Alpha Course Redux: Week #6

I almost didn’t make it this week. My job has been keeping me busy late into the evening lately, though hopefully that’ll be ending soon. In any case, I missed out on both dinner and the video, but the small group chat more than made up for that bit of disappointment. Finally, we hit on a few meaty subjects!

Apparently, the video was about why and how we should read the Bible. Our discussion leader (who I’ll call “T” for simplicity’s sake) started the chat by mentioning that when the Bible says that scripture is god-breathed or inspired by God, it wasn’t talking about the whole Bible, because the whole Bible didn’t exist yet. He talked about how it wasn’t originally written in English, or even in Hebrew, but that the modern Tanakh is 99.9% faithful to the original copies. Never mind that I pointed out that there aren’t any originals still in existence, or that this wouldn’t be proof that the stories told therein were true; he insisted that we had 3,000-year-old copies, and the modern ones are faithful to those, ignoring any possibility that transmission of the stories prior to that might not have been so faithful. He said that people had been copying the Tanakh since 2500 BCE. For what it’s worth, Wikipedia actually pegs the oldest fragment as writing on a good luck charm that is close but not identical to Numbers 6:24-27, dating to around 600 BCE, and the oldest extant near-complete manuscript as dated to 920 CE. It also says that the Torah (the first five books of the Tanakh) were written somewhere between 140 and 2000 BCE (depending on whether you go by a severely skeptical viewpoint, typical scholarly viewpoints, traditional viewpoints, or fringe viewpoints); in any case, this means we didn’t have any 3,000-year-old copies and there certainly weren’t any rabbis copying the Tanakh in 2500 BCE.

Oh, well… I didn’t whip out Wikipedia while I was sitting there. I think I might have to mention this next week.

He then launched into a bizarre, lengthy discussion of the kind of materials writing implements used in the ancient world to copy the Bible… I really have no idea why he brought it up. After this point, I don’t believe he said another true thing about the Bible. I don’t think he was intentionally deceiving us, but I do believe he was woefully misinformed – which is interesting, because he’s an ordained minister of the Church of England.

For example, he claimed that archaeologists have found the remains of the Egyptian army that was drowned by God as the Israelites were escaping from slavery in the Exodus – specifically, that they’d found armor, metal horse bridles, and pieces of chariot wheels at the bottom of the Sea of Reeds. I’ve actually seen this claim promoted widely on Christian ‘scientific’ websites, but the fact of the matter is that this “discovery” was made by a man named Ron Wyatt, who was “a colorful and controversial amateur archeologist who claimed to have found Noah’s ark, the Biblical Ark of the Covenant, the location of Sodom And Gomorrah, the Tower of Babel, the true site of Mt. Sinai, the true site of the crucifixion of Jesus, and the original stones of the Ten Commandments.” Urban legends websites classify the claim (among all of his others) as “unproven” because Wyatt never actually produced the goods. Even the creationist nutters at Answers in Genesis, of Creation Museum fame, have called Wyatt’s claims fraudulent.

What’s more, T claimed that these discoveries were made in Lake Timsah, which is apparently marshy and only about 3 feet deep in most places. Wyatt himself claimed to have made the discoveries in the actual Red Sea, even though (as T noted) ‘Red Sea’ is considered a mistranslation of ‘Reed Sea.’ So not only do we have a likely nonexistent discovery, but it would’ve been in the wrong place – not to mention that mainstream academics debate whether anything like the Exodus actually ever took place at all, and most archaeologists have abandoned the archaeological investigation of Moses and the Exodus as “a fruitless pursuit.”

But let’s move on. Next up, he claimed that the first gospels date to 39 CE, just six years after the death of Jesus. In fact, the book of Mark, which is generally agreed to be the oldest of the New Testament books, dates to shortly after 70 CE. Not to mention that there’s dispute as to when Jesus himself was actually born, which T didn’t seem to know about.

Finally, fully 16 minutes into our hour-long discussion, our leader asked us our first question – have we ever read the Bible, and if so, how did it go for us?

