HOLLYWOOD, CA – In his latest fictional non-fiction novel, Dan Brown has again crafted what will prove to be another record-breaking book and blockbuster movie combination. In his latest rewrite of history, The Pentecost Conspiracy, Brown again turns tradition on its ear. This time, action centers around a modern day discovery of ancient documents produced and preserved by the ultra-secret Societe´ Speculaire. These documents, found under bourbon barrels in a Kentucky Trappist monastery, contain almost verbatim narrative of the conversation held by discouraged followers of Jesus at the evening meeting known as Pentecost. The story’s excitement builds as the Kentucky monks attempt to contain the secrets about Pentecost from a shifty yet brilliant archeological sleuth.
Bit by bit, the Pentecost Conspiracy reveals that the evening collaboration long ago was in fact a strategy session to conceal the fact that Jesus was an ordinary man who was never really seen after his death. Central to the plan was the inclusion of multiple martyrdom accounts for each of the apostles to demonstrate that all would die rather than recant the “truth”. To make it hard to trace the facts, each of the conspiracists would travel to a different (in some cases several) distant point of the known world. At any cost, the apostles would strive to feign persecution to death in such a remarkably fantastic way that the story would both spread widely and also be somewhat doubted. The hidden ancient documents record Peter cleverly suggesting, “If we make the martyr stories seem made up, no one will believe they were made up.” As Thomas added “The quickest way to cause people to doubt is to make it seem like a ‘slam dunk’, a little quirkiness goes a long way.”
Dan Brown has done it again. Without spoiling the ending, Brown is powerfully effective at virtually obscuring his storyline by emphasizing ground-breaking, but factually non-factual, overturnings of foundational Christian beliefs. He is, as usual, most masterful at blurring fiction into fact whilst declaring the preponderance of fact as hyperbole. Oscar alert!
Satire aside…one of the often-heard criticisms against accounts of the resurrection of Jesus is that the eyewitness accounts are part of an elaborate but transparent conspiracy. The theory goes that the dejected following of Jesus were so desperate to keep his legacy alive they fabricated a story that he had risen from the dead. The group, as the story goes, first relocated the body of Jesus from his tomb to a never discovered grave, elicited dozens of false witnesses to testify in detail that they found the tomb empty, and enlisted the support of hundreds of various people over several weeks to report sighting and encounters with the resurrected Jesus. Most amazing, even in the face of persecution from both the Jewish and Roman authorities, none of these conspirators ever went back on their story to save themselves from hostility and the possibility of execution. They were not conspirators. They were witnesses of a risen Lord and Savior.
As Biola University Professor of Apologetics Dr. Sean MacDowell writes in his book The Fate of the Apostles, Examining the Martyrdom Accounts of the Closest Followers of Jesus, the apostles and other early believers were well aware of the ancient tradition that prophets could suffer, even die, for their faith. Jesus in fact told his followers they would be the victims of persecution. Secular history records that this in fact did happen on a scale that would have made everyone aware of the risk of continuing to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection accounts and persecution that followed the crucifixion were not a constructed conspiratorial rouse but were the outflowing of the heartfelt, Spirit-led conviction of the first Christians in spite of likely persecution. Undoubtedly some of the martyr accounts were later exaggerated by the over zealous or unscrupulous centuries later. This does not take away from the demonstrated conviction displayed by the Apostles as they preached the resurrection of Jesus. They demonstrated their faith in our risen Lord even as it threatened their own lives.
Guest Contributor: Fred Schlich
NORTH CENTRAL INDIANA, USA – Cable news channel commentator Candida Moss may have been the catalyst to irreconcilable differences between the University of Notre Dame and the Roman Catholic Church. In Moss’ popular book The Myth of Persecution she declares that none of the accounts of martyrdom in the early Christian church make for a good story any more. In other words “they are just too darn unbelievable.” Quickly following on her popular coattails, Notre Dame notified the Holy See that it might be widening its idea of religion-perhaps finally joining a football conference.
