the 1st coming (part iii)

Look, I’m trying to get to the good stuff (all the nasty sex). But I’m trying to get there organically, alright? Give me a break.

At the campfire, Geoff was playing Nearer, My God, To Thee on his acoustic guitar.

“Maybe you should put that away,” Alyssa told him.

Nine church goers were attending the camping trip in total. Brother Ted walked back to the camp after reliving himself in the river. “Woo! That water’s cold!” he declared.

He sat down at the edge of the fire and took out his Bible. “Being in nature reminds me of the awesome power of God,” Ted said. “But 1 John tells us to hate the world and everything in it. All of it will be destroyed in the Second Coming. None of this matters.” He then grabbed a trash bag and dumped its contents on the ground.

Alyssa tried to get close to John, but it appeared that she had competition. Sister Becky was close to Alyssa’s age. She was the touchy-feely type, laughed at every joke…even when a joke wasn’t being told. Most men responded to her flirty nature, but John was different. Alyssa tried to eavesdrop on their conversation.

“When I returned from Iraq, I successfully underwent conversion therapy,” John told Becky, “I haven’t had those kinds of feelings in nearly 2 years.”

“You’re such a brave man,” Becky responded as she gently touched his arm. Alyssa typically wasn’t the jealous type, but Becky was really trying her.

Everyone began roasting marshmallows and hotdogs but John took out a pork shoulder. He could have easily pulled back the plastic film covering it but used his Bowie knife instead.

“Shouldn’t you cook that before you eat it?” Brother Ted asked. “Nonsense,” John replied as he tore into the meat with his teeth, “God gave our bodies everything we need to digest raw pork.”

***

Alyssa woke up in the middle of the night to relieve herself. She walked a few yards from the camp and squatted behind a tree. While peeing, she heard painful grunts coming a few feet away.

“Who’s there?” she whispered into the dark. But All she heard was more grunting.

When she finished, Alyssa stood up and began wondering towards the direction of the sound. Behind another tree was John, pants around his ankles, squatting in agonizing pain.

“Are you okay?!” she asked him.

“I feel like my guts exploded!” John replied. He was blasting out one fart after another.

“I’ll go get help!”

“No!” John exclaimed, “I can’t let them see me like this! You gotta help me!”

“What can I do?”

“Just stay here with me.”

Alyssa knelt down beside John and held his hand. He started expelling an ungodly amount of diarrhea out of his anus. The stench was almost unbearable. When he finished, he looked up to her with his bloodshot, watery eyes.

“Thank you,” John said. Alyssa gave him a smile.

Afterwards, he stood up and washed his fecal-covered buttcrack in the river. When he finished, he walked back to Alyssa. As he took her by the hand, he said to her, “You can’t tell anyone about this.”

She nodded in return.

The two went back to their tents. As Alyssa climbed into her sleeping bag, she thought about John and thanked God for giving her such an intimate moment with him.

The next morning, groups were pairing up for the canoe trip. Becky approached John to row down river with her. He paused and scratched his forehead. “Uhh, actually I was planning to go with Alyssa,” he told her.

Becky stood up straight. “Alyssa? Really? But I assure you that I’m a much better rower than her,” she said.

“Good! That’s why you should go with Geoff.”

As Geoff was putting on his life jacket, John grabbed him and paired him with Becky. “Good luck!” he told him, and paddled off with his sister.

“Geoff’s not gonna like that,” Alyssa said, “he’s the jealous type.”

“Sorry, but I figured that I owe you an explanation for last night,” John replied.

“None’s necessary, John. You see, I get the bubble guts too.”

“I don’t think you understand,” he said. “I have IBS…Irritable Bowel Syndrome. So you understand why I hope we can keep this a secret.”

“But why John? Why?”

“Because…,” he gave a long pause, “I was laughed at as a child. Everyone called me Mr.Poopypants. I couldn’t walk 10 feet without poop running down the back of my legs. I had to tape up the bottom of my jeans to prevent turds from slipping out and everyday my pants would fill up with poopoo.”

