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September 26, 2013 / BTM

Is the Truth Boring?

Secret societies.  Supressed information.  A royal dynasty parented by Jesus and Mary Magdalene.   Secret information passed on to select disciples.  A Vatican cover-up.  A faked death, covered up by Pontius Pilate.  An Egyptian myth that was mistakenly taken for truth.

Who hasn’t heard of at least one of these alternative theories to who Jesus was (that is, if He actually existed at all), what His mission was on earth, and what happened to Him after He died (if in fact He did die)?

You may think that these alternate theories about Jesus sound ridiculous, but many others don’t.  At minimum, a lot more people know about the Council of Nicaea than ever before, and believe that at least some degree of foul play was involved in how the books of the Bible were chosen.  Even more feel that we can have relatively low certainty that the New Testament documents were faithfully passed on to us through the centuries.

Why is this so?

I had the opportunity to listen some of the reasons for this at a special presentation by Dr. Craig Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College (Acadia University, Nova Scotia).  Among a myriad of other documentaries, Dr. Evans was selected as an expert consultant to the recent TV miniseries The Bible.

One reason that people are embracing these kinds of conspiracy theories is that they are tantalizing.  In general, Western cultures tend to mistrust experts and love imaginative, exciting, “new” ideas.  Dr. Evans argued that, in our post-postmodern society (no, that is not a typo), people are biblically illiterate, theologically naïve, philosophically unsophisticated, historically ignorant, narrowly educated and lack the skills necessary for critical thinking.

We cannot tell good research from bad.  We find traditional truth boring.  We are looking for a fresh, modern Jesus – one who “works for us”.

Plus, a post-postmodern society has no problem with the concept of cobbling together the aspects they personally like from disparate religious beliefs and bundling them into a personal belief system.  Make your own religion.

It is important to know is that New Testament scholars (including skeptics of Jesus and Christianity) agree that the gospels which most accurately reflect 1st Century thinking are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Experts who are in a position to know conclude that these four gospels are the oldest and best accounts we have of the culture and setting in which Jesus lived.  Here, in part, is why:

1.  The older, the better.  The older the document, the closer it is to the original, the better it reflects the original thinking and teaching.  The majority of scholars date Mark by AD 70, Luke and Matthew by AD 80 and John by AD 90 (although arguments can be made for an earlier dating for each of these manuscripts).  This means Mark was written just 40 years after Jesus’ crucifixion in AD 30.  The new ‘lost’ gospels date 200 years after Jesus.

2.  The more, then better.  The more copies, particularly old copies, of a document you have, the more easily you can tell what the original text was.  One copy may have a mistake, but they will not all have the same mistake.  We have over 24,000 partial and complete New Testament manuscript portions – the most by far of any work of antiquity.  Homer’s Iliad is second in number of ancient manuscripts still in existence, at 643 copies.

3. Who is the author?  Many people do not realize that part of the test for recognizing if an ancient document should be considered as scripture was knowing who the author of the work was.  The early church knew the authors of the books that were accepted as scripture.  In contrast, we often know little to nothing about the authors of the new ‘lost’ documents.

It turns out, what we’ve had all along in the Bible is the straight goods.  If you know the facts, the newer, more exciting ideas don’t even get off the ground.

My next few blogs are going to focus on how we got the Bible, and how we can assess if the Bible has been handed down accurately.  I’ll share a number of activities we’ve come across to help kids understand these concepts in fun ways.

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5 Comments

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  1. Jennifer / Sep 27 2013 1:09 am

    Looking forward to following your blog and thinking some more about how to be more intentional in raising my own daughter to become a mature follower of Christ. I hope to equip her with a solid, practical grounding in the truth of scripture and how to apply it to daily life so she can follow Jesus wholeheartedly and confidently.

    • BTM / Oct 1 2013 12:46 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement and for taking the time to comment! I hope we can spur each other on.

  2. Shannon / Oct 2 2013 7:11 pm

    This is what I struggle with as a parent – making Biblical teachings FUN and not boring. I feel as though I have to compete with a lot out there that is a lot more exciting (ex, My three-year old will choose a Diego TV show over a Christian one any day!). Looking forward to stealing some of your fun ideas to help teach my children to follow God!

    • BTM / Oct 3 2013 1:05 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Shannon. When our kids were the same age (around 3/4 years old), we read them one Bible story and one ‘regular’ story before bed. We were dismayed to discover that they wanted to read the Bible story first to ‘get it over with’ so that we could move on to the more exciting ‘regular’ story. We were determined to find ways to make the Bible the most interesting of the stories we read to them. We actually started to tell the Bible stories through interactive puppet shows, laced with humour, rather than read the stories to them from a book. For the age they were at, this worked really well. I do struggle with the fact that we have to compete with an entertainment culture, but that is the reality we are in. Just as teachers know they have to make school fun, so do parents. My husband wonders sometimes why our kids are doing a ‘penguin unit’ or a ‘fall unit’ rather than real school, but the unit is the ruse. Units are a way to repackage printing and math and reading skills. I think we can find similar ways to teach Biblical lessons to our kids. My hope is that together we can share ways in which we’ve each done this and help each other out.

  3. Jess / Oct 22 2013 8:52 pm

    Read a few of the posts and found them well written and thought provoking. Looking forward to checking in for creative ways to impress the truth on my boys.

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