Reza Aslan’s “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” and the Fundamentalist Christian-Taliban Response

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth Book Cover

“Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” Book Cover

The first time I heard of “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth,” by Reza Aslan, was when I heard people complaining about it on Twitter. Well, not really complaining about the book per se, but the author’s religion. I’ve previously read another book by this author and I remember it being pretty good, especially considering it was a book on religious history, and I didn’t recall it being unusual or laden with religious messages that could indicate a lack of academic impartiality in the writer. Apparently, though, for some people, just being a Muslim makes one incapable of being an academic or of being objective.

Fox News (a.k.a. Fox Entertainment) published an Op Ed about the book by John Dickerson, claiming the author is just some random, poorly educated schmuck who must have an agenda because he is a Muslim. As a result of the unfounded allegations and fear-mongering spin Dickerson put on the article, the Fundamentalist Christian-Taliban masses were enraged and set out to destroy the infidel (Reza Aslan, PhD) for daring to be a non-Christian while writing about Jesus.

It’s almost amazing, in a negative sort of way, how difficult it is for some people to comprehend that people of other religions are capable of obtaining higher degrees and writing from an academic, objective standpoint. Here’s an example of a Fox News desk jockey embarrassing herself while reading from a pre-prepared script during an interview with Reza Aslan:

She just can’t seem to get past the fact that he’s a Muslim and wrote a book about Jesus, as if it’s impossible to write about another religion with academic impartiality. She also seems to think that Reza Aslan’s claims to being educated are some sort of fantasy hocus-pocus that she just brushes off to get at the heart of the matter (in her opinion): “You are a Muslim! You are not capable of rational thought, because Fox says so! I say so! Every day!”

Reza Aslan during a taping of NBC's "Meet the Press" in 2005. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Reza Aslan during a taping of NBC’s “Meet the Press” in 2005. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

After watching the YouTube interview and reading the piece on ThinkProgress about how Dickerson’s claims are all sorts of retarded, I proceeded to check the Kindle book out on Amazon. The product page was flooded with one-line, one-star reviews that do not analyze or review the book, but simply discredited the entire possibility of the book being worthwhile because the author is a Muslim. It was pretty obvious that most of the “reviewers” had simply regurgitated what they’d read on Fox. Some didn’t even bother to process the information and just cut & paste the article into the review section, as if that would magically prove their uneducated and uninformed hate-mongering to be undeniably true. Some “reviewers” went so far as to claim that a conspiracy exists to trick people into buying the book because the author never revealed his religious orientation during previous interviews (also parroted from Fox), as if that has some bearing on a book written from a secular, historical perspective.

Does every Christian author need to reveal his religious preference prior to writing a book about the history of a religion other than Christianity? No, of course not, so why does Reza Aslan have to defend himself to a mob of Fox Zombies that are claiming his religious preference somehow invalidates his four degrees, including a BA in Religion from Santa Clara University, a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, a Doctor of Philosophy in the Sociology of Religion from UC Santa Barbara, and an MFA from the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop? The history of religion and its development is this man’s bread-and-butter. If he’s not qualified to write a book on it, then doctors with medical licenses aren’t competent to diagnose the common cold.

I reported quite a few of those one-star reviews as abuse, because that’s what they are: hate-speech and abuse that have nothing to do with the product and certainly aren’t legitimate reviews that should be allowed to affect the product rating. The obvious intent behind this mob-style digital attack on the book’s product page is to prevent sales just because the author is a Muslim. And not only is he a Muslim (and according to some the instrument of Satan), he’s not writing about Jesus from the modern Christian fundamentalist perspective, much like dozens of other authors before him have done in an attempt to understand who Jesus-the-man was. Amazon seems to not really care about hate-speech or abuse or fake reviews that damage sales, though, because none of the so-called reviews have been taken down. In fact, the number has jumped by 10 since I looked at it last night.