Tears began to well up in John’s eyes. “Everyone thinks that I’m some kind of hero,” he continued, “but in my own mind, I’m always gonna be Mr. Poopypants.”

With his back against her, Alyssa wrapped her arms around John’s body and placed her head just below his neck. “You’re not Mr. Poopypants to me, John. Your secret is safe. But maybe you should stop eating raw pork.”

John placed his left hand top of Alyssa’s that was resting on his chest. “I’m glad I’ve finally met someone like you,” he said.

TO BE CONTINUED…

according to Simon (part iii)

“What happened to your face?” Jacob asked as I met him at the Cyrene’s inn.

“I was attacked by one of Herod’s thugs,” I said. “They’re onto us. So watch who you talk to.”

“You didn’t tell him anything did you?”

“I told him I was a friend of Joseph’s. After that, he left me alone.”

“Shit,” Jacob said and rubbed his face. “Well good news is I met with Ananias and his wife Sapphira. Remember them?”

“The one’s from Rome?”

“Yeah. They sold some of their property in Judea. They gave the money to John to distribute to the widows outside of the city walls. It’s finally happening Simon!”

“Don’t let it get to your head!” I told him. “You still need to lie low.”

Just then a big burly fellow with six other men busted through the door. “Χαιρετίσματα Jacob,” the booming voice said.

“Hello Stephanos.”

“You’re Stephanos?!” I exclaimed.

Stephanos looked over to me and back over to Jacob. “Who’s dis?” the man asked in his Greek accent.

“Relax, he’s Simon,” Jacob replied. “He was a good friend of Yeshua’s.”

Stephanos looked me up and down. “I heard you were arrested,” he said to me.

“No, it must have been another Simon,” I replied. “I’m from Bethsaida.”

Stephanos was confused. He looked back to Jacob. “I was told that Ananias gave you money. Our women and children are starving too-“

“Now Stephanos,” Jacob interrupted, “I know where you’re going with this. But Ananias was very clear: he wanted us to use this money to help the widows of Jerusalem.”

“Because we’re Greeks we’re not as important as the Hebrews?”

“I didn’t say that. Please listen to me. I’m only respecting Ananias’ wishes.”

Stephanos was furious. “We’ve been in the streets for days while you Hebrews have been coward up in your homes! Do you support us or not?!”

“Of course I support you!” Jacob yelled then took a deep breath. “I get how you feel, Stephanos, I really do. But you gotta understand our situation. Herod and Pilate aren’t too concerned with the Greeks right now. But they are after us. We can’t be out in the streets and we don’t have the money to spread around to everyone. I’m sorry. But Ananias is a very successful man from Rome and a diaspora Jew just like yourself. If you go to him and explain your situation, he can probably provide you with some assistance.”

Stephanos stood silent for a moment then muttered something in Greek. He walked up to Jacob. “μη με σταυρώνεις,” he said. Then him and his six men left the room.

“You should’ve stayed away from him Jacob,” I said.

“I know.”

“And Stephanos is a convert. To Ananias, he’s still a Gentile. He’s not giving him the money.”

Jacob began rubbing his temples. “I need a drink,” he said.

We went down to the tavern where Levi was scribbling something down. “What are you doing?” Jacob asked him.

“The Greeks wanted something to tell the people back in the Decapolis. Something about Yeshua.”

I looked over the writing. He didn’t write much but it was all in Greek. I couldn’t understand a word of it. Jacob was puzzled. “Where did you learn to write Greek?”

“In school, here in Jerusalem” Levi replied, “I had to learn it along with Hebrew.”

“Maybe we should drop the subject of Greeks for the time being,” I said.

We sat silently drinking our wine for a few minutes. There was a commotion on the streets. Andrew came running up. “They’re about to stone some of the Greeks!” he screamed.

Jacob and Levi instantly got up. “Aren’t you coming along?” Jacob asked me. Against my better judgment, I put down the wine cup and followed them.

