Thursday, 30 June 2011

Kristi Upson-Saia - The angry young Jesus of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas

Although scholars regularly note the unflattering depictions of the child Jesus in certain episodes of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, most attempt to explain them away.  Since the text was circulated among early Christians, they reason, these stories must not have been as shocking and offensive in the ancient context as they are to modern readers.  Given the contemporaneous discussions on anger, clemency, and “childish” behavior, I argue instead that an early Christian audience also would have been uncomfortable with stories of a short-tempered and vengeful young Jesus.  In fact, I submit that certain episodes were likely composed by opponents of Christianity in an effort to undermine Jesus’ character and authority by presenting a compromised portrait of his youth.  The redactor of Infancy Gospel of Thomas, I suggest, placed (edited versions of) these deprecating stories beside scenes of a beneficent and virtuous young Jesus as a way to domesticate their impact.

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