Tuesday, 4 March 2008

The Gospel According to Brandon...Sort of..

I am in a Synoptic Gospels class here in Lithuania. It has been a very interesting and is led by a young professor who just got his Ph.D at 29! One of the assignments was to evaluate the editing process of the Gospel authors by writing our own gospel. I know it sounds heretical, but it was really fun! It has been a great opportunity for me to processes how I see Jesus.

The following is FICTION that I have written by drawing upon various source material from the canonical Gospels as well as from the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas and my own imagination. It is followed by a comprehensive analysis. Here we go...



The Gospel According to Brandon Walsh
A follower of Jesus

It was in the second year of Jesus ministry that he took the twelve to the Jordan. As they walked Philip came up to Jesus and asked him:
“Why is It that you do not mind the company of Gentiles, are they not unclean?”
Jesus Replied: “We have lived in a time where the purity of ones hands has defined their righteousness, but in the Kingdom of God it is not filth on ones hands that makes one unclean but rather the wickedness that has taken hold of their hearts. I tell you the truth that in the coming age the gentile will be grafted into the lineage of Abraham and receive through faith brotherhood among God’s people. For the Gentile will now be offered new life, Just as it is written:
“Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!”
So too will the Gentile may enter into the Kingdom if they repent. After saying this Jesus walked to the shore and cried out; “ Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God . Stand in the river and I will show you how the Kingdom will come.” So the twelve came down to the river, but the current was very strong so the disciples call out to Jesus saying to them, “ Jesus, the current is too strong, we will surely be swept away if we enter it.”
Jesus turned to them and said:
“ The Kingdom will not be calm and cool water, it will be violent and threaten to tear at your flesh. Yet only those who offer themselves up to the promises of God will be able to obtain it. “
Peter threw his cloak around himself and entered the stream. The water surged and tossed him under its foaming waves. The other disciples called out in agony but were too afraid to help him. In a loud voice Jesus parted the river and the water heaped upon it self. There at the bottom lay Peter. Jesus walked over to him and said loud enough for all of the disciples to hear.
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” With this he breathed on Peter and he was raised from the dead. All the Disciples now were amazed and rushed to Peter and after embracing him fell at Jesus feet.
Jesus told them : “Just as Joshua has parted this river to lead his people into the Promised land I separate it to bring you into the Kingdom of God. Just like Peter you must be willing to suffer. For whoever loses his life will gain it, but those who are not willing to suffer will not be able to enter into life eternal.”
After this Jesus and the disciples began their journey to Jerusalem. It was a long and hot day when they came through a small village. They stopped there to eat, and drink from their well. As they were sitting in the shade Jesus said to his disciples, "Compare me to someone and tell me whom I am like."
Simon Peter said to him, "You are like a righteous angel."
Matthew said to him, "You are like a wise philosopher."
Thomas said to him, "Master, my mouth is wholly incapable of saying whom you are like."
Jesus said to him, “Are you intoxicated? Have not you walked with me for two years now, listening and seeing what acts the Son of Man has performed to proclaim the coming Kingdom of God!”
Jesus told them this story.
“ The Greeks have many false gods and tell tales of their ‘greatness’. One story is of Prometheus . A god who looked down on mankind and saw that they were without protection; without claws to hunt or fur to stay warm. Prometheus went to Zeus and asked permission to give man fire in order that they might live in light and not darkness. Zeus refused to allow man to have fire, to let man have light. But Prometheus brought fire to man anyways, for this act he was tortured and endured great suffering. This world is based around the power of the strong dominating the weak, just as Zeus has dominion over man in this Greek myth. In this world the Son of Man has come to bring light unto the world and release the hearts of men from their greed for domination. Just as Prometheus I will be persecuted by the powers of this world and will suffer the most brutal death.” He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter.
"Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
Then he called a crowd to him along with his disciples and said:
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."
After hearing this Jesus’ disciples were perplexed, and did not understand what he was saying. So Jesus looked at them and said.
“I have not come to overthrow Rome but to overthrow something that Rome bows to. Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, that sin which makes brother kill brother and gives man the desire to dominate one another. It is this hierarchy of Power that I have come to negate. My teachings are a manifesto to the Kingdom of God, which inverts this fallen power structure and reestablishes right relation from man to fellow man, and from man to God. I will die to this fallen flesh and rise again as the first new creation, bringing to reality what will be made in full at the end of the age.



