What was Jesus like?

Notes and Detail

A little over a third of the Gospel of Luke contains material unique among the Synoptic Gospels, including a story (Luke 2.41-52↱) suggesting a hint of Jesus' rising ministry when he was twleve years old.

Additionally, though I need to find the modern analytical source in order to accurately explain the implication, the phrasing in Luke suggests that Jesus' parents were not utterly poor; it's a literary question compared to history, but the idea of making the trip every year (Lk. 2.41) does not match our understanding of what passed for the proletariat, in either Marxist or ancient Roman terms.

Within this context, we should also consider that the Lucian authorship, traditionally considered to contain both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, constitutes over a quarter of the New Testament, and, furthermore, the Gospel, likely written at the end of the first century, underwent further revision in the early second; the general range is 80-110 CE.

It might seem like a trivial note, but there is also the tale of Marcion, who lived in the first and second centuries CE, and is so infamous as a heretic that we can largely reconstruct his post-Lucian "Gospel of the Lord" according to excerpts conveyed in the criticism. His great heresy was to find the Christian usurpation of Hebrew Scripture and Covenant untenable insofar as what Jesus said about God really does seem to be in conflict with the Hebrew tale. He invoked ditheism and called down a Demiurge to explain the difference. But the Marcionite dispute itself, including Irenaeus of Lyon responding in Adversus Haereses, tells us the Gospel of Luke experienced second-century revision.

While it is true, there is not much in the Gospels about young Jesus, what we do have is rather quite important.

The general dearth about James in the Gospels hints after a fascinating discussion, but the general gist is to remember what we are looking at when we read the New Testament. The canon itself was not set until the fifth century CE.

If, to the other, we attend the actual Epistle of James, then it might occur to wonder how one is reading the Bible in a very basic way: Is one reading cover-to-cover, in order? Is one hopping through, collecting bits and pieces as they go? In either case, consider the politics of what happens to the Epistle of James. These days, it seems an obscure chapter from the past, but to this day Christians still fight about the meaning of the phrase, "by faith alone"; "sola fide", as it is known, confounded Christian institutions from the outset. To read through the Bible cover to cover, as if it told a story in more or less chronological order, would place the Epistle of James wrongly. This result depicts the Pauline Evangelism struggling through the question of sola fide, and then along comes James to resolve it, as such, except for the political complications, which have been ceaseless since before the outset. But the idea that James settled what Paul could not would be incorrect. James is the strongest case for originating with a firsthand witness to the period of Jesus' ministry, and it's not especially strong. Still, though, the important point is this: Pretty much every indicator we have would suggest the real chronology would be that James asserted an answer to a question that arose in his time and circumstance, but as the Christian evangelism grew and faced more complex inquiries and challenges, politics demanded a different answer, and the subsequent confusion over sola fide is the Pauline political legacy.

We might, alongside the tale of the Epistle of James, consider what happened at Nicaea in the fourth century. Athanasius and Arius fought bitterly about the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ. Over time, their dispute would see something like five rounds of alternating banishment and reconciliation, but in the moment what bishops came up with was the Nicene Creed, which is heretical (docetist) except for their say-so, and officially resolved Creation ex nihilo. For the record, Arius and two others were the only holdouts. Nonetheless, it was, if you'll pardon the expression, a hell of a fight, given that the source canon for their dispute would not be resolved for another century. That is: The Nicene Creed predates the New Testament canon because of politics, which at first doesn't seem like much of a problem since religions accrete and accrue over time, but does include the particular result of a Nicene Creed expressing faith according to a canon of literature and belief unknown. That is, there is no guarantee, to the contemporary Christian, that the Nicene Creed they recite has anything to do with the New Testament they accept. It's close, but the differences are actually pretty impressive; like Marcion and the question of the godhead, we can start to look at the idea of historically contiguous Christian evangelism in a different context, as a series of oppositional political usurpations.

We're actually still considering James' general absence from the Jesus narrative: Considering both the evolution of the stories and the politics driving it, we ought not be surprised if he doesn't come up much in the Gospels. And if I skip over the second-century CE text known as the Gospel of James, it's because the thing is kind of a mess, and, moreover, the main point is that such tales exist, and by the time we get to arguing Mary's virginity as a consecrated obligation of cult, we can probably just leave it at making the point that, sure, there was some trendy chatter about James over the course of at least a century, with the apocryphal text that has come down to us today emerging (ca. 145 CE) shortly before Irenaeus (b. 130 CE) rose to power, and eventually argued against alleged heresies (ca. 180 CE). While it would be Athanasius who finally raised the Epistle of James to canonical status in 367 CE, not so long after Gaius Marius Victorinus criticized the writing as being associated with the Symmachian heresy, questioning whether the Epistle of James itself was heretical, it is also true that Victorinus sided with Athanasius, and would write against Arius in defense of the Nicene Creed.

