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Edward Adams is Senior Lecturer in New Testament Studies at King’s College London. He is the author of Stars Will Fall from Heaven: ‘Cosmic Catastrophe’ in the New Testament and Its World and coeditor of Christianity at Corinth: The Quest for the Pauline Church.  His most recent book, Parallel Lives of Jesus, invites the reader, even the average Joe in the pew like myself, to consider why there are four accounts of the life of Jesus ( Why not just have have one ? ) and take a fresh look at the four canonical gospels and the qualities that make them unique.

The book is divided up into three parts. First Adams discusses his approach to the gospels. Then he looks at each of the Gospels and their narrative features. Finally Adams puts six episodes ( The Baptism of Jesus, The Feeding of the Five Thousand, The Walking on the Water, The Transfiguration, The Death of Jesus, The Empty Tomb ) found in all the gospels side by side.

The author is very thorough and consistent in his examination of the gospel accounts. The fundamental question Adams addresses in the book is not a new one. The author himself notes his research is building on the work of one of his colleagues Richard Burridge who is the author of Four Gospels, One Jesus? What Edward Adams does is draw a structural parallel between the gospels and Plutarch’s Parallel Lives to offer a literary perspective on the gospels. Since the Bible is literature, Adams looks at literary devices like characterization, style, theme and setting. He also connects the structure of ”the same story told four ways” to the films Vantage Point and Roshomon as well as the Iain Pears novel An Instance of the Fingerpost.

Through the comparisons that Edward Adams draws to Plutarch’s Parallel Lives and modern films and novels he effectively gives a perspective on the gospels that is in depth and accessible. Amongst the many other approaches a person can take to reading the Bible ( such as Historical, Archeological, and Cultural ) Parallel Lives of Jesus will be very practical for anyone wanting to develop a deeper understanding of the gospels as well as a helpful resource for Churches and Universities.

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Cliches

I’ve been looking at cliches lately. Most agree that a cliche is basically a worn out idea that because of its constant use has lost its meaning. Maybe it’s similar to how I feel about the ocean. It’s neat but sort of “the usual.” I grew up with it only a 20 minute drive away. To some however the ocean is far more exotic and seemingly more full of meaning. The blog “How to Slay a Cliche” sets out to rewrite some common cliches. As this blogger who simply goes by Wordsworth puts it “Rewrite or recast them and their essence becomes useful again.” Reading his blog inspired me to do just that. I selected a couple examples of cliches from one of the creative writing books I had which addressed the issue and went to work on them.

“Bone chilling cold” became:

  • goose pimpling cold
  • teeth chattering cold
  • muscle tensing cold
  • joint stiffening cold

“…sleeping like the dead” becomes:

  • sleeping like the housecat
  • sleeping like the surface of the placid lake
  • sleeping like a house with the shades drawn
  • sleeping like a flag; inhaling and exhaling the gentle pulsing breeze

“…feet planted firmly on the ground”  becomes:

  • footing like a tower
  • feet rooted firmly in the earth
  • foot planted like an ancient stone
  • feet buried in the sand like a bulkhead

After I had gotten the creative juices flowing I realized that I had used nautical imagery quite a bit. I grew up near the water which probably played a little factor in the way I write. I can see, and hear and smell the ocean just by closing my eyes cause its drenched my memory so thoroughly. Anyways I thought I wonder if there’s a story here? There was.

“On the morning after the storm the town slept like the lone tattered flag; inhaling and exhaling the gentle pulsing breeze as it hung on the flagpole. The coastline was a joint stiffening kind of cold in January, but the man stood on the beach. Fear gripped him; his feet buried in the sand like a bulkhead. he blamed himself. The perfect life he’d constructed for himself had collapsed; destroyed by the very thing that drew him there: the sea.”

As pleased as I was with the descriptive imagery of this scene and the way the setting worked as an antagonist to the mans desire to live by the sea I couldn’t help but think what a downer. This story isn’t factual. Its fiction. And I can have it end however I like. I’ve read that “the great promise of fiction is that it will tell a lie so marvelous it will contain more truth than what is factual.” One of the most profound truths to me is the reality of grace and forgiveness expressed in the biblical parable of the prodigal son. So couldn’t this man be in a similar moment of failure and revelation that the prodigal son experienced. Couldn’t he have his house pulled out to sea along with everything else he owned only to have him realize that the loving father who freely gave him his inheritance he used to build that house will meet him with a compassionate embrace, give him a fine robe, put a ring on his finger, feast and celebrate when he returns home.

Here is the story with the prodigal elements included.

On the morning after the storm the town slept like the lone tattered flag; inhaling and exhaling the gentle pulsing breeze as it hung on the flagpole. The coastline was a joint stiffening kind of cold in January, but the young man stood on the beach. Fear gripped him; his feet buried in the sand like a bulkhead. he blamed himself. The home he’d constructed for himself had collapsed; destroyed by the very thing that drew him there: the sea.

The father was tense in his chair watching the news reports. He’d given up trying to reach him by phone. The old man’s imagination was beginning to side with despair thinking about what might have happened to his son. The doorbell rang and he stood to his feet and walked to the door. He signed for the package and brought it inside. He slowly cut through the packaging tape with his keys and opened the box. The man’s shaky hands grabbed one of the books and he turned it over in his hands. His fingers ran over the raised letters of his name on the cover. Clinching his teeth he threw the book across the room. It hit one of the dining room chairs and flopped to the ground. The old man held his face in his hands and he began to cry. The young man quietly opened the door and walked tentatively into the house.

“Hey pop.”

The man looked up, the tears in his eyes turning from sorrow to joy as they flowed, stood to his feet and embraced his son.

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