Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fourteenth excerpt of 'Twelve Towers'

He pointed to various sections in all three Gospels and showed how they were the same.
Father Drew and Gwilym had many conversations about their religious beliefs. Father Drew was determined to convert Gwilym into a pure believer while Gwilym was equally determined to open Father Drew’s eyes to the inconsistencies in their Bible.
“How can you argue against four men saying the same thing about one event?” asked Father Drew one evening. “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all write about the birth, preaching, death and resurrection of Jesus.”
“You speak of the four Gospel writers as though they were four independent men coming to the same conclusions after witnessing the life of Jesus. Yet that is not what happened. If you look carefully you will see that sections in Matthew and Luke copy sections in Mark exactly. That means that they both copied from that Gospel. Like the story of the rich young man who wanted to get into heaven and was told that he had to give up all his riches. Read Mark 10:17 and then Matthew 19:16 and Luke 18:18. They are almost word for word.”
Gwilym pulled out an old copy of the Bible, much annotated. He pointed to various sections in all three Gospels and showed how they were the same. Then he pulled out a second book and showed this to the priest. “What my father did was create his own text, based on the Gospels, but in order of when it was written and without all the duplications. See how he crossed out the sections in Matthew and Luke that were already written in Mark?”
Father Drew blanched at this desecration but asked Gwilym to continue.
“Notice what is left? There are some sections that are unique to Matthew or unique to Luke, but there are also other sections that are the same as each other. These sections, most of which are sayings of Jesus, agree so completely, that they must have come from an earlier source. “Happy are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.’ ‘Ask and it shall be given to you, search and you shall find’” Gwilym showed some of these passages, circled in red ink. Father Drew was bent over his Bible, rapidly moving from book to book to make the comparisons.
“My father spent his life studying this and he was looking for this common source all over the world. That was why we spent time in the Holy Land. While he was there, he came to believe that this common source was Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus’ uncle.”
Father Drew perked up at this name. “Joseph came to Avalon after Jesus’ death, planted his staff where it grew into a thorn tree and founded the first Christian church there. Yes, I have heard of him. Is that why you are in Britain, searching for this lost Gospel?”
“That is something I am keeping my eyes open for, yes. But I came here for my wife. Kaitlyn was from Britain and she was homesick.”
“What do you have left, Gwilym? After you have cut out the duplications?”
Gwilym looked long and hard at the priest. Father Drew met his gaze. “It leaves me with what many priests would call a heresy, an abomination, blasphemy. I call it the true words of the early Christian disciples. My father rewrote the Gospels to show them in chronological order as written. May I have your assurance that word of what I’m about to show you does not leave this room?” Gwilym asked. Father Drew assented.
Gwilym went into the back room of his house and returned a few minutes later with a wrapped book. He opened this, revealing his father’s spidery script. The first page was titled: ‘The Gospel of Joseph.’ This comprised a collection of sayings of Jesus, starting with John the Baptist crying out in the desert and ending with many of the famous parables.
The next book was the book of Mark which detailed the growth of Jesus into a preacher, then the leader of the apostles, culminating with his death and resurrection.
Following this were small versions of Matthew and Luke with all the duplications removed that already existed in Joseph or Mark. Then there was the Gospel of John. Then the Gospel of Peter. Finally there was a new Gospel attributed to Thomas.
“That last Gospel was
rejected by Rome. Why have you included it?” asked Father Drew.
“Because it continues the trend you can see by putting the books in order”
“It is certainly an interesting theory, but what can you gain from it, Gwilym? All you have done is rearranged the text and removed the duplicates.”
“When you place it in this order and you see the same story appearing twice, you know it is more likely to be true. Now that you can see that they no longer copy from each other, they are independent sources. Something that appeared to be obvious, because it was repeated three times, is now not so obvious because you see it only once. But other things that are repeated, are more likely to be true. Like Jesus being from Nazareth is repeated, but Him being born in Bethlehem is not. His being a carpenter is more true, but teaching in the Temple at 12 is not so likely.”
