By Robert A. Vella
Raised as a Catholic and having attended several years of parochial school, I had assumed much of the story of Jesus and the Christian religion to be at least based on historical evidence if not completely true. In my adolescence, I began to have doubts. There were far too many inconsistencies and outright contradictions in the Bible to be believable. By early adulthood, my shaky faith had turned to near-atheistic agnosticism.
I’ve been strongly secular ever since. But, my disinterest in all things religious steered me away from an empirical analysis of the historical Jesus and Christianity. Recently, a fascinating conversation with my friend and fellow blogger Tanya rekindled my interest. She summarized the epistemology of the biblical texts, pointing out that none were firsthand accounts and all having been written from disparate oral traditions decades and centuries afterwards by an equally disparate collection of authors. Tanya also explained how the Christian religion evolved through a series of decisions designed to exclude undesirable content, such as the Gnostic gospels, and to ignore contextual incompatibilities.
The conversation prompted me to search for some empirical analysis on this subject. What I found in the following FRONTLINE documentaries (circa 1998) was truly astonishing. Now I understand why Christian fundamentalists are so aggressive in defending their faith. They are justifiably worried about the lack of historical evidence in support of their religion. One of the recounted oral traditions really caught my attention – a story about Jesus as a miracle-worker who frequently failed at performing miracles!
There’s a lot of material in these links, although I encourage you to check them out.