Page 45 Review by Stephen
Later the Pharisees caught Jesus eating lunch without washing his hands first. They started in on him, blowing their whistles and shouting, The Law Of Moses requires you wash your hands! You have defiled yourself, sir! You have eaten lunch without washing your hands, and now you are defiled!
Jesus rolled his eyes, and said, People arent defiled half as much by what goes into their mouths as by the shit which comes out. Then he went back to eating his sandwich.
This is so funny I have been crying with laughter.
I warn you right now it isnt comics, its illustrated prose in which Mark Russell takes the tediously turgid Bible and condenses it into an infinitely more digestible, colloquial chit-chat threaded through with an irreverent modern vernacular that makes for the jolliest of juxtapositions and punchlines galore. As he concedes in the introduction, James never called anyone a prick as far as we know but its all about rendering the arcane comprehensible. I wouldnt say Russells being particularly iconoclastic, either: hes just telling it like it is without all the portentous jibber-jabber.
For example, Pauls letters to the Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians and Timothy Paul had a lot of pen pals! is turned into a chatty ongoing narrative as Paul pops in and out of jail, signing off with Hugs and Kisses, Smooches! and Keepin it real. Its long stream of unsolicited advice, like an Agony Aunt making up correspondence in order for fill column inches, but there are some seriously sound nuggets in here:
Stay focused. If youre going to criticise people for being loose and immoral, then you need to be able to resist temptation yourself, or youre going to end up looking like a total douche.
Also: some analogies and metaphors date better than others, so Russell brings things up to speed right from the get-go.
God created the human race to be his pets. As a first-time owner, God wisely chose to start small, creating just two people: Adam and Eve. But, much like baby alligators, they proved to be rotten pets and were thus flushed into the sewer, where they propagated, until the sewers were overflowing with wild humans, hissing and spitting, fornicating and worshipping idols. So God flushed out the entire human race with a flood.
Thats The Torah getting a look in, by the way, before Genesis kicks off in slightly more detail, turning the lights on while inventing solar energy to power things. If it wasnt broken, we probably shouldnt have fixed that.
The light switch analogy I borrowed from Shannon Wheeler, he of TOO MUCH COFFEE MAN, who provides the cartoons, like Adam and Eve in marriage counselling, sitting naked on what I hope are well padded chairs and being told, You need to stop playing the blame game. Also theres Moses being issued from the clouds with what I guess should have been the eleventh commandment, Dont forget the fine print. The twelfth should have been: dont make up any fine print! It says Love Thy Neighbour, guys: dont make up qualifiers and exceptions just because some people have better tans than you do or wobbly their willies in different directions! Peace, yall.
I always liked the name Nebuchadnezzar, though I probably wouldnt impose it on the son I will never sire. In the book of Daniel, if you remember, he has a dream and summons his assorted sycophants to interpret it without telling them what that dream was (good call: other peoples dreams tend to be boring, dont they?).
This is the only way I can sure your interpretations is coming from the gods, he explained, rather than just some pop psychology bullshit you picked up in college.
Man, this is going to be all my Christmas presents this year. Apart from Jonathans and Dominiques. That would be tacky, right?
And so we come to my favourite part of the Bible (oh yes, Ive studied in depth: I got 99.3% in my Divinity O Level): the New Testament in which one of the loveliest men of all time gives hypocritical religious leaders a great big kick up the arse, castigating them for bigotry, superficiality and materialism, for which he was well and truly crucified then completely ignored by the ensuing Christian churches preaching these self-same gospels. Weird, huh?
Mark Russell is in spectacular form throughout, Jesus words rendered in red type as when Peter asks him exactly who he is.
Who do you think I am?
I think youre the Messiah. And maybe not just the Messiah, maybe even the Son of God.
Jesus puppy-clapped Peters cheek and said, Well, dont tell anyone, okay? At least not yet.
Now, I dont know if I have to issue a SPOILER WARNING to anyone, but it doesnt go well for Jesus in the end. Im sorry to say that that crucifixion thing I mentioned wasnt metaphorical. The beginning of the end comes halfway through the somewhat ominously titled Last Supper during which Jesus lifts his wine glass and makes the most startling after-dinner speech on record:
Well, this is it, boys. Tonight one of you is going to betray me. I will be arrested and put to death. This is the last glass of wine Ill ever drink until we all share one together in Heaven.
What? Betray you? they said. Who is going to betray you?
Jesus nodded at Judas.
I just remembered theres something Ive got to do!