Last year I had a fun time explaining the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, the not-officially-official New Testament story about how Jesus was a sociopathic 5 year old who casually murdered his childhood friends whenever they annoyed him. It was good times, and a good reminder that often the weirdest parts of Christianity aren't Canonical. In that spirit, today I'm going to tell you all about the Gospel of James, which is a deep dive into the history of Jesus' mama Mary. And I know, you think you know Mary's whole deal already, but I promise it's waaaaay weirder than you realize.
Our story begins with a super rich dude named Joachim. Joachim is all set to make an offering at a God-party-offering-feast thing, but he gets kicked out of the party because he doesn't have any kids, and apparently that's a pretty big deal. Basically because the patriarchy is stupid, I guess. In any case, this gives Joachim a pretty serious case of the sads, and he goes off into the forest to pout.
Of course, this doesn't thrill Joachim's wife Anna, who feels like this is all her fault because she's obviously barren, why else wouldn't they have any children yet? (LOTS OF REASONS, ANNA! Infertility isn't a one way street, it's causes are multiple, and actually it's about an even split between partners. Again, don't be ashamed because of patriarchal bullshit, Anna!) But Anna isn't a big man-baby, so even though she is also having a sad right now, she has it in the garden, like a respectable person. She enjoys the garden and thinks about what to do next- because obviously all the boning alone isn't doing the trick- when an angel suddenly appears. As so often does in these sort of stories.
The angel says, "Oh, yeah, you're definitely going to have a kid soon. Super don't worry about that." And Anna goes, "OMG! Thank you! And if I have a kid, I don't even care if it's a boy or a girl, I'll make sure it's life is devoted to God and that it stays holy and pure forever! Sex is bad, even if sex is how we got into this situation in the first place." And the angel is like "Well, that's super specific, but whatever, I did my job. Peace out!" And then the angel peaces out.
Whilst all this was happening, apparently a different angel appeared to Joachim off camera and told himm the same thing, so just then he returns all excited about the news, and the two of them go off to bang a baby into her. The next morning Joachim basically kills all of the animals he can find as a sacrifice, (It's quite specific: 10 lambs that all have to be girls for whatever reason, 12 calves of ambiguous gender, and literally 100 goats. That's a lot of dead goats.) and 9 months later their daughter Mary is born.
When Mary was 3, they decided they were over this whole parenting thing, and left her at the temple to be raised by the priests there. You would think this would be a bigger deal, but that's it, neither we nor Mary will ever hear from her parents again. Getting to enjoy the God-offering-festival-thing just isn't worth listening to the squeals of a toddler for them.
And I guess the priests didn't so much "raise her" as they "tolerated this street urchin that was dropped off here", because they don't even feed her. Apparently every day an angel would appear and give her food. This is mentioned like it's totally not a big deal, but it seems to me that it would be if I had written this story.
By the time she's 12, the priests have decided they really don't want her still hanging out in their basement, she's liable to do something terrible like invite boys over or something. The priests all start ganging up on their boss Zacharias to get rid of her somehow, but luckily enough another goddamn angel shows up and tells Zacharias how to handle this.
So here's the plan: to get rid of this prepubescent child, all the local widowed old men are to come together and bring there walking sticks. And who ever has something crazy happen to their walking stick, that widowed old man has to marry the preteen. Easy peasy.
Anyway, that's what the angel said, so that's what they do. Some guy named Joseph is the last to arrive, and a dove somehow pops out of his walking stick, landing on his head. The priests decide that's the sign, Joseph is really just confused and uncomfortable with this whole situation. Zacharias is having none of it, though, so he literally threatens to have Joseph's family murdered if he doesn't take this girl. And Zacharias is supposed to be a good guy in this story...
From there on, things go pretty much the way you expect them to. There's some nonsense about making curtains; Joseph goes off on a business trip; God knocks up Mary. Did I mention she's 12? Because yeah. She's 12. I just want to be very clear about that.