“And more interesting are the trends you see. Look at the story of His trial before Pontius Pilate. In Mark, Pilate asks what the Jews want to do with Him, they say: ‘Crucify Him!’ In Luke, Pilate declares three times that Jesus is innocent but Jews won’t allow His release. In Matthew he washes his hands of Jesus’ death, and the Jews say, ‘Let His blood be on our hands and on our children’s.’ In John, Pilate tries to release Jesus three times and is told by the Jews: ‘If you do so, you’re no friend of Caesar’s.’ Pilate hands Jesus over to the Jews to execute. By the time we get to Peter, it is Herod who put Jesus on trial and the Jews are the ones who crucify Him. Do you see the trend?”
Father Drew flipped carefully between each reading and read them all. Then he returned to his own Bible to read the sources. “So the Jews were made to seem guiltier as the stories are retold. Why?”
“The first Christians were trying to convert the Jews so they were telling the story in a way that made them look good. As they got into more and more conflict with the Jews, they changed the stories to make the Jews look worse. They separated themselves from the Jews. Also, Pilate converted later and was sainted in the Ethiopian church.”
Father Drew looked sternly at Gwilym. “You are speaking blasphemy, Gwilym. This is the Holy Bible, the word of God. You can not say that people changed the stories to suit themselves.”
“But the stories are different. Even in your Bible without the stories moved around, they are different. You saw that yourself just now. And if they are different, they were changed deliberately by some people for some reason. Why?”
“Perhaps they were just remembered wrongly?”
“Human frailties either way. The Word of God is in the Bible as Jesus’ words. No-one has tried to change those. But the stories about what happened to him have been changed. Putting them in order helps see how they might have changed. Thomas has been changed the most, and seems the least likely to hold much truth. I believe that is why the church in Rome rejected it.”
Father Drew looked troubled. “What do these trends say about Jesus’ rising from the dead, His being the son of God, the important questions?”
Gwilym gazed at his friend’s worried face and smiled. “That’s a question for another time. Read the passages yourself. When research flies in the face of faith, I think faith should prevail. Let’s leave that question for now.”
Father Drew smiled, then looked at Gwilym sidelong and said, “You have neatly avoided the question again. What then, is your quest? It cannot be simply looking for this lost Gospel of Joseph or you wouldn’t be spending time building towers.”
“My father’s quest was to find this first Gospel. He hoped that it would tell the truth about Jesus. I continue this quest in his name. But I don’t want to repeat his life: that of an itinerant pilgrim, scrabbling for life, at the mercy of anyone who comes by with power or money. I want my sons to have food to eat, clothes to wear and shelter from the weather. I also want them to see me accomplish things. I watched my father fail again and again until it killed him. My boys see me building towers that will stand forever.”
“What made you choose building?”
“When I was a boy, we entered Constantinople. I saw the massive walls, the Grand Bazaar, the palace, the water cistern. I vowed that one day I would build structures like that. Buildings that little boys would look up at in wonder and become inspired. So, as I traveled, I learned from these builders. And now, as I build, I learn from my mistakes and I get better. One day I will build something truly inspiring.”
“That is a worthy quest Gwilym. I hope one day you build a fine church, and that I am the lucky priest who presides in it. Now let me see your Bibles again, please.”
Father Drew settled himself in a chair in the corner of the room; conferring between his Bible and the books that Gwilym had shown him. The night grew darker, Gwilym lit a candle, and the priest continued reading the books, back and forth.
Finally Father Drew closed both books, rubbed his eyes and asked Gwilym, “May I borrow…”
“No, Father.” interrupted Gwilym. “I’m sorry, but that book is very valuable and can get me into a lot of trouble. I trust you to keep it a secret. You may read it any time in my presence. But I need proof of this Gospel of Joseph before I tell others about that book. I must proceed carefully. Anyone seeing me rewrite the Bible the way I have can accuse me of witchcraft or demon worship. There is too much risk. I must protect my children.”
The priest nodded his assent and then walked home, studying the stars.

To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

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