Way back in the dim, distant past, various nuns, brothers and priests spent 13-odd years engaged in the fruitless task of trying to educate me. Just for the record, they were overwhelmingly good and decent folk.
I suppose I’ve failed them, because these days I’m strictly a weddings and funerals man. But even someone as indolent as me couldn’t avoid acquiring at least a basic knowledge of the philosopher, Jesus.
Your man hailed from Nazareth - the Redfern of its day - and all the evidence suggests that he was something of a long-grasser. He was given to wandering around the streets - shod in sandals, and clad in the early AD equivalent of jeans and t-shirt - engaging people in conversation. That’s not to say he was humbugging as such - but man cannot live by words alone.
Not to put too fine a point on it, he was an ideal candidate for a Shared Responsibility Agreement. “In return for three square meals a day, I hereby undertake to wash my own feet occasionally, get a haircut and a real job, and stop giving the Romans so much grief.”
Indeed, it seems that Jesus may have been something of a blackfella himself. Certainly he wasn’t the titian-headed type the Italian painters fancied. Nor for that matter was he the blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan that the German daubers depicted. Chances are that the man had dark skin - though I think we should forgive him that, it not being his fault and all.
The Jews at that time were a relatively obscure minority group, hell-bent on preserving their traditional way of life. The powers that be understood precious little of their culture - and cared for it even less. The Syrians, Romans, Egyptians, and the rest of the multicultural meddlers were determined to civilise and modernise this motley crew, who clung obstinately to their ancient ways.
So it wasn’t all beer and skittles for the mob. The Jewish civilisation had been decimated by occupation and dispossession. They were knocked around as a result of being shoved from one place to another by governments and bureaucracies. The Jews took to living in camps on the fringes of towns, sticking together for support and protection.
Back in those days, the Romans had a real knack for order and purpose, and a particular enthusiasm for knowing who was up to what. They’d conduct a census at the drop of a yarmulke.
Now, it seems that Jesus’ folks hadn’t quite gone through the formality of a wedding ceremony, when the little fella made his presence known. Transients, they were caught out in their wanderings by a sudden census and required to scoot back to the home base to be ticked off by the Roman bean-counters.
It was during this trip that the birth occurred - in what child psychologists will no doubt confirm was a “stable environment”.
Their child, Jesus, was a story-teller. The ordinary folk of the time weren’t readers, but shared their accumulated wisdom and understanding by passing on stories.
Jesus was a bolshie sort of a bloke. He was given to making the kind of pronouncements which would today have stamped him as a practitioner of the black art of social justice.
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