Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Gospel Truth?

Consider the following; the Gospels are considered to be the primary historical source of information on the life of Christ. Did you know that nobody knows who wrote them? Or where? Or when? Are you aware that we do not even know what sources they used? Or that nothing in the whole of the New Testament was written by eyewitnesses to the actual events they purport to record? Bad start. Only then it worsens. The Gospels themselves do not agree with each other on many of the key resurrection events. If you don't believe me then read the Easter story in each one. If you can put together a coherent narrative afterwards then congratulations; you've achieved what nobody else has. Heading further afield let's consider the work of Paul, alleged author of over half the epistles. Scholarship now agrees that he probably only penned seven. And to cap it all, how did he receive his information? By his own admission he obtained it by revelation. Not from anything written down and not from witnesses. He had it handed to him directly from on high? Of his other books many are recognized as forgeries, so taking everything into account how can we best describe the New Testament? 
It's not history, that much I hope I've shown. So what then? Well at best, and on the assumption we cherry pick only the good bits, which Christians have to do anyway, what we are left with is a set of teachings no better than the best of secular morality. The divinity of Jesus most certainly cannot be adduced from a study of these documents, which should trouble anybody not blinded by cognitive bias. By the time I learned all of this I had been a Christian for 13 years. How could I have been so ignorant of these non controversial facts about the faith? 
The answer is simple. So simple as to be almost banal. I wasn't seeking truth in the right way. My compass was veering towards what I wanted to believe, and I was surrounded by a group of truly beautiful people who had bought into the same bag of empty bones. Combine these two elements and I can just about forgive myself, and I can also forgive those who have remained on the other side of the torn curtain. They are wrong about so much, but my goodness they are the finest bunch I've ever had the privilege of knowing. What a strange world we live in when such an odd reality is even possible.

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