Jesus Christ: The Fandom

Jim Macdonald at Making Light has a looong post summarizing early Christian history and the formation of the canon using the analogy of a modern fandom:

Way back when, there was a popular show called Jesus of Nazareth. Unfortunately it was canceled by the network after just three seasons, leaving behind a small but very devoted fandom. The fandom spread. Some of the fans told and retold all the episodes of the show that they had seen. Others copied out samizdat versions of the tie-in novels. Yet others wrote original fanfic.


Back to the Bible: lots of Christian fic out there. By the time you got to a copy of a copy of a retelling of a conflation it was getting hard to figure out what had been an episode of the show and what was someone’s AU RPF.

It works surprisingly well. One of the problems when dealing with then Bible is that the form we have it in now – a single neatly organized book – is that we forget the complicated process that created it. It gives the thing a solidity and an authority that a more diffuse medium would lack. As Alan Jacobs put it, “The Church does not possess a series of little books — ta biblia — but something singular and utterly unified: The Book, God’s Book. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is also the God of Jesus Christ. Such books say all that just by being.”

The fanfic analogy let’s us break that up and see the various communities involved and how they pushed against each other. I tried to get at some of this before using the fandom metaphor in my Biblical Fanon post. Macdonald’s treatment is a lot more extensive, and from someone who obviously has more experience in fandom that I have.

About the only thing he leaves out is the inevitable fan wank over pairings. Honestly, the whole Mary/Joseph/God love triangle has been done to death, and when is the last time someone did something new with the identity of the “Disciple Whom Jesus Loved”? And I can’t be the only one who wants to see more Peter/James parings, can I?

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