J (the gentleman who argued against atheistic morality back in week 2) said that when he reads the Bible, unless he’s “in tune spiritually” (whatever that means), it just comes across as dry “factual knowledge” – that is, he doesn’t derive any comfort, inspiration, or guidance from it. He has to try to personalize it and see how it applies to his life if he wants to get anything out of it. A woman (whose name I honestly don’t know, so I’ll just call her “A”) said that for a long time, when she used to read it, it just felt like a novel to her, until she decided to ask God to show her how to live it. “B” (sure, why not, another alias…) said that he read it cover to cover in his early ‘20s, and he might as well have been reading a Stephen King novel – it didn’t click. But now, B says, he sees the real message of the Bible; a lot of times he’ll be worrying or thinking about something, and he’ll just open the Bible up and God’ll just place the answer in whatever book or chapter he’s opened to. T said he used to find the Bible “dry as dust”, and that he wasn’t interested in it for years, but when he was given the NIV translation as a gift, he was surprised to see that they’d decided to revise it to remove interpolations, later additions, and mistranslations; and all of a sudden, it was a completely different thing, and he really enjoyed it. J remarked on the difference in the language from the florid Victorian English of the King James version, and that there are fundamentalists who insist that “Jesus spoke the King James” – that the KJV is the only “valid” version of the Bible. I mentioned the urban legend about a politician saying that “if the English Language was good enough for the Lord Jesus, it’s good enough for me.”

While going back over my recording of this session, I noticed something that C said (yes… another alias. her name actually starts with ‘B’, but ‘B’ is taken.). She said that she’s only been a Christian for 9 years, and that she’d never read the Bible before becoming one. I can’t help but wonder how she might’ve felt about it had she read it before converting – before that assumption that it’s the word of God was wedged into her mind. I’m also slightly dismayed at the thought of someone assuming a religious identity without knowing much of anything about the book the faith is based on.

C said that the first time she ever felt that God as speaking to her through the Bible was when she came to church one day with a sense of impending doom, opened up the Bible at random, and landed on Jeremiah 29:11:

“… For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. …”

C said that she got such a sense of peace from this that she knew it must’ve been God talking to her.

Finally, I broke my silence. I asked C, “When you say he speaks to you, what do you actually mean?”

C: I feel that… oh, that’s hard to explain. Like, I just feel like… when I read scripture, or … but he just… well, it’s hard to explain, but I just feel that he speaks to me and, um…

A: All her anxiety was washed away –

C: Washed away; I knew it was God.

A: – And she felt that that was just what she needed at that moment.

C: Yeah, and I knew it was the Lord speaking to me through the Word.

(In other words, you read something you find comforting and inspirational, and it resonates with the way you’re feeling. Sure. I get that all the time, from non-religious literature.)

B: Well, you’re talking about God speaking through scripture, but it’s also happened in other ways for me. Like when I was coming here, almost a year ago Christmas, one of the things that kept me coming back was that each week I would come and I would have a specific thing that was eating at me, or a question that I had, and the pastor would answer that in the message.

A: He’s anointed.

B: And I’d walk out saying “wow,” and then I’d come back next week with something different, and whammo, same thing; the pastor would answer that in his message. How does that happen week after week? Well, I thought, this just happens every week, and –

A: It’s not just you; it’s surprising the number of people who come out and say, “well, that was all for me.”

C: That man is anointed. Every week! I tell you, that man is anointed, in such a big way.

(I’m not sure what they meant by ‘anointed’, honestly; I assumed it just meant ‘chosen by God to preach.’ In any case, what they’re describing is exactly how a horoscope works. The preacher writes a generic inspirational message, you try to figure out how it applies in your life, and presto change-o, you’ve got a message “all for you.”)

C: Another way that I feel the Lord’s speaking to me is – I’m in a women’s journey group…

(not sure what that is…)

C: and we follow the lectionary every week. And when we come together, we might sometimes share something that happened to us during the week. Sometimes we’ve picked the same scripture, but I could read something and not really see it, but then something could happen two weeks or a month from now, and the Lord will remind me of that scripture that I read, and I didn’t even really think I really took it in. Ways like that is how he works with me. And if I’m going through something… I’m always going through something! But I go back on his word and his promises, and just try to find peace within that.

(So things pop into your mind that you weren’t thinking about… and you look for comforting words in a religious text… and that’s how God speaks to you? Seems mighty shaky.)

A: That happens in our journey group, too. There are so many scriptures because it’s a whole week long of reading, but maybe two or three of us each week will choose the same scripture to write about, but it’s a totally different way that they read it, how it applied to their life. And I know even in my own life, the age that I’m at – because I’ve been reading the Bible for a long time – I’ll read scriptures over again and it’ll mean something totally different to me. That’s what so fascinates me about the Bible; that even with all the mistakes made in the translation, God still could use those even when they’re mistakes, through people’s hearts and through their minds and through the Holy Spirit.

T: Yeah. It’s still God-breathed, the inspired word.

