Have you ever wondered if biblical stories are actually true? Many people have wrestled with this question in one way or another. Perhaps if you have a more skeptical nature about yourself, you might wonder if someone tampered with the words of scripture, inserting or taking away stories to fit some certain agenda.
For questions like these, biblical scholars have studied the issues extensively in order to explore the true nature of scripture. For example, researchers will often compare ancient biblical fragments of passages with other copies. They will usually try and figure out the dates of ancient scrolls, hopefully getting as close as possible to an old event.
There is another interesting idea in biblical studies called the “criterion of embarrassment.” This phrase was coined by Catholic priest and scholar, John Meier. He basically argues that if there is something embarrassing about a certain story, chances are it would be true (otherwise, why would the author share something that might be humbling or shameful to them personally?). We find this many times throughout the bible. For instance, the disciples in the gospels are often clueless as to the nature and mission of Jesus. Even after they hear Jesus proclaim the values of God’s kingdom, they go on to argue with one another about who will be the greatest! (I imagine Jesus felt the same frustration teachers might feel, when their students don’t “get it!”). Many of Jesus’ followers also denied and abandoned him before the crucifixion.
These disciples went on to spread the church later in the New Testament, but stories of earlier “embarrassment” kind of tarnish their own reputation. The rationale is that these events must have occurred historically because why would a disciple include a self-deprecating story about how they once abandoned Jesus?
The story of Noah also has this aspect, too. We talked on Sunday how all the other flood stories throughout ancient history had prominent heroes in them. Noah’s story is radically different, however, because it never once mentions or praises Noah for his humanly strength and endurance. According to the world’s standards, Noah is just an average kind of guy. Instead, Noah simply “walked with God” and followed divine directions.
The wonderful truth of the bible is that there are truly few heroes in the story. Instead, we don’t have to worry about having it all together. We don’t even have to fret about making it all on our own. We don’t have to develop superhuman strength or become righteous all by ourselves. We don’t have to accomplish anything to earn God’s forgiveness.
Instead, at the center of our bible we find a promise from God: God will never leave us nor forsake us. This message comes to a climax with the coming of Jesus Christ. He ought to be our only hero.
You don’t have to be a hero for God to love you. God has already redeemed you and eagerly seeks a relationship with you. As a follower of Christ, we are called to abandon our pride and submit to the kingdom of God. When we do that and let go of all our human tendencies and sinful desires to be the superhero of our own life, we finally find freedom.
If you ask me, I’m truly grateful that the bible doesn’t have a lot of “heroes” in it, compared to other books. It means that I only have to rely on Jesus–our one and only true guide for life.