Jesus in a Box
November 30, 2015
‘This bold, historical detective work--based on Thiering's discovery of the interpretative key to the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament--yields a whole new picture of Christianity's origins and the identity of Jesus, as it argues for a Christianity based on the real counterculture and prophetic life of Jesus--not just the mythological surface of the Gospels..’
Jesus & the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Unlocking the Secrets of His Life Story by Barbara Thiering
It was Sir Leicester Dedlock in Dickens’ novel ‘Bleak House’ who considered
‘On the whole nature was a good idea provided it was surrounded by a park fence’ And there are always with us, like the poor, those persons who are born to regularise, organise, and make administrable the business and the leisure pursuits of humankind. They are those who come in and ‘see potential’, and then busily begin setting about fulfilling that potential by rounding everyone up, corralling them, and readying them for counting and processing before the long drive down to the Chicago packing houses.
This of course is a travesty; a mocking and a satire; but I am moved to be so scathing because this commonplace meddlesome anxiety for fixing ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ represents in practice every time for secular and sacred alike an utter death of the spirit.
And of course there is a sense of triumph to be had by, or witnessed being had in, a person or a group who has been able successfully to quell spontaneity, to order enthusiasm, to regulate improvisation, and to quantify what was extempore. This triumph may well be trumpeted as great corporate success or as being ‘a knocking into shape’ or as being rationalisation and honing down, to a state of the art cutting-edge top drawer well-oiled machine: the fate of unfortunate persons in the firing line.
Indeed there are persons, like some sportsmen and women who sacrifice much time committing massive effort and engagement over the period of the peak years of their lives in order for them to be able to say they are The Best. This goes by the name: The Pursuit of Excellence.
Well, in so far as such athletes are focussing only upon themselves and their own lives, it is their free choice to submit to such grinding imposed discipline. Although these days they absorb huge resources, having a train of support staff and profligate facilities and other paraphernalia which might occupy the time of hundreds of people and millions in money. But it provides employment and is good for the economy. So I leave these individuals to one side.
Far more pernicious and deplorable are those persons who set up in business with an eye to gathering together large numbers of persons under their direction; whom they strive relentlessly and often remorselessly to marshal and drive under the banner of a logo or corporate flag, in order to obtain for themselves a place of position in the world.
Tens of thousands of persons become their counters and their chips, to be managed so as to promote and prosper, to forward and project, the CEO to Commercial Elysium.
“God doth not need Either man’s work or His own gifts. Who best Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His stateIs kingly: thousands at His bidding speed, And post o’er land and ocean without rest; They also serve who only stand and wait.”
These business stars shine in the firmament of popular adulation; and their paths to glory are set forth as footsteps and journeys to be emulated by any persons of whom disciples might be made. This is the stuff of TV reality shows.
‘This, again, was among the fictions of Coketown. Any capitalist there, who had made sixty thousand pounds out of sixpence, always professed to wonder why the sixty thousand nearest Hands didn't each make sixty thousand pounds out of sixpence, and more or less reproached them every one for not accomplishing the little feat. What I did you can do. Why don't you go and do it?’
To see such a methodology of obsessive compulsive bureaucratising applied to the Gospels in this book of Barbara Thiering’s is maybe the nadir of bathos, and for me to contemplate it bears some personal pain.
We have from her a code by which to interpret the Gospels; which code is akin to a ‘cryptic crossword’ to be ‘solved’. This code is a key which opens the whole story unlocking Jesus and his disciples; his deeds, sayings, and miracles. Just apply this key, and follow thereafter a set of bye-laws for a closer interpretation and lo!, we are entered, as it were privileged and honoured, into the venerable inner sanctum of followers, into that ‘in–crowd’ who only might be understood to comprise a true coterie of the faith.
Such a claim is appalling on several levels: leaving aside any desire for notoriety by the author for her to stand out in the firmament of academe by use of any means; but let us say, very hopefully, that the author might indeed be sincere in what she says?
The classification and the construction of the Gospels so regimented in this way demotes Jesus himself to an administrator, what is called in Britain, a Mandarin; a person who regulates and who proclaims to his minions adjustments to rules governing memberships and procedure. The faith thus becomes a club; the disciples its officers; the faithful its lay members.
That essential free gift; along with the human freedom to defer on its offer made by Jesus in the Gospels; become inconsequent because under the rules Jesus is applying these offers really represent mere alterations in due procedure. The Great Commission proclaimed by Jesus at the close of Mathew’s Gospel, becomes more akin to a megalomaniac mission statement from a mad CEO who is hell-bent on building a vast business empire.
That mighty sense projected marvellously in the Gospels, so enigmatic, of Jesus as Wandering Scholar, with no place to lay his head, and content to be such, is wholly scotched, by nightmare visions of ledger accounts and calculated gambits, in short a sordid game of political expansionism for the Big Idea of world domination.
That essential sense of the separateness of Jesus, who did not seek the opinion or approbation of men because he knew what was in men; his singleness of eye and mind on the cup his Father put before him; the great acts of will involved in his accepting that cup and denying his own aversions; and that clear prominence of authority, head and shoulders, acknowledged by all and not by a membership only, with which he carries his person, and displays wherever and whenever he does anything or speaks; all of this is belittled and trivialised, made an appalling bad joke, in bad taste, by reducing him to a form filling, head counting, number crunching supervisor of clericals.
Above all the dreadful mundanity rises that authenticity, which breathes in and complements through and through his portrayed lifestyle and outlook in the gospels; likewise epitomising his descriptions of the nature of The Holy Spirit; its motions, its waywardnesses, and inimitable uncontainable courses.
Above all this; are these most precious things, which endorse and proclaim the wonderful joy found in having been set free by the truth; in having been unburdened by the love and forgiveness, and revitalised and restored by the message and promises of Jesus: as these subsist, without tinkerings, and without any use or need of a supposed-interpretative silver bullet