05 August 2010

How to write a gospel

Oh donkey-biscuits - it appears I have gone and adopted a rhetorical position that *everybody* disagrees with! Ian, whose incisive secular biblical scholarship I greatly admire, Graham, whose level-headed bonhomie and good sense I enormously respect, Peter, whose witty and apposite gags make me chuckle, and Ric, whose friendship over the last 36 years (Yikes! That long??) I value dearly - all surround my little donkey with their good-natured laser-blasters, and are softly popping away at the beleaguered (?sp) beast.

Yet, as if it were clad in impenetrable composite kevlar-mithril body armour, the plucky creature remains unscathed!

So let's try another approach (fear not, team, I shall continue to comment on the other threads - you don't get away that easily!) - how *should* one go about writing a gospel? I mean, suppose you are some Judeo-Hellenic proto-Christian punter from, say, Antioch; you've never been to the Land of Israel yourself, and you're surrounded by other punters of a similar mindset, and you would love to make the best pitch possible for this Messiah chappie, whose legendary deeds are somewhat shrouded in mystery. Yet the efforts you have seen so far have been a tad lacklustre...

I offer the following tips:

1. First, get your THEOLOGY straight. History be scuppered - this is a GOSPEL, the TRUTH - not what actually *happened*.

2. Bring to mind some old prophet quotes from your dim and distant elementary instruction. Doesn't matter where you get them - anywhere will do. Remember you will have to use these to show that whatever you make up later will be "fulfilled according to the prophecy".

3. Get your sources lined up - anything you can find. Doesn't matter whether it is authentic; if it sounds cool, that's great. Don't worry about provenance, or even if it relates to someone else - in a few millennia people will make up lame excuses and rationalisations for you.

4. String all that stuff together; make sure your narrative has some flow, some drive, some momentum. You're telling a *story*, remember! Not history. Make sure you do not cite your sources. It won't matter - for centuries people will assume/claim that you were an eye-witness. Plagiarise away.

5. Now go back over it, and look for the mundane. See if you can tart that up any. Only one donkey? Add another - fits the prophecy better (you think). A chap at the tomb? Make him an angel. Add earthquakes and zombies and visions and appearances. Your Messiah not forthright enough about his divinity? Sex it up, baby!

6. End on a high.

There ya go! It's a wrap.


  1. Shane

    Ulster Scots gospels aside, if I were the chap (I shall call myself, Matha, what say ye?) so described, with the intentions you have in mind, I *wouldn’t*:

    1. Describe Jesus as he was in *his* day, preferring instead to describe him as if he were one of my distinguished church members. In other words, I’d personify him.

    2. Write about Jesus as if he were talking to other people in another setting in an attempt to address a situation my church was facing in another location and at another time. I’d make my illustrations ‘relevant’. (Why do I hate that word so?)

    3. Say, this is how it was for *them*, if I needed to make the point, this is how it is for *us*.

    4. Miss out on the opportunity to do a bit of theological application, like the minister does in church on Sundays.

    5. Leave the text without a doxology or hymn that we could all sing ’til our lungs were bursting and our spirits were on a psychological high.

    6. Leave out our great eschatological hope. Paul did it, Peter did it, surely that was needed in a best possible pitch. Especially when they were being killed.

    7. Leave my archetypal followers afraid at the end of the story.

    8. Miss an opportunity to affirm me or my buddy or my buddy’s friend as the legitimate heir to leadership in the church.

    9. Do without bolstering my case with references to other, well known and respected disciples. You know, like quoting James or John for supporting commentary.

    10. And I *would* have my Messiah, shining like the bright morning star and flying about Jerusalem in a fiery chariot... instead of eating fish, especially *after* the resurrection.

    And it’s good to see you getting round to dealing with the significance of my earlier questions ;-)


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  3. Oh yes, and believe me, O great Shungy one, you have my friendship for another 36 years! Man, that's a long time thus far, eh?

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