My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains my sense, as though . . .
Not sure if everyone knows about this but we've got some fabulous flash fiction writers here on the cloud. You have until Wednesday to submit and they are looking for a range of storie in all genres and styles.
I have had my story 'Whisky for His Jar' picked up. :D
If you do the monthly comp, why not give it a go?
or copy and paste
The Lost Gospels
Amarantha and others have been debating early church history on the ‘Science and Religion’ thread which made me think maybe I should resuscitate a blog I’d intended posting some time ago. The situation is that back in September I recorded a ninety minute documentary by (Rev) Peter Owen Jones in which he looked at the things he was never taught in Theological College. He arranged these under various headings, beginning with an overview of what was lost.
Apparently, it was Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria who compiled the ‘canonical’ list of 27 New Testament ‘books’ in the fourth century. A corollary of this was that over fifteen Gospels, about fifty other texts referring to Jesus, and fifty or so Apocalypses became disapproved and, hence, banned. And so they disappeared – until recent times.
In December 1945 a cache of papyrus texts was discovered (and nearly destroyed) by goat herds at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. Amongst these was the Gospel of Thomas, not a biographical text like the canonical gospels but a collection of the sayings of Jesus. These have a Zen-like elusiveness which demands insight (or ‘gnosis’) from the reader and hence makes them inaccessible to some outlooks. For example: ‘If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.’ This elusiveness did not fit with the salvation-for-all message of the early church fathers, so the Gospel of Thomas became lost. (Indeed in A.D. 447 Pope Leo ordered all gnostic texts to be ‘burnt with fire’.)
Another Nag Hammadi text is the Gospel of Philip which gives prominence to Mary Magdalene. For instance; ‘The Saviour loved her more than the other disciples’ – and – ‘He kissed her many times on the...’ The missing word, alas, was eaten by ants during the centuries when the gospel lay hidden in its cave, but the best guess based on analysis of Coptic grammar would be ‘mouth’. Whatever the word, though, we have something pretty explosive here. It would appear that Mary Magdalene was more important to Jesus than was Peter, on whom the whole edifice of male-dominated Christianity became built. This impression is strengthened by looking at another missing gospel. After 1897 British archaeologists, excavating ancient rubbish dumps around the Egyptian town of Oxyrinthus, found portions of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. In this Mary conveys her understanding of Jesus’s teachings – before and after his death – to the other disciples, which once again emphasises her greater importance. These two gospels suggest a strong role for women in the early church, an impression that Peter Owen Jones bolstered by taking us into the Catacomb of Priscilla beneath Rome, where frescoes in the ‘Greek Chapel’ show women taking prominent parts in Christian rituals.
The Nature of Jesus
Owen Jones then moved on to other Lost Gospels, for instance the Gospel of Peter, found in Egypt in 1886 by French archaeologists. In this Jesus does not actually die on the cross because he is entirely divine and therefore incapable of death – or even of suffering. Hence his passion is an illusion. This outlook contrasts with that found in the Gospel of the Ebionites where Jesus is entirely human and plays host to the divine Christ spirit only after his baptism in the Jordan. This gospel is completely lost and we only know about it because of the vigorous written opposition it aroused.
The Nature of God
The Ebionites emphasised the Jewishness of their faith, whereas Marcion entirely rejected it. In The Antitheses Marcion contrasts Old Testament texts with Jesus texts and decides they are so radically different they must involve different gods. For instance, where Leviticus forbids the touching of lepers, Jesus touches a leper to heal him. Because of examples like this, Marcion decides the god of Jesus was previously unknown to us – ‘a Stranger God’ – who gives love and forgiveness and saves us from the vengeful god of the Old Testament. Following the line of his logic, Marcion drew up a list of texts, entirely excluding the Old Testament and including only the Gospel of Luke and ten letters by Paul. However, the response from his fellow churchmen was to excommunicate him.
Choosing the Canon
Nonetheless, Marcion’s list set a precedent, and eventually we ended up with the canonical list of 27 approved texts. How were they decided upon? Largely in response to Roman policy, is the answer. First of all, the Romans martyred so many Christians that it became logical for Christians to favour those gospels which emphasised Christ’s passion and death. (After all, Gnostic riddles would not give much consolation to the bereaved and the persecuted – which may be why the less persecuted Egyptian Christians retained more loyalty to those texts, burying them when ordered to burn them). Secondly, when Constantine converted in 312 A.D. he wanted a unified Christianity to help unify his fragmented empire. Therefore he and his successors supported those leaders who, like Athanasius, wanted to exclude such controversial texts as the Gospel of Mary Magdalene.
