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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 91: Hastings 161
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As her next session began, Lauren realized several things. The first was that she had a captive audience; as long as Doctor Conway didn’t conclude that she could be released or that she had to be transferred to someone else’s care, he would listen to whatever she told him. The second was that she had just reached telling the point in her life when she began Bible college, and the first time through she had covered it rather lightly. Those two points together meant that she could present the gospel to him within the context of what she learned in school, and it was clear that she was in a world, or at least a part of the world, in which Christian faith had been lost.
He began, “So you had finished high school and were dating Phil Hastings. What happened next?”
“That was the summer he asked me to marry him. I had already been accepted at P.C.B.--Philadelphia College of the Bible--and he was still studying for his contracting certifications, to be an electrician, so we decided I would go to school for the year, and we would be married the next summer.
“I’m going to tell you about going to school, and what I learned, but it’s going to be a bit tricky. I have a copy of the Bible with my things, and have been studying it for a very long time, and separating what I learned all those years ago from what I’ve learned since isn’t going to be easy. But I’ll begin at the beginning, sort of.”
The doctor nodded, and made a note.
“The Bible is divided into a larger, older Old Testament, and a shorter, more recent New Testament. The Old Testament is the entire Jewish Bible, and at the time of the New Testament it existed as the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, but had mostly settled into the sixty-some books Christians regard as authoritative. Most of our studies were in the New Testament.
“The New Testament is very much about the religion given to us by Jesus. It has been argued that what Jesus taught was not a new religion but the kind of Judaism God had intended all along, with a few tweaks to make it work right. I’m not sure I can prove that, so I’m going to stick with explaining Christianity the way the Bible presents it, at least as I came to understand it.
“The New Testament begins with Matthew--well, with a book entitled ‘The Gospel According to Matthew’. A ‘Gospel’ in this sense is a telling of good news, and the good news that is told is about Jesus, whom we are told is the son of God. There are four of them preserved for us in the Bible, each a bit different but all of them confirming the same story. Matthew, we ultimately learn, was a tax collector in a province of the Roman Empire known as Galilee. Jesus was raised by a man named Joseph, an independent businessman in Nazareth in Galilee, sort of his stepfather. That’s worth recognizing, because it means that Matthew probably had some kind of relationship with Jesus’ stepfather, and particularly the early chapters of Matthew’s reflect this as he reports details he clearly obtained from conversations with Joseph. He begins with Joseph’s lineage--a record of his patriarchal ancestry demonstrating that Joseph was the direct descendant of the ancient Jewish king David, and of the founder of the Jewish people, Abraham. Then he gives us details surrounding Jesus’ birth, including that Joseph was engaged to marry Mary, but learned that she was pregnant and was going to call it off, but an angel--a messenger of some kind--came to him and told him that Mary’s pregnancy was the work of God, that he should marry her and take care of the child, who was going to save God’s people. So he did. Several other things happened that Matthew reports, including that they traveled to a place called Bethlehem, that Persian astrologers became aware of his birth and came to see him, and that the king of the province of Judea, wanting to crush any usurper, ordered a slaughter of young children in the immediate area which Jesus escaped because Joseph was warned through a dream and took the family into Egypt for several years before returning to Nazareth.”
Lauren continued thus, recreating as much of Matthew’s Gospel as she could from memory--the baptism of John the Baptist (which, she noted, was found in more than one account, so she wasn’t entirely certain of which details were in which book), the fasting in the wilderness and the temptation by the devil, his preaching and teaching beginning with the Sermon on the Mount, some of the miracles that she remembered, on through the arrest, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.
“I’m sure I’ve missed parts,” she said, “but that’s the gist of the Gospel of Matthew.”
“It sounds like fantasy,” Doctor Conway suggested.
“Indeed it does,” she admitted, “but it is written as history, and as we continue we will see that several other witnesses confirm the same story.
“But not, I think, today,” she concluded. “We’ll pick up with the Gospel of Mark tomorrow.”
Doctor Conway nodded, and took his chair as he left.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twelve other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #306: Versers Refocused. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: