Monday, 24 March 2008

What happened next?

A couple of weeks ago my son, out of the blue, asked me what happened to the disciples after the death of Jesus. I took a deep breath and burbled something about Judas supposedly killing himself and Peter going to Rome and then, very quickly, my reservoir of knowledge went horribly dry.

I am amazed at how little I know about the details of the background to the New Testament and of the history of the early church. I would feel horribly ignorant were it not for the fact that hardly anyone else I know has a better grasp of it all.

As chance would have it, there was a documentary about this very subject last night on Channel 4 - who was at the Last Supper and what happened to them. It was called The Secrets of the Twelve Disciples. It was fascinating and at two hours long, pretty detailed. A nice addition to the other documentaries over the Easter period - one about the Lost Gospels and another about the Turn Shroud. It was presented by a theologian - Dr Robert Beckford - and whilst he did not question the Gospels themselves or their authorship, he did question whether Peter really was buried in Rome, whether James went to Spain, whether there were female disciples and introduced (to me anyway) the wonderful notion of Thomas sailing to India to set up a community of Christians there.

Unfortunately it resulted in a rather heated exchange when John Clark who I share a studio with and Judith, his partner, (who took the photograph of me on this page) stopped in after we'd walked to Grantchester. Neither John nor I really knew what we were talking about and so of course we simply became louder and louder until the kitchen started to rattle.

We had a wide-ranging ill-informed theological debate about the veracity of the Gospels, the historical Jesus, religion in schools. Shakespeare popped in at one point. So did Franco and Mussolini. So did the relative merits of football and rugby (John is an ex rugby player). It was that kind of argument.

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