I took the time to try to have a discussion with one reviewer about why he feels that Reza Aslan is incapable of writing a book about Jesus, but instead of actually addressing that question, he attempted to convince me that Peter never denied Christ, Christ never rebuked Peter for trying to convince him to not be crucified, that “Allah” does not translate directly to “God” and does not represent Abraham’s God, even though the Quran specifically mentions numerous times that it is a prophetic work in the tradition of Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael and Jacob. I kept asking him what his point was to try to figure out what his comments had to do with the ability of Reza Aslan to write a book, but he kept going on and on, changing topics as soon as he was proved wrong on some point. I finally realized that he wasn’t trying to justify his opinion or create a logical, though complicated argument about the book. He was just trying to waste my time by turning the conversation into one about the validity of Islam as a religion instead of being about the validity of the book as an academic work.

The bottom line is, the attempt of fundamentalist Christians who somehow believe it’s ok to break one of the ten commandments and bear false witness by pretending to review a book they haven’t read has propelled Reza Aslan’s book to the #1 best-seller position on Amazon, something it may have never achieved otherwise. It only goes to show that when you approach someone with hate in your heart, your efforts will usually fail and often backfire. If there’s something wrong with the book, because of its style, a failure to prove the thesis, or because the author played fast-and-loose with sources and added too much interpretation, then those are valid criticisms. But, just because a person is of a religion that is not the religion of the person they’re writing about (let’s forget the fact that Jesus was a Jew and Christianity didn’t develop until hundreds of years later for a moment), that doesn’t automatically invalidate the work as a whole. Obviously. Well, to me anyway, and to plenty of others who are calling out Fox for this rampant stupidity. For example, the Lauren Green interview embedded above is being hailed as a new contender for the most embarrassing interview ever by MSN.

I purchased the book. It will help me prepare myself for a course I’m taking on the historical Jesus this Fall semester at college. I’m also going to make sure I leave a real review for the book on Amazon to help counter all of the ridiculous bashing, assuming the book is good of course.

History in the “Confessions” of St. Augustine

St. Augustine in his study.

St. Augustine in his study. Source: Wikipedia

Saint Augustine’s Confessions is a book about the early life and conversion to Christianity of Augustine of Hippo, one of the most famous Christian scholars of antiquity. The book starts off with a description of childhood, then moves on to describe Augustine’s quest for knowledge both among the Manichees and through study of the traditional liberal arts, including oratory and rhetorical skills. An intensely personal account by design, Augustine reveals his internal struggle as he reminisces about the loss of his childhood friend, whose name he does not reveal, as well as his struggles with sexuality and his doubts about the nature of God. Essentially, the book is meant to show Augustine’s path from a confused childhood to a position of solid conviction in the Catholic faith, but Confessions can also be used as a source of historical information. This essay will examine the first seven chapters of Confessions to discover what it implies about the late 4th and early 5th century Roman society that shaped Augustine’s life.

One of the more interesting things that can be discerned from the book is the potential for mobility available in Roman society, both in terms of physical and social movement. Of course, Augustine’s case is not indicative of the norm, but he was able to advance from being the son of a modest family in Tagaste (in modern day Algeria) to being a well-respected and socially connected professor of rhetoric in Milan, before his conversion, which is related in chapters outside the scope of this essay. Augustine’s reasons for leaving his home village were originally related to study opportunities and a need to leave a place that reminded him strongly of the death of a childhood friend. His ability to travel within the empire for education purposes is interesting because it implies that there was a system in place that allowed for the boarding and education of students during his time. His ability to rise through the ranks of society based on his intellectual abilities shows that class distinctions were not set in stone and he specifically mentions that many Roman offices were available to anyone with the right amount of money. In a modern context, this has a negative connotation, and perhaps it did in Augustine’s time as well, because in his writing he felt the need to explain that as a system it allowed the state access to needed revenues and acted as a pathway to success for those born to lower classes.

In his writing, Augustine mentioned that not all families were willing to support their children’s education outside of their local towns, even when they were better-off economically than Augustine’s own family. Augustine did not go into detail about this point, but it leaves the reader wondering what motivations a family might have for not wanting to promote the education of their children at all costs, as Augustine’s did, when it might lead the family to greater success. If the story about Alypius and the responsibility of a “house” for a crime is any indication, the Roman family unit probably shared equally in success as well as culpability for crimes and failures.[1] Was it a cultural expectation that children would follow in the footsteps of their parents, leading to a lackadaisical attitude towards aggressive social advancement, or was the lack of interest in education outside of Tagaste something specific to that locality?

