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Adam Gopnik | May 24, 2010 Issue | The New Yorker
Reading and unreading the Gospels.
When we meet Jesus of Nazareth at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, almost surely the oldest of the four, he’s a full-grown man. He comes down from Galilee, meets John, an ascetic desert hermit who lives on locusts and wild honey, and is baptized by him in the River Jordan. If one thing seems nearly certain to the people who read and study the Gospels for a living, it’s that this really happened: John the Baptizer—as some like to call him, to give a better sense of the original Greek’s flat-footed active form—baptized Jesus. They believe it because it seems so unlikely, so at odds with the idea that Jesus always played the star in his own show: why would anyone have said it if it weren’t true? This curious criterion governs historical criticism of Gospel texts: the more improbable or “difficult” an episode or remark is, the likelier it is to be a true record, on the assumption that you would edit out all the weird stuff if you could, and keep it in only because the tradition is so strong that it can’t plausibly be excluded. If Jesus says something nice, then someone is probably saying it for him; if he says something nasty, then probably he really did.
So then, the scholars argue, the author of Mark, whoever he was—the familiar names conventionally attached to each Gospel come later*—added the famous statement of divine favor, descending directly from the heavens as they opened. But what does the voice say? In Mark, the voice says, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased,” seeming to inform a Jesus who doesn’t yet know that this is so. But some early versions of Luke have the voice quoting Psalm 2: “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” Only in Matthew does it announce Jesus’ divinity to the world as though it were an ancient, fixed agreement, not a new act. In Mark, for that matter, the two miraculous engines that push the story forward at the start and pull it toward Heaven at the end—the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection—make no appearance at all. The story begins with Jesus’ adult baptism, with no hint of a special circumstance at his birth, and there is actually some grumbling by Jesus about his family (“Only in his home town, among his relatives and in his own house, is a prophet without honor,” he complains); it ends with a cry of desolation as he is executed—and then an enigmatic and empty tomb. (It’s left to the Roman centurion to recognize him as the Son of God after he is dead, while the verses in Mark that show him risen were apparently added later.)
The intractable complexities of fact produce the inevitable ambiguities of faith. The more one knows, the less one knows. Was Jesus a carpenter, or even a carpenter’s son? The Greek word tekto¯n, long taken to mean “carpenter,” could mean something closer to a stoneworker or a day laborer. (One thinks of the similar shadings of a word like “printer,” which could refer to Ben Franklin or to his dogsbody.) If a carpenter, then presumably he was an artisan. If a stoneworker, then presumably he spent his early years as a laborer, schlepping from Nazareth to the grand Greco-Roman city of Sepphoris, nearby, to help build its walls and perhaps visit its theatre and agora. And what of the term “Son of Man,” which he uses again and again in Mark, mysteriously: “The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” As Diarmaid MacCulloch points out in his new, immensely ambitious and absorbing history, “Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years” (Viking; $45), the phrase, which occurs in the Gospels “virtually exclusively in the reported words of Jesus,” certainly isn’t at all the same as the later “Son of God,” and may merely be Aramaic for “folks like us.”
Belief remains a bounce, faith a leap. Still, the appetite for historical study of the New Testament remains a publishing constant and a popular craze. Book after book—this year, ten in one month alone—appears, seeking the Truth. Paul Johnson has a sound believer’s life, “Jesus: A Biography from a Believer,” while Paul Verhoeven, the director of “Basic Instinct,” has a new skeptical-scholar’s book, “Jesus of Nazareth” (Seven Stories; $23.95). Verhoeven turns out to be a member of the Jesus Seminar, a collection mostly of scholars devoted to reconstructing the historical Jesus, and much of what he has to say is shrewd and learned. (An odd pull persists between box-office and Biblical study. A few years ago, another big action-film director and producer, James Cameron, put himself at the center of a documentary called “The Lost Tomb of Jesus.”)
What the amateur reader wants, given the thickets of uncertainty that surround the garden, is not what the passionate polemicists want—not so much a verdict on whether Jesus was nasty or nice as a sense of what, if anything, was new in his preaching. Was the cult that changed the world a product of Paul’s evangelism and imperial circumstance and the military embrace of one miracle-mystery cult among many such around? Or was there really something new, something unheard of, that can help explain the scale of what happened later? Did the rise of Christendom take place because historical plates were moving, with a poor martyred prophet caught between, or did one small pebble of parable and preaching start the avalanche that ended the antique world?