Joe gets back from his business trip and finds Mary extremely pregnant. This is upsetting to him, because honestly he still felt weird about the whole "marry this child" thing, and he definitely hadn't played slap and tickle with her, so clearly she's been screwing around. He doesn't believe her when she says she is still a virgin, because duh, why would he? But then another angel appears (of course) and says "It's all cool, nothing bad is going to happen to you. I know it sounds insane, but the kid really is God's."
BUT PLOT TWIST! You remember the priests? Well, they catch wind that Mary is preggers, and they know that Joseph hasn't legally married her yet. And having sex with a child you legally own is one thing, but having sex with her before the paperwork is fully signed? That dog just won't hunt.
Joseph tries to explain as best as he can this entire insane situation, but they don't believe him, because why would they? It's insane. They basically say "You think we're stupid? Okay, if you drink this poison and live, we'll believe you. If you die, well, your debt to society will be covered then." These priests threatening Joseph's children earlier is starting to make more sense now, they're pretty hardcore. But Joseph drinks it and is fine, because this insane story he told was true. They basically shrug, and Mary and Joe go home.
You know most of the rest of the story. The tax thing, Mary and Joe head to Bethlehem, only in this version Mary gives birth in a cave rather than a barn. Mary's lady parts apparently start to glow until the baby is born, so that's weird, but not nearly as weird as this last part.
Joseph had gotten a midwife to help deliver baby Jesus, which actually makes this version of Joseph way smarter than canonical Joseph. Afterwards the Midwife meets with her friend Salome and goes "You'll never believe what just happened! I just helped a virgin give birth to a glowing baby!" And Salome nods her head and says "You're right, I don't believe you. Virgins don't give birth, that's silly." And the Midwife goes "Come with me, I'll prove it to you!" Salome agrees, and I have to take a minute you guys.
I'm assuming that the "proof of virginity" in this case would mean a fully intact hymen. Leaving aside the fact that all virginity tests are nonsense, and the fact that hymens can stretch for any number of reasons, and the fact that there's a significant number of variations of hymens and to assume one is or is not virginal by any kind of examination if you're not a professional gynecologist is dumb-- we're going to ignore all of those because there's an even crazier thing going on here. MARY JUST HAD A BABY. Birth is traumatic, it's highly likely that there's been some tissue damage down there. How exactly does Salome think that-- just-- None of this makes sense AT ALL!
But Salome is having none of this, so she goes to Mary and decides to go ahead and shove her hand up into Mary's hoohah. Apparently she is satisfied that Mary has given virgin birth, even if I don't know why. More pressing, however, is that when she puts her hand in the Virgin Mother's holy vagina, the holy vagina BURNS HER HAND AWAY!!!??!?
So the moral of the story is to never grab at someone's genitals without informed consent. First of all, that's sexual assault. And also you never know when God will turn their fishy bits into some kind of damn particle beam or something.
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Monday, July 24, 2017
This is a really, really depressing story, and I think I need to point that out before I start making fun of it. However, ever since I started retelling Bible stories in less boring ways, this is the one I always knew I’d get to eventually. The big enchilada. The white whale, except, finding a single albino whale that you’re obsessed with in the entire ocean is probably harder than tracking down this part of the Bible. The point is, I’ve been getting ready to tell this story FOR YEARS. And now I’m here. I want to do this. It’s a terrible idea, but I’m in.
Today, let’s talk about Job.
No, not “job”. This isn’t an economics discussion, it’s… oy. Just…. Just go with it. I don’t come up with these names, man, I just tell the tales.
Our story opens up with God hanging out with Satan. That is not a joke, that’s really how this fucking story goes. (SPOILERS: I am going to say many things here that sound like jokes, but they are not. You have been WARNED.) And you know, as a hook, “God and Satan are palling around…” is a pretty good one.
Pictured: God and Satan palling around, according to noted crazy person William Blake.
