Aunt Mary’s Book of Jesus

When I was a little girl, I used to visit Great Aunt Mary. She was my maternal grandmother’s sister and lived in the apartment above my Aunt Alice and her family in a two-flat in Chicago. She was old and eccentric and her health wasn’t the best. Sitting at her table nibbling on cookies she would jabber about what – I don’t remember – and then doze. The doze I do remember. In the middle of a sentence, her head would droop and she would slip in to a soft snore that would last a couple of minutes or more. That left me with not much to do except to keep nibbling and looking around the room. One day I thought to use this down time to snoop. In her bedroom I came across a book, small, black, the pages were edged in gold. A red ribbon was attached and served as a book mark. On the cover were the words, “The Childhood of Jesus”. I picked it up and took it back to the table. Aunt Mary was still sleeping.

I found that the pages contained stories of Jesus that I had never seen before. In the bible, we read about his birth in Bethlehem, then it jumps forward to a scene at age twelve when he was left behind by his parents in Jerusalem. The next time we see Jesus in the bible he is ready to settle into his career as preacher and savior of the world. About those in between years there is nothing known, or so I thought, until that day at Aunt Mary’s kitchen.

It might shock people to know that stories were written about Jesus that weren’t chosen to be part of the Bible. Browsing in a used bookstore recently, I came upon a book The Lost Books of the Bible. It is a collection of non-biblical texts that have been around for anyone to read, but not treasured as the stories in the bible.  I opened the book to find “The Gospel of the Birth of Mary” and found this to be the very story I had read in Aunt Mary’s little book years ago.

Since then, I have been investigating other writings, some are archeological finds of the last century. A few have been around for years but not translated until recently. It is fascinating to me to read other people’s memories of Jesus besides those recorded in the Bible.

I can’t help but wonder how it was that Aunt Mary had this little book.

2 thoughts on “Aunt Mary’s Book of Jesus”

    1. See my two previous blogs “Midrash”. The thoughts of Jesus expressed in these I got from non-biblical writings. Midrash, I have learned, is a genre that was once used by Jewish scholars. It is commentary on the bible that is like the story-behind-the-story. They are fanciful but can be thought provoking. I see it like this: Some creative writer, reading the Matthew or Luke said to him (her) self, “Gosh, what was Jesus like when he was a little boy?” Then they wrote what they imagined. I suspect that not all of it is fiction, but it isn’t meant to be historic either. There are also quite a few ancient texts that have been discovered in the past 100 years that go back to days before and after Jesus. The Dead Sea Scrolls are among these. Christianity spread pretty fast in the first century and people throughout the Middle East and as far west as Rome wrote their reflections as “gospels”, lists of Jesus’ sayings, and letters. Yes it is fascinating to know what people were saying about Jesus in those early days. Some of what they wrote probably didn’t fit in with those writings that the Church finally accepted into the cannon, but some were not even known about.

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