Ever since serious scholarly study of the Gospels began, in the nineteenth century, its moods have ranged from the frankly skeptical—including a “mythicist” position that the story is entirely made up—to the credulous, with some archeologists still holding that it is all pretty reliable, and tombs and traces can be found if you study the texts hard enough. The current scholarly tone is, judging from the new books, realist but pessimistic. While accepting a historical Jesus, the scholarship also tends to suggest that the search for him is a little like the search for the historical Sherlock Holmes: there were intellectual-minded detectives around, and Conan Doyle had one in mind in the eighteen-eighties, but the really interesting bits—Watson, Irene Adler, Moriarty, and the Reichenbach Falls—were, even if they all had remote real-life sources, shaped by the needs of storytelling, not by traces of truth. Holmes dies because heroes must, and returns from the dead, like Jesus, because the audience demanded it. (The view that the search for the historical Jesus is like the search for the historical Superman—that there’s nothing there but a hopeful story and a girlfriend with an alliterative name—has by now been marginalized from the seminaries to the Internet; the scholar Earl Doherty defends it on his Web site with grace and tenacity.)
The American scholar Bart Ehrman has been explaining the scholars’ truths for more than a decade now, in a series of sincere, quiet, and successful books. Ehrman is one of those best-selling authors like Richard Dawkins and Robert Ludlum and Peter Mayle, who write the same book over and over—but the basic template is so good that the new version is always worth reading. In his latest installment, “Jesus, Interrupted” (HarperOne; $15.99), Ehrman once again shares with his readers the not entirely good news he found a quarter century ago when, after a fundamentalist youth, he went to graduate school: that all the Gospels were written decades after Jesus’ death; that all were written in Greek, which Jesus and the apostles didn’t speak and couldn’t write (if they could read and write at all); and that they were written as testaments of faith, not chronicles of biography, shaped to fit a prophecy rather than report a profile.
The odd absences in Mark are matched by the unreal presences in the other Gospels. The beautiful Nativity story in Luke, for instance, in which a Roman census forces the Holy Family to go back to its ancestral city of Bethlehem, is an obvious invention, since there was no Empire-wide census at that moment, and no sane Roman bureaucrat would have dreamed of ordering people back to be counted in cities that their families had left hundreds of years before. The author of Luke, whoever he might have been, invented Bethlehem in order to put Jesus in David’s city. (James Tabor, a professor of religious studies, in his 2006 book “The Jesus Dynasty,” takes surprisingly seriously the old Jewish idea that Jesus was known as the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier named Pantera—as well attested a tradition as any, occurring in Jewish texts of the second century, in which a Jesus ben Pantera makes several appearances, and the name is merely descriptive, not derogatory. Tabor has even found, however improbably, a tombstone in Germany for a Roman soldier from Syria-Palestine named Pantera.)
What seems a simple historical truth is that all the Gospels were written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in the First Jewish-Roman War, in 70 C.E.—a catastrophe so large that it left the entire Jesus movement in a crisis that we can dimly imagine if we think of Jewish attitudes before and after the Holocaust: the scale of the tragedy leads us to see catastrophe as having been built into the circumstance. As L. Michael White’s “Scripting Jesus: The Gospels in Rewrite” (HarperOne; $28.99) explains in daunting scholarly detail, even Mark—which, coming first, might seem to be closest to the truth—was probably written in the ruins of the Temple and spiritually shaped to its desolate moment. Mark’s essential point, he explains, is about secrecy: Jesus keeps telling people to be quiet about his miracles, and confides only to an inner circle of disciples. With the Temple gone, White says, it was necessary to persuade people that the grotesque political failure of Jesus’ messianism wasn’t a real failure. Mark invents the idea that Jesus’ secret was not that he was the “Davidic” messiah, the Arthur-like returning king, but that he was someone even bigger: the Son of God, whose return would signify the end of time and the birth of the Kingdom of God. The literary critic Frank Kermode, in “The Genesis of Secrecy” (1979), a pioneering attempt to read Mark seriously as poetic literature, made a similar point, though his is less historical than interpretative. Kermode considers Mark to be, as the French would say, a text that reads itself: the secret it contains is that its central figure is keeping a secret that we can never really get. It is an intentionally open-ended story, prematurely closed, a mystery without a single solution.
