The Q Fragments tells a story of the historical Jesus. Obviously, it is fiction in the sense that no one really knows what Jesus actually said, or much of what he actually did. I have given Jesus and the characters in that part of the story dialog, action and ideas, but where did these come from?
There is a long tradition of biblical study and textual criticism that seeks to know what the canonical books in the New Testament actually said in their earliest forms, before they were edited, changed, and wrought into their present forms by many competing forces in the early, and not so early, church. This is not an easy task. Biblical scholars like Bart Ehrmann have spent their professional and academic lives searching for the actual words, deeds and people represented in the Christian canon. What they, and generations of scholars that came before them, know is that we don’t have any originals of the gospels, canonical or otherwise. We have copies of copies of copies of copies. There were at some point what scholars call “autographs” – the original works written from collecting stories that had been in circulation for generations. We don’t have any.
As a brief examination will show, the copies we do have are all different, all were subjected to many, many changes over the generations, some changes introduced by accident and many by design to deny or support a certain school of religious thought. Some of these differences are significant, regardless of what orthodox Christians may say. The significant ones can’t be reconciled and stand opposed to one another. One example can be found in the two different gospel stories of Jesus’ birth and what happened next.
Matthew has Jesus born, then his parents take him and flee to Egypt after being warned by an angel that Herod is out to kill him. They stay for a few years, how long and where is not mentioned, and getting another announcement by the angel, return to Nazareth.
Luke had Jesus also born in Bethlehem, but after he is born, eight days later he is circumcised and presented in the Temple in Nazareth in keeping with Jewish law.
Which one is it? Egypt or the Temple in Nazareth? Both can’t be right.
There are many other differences in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life that are radically different and can’t be reconciled. There are reasons for this, but a most important result is that the gospels, canonical and otherwise, are not reliable sources for historical accuracy. They are, in fact, propaganda designed to convince people of a certain story.
So, where did my account of Jesus’ life, death and fate come from? Study, and lots of it. Gospels. Gnostic texts. Biblical and religious historians like Ehrmann and Dominic Crossan. Scholarly articles discussing these aspects of the Christian gospels, historical and anthropological accounts of life in the first century CE in the Mediterranean.
The historical characters, and others who I invented for this story, were based on accounts of the actual people. I distilled what seemed to me to be reliable and realistic historical information about Jesus as could be found in the above sources.
I will discuss more of what I found in later posts, but be assured that the place, characters, actions and intents, if not the actual words, are rendered with as much honesty and factual knowledge as I could find. The search is never over, unless of course, some more actual evidence – scrolls or bodies are discovered sleeping in the sands of the ancient world.