The only thing I don’t understand is why Zoltán Balog, Orbán’s spiritual adviser who is after all a Protestant minister, doesn’t straighten him out on the subject. He, as opposed to the Catholic Christian Democrats, ought to be familiar with the Bible.