Even if we make allowances for Mark’s cryptic tracery, the human traits of his Jesus are evident: intelligence, short temper, and an ironic, duelling wit. What seems new about Jesus is not his piety or divine detachment but the humanity of his irritability and impatience. He’s no Buddha. He gets annoyed at the stupidity of his followers, their inability to grasp an obvious point. “Do you have eyes but fail to see?” he asks the hapless disciples. The fine English actor Alec McCowen used to do a one-man show in which he recited Mark, complete, and his Jesus came alive instantly as a familiar human type—the Gandhi-Malcolm-Martin kind of charismatic leader of an oppressed people, with a character that clicks into focus as you begin to dramatize it. He’s verbally spry and even a little shifty. He likes defiant, enigmatic paradoxes and pregnant parables that never quite close, perhaps by design. A story about a vineyard whose ungrateful husbandmen keep killing the servants sent to them is an anti-establishment, even an anti-clerical story, but it isn’t so obvious as to get him in trouble. The suspicious priests keep trying to catch him out in a declaration of anti-Roman sentiment: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not, they ask—that is, do you recognize Roman authority or don’t you? He has a penny brought out, sees the picture of the emperor on it, and, shrugging, says to give to the state everything that rightly belongs to the state. The brilliance of that famous crack is that Jesus turns the question back on the questioner, in mock-innocence. Why, you give the king the king’s things and God God’s. Of course, this leaves open the real question: what is Caesar’s and what is God’s? It’s a tautology designed to evade self-incrimination.
Jesus’ morality has a brash, sidewise indifference to conventional ideas of goodness. His pet style blends the epigrammatic with the enigmatic. When he makes that complaint about the prophet having no honor in his own home town, or says exasperatedly that there is no point in lighting a candle unless you intend to put it in a candlestick, his voice carries a disdain for the props of piety that still feels startling. And so with the tale of the boy who wastes his inheritance but gets a feast from his father, while his dutiful brother doesn’t; or the one about the weeping whore who is worthier than her good, prim onlookers; or about the passionate Mary who is better than her hardworking sister Martha. There is a wild gaiety about Jesus’ moral teachings that still leaps off the page. He is informal in a new way, too, that remains unusual among prophets. MacCulloch points out that he continually addresses God as “Abba,” Father, or even Dad, and that the expression translated in the King James Version as a solemn “Verily I say unto you” is actually a quirky Aramaic throat-clearer, like Dr. Johnson’s “Depend upon it, Sir.”
Some of the sayings do have, in their contempt for material prosperity, the ring of Greek Cynic philosophy, but there is also something neither quite Greek nor quite Jewish about Jesus’ morality that makes it fresh and strange even now. Is there a more miraculous scene in ancient literature than the one in John where Jesus absent-mindedly writes on the ground while his fellow-Jews try to entrap him into approving the stoning of an adulteress, only to ask, wide-eyed, if it wouldn’t be a good idea for the honor of throwing the first stone to be given to the man in the mob who hasn’t sinned himself? Is there a more compressed and charming religious exhortation than the one in the Gospel of Thomas in which Jesus merrily recommends to his disciples, “Be passersby”? Too much fussing about place and home and ritual, and even about where, exactly, you’re going to live, is unnecessary: be wanderers, dharma bums.
This social radicalism still shines through—not a programmatic radicalism of national revolution but one of Kerouac-like satori-seeking-on-the-road. And the social radicalism is highly social. The sharpest opposition in the Gospels, the scholar and former priest John Dominic Crossan points out in his illuminating books—“The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant” is the best known—is between John the Faster and Jesus the Feaster. Jesus eats and drinks with whores and highwaymen, turns water into wine, and, finally, in one way or another, establishes a mystical union at a feast through its humble instruments of bread and wine.
