Once upon a time…

Fairy Tales and fantasies have been the staple fictional diet of children for many years. I caught the Brothers Grimm flick in one of my rare moments sitting in front of the TV without watching sport (including wrestling) the other day. The Brothers Grimm were a couple of oddball German professors who spent their time collecting and documenting folk tales and fairy stories for the amusement of the masses. The movie suggests the Grimms were always pursuing these tales in the hope of striking some truth – when in fact they were collecting stories for the entertainment of children.

It seems to me that Titanic director James Cameron is a modern day Grimm. Cameron who made his name directing the “true story” of a sinking ship is currently promoting his latest project – a documentary – on the discovery of the coffin of Jesus Christ. Fact and fiction are difficult to disentangle – particularly through the filters of history and science. Cameron was quick to jump on the Dan Brown bandwagon fueling speculation that Jesus had a family with Mary Magdalene based on fragments of the gnostic gospels.

In my discussions the other day on philosophy, religion and the meaning of life I argued with some intellectual atheists (which is almost a contradiction in terms – intellectually it’s much safer to be agnostic) that my faith hinges not on the science behind the bible but its historicity. There’s an old question meant to encourage liberal theological thought – “If the bones of Jesus were discovered – would this change your faith?” The politically correct answer to that question is “no” – the theologically correct answer is of course yes. The resurrection of Jesus is of fundamental importance to orthodox Christian belief. The Christian faith depends on its historical credentials. Authenticating “history” is an incredibly difficult task – we need to analyse what we read with archeological findings and historical context. The fact is, we really can’t be sure about what happened hundreds of years ago – let alone thousands. We weren’t there to see it, feel it, hear it, smell it, or touch it. Whenever we’re told of something that happened outside our “experience” it should be questioned, poked, prodded and examined. One of my favourite novelists, Robert Rankin wrote a book called the Witches of Chiswick about a powerful group of witches who decided to completely rewrite history at the turn of the 19th century. This idea is clearly fiction – or is it? We can’t afford to rule out every theory or every piece of documented history simply because we weren’t there. Context is king. When considering a claim it’s important to consider motives, underlying social factors… all these tests need to be applied not just to the bible but to every crackpot theory that comes up questioning its veracity. When it comes to the bible – the disciples and early leaders of the church were prepared to die pretty horrible deaths (not just your run of the mill death but you know, being burned alive or eaten by lions) for their beliefs – I’d like to see James Cameron put his money where his mouth is at this point. Neither Buddha or Muhammad – founders of two of the other “great” (numerically) religions of the world were forced to die for their convictions and nobody is out there in public questioning the historicity of their lives. It’s hard to find a genuinely accepted religion where the founder has received material benefit from their teaching (Scientologists and Mormons are no exceptions to this rule). So it strikes me that the assessment of the Israeli archaeologist who investigated the original discovery is probably worth listening to…

“It’s a beautiful story but without any proof whatsoever.”


Although I guess Christianity’s critics would say the same thing…

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

7 thoughts on “Once upon a time…”

  1. Ok, so we’ve got some screenwriters, authors, archeologists and other scientists doing their utmost to uproot and disprove Christianity. Would they try to do the same thing to Islam – what would be the response? I’ve found it interesting that as long as I’ve been alive, faithful Christians (that means crazy deluded zealots excluded) don’t avenge (with violence) such heinous slander on our God and Saviour… I think that says a lot about who we are and the God we follow, just throwing it out there.

  2. that’d be a bit hypocritical, and if I wasn’t totally exhausted I’d look up and quote the relevant verses…

    besides, as a violent person I’m about as useful as a packet of Mum’s Celebrex that past expiry in 1998.

  3. No, you don’t! Everyone has moved out of that place, I’ve been living in a different city for two months – jackass!

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