natheader.jpg - 6283 BytesThe Theories.

By Rev. Phil Greetham. © Copyright 1996. This Version, 2012

The Myth and Fable Theory
Sometime towards the end of the first century a, writer, anxious to complete a definitive account of the life of Jesus, found that much criticism of Jesus was founded upon his dubious origins. He apparently came from Nazareth rather than as the prophecy suggests, Bethlehem. He was born of an ordinary family, in an ordinary way and this did not communicate anything which helped suggest he was the Messiah, King of the Jews, born to save both the Jewish and Gentile world. With a total lack of definite information he decides to write an account based of what he though would have happened. He had heard of Magi visiting kings and emperors, and the idea of a star announcing the birth of great men was also a current idea. He seemed to remember hearing of interesting celestial phenomenon happening around that time anyway. There was also bits in the Old Testament about, 'stars rising out of Jacob', so it wouldn't be out of place if he created a story about Magi and rising, guiding stars. Just to make it really authentic he would include a bit about that tyrant Herod, and a flight into Egypt ought to make it sound really Biblical. Once he had finished, it looked really good and said an awful lot about Jesus that he believed was true. Unfortunately for centuries people took it the wrong way and thought it was historical! Only in recent times have some enlightened people been able to recognise that none of it actually happened.
We don't have to worry about which phenomenon was the Star of Bethlehem because they all inspired it. We don't need to single out any one particular event. Neither do we have to worry about the date of the event, or about the problems of Herod's death or Quirinius' legateship or census. These problems exist because the background events were all brought together for theological reasons without any thought to their historical harmony. It suited the writer to bring in King Herod as the villain of the piece. Quirinius and the census were needed to explain how someone from Nazareth was born in Bethlehem, and the Magi and star where invented to fit in with current expectations regarding the birth of kings. It is not surprising then that the dates appear not to coincide. Any attempt to harmonise the events and treat them as history is to miss the point the writer was trying to put across.
The main problem with this idea is that it is based on the idea that current human knowledge can always explain everything. Anything mysterious, miraculous or out of the ordinary is either a lucky coincidence, can be explained naturally, or was interpreted after the event. The Bible is treated as a book of exciting stories, set in history but glossed out and filled with meaning. Turning it into a cross between Charles Dickens, Robin Hood and The Arabian Nights. Such scholars, in a straight disagreement between the Bible and ancient secular history assume that the Bible is always in error and that the ancient secular history is always prior. The every day experience of the scholar is supreme in deciding what is real and what is mythological. As an example we are told that the Magi story is improbable because it is unusual and mythological. Yet when it is pointed out that there are historical precedents, like the account of Tiridates, then the argument shifts and we are told that it is too much like these other accounts and therefore was created from them. If ancient secular history shows biblical material to be consistent with it, then the Bible copied from it. If the Bible mentions something missing from ancient secular history, or is in conflict with it, then it must have been invented by the writer. A typical heads - I win, tails - you lose situation, and it doesn't carry a lot of integrity with it.

The Myth and Fable theory is a perfectly acceptable theory in itself. However, any claimed historical event, whether it is Robin Hood, the Gunpowder Plot or even the Holocaust, or the moon landings can be interpreted as if it did not actually happen. Evidence can always be brought to show that something did or did not happen. Information can always be ignored if it disagrees with the view you wish to hold. Equally it is easy to stop looking for new explanations when you have already reached the conclusion you wanted. The Myth and Fable theory can be used to apply to virtually any event if anyone so wishes. For this reason all other explanations must be give prior exploration first. In the last analysis if a text claims something happened, we should first endeavour to prove if it was possible before we decide to dismiss it as false. In the end, with issues where evidence is scarce there is nothing wrong with a bit of faith. That goes for science as well as religion.

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