“Being the first to discover irregularities in early martyr accounts gives me reason to think” comments Moss. “If we don’t trust a few of the martyr accounts, certainly the apostles were not martyred. This means that they couldn’t have believed what they wrote. Then neither should we, it was all a sham. I’ve disproven the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus is simply a myth.”
Cardinal Patrick McGillicudy, a spokesman from St. Peter’s in Rome, noted “Ah, we know of the wee Candida. She’s always been a bit of a clurichaun. Her mischief will blow over and the fighting Irish will soon be back in the green.”
When asked if Professor Moss’ discovery posed a problem for the University, the Notre Dame Director of Development said he found it all “freeing.” “If the apostles can’t be relied upon, then we don’t really need to listen to the heir of their authority, the Bishop of Rome. The University will be able to pursue sponsorship of what we expect to be an explosion of secular activities…beer pong, NASCAR, the SEC, even Republicans, the possibilities are endless!”
In related responses to the discovery of more accurate history, Holy Cross College immediately changed it name to the Cross-Fit Society in recognition of its primary focus of athletics. Notre Dame itself has begun to question the veneration of its namesake and briefly considered the name South Bend University until the yoga department voiced a complaint of institutional bullying.
In her latest Good Morning America interview, Professor Moss has reaffirmed that she is at peace with herself. Taking an Alexander the Great quote from his earliest biography written within one millennia of his death, “history is written by the winners.” To which Moss followed up, “Today, I’m a winner.”
Satire aside…when Dr. Candida Moss published her popular book The Myth of Persecution, How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom, she made an impact and caused a number of Christians to question their faith. Many believers have been taught that all the apostles were martyred for preaching that Jesus rose from the dead. This proclamation had become a standard apologetic argument in support of the resurrection of Jesus. As Moss shakes the veracity of martyrdom accounts of the apostles, does she perhaps demonstrate that faith is misplaced in Jesus as the Son of God?
A close reading of Moss easily reveals that she has linked facts without due consideration. First, she notes that later accounts of martyrs were obviously full of fiction. As the church was consolidating and becoming institutionalized across national and community borders, the value of martyr designation increased both politically and economically. “Holy” sites and reliquaries associated with martyrs provided revenue to their host municipalities. While many of these third and fourth century martyr accounts are embellished, they most likely contain a core of truth. At a minimum some Christians to some extent were persecuted and killed for their faith. The later embellishments certainly do not negate the historical value of the martyr accounts as Moss suggests.
More important, accounts of some of the apostles being martyred trace back to a period within the living memory of their lives. In his book The Fate of the Apostles, Dr. Sean McDowell, Professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, uses methods employed by other accomplished historians as himself to assess the likelihood that each apostle was martyred. He concludes a range of probabilities from Peter, Paul, and James the son of Zebedee as the highest possible probability of being martyred to a likelihood of improbable for John the brother of James.
Most important though, all of the apostles and closest followers of Jesus knew that proclaiming the gospel and that Jesus had risen was a huge risk. This is the overarching constant even if all apostles were not martyred. They all knew they could be persecuted and killed for openly proclaiming Jesus as the risen Christ. In the face of this belief, not one of these men (and perhaps women as well) ever recanted their preaching in the face of life threatening adversity. It is the certain fear of death that would have broken the conspiracy of a resurrection lie or myth. These believers persevered because they believed what they taught was true, even for some to the point of death.
Guest Contributor: Fred Schlich
MONTERREY, MEXICO – In a news release this week, Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma, brewer of Dos Equis beer, revealed that it has crowned Bartholomew the Apostle as the latest “Most Interesting Man in the World.” Dos Equis, who receives its authority to award this title directly from social media, closely guards selection criteria for the coveted title, valuing the details of this process as intellectual property more dear than the recipe of its beer.
