The Bible’s New Testament: The Gospels I– The Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts.

I bought a bass guitar in high school and soon started lessons.  I practiced simple scales and then was moved on to songs I liked with relatively easy-to-learn bass lines.  Although I learned a few songs well early (Nirvana’s “Come As You Are,” Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”)—through rote practice—I couldn’t always tell that I was playing the song I thought I knew. Part of my problem: I didn’t know what I was hearing when I listened to the complete song. Train your ear to isolate the bass sound, my lessons taught me. Once I did, I learned to play better, in part because I understood the bass’ role in the song.  I was looking to help my part stand out, I needed to appreciate how it contributed to the whole of the song. In rock music, this means how the bass relates to the other prominent instruments: guitar, drums and vocals.

There are few songs you can enjoy just by listening to the bass line being played.  Same with the drum track or the guitar lines in isolation. It also takes a song of top-notch lyrics and melody to pull off a cappella.

What’s the point? Songs work best when all intended elements are present, even if you happen to be able to isolate one or more.

The four Gospels present the life of Jesus, and although they are read separately, they should be taken as a unit in order to best appreciate this man’s life and those around him.  The collective impression created here is stronger than any individual portrayal—even though a number of incidents are repeated (although a detail or two here and there vary). Also, some scenes depict a man who harbored doubts, which contrasts with the man confident in his mission shown elsewhere.  The scenes included to flesh out this image are also important.  So what’s repeated for emphasis, what’s singled out as a better representation of Jesus’ work? Which details are tweaked in order to provide a more specific depiction of Judas? I was also interested in what little I knew about Jesus seemed to be missing.

For me, what’s missing is interesting, in part because it feels like people have grafted things onto this story.

I had originally thought that the Shroud of Turin was created on Jesus’ walk as he was to be crucified. The story I had heard (or maybe saw in a movie??) was that a woman brought a cloth to Jesus and he put it over his face, thereby transferring his image to her cloth. Turns out this was a covering believed to have been used over Christ’s body during his burial (although this has been debated: In any event, there’s no mention of it in any of the Gospels. Perhaps it’s not as important as I thought?

I was also looking for a detailed account of Jesus’ journey to the crucifixion, better known as the Stations of the Cross. My understanding is that we see his journey to his death and feel his pain along the way.  Showing this in stages allows us to better feel the journey, appreciating every moment.  Drawing out the details allows us to stay in the moment longer, lingering in Jesus’ final moments.  The compressed version skips this.

None of the Gospels contain the details of his whole journey, though various pieces surface in a few of the Gospels.

In John, we learn that he has been condemned and that Jesus carried his own cross to the place of the Skull (19:17).  No mention of the journey at all.  The main detail is that his mother Mary is waiting at the crucifixion site once he arrives (19:26). Matthew also contains little info.  Here, we don’t see Jesus take up his own cross but rather—journey in progress—the procession comes across a man named Simon, whom they force to carry the cross (27:32).  Nothing else of the journey here either.  Mark contains pretty much the same account as Matthew (15:21-22).  Luke contains the most detailed account—all of five sentences, in which Simon appears as does a large crowd, with whom Jesus speaks (23:26-31).  His consoling words to them reinforce the calm, soothing impression conveyed elsewhere. Almost all the Gospels contain some version of him being removed from the cross and attended to for burial. None mention the repeated falling I had heard about and imagined.

In the end, I appreciate the stories about Jesus and the picture they paint. It took me a few days of reading to stop looking for things that weren’t there and begin focusing what is in order to reach this mindset. It’s interesting that an event—the Stations of the Cross—which gets reenacted often, is not depicted in its entirety in ANY of the Gospels that discuss Jesus’ life.

About virgowriter

Brad Windhauser has a Master's in English from Rutgers University (Camden campus) and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching/Instruction) in the English Department at Temple University. His short stories have appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Santa Fe Writer's Project Journal, Ray's Road Review, Philadelphia Review of Books, Northern Liberty Review, and Jonathan. His first novel, Regret (a gay-themed thriller set in Philadelphia) was published in 2007. You can read more about (and buy) it here: His second novel, The Intersection, is being published by Black Rose Writing September 2016. He is one of five regular contributors to On his solo blog, he is chronicling his experience as a gay writer reading the Bible for the first time: Follow his work at:
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