Saturday, September 17, 2011

Apocryphal gospels as "fan fiction"

I enjoy fan fiction -- you know, those fan-written stories for things that ended too soon. I've read fan fiction for book series like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, and for the occasional TV show too.

What is the appeal of fan fiction? In a word: More. You get to the end of something good, and you want more. Seven Harry Potter books seems like a lot -- unless you really came to enjoy the characters. And then you didn't want it to end.

Most Fan fiction has fairly predictable subject matter. Here are some common things that happen in fan fiction:
  • Events may be told from a different character's point of view.
  • A different person may be the central character, or a minor character may become a major character.
  • They may narrate events that were not described in the original work. Sometimes there are entirely new scenes, but more often they provide "deleted scene" information or untold back story to the original work.
  • They may try a slightly different personality for a character, and see what kind of impact that would have on events. What if Bella Swan (Twilight) hadn't been so insecure and needy? What if Edward hadn't been such a gentleman? What if Dumbledore (Harry Potter) had actually been evil?
  • Often they explore different relationships. For example, what if Hermione Granger had become interested in someone besides Ron Weasley? Or what if a character without a romantic history, such as Neville Longbottom, had been given that chance?
There are other types of material for fan fiction, but these are among the most common.

What does it have to do with the apocryphal gospels?

As best I can tell, the right literary category for many of the apocryphal gospels is "fan fiction". Fan fiction has some rules: the main characters are taken from another work or group of works. You can tell the characters are borrowed because they're not really introduced; they're assumed to be known to the reader already.

Many of us have, at some point in our lives, experienced a sense of disappointment that we cannot read a whole world filled with books about what people remembered of Jesus, as the fourth gospel suggests could have been done. What we want, in a word, is more. As far as the usual types of fan fiction, we see them represented among the apocryphal gospels:
  • Events are told from another point-of-view, such as one of the Mary's.
  • "Missing scenes" gospels create tales of Jesus' childhood, or of Mary and Joseph's back story.
  • Minor characters come to the foreground in the Gospel of Judas or of Mary.
  • Alternative relationships develop, such as between Jesus and Mary.

Not all of the apocryphal gospels are fan fiction; some are sayings collections, or meditations on theology. But for some of them, it looks like they were written from a simple desire to have more material on Jesus.


Craig said...

I hadn't thought of it this way, but I think you're right! Brilliant insight, yet again!

Weekend Fisher said...

Hey, thanks for the encouragement.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF