Just a couple of thoughts, Luk.1. Stories
learning by reading / listening to stories is the way a child starts to learn more about the world and to see how he has to behave in it. We (my wife and I) told lots of stories to our children when they were small as well as reading lots to them. The thing about them was, however, that we all knew we were reading fiction. In the case of stories I made up they realised I was making them up too.
Now, there is a great deal of difference between taking a message from a story you know is fiction and being told a story that is, at least on the surface, history. The thing than whilst one would not base one's life around a story book, people are asked to base their lives around another book - a holy book - and yet that appears to be reciting history. Sure, one can interpret some of it as, well... myth and then say it didn't happen like it says and the story is there for morals and not for fact but that become arbitrary and can lead to people choosing their own bits. 2. Oral Stories
It's an old gag but if one takes a group of people and puts them in a line and then asks the first one to pass a whispered message to the second one and so on down the line, its quite easy for 'send re-enforcements we're going to advance' to end up as 'send 3and 4 pence we're going to a dance.' You see every time a story is retold it gets a bit extra - maybe only a gesture or maybe an extra word - so that over the course of lots of tellings, the story changes. maybe, sometimes, it deliberately changes too. the thing is that the last person to hear it has no way of working out that it has changed from start to finish.
Now, anything that is claimed as oral tradition has to be viewed in the light that we cannot know what the original said and, even, cannot know if the original was a story, made up, or a record of real events. The latter is not quite true as real events often have multiple sources to back them up, just like various people who witness a crime or for a war, various war correspondents filing stories with their newspapers.When we haven't got the multiple sources is the time that we cannot tell if something is fiction or fact.
So, what can we say about the bible. It claims to be telling history but, apart from the odd king's name and a few geographical places, we cannot tell the difference between an account that is historically accurate and a historical novel. So, did the Egyptians write about the plagues? Did the Babylonians write about Israel? Is there evidence in the desert to show that the Israelites trampled for 40 years in it? 'No', is the correct answer to the above. There is no other accounts and no corroborating evidence.Withot this, we cannot tell if there is any historical fact in the stories.
The same applies to the Gospels, or course. Nothing in texts, which vary rather, can be corroborated in Roman texts of the time. Ah, but I hear you say, Luk, but there are four gospels so we have more than one source! Try again! There is Mark, the model for the other three. The other three add their own stuff to mark, rearranging Mark's text to suit. Mark wrote first but the other knew more details than Mark? Hardly! The others are added details to suit themselves - trying to make the text suit their own theology. So, are the gospels accurate history? How can we know? We can be sure of a few things, though.
- No king killed all the under 2s in Bethlehem because if he had we would have lots of text condemning it
- No zombies were raised as per Matthews account of Jesus' crucifixion
I could add lots but its getting late here. the main point is that one cannot claim the gospels as, err...., 'gospel' except by deciding it is so before opening them. There is no case for this any more for a case for any other part of the bible being actual history.