A few blocks away, a crowd was gathering. Some were shouting. Others gawked out of morbid curiosity. Moments later, Temple guards began dragging out seven Greeks. One of them was Stephanos.

Behind them followed a few members of the Sanhedrin, including Joseph. Standing beside him was Ananias.

“Thief! Thief!” Ananias shouted. “These men conspired with Yeshua to rob the Temple and overthrow the Romans!”

My heart began to sink. This was a setup.

The guards threw the Greeks in front of Herod’s black-cloaked mercenaries who had their spears ready. Meanwhile, the Roman guards stood back smiling at the whole affair.

A judge from the Sanhedrin stood among the crowd and faced the accused. “Conspiracy, sedition, robbery of Ananias,” the judge said, “are these accusations true?”

It didn’t matter what Stephanos said. And he knew it. From his knees, he laughed and looked at the crowd. “You stiff-necked people,” he said, “your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—”

“God help you,” the judge said.

With those words, the mercenaries plunged their spears into the bellies of the Greeks. A pool of blood formed in the middle of the crowd.

Levi screamed in horror and ran away.

But the crowd was just getting warmed up. They picked up stones or any disposable object and began hurling them towards Stephanos. He got bruised and battered and knocked in the head a few times but kept crawling forward.

Among the mercenaries, I recognized a familiar face: The scars….the scabs…the wiry frame. It was him alright. It was the man that attacked me a few days earlier.

And Stephanos kept crawling towards this man as the stones were raining down on him. When he reached his feet, Stephanos grabbed the man’s cloak and got to his knees.

I was too far away to hear anything, but Stephanos was clearly saying something to this man. Judging by his face, the figure was stunned by what was being said. But before the figure could react, a member of the crowd smashed a rock into Stephanos’ skull.

The man in the black cloak stood back with blood and brain matter splattered all over his face. He was in a daze.

Before the crowd could mutilate the bodies, Joseph stepped in to quiet them. That’s enough!” he yelled. “The perpetrators of the Passover sedition have been caught and punished! This matter is closed! Please return to your homes!” As the crowds dispersed, the Temple guards started dragging the bodies outside of the city walls.

Jacob and I returned to the inn in silence. We didn’t know what to make of what just happened. “Do we leave Jerusalem?” Jacob asked.

“Why?” I replied. “It looks like Joseph and Ananias took care of our problem.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

‘The Secret Gospel of Mark’: The Art of BS

I’m old and my mind is going. Too much drugs, too much useless information clouds my brain. Which is why a lot of common knowledge straight up misses me.

As you are aware, I’m a nerd for New Testament/Early Christian history. Am I a Christian or a religious person? Not really, but I don’t understand the question enough to give a definitive answer (remember, my mind is going). I simply obsess over 1st Century Christianity because, as Bart Ehrman asserts, it might just be the most important era in Western History (I disagree. I think it’s the second most).

Unfortunately, there’s just not enough concrete information to definitely say what happened during Jesus’s real life ministry. Of course, speculating is part of the fun, but it’s also a curse. Because there’s so many gaps in the timeline, this invites a multitude of con artists and conspiracy mongers to perpetuate fabricated stories.

Which brings me to the “Secret Gospel of Mark”.

The actual Gospel of Mark, the one we have in the New Testament, is quietly the most important text in Western thought. I say this because the Gospels are certainly more widely read than something like Plato’s Republic, and Mark is the Gospel that Matthew and Luke based much of their texts on (the other source they both used, the hypothetical Q source, I would argue the author of Mark was familiar with as there are too many similarities…which would make Q the most important text. But Q remains hypothetical). Mark is therefore the oldest surviving account of Jesus’s life (the oldest surviving Christian writings, however, are the seven verified Epistles of Paul, with 1st Thessalonians being the oldest).

Now, there are A LOT of questions for Mark. Too many to recount here. It is the barest of the four canonical Gospels with plenty of peculiarities.

But what if someone credentialed allegedly came across evidence to fill in these gaps?