Much of Augustine’s writing in Confessions deals with education, because he wrote about both his time as a pupil and as an educator. His writing makes it clear that corporal punishment was a well-used form of discipline that acted as a motivator for children to pay attention to their studies. The fact that Augustine and, presumably, other children endured caning as a punishment and prayed for respite instead of abandoning school indicates that there was some measure of compulsion in attendance, either from families or from the state. Also, unless the phrase was added by the translator, the inclusion of the “three Rs” as a figure of speech (reading, writing, and arithmetic) shows that areas of study for primary school students in the late 4th century were fairly consistent with modern education standards.[2] His later education reveals a break with modern ideals about the purpose of studying the liberal arts, however. According to Augustine, forming logical arguments that revealed the truth about a matter were of secondary importance to style and delivery. Eloquence and the ability to convey a sense of conviction were more important than being able to logically argue a truth.

Similarly related to education, student culture in Roman society is revealed through Augustine’s writings. Bullying was alive and well in the 4th century. Schoolyard gangs even had nicknames, like “The Wreckers”, who would find “shy and unknown freshmen… to persecute…by mockery…to feed their own malevolent amusement.”[3] Augustine dealt with this group as a student by staying on friendly terms with them, but refused to participate in their mockery and acts of vandalism. Augustine wrote that in Carthage, students would burst into a classroom and purposely disrupt it with “mad behavior.”[4] Later, as an adult, Augustine complained of a practice common among Roman students, who would sit with a teacher for a number of classes and then transfer en masse to another instructor to avoid making payment.[5]

Augustine’s writing reveals quite a bit about religion during the late 4th and early 5th centuries in the Roman Empire, most obviously because the book is about his journey to conversion to Catholocism, but the first seven chapters of the book also discuss the Manichees and give an example of religious syncretism among professed Catholics. Augustine wrote that he spent nine years as a follower of the Manichee religion and through his writings, we can see that it was institutionally similar to the Catholic Church, including having Bishops, but professed very different concepts of God. The instance of religious syncretism that Augustine took time to mention was his mother’s practice of tomb veneration through the offering of plates of fruit and the ritual sipping of wine at the burial sites of Catholic martyrs. Augustine mentioned that his mother was not alone during these ceremonies, so the practice must have been widespread. I also make this conjecture based on the fact that in later centuries, and continuing up to the present, Islamic scholars in the Middle East have been condeming the same practice among Muslims regarding veneration of the tombs of saints, martyrs and especially Sufi pirs.

This brief selection of information from the first seven chapters of Saint Augustine’s Confessions shows how historical information about an author’s society can be revealed by analyzing that author’s work, even when recording historical information is not the main purpose of the work. This essay examines the chapters on their own, but by comparing what Augustine wrote to other available information, one could further the process of reconstructing Roman society and elaborate on the circumstances surrounding Augustine’s life and conversion to Catholocism.



[1] Saint Augustine, Confessions (Oxford University Press, 2009), 101.

[2] Ibid., 15.

[3] Ibid., 38.

[4] Ibid., 80.

[5] Ibid., 86.

 

References

Saint Augustine. 2009. Confessions (Oxford World’s Classics). Translated by Henry Chadwick. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.

 

Israeli School of U.P.K. Black Jewish Supremacist Extremist Group

Israelite U.P.K. School Demonstration in Times Square

Israelite U.P.K. School Demonstration in Times Square

Last Saturday my wife and I were in Times Square, heading to Olive Garden to have a nice dinner for our anniversary.  We got off the train at 42nd street and walked through Times Square to do a little site seeing first.  I was surprised to see what looked like a hate group preaching in the middle of Times Square.

When we were there, I didn’t really pay too much attention to them, other than to stop and take the above photo and note that they were yelling loudly about black people being oppressed.   When I got home, I looked them up on Wikipedia and found the following information:

Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK) is a non-profit organization based in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, United States. The group is part of the Hebrew Israelism movement, which regards American blacks as descendants of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled ISUPK an “extremist” and “black supremacist” group.

