How parenthood has changed the way I look at Joseph, Mary and Jesus

How parenthood has changed the way I look at Joseph, Mary and Jesus

As Christmas approaches, many Christians will reflect on the Nativity, or birth of Jesus. The Christian Bible includes two different stories of the birth of Jesus, found in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. But there are precious few details about the rest of his childhood in the New Testament.

Some Christians today may wonder, what happened next?

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas

I write about this question in my book, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph: Family Trouble in the Infancy Gospels.” The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, a key source for my book, describes the childhood of Jesus. It is “extracanonical,” meaning that it cannot be found in copies of the Bible belonging to the main branches of Christianity.

It is not a source for the historical Jesus. What it reveals instead is the early Christian imagination. It was read widely by ancient Christians, who copied the stories and translated them into a number of different languages: Greek, Latin, Syriac, Arabic, to name a few.

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas includes stories about the child Jesus between the ages of five and 12. The contents of this gospel might trouble many modern-day Christians, who picture Jesus, even in childhood, as a perfect being.

While the child Jesus performs blessings, healing his brother, James, for example, from a snakebite, he also gets into trouble. Jesus curses and hurts other children. He gets a bad reputation. When a playmate named Zeno falls from a roof and dies, his parents accuse Jesus of pushing Zeno from the roof. But Jesus brings the dead boy back to life. The parents of Zeno praise God and the young savior.

Jesus, age 12

If readers are confused by the behavior of the child Jesus in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, they are in the same position as his parents. Mary and Joseph don’t understand him.

The final episode of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas is an echo of the single childhood story about Jesus in the New Testament. In the Gospel of Luke, the holy family nearly splits up. Jesus, 12 years old at the time, goes with his parents to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Afterwards, Mary and Joseph head back home. But not Jesus.

He stays in Jerusalem without permission. Traveling home, Mary and Joseph suddenly realize that Jesus is missing. Three days into the search they find the child in the temple in Jerusalem, teaching the grownups. Mary scolds Jesus for upsetting them,

“Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.”

Jesus replies,

“Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Jesus shrugs off Mary’s worry and all but ignores Joseph, speaking instead of his divine father. His words leave Mary and Joseph at a loss as they do not understand what he said to them.

Far from the tree

I suspect that Mary and Joseph’s failure to understand Jesus is the element that will resonate most strongly with modern readers. It reminds me of Andrew Solomon’s powerful book, “Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity,” which describes parents and children who seem to be separated by profound differences.

In one chapter Solomon describes the experiences of parents of deaf children. In another, he portrays the challenges faced by families with children born with Down syndrome. What Solomon uncovers through these case studies is “the profound unknowability of even the most intimate human relationship.”

Yet, as Solomon observes, differences can strengthen rather than weaken bonds. Differences that push us to the limits of understanding can nevertheless teach us how to love.

Solomon’s chapter on Down syndrome hits close to home. I am the father of two children, one who was born with Down syndrome and one who was born without an extra chromosome. On rare days the stars align, and I know exactly what to say or do as a parent. Most of the time I am uncertain. Sometimes, I am deeply confused. Yet, like Andrew Solomon, I think love is built from all of these moments.

Perhaps a similar message can be found in the story of the 12-year-old Jesus. Is he “far from the tree”? Uncertain after the scene in Jerusalem, Mary, Joseph and Jesus return home together. Family is not a clearly defined structure in the story: It isn’t biologically based or reflective of some “norm.” It is instead a choice to stick together, come what may.

This Christmas, stories about the baby Jesus will get most of the attention. But spare a thought for the tween-age Jesus and his confused parents. They don’t always understand him. They love him anyway.The Conversation

Christopher A. Frilingos, Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, Michigan State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Family of wrestler told to cut dreads speaks out

Family of wrestler told to cut dreads speaks out

Video Courtesy of NBC News

Athletic group benching ref

New Jersey’s athletic association said Saturday that a referee who told a high school wrestler to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit, which drew ire from an Olympian, the state’s governor and many others, won’t be assigned to any matches until the incident is reviewed.

Michael Cherenson, spokesman for the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, said the organization had reached out to groups that assign referees “and they’ve all agreed” not to assign Alan Maloney to any event until further notice.

Buena Regional High School wrestler Andrew Johnson, who is black, had a cover over his hair Wednesday night during a match. But Maloney, who is white, said that wouldn’t do. An SNJ Today reporter tweeted a video of Johnson getting his hair cut minutes before the match. Johnson went on to win but appeared visibly distraught.

The video was shared widely on social media, with users calling the incident “racist,” ”cruel” and “humiliating.”

Jordan Burroughs, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion, posted and spoke on social media early Saturday about the incident, saying he had never seen anything like it in a quarter-century of wrestling.

“This is nonsense,” a message on Burroughs’ Twitter account said. “My opinion is that this was a combination of an abuse of power, racism, and just plain negligence.” In a video posted on Instagram, he criticized parents and coaching staff at the match for not intervening, calling it “absolutely shameful.”

Burroughs called Johnson “courageous” for his performance in the match despite “all of the adversity and racism that you were facing in the moment.” The fellow southern New Jersey wrestler said Maloney had been the referee for some of his high school matches growing up.

