Friday, November 13, 2009

The Bible - What's in a story?

Today I was reading the Book of Matthew, and an interesting revelation was revealed to me from the education in High School English. I don't want to give it away so I'll just give some examples FIRST before explaining the point I'm getting at.

Legend tells us that Matthew was written by the disciple called Matthew. So lets see how his version of Jesus life unfolds.

Matthew 1
Joseph's dream about Jesus are quoted word for word.
Matthew 2
Prophecies told to herod by magi word for word.
Another dream of Joseph word for word.
Matthew 3
Words of John the Baptist word for word
Matthew 4
Jesus led into desert alone, conversation word for word with devil.
Words of jesus preaching and calling of first disciples.
Matthew 5-9
Continues to quote entire speeches word for word, specific events in different downs, even quotes others responses.
Matthew 9
Matthew finally called. Not traveling with him, but sitting at tax collector booth.
Matthew 17
Quotes word for word event in which only Peter, James, and John were with Jesus.
Matthew 26
Judas and the priests quoted word for word.
Jesus in Gethsemane, Jesus goes away with Peter James john, but they fall asleep, but Jesus prayer gets quoted word for word.
Jesus speaks with Sanhedrin and quoted word for word.
Matthew 27
Judas conversation with priests and priests words amongst themselves.
Jesus comments with Pilot quoted word for word.
Pilots discussion with priests after crucifixion.

Now, I sited some very specific examples that all have something in common. Have you already figured it out? Thats right, all these stories are told in the third person. But not just in the third person, an all knowing all seeing third person. In English and Literature this is called "narrative mode". That is when you tell the story as an omniscient call knowing narrator of a story. It is used to convey the plot to an audience. In narrative mode, the author can move the story along and fill in every point and close the gap to anyone reading the story. This is a much easier way to fill in the reader without complex plots that slowly show the reader whats going on.

This, however, is not the way people convey real events that they experienced. But there are some other problems here. Matthew details conversations that he himself admits he couldn't know. How could he possibly know the words used in Josephs dream? How could he know of any of the events before he was called to be a disciple, never mind know the conversations word for word. How would he know, word for word, the conversation between Jesus and the Devil? He quotes word for word what happened between only three other disciples and Jesus. He quotes conversations between jesus and pilot, Jesus and the Sanhedrin, and Jesus and the priests when Jesus is the only one there. Matthew quotes the conversation Judas has with the priests, on two different occasions!

Perhaps the most ridiculous part of the book is when Matthew describes Jesus prayer in the garden. He goes to great lengths to let us know that only three disciples were invited, and they fell asleep. So no one is with Jesus, yet Matthew quotes his prayer? This type of story telling happens in all three gospels. Not a one escapes the ridiculous proposition of the all seeing omniscient narrator.

But we know this type of story. The type of story in which every single word spoken, every dream, every silent prayer, thought, and conversation is known to the narrator. It is called a fairy tale. A work of fiction in which the entire plot is laid out line by line, with every dark corner of thought and dream are known and laid bare.

Matthew is laid out like any good piece of fiction, complete with good guys, bad guys, negative plot turn, and finally, the happy ending. We know this format, we call it fiction, or fairy tale. Because there is absolutely no way Matthew could have known most of the events I listed above. The very fact that events where recorded that no one could have known about, and done word for word, should tip us off to the fact that this is nothing more than a good story. Whether a real Jesus figure ever existed is made moot by the fact that this story that describes his life is clearly a work of fiction.

Any one familiar with fiction should be able to spot this work of fiction. In fact, all of the gospels are written in the same fashion, all of them claiming an all knowing third person who is able to see peoples dreams and hear words spoken when no one is around. But then, thats what happens when you take stories handed down orally, grandly embellished over many decades, then try to make a cohesive story. And there is nothing wrong with that if you just like to read great stories, like that of Odessius. But this is what people are living their life by. You might as well take the moral teachings from a Strawberry Shortcake book as read the new testament for guidance!

1 comment:

erikbrewer said...

20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (II Peter 1)

I guess you missed that when you were reading the Bible.