B: Couldn’t God’s message be kind of like an inkblot test? When you hold up an inkblot to different people: “That’s a giraffe!” “No, that’s an evergreen tree!” “No, I think that’s a bicycle.” So they all see something different, and they get something different out of it. Different people come to church and it speaks to them differently.

(So, wait, does it have a consistent message or not? Is it true at all times in all situations or not? If it means so many different things to different people, then does it say things that are inspirational and true, or just inspirational?)

J: A lot of times, things will happen, and I’ll get all flustered, or for some reason I’ll be upset or worried, and the Lord will just take me back, and all of a sudden I’ll remember something from scripture, and it’s like, “oh, okay, all right. Now I get it.” And he puts it in perspective for me.

B: There’s all different ways that you can go with the Bible. Like, when it rains and rains and rains, I know that God’s not gonna flood the earth, because he says he’s not gonna do that again. And… his covenant… that’s why the rainbow’s… he said the rainbow is for us… to remind him that he’s not gonna destroy the earth with a flood again. In so many different ways you can go back to the Bible and it’s just promises, so whether he’s speaking to you directly and personally… I just go back in the book again.

(Oh dear.)

I spoke up again.

Me: As an outsider here, I’m curious. The things you’re saying about the inspiration you get from reading the Bible, and how you feel it’s speaking to you – it’s the same sort of thing that a Muslim might say about the Koran. Because it confirms their belief for them, to be reading this other book, and they have the same experiences where they’re just going through their daily lives and something pops up in their mind that reminds them of their scripture. What do you think about that?

B: You can worship four-leaf clovers, and if you’re dedicated enough, you’ll believe you get a message from a four-leaf clover. But the difference is, I think, you actually do get a message from God with the Bible. I mean, that sounds obviously prejudicial, but, you know…

Me: Well, they’d say the same thing about the Koran, though.

C: If you’re a person of the Muslim faith, you say, well, wait a minute, I can say the same thing, but we as Christians believe in the word of God, so therefore it means something to us and … it’s faith.

Me: Honestly, I get the same sort of inspiration from reading non-religious books also. There’ll be times where I’m reading from something and there’s a message that the author’s trying to convey that really strikes a chord with me.

T: You get inspiration.

Me: Yeah.

J: You know, Buddhists believe this, Muslims believe that, and they’re all very sincere, and a lot of people in the world don’t have faith because they haven’t heard, or they just don’t get it, or whatever. I think the one thing, which someone told me, Christianity is different than every other religion in the world because of the fact that in no other religion has their prophet or whoever they worship risen physically from the dead.

C: How long ago did the Muslims and all that start?

Me: About 600 AD? I think Islam started somewhere between 500 and 700 AD. And they think Mohammad went into heaven alive, so he didn’t have to rise from the dead.

(total wild guess. I didn’t know exactly when. turns out it was around the early 600s.)

B: The pastor was actually talking about Mohammad last Sunday, and he said that Muslims believe in Jesus Christ; they just don’t believe that he was the son of God – they think that he was a prophet.

Me: Yeah, they don’t believe God could have a son.

B: Yeah, or that that could happen to him if he was God – what happened to him on the cross.

T: I think it’s been 840 years since the death of Mohammad. I remember in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s there was a commemorative stamp from one of the Arab countries celebrating the 800th birthday or something of Mohammad.

(Uhh… Mohammad died in 632.)

Me: With what [J] said, though, for a person who’s not a Christian or a Muslim, it sounds like you’re saying it’s different because of this one specific thing that’s unique to it, and that’s the important thing. But Muslims might say that Islam is the only true religion because Mohammad is God’s only prophet, so that’s what separates it from other religions and that’s the important thing. It might be significant to you that Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead, but for somebody who’s on the outside, it’s just… this is one thing that’s unique to them, and every religion has something that’s unique to them.

(In other words… sure, Christianity’s distinguishing feature is important from a Christian perspective, but from a nonreligious perspective, every religion has distinct features unique to themselves, so we can’t judge one or the other to be true based solely on the fact that it has unique features.)

B: Well, isn’t the common thread of all religions that it’s based on faith? It’s simply what you believe. All religions whether it be Muslim or Christian, you can’t see it. Muslims can’t see their God, and we can’t see God or Jesus standing in front of us. It’s on faith.

(This is why faith isn’t at all useful for figuring out what’s true.)

Me: Of course, for someone on the outside, that doesn’t really help.

B: (laughing) Right, yes. Very good point!