I zoomed in on the info boards they had set up and saw some things I didn’t expect:

Christianity Board Crop-Closeup

Christianity Board Crop-Closeup

They apparently consider Jesus to be the anti-Christ.  I’m no expert on Jewish theology, but I think that’s a harder line than the average Jew would take, fears of antisemitism aside.

Islam Board Crop-Closeup

Islam Board Crop-Closeup

Islam wasn’t spared either; not that anyone thinks to spare Islam these days when there’s an opportunity for criticism.  The ISUPK has apparently equated the Ka’aba (the square structure in the photo) with an idol.  They’ve gone so far as to tag the ‘black stone’ as a “clitoris”.  If you’re not aware, Muslims believe that Abraham visited Hagar and his son by her, Ishmael, and helped them construct a home near a spring which came up out of the ground when struck by Ishmael’s feet as a baby.  That’s the black square structure.  Or, at least, the rebuilt and maintained representation of it.  Muslims pray facing this structure, regardless of where they are in the world and perform a pilgrimage, but not because they worship the structure.  It’s just a symbol; it’s the focal point that unites all Muslims.  Islam as a religion is big on the concept of unity, though you couldn’t guess it considering some of modern day politics.

The black stone which the ISUPK referred to as a “clitoris” is a black stone said to have fallen from Heaven to show Adam and Eve where to build an altar for sacrifice to God.  It was, according to tradition, placed in the Ka’ba by the Prophet Muhammad.  Muslims attempt to touch it or kiss it on one of their seven circuits around the Ka’aba during the Hajj, or pilgrimage.

Neither the Ka’aba nor the black stone are idols in the sense that they’re worshipped.  They’re merely focal points for the religion.  I’d put good money on Jesus Christ not being the anti-Christ as well.

The Power of Religious Texts in History

This is something I wrote for a World Civilizations: Pre-History to 1500 (101) class.  The task was to pick a piece of literature, from religious texts to epic poems to economic records found at archaeological sites, and then describe how that work affected history.  I suppose you could say I took the easy way out and chose to write about the Bible and how it has affected history.  If you’re curious, this paper received an A.  Footnotes will be appended to the bottom of the post, along with the bibliography.

bible1

(Image via godisforreal.wordpress.com)

Literature has always played an important role in recorded history. It is a method of preservation of the moment. It captures the ideas, the problems, the aspirations and dreams of a society and, when read from a historical perspective it can offer an open window into the world of the writer. No form of literature has as much impact on history as religious texts. Perhaps the most influential religious work of all time, the Bible[1] has impacted the lives of countless people throughout history. In this paper, the impact of the Bible will be briefly explored to demonstrate the importance it has played in shaping, stabilizing, and sometimes disrupting society.

When Christianity first appeared in the Middle East it was a revolutionary movement with no specific set of religious texts. Various gospels and epistles were being circulated, but there was no accepted canon of scripture until perhaps the late 4th century AD.[2] The result of this is that there was a wide array of Christian sects, all with varying beliefs. There was no structure to the religion, which could cause confusion about what was and wasn’t ‘true’. Through the work of early church figures, like Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria, that changed. Bishop Athanasius worked to consolidate which scriptures would be regarded as canonical and which were, according to him, heretical.[3] Coming at about the same time that Theodosius I declared Catholic Christianity as the official and only permissible religion of the Roman Empire (380 AD), this acted as a strong unifying force that would have an enduring effect on history, European history most especially. The Catholic Church claimed its authority based on the newly standardized canon gospel of Matthew, citing chapter 16, verse 18, which says, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” as the source of its legitimacy.[4] The acceptance of the canonicity of the gospel, what we know as the Bible today, is what allowed the Catholic Church to hold power over the people, as well as to stamp out opposition. The Church also used its divine authority to control the rulers of the people throughout Europe up until the French Revolution of 1789-99. With the Bible as its basis, the Papacy of the Catholic Church bestowed divine authority on the monarchies of the developing European nations, allowing for the formation of governments and modern nation states. Most of the countries in Europe today exist due to monarchical legitimization by the Catholic Church, which derived its religious authority from the Bible. These nations have played major roles in the development of the rest of the world and, in most cases, continue to be major world powers today. These nations that are shaping the world today were themselves shaped by Christianity and the Bible.