The Epistle of James is what it is; but between that text and everything else in the New Testament canon, what stands out is that everyone on the prevailing arc of early Christian history had something political against James. Of course the Gospels that focus on Jesus, that are, ultimately, a political selection, will have very little to say about James. And the rest of the canon will generally disrespect him.

Even so, here's the thing: Nobody actually has to believe in any of Scripture or Apocrypha in order to grasp what I am saying; I have before mentioned the idea of a literary criticism built from what scraps the historical record provides, and does function as an artistic critique reflecting the psychoanalytic meaning of history. In this case, you don't have to believe a word of the Bible, and nobody says Irenaeus isn't a pretentious, fallacious prig. But that's the thing. This is still a story, and these are the characters and tales we have. Inasmuch as any article of faith holds that the Epistle of James is actually from or directly connected to the brother of Jesus, or even simply witness to the ministry itself, everything about its journey to and within the canon seems strange. Even the fact of the text's vital advocate, Athanasius, is part of a massive political clusterdiddle we all still suffer for; no, really, this is the guy who screwed up the crucifixion because his aesthetics could not cope with the vulgarity of Jesus suffering like a lowly human being. Sure, Arius was being kind of unreasonable, too, in that Christ's perfect human life would, itself, be inhuman, but it's this long after and the world has never recovered from the Nicene calamity, and that actually makes a certain amount of sense when we stop and think about it.

Whether or not one believes Jesus saves, the record we have is the record we have, and virutally every major player on the prevailing side of settling that record was working political angles.

To bring the whole thing 'round, sort of, it's true, we shouldn't expect a whole lot about James near the heart of a political canon. Four centuries of politicking around a story about someone else, and a range of significant interests regarding other implications, sure. Like the topic summary suggests, Jesus is something unique to the story. He is the reason for the story.

And Jesus emerging through post-Essene influence is actually the sort of thing a usurpation of the Hebrew experience would downplay. The story of Jesus teaching at age twelve is strange enough in and of itself, has a particular gnostic flavor that even finds its way into Sufi teaching stories, and is likely a political affectation within the Lucian experience, which itself, in turn, would seem strange when considered from afar, because the tradition of Luke the Physician, while relying on the Pauline Epistle to the Colossians, affects later tradition and pedagogy according to a perception of comparative realism within a miraculous framework.

Still, though, flippant suggestions of a hippie, school dropout, or other such, aren't entirely worthless; rather, they devalue themselves not by modernity itself but the orientation of the beholder. My peer cohort had a phrase, "suburban terrorist", referring to petit-bourgeois discontent and destructive ennui, often applied to skaters and punks. Once upon a time, a borderline middle-class son of a whiff of privilege in a hypocritical family growing up to join a world-mastery fundamentalist fleeing a world-flight commune would describe an origin story for a revolutionary.
Notes on #126↑ Above: Related Reading

Sarras, Niveen. "Commentary on Luke 2:41-52". Working Preacher. 30 December 2018. WorkingPreacher.org. 20 February 2019. http://bit.ly/2FJCCnF

Satterlee, Craig A. "Commentary on Luke 2:41-52". Working Preacher. 30 December 2012. WorkingPreacher.org. 20 February 2019. http://bit.ly/2S2p10v

Shah, Idries. Tales of the Dervishes: Teaching-Stories of the Sufi Masters over the Past Thousand Years. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1969. Books.Google.com. 20 February 2019. http://bit.ly/2XdiW18

Taylor Farnes, Alan. "John the Baptist and the Qumran Connection". Studia Antiqua, v. 9, n. 1. April, 2011. ScholarsArchive.BYU.edu. 20 February 2019. http://bit.ly/2FBMC2q

Wass, Melissa. "The Incarnation: An Exegesis on Luke 2:41-52". The Preacher's Magazine. 2015. PreachersMagazine.org. 20 February 2019. http://bit.ly/2sBJSJI
The thing about Jesus, he was competing with a few Jewish ideas, Greeks Romans and all the gods. Jesus overcome all their gods with his own ideas. As we know the Greek/roman gods went silent.