Did you know that bedbugs can be kept at bay with prayer? To read how, refer to Early Christian Acts of John.
Do you want to read a vivid description of the afterlife and hear from Isaiah about Jesus’ visit to hell? Read what is now called The Pilate Cycle.
Have you heard about the apostles preaching sex-strikes all the way from Rome through Asia Minor to India? Read The Acts of Peter, The Acts of Paul and Thecla, and The Acts of Thomas.
The early church produced a true flood of these and similar tall tales. They are superstitious, we can laugh at their naivete. But they are also captivating and greatly amusing, and they represent one of the extremes of a long continuous spectrum of religious (biblical) storytelling and thus they help us better understand the ancient mentality. Take for instance the early church’s preoccupation with virginity, chastity and celibacy. It was in fact an important element of true sexual revolution. In the first few centuries it was not a tool to suppress people; it was an instrument of liberation. Today we would call it a sex-strike, and it was originally a very effective way to claim individual dignity and personal intimate rights under the abusive circumstances of an oppressive patriarchal system.
This Sunday we will open another such book - The Infancy Gospel of Jesus, and will hear about school-age Jesus and what he did when he was supposed to go to school. These stories clearly are tall tales, but besides being odd and somehow farcical, these stories had deep meaning. Not the stories themselves, but their meaning and their ethos could be traced all the way back to Jesus, and thus these stories profoundly changed the way we see children and childhood.