In addition to shaping nations, Christianity has played a role in creating social stability through Christian morality and Christian value based legal systems. Mircea Eliade wrote that “The manifestation of the sacred ontologically founds the world. In the homogenous and infinite expanse, in which no point of reference is possible and hence no orientation can be established, the hierophany[5] reveals an absolute fixed point, a center.” Or, in other words, religion creates a stable center for people to start from, a check to balance their view of the world and define their existence. The religion revealed through the Bible served this purpose for Christians. The Bible affects the lives of those who read and believe in it by influencing them to conform to a lifestyle that is in accordance to its teachings. John 14:6[6] tells believers that Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” It is impossible to come to Jesus without repentance and living according to the teachings of the Bible. Getting into Heaven is a strong incentive to develop and maintain a Christian, Biblical lifestyle, which regulated everything from birth (baptism) to marriage (holy vows) to death (Christian funeral rites), and most things in between. As mentioned earlier, this belief in the Bible and Biblical living created the monarchies and modern nations which, along with creating common customs, stabilized society, but it also went a step further in creating social stability through later legal systems. The values established by Christianity were converted into the foundations of Western legal systems. Christian values have persisted in our Western legal systems and institutions up until the modern time. John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States (1789-95) once wrote in a letter that “The Bible is the best of all Books, for it is the Word of God, and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and the next. Continue therefore to read it, and to regulate your life by its precepts.”[7] While not expressed outright in the US Constitution or legal system, the values that Americans inherited from Christianity have influenced and continue to influence the workings of government. A good modern example is the current debate on the legality of homosexual marriage, which is undeniably being opposed on wholly religious grounds.

Using the same example, the Bible has been so influential that it has also caused disruptions in societies throughout history, including Christian societies and modern societies. As a sacred text, the meaning of the words it contains is open to constant interpretation based on who reads it. Those interpretations haven’t always had a positive effect. During the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, the Roman Catholic Church used its Biblical authority to declare religious wars on neighboring nations. The effects of the Crusades continue to be felt today by Islamist terrorists using the concept of Crusades as a justification for violent and lethal actions against Western, ‘Christian’ nations. The Bible has also been used as a justification for the violent suppression of minorities throughout history. Well known examples are the Medieval Inquisitions, the Spanish Inquisition and the Salem Witch Trials. The Bible has been used to oppress women through selective quotation and reading out of context, with 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 being a prime example:

“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”[8]

The Bible was used to justify slavery in the United States, either arguing its morality through the omission of its condemnation in the Bible or by making a broad claim that God created slavery and so it must be good, as Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America did. He said, “Slavery was established by the decree of Almighty God…. It is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation…. It has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in the nations of the highest proficiency in the arts.”[9] Today, the Bible is used as a source of justification for the suppression of the right to equality that homosexuals should enjoy under the secular government in the United States. It is still used by fringe groups to support destructive beliefs. The Bible is just as strong a force for disruption of society as it is for good.

Throughout history, the Bible has been used extensively to justify both positive and negative actions. It has been used to stabilize and homogenize society. It has been used as the basis for customs, holidays, and the building of nations. It has also been used to destroy enemies, suppress minorities and justify violence. Without a doubt, the Bible is an epic piece of religious literature that has had a profound effect on our world, exemplifying the power of the written word to influence history.


[1] The general concept of a canonical written Bible as accepted by branches of Christianity, without considering the differences between accepted canon and apocryphal works in various traditions.

[2] According to the Columbia Apologetics Toolkit, adapted from the materials of Professor Paul Hahn of the University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas.

[3] According to the National Geographic special, The Gospel of Judas.

[4] King James Version

[5] Mircea Eliade defines “hierophany” as the sum of its etymological content, “something sacred shows itself to us.”

[6] The Book of John, Chapter 14, Verse 6 of the King James Version of the Bible.

[7] John Jay to Peter Jay, April 8, 1784.

