Both dramas have stood the test of time. Both take place in real periods of history. Both have hero vs. villain storylines and relate moral lessons to their readers.
So, if someone asked the difference between the Legends of Camelot and the Gospel of Luke, what would you say? Are both (or either) to be taken factually? What convinces millions of people that one is a fairy tale and the other is true?
In a society that likes a “turn the other cheek” Jesus but wants to scrub out the “resurrection Sunday” fairy tale parts, it’s important to know how to respond. What separates the tales of King Arthur from the words of King Jesus?
I think a good place to start lies with how such a narrative begins. There are literary cues to every story – fiction or nonfiction; novel length or 140 characters.
“Knock, knock…” sets up a joke.
“Roses are red…” a poem.
“Once upon a time…” a fairy tale.
The writers in the New Testament, however, start their accounts of Jesus’ life much differently. Here are two examples:
In as much as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 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 have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
1 John 1:1-2
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us.
If the Gospels were meant to be moral fairy tales loosely based on a real-life person, then Luke and John are terrible writers. It would’ve been impossible to follow for 1st century readers because it would’ve been penned in a fictional format that wouldn’t exist for another millennium. Instead, it claims to be a careful, fact-checked, peer-reviewed report of something they actually saw happen.
People 2,000 years ago might not have understood Germ Theory or aerodynamics, but they knew virgins couldn’t get pregnant and dead men don’t join you for lunch. This is precisely why the Biblical writers were so careful with their words. Something entirely different from normal life had happened, and it would change everything.
John concludes his book this way: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
You shouldn’t base your life on fairy tales. Luke and John didn’t.
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[…] my confidence in the reliability of the Christian Scriptures. I’ve written about them here and here. Enough ink has been spilled by scholars in this area to spill more now. Instead, I will quote one […]