The table is his altar in every sense. Crossan, the co-founder of the Jesus Seminar, makes a persuasive case that Jesus’ fressing was perhaps the most radical element in his life—that his table manners pointed the way to his heavenly morals. Crossan sees Jesus living within a Mediterranean Jewish peasant culture, a culture of clan and cohort, in which who eats with whom defines who stands where and why. So the way Jesus repeatedly violates the rules on eating, on “commensality,” would have shocked his contemporaries. He dines with people of a different social rank, which would have shocked most Romans, and with people of different tribal allegiance, which would have shocked most Jews. The most forceful of his sayings, still shocking to any pious Jew or Muslim, is “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean.” Jesus isn’t a hedonist or an epicurean, but he clearly isn’t an ascetic, either: he feeds the multitudes rather than instructing them how to go without. He’s interested in saving people living normal lives, buying and selling what they can, rather than in retreating into the company of those who have already arrived at a moral conclusion about themselves.
To a modern reader, the relaxed egalitarianism of the open road and the open table can seem undermined by the other part of Jesus’ message, a violent and even vengeful prediction of a final judgment and a large-scale damnation. In Mark, Jesus is both a fierce apocalyptic prophet who is preaching the death of the world—he says categorically that the end is near—and a wise philosophical teacher who professes love for his neighbor and supplies advice for living. If the end is near, why give so much sage counsel? If human life is nearly over, why preach in such detail the right way to live? One argument is that a later, perhaps “unpersonified” body of Hellenized wisdom literature was tacked on to an earlier account of a Jewish messianic prophet. Since both kinds of literature—apocalyptic hysterics and stoic sayings—can be found all over the period, perhaps they were merely wrenched together.
And yet a single figure who “projects” two personae at the same time, or in close sequence, one dark and one dreamy, is a commonplace among charismatic prophets. That’s what a charismatic prophet is: someone whose aura of personal conviction manages to reconcile a hard doctrine with a humane manner. The leaders of the African-American community before the civil-rights era, for instance, had to be both prophets and political agitators to an oppressed and persecuted people in a way not unlike that of the real Jesus (and all the other forgotten zealots and rabbis whom the first-century Jewish historian Josephus names and sighs over). They, too, tended to oscillate between the comforting and the catastrophic. Malcolm X was the very model of a modern apocalyptic prophet-politician, unambiguously preaching violence and a doctrine of millennial revenge, all fuelled by a set of cult beliefs—a hovering U.F.O., a strange racial myth. But Malcolm was also a community builder, a moral reformer (genuinely distraught over the sexual sins of his leader), who refused to carry weapons, and who ended, within the constraints of his faith, as some kind of universalist. When he was martyred, he was called a prophet of hate; within three decades of his death—about the time that separates the Gospels from Jesus—he could be the cover subject of a liberal humanist magazine like this one. One can even see how martyrdom and “beatification” draws out more personal detail, almost perfectly on schedule: Alex Haley, Malcolm’s Paul, is long on doctrine and short on details; thirty years on, Spike Lee, his Mark, has a full role for a wife and children, and a universalist message that manages to blend Malcolm into Mandela. (As if to prove this point, just the other week came news of suppressed chapters of Haley’s “Autobiography,” which, according to Malcolm’s daughter, “showed too much of my father’s humanity.”)
As the Bacchae knew, we always tear our Gods to bits, and eat the bits we like. Still, a real, unchangeable difference does exist between what might be called storytelling truths and statement-making truths—between what makes credible, if sweeping, sense in a story and what’s required for a close-knit metaphysical argument. Certain kinds of truths are convincing only in a narrative. The idea, for instance, that the ring of power should be given to two undersized amateurs to throw into a volcano at the very center of the enemy’s camp makes sound and sober sense, of a kind, in Tolkien; but you would never expect to find it as a premise at the Middle Earth Military Academy. Anyone watching Hamlet will find his behavior completely understandable—O.K., I buy it; he’s toying with his uncle—though any critic thinking about it afterward will reflect that this behavior is a little nuts.
