Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Enigmas Or Just A Total Lack Of Information? (Part 2)

Part 1 is available here.

AP: In Part 1 we concluded that the first Christian theology maintained that the real life of Jesus as the Messiah began immediately after receiving the baptism of John the Baptist, not before, since baptism was the act God chose to consecrate Jesus in the presence of everyone as his messianic agent. After Jesus' death, people were no longer alive who others could inquire about and have access to reliable data surrounding the hidden life of Jesus. Nevertheless, people wanted to know about Jesus' life prior to the beginning of his ministry. The problem was most of the people who could provide such details and data were longer living.

The second factor for why people did not seek details surrounding this period of Jesus' life until after his death was the firm belief in the blazing establishment of the kingdom of God. What interest do the early Christians have in data surrounding Jesus' early years when Jesus was not yet Lord and Messiah? It is evident that if the end of the world was just around the corner, the point of view of a child who was the son of a simple carpenter would matter very little. No one had the slightest idea at that point that such details would garner the interest it would in the years that followed. All that matter was the coming end of the world. Everything else was irrelevant.

Now when people began to sense a delay in the Jesus' return, or simply when they gathered that it was going to come much later, and when, at the same time, it became clear that Jesus had a celestial nature . . . it was when they began to compose the first "biographies" of Jesus. We call them Gospels. Mark was the first to write a "biography" of that kind, but he said nothing of the "hidden years" of Jesus' life. Why? Because they he did know anything about that period of Jesus' life or he simply did not care. And Gospels were all written after the death of Jesus.

The Gospel of Mark was soon to be known among the most important communities of followers of Jesus in the prominent cities of the Roman Empire. Its readers must have thought that the "biography" lacked an essential element that other literary works on the lives of renowned men often contained, namely the story of the hero's childhood. And that childhood had to be wonderful, since his adult life had been.

It is logical then, from this point, that the believers became concerned for a complete story of the true hero, the Messiah, Jesus. But, as we have said, it was too late. If in the time of Mark it was difficult to find eyewitnesses about the hidden life of Jesus, since Mark was written much more towards the years A.D. 80–90, and even later when the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were composed. At that point, there was no longer anyone in Nazareth or its environs. No relatives, no one.

This reconstructed picture leads us to a conclusion that the physical and theological circumstances prevented the collection of data on the years of the hidden life of Jesus, since up to that point there had been no interest whatsoever. Finally, and in the face of this lack of data, the mythological function of the human being had to intervene––the part of people that feels obligated to create myths and legends––the popular imagination wishing to fill in the data, even if it means supplying fictitious details, the blank "gaps" in the life of Jesus. In the face of this emptiness, the most imaginative minds invented a multitude of legends surrounded the hidden years of the hero's life. And in each group of Christians, they created different legends. Thus begins the impulse that leads to the composition of apocryphal Gospels: to fill in with mere fanciful legends the gaps left by the first biographies of Jesus accepted by the most important communities.

And a final consideration: This mythopoetic impulse, which generates stories that try to fill holes in history, is already seen as existing and active in the initial chapters of the two canonical Gospels, which address some of the hidden life of Jesus. And I am referring to Matthew and Luke. It is very likely that those who wrote Matthew 3–28 and Luke 3–24 would have never written anything about the hidden life of Jesus. Who supplied the first two chapters of each we do not know. They were added later.

And if this is so, there is no choice but to admit that those who added these chapters, both to the Gospel of Matthew and to that of Luke, succumbed already to the urge to fill with legends the gaps of the infancy of Jesus, of which nothing was known . . . well, practically nothing. The legendary (and contradictory) tone suggests that the same desire, or the same impulse, that we find in the canonical Gospels is already working in the creation of the apocryphal Gospels. In my opinion, and in many others, the first "apocryphal Gospels" are already within the canonical gospels of Matthew and Luke.

In summary, if there was no data on a particular angle on the life of Jesus, the popular imagination invented it. And this was what happened to the "hero" Jesus, since he was not a hero until he died and was resurrected by God (Acts 2: 22–24). Their "hidden life" stories came to be because opportunity and interest opened the door for people to create them.  At the beginning, the "hidden life" was of no interest to anyone. And when it became important to people, the sources of reliable information did not exist. There was no choice but to invent the details.

There really are not "enigmas" around the hidden life of Jesus, but only an absolute lack of reliable information. Actually, the life of Jesus is perfectly plausible within the paradigms that make up the performances of other characters of the time.

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