Secret Bible text changes everything

The son of God was a terror as a pre-teen.

At least if the newly discovered papyrus about the childhood of Jesus Christ is to be believed.

He cheated. He was angry. He killed.

If so, it is no wonder that the canonical (accepted) Gospels of the Bible’s New Testament do not say much about the early years of the Christian Messiah.

The only accounts of his birth are the books of Matthew and Luke.

Luke adds the story of a 12-year-old would-be messiah who astonishes the theologians of the Second Temple in Jerusalem with his deep understanding of Jewish lore.

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is significantly more comprehensive – and less righteous.

It is said to be an eyewitness account of the life of the underage Jesus in Nazareth. It was implicitly written by his brother Judas Thomas.

This text was one of many given to Christian bishops from all over Europe and the Middle East by Emperor Constantine in AD 325.

A powerful convert, he wanted a standardized religion that would help unify his rapidly crumbling Roman Empire.

Their final choice was the 27 books of the New Testament as we know it today.

Dozens of texts that were supposed to be gospels, letters of the disciples and collections of Jesus’ words were rejected.

These were declared apocryphal at best (of doubtful authenticity) and heretical (against the faith) at worst.

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas did not make the cut.

The early Christian theologian and Bishop of Rome, Hippolytus, had previously declared it a dangerous forgery in his decree Refutation of All Heresies, written around 230 AD.

A century later, Constantine’s bishops agreed.

It was therefore ordered that all copies on view be destroyed.

Almost everyone was.

However, a mislabeled fragment of an Egyptian papyrus stored in a German library has turned out to be the oldest known surviving copy of the original text.

Catalog error

Her inventory card reads: P.Hamb.Graec. 1011.

The 11 by 5 cm fragment contains only 13 lines of Greek text.

In Berlin’s Carl von Ossietzke State and University Library in Hamburg, it was ignored for decades.

But researcher dr. Lajos Berkes and Professor Gabriel Nocchi Macedo recognized its true meaning.

“They thought it was part of an everyday document, like a private letter or a shopping list, because the handwriting looks so awkward,” explains Dr. Berkes. https://www.hu-berlin.de/en/press-portal/nachrichten-en/june-2024/nr-2464 “We first noticed the word Jesus in the text. We then deciphered it letter by letter by comparing it with many other digitized papyri…”

Previously, the 11th-century codex was the oldest known fragment of the Infancy Gospel written in its original form.

“From a comparison with already known manuscripts of this Gospel, we know that our text is the earliest,” adds Dr. Berkes. “It follows the original text, which according to the current state of research was written in the 2nd century AD.”

While the papyrus is a small fragment, most of the stories contained in the Infancy Gospel have survived the centuries in one form or another.

It was widely quoted by early theologians exploring the limits of acceptable belief. And the stories of the young Jesus persisted in folk storytelling throughout antiquity and into the Middle Ages—probably for their shock value.

But since so little of the original text has survived, determining the origin of the Gospel is problematic. The general consensus among biblical scholars is that it was most likely first written down sometime between 110 and 130 AD.

This fragment survived by chance. It is assumed that he was thrown out of the scribe school of the monastery. It’s because the handwriting is so bad.

“The fragment is extremely interesting for research,” adds Dr. Berkes. “On the one hand, because we were able to date it to the 4th to 5th century, making it the earliest known copy. On the other hand, because we were able to gain new insights into the transmission of text.”

The passage comes from the opening pages of the Infancy Gospel, part of the story entitled The Revival of Sparrows.

He was to describe the details of Jesus’ second miracle.

Popular Apocrypha

Young Jesus is not the Jesus Christ we know. At least according to Thomas.

Maybe it’s just sibling rivalry.

The Bible says that Jesus was not an only child. The Gospels of Mark, John and Paul speak of brothers. Mark (3:32, 6:3) mentions sisters.

Thomas means “twin”. Early Christian traditions speak of Jesus having a brother Judas (Judas) Thomas.

The young family grew up in Nazareth. It was an insignificant hinterland. Just another small fishing village in the unfashionable Galilee, now the northern part of modern Israel.

The heretical gospel begins with Jesus being five years old. It is played by the stream. But he doesn’t like the water to be so dirty. So he commands it to be cleared: his first miracle.

He then proceeds to make 12 figures of sparrows out of clay. On Saturday.

Jewish law insists that nothing resembling work is allowed on the Sabbath – the day when God Himself took a break from creation.

But the young Jesus is seen by a pious neighbor diligently shaping the mud. They, of course, immediately inform Jesus’ legal father, Joseph, of the world’s moral insult.

Enraged, Joseph storms to the shore and shouts, “Why did you do this on the Sabbath? That’s not legal!”

When Jesus sees his father upset, he puts on an innocent face and orders: “Sparrows, go away!”.

They come to life and fly away: His second miracle.

What clay sparrows?

For the third miracle, Jesus again plays in the stream. But the comrade disturbs the water with a willow branch. Enraged, Jesus curses the boy and predicts that he will wither like a tree and will not bear leaves and fruit.

The offended boy withers away in no time, and his distraught parents confront a distraught Joseph about his child’s behavior.

The Infancy Gospel goes on to describe several similar outbursts of anger.

A running child bumps into the young Jesus. It dries in place.

Then there is the time when Jesus refuses to do his schoolwork.

Joseph paid for a writing class. But the young messiah refuses to recite the Greek alphabet. When the teacher cuffs him on the head for insolence, Jesus curses him – and falls dead.

Young Jesus earns such a reputation that he is eventually accused of something he (maybe) didn’t do. He was playing on the roof with his friends. One fell and broke his neck.

A spectator accuses Jesus of pushing the boy.

So Jesus jumps down and demands of the corpse, “Xenon, did I throw you down?”

Xenon comes to life and declares, “No, Lord, you did not throw me down. You raised me!”

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