12 JÉSUS IN ART AND LITERATURE 2 “Scripture” or “the Scriptures” designate for the Jews and on the lips of Jesus himself “the Law and the Prophets,” in other words, the set of books of Jewish traditions reputed to have been inspired by God. Composed by human beings, these books reveal that history has a direction and a meaning: this is Revelation. This meaning would be defined by the Covenant between God’s plan and human freedom. When Christians added the books of the New Testament to this corpus, which from then on was called the Old Testament, they constituted the Bible, usually called “Sacred Scripture.” 3 For the Jews, the Torah, the Law, is not only the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) but the entirety of the first five books that would make up the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Thus the Torah collects not only hundreds of laws and commandments, but also historical accounts that make up the inspired history of the Covenant between God and his people, Israel. 4 Name of the “chosen people” made up of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which they kept until around the sixth century b.c. Then others started to call them “the Jewish people.” Most certainly the young Jesus attended the regular assemblies that were held in the family circles and in the synagogues, where the people prayed, chanted the psalms, read, and commented on the Scriptures.2 His future talents as a preacher and his profound knowledge of the Torah,3 the prophetic books, and the wisdom literature may suggest that he received instruction from the reputable scribes and masters, who were well-versed in the subtle debates about Scripture. However, the Gospel accounts, reporting the words of the firsthand witnesses of his childhood, lead us to suppose rather that this was not the case: Where did this man learn all this? Where does his knowledge come from? they exclaimed in astonishment (Mk 13:54). AT THE AGE OF THIRTY, JESUS LEFT HIS CARPENTER’S SHOP Having reached his full maturity, around the age of thirty, Jesus left both Galilee and the carpenter’s shop that he had taken over fromhis father, so as towithdraw to the desert of Judea. Many ascetics had gone there before him, and some were living in communities near the western shores of the Dead Sea. Further to the north, on the bank of the Jordan, Jesus found a renownedpreacher, his cousin John, nicknamed the Baptist, who repeated the warnings of the great prophets of Israel and proclaimed the imminent coming of the kingdom of God, “the kingdom of heaven.” John practiced an unheard-of ritual of individual baptism, administered as a sign of cleansing from sin to anyone who had resolved to make a radical conversion of life by way of repentance. For Jesus, the desert experience did not stop there. In the same spirit as the “crossing of the desert” accomplished by the Hebrews4—his ancestors liberated from slavery in Egypt under the leadership of Moses, whose wanderings lasted for forty years before they entered into the Promised Land—he stayed there for forty days, praying and fasting. He alsowent through a series of trials thatmade himendure the sum total of human temptations in a moving combat against all the forces of evil mobilized against him in the name of Satan, the “devil” or the “tempter.” Foreseeing the end of his power over humanity because one man brushed off all his seductions, the tempter finally retreated so as to prepare the final battle, this one to the death, with authority over the world at stake. At the conclusion of his retreat in the desert, Jesus returned to Galilee. Definitively setting aside his professional tasks, he gathered a few disciples and started to travel through the region, preaching “the Gospel of God” (evaggelion in Greek, in other words, “Good News”). Speaking to audiences that soon grew as his reputation spread, he developed the major theme of the kingdom of heaven; John the Baptist, his precursor, had correctly grasped its pivotal function. Jesus, for his part, no longer spoke of imminence but of actual presence: “The kingdom of heaven is in your midst,” he repeated wherever he went. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek, for they shall conquer the earth. Blessed are the sorrowing, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are those who forgive, for they shall be forgiven. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. With this proclamation (cf. Mt 5:3-12), in which all is paradox yet there is no contradiction, Jesus opened a programmatic discourse addressed to an immense crowd that had flocked to him from all parts to this high place in Galilee. The building up of the kingdom of heaven advocated by Jesus is fundamentally interior. In order to change the world, it must first take place in the heart of man, on the ruins of everything that causes his unhappiness: the desire for riches, power, and pleasure, with their corollaries: theft, deceit, injustice, violence, murder. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the law of sin that drags