Since the age of the document is no longer in any question, translators and religious scholars have been hard at work assessing the content of the now-famous tome. Being no stranger to the Christian religion myself (we were introduced at a party in Kent fifteen years ago), I decided to look at The Gospel According to Richard, and see what I could deduce myself.
The Gospel is quite small when compared to many of the other books of the Old and New Testaments, but what it lacks in size, it gains in clarity. It mainly features Richard outlining his devotion to God, such as in the most widely quoted segment, which appears several times:
And God spoke unto Richard, “How do I know you will continue to worship Me?”The Gospel According to Richard, Chapter 2, verses 1-9
And Richard spoke unto God, “My Lord, I just want to tell you what I am feeling. I have got to make you understand, for you are the Lord, my God.
I am never going to give you up.
I am never going to let you down.
I am never going to run around, nor will I ever desert you.
I will not give you reason to weep.
I will not say goodbye.
And I will never bear false witness
And hurt you.”
This section, which has influenced many people since the new gospel was unearthed, is very powerful. Indeed, the first time I read it to my cat, she was moved to tears. And my cat has been dead since I was a child. Such is the potency of these verses.
This main message of Richard’s Gospel seems to be that Richard is pointing out that religion is a two-way street, that if God scratches my back, I’ll scratch his. Or I would, if he was corporeal. Consider the opening chapter of the Gospel:
Richard spoke unto to God,The Gospel According to Richard, Chapter 1, verses 1-5
“We’re no strangers to theological devotion.
You know the commandments and so do I.
A full commitment is what I am thinking.
You would not get this from any other religious follower.”
With a message so full of love and devotion, it is a shame that much of this book is damaged. Water damage seems to have been the cause of much of the ink running in this manuscript, leading to a section consisting of nothing but “Never going to give. Never going to give. Never going to give you up.”, repeated for several pages.
Theologians who question the veracity of this as a genuine Biblical book mostly refer to Chapter 5, verse 2, in which Richard says to God, “…don’t tell me that you are too blind to see it.” The nay-sayers quote this as theological balderdash, given that God is omniscient, or all seeing. Referring to Him as ‘blind’ constitutes a gross underestimation of His powers. The true believers counter with the argument that this verse should not be taken literally, that Richard is showing an early appreciation of irony, or that he is indicating that he knows that God is testing him, and by accusing Him of blindness he is having a joke at God’s expense. That wouldn’t be something I’d necessarily do myself, but there’s nowt as queer as folk, as my Mum would always say.
Indeed, The Gospel According to Richard is a goldmine for anyone interested in the apocryphal books of the Bible and the history of the Christian religion. From the opening verses (quoted above) to the final line (“And Richard spoke unto God: “Lord, call me ‘Rick’. It’s less formal, you see”), this contains lots of interesting things for theologians to ponder upon.
At least until we unearth Richard’s follow-up Gospel, Together Forever (With God).