Monday, November 21, 2016

The "New Testament" as fan fiction... A discussion...

Please Note: This is going to be a controversial post and needs to be examined in the context of someone who has a lot of respect for Jesus and his followers (except for those ones, you know who I'm talking about!) and is not trying to bash Christianity or has an agenda against it. It is merely an opportunity to examine the role of appreciation, love of and commitment to the Tanakh ("Old Testament") by Jesus and his Disciples. It is also about identifying and respecting the primacy of the Tanakh to the creation, maintenance and existence of the Jesus movement, then Christianity.

This opinion piece is purely my own perspective, it is not, nor ever will be, linked with any of the organisations I am a member of/related to/affiliated with.

'It is very easy to take a cynical approach to both 'fan fiction' and the Gospels, I try not to take that approach in life. As someone who has worked in and around the Education system for 15 years it is an easy modality to fall into. It is just as easy for people who have changed their religious path to be cynical and highlight the negatives of their former paramour. I would like to approach fan fiction as a genuinely interesting phenomenon. In the modern context, fan fiction is responsible for things such as '50 Shades' and the ongoing Star Trek and Star Wars universes on multiple platforms (gaming, film, fiction, television etc). While many would say that this approach limits imagination and chokes the creation of new ideas; it can be considered an opportunity to use the bare bones of a system to build a new and interesting world, both familiar and new.

In the religious context, this is a challenging world view. Generally, Judaism has significant issues with both the claims and teachings of Christianity. The unity of HaShem cannot be challenged in any way, his uniqueness and 'HaShemness' (to use a terrible descriptor) is a core belief of Judaism throughout the ages ("Behold Yisrael, the Lord is One"). The idea that HaShem is three, and was once a Human is demeaning and insulting to HaShem and Yisrael. Also non negotiable is the fact that Jesus, sorry to say this, was not Moshiach (the Messiah). The Jews have not ingathered to Jerusalem, the Nations have not fallen down and praised Israel; and many of the signs and miracles that are requisite for Moshiach's arrival, are nowhere to be seen. That is, unless you have the ability to look at the Tanakh and retrofit things into it in the form of a "New Testament"... hmmmmm

Much like the Fan Fiction writer looks at a narrative arc and places their own ideas into the existing timeline, the writers of the Gospels and Paul (Saul) had the material to work with and the desire to see their narrative inserted into the Tanakh's context.

Paul was a Greek speaking Jew before his conversion and did not meet Jesus before his Crucifixion. He had an ecstatic vision (which blinded him) while walking on the road to Damascus and he changed from being an ardent oppressor of the 'Jesus Movement' to a passionate supporter of his opinion of what the 'Jesus Movement' was. He squabbled and outright worked against the leadership of the movement based in Jerusalem; James and the other 'physical Apostles' who had followed Jesus before his Crucifixion. Reza, in his exploration of the topic of the Historical Jesus titled 'Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth', strongly identifies the core differences between those who knew Jesus when he was alive, and those after he died. The 'living' apostles were often uneducated men and women, mostly from the Galilee, who understood Jesus's mission in a purely Jewish way. They based themselves in Jerusalem and awaited his immanent arrival there for final Judgement. This group was ultimately destroyed by the Roman destruction of the Temple and depopulation of Jerusalem in 70CE.

The members of the movement who moved around the Diaspora communities, like Paul, were more likely to be Greek speaking and often literate, educated individuals, familiar with the current Greek thoughts flowing around the Empire. If they were slaves or non-citizens, then the chances are that they would have been influenced by their previous ritual lives and experienced a complete paradigm shift. The focus of Christianity on the inner life over outer expressions of their religion, is one that had significant difficulty within the polytheist structure that supported and gave the nutritious teat to Roman society.

I'm posting this now because I'vebeen working on it for 2 years and I cannot be fu#@ed finishing it off. Enjoy if you do etc etc etc