Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jesus the Kid

Just for the record I am not the first person to wonder what Jesus was like as a kid. If you read The Infancy Gospel of Thomas Greek Text A, we discover that Jesus was quite capable of smiting his playmates when he got cranky. (And what toddler does NOT get cranky?) Let's take a quick peek. (This is my not so reverent take on an English translation. It is not meant for academic use. Nor is it meant to be offensive to any Gnostics.)

Here we go:
Villagers: Hey, Joseph! Can you do something about your son? He smote another child.
Joseph to Jesus age 6: Did you do that?
Jesus: Yes, father.
Joseph: Why?
Jesus: He was mean. He pushed me.
Joseph: So you had to curse him? Jesus, if you keep killing your little friends you won't have anybody left to play with.
Villagers: He's also blinded half the village.
Jesus: Only those who talk bad about us behind our backs. They deserve it.
Joseph: I'm very upset with you right now. The whole village is against us.
Jesus: You don't understand me. You're not my real dad. 

If you would like to read the whole gospel follow this link:


So why don't Catholics believe in the gospel of Thomas? From early in Church history (the earliest versions were written about the end of the second century) it was believed that these stories were made up to fulfill a desire to know more about Jesus as a child. Being old doesn't make it correct though. (Just think of the Legends of King Arthur. Sir Lancelot was made up by author Chretien de Troyes by the command of his patroness, Marie de France, who wanted to hear about the perfect French lover. Just try convincing somebody that Sir Lancelot wasn't part of the original story. Trust me, they just make disparaging remarks about your university.) So my point is that people like a really good story and stories about a kid with supernatural powers are, by definition, cool. But not even their coolness was good enough for the church fathers. They wanted cultural, historical, and theological consistency. Many critics of this narrative state that the author had no knowledge of the ancient Hebrew culture except what could be found in the Gospel of Luke. Most important (to me) is that it is inconsistent with the loving teachings of Jesus. Sure, Jesus might go running off to the Temple leaving His poor parents to have early heart attacks but that isn't quite the same as striking down children who annoyed Him. Which is a good thing because a god who smites children out of annoyance isn't a god worth having.

This post was meant to be a bit of fun. I'll reflect on the importance of Jesus coming to earth as  a helpless baby later.

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