It has been said that history is written by the victor. This often becomes the rallying cry for those who would “debunk” common understandings of history, especially when it conflicts with their personal bias or gains them notoriety. The recent scandal of the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” papyrus, shows how even a Harvard Historian can miss the mark. After four years of defending the document as authentic – despite many clues that it was not – Professor King was finally forced by other experts, to admit the error of her ways.
In truth, history is NOT always written by the victor. Most of what we know about the fall of Rome was written by Romans, i.e. the victims. Many other stories have a blend of perspectives and the best historians balance this in their interpretations.
Flavius Josephus was a Romano-Jewish historian who lived in the first century AD. Although he himself was not one of Christ’s disciples, he provides great corroboration of the Apostles’ stories. An interesting side-note to the story of Jesus is that virtually no historical witness – Christian or pagan – denies the historicity of Jesus, even though the Christians were undeniably running around telling everyone about his miracles and resurrection. It was only much later that some began to question whether or not he actually lived.
Instead of asking, “Who is the victor,” – and automatically assuming the story is unfairly biased – we should be asking, “Who is the Narrator?” What do they have to gain or lose by the story that there are telling? The answer to this question provides tremendous insight into the trustworthiness of the narrative. In the case of the Apostles, it may appear easy to look back in time and imagine that their stories of Christ’s resurrection assured them a place in history, but a broader perspective reveals that there was a greater possibility that they would die for their stories – and in nearly every case – did. Despite this, not one recanted his eye-witness testimony in order to save his neck.
So who am I to believe? The person who was there, suffered horribly and died in order to be a faithful witness to Christ, or the arrogant University professor reclining in his posh office two-thousand years later mocking and ridiculing people of faith as he espouses his atheism and promotes his newest book on the fallacies of faith?
I think the question is worth considering. I hope you do as well.