As I was writing my new book, I became very aware of all the different versions of Jesus. Let us review some of them.
Probably the most familiar one is the White Jesus, the Hollywood one with pinkish skin, rosy cheeks, blue eyes, light-brown hair with a well-trimmed beard and moustache in a brilliant white flowing gown. He is a Christian who died for our sins. He is “straight” (there is no other way), keeps women submissive, and as a king, endorses holy wars. This Jesus is the poster boy for the white Western world.
Then there’s the Spoiled Brat Jesus. Luke (2:41–50) portrays this twelve-year-old precocious lad preaching to the crowds in the temple and squaring away with the religious leaders. This obnoxious kid can also be found in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (written in the second century CE), which portrayed him as a bully who maims and kills other children who cross him (chapters 2 and 3). I have to wonder why anyone would invent and write down stuff like this. There is no answer.
There is the Jesus of India that claims Jesus lived in India from age twelve to twenty-eight, the so-called lost years, where he studied Hinduism and Buddhism. The legend even gives the address at the house in which he lived. It is hard to believe, but lots of folks do.
The Very Jewish Jesus was Jewish, but Mark, Luke, and John (who were often deemed anti-Semitic) were not so intent as Matthew to prove that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah (“Christ” in Greek). Jewish folks don’t buy this idea for a second, and too many Christians think Jesus was a Christian and started the church (I think it was the Episcopal one).
The Married Jesus is found in the Gospel of Mary (Magdalene), which was maybe written in the second century but has six missing pages. It says that Jesus loved her more than all (6:1) and “he knew her completely and loved her steadfastly” (10:10). Some Christians do not like sexy Jesus because they believe sex is dirty. The celibate clergy want this Jesus to disappear. I like this Jesus.
The Gospel of John tells about the Fairytale Jesus.Not one story in that gospel is historically true, but every story is full of great truths, especially about the power of agape, unconditional love. If one wants to find those truths, one has to learn the art of midrash, the Jewish way of biblical interpretation.
My favorite is the Historical Jesus,who had dark skin and brown eyes and hair and was a scraggly, uneducated, religious nerd and peasant unafraid to stand up to authority. He was friends with sinners, outcasts, and the oppressed. He did not like violence and even loved his enemies who executed him because he threatened them. Jesus died, but his message is still alive today.
There are more versions of Jesus, but it is obvious to me that we have no idea who the real Jesus was and probably never will. Which raises the question, Was there ever a Jesus?
What think ye? Peace Love Joy Hope
Photo by Guilman on Unsplash