[8] King James Version.

[9] From the antebellum slavery debates in America, quoted in a book by Mason Lowance.

Bibliography

National Geographic: The Gospel of Judas. Directed by James Barrat. Performed by Peter Coyote. 2006.

“Development of the Biblical Canon.” Columbia: Apologetics Toolkit. 1995. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/a/canon.html (accessed July 9, 2011).

Eliade, Mircea. The Sacred and The Profane: The Nature of Religion. Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 1959.

Hutson, James H. The Founders on Religion: A Book of Quotations. Princeton University Press, 2007.

Lowance, Mason I. A house divided: the antebellum slavery debates in America, 1776-1865. Princeton Univeristy Press, 2003.

Thomas Nelson Bibles. The Holy Bible; Containing the Old and New Testaments; Authorized King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2001.

 

The Real Villain of Easter

Dyed Easter Eggs in a basket with fake grass.

If you were thinking that the giant companies that monetize a spiritual holiday to capitalize on people’s faith are the real villains of Easter, then you’re right, but not quite what I was going for.  Really, though, do we need to commercialize everything?  It reminds me of something I learned in my Art History class a few weeks ago.  You know all those Buddha statues you see everywhere?  Buddha didn’t want that.  He taught a philosophy, but people turned it into a religion and deified him, and now little images and sculptures of Buddha are sold for profit.  Monetized, just like every other major religion in the world.

Jesus being detained by two Roman centurions, while a Jewish priest looks on. (Times Square Church Easter Production, 2011)

What I wanted to talk about is Judas Iscariot.  I went with my mom to church this morning and they had an Easter production, showing the classic Easter story of Jesus being betrayed and crucified.  But, was Judas Iscariot really a bad guy?  You might say that he is, since he betrayed Jesus and sold him out for 30 pieces of silver, but what I want you to ask yourself is this:  did he have a choice?  If God knows everything that we’ll ever do, then do we really have free will to make our own choices?  That’s the argument of predestination, that we can’t have free will because God already knows what we’re going to do.  By that argument, God already knows, before we were ever born, whether we’ll be damned or saved, whether we’ll believe or not, and, really, it makes you wonder why we even have time on Earth if the outcome is already known.  Why not skip to the end game?  Are we really here just to experience life outside the presence of God, so that we’ll appreciate it later?  Is that the point?

Anyway, if God knew Judas would betray Jesus, then why did God not change the circumstances so that Judas would not have to go through that traumatic experience?  In addition to being all-knowing, God is all-powerful, so certainly he could change something, even if it was predetermined.  The answer is simple:  someone had to be the scapegoat.  If God ordained a set of events (the coming of a Messiah and the resurrection), then he also had to set in motion the events that would lead up to that event.  That includes putting Judas on course to betray Jesus to the Jewish priests for crucifixion.  It was part of God’s plan.  So, how can you hold Judas responsible for doing what culminated in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, which means the Salvation of all believers?  In fact, we should be thanking Judas, because without him playing his part, the event wouldn’t have happened the way God knew/wanted/said it would.  Or should we, since he may have had no choice?

On the other hand, if human action is somehow exempt from God’s omniscience, and Judas acted of his own free will in betraying Jesus, then you still have to wonder why he did it?  Who really turns out their boss (who walked on water, raised the dead, healed sicknesses, etc.) for a measly 30 pieces of silver?  Is it not possible that Jesus put him up to it?  That Jesus pulled him to the side and let him know that he had a plan for him, and that Judas made the sacrifice to be forever known as the betrayer of Jesus, for the sake of bringing about the resurrection?  Maybe that version of events didn’t make the final cut of what we now know as the Bible.

If you’re not aware, the Bible as we know it today was not compiled until hundreds of years after the actual events recorded, and even today, what is and isn’t “canonical” depends on which branch of Christianity you adhere to.  In addition, new documents are constantly surfacing that were written during the time period of Jesus and the Apostles.

Anyway, these are just some things I was thinking about today while watching the Easter production.  I’m sure I could spend a lifetime studying documents and commentaries without coming to any definite conclusions, but that doesn’t mean these aren’t ideas worth thinking about.