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The Bible Is The Strangest Story Ever - Op-Ed Piece

 

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Today we looked at the story of Jesus from a writer's perspective.

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The Bible Is The Strangest Story Ever – Op-Ed Piece


The Bible is easily one of the most unusually composed stories of all time; from the wide variety of texts of the Old Testament to the claims of the New Testament, a well-read writer can’t live in our world without being presented with the influence that the book of God has had on our culture. One cannot simply ignore the book because its influence and presence seem to defy times. I say that the Bible is constructed in such a manner that if a writer reads them, that writer will soon question the nature of storytelling. I am going to focus on The Four Gospels, which for the uninformed, are the parts with Jesus, make some decisions that, as a writer, baffle me. They make literary decisions that a sane well-read professional writer would not dare to make.


Okay, so what are the Four Gospels about; basically, the hero, Jesus, goes about helping people. After establishing some notoriety, friends, and enemies, he gets falsely accused of a crime and then crucified. He returns from the dead, proving to all that knew him that he was who he claimed to be all along. Many parts of the story are fragments of the man’s life. Although it is presented as the life of the man, there is no clear following of that life, for each Gospel presents different scenarios of his life.


First, let’s talk about the main character in the story. Jesus Christ. Boy, he is not the hero that any of us would pick if we had to create the prototypical hero to a story. It makes me wonder why he is even chosen as the guy unless he really was telling the truth all along? I guess.

He is a carpenter – Right there, that is a red flag. A carpenter, the writers made him a carpenter. No writer ever sat down at their desk and thought, “I am going to make a compelling character, and I know where to start. Carpenters. That is what the people want.” The story of Jesus is possibly the only time any of us even think of the profession. We are so disinterested in the job that we only mention it because of the main character. Of all the jobs you give your character, everyone knows that you give him some sort of military title to create intrigue from your audience. He is a warrior in a great battle, or a soldier out at sea, or a general leading an army. Look at the popular movies we see today; most of the heroes are actual superheroes with supernatural abilities, spies, or soldiers. Yeah, cause who is kidding, who here? We want to see someone flying, or hacking into a building, or fighting a war. We like to see the hero come in a shoot the room full of bad guys down like a complete bad-ass. We don’t want the hero to say things like, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” Jesus is saying the opposite of what any of us really want; a hero with a sword and gun who can save us. Instead of using the sword to kill the bad guys, he is somehow using peace to beat them. It works, but not if you want to create a compelling story.


He is not good-looking – This one is not for me and my male eyes, but for the ladies out there who like to see a man with flowy hair or a good smile. Jesus is not eye candy for them. You can’t put him on a poster like you do a top actor or male model and sell him to the ladies as if they want him. They don’t. Jesus would never be a candidate for the sexiest man in the world, far from it. He isn’t that good-looking. If you want to sell a male character to women, you need to make him appealing to them, and having him be ugly, or at best, average looking is a strange choice for a character. Okay, then can’t you make him fall in love? I’m glad you asked. That is the next point.


There is no romance – There is nothing romantic in the Gospels. There are no hearts or love letters or anything that would make us love the romantic side of the story. Jesus has no lover, yes I know Mary Magdelene, but they don’t go out of their way to say that the two were a thing. The theory of them being a couple is just that, a theory. The story in the Gospels doesn’t speak of it. They don’t say something like, “Jesus wrapped his arms around Mary to comfort her tired shoulders. Jesus kissed Mary to show her how much he cared.” No. There is none of that in the story. If I am making a story that is supposed to be for everybody, then I am adding romance somewhere in it. People love romance. It is why we all love Romeo and Juliet and Gone With The Wind. The idea of two people falling in love is attractive to an audience, and yet the Gospels have none of that. Are you keeping track of the character selection so far? The hero is an average-looking carpenter with no love life. Not necessarily hero material.


Let’s get to the next point.

His childhood has no story – What do we know of Jesus’s childhood? Surely the Gospels would enrich us with many tales of his youth. No, we don’t know much of them. It is as if he was not known at all during his life, which is what he was. Let’s compare Jesus’s kid days to two other famous characters’ childhood. Notice how the other two make it a point to have the main character seem special in our eyes. The point of a childhood story is to give some foreshadowing into the adult hero we are going to meet later in the story.