J: I think the difference is someone did claim to have seen him as God in his glory. Not just after he rose from the dead; there’s the Translation on the mount, with Moses and Elijah. That’s a difference, too.

B: So all the people of the world have a choice, and we could be Muslims, we could be Buddhists if we chose. We choose Christianity. We believe that Jesus came and died for us, and he’s the son of the living God, and that’s our belief system. We happen to believe in the right God, by the way!

And then… the real fun began.

C: I work at GE, and we have people from all over the world, and we’re very respectful of all the religions and all the traditions and all that, and we even serve special foods, like on Chinese holidays and all that, but when it comes to our faith, they want to call it the “holiday tree.” You know what I mean? It’s like, we’re respectful of them, we do special things for them, but when it comes to the Christian faith, when it comes to Christians, then it’s a different story.

Me: Well, a Christmas tree doesn’t really have much of a tie to Christianity.

C: Well, but yeah, well, it does in the sense that… I know what you’re saying, but it’s just something that we… it’s a tradition that we as Christians like, and I don’t… I just personally don’t feel that Christians get the respect that we give. And I believe Christians do give a lot – that I know, respect for other religions. I just see that at my workplace and I –

B: Satan is trying to –

C: I deal with it, and we’re so accommodating to the different faiths and religions, and like… we help to get things ready for them, and all that, but when it comes to… you know…

D (yes, it’s the first thing she said!): Well, that’s just like, well, Christmas is coming, and they can no longer say “Merry Christmas,” you know that, right? I do. There’s a lot of places that do not allow their clerks to say “Merry Christmas” anymore.

C: That’s what I’m saying… You… don’t even get me started. Because we’re so… I mean, to be respectful of everybody else’s…

Me: I’ve got to say, those rules are not coming from nonbelievers. Those rules are coming from people who call themselves Christians. Because nonbelievers are like 5% of the population.

C: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

J: No, no, no.

Me: 85% of this country calls itself Christian. They’re not going to be dominated by 15%.

C: Yes, they are.

J: Well, 15% of the people run 85% of the country.

ಠ_ಠ

T: I know where you’re all coming from, but in Britain, we’ve got… I think it’s 40 something percent say they’re Christian, but in fact, there’s only 1% which are Christian. They think that because they’re born in a Christian country – what they feel is a Christian country – well, I’ve done a good thing, I saw someone who’s fallen over, I helped them up; I’m a Christian. That’s the right thing to do. But you could be an atheist and do something kind for someone.

B: Our pastor, two weeks ago in his message, said, “People, when they swear, they don’t say “Oh, Buddha!” “Oh, Mohammad!” They say our lord’s name in vain, and there’s a reason: because Satan is behind it, and Satan is trying to destroy Christianity and the word of God in this world. And that’s why it’s being taken out of the schools, it’s being taken out of – we’re one nation under God, and they’ve stepped right over that.

C: I think I was misunderstood. I’m not saying that… I know there’s a lot of people that call themselves Christians. That’s not the point I’m getting at at all. What I’m getting at is… all the religions that celebrate their holidays. I’m not talking about what they claim to be. They still… I mean, they can say they’re Muslim or whatever or not, but they still celebrate the holiday.

B: Nobody’s messing with their religion.

C: But there’s a lot of disrespect for the Christian holidays from other people. That’s all I’m saying. It’s not about who claims who to be what; that’s not what I’m saying. I know a lot of people who claim to be Christians

(Yes, you poor, pitiful, disrespected Christians… wait, whose holidays do we get off of work again? Are we seriously having this conversation?)

Me: I understand what you’re saying. But the thing is, if you’re upset about not being able to say Merry Christmas… I mean, you can say it if you want to, but if companies are telling people to say “happy holidays” around a period where there’s more than one holiday… if you’re only saying “Merry Christmas,” you are excluding all the other people. You’re excluding people who celebrate Chanukah, or…

C: Well, do all the other religions celebrate their holiday on that day?

(Please give me a break. This isn’t just about what you say on Christmas. You’re arguing about the whole season.)

Me: Chanukah is about the same time as Christmas, yeah.

C: That’s right… I work at the Jewish Community Center. So I also… we also do things together for each other. They give me Christmas cards, I give them Happy Chanukah cards. And it’s really… that’s a good thing that goes on there, so I get that. And I say, “Happy Chanukah, everybody!” and say, “Merry Christmas, C!” It’s too bad the whole world isn’t like that, but it is what it is, you know?

Me: Well, when I look at companies that have policies that say, “don’t say Merry Christmas to your customers,” I’m not seeing it as an attack on Christianity; I see it as they know that their customers might not all be celebrating Christmas.

