Society Magazine

"This Ain’t the Language of Myth"

Posted on the 19 December 2012 by Brutallyhonest @Ricksteroni

Yesterday, commenter Zoe wrote the following in response to my asking what her thoughts were on the historicity and the person of Jesus Christ:

I found that the historical veracity of Jesus Or Yeshua Bar Yosef is rather conflicting evidence wise. 
Some of that may have been due to the poor ability of folks to safeguard information in those days, or for important facts to be rearranged and/or omitted based on politics and the tribalism I just mentioned.

I wanted to give her the chance to expound without hijacking the thread where she and BroKen are having a fascinating back and forth so I was pleasantly surprised when this morning I found this relevant Mark Shea post where he begins by asking "You know that whole “The Star of Bethlehem is Just Mythology” thing?": 

Turns out not so much as you might think.

Here’s the thing about the gospels. There really is nothing quite like them in the annals of world StarofBethlehemliterature and the sooner you confront that fact, the less chance you have of the media making you stupid about them.

On the one hand, the gospels clearly have a sacramental and theological view of the world.  It is a world charged with meaning and sacramental power.  So every detail they record has symbolic significance.  Jesus is born, not just anywhere, but in Bethlehem, the House of Bread.  He is laid in a manger–a feed box, and Luke notices that because Jesus is the Bread of Life.  Luke will make the same eucharistic connection at the other end of his gospel by recording that he was made known “in the breaking of the bread”.  So it becomes easy, once you have gotten used to reading the gospels for all their massive amount of sacramental symbolism, to start imagining that the symbols are being invented and not reported by the authors.

Only here’s the thing, the gospel writers absolutely insist that they are reporting, not inventing this story.  The action takes place not in cloud cuckoo land, but in various locales around the Holy Land.  It happens not once upon a time, but “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberi-us Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysani-as tetrarch of Abilene, in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas”.  Indeed, Luke explicitly tells us, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, 2* just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, 3* it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely * for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4* that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed.”

Sorry, but this ain’t the language of myth even though the events reported have a mythic quality.  This is the language of an ancient chronicler. Moreover, it is the language of an ancient chronicler who is quite careful to get his facts straight and has been shown, on repeated occasions, to know what he is talking about *better* than modernist scholars who are ready to dismiss him as having made crap up.

He's got lots more, all foundational to the veracity of the Christ story and the historicity of Jesus Christ the person.

So when Zoe states there is conflicting evidence to substantiate the veracity, it begs the need for a deeper look at what particularly is that conflicting evidence and what sources she's finding credible while dismissing the credibility of the biblical (and extrabibilical) ones.


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