Gov. Phil Murphy weighed in on the issue on Twitter, saying he was “deeply disturbed” by the story.

“No student should have to needlessly choose between his or her identity and playing sports,” he said.

The state attorney general’s office has confirmed an investigation by the Division on Civil Rights. The school superintendent said in a letter to the community that they support and stand by all student athletes.

Maloney came under fire in 2016 for using a racial slur against a black referee, according to the Courier Post newspaper. Maloney told the newspaper he did not remember making the comments. After the incident was reported, he agreed to participate in sensitivity training and an alcohol awareness program. A one-year suspension was overturned.

A woman answering the phone Friday at a listed number for Maloney said the ordeal is being blown out of proportion and the referee was simply following rules.

Does Alice Walker have a Jewish problem?

Does Alice Walker have a Jewish problem?

Alice Walker (AP photo)

Is author Alice Walker a Jew-hater?

Here is what we know.

Exhibit A: This past Sunday, in the pages of the New York Times Book Review, Ms. Walker endorsed “And The Truth Shall Set You Free,” by David Icke: “In Icke’s books there is the whole of existence, on this planet and several others, to think about. A curious person’s dream come true.”

The problem? David Icke is notoriously anti-semitic. In fact, his publisher judged “And The Truth Shall Set You Free” too anti-semitic to release, and so Icke did it on his own.

Icke’s book blames a Jew for the Holocaust and refers to the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, one of the greatest anti-semitic forgeries in history — a document that asserts that there is an international Jewish cabal that controls the world.

Exhibit B: Six years ago, Alice Walker refused to allow her classic book “The Color Purple” to be translated into Hebrew.

This had nothing to do with the typical anti-Israel stuff.

This had everything to do with Hebrew, i.e., the language of the Jews.

This is a curious variant of what it means to be anti-semitic; it is someone who is anti-a particular Semitic language.

Exhibit C: On her website, Alice Walker offers a poem titled, “It Is Our (Frightful) Duty To Study The Talmud.”

And, no — this wasn’t an advertisement for a yeshiva.

The poem engages in your usual anti-Israel screed.

But, then it takes an alarming turn.

We must go back
As grown ups, now,
Not as the gullible children we once were,
And study our programming,
From the beginning.
All of it: The Christian, the Jewish,
The Muslim; even the Buddhist. All of it, without exception,
At the root.

For the study of Israel, of Gaza, of Palestine,
Of the bombed out cities of the Middle East,
Of the creeping Palestination
Of our police, streets, and prisons
In America,
Of war in general,
It is our duty, I believe, to study The Talmud.
It is within this book that,
I believe, we will find answers
To some of the questions
That most perplex us.

She then names every crackpot, out of context, admittedly offensive but a historicized reference in the Talmud that she can find:

Are Goyim (us) meant to be slaves of Jews, and not only
That, but to enjoy it?
Are three year old (and a day) girls eligible for marriage and intercourse?
Are young boys fair game for rape?
Must even the best of the Goyim (us, again) be killed?
Pause a moment and think what this could mean
Or already has meant
In our own lifetime.

Jews are no stranger to these words, and to these accusations.

There is a long history of anti-Talmud rhetoric in Jewish history. Such rhetoric dates back to the 1200s, when Inquisition officials in Spain put the Talmud on trial.

Over the following centuries, the Talmud was often burnt in public — often with Jews accompanying the volumes into the flames.

Let me tell you the last time that I encountered this vile line of conversation.

It was when I was living in the South. A white supremacist and neo-Nazi sent me hate mail. He started by sending me a list of problematic quotes from the Talmud and rabbinical literature. He had simply copied and pasted them from a hate website.

So, let’s get our minds around this.

When it comes to the Jews, Alice Walker is echoing neo-Nazis.

So, yes. Alice Walker has a problem with the Jews. And, with Judaism. And, of course, with Israel. Her hatred of the Jews illustrates a despicable Venn diagram — in which you find a circle for the left, and a circle for the right — and the overlap is in Jew-hatred.

Ironic, then: just a few days ago, right-wing pundit Anne Coulter let loose — also about the Jews.

On Laura Ingraham’s show on Fox, Coulter said:

“I mean you have the Muslims and the Jews and the various exotic sexual groups and the black church ladies with the college queers …you must hate white men. It’s the one thing they have in common.”

When it comes to the Jews, Alice Walker = Anne Coulter. Pure and simple.

This is not easy for us to say, and it is not easy for us to accept.

Because we tend to ignore, excuse, rationalize, and contextualize the anti-semitism that emerges from our own side of the political spectrum.

In particular, people who are center-left often have difficulty recognizing and naming leftist Jew-hatred when they see it.


Take Alice Walker. She’s an intellectual, an author, a poet, a person who is a member of a minority group that has itself been disempowered. She is our imagined social, intellectual, and cultural peer. She is someone whom we would normally want to like and admire — the literati.

But, Anne Coulter? Please. Who would sympathize with this overly-privileged right-wing bigot?

You have to call out the anti-semitism of those who would otherwise be your allies. If you don’t, then you have allowed your politics to outweigh and out speak your morals.

Not good. Not good for the Jews. Not good for America. Not good for the world.