Final thought from Gerry
Early Christianity sounds to me very much like a New Age religion – lots of interesting and exciting ideas, some weird, some fascinating, some challenging, some uplifting. In this respect it sounds a little bit like the present New Age buffet. We don’t have the disadvantage of Romans messing things up nowadays, but give us time. Soon we’ll have some power hungry dictators telling us which ideas we are allowed to accept and practise. And if we go for anything different, well, get ready to be burnt!
We never went to the Moon. Diana was murdered. JFK was shot by the CIA. The Americans are in possession of dead aliens. Just four of the many off-the-wall ideas put forward but that daft bunch of social misfits known as “Conspiracy Theorists”; a group of people who just refuse to see what’s really happening around the globe in favour of zany notions driven by paranoia and the desire to be the centre of attention.
I remember a bloke I worked with years ago who was as odd as two left shoes. He was labelled as a “Conspiracy Theorist”, and most people laughed at him behind his back. He refused to own a mobile phone in case he was being tracked by the government. He refused to have an Email account in case the CIA were hacking it. I mean; how ridiculous is that? Oh....wait......hasn’t it just become public knowledge that that is exactly what has been happening? Odd that, because at the time he said it, everybody just thought he was a bit unbalanced.
Perhaps some “Conspiracy Theorists” do have whacky ideas. But some of them do ask some fairly well thought out questions, and do point to evidence and circumstances that just don’t fit with the official stories. The problem is, most of us don’t want to question the official truth, because it is uncomfortable. And as we have just seen......it turns out some of these silly conspiracies are actually true. So before we go any further with this subject, let’s take a look at the words “Conspiracy Theorist”. It seems that anyone these days who questions the official party line gets this label, and it has fast become a derogatory term. It implies somehow that the person is in some way an idiot. In fact the term has become so deeply embedded in our social psyche that some people are even become unwilling to question things in case they earn themselves the title by saying what’s on their mind. Or is that just another conspiracy theory? Well no it isn’t. Because it is actually happening. And it is not just a social stigma; I have heard Members of Parliament use this term...and if it is a term used by government to belittle people who question their policies and actions...then isn’t that in itself becoming a government policy? Think of the repercussions; make everybody afraid of being a “conspiracy theorist” so they do not question your actions, and then you can say what you like to justify anything at all. Like illegally invading a country and deposing its ruler because he has Weapons of Mass Destruction- when in actual fact he doesn’t. We know he used to though, because us western Europeans sold them to him in the first place. But now you can deny that too, and anyone who says otherwise must be a “conspiracy theorist”.
Would it not be nicer to think these conspiracies do not exist, and our Governments are being totally honest with us? We all know this is not the case; let’s face it, the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York came about because of the actions of the US government, for they helped set up and train Al-Quaeda in the first place. And whilst Ronald Reagan was cosying up to Margaret Thatcher, the US was helping to fund a bombing campaign against us; their very special friends, by the IRA.
With all this evidence of shady dealings and black ops, why are we mocking the conspiracy theorist? Surely they are a product of the times we live in. If there were not so many blatant lies being told us by our leaders, suspicion about their motives would not arise. If somebody had suggested ten years ago that Members of Parliament had been submitting false claims for expenses and ripping the state off to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds, would they have been labelled as “conspiracy theorists” too?
My point is this: just because somebody has a “conspiracy theory” it doesn’t mean they are daft. It means they have based an opinion upon what evidence they have found. They might be wrong, but at least they are thinking and asking questions about a system which has inspired such thoughts in the first place. Is it wrong to question our government’s actions? No. It is our duty. That is what living in a democracy is really about.
A really good piece about the realities of trying to earn your living as a writer.
"... the reality about making money as a writer is you hustle the fuck out of freelance pieces like this one. Or you teach. Or you drive a bus. Or someone supports you. Or you're independently wealthy. The reality is that somehow you have money, and somehow you write ... No one is paying you to write. They may pay you for something you wrote, or promise to pay you for something you have promised to write ... They may pay you to teach, or to ... talk to people about writing. None of this is the same as being paid to write. I would like to be paid to write."
And my take on the question: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2014/10/making-a-living-from-writing-what-works-what-doesnt.html
I know there are some brilliant short story writers here on the Cloud. This is a really worthwhile project and being included in the anthology would be a significant publishing credit to add to your writer's CV.
The deadline is very tight! Sally wants to launch the book in both paperback and e-formats in July so she needs the stories by the end of May. It would be wonderful to have representatives of the Cloud showcasing their writing for a worthy cause.
I should have stayed indoors that night, when the Sick Rain terrorised the world; now, I stare down at the Thing in the toilet and wonder how I survived its agonal birth.