Advertising copy for the first segment reads: “Explore the strange fables that surround Jesus’ birth. Follow the childhood and early adult years of Jesus using a first century living museum newly opened in Nazareth. Find out why Jesus began his mission and why he chose to live his life the way he did.”
Expect this series to follow the pattern of other “mysteries of the Bible” and “mysteries of Jesus” specials aired on the Discovery and History Channels. It will most likely try to appeal to a broad audience of “spiritually interested” viewers by mixing quotes of those who believe the accounts of the Bible, with fanciful stories, and the kind of questions asked by those who begin with the assumption that, at best, the story of the Bible is about faith, and that anything it says about the miraculous must remain a mystery. (That is often the “public statement” hiding the real assumption that the one thing we know for sure is that the kind of miracles the Bible describes just don’t happen.)
As surfaced in the discussion of our last post, Matthew’s reference to Herod’s slaughter of Bethlehem’s sons, as recorded in 2:16, is one of those events that historical critics like to point to. If there is no corroborating evidence outside of the Bible they like to challenge the credibility of the Testaments by raising questions about “what really happened.”
This is of special interest to me because for the last few weeks our Day of Discovery television team (not related to the Discovery Channel), has been developing a series of 10 programs designed to answer the popular books and programs that regularly challenge the historical reliability of the Bible.
Admittedly, because the Bible tells the story of God’s involvement in history, its inspired authors leave many details to our imagination. In addition, historical critics love to point out that the Gospel accounts tell the stories of Jesus in ways that do not always match either in chronology or quoted words.
So, we’ve been working with scholars who have given their lives not only to the study of the Bible, but also to answering the kinds of “historical problems” that so often show up in the secular media.
Although I can’t begin to net out the whole series we are working on, what I can say is that I’ve found the project so reinforcing to my own confidence in Scripture and am so grateful for those men and women who are willing to face the tough issues long enough to show that it makes far more sense to believe the biblical accounts as they read, than to accept the idea that later generations rewrote the miraculous elements back into its history. (One or more of such scholars often show up in the kind of special that is airing tonight on the Discovery Channel. They do us a valuable service by representing the educated and reasoned conclusions of those who take the Bible seriously)
As the educators and researchers we’ve been working with have been so good in pointing out, there is so much in the Bible that “true believers” would never have written if it didn’t really happen. There are way too many embarrassing events in the lives of Abraham, David, and the disciples. There are way too many healthy differences of perspective in the Gospels to assume that the writers collaborated or conspired to tell a story that wasn’t true. The prophets and disciples of the Bible were way too willing to suffer and die for miraculous events rooted in historical and geographical detail, if they had known they were telling lies.
And what I find most compelling is not only that the Bible has stood the test of critics for hundreds of years, but that its over all story, from Genesis to Revelation, was written in such a way that it could not have been fabricated. As so many have pointed out, written over a period of 1500 years by at least 40 authors, it tells one story that combines prophecy with history, history with principle, and principle with consequence in ways that resonate so deeply with life as we know it.
Yet, having said that, the fact remains that the Bible leaves enough unsaid to give us a chance to personally trust the God and Savior of the Bible to show himself faithful to us in the yet unfinished story of our own lives.