Friday, 9 January 2009

Jesus: The Brat Years

There are lots of alternative gospels from the first few centuries of Christianity knocking around, and lots of infancy gospels in particular, elaborating on the biblical accounts of Jesus' birth and early childhood. You read them, and suddenly all your questions about the historicity of the gospels that made it into the Bible seem less important, because at least we don't have to explain why we think that the midwife who didn't believe Mary was really a virgin ended up with a shrivelled hand. The infancy gospel of Thomas is one of the weirdest, I think, mostly because it portrays Jesus as such a twat. Here are some highlights:

When Jesus was five, he went down to the stream to play. He gathered some of the water into pools and started making birds out of the clay from the stream bed, but some uppity grown up took umbrage at the fact that Jesus was making things on the Sabbath, and went to snitch on Jesus to Joseph, who, when he heard, went down to the stream and started giving Jesus a good ticking off. Jesus, however, was unflustered. He clapped his hands and the little clay birds flew away.

A snotty little kid nearby took the opportunity to mess up the pools of water Jesus had gathered. This was the last straw for Jesus, who said "You godless, brainless moron, what did the ponds and waters do to you? Watch this now: you are going to dry up like a tree and you will never produce leaves or roots or fruit."

And the boy shrivelled up. Later that day, as Jesus was walking through the village, a boy ran past and bumped into his shoulder. Jesus, clearly having a bad day, said, “You will not complete your journey,” and the boy fell down. Dead.

By this time, as you can imagine, there's a whole crowd of enraged parents round and Joseph and Mary's house. Joseph talked to Jesus, and pointed out that his actions weren't exactly endearing him or his parents to their neighbours. Jesus said “I know I'm speaking God's words not mine, but I'll keep quiet for your sake, though all those complaining parents will suffer,” at which they all went blind. Joseph, pretty angry by now, grabs Jesus by the ear and pulls it, hard. Jesus gets angry (again) and says “Don't you know I'm not yours? Leave me alone.”

Hearing all this, a local teacher became excited by the precocious intelligence Jesus had been exhibiting, and offered to teach him. Joseph warned him off, but the teacher would have none of it, so off Jesus went to school to learn his letters. After teaching him for a long time and getting not a peep out of the young Jesus, the teacher got so frustrated that he hit Jesus on the head at which Jesus said, “I've got more to teach you than you have to teach me. No one understands the power of my wisdom.” He then proceeded to discourse at great length with outstanding wisdom on the meaning of the letter A. Flabberghasted, the teacher didn't know what to say, so took him back to Joseph, and begged him to take the kid off his hands.

From then on, no one dared to piss Jesus off, because they didn't want to end up crippled or cursed. A few days later, Jesus and some of the local kids were playing on the roof of a house. One child fell off, and the other children ran away, leaving Jesus to take the blame. One of the dead child's parents came and accused Jesus of pushing their son off the roof. Jesus said “It wasn't my fault, he was the one mucking around. Get up Zeno (the dead kid's name), and tell your parents I didn't do it”, at which Zeno stood up and exhonerated Jesus, upon which his parents and everyone else in the village worshipped Jesus for the miracle he had just performed. Or maybe it was because they were too scared not to.

You can read the unedited version here, and a bizarre attempt to argue that it should have been included in the Bible here

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