Stephen Scobie, Gospel

I was prompted to read this book, finally, after three years of seeing it on my shelf, by a friend's coming out about the depth of her atheism. I'm casually out myself, have been for years, but it has never been the cause for me it's becoming for her.

In spite of my atheism, though, the challenge of belief, especially Christian belief given the riven nature of Christ (divine/human), fascinates me, and that's why I continue to pick up books like Stephen Scobie's Gospel. That's additionally true when it's contemporary verse; I don't read testimony.

Two things about this long poem make it something I'll come back to again: Scobie's decision to focus on the young Christ's relationship with Joseph, his father-not-Father, and the (there's no other word for it) loveliness of its lines.

An example. When the young Christ loses track of time while debating scripture in the Temple, and his parents come looking for him, worried at his long absence, Christ is surprised by their worry: "'It's all right,' I said, 'don't you know / I must attend to my father's business?'" Meaning God, of course, but the boy's allegiance to Joseph is strong, and he hurts Joseph with that word "father." These lines are among the ones that will keep me coming back:

It just slipped out, immediately
I wanted it back. Joseph was stunned,
the hurt like a hammer all over his face,
he turned away, stepped back, looked anywhere
for somewhere to go. And all my heart
went aching after him, and followed him

another twenty years. (p.13)

And then much later the kindness of wanting to tell the soldier nailing his hand to the cross that he's holding the hammer wrong, will hurt his back. As I say, lovely.

(Scobie, Stephen. Gospel. Red Deer, Alberta: Red Deer College Press, 1994.)


Anonymous said…
this sounds beautiful

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