Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Forgery and Christianity

One of the most common arguments we hear about the unreliability of documents about early Christianity is that they could have been faked or amended during their thousand years in Christian hands. A good example is the reference to Christ in the Roman Historian Tacitus. As far as all historians are concerned this is a bona fide passage from the pen of Tacitus. However, Jesus Mythers will try to discredit it by saying that we know some Christians engaged in some deception. Therefore it is probably that they inserted this passage with the intent to deceive.

Does this follow? Can we really suspect that anything that passed through Christian hands will have been tampered with on the grounds that some Christians have tampered with some texts. Of course it doesn't follow. The logic of the argument is exactly the same as saying all cloning is faked because of the activities of the South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk. Or that all evolution research is fake because of Piltdown man (admittedly I have heard some of the more misguided creationists suggest this). Or that all Jesus Myth research is fraudulent because Freke, Gandy and Acharya S are flexible with the truth.

Christians did fake religious documents. The trouble is that we have to have good reasons for making an accusation against a particular document. Pagans also falsified religious works on a massive scale. The entire Corpus Hermeticum is complete fantasy - a pagan fraud masquerading as ancient wisdom. So, if anti-Christians want to challenge the Tacitus reference, they need to produce real evidence and not just innuendo about those wicked Christian fraudsters.

PS: Someone is willing to defend Richard Dawkins. Johann Hari of the Independent newspaper wrote this. I'm afraid I missed part two of Dawkins' diatribe due to a church meeting so don't have any comments on it. I'll try and catch it if it is repeated.

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