Ready for Paul?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Playing with tradition

I'm working on my next book of children's Bible stories--Galilee's Gift. It's set in Galilee, not too surprisingly, and it covers, for the most part, the miracles of Jesus, as seen through different, child-friendly characters' eyes.

Of course, not all Jesus' miracles take place in Galilee. There are a lot around Capernaum, and quite a few in Bethsaida, which may or may not be the same place. Some occur in Tyre and Sidon in the north, and others on the Samaritan road to Jerusalem. But then there are those on the Jordan river road too, near Jericho and beyond. So where should I place them all?

Just to add to my confusion, some events look the same and happen in the same order in different accounts, while others look the same and happen in a different order, and still others really don't look much the same but are often, traditionally treated as if they were.

Take Mary Magdalene for example. She might have lived in Magdala, a tiny village on the west coast of the Sea of Galilee. She might have been healed of seven demons there. And she might have wiped Jesus' feet with her hair just before his Passion, though that was more likely Martha's sister, Mary. Still, is Mary Magdalene the same as the un-named woman, of possibly ill repute, who wiped Jesus' feet with her hair much earlier in his ministry? Traditions often say she is, but wouldn't Mary, either Mary, be named if it were she? And aren't the two events quite distinctly different?

I decide to break with oft-quoted traditions and stick to what I know. Mary Magdalene is endowed with enough cash and influence to help Jesus in his ministry. While the other woman... if I call her Susannah, which tradition will I break?

Then there's the woman at the well. Jesus miraculously knows all about her five husbands. Western tradition often gives her a history of ill repute. But Eastern tradition shares the woman's sorrow at her many losses, praises her faith, and lists her among the apostles after her baptism at Pentecost. She traveled the world, carrying the word of God. So which tradition should I break with now?

I like the female apostle story--is that because I'm a woman? But I like the kindness of the Eastern tradition too. And I like the fact that I've only just discovered it--researching Bible stories is FUN! I can't really call her Photini in my story though, since that's more a confirmation name. But I might include it at the end of the tale--Anna (or whichever easy name I pick on) can be renamed Photini, which means enlightened, because she's enlightened...

So now I'm shifting stories back and forth--this order to fit Matthew; no, this one, because Jesus has just traveled North and I need more stories there; no this, because Luke said it happened just before they got Nain... or this order, because, like the gospel writers, I'm not writing a newspaper account. I'm telling children's simple tales to build a larger story. And the truth behind is the only one that matters.

Real world, real people, real God, real miracles!

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