Among the proofs of Jesus that Christians give are the various eyewitness accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. One book on religion refers to these as “indirect eyewitness” accounts, which really makes them hearsay.
That’s probably closer to the truth, since these gospels were written 40 to 90 years after the death of Jesus. But let’s ignore that for the moment. How accurate is an eyewitness account, even if that eyewitness account is transmitted accurately to the gospel recorder?
More and more law enforcement departments are beginning to realize that eyewitnesses can and do make mistakes. Sadly, more than one person has been wrongly sent to prison on the basis of eyewitnesses who were “sure” of the culpability of the accused.
Let’s take me as an example of an eyewitness account. Most of my life has been spent as an outdoor writer. I have written about fishing, hunting, camping and boating for newspapers and magazines and written 24 books on fishing, fly fishing and fly tying. In the process I have been commissioned to do photography and writing for bass tournaments and sport shows all over the country, and been involved in several different professional outdoor writer organizations.
During one of these professional meetings I ran into another outdoor writer, a casual acquaintance. Not close friends, we had previously bumped into each other at various outdoor events around the country.
On this occasion he reminded me of the great time that we had in Boston one year, particularly at a friendly downtown bar (think Cheers). He regaled about us talking about fishing, getting sloshed, totally tanked, and sitting on our bar stools for hours having a great old time. I am sure that he has told many others about us getting totally wasted in a Boston bar.
There is one problem with this story. It ain’t true. I am sure that this eyewitness acquaintance means well about the good time we had, about how we bonded, etc. But there are two errors here.
One, I don’t drink. It is nothing moralistic with me. I am not a modern male Carrie Nation running around with a literal or figurative axe to bust up saloons and bars. It is nothing religious. I just don’t like alcohol, period. In younger dating days when a nice wine went with dinner and beer was part of a backyard barbeque, I tried it all and just do not like it.
I soon got enough maturity to decide that I am not going to eat or drink something that I do not like. I hate coffee also, and I am not Mormon. Yes, I have since been to bars and such, but my beverage choice is always a cola drink.
The second problem is that I have never been to Boston. I have been to lots of other places including about 16 foreign countries for fishing, but never Boston.
Maybe those gospel guys got something wrong with their passed-on hearsay witnesses about the life of Jesus. Since we don’t have any originals of these gospels, perhaps later scribes cleaned up the account and message a little to push and promote their Jesus guy.
If you run into someone regaling you about me getting drunk in Boston, just be wary of the story. Be wary of the Bible also, and for the same reasons.