Comprehensive Analysis of The Gospel of Brandon

This Gospel provides both narrative and discourse that play into Brandon’s interpretation of the Kingdom of God and what it costs to be a disciple. The Gospel starts out with a discourse between Jesus and Philip about why Jesus eats with gentiles. His response calls on various Old Testament texts and shows clear connection to Pauline theology in the book of Romans.
Next we enter into a narrative at the riverbank of the Jordan, Where Jesus tells the disciples to go into the water. But they refuse because of the rapid current. Jesus quotes Joshua and alludes to the symbolic act of crossing the river into the holy land of Israel. After Jesus rebukes the disciples for not understanding that the Kingdom of God will be painful, Peter jumps into the river and is swept away. The disciples cry out in anguish but Jesus parts the river, just as Joshua parted the river to enter the promise land and Elisha did to legitimate his prophetic anointment in 2 Kings 2. Jesus sees Peter lying dead at the bottom of the river and brings him back to life.
Jesus then interprets his actions by telling them that just as Joshua led his people into the Promised Land that he would lead them into the Kingdom of God, and that in order to enter the Kingdom one must being willing to suffer, like peter. Jesus then leads them into a small town where he asks them a passage from the Gospel of Thomas. It is a request somewhat like the one found in Mark 8, where Jesus asks his disciples to tell him who he is. In this Gnostic version though Peter tells Jesus that he is like a “righteous angel” and the Matthew says he is like a “wise philosopher.” Then Jesus rebukes Thomas for not knowing. Brandon now adds the story of Prometheus that Jesus uses to explain his role in the world, saying that he goes against the will of the power that has dominion over the hearts of man and that by bringing them the Kingdom that he will be persecuted.
Then we see the exact words of Mark 8 transferred into this text. Where Jesus predicts his death and Rebukes Peter of denying it. Here again we see the theme of the cost of discipleship and Jesus ends the Gospel with a explanation of all of these actions. Jesus explains that he has not come to overthrow Rome but to overthrow something bigger, the fallen power structure of humanity.
This Gospel’s Genre is a mix between several different themes. It includes discourse on Jew and Gentile relations, a prophetic legitimating narrative and several discussions on the purpose of the Kingdom of God. It incorporates the narrative into this text with the discourse so that they can co-interpret each other. The discourse brings new understanding to the parting of the Jordan and the parting of the Jordan brings new meaning to the cost of discipleship teachings.
There are four distinct sources in the writing of this gospel and each is used differently to make the Gospels central argument. The canonical scriptures are used, including the Old Testament, as well as the Gospel of Thomas, Greek mythology and unique material that I will call “special B.” The OT verses used to support the prophet legitimation also provide a new way to interpret how they could be read in their original context.
The source material from the Gospel of Thomas is put in a new context to provide a new framework for Jesus’ own interpretation of who he is like, Prometheus. This element of Greek mythology is unique to this Gospel. It shows the authors interaction with Greek culture and possibly even language. This story itself is reinterpreted in order to show Jesus as the Prometheus and Zeus as the power (Satan) that rules the world.
Special B is a unique source material that seems to mix various elements of Canonical themes with modern interpretations of the meaning of Jesus. The source includes the parting of the Jordan, not found in any other source, and the final discourse at the end of the Gospel that describes the Kingdom’s new power structure.
The Christology that we see in this Gospel is not unlike Matthew and Luke. Jesus is clearly calling himself the Son of Man and performing tremendous miracles to show he is the chosen one of God, but he does not use any “I am” statements as he does in the Gospel of John. Jesus is still human enough to want to stop and get a drink of water in the village, but divine enough to raise Peter from the dead. This Christology reflects the orthodox paradox of Christ, both fully man and fully God.
The Ideology of the Gospel is one of Christ’s purposes to restore what was lost in the Garden of Eden. Jesus has come to give an alternative way to live, according to the power structure of the Sermon on the Mount rather than the strongest dominate the weakest.

2 comments:

Hombreverde said...

Wow, these are long posts. May take me some time to read through them all...

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