Canadian Christians celebrating Easter will have more than a passing interest in the latest issue of MacLean’s. The cover of our so-called national news magazine asks the provocative question “Did Jesus Really Exist?”
The cover story deals at length with a new book by Bart Ehrman who teaches Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina. In the book, Jesus Before the Gospels, Ehrman examines the personal accounts that were written about Jesus by the disciples – like Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – the chaps who broke bread with him at the Last Supper. Their written accounts of the last days of Jesus were written many years after the crucifixion and resurrection. Ehrman seems to be leading a school of thought that is suggesting that the savior of mankind is a man who never was.
2000 years after the fact, the big book we call the bible is being questioned through the lens of modern psychology and medicine, particularly the study of memory. Might the disciples have been well into the advanced stages of dementia when they sat down to write about Jesus? Who can possibly know, and what can it possibly matter in 2016?
The Christian religion has clearly been the most unifying and the most divisive force the world has known since those ancient days. It’s interesting that local Christian churches in Canada and elsewhere are now among the more constructive leaders in the effort to resettle Muslims from war torn countries like Syria. Centuries ago, the stalward Christians like King Richard of England had a very different philosophy as they led the brutal Crusades in the Holy Land.
The editors of MacLean’s seem to have at least a sketchy awareness that their shrinking readership has a strong interest in all of this, even as fewer and fewer of us gather in church. It’s perhaps best to remember the charitable thoughts in this season, and not worry too much about the facts of the history.
I’m Roger Currie