Enter Morton Smith, a Ph.D from Hebrew University and Th.D from Harvard Divinity, and professor of ancient history at Columbia University. Pretty impressive right?

I was made aware of this story when reading Ehrman’s Lost Christianities. I’ve never heard it before and I was shocked at my ignorance. Now Ehrman is probably the leading academic in the field of Early Christianity, and even he doesn’t quite know what to make of this story.

Briefly, Smith claimed to have found a lost letter from Clement of Alexandria, an early Christian theologian, which describes a variant of the Gospel of Mark and even provides a couple of passages. And boy oh boy! What passages they were!

The problem is that, allegedly, this lost letter was transcribed in the 18th Century, and Smith couldn’t provide the copy because it was property of a monastery in Jerusalem. He DID, however, provide photographs of the letter and scholars have determined that these writings were indeed in the style of Clement and Mark (and the handwriting was also of 18th Century style).

Additionally, Ehrman recalls a story of hearing another academic claiming to have seen the letter himself, despite the library still refusing to permit research into it. So, it’s safe to say that this letter genuinely existed.

Whether or not it was written in the 18th Century is a different story.

You see, because if there was one person on this planet that could have forged that document…well enough to fool many academics…Morton Smith was that man. And, apparently, he had a motive to do so (see Ehrman’s Lost Christianities).

For the record, I think the letter is a total, unambiguous forgery. Too good to be true+motive+means=bullshit. But I gotta tip my hat to Smith.

Every bullshit artist knows that eventually they’ll get caught in the lie. But the trick is to leave a shred of doubt. And Morton Smith either made the discovery of the millennium, or the greatest forgery of all time.

the last temptation of Christ- by nikos Kazantzakis

Look, I’m not a particularly religious person.

Why I obsess over Jesus and the New Testament, I don’t know. Just do. Get off my ass.

But I just started reading The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis. I’m only about halfway through it, it’s a long book. I don’t expect any twists and turns to a story that I’m already familiar with.

But the book is nothing like the film, let’s just get that out of the way.

I couldn’t have written in a million years. It reads like an extended version of the Gospels. But it weaves between perspectives-from Jesus (Son of Mary, as he’s often called), to Judas, to Mary (wife of Joseph) to Mary Magdalene, to the Apostles, etc-to create a rich tapestry of these events. Because Kazantzakis writes like the authors of the Gospels, the book actually breaths life into the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

While reading it, I honestly forget that this book was deemed “controversial”. Of course, I haven’t gotten to the “last temptation” part, which might understandably piss some people off, but as Kazantzakis explains in his prologue, Jesus (at least if you’re Christian) was both full divine and fully human. Can you imagine the burden of having to live with that? Everyone hears about the “divine” part. But no one wants to confront the “fully human” part. So Kazantzakis takes that perspective and runs with it.

Anyways, finished taking a shit. Gotta get back to work.

BYE ✋

im stupid

I don’t always agree with Bart Ehrman.

He’s an excellent biblical scholar, but a little too conservative for my tastes as a historian. This occurred to me while I was watching him get ambushed by both Christians and atheists during a Zoom call.

If I’m correct in my understanding…and remember I’m a dumbass…then Ehrman’s argument regarding our access to the original intentions of the New Testament texts are completely lost. We cannot know what “Mark”, for example, originally wrote. Not only would this be true for all biblical texts, but virtually ALL ancient texts as well.

In my view, this is an extreme form of skepticism which throws our understanding of history out the window. The entire historical record would be in jeopardy, a point which Ehrman himself seemingly concedes (unless, of course, the record can be confirmed by other sources i.e. archeological, DNA, etc.)

I guess this sounds extreme-having to take the accuracy of ancient historical accounts basically on faith (especially when they sound plausible, but lack supporting evidence)-but what other option do we have until the facts prove otherwise?

I suppose this line of reasoning is how Ehrman can reconcile his certainty that Jesus existed with his extreme skepticism of the historical accuracy of the Gospels.