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YMMV / The Four Gospels

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: And Alternative Interpretation, period. The differences in doctrine in various forms of Christianity are a testament to this, despite all of them using the same scriptures - they interpret or even translate the details differently. Similarly, scholars who write about the "real" historical Jesus often have different interpretations of him and his times.
    • A specific one is the case of Judas. The Gospels all say Jesus foresaw that Judas would betray him, but Jesus' words to him in the Gospel of John, "What you are about to do, do quickly" is sometimes taken further to mean that Jesus ordered Judas to betray him beforehand. This interpretation appears in the Gnostic Gospel of Judas, which was never part of the Biblical canon, and the novel and film The Last Temptation of Christ, as well as in many of Shusaku Endo's novels, including Silence (also made into a film by Martin Scorsese who clearly likes the theory very much). Endo noted in A Life of Jesus that Judas cannot be entirely condemned if his action played a part in Jesus' sacrifice and salvation, and that Jesus' All-Loving Hero nature meant that he would have forgiven and pardoned Judas for his actions, which is how he interprets the exchange in the Gospel of John.
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    • Related to the above, Jesus letting a woman anoint him with expensive perfume over the objections of the disciples, particularly Judas, who say it should have been sold and the proceeds donated to the poor. Jesus says they will always have the poor but they will not always have him. Various works like Jesus Christ Superstar, The Cartoon History of the Universe, and Judas from Boom! Studios present this as a Broken Pedestal moment for Judas who feels that Jesus is being selfish, and this ultimately helps motivate his betrayal. Left out are the parts in the gospels where Jesus says he was anointed for his coming burial, thus predicting/foreshadowing his death, and that Judas is said to not really care about the poor since he was Stealing from the Till.
    • Also relating to Judas are the motives for his betrayal. Most assume it to have been simple greed, but his motives aren't actually given, so many scholars have speculated that it may have actually been a chessmaster ploy gone wrong. He may have intended for Jesus to win the trial and thus prove to all that he was the Messiah, he may have been trying to lure the Romans into a trap, he may have been trying to force someone's hand, etc. We can't say for sure, but at the end of the day it's important to remember that Judas had to have had some redeeming qualities, otherwise Jesus would never have taken him on as a disciple in the first place.
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    • Despite appearing to be be a Celibate Hero in the canonical gospels, in some ancient and modern works Jesus is romantically paired or at least Ship Teased with Mary Magdalene (sometimes depicted as the woman who anoints him, though this is not explicit in the gospel texts). Or Mary is sometimes depicted as having unrequited romantic feelings for him, whereas the canonical gospels are silent about her love life too. Such works include some Gnostic gospels, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Last Temptation of Christ and The Da Vinci Code. This probably stems from the Gospel of John's account where she goes alone to his tomb, is the first disciple to see him alive again, and is so emotional that Jesus himself tells her to get off him (as famously expressed in Latin: noli me tangere, "touch me not" - but the Greek is more like "stop clinging to me" or "let me go"). Traditionally this meeting is depicted as Mary falling at Jesus's feet and clinging to him (or trying to), but at least one adaptation has depicted this as Mary straight-up glomping Jesus who returns the hug for a few moments.
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    • Related to the above, some historians and scholars think it's possible Jesus might have been married. Mary Magdalene is the most common suggestion for who his wife was, if she existed. In the gospels Jesus likens himself to a bridegroom, and the epistles of Paul liken Christ and the church to a husband and wife.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The guy running naked during the arrest of Jesus. Some scholars actually use this as an argument for the historicity of Mark's gospel— a good author would never include such a bizarrely off-key event at the dramatic high point of the story, unless maybe he was recording something that actually happened. Some even think the guy was Mark himself.
    • The Secret Gospel of Mark includes a passage beforehand which inserts a youth who is probably the same guy earlier in the story, in a parallel to the resurrection of Lazarus.
  • Critical Research Failure: The timeline the Gospel of Luke gives for Jesus' birth doesn't add up, since Herod the Great died in 4 BC and the census of Quirinius was in 6 AD. There was also no particular reason for Joseph to be involved, since Nazereth wasn't part of it and no census ever required people to register in the home of their ancestors instead of where they actually live (and pay taxes). Either the author made a mistake or Joseph was deeply confused.
    • Or maybe Dionysius Exiguus of Scythia Minor, the guy who designed the BC AD Calendar System was wrong. We, to be honest, have very little idea when Jesus of Nazareth was actually born. Just to give you an idea, current estimates put his birth at 4 BC.
  • Iron Woobie: Jesus himself. He suffered immensely, but remains impressively composed through it all.
  • It Was His Sled: Jesus was crucified and died on the cross. He came Back from the Dead three days later.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • John 3:16, which is widely quoted to summarize the entire "Good News": "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." It has become popular to put just "John 3:16" itself on signs or stickers.
    • Part of Jesus's Famous Last Words: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" There's some Alternate Character Interpretation as to whether he was really despairing or praying, since the line is the start of Psalm 22.
    • Luke's description of the Shepherds receiving word of Jesus' birth (Luke 2:8-14), thanks in part to a very popular Christmas show.
  • Misaimed Fandom:
    • Ever hear a gun-toting badass proclaim "let God sort them out"? Yeah, that originated as a reference to the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares,note  a rather different context...
    • Not to mention that the Bible is available for sale...
    • And let's not even get started on how people would consider the Jews as a whole eternally damned for Jesus' crucifixion. Yeah, never mind that 1) crucifixion was a Roman punishment, 2) Jesus was himself Jewish, and 3) His death and resurrection are the whole point of the Christian religion.
  • Misblamed: Given that Jesus and all the Apostles were Jewish themselves, it should be clear that Jesus' criticism of the Pharisees is not meant to say that all Jewish people are bad or hypocritical, just the particular Holier Than Thou religious leaders being criticized. Regrettably, this context is largely lost on some later interpreters who have used such texts to justify antisemitism in the name of Christ— who, it's worth repeating, was Jewish.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Judas' betrayal of Jesus, which may be subverted by his guilt afterward. Though some consider his suicide as a worse deed than the betrayal, because it meant he permanently turned down the opportunity to repent.
  • Obvious Judas: Judas Iscariot is the Trope Namer for betraying Jesus. However, the trope itself is actually averted: when Jesus tells His disciples that He knows one of them will betray Him, none of them have any clue who it might be, and all ask, "Lord, is it I?"
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