Put On The Day And Wear It ‘Till The Night Comes

Hear ye! Hear ye! Zoomtard hereby invites all you Dublin-dwellers to see him act like a 12 year old girl at a Westlife gig. On Thursday December 7th, Dr. N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham will deliver the final talk in a series on the Da Vinci Code entitled “Conspiracy Theories and Christian Theology: Why The Da Vinci Code Matters”. The event takes place in the Emmett Theatre, Arts Building, Trinity College Dublin and goes on from 7.30-9.00pm. Unless you are a student or staff member of Trinity it will cost €10. Better value than a Westlife gig.

As some of you know, there will be a General Election in Ireland before the summer. As most of those people know, our Electoral Register has rotted from the inside out so that most people are either not on it or get 16 votes. The government have done what governments do and set up a website where you can check that you are actually eligible to vote. It is one of those truly ugly government websites but maybe you should pop over and make sure you will be heard in May (or February if Bertie goes ahead with his alleged plot to invade Greece over their weapons of mass distinction- a tabernacle and some priestly robes that some Greek Orthodox priests robbed when they were visiting a parish in Drumcondra).

I read my first Anne Rice book this week- Christ The Lord, Out Of Egypt. She became a Christian in a large part due to reading N.T. Wright (so be careful before you come to the lecture!). She had written a series of very very very successful novels that sought to make sense of a world without God. I am probably not going to read them though because she investigated it through vampires and incubii and other stuff that makes me think of many-sided dice games. Anyway, its a tasty little read. It is a lamentable thing that I so rarely read books that could be best enjoyed on a beach or in an airport lounge but this is one of those easy page-turners. And no harm for that, say I.

Even if I am saying it because I know it is right, not that I actually feel it…

So Rice writes a 30 page explanation for the novel at the end. There is something very wrong with the state of culture if authors feel a need to justify using Christmas as the basis for a novel. Its the third greatest story ever after Easter and the day Man City beat Man Utd 5-1 in 1989. But she writes about how she began with the standard assumptions- that the Gospels were late creations, not eye-witness accounts, manipulated by a bunch of conniving conspiratists who inflated Jesus, the good liberal teacher of 20th Century-friendly truths into a God. She did what she always did and started researching and the skeptical books she began with shocked her. They were a series of assumptions piled on top of assumptions reaching “absurd conclusions” on scant evidence. I had to read this paragraph out loud to Neuro because I could have written it. It was my experience.

What gradually came clear to me was that many of the skeptical arguments- arguments that insisted most of the Gospels were suspect, for instance, or written to late to be eye-witness accounts- lacked coherence. They were not elegant. Arguments about Jesus himself were full of conjecture. Some books were no more than assumptions piled upon assumptions. Absurd conclusions were reached on the basis of little or no data at all. In sum, the whole case for the nondivine Jesus who stumbled into Jerusalem and somehow got crucified by nobody and had nothing to do with the founding of Christianity and would be horrified by it if he knew about it- that whole picture which had floated in liberal circles I frequented as an atheist for thirty years- that case was not made. Not only was it not made, I discovered in this field some of the worst and most biased scholarship I’d ever read.

One of the major arguments used by the skeptic scholars against the authenticity of the Gospels is that they must have been written after 70AD. In 70AD the Romans destroyed the Jewish temple. It still hasn’t been rebuilt. It was the greatest temple of the ancient world and the very centre of Judaism. It was actually as central to Judaism as Jesus is to Christianity. Its destruction came at the end of a 6 year long war that was preceeded by a Civil War in Rome. These were tumultuous times.

The Gospels, it is argued, must be later than the Temple because in the Gospels, Jesus explicitly predicts the destruction of the Temple (I won’t bore you with an index of verses but email me if you want). That sounds like a pretty solid assumption and it is one I have never had any major trunk with. I think Luke, written in 75AD, is still a hugely solid historical document.

Here is where Rice gets interesting though. The early Christians were mostly Jewish. Christianity at heart claims to be the fulfilment of Judaism. In technical terms, the Gospel writers were members of a Judeo-Christian cult. Like all writers, they were writing with an audience in mind. In the case of the Gospel writers, they were writing for either Jews or the Gentiles who destroyed the Temple (residents of the Empire). The Temple was important because it was where God made his dwelling. It is where he “tabernacled amongst us”. It is a direct and constant claim of Christianity that Jesus replaces the Temple because he is God dwelling amongst us as a person, God “tabernacling amongst us”.

With the destruction of the Temple, the Jews of the world were crying with their hands in the sky for some explanation of why God had abandoned them and why his dwelling place could be destroyed. If the Gospels were written to Jews, after the destruction of the Temple, the authors could make the polemically potent, the simple and elegant and astoundingly strong argument that the Temple was destroyed because Jesus is the Temple. But they don’t make that claim. Its a huge, obvious argument to make and they don’t make it. Why?

Maybe, after all, the Gospels are what they first appear to be- early eye-witness accounts, not late eye-witness accounts. Ah well, it interested me.

With work yesterday I was in a university hosting a free chaplaincy lunch. I was talking to one guy, a witty, smart, arrogant atheist full of the undergraduate swagger I have yet to grow out of. He mocked a Christian friend of his for being closeted and hidden away from the world and insinuated that the reason for this was that the world “out there” would destroy her faith. A Christian girl had to leave early to take a tutorial but she brought food away with her for her lab partner. He had been starving but he refused to come to the lunch and talk to Christians. I don’t know what to make of these two interactions or even if they are connected in reality but it seems to me to be discordant. How can Christians be closeted and at the same time, atheists or strong agnostics should feel a need to closet themselves against us? As we offer them free food. Its not like we were baptising people as we poured them their orange juice.

Baptising adults? What kind of crazy idea is that?!

Answers on a postcard please. About the silly prejudices against Christians, that is. There is no explanation in the world for adult bapists…

Your Correspondent, Cooks his chunk in Gatorade.

One Response to “Put On The Day And Wear It ‘Till The Night Comes”

  1. Greymalkin says:

    Oh Zoomy, if only i could take you down to Cork.You’d make things so much more controversial and exciting.Not like big,boring……..i don’t know where i’m going.anyway,did you listen to Mr. Roddy Woomble and if so,opinions man!Scottish Folk is rare!anyway i’m sitting here,getting my random dose of Christianity,thanking you for doing the work for me.I simply take your argument,argue it and lose cos people are stibborn but also cos i don’t know what i’m tallking about.The former being in a certain dating issue!