Reading is a hobby for me. Nothing looks like the perfect week that doesn’t include me being a recluse even for a brief moment to purr over the facts that have been documented, whether on paper or in digital format. Of course, I prefer the paper format. Sometimes, it is fiction and none of the things stated can be taken seriously. Even in the fictional pieces, however, I find beauty in going over the details and finding the various verities where the ideas can be applied to real life. Not to mention that it helps me write better, using my pencil to underline important parts that can aid my writing.
There is also an absolute pleasure in looking at what I have known from a different narrative and perspective. It is stewed in details that you know, even to the point of finger-tip possession but then, your sense of curiosity is awakened afresh and you are forced to consider the very things you have known in a different light. This past week has been one of such weeks and I have loved every bit of it.
The Bible remains one of my greatest fascinations. The stories have amazed me, its lessons have shaped my life and every once in awhile, I like to bask in the stories being retold from a different dimension. Some go as far back in history to corroborate the facts and lay a groundwork for better understanding. Things like historical settings are expounded, political framework are explained and they make sure that the stories do not look like fables picked in isolation and forced to have a resemblance of history without verification. You would expect that from a book that people have tried, century after century to disprove. Some have even wanted to consign it to the wrong side of history.
Some writers have taken whole books or chapters and retold them in stories versed in contemporary significance- cue Francine Rivers- to help us understand what living the Bible would have looked like if it was written in contemporary times while maintaining every sanctity that it holds and presents. The ability to relive these experiences through the voice, eyes, and words of these people is something I will never give up.
The renewed excitement every time I come across such works knows no bound. Every time I feel a lull in my faith troubled and buffeted on every side by increasing experiences that seem to exhaust my grace levels, I plug into these books and get a renewed reason why I am a Christian. The supernaturality of these stories quickens my spiritual vigour and knowledge and gives me a reason to hold on. In all cases, these have been enough to plug the lacuna I would feel at those moments. These make the Christian faith alluring and satisfying to me. There are other things but for the sake of this article, I want to maintain this perspective.
Most of my time in the past week has been spent purring over Gordon Thomas’ ‘The Jesus Conspiracy’. He provides a narration of Jesus’ life and death by looking at the characters involved, providing different antecedents to the ones we have always known. He calls it an investigative reporter’s look at an extraordinary life and death. He provides a historical precedent, expounds personalities and possible motives behind their various actions. He brings their full human nature to bear, without contradicting the bible’s position. He looks at the Synoptics gospel’s account and placing their location and reason for telling the stories the way they did, provides a verifiable reason why they wrote the way they did.
He goes further. Who was Herod Antipas? Who was Caiaphas? Who Was Nicodemus? Who was Pilate? How much power did they have? How did they operate? All these broken into various individual narration before Jesus was brought into the picture. After reading this book, I have a new avenue to ask a question I have asked, again and again: Is it possible that we judge bible characters a little too harshly?
Take Judas for example. Could we ascribe another motive for betrayal apart from greed? Is it possible that for three and a half years that Jesus lived, Judas misunderstood his life and calling? Could it be that Judas, being one of the most versed in Jewish history interpreted it wrongly? This is not to absolve him of his role in fulfilling a negative history. After all, there could have been other ways it could have happened.
Even if there will be different sets of questions, a deeper look into the life of the disciples will bring up things that will give us a little perspective different from what we have always known and believed. Did he whole Jewish people reject Jesus, with full knowledge of its consequence or was his rejection a function of deadbeat manipulation by those who were supposed to have interpreted the law to them? Annas, Caiaphas, and the Sanhedrin?
How about Pilate and his wife? Did she exude her personality and wield female power like you would expect the wife of an ancient ruler to do? Did she have a mere dream about Jesus as an ordinarily accused person to warn Pilate or had she met Jesus at some point and was amazed at his words? Did she secretly adore him? What Pilate’s final decision on Jesus a consequence of the war of attrition the Jewish crowd had almost successfully manipulated him into? Did he make a sincere effort to set Jesus free or was he enshrouded in the gimmicks that played out on the day?
At the end of this, I’m looking at myself and wondering. How often have I misjudged? Run into damning conclusions and cut off avenues for better understanding? Do I give enough time to understand motives? Do I offer benefits of the doubt? As I look at Gordon’s narration of Jesus’ more obvious offering of the benefit of the doubt clause to them, even at their most obvious failings, I am asking myself what the limit is for me. Don’t misunderstand this article.
The last question and other questions I have asked have been covered by the scriptures. But the point I’m trying to make is that by exploring the way all these characters have acted through another’s lens, even that of history, the concept of the biblical injunctions would become a lot easier to understand and obey as some of its esoteric placings is broken down to signify that their everyday lives are more similar to ours than we recognize.