Whose Illusions? (Part 3)
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The wheels of justice are turning so fast that crime is eating its dust. The witnesses flawlessly corroborated on what they saw on every detail. The physical evidences fit perfectly together. Seeing that denial is futile, the suspect on trial tearfully admitted to the crime in a tell-all confession. The judge banged his gavel and declared, “Guilty beyond reasonable doubt!” Justice is served!
|The cast of CSI: Las Vegas. Image credit|
That’s what we usually see in TV crime shows. But that’s not what really happens in a real criminal court hearing. Such shows create what came to be known as the “CSI [Crime Scene Investigation] Effect.”
As crime shows focused on cutting-edge forensic investigative techniques have spread throughout the prime-time television landscape, prosecutors and defense lawyers have started to take note and respond. During jury selection in high-profile criminal trials, it’s now commonplace for lawyers to ask potential jurors whether they watch a lot of TV police shows. The fear is that forensic crime-show connoisseurs selected for a jury could bring an unrealistic set of expectations to a real-life trial. … Prosecutors don’t want jurors who demand scientific evidence before convicting someone, while defense attorneys don’t want a juror who takes such evidence as gospel. (Source: The Daily Progress. Emphasis mine.)
Such unrealistic expectations also showed up in Andy Uyboco’s “Illusions of biblical inerrancy” in his “Freethinking Me” newspaper column.
I delved into serious biblical scholarship and learned that no serious biblical scholar (whether Christian or not) would claim that biblical texts are without errors or discrepancies. … For example, one only needs to read the resurrection accounts in the four gospels and see that there are glaring inconsistencies. … Now, if these stories are supposed to be true, how come they do not corroborate each other? Why didn’t God “inspire” all four writers to be a little more consistent in their details? The logical conclusion is that some of these narratives contain errors. If they contain errors, you can hardly call them inerrant. Then how can we know which parts are true and which aren’t? How can we know if ANY of it is true at all? (Source: Sun Star Davao. Emphasis mine.)
Yes, there are difficulties in harmonizing the resurrection accounts in the Gospels. But, those are not contradictions.
The resurrection scene from Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ."
In fact, instead of making it weak, those difficulties strengthened the Gospel accounts. It actually proved that they were reliable.
[T]he order of events appears to be different in the various accounts. For example, the Gospels list Mary as the first person who saw Jesus after his resurrection whereas 1 Corinthians 15:5 lists Peter as first. Likewise Matthew 28:2 lists Mary Magdalene and the other Mary as the first at the tomb whereas John 20:1 names only Mary Magdalene as being there. … The fact that various accounts do not fit together with perfect ease is to be expected of independent authentic testimony. Indeed, were the accounts perfectly harmonious on the surface, we would have to suspect collusion. But the fact that the many events and general order are clear is exactly what we should expect of a credible account (verified by great legal minds who have scrutinized the Gospel accounts and pronounced them so). (Source: Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Emphasis mine.)
Simply put, a discerning judge would really doubt the credibility of the witnesses when their testimonies exactly fit each other like Lego bricks. He would actually suspect that they connived with each other. The fact that there are difficulties in the resurrection accounts show that there was no conspiracy among Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The resurrection scene from "Son of God."
So, why did the Gospels say that Mary was the first to see the resurrected Lord when Paul said that it was Peter who saw him first? According to our reference, it is “because Paul is defending the resurrection, he provides an official list that includes only men (women at that time were not allowed to give testimony in court).” What about the varying accounts of the women visiting the tomb? It is probable that the Gospel writers were talking of different visits on that same day. They did not go to the tomb at the same time.
Harvard lawyer Simon Greenleaf, author of a textbook on legal evidence, wrote, “Copies which had been as universally received and acted upon as the Four Gospels, would have been received in evidence in any court of justice, without the slightest hesitation” (Ibid). Greenleaf became a believer when he examined the Gospels from a legal standpoint.
|“Copies which had been as universally received and acted upon as the Four Gospels, would have been received in evidence in any court of justice, without the slightest hesitation.” Simon Greenleaf. Image credit|
I pray that skeptics like Uyboco would experience that which Greenleaf experienced.