So, God and Satan are palling around, in heaven or whatever. And God’s giving Satan a tour, because in this story God and Satan are best bros. As they’re hanging out, God goes, “Hey, Satan, my home boy; you see this dude Job? He is the best! He shuns evil, he has the best stuff, he has a beautiful house and shit. He sacrifices stuff to me all the time, just because he wants to make sure his kids are good and stuff. He is such a great dude.”
And Satan- who, you know, is Satan- goes “Dude, he only worships you so hard because you’ve given him all this shit. I mean, you’ve convinced the stupid humans that literally everything that’s good in life comes from you. So yeah, he has a mansion and an ice shaver and some sort of means to store ice, even though it’s the freaking bronze age and that technology won’t exist for thousands of years. Of course he worships you like crazy, he’s a mad suck up!”
Deeply offended and refusing to believe him, God goes, “No way, that can’t be it!” And Satan goes, “Dude, I bet you if you started fucking with his shit, he’d stop praying to you so much.” And God goes “YOU’RE ON!”, literally making a bet with the actual Devil, in this story that is in the actual Bible, because God is literally THE WORST.
(I’m pretty sure I’ve covered that on numerous occasions.)
(I’m pretty sure I’ve covered that on numerous occasions.)
Thus, Job’s vast plantation is immediately attacked by a raiding party that steal a bunch of his livestock and kill most of his slaves (it was totally kosher back then to own a bunch of slaves). Then, because when God makes a wager he doesn’t fuck around, a fucking meteor falls from the sky and goes all Tunguska on the rest of his property. And then a tornado kills all of his children because holy shit, we’re not even done with chapter 1 here, and HOLY SHIT this story is the bleakest thing imaginable. But Job shaves his head as some sort of weird “It’s cool with me, God” measure, and keeps on worshiping God, like God thinks he should.
For the record, Job is an idiot. Moving on!
Back in Heaven (or wherever), Satan is thinking “OMG, did you just see how easy it was to goad God into fucking up his best friend? Amazing!” But Satan isn’t about to say that out loud. God goes “Yo, Satan, my boy, guess I won that bet, huh? I fucked over Job real good, and yet, he’s still rolling with Team Jehovah, huh?” And Satan- who is giggling so hard when no one is looking- goes, “Okay, sure, you fucked up his property and killed all his children, slaves, and cows. And that sucks. But children are awful, slaves don’t count as people, and meteor roasted cows just sounds like instant hamburgers to me. It’s not like you REALLY fucked him up, right?” And God goes “You think you can do better? Go nuts, my main man!”
Now, I want to point out, that yes, Satan is a total dick in this story. He’s evil, sure. But he’s not a moron. And God definitely is the Elmer Fudd to his Bugs Bunny right now. Satan doesn’t actually care about this Job guy, he just thinks it’s really funny that God is screwing over his number one fan. THIS IS WHY YOU NEVER GAMBLE WITH THE DEVIL, CHILDREN.
Satan keeps giggling, and goes “Boils all over your body, biznitch! Hahahahah!!! I can’t believe God is letting me do this, this is hilarious! Hahahah!!!
This is what boils look like, I guess? Billy Blake, you so crazy.
By now, Job has lost all his children, all his money, and all his land is on fire and/or has been tornadoed to death, PLUS he is super gross looking now. And yet, he’s still out there, Praising God, which is like how evangelicals Praise Jesus, but before Jesus times. His situation has gotten so bad that his only surviving relative, his wife (who does not have a name, because of course she doesn’t, this is the Old Testament) goes “Holy shit, Job. You’ve lost everything God ever gave you. Plus, you are super gross now! And, like, our mansion? On fire, crushed by a tornado, and with all our dead children in it. And you’re literally thanking the guy responsible for that? Fuck you, I hope you fucking die, you monster!”
I think Job’s wife might secretly be the hero in this story.
But Job goes “Don’t you talk shit, it’s old times, and women don’t get the right to an opinion!” Normally, this is where I’d point out that he’s being an asshole. To be fair, though, I’m pretty sure if all this happened to me in one day, I probably wouldn’t be feeling much more charitable than he is. (But she’s still totally right, for the record. And he is being an asshole.)
