Christmas Comes Early

{Snark Mode On.} It is an old joke about how Time & Newsweek always save a Dan Brown/Da Vinci Code type story for the Christmas issue. Every year as Christmas comes around what better way to celebrate than to have a good old newsroom laugh fest at the poor believing saps. Virgin Birth, what a hoot!

NPR tends to get in on the act in a more refined way. Step one, get a “new” discovery. Most recent competitors – the James Ossuary and the Gospel of Judas, but there are a hardy perennials that come back every time Dr. Pagels publishes a book. That of course is step two, get a highly refined and well degreed spokesperson to “create a narrative” about the new discovery. Helps in this are: 1. if it is a woman, 2. if she is attractive in a refined way and 3. if her specialty is something that sounds benign. They can’t just get the local Ivy professor of gender studies, but prefer an old Endowed Chair or a professor of antiquities surrounded by carbon dating and spectral imaging machines that give a scientific air to the endeavor. Step three, which can be skipped, is to get a middle-aged white male from a less distinguished pedigree to sound like he is wearing a wife-beater. Ta-Da, Christianity is a hoax. The bible is a lie. Why don’t you troglodytes get with the times. Stand in awe of our new discovery and irrefutable new narrative.

This morning there appeared the most recent issue in this long running series. Did Jesus have a wife? New discovery? Check, you are looking at a picture of the 33 word fragment. Refined female spokesperson? Check. Harvard Divinity Hollis Professor, oldest endowed chair, double check! Male adversary trying to use reason? Check. Poor Dr. Bock, teaching at Dallas Seminary.

OK, I’ll turn off the snark. {Snark off}

First, Dr. Bock does the best he could do. Yes, its an important discovery, he says to try and avoid wearing the wife-beater. But continues, it’s really just an asterisk. And he’s right. These things come up all the time. They are usually forgeries, but even if not, we know when and where they come from. Much later than the gospels (3rd – 4th century vs. 1 century) and from small groups who were trying to merge Greek philosophy with Christian Characters. Just like today, the cross and the resurrection are shameful things. There have always been “more refined” people who have wanted to remove those and just have a nice spiritual philosophy. After all, everything is just symbols, right?

The new narrative that is constantly trying to be created is this: 1) Orthodox Christianity defined by the Creeds was just one of many and maybe not the largest. 2) That group brutally excluded and put down anyone who disagreed eventually using the state to do this. (The question is how did they have time for this in between themselves dodging the Colosseum lions?) 3) Because the past isn’t what we’ve been taught, that mean and nasty Roman church needs to see the light and change the tradition to be more open to the enlightened strains we are recovering. Goal: get the church to cave. Means: claim the moral high ground and undermine history by any means available.

This is a longer but better article. It is less interested in grinding the axe, and more interested in the actual discovery and its value.

The bottom line facts are not that any tradition was silenced. These things didn’t survive because they are not the truth. They are at best what Dr. Bock said, asterisks. Academically interesting fragments of people who lost their way. Warnings to modern heterodox bodies – that way leads to destruction.