C: But the bottom line is that a lot of it is an attack on Christianity. It’s pretty obvious in a lot of it. I’m not saying all of it, but the majority of it is. They don’t tell us at our work that we can’t do that. I mean, I’m in customer service, I deal with about 850 people a day, and I’m always, “Merry Christmas!” And I know a lot of people that aren’t… and they’re like… but… I just see that Christians are the most attacked, and that’s how I feel.

Me: Sure, and the way I see it is… you’re expressing that you feel attacked, but to me it seems like if you don’t get to –

C: Not me personally.

Me: … tell other people to celebrate your holiday, then that’s an attack.

C: I could care less if the people don’t want to celebrate my holiday; they just… I don’t want them to take it away from me. They don’t have to celebrate my holiday. Don’t take it away from me.

B: Bottom line is, December 25, we celebrate the birth of Jesus and during the holiday season, 95% of the people in the stores, in the holiday season, are buying in preparation of the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The vast majority are not doing it for Kwanzaa, they’re not doing it for Chanukah; the vast majority, just by statistical numbers, are doing it in preparation for the morning of December 25 – Christmas. And stores have led the way in taking “Merry Christmas” out and putting “Happy Holidays” in. If they wanna say “Happy Chanukah,” “Happy Kwanzaa,” happy everything else – awesome. I get what you’re saying. But leave Christmas alone. Stop taking it out of things.

Me: Well, if you’re saying “Happy Holidays,” you’re also not saying those other things. So “Happy Holidays” is as much an attack on Kwanzaa, Chanukah… all the others.

B: If I say “Merry Christmas” to somebody the odds are overwhelming I’m going to be addressing someone who believes in Christmas.

Me: Oh, sure.

B: Astronomically high. The very rare person that might be of Jewish faith, that might be of… celebrating Kwanzaa instead – I don’t believe that people that celebrate Kwanzaa are doing that instead of Christmas, I think they do both – but, the odds are I’m not going to be offending someone or addressing someone like that.

(In other words, it’s not Christians making the decision to say Happy Holidays, even though the odds are “astronomically high” that the people you run into at stores will be celebrating Christmas? So you think that the “astronomically low” number of people not celebrating Christmas have somehow convinced a massive majority not to mention their holiday? WHAT?)

Me: Right. I think what I’m trying to say is that if you’re perceiving the “Happy Holidays” thing as an attack on Christianity, then Jews and Muslims and whoever else has a holiday at the same time probably does, too.

B: I think they probably do. I think everybody I’ve ever talked to considers it an attack on Christianity. I’ve heard so many people say that. It’s like, let’s celebrate Chanukah, but then let’s celebrate Christmas, too.

(I’ll wager that the number of non-Christians you know well enough to talk about this sort of thing could be counted on one hand.)

C: I don’t exactly think we need to be respectful of… I mean, we’re not trying to take the happy out of Chanukah; don’t take the merry out of our Christmas! That’s all I’m saying! Just show us the same respect that we’re giving you!

(By insisting that a greeting in the spirit of a nondenominational holiday season is an attack on your religion and yours alone? That’s showing respect?)

J: I think that what a lot of people tend to forget is they’re all related, actually. Christianity, Muslims, and Jewish people. We’re all related by the same ancestry.

B: Adam and Eve.

ayfkm

J: Isaac and Ishmael, Jewish and Muslim, and Christ was Christianity. But they’re all descended from Abraham. My personal belief, I don’t know how Biblical this is, is that God is fair, #1 – I believe he’ll judge people on what they… the light that they have, I think it says somewhere in the Bible, someone says you’re judged according to the light that you have.

(For those of you playing at home, that’s a common phrase used in reference to Luke 12:47-49. The words themselves aren’t in it. It’s in the middle of a lovely little parable about beating slaves.)

J: If somebody’s heard the gospel and says, “nah, don’t want it,” they’ll be judged on it; if they haven’t heard, and they practice faith in God, I believe God will be fair, and that’s all I know. I’m not God; I’m not the judge. But that’s my personal belief. I find one thing interesting that I never saw before. Someone pointed out that Satan worshipers don’t go after Confucianism, Islam, Judaism, any of that; they have a black mass. And why do they have a black mass? Why do they do that? There’s something to be said for that, if you think about it.

(For real? Satanists? When do you even hear about them anymore?)

Me: I don’t know how many of them there are around these days… people who actually worship Satan.

J: Quite a lot.

