Tag Archives: Jesus

Bad Jesus

8 Feb

I grew up in a time when “juniorized” versions of popular (cartoon) characters were almost more common than their adult originals. From the Star Wars laden, delightful Muppet Babies to the terribly bland A Pup Named Scooby Doo, beloved, earnest, and admirable characters became even more adorable when transformed into younger versions of themselves. The formula seems logical: the innocence, naivete, and lack of power in childhood allows for slightly different (and easily pumped out) stories about characters with already well-defined personalities.

Not so with the tales of baby Jesus in the ancient world. In the beginning of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, five-year-old Jesus is a murderous, vengeful bully–think Macaulay Culkin in The Good Son–with superpowers. While Jesus plays at building clay sparrows and creating pools of water beside a stream, a scribe’s son takes a tree branch and disperses the water he collected. In response, Jesus drains the kid of his youth: “the child withered up completely,” and his parents “bemoaned his lost youth.”

Lest this seem like the worst kind of overreaction, Jesus quickly tops this perverse poetic justice. While taking a walk in the village, another child accidentally knocks into Jesus’ shoulder. Jesus strikes him down dead, exclaiming “You shall not go further on your way.” When the murdered child’s parents tell Joseph to control his kid, Jesus makes the parents blind by uttering the words, “these people shall bear their punishment.”

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Jesus the Alien

4 Jan

Weaving together fibers from each canonical gospel, the Gospel of Peter presents a familiar story of the crucifixion at first. It offers some typical elements: a blaming of “the Jews,” a crown of thorns, a vinegar-soaked cloth to drink, the casting of lots for Jesus’ (very few) wares, Jesus crying out, his death, burial, and diligent guards stationed at his tomb. Soon after these expected details, however, we get a scene unseen anywhere else that answers the question: after he was buried, how did Jesus leave that stone-covered sepulcher?

According to the Gospel of Peter, a pair of angels picked him up.

During the night, the guards stationed outside of the tomb see two glowing men descend from heaven, enter the self-opening sepulcher (the rock rolls over on its own!), and leave, supporting Jesus between them. It gets weirder: a cross follows behind them, and “the heads of the two reach[ed] to heaven, but that of him who was being led reached beyond the heavens.” Weirder still, that floating cross speaks. The guards hear “a voice out of the heavens crying, ‘Have you preached to those who sleep?’, and from the cross there was heard the answer, ‘Yes.’”

A floating cross follows three figures. Their heads stretch to the heavens. The cross answers a heavenly voice.

How. Utterly. Bizarre.

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Fire-breathing Mary

21 Dec

In the Questions of Bartholomew, Bartholomew and his fellow apostles ask Jesus profound questions, like “how many souls leave the world every day?” “what’s the worst sin?” and “can we see the abyss?” Although they often tremble while asking, they still want answers. Vacillating between encouragement and admonishment (oh, Christ: always a tease), the resurrected Jesus offers terrifying responses to their inquiries. He shows them the blinding abyss, makes Bartholomew stand on Satan’s neck, and shares with them many secrets of the cosmos. Throughout all of this, the apostles frequently fall to the ground in terror, covering their faces.

One of the most striking incidents in this text comes not from Jesus, however, but from his mother. At the apostles’ repeated request, Mary begins to speak of how “he who is hardly contained by the seven heavens was pleased to be contained” in her womb (II.12). She explains that three years before her pregnancy, she spoke with God, who fed her reappearing (!) bread and wine while disguised as an angel.

More astonishing than the story itself, however, is the circumstance of its telling. She assigns four apostles each a part of her body, so they can all hold her down while she speaks.

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