In Mark, Jesus’ divinity unfolds without quite making sense intellectually, and without ever needing to. It has the hypnotic flow of dramatic movement. The story is one of self-discovery: he doesn’t know who he is and then he begins to think he does and then he doubts and in pain and glory he dies and is known. The story works. But, as a proposition under scrutiny, it makes intolerable demands on logic. If Jesus is truly one with God, in what sense could he suffer doubt, fear, exasperation, pain, horror, and so on? So we get the Jesus rendered in the Book of John, who doesn’t. But if he doesn’t suffer doubt, fear, exasperation, pain, and horror, in what sense is his death a sacrifice rather than just a theatrical enactment? A lamb whose throat is not cut and does not bleed is not really much of an offering.
None of this is very troubling if one has a pagan idea of divinity: the Son of God might then be half human and half divine, suffering and triumphing and working out his heroic destiny in the half-mortal way of Hercules, for instance. But that’s ruled out by the full weight of the Jewish idea of divinity—omnipresent and omniscient, knowing all and seeing all. If God he was—not some Hindu-ish avatar or offspring of God, but actually one with God—then God once was born and had dirty diapers and took naps. The longer you think about it, the more astounding, or absurd, it becomes. To be really believed at all, it can only be told again.
So the long history of the early Church councils that tried to make the tales into a theology is, in a way, a history of coming out of the movie confused, and turning to someone else to ask what just happened. This is the subject of Philip Jenkins’s “Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 Years” (HarperOne; $26.99). Jenkins explains what was at stake in the seemingly wacky wars over the Arian heresy—the question of whether Jesus the Son shared an essence with God the Father or merely a substance—which consumed the Western world through the second and third centuries. Was Jesus one with God in the sense that, say, Sean Connery is one with Daniel Craig, different faces of a single role, or in the sense that James Bond is one with Ian Fleming, each so dependent on the other that one cannot talk about the creation apart from its author? The passion with which people argued over apparently trivial word choices was, Jenkins explains, not a sign that they were specially sensitive to theology. People argued that way because they were part of social institutions—cities, schools, clans, networks—in which words are banners and pennants: who pledged to whom was inseparable from who said what in what words. It wasn’t that they really cared about the conceptual difference between the claim that Jesus and the Father were homoousian (same in essence) and the claim that the two were homoiousian (same in substance); they cared about whether the Homoousians or the Homoiousians were going to run the Church.
The effort to seal off the inspiration from the intolerance, nice Jesus from nasty Jesus, is very old. Jefferson compiled his own New Testament, with the ethical teachings left in and the miracles and damnations left out—and that familiar, outraged sense of the ugly duplicity of the Christian heritage is at the heart of Philip Pullman’s new plaint against it, “The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ” (Canongate; $24), in which the two aspects are neatly divided into twins borne by Mary. The wise Jesus is brother to the shrewd Christ. One leads to the nice Jewish boy, the other to Paul’s scary punitive God. Pullman, a writer of great skill and feeling, as he has shown in his magical children’s fantasies, feels the betrayal of Jesus by his brother Christ as a fundamental betrayal of humanity. He wants us to forget Christ and return to Jesus alone, to surrender miracles for morals. Pullman’s book, however, is not narrowly polemical; he also retells the parables and acts with a lucid simplicity that strips away the Pauline barnacles. His real achievement is to translate Jesus’ sayings into a simple, almost childlike English that would seem to have much of the sound we are told is present in the artless original Greek: “Those who make peace between enemies, those who solve bitter disputes—they will be blessed. . . . But beware, and remember what I tell you: there are some who will be cursed, who will never inherit the Kingdom of God. D’you want to know who they are? Here goes: Those who are rich will be cursed.”
If one thing seems clear from all the scholarship, though, it’s that Paul’s divine Christ came first, and Jesus the wise rabbi came later. This fixed, steady twoness at the heart of the Christian story can’t be wished away by liberal hope any more than it could be resolved by theological hair-splitting. Its intractability is part of the intoxication of belief. It can be amputated, mystically married, revealed as a fraud, or worshipped as the greatest of mysteries. The two go on, and their twoness is what distinguishes the faith and gives it its discursive dynamism. All faiths have fights, but, as MacCulloch shows at intricate, thousand-page length, few have so many super-subtle shadings of dogma: wine or blood, flesh or wafer, one God in three spirits or three Gods in one; a song of children, stables, psalms, parables, and peacemakers, on the one hand, a threnody of suffering, nails, wild dogs, and damnation and risen God, on the other. The two spin around each other throughout history—the remote Pantocrator of Byzantium giving way to the suffering man of the Renaissance, and on and on.