Jesus got lost by his parents in the temple, only to be found speaking to the other men there. – What can we get from this story that is relevant to Jesus later in the story? That he is smart? That he is a man of God? That is pretty bad storytelling if that is all they could come up with for tales of the man’s youth. I would never write a hero story with this bland of a beginning. Unless the guy was real, and I knew nothing of that time period in his life, and I was stuck with this one minor story. Because if a character is popular enough, someone will ask about that person’s kid days, even if they are not related to the actual tale.


Hercules strangled two snakes that his mother Hera sent to kill him – Right away, you are told that Hercules is very strong by this story. Also that his mother kind of hates him. Those two elements of his character are vital to the rest of his story as he grows into the hero we follow for the 12 Labors. That is more thought out than the Jesus tale, which has nothing to do with his adult life.


Alexander The Great tamed the untamable horse – As soon as you meet young Alexander The Great, you learn that he did something that no one else could do. He tamed the untamable horse, showing control that none of the men around had. Even at the end of this story, his father tells him that he is meant for greatness. Quite literally, the hero character is told by another character that he is the hero. His father tells him, “Macedonia is too small for you.” The ambition of the young man is already being told to the audience. This one-story couldn’t be more blatantly obvious a story to create admiration for Alexander The Great.

Hercules and Alexander The Great’s stories are clearly there to let the audience understand that the hero has entered and that the story they are telling is significant and that these are not ordinary men we are about to hear of as compared to Jesus’s, which is a story that doesn’t highlight the hero in any significant way. A lot of kids get lost at the store or market. Jesus’s childhood story makes him appear more human and like the masses than the other two, and that is a strange choice to make, considering it doesn’t justify the whole point of his hero title.

Most of his story is within a week or so of his life – For as much as we know about Jesus, most of his story is told within around a week of his life. That is about as strange of a thing to do in writing as you can. The Gospels shift focus from his ministry to a few days where he has dinner with his followers and then dies a gruesome death. In writing, time is tough because you handle a story told over the years differently than a story told over a few hours. Jesus’s story isn’t an adventure of a lifetime. We are told in sporadic moments he was good to others, and then everything stops, and his death and resurrection take center stage, overshadowing the good deeds in his life. This isn’t a wrong choice in writing, but it is certainly not what you are taught to do in school.


The Gospels are not written to captivate you as an audience. They are not there to be well-written as if they are an essay by a college student. They are reports by men who believed that they lived with a man who experienced what can only be called a supernatural event. The writers of the Gospels wrote as if they wanted to make sure that they got down what just happened cause they knew it was a crazy event. Their buddy, the guy that they just ate with, got brutally murdered, so bad that they all left him in his final hours, and then a few days later, the same man was walking around, like it was nothing. That would scare the hell out of anyone. It is the epitome of a story where one would say, “Man, you can’t make that up.”

It was then that the writers wrote the Gospels and then looked at each other and asked, “Do you guys remember stuff that we did with him? What did he say? Who did he come across?” Why would they have known all of it off the top of their head? Do you know all the stories of your favorite friends? They backtracked the story and then added any random encounters they could of the individual who did something they knew a human shouldn’t do. They went back into their records and wanted to record what they could remember of the guy’s life.

Let’s put this event into modern context by using a popular assassination in the spot of the crucifixion. The experience of the gospel writers seeing Jesus after his death is like if John F. Kennedy’s cabinet saw him at The White House after he got shot and killed while going through Texas. He was walking around, acting like it was no big deal. Wouldn’t that freak them all out? I know I’d be scared if a friend of mine, after getting killed, walks up to me after he is dead, like no big deal. “Remember when I told you how I was special and all? Well… Yeah.” What is the first thing you do when that happens? Write it down. Write down as much of the man as you can. This part of the storytelling process is one that makes very logical sense to me.

I know that some of you are saying that you would still be skeptical and would want proof of the dead man being alive. Honestly, that is not a crazy request from a Christian or atheist. You want to know that your eyes are not deceiving you. How often do we see online videos with supernatural beings, yet none of us believe them because we think they are fake? The Gospel writers were like us. Thomas The Doubter, said he wanted to see the scar of Jesus Christ before jumping to the conclusion that he rose from the dead. So what happened? Jesus showed him the mark on his chest where they stuck the spear and the marks on his wrists from the nails, proving that he is not a fake. That is creepy if you ask me and quite terrifying for the doubter. It’s as if JFK, after he rose from the dead, was to show Lyndon B. Johnson his head wounds where they shot him. You don’t really expect to have to see the wounds because you don’t believe that it really happened.


