The Eye-witness Fallacy

MaryM2

The falsehood that the gospels are in some way eye-witness reports just won’t go away. There is no evidence they are or even that they are based on reports by eye-witnesses. Scholars speak of ‘sources’ for all elements of the gospels (Mark, Q, M & L); these were almost certainly pre-existing written and oral traditions from before the gospels’ creation.

This really is problematic for those propagating the idea that the gospels are eye-witness accounts. If they were even so much as based on eye-witness reports, then why would they need to rely so heavily on other traditions? If, as is claimed here, the scattered gospel communities who wrote them were in some sort of immediate contact with the fanned-out eye-witnesses, then they would have no need to use sources and traditions from elsewhere. Yet they do; Matthew and Luke borrow extensively from a shared source (Q) and also from Mark, particularly for their resurrection stories.

This is akin to someone today interviewing witnesses to John F. Kennedy’s assassination, – a similar interval to that between Jesus and the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John – and then, before publication, replacing what the eye-witness say they saw with the more far-fetched elements of Oliver Stone’s movie JFK. If there were eye-witnesses to hand, there wouldn’t be any need to do this. It doesn’t make the slightest sense that the gospel writers would do so. Yet they do.

As far as the stories of the resurrection are concerned, it is much more likely they are based, not on any eye-witness accounts, but on the scant mentions of the mystical, risen Christ of the kind we find in Paul’s letters, filtered, primarily, through Mark. As such, they are a fleshing out (almost literally) of hearsay reports of a limited number of visions that, by the time the gospels came to be written, had embedded themselves in the traditions of the early church.

Famous Christian makes fatuous comments

Sentamu3

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has spoken out on one of the most important issues of the day.

       Chemical warfare in Syria?

                                              Poverty?

                                                     The repercussions of Britain’s departure from the EU?

No, none of these. Chocolate Eggs. Or more precisely Chocolate Egg Hunts – those arranged by the National Trust in conjunction with chocolate manufacturers, Cadbury. This year, you see, these are not being promoted as Easter Egg Hunts but as Cadbury Egg Hunts.

And I’m sure you can appreciate just how significant this is. Because you see, without the name of a Germanic goddess of fertility (from which we also derive the word ‘oestrogen’) in the title of such a deeply spiritual activity, then, according to Sentamu, ‘faith is being airbrushed out of Easter.’ After all, chocolate eggs were such a crucial part of the original Christian Easter story, when the first thing the resurrected Jesus instructed his disciples to do was find all the Easter Eggs he’d hidden round the garden. And so it came to pass.

That’s why omitting the word ‘Easter’ from the Egg Hunt is, again according to silly old Sentamu, ‘tantamount to spitting on the grave’ of John Cadbury, who was there for that very first Easter but didn’t start making chocolate eggs until 1875.

But wait! Wasn’t John Cadbury a Quaker? And isn’t it the case that Quakers don’t celebrate ‘Easter’ because of its pagan associations? So Mr Cadbury is hardly likely to be upset, even if dead people could be, at his company’s alleged metaphorical grave spitting. Furthermore, might it just have been the case that those original Easter Eggs were – and remain – a cynical capitalist cash-in on a festival that the man himself didn’t actually believe in? Oh my, yes.

So, here’s all that spitting right back atcha, Senty – one in the eye for all your vacuous, self-promoting twaddle.

 

Next time: Why the side-lining of cute and cuddly Easter bunnies is an affront to the faith of many devout Christians, by Theresa May.

 

What use is religion?

SavedI went to church on Sunday. Not because I wanted to, but to help someone out. It was an interesting experience. There were some really nice people there – good people even. They would say they were good… no, they wouldn’t, they would dispute they were good… they would say any good qualities they had were the result of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

But such a claim doesn’t account for all the other good people we encounter in life who don’t believe in Christ or the Holy Spirit or any of the other aspects of the Christian faith. It doesn’t account either for the mean-spirited, spiteful and obstructive folk that we find in churches. If Christians have been regenerated through faith in Christ – the Bible calls them ‘new creations’ in 2 Corinthians 5.17 – then there shouldn’t be any unpleasant, unloving folk in church, should there?

The minister on Sunday made much of Christians being ‘works in progress’, but this sounds like a nice way of making excuses for difficult people. Some folk manage to be good and loving without faith, without ever being a ‘work in progress’. A Christian commenter on another blog I read, ‘Why There Is No God‘, argued the other day that we shouldn’t judge a religion by the way its adherents behave. But what other way is there to judge it? If a religion doesn’t make individuals more loving – and this is what Jesus claims distinguishes his followers (John 13:35) – then of what use is it?

It seems to me – and I’m aware I’m resorting to personal experience here, mainly because there don’t appear to be any empirical studies of individuals pre- and post-conversion – that good people are good whichever side of the conversion experience they’re on, and hateful types are hateful whether they’re believers or not. Religion doesn’t, in spite of its claims, change people very much. At most it brings out their true natures. Much the same as alcohol, really.