Tuesday, February 22, 2011

#10 - "Isn't the Bible just a collection of myths?"

   So how do we trust the Bible when it tells us of a really good man who was born of a virgin, taught people, did miracles, raised dead people and then came back to life himself?  Does it require all faith or is there any way we can put trust in these statements?
   Add to that question the fact that the Bible writers lived in a time when ideas like objective facts or copyright weren't in effect.  So people could pass on explanatory stories from generation to generation without the need to 'make sense' and people were allowed to pass on stories with their own twist - why would the Bible be any different?

   The difference is in why they wrote . . .

   When I was 11 years old I was working with my family out back.  My dad was cutting down a tree and we were all helping with some ropes -  the ropes were draped around another tree so that when we pulled one way, the tree would fall the other way.  It all seemed like it would go just fine.

   I remember my brother arguing with my mother about whether she would quit smoking.  I remember my mother had a jacket on and a pie in the oven.  I remember the kind of ear protection my dad was wearing as the chainsaw ate through the tree.  I remember the dark black loamy soil.  I remember the yellow rope we were pulling on.

   I also remember the crack that told us all the tree was ready to fall.  I remember that we had a plan to pull hard and then run up near where the tree fort was so that if anything bad happened we would be safe.

  This rather large tree began to fall the other way . . . our plan was working.  But then it bounced off another tree nearby and began to fall toward us . . . toward me.  The next thing I remember was the tree falling all around me.  Leaves and branches were everywhere.  I hadn't moved for some reason . . . I didn't run.  I looked on the ground and saw leaves and limbs everywhere around me and as I turned to the left I saw the most gruesome sight that my young eyes had ever seen.  

   The tree had spared me . . . but it had fallen right on my mother.  Mangled was probably the best descriptive word I could use.  I was in complete shock.

   The story continues from there . . . but those details I will never forget.  In fact the story snakes through my life in the most unpredictable twists and turns as my mother survived that day.  This is a part of my personal history.  I may have dropped the small details, but here it is over 20 years later and I can't forget that day.  As I tell it, I get an uneasy feeling as I relive its events.

   The story of the early disciples is personal history - it is not legend, it is not explanatory myth - it is normal people like you and me that were changed by an event that they couldn't explain.  These are the events that we preserve and remember with great care - not because we want to advance religious dogma . . . but because we can't forget.  When your teacher is unfairly tried, mocked, beat up and murdered by crucifixion, you don't forget the details of that day.

   There are certain things we memorize - like you could probably recite the pledge of allegiance (no doubt because you said it every day for some 12 years as a student in school). Then there are things that happened to you that you can't get out of your mind.  The details still haunt you.  Now imagine telling that story every day of your life over and over . . . and then about 20 years later writing it down.  That is the Gospel of Mark.  Why did he take so long?  Because Mark thought Jesus was returning very soon and speaking was a much quicker way to get the word out than writing in the ancient near east.  

   So anyhow, these personal histories - assembled by common people (not priests or shamans) and copied by followers of this new sect actually exhibit an impressive track record of reliability.  We have thousands of copies of these documents that agree (compared with a handful of other historic documents).  The Old Testament - just as impressive . . . see the video to the right called 'myth.'

   So we do have a pretty impressive record of faithful transmission of a major event that happened in time, with real place names and real people and a real story that changed the lives of a group of ordinary men.  Perhaps it is time to rethink how we look at it?

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