It is typical of this conundrum that, in the past century, the best Christian poet, W. H. Auden, and the greatest anti-Christian polemicist, William Empson, were exact contemporaries, close friends, and, as slovenly social types, almost perfectly interchangeable Englishmen. Auden chose Christianity for the absolute democracy of its vision—there is, in it, “neither Jew nor German, East nor West, boy nor girl, smart nor dumb, boss nor worker.” Empson, in the same period, beginning in the fatal nineteen-forties, became the most articulate critic of a morality reduced “to keeping the taboos imposed by an infinite malignity,” in which the reintroduction of human sacrifice as a sacred principle left the believer with “no sense either of personal honour or of the public good.” (In this case, though, where Auden saw a nice Christ, Empson saw a nasty Jesus.)
Beyond the words, we still hear that cry. The Passion is still the point. In Mark, Jesus’ arrest and execution feels persuasively less preordained and willed than accidental and horrific. Jesus seems to have an intimation of the circumstance he has found himself in—leading a rebellion against Rome that is not really a rebellion, yet doesn’t really leave any possibility of retreat—and some corner of his soul wants no part of it: “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take away this cup from me.” Mel Gibson was roughed up for roughing up Jesus, in his “Passion of the Christ,” but, though Gibson can fairly be accused of fanaticism, he can’t be accused of unfairness: in the long history of human cruelty, crucifixion, practiced as a mass punishment by the Romans, was uniquely horrible. The victim was stripped, in order to be deprived of dignity, then paraded, then whipped bloody, and then left to die as slowly as possible in as public a manner as conceivable. (In a sign of just how brutal it was, Josephus tells us that he begged the Roman rulers for three of his friends to be taken off the cross after they had spent hours on it; one lived.) The victim’s legs were broken to bring death in a blaze of pain. And the corpse was generally left to be eaten by wild dogs. It was terrifying and ever-present.
Verhoeven, citing Crossan, offers an opening scene for a Jesus bio-pic which neatly underlines this point. He imagines a man being nailed to a cross, cries of agony, two companion crosses in view, and then we crane out to see two hundred crosses and two hundred victims: we are at the beginning of the story, the mass execution of Jewish rebels in 4 B.C., not the end. This was the Roman death waiting for rebels from the outset, and Jesus knew it. Jesus’ cry of desolation—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—though primly edited out or explained as an apropos quotation from the Psalms by later evangelists, pierces us even now from the pages of Mark, across all the centuries and Church comforts. The shock and pity of failure still resonates.
One thing, at least, the cry assures: the Jesus faith begins with a failure of faith. His father let him down, and the promise wasn’t kept. “Some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God,” Jesus announced; but none of them did. Jesus, and Paul following him, says unambiguously that whatever is coming is coming soon—that the end is very, very near. It wasn’t, and the whole of what follows is built on an apology for what went wrong. The seemingly modern waiver, “Well, I know he said that, but he didn’t really mean it quite the way it sounded,” is built right into the foundation of the cult. The sublime symbolic turn—or the retreat to metaphor, if you prefer—begins with the first words of the faith. If the Kingdom of God proved elusive, he must have meant that the Kingdom of God was inside, or outside, or above, or yet to come, anything other than what the words seem so plainly to have meant.
The argument is the reality, and the absence of certainty the certainty. Authority and fear can circumscribe the argument, or congeal it, but can’t end it. In the beginning was the word: in the beginning, and in the middle, and right there at the close, Word without end, Amen. The impulse of orthodoxy has always been to suppress the wrangling as a sign of weakness; the impulse of more modern theology is to embrace it as a sign of life. The deeper question is whether the uncertainty at the center mimics the plurality of possibilities essential to liberal debate, as the more open-minded theologians like to believe, or is an antique mystery in a story open only as the tomb is open, with a mystery left inside, never to be entirely explored or explained. With so many words over so long a time, perhaps passersby can still hear tones inaudible to the more passionate participants. Somebody seems to have hoped so, once.
Correction, August 13, 2010: Not all the Gospels are named for disciples, as originally stated.