Tis the season and the evangelical Christian community is gearing up for the big day. I just read where 2 churches in my neck of the woods are having ‘take us back to the birth’ reenactments. Camels, goats, sheep and chickens along with the mandatory shepherds and angels. The whole ball of wax. One of the directors of the Bethlehem reenactments said, “We want people to have an understanding of the Christmas story from a biblical standpoint…”
That ‘biblical standpoint,’ however, is pure fantasy as can be seen in comparing the two versions in Matthew and Luke. Mark and John mention not a word of the birth scenario for good reason: it is pure fiction. Oh well.
Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, states that most hero stories contain the same three elements of the hero’s journey and follow the same general recipe. There are never any new stories, he said— just the same stories retold. And the blueprint for tales since humankind’s earliest days, is the “hero’s journey.” The hero’s journey has three main parts: Departure, Initiation, and Return. The hero hears a call, refuses it at first, and then crosses the threshold into a new world. During Initiation, he faces stiff challenges and stares into the abyss. But along the way— usually with the help of mentors who give the hero a divine gift— he transforms and becomes at one with his new self. Then he returns, becoming the master of two worlds, committed to improving each.
Jesus was somewhere before his appearance on the scene in his late 20’s but where is not known- Departure. In his Initiation phase, Jesus indeed faced challenges [New Testament] but that ‘divine gift’ seemingly was not given to him by mentors. Decades after his death the authors of the gospel gave him the divine gift, so to speak. Nonetheless he is transformed [not the Transfiguration!] and decides that he needs to reform the Temple and the spiritual ways of his world including the rabbis who preach a human-less tirade. Blessed are the poor, outcast, the lame and the sick.
His own disciples don’t get it because they expect him to Return but he never does [despite claims in the Gospels]. There’s the rub. That’s the 3rd piece of the Hero’s journey that Jesus never finished. The Romans clipped off part three. Not only did he never return but the Romans demolished Jerusalem thereafter, ending any hope of the Kingdom coming.
However apologists will note that Jesus did ‘become master of two worlds’ and that he ‘improved each’ yet this is only through Faith. Real heroes return. This is why that addendum was crafted- the so-called Rapture scenario. To finish the Hero story.