Jesus CYOA

Jesus CYOA January 13, 2020

I’ve explored the possibility of making a historical Jesus role playing game before. But what about a Jesus “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel? This came up in a conversation about what might have happened if Jesus had not died by crucifixion – whether because he lived to old age in his own time, or was “disappeared” in the U.S.S.R. during the Communist era, or was assassinated in the U.S. today. That led to a raising of the possibility of a CYOA exploration of the story of Jesus, in which his choices and other possibilities are explored.

I think the very act of thinking about this (which will be unsettling for some) draws attention to something important. For many, the story of Jesus simply could not have unfolded somehow else. That assumption is directly responsible for the unwillingness of many conservative Christians to think about other views of who Jesus was, what he did, or what the Bible is. If everything isn’t predetermined, the whole edifice of their worldview comes crashing down. And yet a close inspection by an outsider shows that isn’t the case. They may say that light rain in Australia is sent by God, but balk at blaming God for the bushfires.

But at any rate, do you think it might be interesting to try to identify pivot points, key junctures in the life of Jesus when, if he had made different choices, things could have turned out differently? Even within a conservative theological framework, unless one denies his humanity, the temptation in the wilderness, the proposal by the disciples that he call down fire from heaven, and a few other key moments could be explored in this way. But in a moderate, liberal, or secular setting a wider array of possibilities present themselves. Exploring the path Jesus took as involving choices he made as a human being is less common than it should be, even among those who accept (at least in theory) his genuine humanity.

Could this be interesting? What moments would you want included as decisive branches in the story? What alternative paths through the story do you imagine might result?

Vaguely related (with much more directly related things at the very end):

The Resurrection of Jesus: Part 1 The Gospels Stories; Part 2 The Duncical Disciples

The disciples and why Jesus wasn’t a ghost or zombie

Living in Resurrection

Andrew Perriman on temptations, history, and theology

Does Isaiah 53 Predict Jesus’ Suffering and Death?

Previously on this blog, I mentioned the Babylon Bee’s spoof piece about a Choose Your Own Adventure Bible.

Choose Your Own Adventure Bible

And there is an apparently real project that doesn’t seem to have gotten off the ground…


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  • I mean, that’s the primary premise of “The Last Temptation of Christ.” I think it’s very interesting to speculate what might have happened under different circumstances or even other time periods. In my opinion, those exercises tend to underscore how very first century Jewish the historical Jesus was and why what he was trying to accomplish worked when it did.

    This is, in my opinion, a serious problem for the vanilla evangelical story of Jesus. Because it “transcends history,” it could have happened at literally any time, anywhere, any culture and still got the job done. It could have happened right after Adam and Eve.

  • Timothy Weston

    The best “What if” would have been about Jesus stripping Satan of his power right at the temptation of the kingdoms of the world. Jesus could have done that without giving reverence to Satan.

  • Choices I want to see …
    When Jesus was a little boy, if a neighbor kid made fun of him for any reason, is Jesus tempted to use his powers on that kid somehow?
    When Jesus is tempted by Satan in the wilderness … what if he decides, having free will, to ACCEPT Satan’s offer?
    What if Jesus chooses NOT to go on the road and preach, at age 30-something, but stays in Nazareth as a carpenter and eventually inherits the family carpentry shop?
    What if Jesus travels and preaches, but chooses NOT to oreach to any non-Jew (the Samaritan woman, the Syrophoenician woman, etc.)
    What if Jesus, seeing the fruitless fig-tree, decides NOT to destroy he tree, but immediately makes it miraculously have ripe figs?
    What if Jesus chooses to marry and have children?
    When Jesus is crucified, what if he decides NOT to resurrect?

    What if some choices are offered to people who are NOT Jesus, in this story?
    What if Pontius Pilate decides to listen to Mrs. Pilate’s dream and cancel the crucifixion of this eccentric carpenter-turned-rabbi, so Pilate crucifies Barabbas instead, and Jesus lives till a ripe old age?
    Or … what if, decades earlier, Herod’s soldiers choose to do a really good search-job on the road to Egypt, so they find (and kill) baby Jesus? Is the death of Jesus-as-an-infant still, according to Christian premises, redemptive? If not, why not? (Play this two ways: /1/ baby Jesus chooses to resurrect after three days, or /2/ he chooses not to).
    Or … what if, earlier than that, Joseph repudiated Mary when he learned she was pregnant?
    Or … what if, earlier than THAT, when the angel comes to Mary, she just says “No”?

    • Wow, these are great! The one with his childhood could feature stories from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas that explore that very topic!

  • Far from “never having gotten off the ground,” the book “You Are The Messiah” has been published! https://www.amazon.com/Messiah-Choose-Choice-Books-Book-ebook/dp/B004KKXSCI/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=you+are+the+messiah&qid=1578958862&s=digital-text&sr=1-1