Tuesday, March 7, 2023

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

 I was looking at the dates scholars provide for the various books of the bible, and was comparing it to the attributed authors...  At that point, I began to digress to my more mathematical portion of my brain get to play...

Jesus is said to have been born in year zero.  At least that is why the current calendar says.  Scholars think otherwise, placing his birth at either 4 or 6 years earlier. (There are plenty of sources for both dates.) In any case, it seems like the calendar creator is the only remaining scholar to think Jesus was born on year zero. (which always confused me....  If December 25, year 0 was the birth of Jesus, then that year only had one week in it.  The other 51 weeks were "before christ"...  oops, I'm digressing)

It is commonly believed that Jesus started his work when he was 30 and died 3 years later.... Putting the year of his death at: 27, 29, or 33 (depending on when he was born).  His disciples were considered "men" when Jesus began teaching.  Jewish definition of a man is age 13.  So, if his disciples were "men", they had to be born no later than year 11, 13, or 17 (again depending on the year of Jesus' birth).

Life expectancy in they first century Judea was much shorter than today.  Infant mortality was much higher than today, as was childhood mortality.  We can thank modern medicine to save us from numerous childhood diseases which first century children could not survive.  If we pull out infant and childhood deaths, we can estimate the life expectancy of people in first century Judea.  Again, relying on scholarly research, the life expectancy of a first century Jew who survived childhood is about 45-50 years.  A few well-to-do people lived to 60.

Assuming best case scenario:  Jesus was born on year zero. His disciples were just 13 years old when they began following Jesus (who was 30) and the disciples were so well off that they could live to the maximum age of 60, then it is safe to say that the last disciple of Jesus was dead by the year 77.  On the other hand, if they were roughly the same age as Jesus (say 5 years younger) and Jesus was born roughly 5 years before the calendar, then the disciples were born in year 0 and were 28 when Jesus died.  The disciple would likely be dead by the year 50.  That puts the span between years 50 and 77.

Using similar math for the followers of Jesus (again assume the followers were 13 or older when they began following Jesus), they would also be dead by the year 77 at the latest.  In general, if you spent any reasonable amount of time with Jesus, you were most likely dead by the year 77.

Okay, so... who cares?  As I said, I was looking at the dates scholars provide for the various books of the bible. I then asked myself, "How well did any of these authors KNOW Jesus, or simply were told stories about Jesus?" If everyone who knew Jesus was dead by the time the books were written, then we are relying on people telling stories about Jesus. How much of Jesus' behaviors were captured by the stories?

Let me run off on a brief tangent.  Consider the following "event": The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. In the retelling of the event, even if the writer recites it accurately and "completely", there is much missing from the story: Where did it take place?  When did it take place?  What was the mindset of the fox (or dog)?  What was the aftermath? What was the motivation? Are any of these questions relevant? If so, would the written story be misleading? Is every element of the "event" relevant?  If not, would the inclusion of the irrelevant elements have an impact on future readers in an unintended way?

My wife likes to boast about me, often in my presence.  I've heard the dozen or so stories she tells about me repeatedly.  I hardly consider the sum of those stories a real description of who I am.  Some border on deceptive, but not enough to tell my wife she is wrong.  Other friends of mine (from before I met my wife) tell other stories about me.  Those stories paint an entirely different type of person.  Neither are wrong, just different because they view me from a different perspective and time period.

Getting back to the main thought thread... How much of Jesus' lessons are reported?  And of the ones repeated enough to make it into a written book, how well do they portray the message Jesus wanted to deliver?  How much of the stories have been embellished or the focus of the story changed to address some contemporary issue?

Going back to the quick brown fox...  What if the original focus of the story is the smartness of the fox to take the shortest path when addressing an emergency.  Would a couple decades of retelling lose the original focus as people discuss the differences between quick foxes compared to lazy dogs?  Imagine another group thinking the story is about how we should jump when addressing all obstacles.  How about a third group thinking the lesson of the story is to not allowing jumping foxes to disturb our focus.  Add a couple decades before writing down what you think you were told and presto, different books with the same story, but different meanings.  Add a couple centuries and have a handful of people decide which books are the most "authentic" canon.

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