April 25th, 2010

wart

Twitterpated

  • 01:34 Photo: The Party of No Credibility John L. Bell looks at the inordinate number of false rumors about... tumblr.com/xpy90dxx0 #
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  • 14:50 You can't eat dirt 'cause it tastes so awful, like no sugar in your Turkish coffee. #
  • 14:52 Ever wonder what happened to the kid from the Problem Child movies? washedupcelebrities.blogspot.com/2006/10/michael-oliver.html #
  • 17:24 @smallVshop Hey, I could have made that tweet! {g} No, seriously, I agree. #
  • 17:25 @jfruh Humor is only acceptable if it's done in classical Latin, not in the vernacular. #
  • 17:47 Is the Bible Thematically Consistent? - The answer, by the way, is “no.” Is anyone surprised by this? tumblr.com/xpy91bfp9 #
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The Original Christian Family


When I posted about the mother of Jesus a few months ago, I mentioned how the Catholic and Orthodox Churches are determined to view Mary as a perpetual virgin, despite the fact that Jesus is mentioned as having siblings. Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 list Jesus' brothers as being named James, Joses, Simon, and Judas. Mark also mentions an unspecified number of sisters, but the use of the plural suggests at least two. Not much is known about most of these siblings, but James was a very important figure in the development of Christianity. This page, which I stumbled upon when searching for information on Pascal's Wager a few years ago, gives some background on "the brother of the Lord" and the manner in which the Church minimized his role. Why would they do that? Well, it seems to be the case that James was at odds with Paul on how to run the Church, with the former favoring Christianity (not that it was called that at the time) remaining a distinctly Jewish sect. For various reasons, Paul's teachings became the basis of orthodox belief. So while the theologians couldn't ignore James entirely, they could use various means to make him seem less important. The evidence we have suggests, however, that the cult of Jesus was originally a family affair. The Church historian Eusebius quoted the chronicler Hegesippus as mentioning that Symeon, first cousin of Jesus and James, became the leader of the Church in Jerusalem after James's death.


The interesting thing is that there are a few references in the Gospels to Jesus' immediate family thinking he's crazy when he starts with his preaching and healing, and Jesus responding to that by insisting that his followers are his REAL family. It's never explained how James, at least, came around to believing that his big brother was the Messiah. This tradition does cast even more doubt on the nativity story than there already is, however. I mean, don't you think Mary would have remembered all the fanfare with which Jesus was born? I can just imagine how that would have played out:

James: Mom, why does our brother think he's the Messiah?
Mary: Well, I was still a virgin when he was born, an angel came to me to announce his conception, more angels showed up to celebrate after he was born, some astrologers followed a star to visit him and give him expensive gifts, and King Herod tried to have him killed when he was still a baby.
James: Oh.

No, most likely it was something else that resulted in the conversion of James, and possibly other relatives as well. For all we know, James could have just thought, "Hey, if my big brother wants to be the Messiah, let him! It's not like our family is going to achieve fame any other way." Maybe they were angry at him in the first place because he'd abandoned the family carpentry business and chosen a career path that made him a poor wanderer, only to change their minds when he began to achieve success. Who knows?

While I'm on the subject of Jesus' family, I just recently learned of an odd tradition from the early Church that Jesus had a twin brother. He's referred to in documents discovered at Nag Hammadi in Egypt as "Judas Thomas." He presumably would be the same Judas mentioned in Matthew and Mark, and I believe there are even traditions linking him to the apostle "Doubting" Thomas. From what I've read, Thomas wasn't actually a name at this point, but simply the Aramaic for "twin" (the Greek equivalent is "Didymos," which is also used to refer to Thomas in the Bible), so we don't really know the doubting apostle's name, just that he had a twin brother. The thing I don't get is that, if the people who wrote about Judas Thomas believed the nativity story as it's presented in the Gospels, what did they think happened? Jesus was born and placed in the manger, the angels started singing, and then the midwife said, "Hey, there's another one!"? Seems like a quite significant detail to leave out. But then, I think the stories of Jesus' twin brother were Gnostic, and I don't know if the Gnostics placed much importance on the virgin birth. Since the apostle Thomas is credited with spreading the Gospel in India, the identical twin is also said to have preached there.