I often hear that atheists and non-believers present the Gospels as if the writers are trying to convert them into believing in Christ. I disagree with this notion, although I understand the reasoning. The writers of the Gospel are trying to convince themselves that it all happened too. In his own story, Jesus is questioned as being the hero that he thinks he is. He even has to ask his apostles who they think he is. Yeah, cause they don’t really know what is going on. They know he is special, but none of them are fully certain of who he is. It’s like Jesus has to convince his friends and the audience that he is the actual hero. Now, why would any good writer waste time on such a detail? In a good hero story, you know who the hero is early on, it is pretty obvious most times, but the Gospels are fine with you questioning the validity of it all as you read it. Yeah, because that is how the men who knew Jesus felt then too.

Now I want to give you the two stories of the other characters I mentioned besides Jesus.

Hercules – The son of Zeus is cursed by Hera and goes in a mad rage killing his family. He must then perform various tasks to amend for his mistake. These include killing a lion, a multi-head serpent, and other ferocious beasts of the world.

That story has the element of being very in your face. He is not talking much or saying much, but he is fighting and battling many monsters that kids who play video games would love to take down.


Alexander The Great – The son of King Phillip II is taught by Aristotle, the wisest man of all time, and as an adult, he leads his Macedonian army to conquer the known world, never losing a battle and naming many cities after himself. His influence shaped the Hellenistic world.

That really glorifies the leader side of a character, with battles that historians still write of to this day.

No matter how you look at the Gospels, they are at the very least intriguing. If Jesus was a liar, then you have a conspiracy on the lie. If he wasn’t, then you have to accept that a man came here and was God for his life. It isn’t very compromising there.

If there is one thing that the Jesus character does, it poses a question no other character has ever posed. I look at it like this: If your fish believes it is your favorite fish in the bowl, then you think you have a charming fish. If your fish thinks that it runs the ocean, and all other fish should answer to it, you are left wondering what type of fish you own.


The Gospels present writers with an unusual problem. They are not popular because they are entertaining. It is the opposite of that. Most stories are known because they entertain us as they teach us a few things about life. From Homer all the way to Harry Potter, stories are first forms of entertainment, with hints of knowledge and wisdom that we can take if we feel like it. Do you need to like the lessons in the story to make sense or enjoy it? No. That is not the function of it. But you have to like the actual tale. Homer knew this. Shakespeare knew this. Rowling knew this. As much as we all learn something from the story, none of us as there for the lessons. The Gospels don’t care if they are entertaining or not. They are more interested in teaching you than entertaining you. And that is not how writing works. No story is so great that it can forego amusing its audience. The message of that story must be pretty great if it has the nerve to get rid of the fun parts that many writers know stories need to survive.

Every writer today is trying to create characters that captivate a time and a feeling of people. We are all coming up with clever dialogue and funny jokes. We want to make a good arc for the hero to follow. And yet, the most popular story ever doesn’t do any of this. It doesn’t care about describing the characters in detail. The dialogue is not clever or funny. The arc for the hero is clunky and centered on too much of one event in his life.


No writer in their right mind would have written the Gospels and thought they were worthy of sharing to readers, for they lack anything a reader wants in a story. The only reasonable explanation I can come up with is that the writers of the Gospels didn’t care about the audience they were talking to. They wrote indifferently to the audience’s appeals. And that would only be done if what they wrote was more of a report than a story.


What is a writer to make of stories if the most popular story breaks all the rules of good storytelling?


The most popular story is about a carpenter with no romance or good looks. He doesn’t fight or run an army. He dies a brutal death at the end of his ministry. The writers are uncertain of the hero’s place in the actual story, which focuses on the lessons taught by the hero rather than entertaining the audience.


The Gospels may very well be the greatest literary accomplishment of all time, for they broke just about every writing rule there is and yet are still universally known and beloved. Whether you believe them or not, that is quite impressive.

 

 

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About The Blogger

Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on pensandwords.com. His favorite writers are Robert Frost and Charles Bukowski. He enjoys reading up on history, watching comedies, and playing video games, when he is not writing down a few notes for his next piece. He started this blog out of his love for literature and hopes that the reader shares that same passion.

 

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