Meet the new Pope. Same as the old Pope.
I should care, being half catholic, but he seems to be a short Pope, I imagine there will another one before I go. I’m more concerned about who is going to be the next Chelsea manager as I’m pretty sure my turn is coming around.
From the ages of five to sixteen I had a RI (or RS or RE) lesson at least once a week, I went to a C of E primary school, for a while spent Saturday mornings engaged in Catholic lessons and at Grammar school we had prayers and hymns every morning, I can still recite The Lord’s Prayer (if pushed).
However, I’ve not read the book. I’ve read parts of it at school, I once invited in some Mormons (it was summer holidays and I was bored), and the Christmas and Easter stories are quite well known. When I left primary school we were given a choice of a dictionary or a bible as a leaving gift. The dictionary is still on the bookshelf; I have picked up a Bible along the way, at some point I was given a Gideon at Grammar school.
In the eighties, I read the ‘Controversial International Bestseller’ The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail. Fascinating. It had a delightful conspiracy theory, Jesus had a wife, she was pregnant, escaped to Europe and since then a secret organisation has kept this secret (for what purpose is never make clear). When I read Dan Brown’s famous book years later, the blurb on the back sparked a memory, a few chapters in I stopped and picked up Holy Blood and read it again before finishing The Da Vinci Code. Not being a crossword person I missed the anagrams but Brown had taken the basic premise of Holy Blood and created a fictional thriller, much maligned, but an interesting diversion on a wet Sunday afternoon.
Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln followed up Holy Blood with the ‘Controversial Sequel’ The Messianic Legacy, a much dryer book, it lacked the ‘Holy Grail’ sensationalism that will grab the headlines as Dan Brown and Monty Python have shown.
However, the sections of Holy Blood that I found most interesting were the ‘factual’ parts. The genealogy of various religions, the putting together of the New Testament. It was the first time I thought about The Bible as a book, a book that had been assembled from various sources. What’s amusing about the criticism of Holy Blood and Da Vinci is that they both keep the fundamental, basic belief that Jesus existed, that he was the Son of God; they just propose that he had more of a life than we had previously been allowed to know about.
I have to declare an interest: I’m a born-again Atheist. I read these books from an outsider’s viewpoint. Do I believe in God? No. Did Jesus exist? Probably. Did he have a family? More than likely, and if a small percentage of us are related to Genghis Khan.…
The Bible is always quoted as the World’s most printed/sold/read book. It does have an unfair advantage; it has a good few hundred years headstart on Dickens and Brown and Mr Gideon is still giving away free copies. Somebody should make a film of it.