I listened to this lecture series by The Teaching Company called “Lost Christianities” that was about books that weren’t included in the New Testament. (I’m a total Teaching Company junkie, by the way. I highly recommend checking them out.) One of the books that was covered was the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.
Though it isn’t part of the canonized New Testament, the Infancy Gospel was a very popular book in the Middle Ages. The first known quotation of it was from the late second century CE by Irenaeus. It’s a rather strange little book about what can really only be described as the hijinks of Jesus as a child.
Jesus pranks Joseph in the carpentry shop, smites a shocking amount of people (including other kids and his Greek grammar teacher), and pretty much terrifies everyone in town. (All ends well, he resurrects everyone.)
Though a song about smiting and carpentry would undoubtedly be interesting, I was sort of intrigued by another episode in the book. There’s a scene where Jesus is making birds out of clay on the Sabbath, and when one of the villagers calls him out for violating the commandment to do no work on Saturday, he claps his hands and the birds come to life and fly off.
This episode isn’t in any of the books of the New Testament, though interestingly it *is* present in Sura 5 of the Quran.
Always on the lookout for new and unusual subject matter, I decided to use the clay birds story as the basis for a song. I had recently stumbled into a guitar part I liked while experimenting with riffs, diminished chords, and major to relative minor transitions.
In keeping with the religious subject matter, the lyrics incorporate biblical references to Genesis (God forming Adam out of dust and breathing life into him), Matthew (the rending of the veil in the Temple during the crucifixion), and John (water flowing from Jesus’s side after he’s stabbed on the cross).
We debuted Clay Pigeons at Orlando Brewing on January 27th. I was apprehensive about it; my guitar part is a little bit unforgiving, the vocal entrances are tricky, and the chord structures are relatively complicated. It came out pretty well, though, and I’m looking forward to getting it into the live rotation.
I actually am not sure why I called the song Clay Pigeons; in the Infancy Gospel they were sparrows. If I had to do it over again, I would probably have gone with Clay Puffins, because puffins are awesome.