A: There’s one in this neighborhood!

(Wowzers.)

A short while later, we got back onto the subject of how they believe God speaks to them. I asked:

Me: When the Bible talks about God talking to people, do you think it was different? Like the prophets who heard the voice of the Lord, and God spoke to the people, and all that.

C: I don’t know.

J: I believe at least he spoke through their minds. I’m sure they didn’t make this stuff up, because…

D: If one of them would say it today, we’d make them out to be lunatics, right?

C: Well, I know that the Lord speaks to us through people, too. I know that, and I’ve experienced that, too.

J: It’s like, a lot of the time, some of the prophets, like Samuel, knew about what David did, and Samuel wasn’t even around.

D: I guess my thing is, you guys are all reading this, and he’s [not sure who she meant] saying it was, like… people sat there and talked about it for so many years. Did you ever play ‘Telephone’?

J: Well, originally it had to be word-of-mouth, because they didn’t start writing it down.

The others broke off into a discussion about a sign-up sheet for an ‘Alpha Weekend’ event, while D and I kept talking about the early days of the writing of the Bible. I talked about how when the gospels were finally written, starting around 70 CE, the stories had been passed from person to person for decades already, so it makes sense to assume that they might’ve changed a bit over time. D is a nice lady whose life is very troubled (poor financial situation, little emotional/family support, etc.), and she’s expressing a lot of doubts about what she believes. She seems concerned that the fact that she’s doubting means there’s something wrong with her; I told her that, on the contrary, it’s okay to doubt, and that I think most of the believers in the group would agree that everybody has their doubts throughout their lives and that it’s okay not to be sure about everything.

D: I’m not sure what to believe, but I’m sure I must believe in God. I must, because I keep thinking, if I do something really bad, I’m gonna get struck by lightning.

Me: Oh, no! (We laugh.)

D: You know what I’m saying? So I must believe in some way, or else I wouldn’t think that, right?

Me: I don’t know.

D: Like, is the Lord gonna strike me dead?

Me: Well, people can be pretty superstitious about this whole thing. That’s what the whole “knock on wood” thing is about, too.

D: Oh, well, I do that, too, so maybe I’m just a whackjob! (laughs)

Me: Nah, you’re normal. That’s just being human.

And with that, the discussion ended. I ran into T on the way out, and he threw a little more… good-intentioned misinformation at me:

T: The Koran, the Muslim Koran, I think, is Mohammad’s translation of the Bible, wasn’t it? Because it mentions, um, if you’ve read it, I understand that it’s the same as the Old Testament. They referred to Jesus as a prophet.

(Then how on earth would that be the Old Testament?)

Me: Well, they believe that Jesus was a prophet. The Koran isn’t the Old Testament, no; it’s totally separate. It was supposedly a new testament given by an angel of God to Mohammad in a cave somewhere.

Some way or another we started talking about the differences between the gospels:

Me: Oh, yeah. John is so different from the other three.

T: It is. The synoptic gospels, and then you’ve got John.

Me: It’s a so much more philosophical version of Jesus in that story.

T: Yeah, that’s right. That reminds me, when I was in Britain, I worked for the government – I was an investigation officer for malpractice, I worked with different police forces. And you give evidence. And you could ask a whole room full of people – and you ask them individually, not when they’re together – and they’ll give their own account of what they saw, and each will be the same but it’ll be different. Their own version.

Me: Well, some of the things are pretty different. Like… in the synoptic gospels, in Jesus’ trial with Pilate, he only said a couple of words, but in John he goes through this whole dialogue with Pilate about “what is truth” and that sort of thing.

T: Yeah, that’s right. So you’ve got several variations.

You’ll have to forgive me if I think those two accounts couldn’t be describing the same event. If one person hears nothing and another hears a long dialogue between two people, then either that’s not the same event, or at least one of them is making it up. Not to mention that at this point in the story, Jesus’ disciples had scattered and fled to avoid being arrested with Jesus, and the trial took place in a royal palace. Nobody got in without being noticed. So if you think the gospels are eyewitness accounts, who actually witnessed the trial in the first place? (For that matter, who on earth witnessed Jesus’ birth?)

T eventually also said that the Bible claims there were Greeks on the exodus with the Jews as well. As evidence, he said that in a Greek museum there’s a frieze depicting the Jewish exodus and the Egyptian troops being drowned in the sea. Color me unimpressed…

That’s it for this week. Tune in again for more zany misadventures.

Other weeks:
Week 1
Week 2
Week 4
Week 5

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