MEANWHILE, Job has these three friends, named Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, and you can tell they’re all men because they have proper (if silly) names. And word has gotten around about all this bad shit that’s happened to Job, so they decide to check in with him. Except, when they get there, between the baldness and the excessive amount of boils, they literally cannot recognize him. He is just that ugly now. Everyone feels bad, because everything is awful, so after Job tells them that it’s really him, the four friends all sit in a circle together for a week and say absolutely nothing.
This accomplishes very little. I’m not sure why that surprises them.
Finally, after all that, Job finally opens his mouth, and starts going all Hamlet on everybody and goes on and on about how he wishes he was dead. Eliphaz spends and even longer amount of time making a speech, telling him that it’s up to God to judge man. Frankly, the majority of this book is dudes sitting in a circle telling their extremely unlucky friend that somehow this is all his fault for angering God, and Job saying, no, I didn’t, I don’t know why all this terrible shit has happened.
I remind you, it happened because God made a deal with Satan to fuck with him for literally no good reason.
I’m not going to bore you with the details of these annoyingly long speeches, because the whole reason I do this is so that you can skip that nonsense. Some other dude shows up literally out of the blue, there’s lots of quotable noise that doesn’t matter if you’re an atheist, and much grumbling over the nature of wisdom and where it comes from.
(“Wisdom” comes from learned experience and empathy for the plight of others. That’s not their definition, but it is common knowledge you can use in real life! Unlike this damn story.)
Because after like 35 chapters’ worth of dudes chatting about the true nature of reality (3,000 years before we discovered the Higgs boson, I remind you), another goddamn tornado shows up. Only this one is stationary, and is apparently the literal manifestation of God himself. I don’t think God was a tornado at the beginning of this story, but, honestly, I don’t think they say so either way. Tornado-Style God is all “Yo, I heard you guys talking some shit! You think you can understand why I do the shit I do? You guys are just stupid mortals. You think you know? You’ve got no idea how many wheels I’ve got spinning, bitches. I DO WHAT I WANT!” This exchange actually is much longer in the book, but you catch the general drift.
Now, Job is feeling a little meek about all the boils and dead relatives when facing God himself, understandably. He basically goes “Yeah, I can’t actually question the will of God, even though he’s done all these terrible things to me, his number one fan, for literally no discernible reason” (I’m pretty sure Job is out of the loop on the whole God and Satan gambling situation). And God says “That’s what I thought, bitch! And also some stuff about sea monsters that doesn’t matter at all, but creationists will use this confusing allegory to argue dinosaurs existed in Bible times, centuries down the road!”
I wish I could tell you that I just made that up. I did not.
So after basically 2 chapters of God talking about the Loch Ness Monster for… reasons, God yells at Job’s friends for not being nearly as into random suffering the way Job is, and threatens them into sacrificing some livestock for him, just for kicks. Then he bails.
Job ends up getting all better, and having a whole bunch more children to replace all the ones who died. Apparently that fixes everything, because it’s not like children are human beings or something, and they can be easily replaced with new ones, with no emotional or psychological damage to their parent's psyche getting involved. I’m not sure if they’re mom is his original wife, but it’s the old testament, so… yeah, it's hard to say.
Then, Job lives to be so old that death is most assuredly a sweet relief. Meanwhile, off somewhere, Satan is still laughing at what a tool God was to fall for this scheme. The end.
Thus concludes this extremely nihilistic story about how the all-knowing, all-loving creator of the universe can fuck you up something fierce for literally no reason whatsoever, because fuck you, you don’t know. Nothing you do matters, you have no say over the nature of your existence, and you better just shut up and deal with it. Again, I wish I could say that I was making a joke here, but seriously, that is the point of this story. So, uh, good luck with that.
I’m gonna go home and watch The Hours. It’s way less depressing that this crap.
I’m gonna go home and watch The Hours. It’s way less depressing that this crap.