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They Come From a Storybook

grimm characters

Bethany (my 32-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome) and I used to religiously watch the hit TV show Grimm. She continues to watch reruns of the show over and over on Netflix and Amazon Prime.  She is quite intense when she watches the show and can easily recite to anyone who asks (or doesn’t ask) the Grimm storyline, complete with character descriptions.

One of the problems Bethany has watching TV is that she has a hard time distinguishing between fact and fiction. As we were watching Grimm, Bethany asked, they are all real, right? I snickered a bit, and then told her, no, they are not real. They come from a storybook.

Later, I was watching a crime procedural show and one of the characters explained how it is possible for a large number of people to testify to a certain event happening. The detective said:

People make things up and it is told over and over. Eventually it becomes common knowledge.

And then I thought to myself: just like the stories in the Bible.

I can just imagine an Evangelical preacher reading this post and doing this while screaming:

jumping man

THE BIBLE IS DIFFERENT!!! In what way is the Bible different? Think about this question a bit before trying to defend the Bible as a historically accurate, factual book (let alone inerrant and infallible). Do we have any more evidence for the Jesus of the Bible than we do the fictional creatures in Grimm? While there may have been a man named Jesus who lived and died in Palestine, is there any evidence for a Jesus who was the miracle-working, divine, son of God?

Just because people say something is so doesn’t mean it is factual or true. Evangelical preachers follow the path described above by the detective. They repeat stories that have been told over, and over, and over again — rarely asking, “is this true?” As with the end result of the telephone game, the Jesus story of the twenty-first century is wildly different from the Jesus story of the first, second, twelfth, or fifteenth century.

Evangelicals embarrass themselves when they assert that what they believe is exactly the same as what the first-century church believed. What is their evidence for this claim? Why, the passed-down stories about Jesus, passed down from Christian to Christian, sect to sect, for the past two-thousand years.

I am an occasional reader of Smithsonian Magazine. In the January 2015 issue, I learned from an article about Martin Luther King, Jr. that “King and his demonstrators were driven out of Selma by the police on “Bloody Sunday.” I also learned that the Watt Riots took place in 1967.

Imagine for a moment that I am telling my children about my life growing up in the 1960s. Imagine me saying to them, I remember seeing the Watts Riots on TV in 1967. My children would accept this as a fact because they know I was born in 1957, so I was alive during the race riots of the 1960s. Perhaps they would pass this on to their children, a story of how life was when Gramps was a kid.

The February 2015 edition of Smithsonian came out with a correction. King was not in Selma on Bloody Sunday. He arrive two days later. The Watts Riots? They took place in 1965, not 1967.

Now ponder how the stories of the Bible came into being and why people repeat them and believe them today. It’s really that simple.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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9 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Geoff

    I read a book of fiction some while back that was heavily dependent on the history of Grimms Fairytales. Like the best fiction, it was factually very accurate (I checked).

    The tales themselves were based on stories collected from travelling round towns and villages in Germany, listening to the old tales that had been handed down through the generations. Nobody, as far as I’m aware, regarded them as true, albeit some may have been based on the odd real event from many years past.

    One fact that really hit me was the frequent use of ‘step mother’, a character very much still associated with these types of story. Apparently, in the original stories the Grimms used ‘mothers’ as the source of the evil, and witchcraft kind behaviour. After the first stories were published, however, readers rebelled, saying that no real mother would ever behave like that, and so the Grimms invented ‘step mothers’.

    I wonder how much of the highly unlikely bible myths were actually manipulated this way?

  2. Avatar
    Middle-ager Deconverter

    We enjoy Grimm, too. Liked Sleepy Hollow until the recent Season Finale… This article– Excellent explanation. Love the mini-man of God jumping in righteous indignation at the mere questioning of the Bible’s infallibility. If only more folks would find your blog or read a little of Bart Ehrman, they would be on the road to real discernment and truth. Once one knows it, it cannot be unlearned.

  3. Avatar
    BJW

    It’s even worse. I was reading recently in a science article that our memories change every time we access them. No wonder siblings end up arguing about something in their shared past, simultaneously experienced, and yet disagree what that experience is. I just wonder how these stories started. I guess evolving humans needed to make up something to comfort themselves? I know I feel more positive when I feel like individual happenings mean something. Unfortunately, there’s no proof that these things have a meaning outside of us, as in, a god did it.

  4. Avatar
    dale m

    Good point. But how does that change anything?!? I personally don’t see these people folding just because they’ve been corrected. If Hitler were fully exposed to the Nazi Party as a narcissist and a serial Lier, do you really think that the Nazis would crumple, banging their collective heads against the wall, wailing and nashing their teeth, as to how stupid they were to follow their “fueher”. No. It’s not because they don’t believe. It’s because they don’t want to. It’s all about power and authority over others. It has nothing to do with truth. Ask any playground bully. The time for the carrot is over. The time for the big stick is nigh. This is all going to end badly once it transforms into a real struggle for our existence. Stop this ridiculous mamby-pamby of southern Nazis. Because they’re going to come for everyone, sooner or later. I’m not being a pessimist. I’m being a realist. Do you really think that any of this would have worked on Adolf Hitler and his crowd ?!? We’re in for another bloody repeat of history !! We never learn the lesson. We believe if we patronize the bullies, they’ll just go away. There’s no Miracle or magic elixir here.

  5. Avatar
    Neil

    Yes! I’m convinced this is how the stories about Jesus came about, embellished with Old Testament ‘teaching’ and ‘prophecy’. The real Jesus, if he even existed, is buried forever under all the myth and legend.

  6. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    There were other gospels about Jesus that weren’t canonized. Who knows how many communities believed those versions. Even the 4 canonized versions create different versions of Jesus. Of course, evangelicals say they’re just different points of view and all are correct in that the offer a collective picture.

  7. Avatar
    Troy

    If you haven’t seen the movie “Life of Pi”, I recommend you watch it. (It also is one of the rare examples of a well directed 3-d movie, though sadly the 3d artform ship has sailed away) Supposedly, at the end you’ll “have proof for God”. Piscine’s journey is very similar to mine, trying on different religions and philosophies. We diverge at the end of course, I remain a cynic. The thesis of the movie is that the exaggerated characters in religious texts are only to make the story entertaining so you’ll pay attention. Hmm, It’s interesting I can reject the thesis and still recommend the movie as an interesting thought experiment.

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Bruce Gerencser