There is a podcast called Serial, which is about the 1999 conviction of this 17 year old boy, Adnan, to murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae. It was an incredible podcast that kept me riveted to the end. The original investigation was botched, both the prosecution and the defense lawyers were shoddy, there was never any DNA testing done on the supposed weapon. Lots of information is revealed throughout the podcast that would indicate this boy was guilty and not guilty.
At the very least, I recommend listening to the first 10 minutes of the first episode. The host starts by asking her nephews what they did last Friday. They give an answer, then they think about it some more and change it. Then they are prompted by the host, and they change their answer again to what seems more accurate.
This is the nature of memory.
- You only remember something if something significant happens.
- If someone prompts you, you are more likely to remember in reference to what they were talking about.
- Your memory changes every time you use it.
What does this have to do with the existence of Jesus? The most commonly used evidence that would support his existence (the Gospels) was written 30-60 years after Jesus’s ascension. At the very least, it casts doubt.
The reason that those gospels are so trusted is because both, people who support his downfall, and people who are neutral towards him, can vouch for his deeds. Those people would have a disincentive to tell the truth. They risked being called crazy in order to speak out.
In “Serial”, a guy calls the cops 6 months after the conviction, and tells them that his daughter was talking with the neighbor boy, who said that this darker middle eastern looking person just told him that he killed his ex-girlfriend and was boasting. This guy who called the cops had no idea that the investigation happened, or that Adnan was convicted. He had no incentive to report what his daughter told him. He didn’t know Adnan. The daughter went to another school and didn’t know Adnan. The neighbor boy supposedly was friends with the Adnan. When the podcast host asked for an interview with the neighbor boy (15 years later at the time of recording) , the neighbor boy denies it, and denies ever hearing about it. He says it would be something he would remember. On top of that, the podcast host interviews other people, and they say that the neighbor boy couldn’t hold a secret, and that no one in their right mind would tell him anything meant to be kept as a secret.
What is going on? None of these people have an incentive to lie, but their stories conflict. This is the nature of memory. It’s wrong often. It’s not always about incentive.
The prosecutor’s case against Adnan amounts to a witness who was with Adnan through the day, and their cell phone records. The witness says what they did that day including when they went to bury the body. The only problem is that the cell records (location and time) don’t match 90% of the witness’ story. But why would the witness lie? Why would he confess? The witness was a drug dealer by profession, his cooperation with the cops puts himself at risk.
This is the problem with witnesses. Even when it doesn’t involve miracles, even when it’s something mundane like “we drove to the mall, then I brought him to track practice, then we drove around some more” is still liable to be wrong. If I can’t trust someone, who was in the car with the suspect, who supposedly knew the guy for over a year, who had a disincentive to cooperate with the cops, is lying… what hope do I have of believing someone who “witnessed” miracles?
Ah! But as long as there is corroboration from multiple sources, that should be sufficient, right? I don’t think so any more. There was a friend of Adnan who said she saw him in the library at the time that the witness said they were in the car with a dead body. Again, this friend had no reason to lie.
It would be one thing if we had the full story of Jesus, but there are other gospels that conflict.
The main arguments for the existence of Jesus: People witnessed he was there, and they recounted his acts for generations until it was written down.
That isn’t a persuasive argument for me since listening to Serial. But the investigation isn’t over. There are more and more details surfacing all the time. I don’t have faith, but I’m confident that we will find the truth, both about Adnan and Jesus.