Monday, January 15, 2018

The 1,600 Year Conspiracy

We made him up.

Or so goes the story. By “him” I mean Jesus Christ. By “we” I mean human beings with an agenda.

On the surface it’s not a bad thesis. After all, you can’t rigorously prove biblical inspiration. Oh, you can make the claim, and you can demonstrate from the text that the apostles, prophets and Jesus himself claimed it too. You can make the case that inspiration is a reasonable and logical inference, and you can argue it from the sorts of behaviors these supposedly sacred words produce in the lives of those who obey them.

But can you demonstrate with 100% scientific certainty that the text of our Bibles is really God speaking? No.

And if it isn’t? Well, then ... we made him up.

So I’m out for my morning walk as usual, and I’m thinking to myself How likely is that?

My Redeemer Lives

The conspiracy to invent the Christ, if there was one, must have spanned centuries. In approximately 1500 B.C., the afflicted Job expressed to three otherwise-useless friends his hope in a Redeemer. That Person, Job declared, was alive at the time he was speaking and yet would stand upon the dust at the End of All Things. Sometime around 96 A.D., John the apostle spoke of a “Lord Jesus” who is “coming soon”. At that point, approximately 1,600 years had passed and at least 38 other writers had taken a shot at fleshing out Job’s “Redeemer” character, including four biographers who were his contemporaries.

And they’re all describing the same person. How likely is that?

The Lamb of God

Oh, the level of granularity differs, for sure. Some writers are glimpsing Messiah from a great distance. Others can say, “We heard him, we saw him and we touched him with our hands.” Abraham says to his son Isaac, “God will provide for himself the lamb,” almost surely unaware of his own double entendre. Over a millennium later, John the Baptist sees Jesus headed his way and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” In between the two, Isaiah refers to the Christ as “a lamb that is led to the slaughter”.

Same person, same purpose, same character. How likely is that?

A Conspiracy Without an Objective

Sure, you can argue that in developing the character of the Christ, the writers who came later necessarily borrowed from the writers who came earlier. But if they were all just men making up a fictional character, why bother? Why invest such effort in foolish and meaningless consistency? Not to mention that the four first century biographers of the Christ shared their belief in his divinity with thousands of Jewish contemporaries. These would surely have cried foul if the entire story of Jesus of Nazareth had been an ahistorical fabrication.

How likely is it they could get away with that? How likely is it that so many would risk or give their lives in perpetuation of a story they knew to be fiction?

Some of the men who wrote about the Christ were Hebrews. Some weren’t. Some wrote as citizens of a glorious Israelite kingdom, others as wanderers in the wilderness, slaves in foreign countries or even dignitaries in the palaces of great world powers. They came from every financial stratum of society and from outside of society entirely. Some wrote patriotically about their Jewish state, others wrote years before the Jewish state existed or years after the Jewish state was utterly obliterated. And yet all these men are alleged to have had the same agenda and to have told the same phony story?

To what end? How likely is that?

The Collective Subconscious Sighs

Okay, fine. Perhaps the Christ is nothing more than a manifestation of the human desire for transcendence, some kind of wish-fulfilling emanation from the collective unconscious, if you can believe in such things. Perhaps. But if he is merely a product of humanity’s perpetual pipe dream of eternal life, why does he so often speak of hell and judgment? Why does he hold forth a version of law that is unattainably strict? Why does he exclude some and welcome others? Why does he offend the Gentiles by making the Jews central to his purposes and offend the Jews by offering salvation to the Gentiles? If he represents the collective fond wishes of humanity, which segment of humanity does he actually represent, if any?

How does any of that make sense?

Perhaps, then, the Christ is merely a fictional creation of the Roman Caesars offered to the oppressed masses within the Empire in order to keep them cooperative, pacified and paying their taxes on time. But if so, where did Roman con artists acquire their knowledge of Hebrew culture, history and religion; knowledge so deep and authentic as to convince highly educated Jews all over the world that their con job was the real deal? How did these frauds so effectively co-opt Hebrew mythology and turn it to their own political ends, and why on earth would they bother when the Jewish state had already been crushed and its people dispersed?

How is any of that remotely credible?

Enigmas and Answers

Then there’s the character of the Christ himself. He’s a mystery, really. A champion of the poor and downtrodden who nevertheless told them to obey the corrupt religious authorities that oppressed them, all the while confronting and chastising those same authorities to their faces. A healer who suffered. A judge who did not condemn. A servant who would one day reign. But despite his enigmatic qualities, a character sufficiently plausible, unified and unifying to motivate good works, obedience to God and in some cases martyr-level personal commitment in Jew and Gentile alike across thirty-plus centuries, in many cases before he even stepped into history.

How likely is that ... unless he really existed and the power he promised to his followers was genuinely given to them?

For every question it purports to answer, the Christ-as-fiction narrative raises ten more. Personally, I find it significantly easier to believe in the inspiration of scripture than in a 1,600 year conspiracy with no conceivable point.

No comments :

Post a Comment