Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Who Won?

I dig history, I really do. I read a bunch of it on a regular basis; military, political, sociological, all kinds of stuff. The funny thing is that I never hesitate to spout the various facts I glean therefrom when an appropriate conversation comes up.

Oh, I don’t doubt that Historians that write all this stuff research diligently and that the veracity of their facts has passed muster. But then again, no matter how well a subject is researched, we’re still pretty much saddled with human perspective, right? Maybe we should call it Recollection, or Impression, rather than history. Dan Brown said something in The DaVinci Code to the effect that history is written by the winners, so who knows if what we call history is true. I can see that perspective from a military history perspective – After all, if the victors wiped out the looser, burned their cities and sold their survivors into slavery, there might not be anything other than the winning perspective to accept as history.

I don’t think that perspective is literally true in all cases though – After all, a good Historian is going to look at sources from the all sides, as well as any and all of the background stuff they can find, like news from neighboring countries, personal diaries, anything they can to build a consensus perspective, yet still… I know from my days as a cop that you can walk down a row of four eye witnesses to an incident that just occurred and get four totally disparate renditions of what happened. Which one is history? Or if we merge their stories, is that history?

I’ve looked for good religious history, and found some, but not as much as I’d like. God’s Secretaries was amazing, and I found one book about life during biblical times in the Holy Land that was pretty absorbing. Yet there seems to be very little to find of factual occurrences around the time of Jesus, for example. There’s plenty that is referenced as such, but in reality is not. Why is that? Certainly there were not a whole bunch of literate people at that time, and that has bearing on it. It was long ago at a place and time where the materials of written records weren’t all that resilient, so that might have bearing. And it was also a fairly isolated series of events in a fairly isolated time, and that certainly does have bearing.

So, are the New Testament Gospels histories? Consensus says that little, if any of these were written that close to the time of Christ on earth. A very educated guess might posit that these were finally recorded after many generations of the stories being passed on by oral tradition, and if so, the good Lord only knows how much the stories were altered. Of course, it’s also well documented that the primary Gospels of that testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, were chosen via a process that was largely political, and as such, many other gospels were rejected, among them the ‘recently discovered’ Gospel of Judas. There may well have been a Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and quite possibly one by Jesus himself, the so-called X Document.

There have been many, many suppositions that a lot more information in this regard, even raw data, is known and maybe even held secret by the Vatican. Quite possibly, the raw history, such as it is, remains in another yet to be discovered cave, or house, or ruin, or safe deposit box in New York City.

Have we read the last of new information regarding Christ’s time on earth? I hope not. I’d like to see more. Whether or not we ever see these Gospels of Supposition remains to be seen. I hope I’m around to see it. But then again, if not, I can wait for the Big Show, I guess.