Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Criteria Embarrassment and the Changed Lives of the Disciples

Christian apologists like to argue that the gospel writers are telling the truth because no early Christian would have invented embarrassing stories that made early Christian  leaders look bad, such as Peter denying Jesus three times.  On the other hand, they also like to argue that changed lives of the disciples are proof of the resurrection because only a real encounter with the risen Christ would be sufficient to explain the transformation of cowardly weasels into champions of the faith.

Sadly, they never seem to notice the inconsistency in their arguments.  If the transformation of the disciples is proof of the resurrection, then their earlier cowardice isn't embarrassing at all.  It is an absolutely essential element in the story.  In fact, the gospel writers would have every reason to make the disciples look as bad as possible prior to the crucifixion in order to highlight the transformative power of the resurrection.


  1. Definitely a common plot device. The initially skeptic person that comes around in a dramatic way.

    From what I've gathered, and I wonder if you would agree, Mark doesn't fit that notion great. He does things that would appear embarrassing, but he doesn't actually seem to be embarrassed, like subsequent authors are. Peter is doubtful, but within the narrative he never comes around as a believer, so he doesn't complete the circle, resolving the embarrassing detail. Whoever added 16:9-20 of course did resolve it.

    Like the baptism of Jesus for instance. As you know it's kind of without fanfare in Mark, but it implies that John has higher status than Jesus, but then I think it's Matthew and Luke who re-write that a bit to make Jesus look better. Then I think in John you'd barely know that Jesus was baptized by John. So they are embarrassed by what is written in their primary source, Mark, so they change it, but Mark isn't embarrassed.

    My general notion is that Mark is writing what he knows is fiction and what he assumes his readers know is fiction. He's historicizing the general myth. So when people say "Can you believe it's women that discovered the empty tomb? Women aren't regarded as reliable, so this must be true." That's just like saying Aslan must have really been raised because C.S. Lewis has that young girls are the first to witness it, and young children aren't ordinarily considered reliable. Lewis knows that the readers know this is fiction, so it's not evidence for the truth of a claim.

    That's my general idea, probably something I picked up from Robert Price, but I'm not sure if there are some details that would run counter to that theory. Like, is there anything in Mark that implies he is writing what he thinks is history?

    1. I can believe that Mark knew he was writing fiction, but I think that he may have wanted his readers to take it as fact since he includes so many elements that seem designed to explain why these stories haven't been heard before, such as the women running away without telling anyone, the disciples not understanding who Jesus is or the meaning of his teachings, and Jesus telling the people he heals to keep quiet about it. If he expected his readers to know he was writing fiction, I don't know that he would have bothered with that.