Man & Boy

Esquire (UK) - - Giles Coren -

“No he wasn’t. There isn’t a God. Ask Mummy. Or Daddy.”

“You’re not go­ing to go to heaven!”

“I don’t want to go to heaven. Heaven is bor­ing. I’m go­ing to the Elysian Fields.”

“Dad! Tell Kitty that Je­sus is the Son of God and the Ro­mans are bad­dies.”

And so, rather sooner than planned, came the mo­ment when I had to ex­plain that the Bi­ble, like many books, and like a lot of an­cient his­tory too, is full of ex­cel­lent sto­ries that can be con­sid­ered “true” with­out nec­es­sar­ily al­ways be­ing based in “fact”. And that some parts of it are truer than oth­ers. And that it is our job as read­ers to de­cide what is and what isn’t. (In later dis­cus­sions, Sam would de­cide, for ex­am­ple, that some­body a bit like Moses prob­a­bly did lead the Is­raelites out of Egypt, but that, on bal­ance, Jonah prob­a­bly was not swal­lowed by a gi­ant fish.)

And then I tried qui­etly to move Sam’s at­ten­tion away from the New Tes­ta­ment to­wards the Old, be­cause I’ve al­ways thought the sto­ries were bet­ter and ought to ap­peal to a boy more than the girly, turn-the-oth­ercheek­ery of the New. But also be­cause Sam, whom I cir­cum­cised and named af­ter his ortho­dox Jewish grand­fa­ther, is Jewish. Kind of. Just like I sort of am. And the Old Tes­ta­ment is our Bi­ble. Sort of. Oh, I don’t know. It’s all kind of con­fused. I just wasn’t quite ready for my son to be an ac­tual Chris­tian.

So I read to him about the Cre­ation and Noah’s Ark and Sam­son killing Philistines with the jaw­bone of an ass and… “Is Je­sus in any of th­ese?” Sam asked.

“No,” I told him.

“I love Je­sus,” he said.

“That’s lovely, Sam, but in the Old Tes­ta­ment there are gi­ants and lions and whales and great bat­tles!”

“What gi­ants?”

So I read him the story of David and Go­liath. “A cy­clops could so kill Go­liath! And David!” shouted Kitty from down the hall. I told her to hush.

“Is that true, Dad?” asked Sam.

“Ac­tu­ally, no. I’m pretty sure David could take down a cy­clops.”

“See!” shouted Sam, run­ning up to Kitty and stick­ing his tongue out and go­ing, “Nyah nyah nyah!” When he came and sat down again he said, “Dad?”

“Yes, son?”

“What about the Hulk? Could the Hulk beat Go­liath?” “Well, now. I guess he could, yes.”

“And Dad?”

“Yes, Sam?”

“Could David kill the Hulk?”

“Um. Well, I think the orig­i­nal Hulk from the Six­ties, as first con­ceived by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, would prob­a­bly have been vul­ner­a­ble to a sling­shot, yes. But the one in th­ese Avengers movies, who can knock down sky­scrapers and jump into space, he’d prob­a­bly give a small Jewish boy some trou­ble.”

“Ex­cept that David would have God on his side.” “True, Sam. That’s what the story is about.”

“So God could smash the Hulk?”

“Yep.”

“Could he smash Su­per­man?”

“Yes, he could smash him, too.”

“Could he smash all the Jus­tice League and the Avengers put to­gether?”

“With­out break­ing a sweat, Sammy.”

“And Dad?”

“Yes, boy?”

“What about Je­sus? Could Je­sus beat the Hulk?” “Hmm, Je­sus I’m less of an ex­pert on. I guess pos­si­bly not.”

“Well, ac­tu­ally he could, Dad. Be­cause Je­sus is not just the son of God. He is God.”

“Is that so?” I asked Sam, in gen­uine puz­zle­ment. Be­cause, as a Jew, sort of, I have never quite got to grips with the whole three-in-one thing.

“Yes, it is,” ex­plained Sam. “So Je­sus could def­i­nitely smash the Avengers and the Jus­tice League with only his lit­tle fin­ger.”

“Right you are, Sam. If you say so.”

“Ex­cept you know what?”

“What?”

“He wouldn’t. He would just be nice to them. And then they’d all have tea. And Dad?”

“Yes, son?”

“That’s why I love Je­sus.”

‘Dad, so Je­sus could def­i­nitely smash the Avengers and the Jus­tice League with only his lit­tle fin­ger.’

‘Right you are, Sam. If you say so’

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