Today, we’re going to look at the question of if the disciples intended their stories in the gospel to be historically accurate. There’s only a couple of paragraphs on this one and the first one is simply introducing the theory and telling why we shouldn’t trust the accounts since they were written with an agenda for Jesus, an issue we have already dealt with.
If they never intended to tell the historical truth, they picked an odd way to show it. The disciples were willing to die for their beliefs and be sure to tie them in with history. Go read Luke 3 sometime and see how it starts. Luke lists several historical figures that were active at the time and then ties it all together by saying that the Word of the Lord came to John.
There is a reference to midrash which is defined as “The attempt to penetrate into the spirit of the text, to examine the text from all sides, to derive interpretations not immediately obvious, to illuminate the future by appealing to the past.” (p. 207 quoting from a Jewish Encyclopedia entry by Funk and Wagnall.) For those that might question this, it is an accepted one by Richard Longenecker in “Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period” although he admits it wasn’t as cut and dry.
Loftus quotes Spong as saying the question when approaching the interpretation is not “Did it happen?” but rather why Jesus’s life was interpreted through the great figures of the OT.
Um. No. I think the first question is a great one to ask actually. If the accounts given in the gospels did happen, then they are the greatest news of all time. If they did not, well let’s just forget about them. I have no need of a story to base my life on. The idea of Jesus’s resurrection is not going to be enough when I face death. The reality of it is.
This was the question asked to me once at a coffeeshop. “Does it really make a difference if Jesus didn’t rise again? Isn’t the story enough?” No. It’s not. If I’m going to base my life on a story, that story had better be anchored in reality. I think stories about knights saving princesses are excellent, but I hardly expect to find my future bride by getting a sword and going to fight a dragon. (Not that I’d complain. That sounds pretty cool actually.)
And as to the second part of Spong’s question, could it be they interpreted Jesus’s life that way because that’s the way it was? That Jesus was exactly what he said he was, the fulfillment of the OT? If that is the case, then we should expect that when we look through the OT, we will see Jesus. When we get to the NT, we will understand the OT in light of him.
There is also the claim that Christianity moved away from its Jewish roots and this made the midrashic retellings of ancient themes into literal events.
This would be a nice one to see demonstrated. The gospels fit in perfectly into a Jewish milleu as does the historicity of them. Now the church could have moved away later, but concepts like the Trinity are firmly rooted in Jewish soil.
Tomorrow, we shall see what is meant by resurrection.