A First Century Urban Legend?

Owen here…

A friend of mine posted a notice on his wall on New Year’s Eve telling Facebook that he is refusing permission to allow them to share his photos and other personal information. His post was based on an untrue urban legend that has been publicly proclaimed false many times, the confirmation of which is easily verifiable with even the smallest amount of effort. No, Facebook did not just change its privacy rules on New Year’s Day. So why does that matter?

We are told by Christian apologists (notably William Lane Craig and Lee Strobel) that we should not doubt the historicity of claims made in the gospel narratives because those narratives were being circulated at a time when it would have been a simple matter of asking a person who witnessed an event personally whether it were true, and if it weren’t true then the people of the time would simply have disbelieved it. Essentially this is an argument saying that fake news would have been easily debunked during the time it was happening, even without the benefit of Snopes.

The funny thing is, when we look at how people behave today, in a fully modern world with google and snopes available on everybody’s smart phone just several finger swipes away, we still find people posting stupid false things like the urban legend about the facebook privacy policy changes. If people in the 21st century won’t spend the twenty seconds necessary to check the veracity of something before they copy and paste it onto their facebook wall then why in the world would any respectable thinking person actually make the argument that in the first century somebody in Galatia or Syria or Thracia would travel weeks on foot to try and find an eye witness before believing a crazy story about a resurrected deity? Lots of pagan religions at the time had crazy human-god hybrid entities in their pantheon, so it wouldn’t have been unusual.

The truth is that the New Testament narrative about the bodily resuscitation of Jesus is nothing more than the first century version of an urban legend. Eventually somebody wrote that urban legend down, but that doesn’t make it any more true that the false claim that facebook just changed its privacy policies.


Skeptical Texans wish you a happy new year!

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