In the Google Live announcement ceremony, the Dos Equis spokesman excitedly declared, “Bartholomew is an obvious choice due to the diversity of traditions surrounding the apostle. Nailed (literally) to the wall of the temple in Hierapolis, sold as a slave to a camel owner in Egypt, BFF of the royal family in India, and flayed by Armenians, Bartholomew had an active life and well deserves the MIMW title. The apostle was obviously committed to his cause given the thousand-yard stare he gave to strident opposition at every turn. True to MIMW form, the details of his final quietus remain uncertain.” The selection gained immediate widespread approval across the internet, solidly validating the choice.
As a direct consequence of the apostle’s new designation, municipalities in southwest Turkey, Armenia, and India have all experienced a dramatic up-tick in tourism with visitors seeking to recreate the Bartholomew Experience. Local shopkeepers report brisk sales of reliquary in levels unseen in 1,500 years.
Subsequent to the initial announcement, the brewery has gone on record saying, “we’re not sure we’re excited about the martyrdom part of Bartholomew’s story – we misunderstood flaying to be a rock climbing term.”
An anonymous source close to the MIMW selection process confirmed that a runner-up to the apostle was Biola Professor of Christian Apologetics, Dr. Sean McDowell, due to his megastar speaking tour, omnipresence in the Christian blogosphere, and rad collection of superhero t-shirts.
Satire aside… The legacy of Bartholomew the Apostle is typical of the strong apologetic history left by the twelve apostles of Jesus. Bartholomew had the intense training and personal contact with Jesus as all the apostles. He was present when the resurrected Jesus charged his followers to evangelize outside of Judea and establish the foundations of the New Covenant with Gentiles and Jews alike. As one of the lesser-known apostles, there is virtually no record of his work after Pentecost within scripture. There are, however, a variety of widespread accounts in early non-canon literature of his mission activities in the face of extreme adversity and risk of being put to death. In fact, his prevalence in later apocryphal and Gnostic writings suggests that the early church may have been quite knowledgeable of Bartholomew’s extensive activity to spread the gospel based on his faithful certainty of a resurrected Jesus.
Several and varied traditions place Bartholomew in situations both life threatening and life ending. One such history has Bartholomew traveling to Hierapolis in Turkey to evangelize along with his fellow apostle Philip. Crucified along with Philip, Bartholomew survived and was released. Another story has him compelled to minister in Egypt. Denied entrance to the country, he surreptitiously made his way by having Peter sell him as a slave to a camel dealer. As their patron saint, Armenians believe Bartholomew was one of the earliest believers to bring Christianity to their region. Some accounts hold that Bartholomew was flayed (skinned alive) and entombed in Armenia. Finally, a few historians believe that Bartholomew made his way to India and was martyred there by indigenous religious leaders threatened by the impact he made on local royalty. Notable is the lack of any accounts that Bartholomew ever recanted his belief that Jesus had come back to life after being crucified and then empowered his followers to share this belief far and wide.
Even though all accounts of Bartholomew were written many years after his death, they lend great weight to a true historicity that the apostle was actively engaged in spreading the word of a risen Jesus even in the face of extreme adversity. Dr. Sean MacDowell concludes in his book The Fate of the Apostles, Examining the Martyrdom Accounts of the Closest Followers of Jesus that it is very probably true that Bartholomew engaged in missionary work outside of Jerusalem and as plausible as not that he experienced martyrdom. Given these probabilities we can be quite certain Bartholomew was convinced that Jesus had been resurrected, spoke the truth and eye witnessed events of such value that he was willing to face persecution and even martyrdom if necessary to spread the revolutionary news of Jesus.
Guest Contributor: Fred Schlich
OXFORD, MISSISSIPPI (ironically) — After 100 straight days of touring the American South debating pastors, bishops, ministers, seminarians, “prophets,” and other people generally unprepared to defend their Christian faith, Pritchard Hawkins has contracted an incurable case of Southern drawl. The evolutionary biologist originally from England was seen repeating the word “ya’ll”, each time bringing his hands to his mouth as if to stop some hemorrhaging.
Physicians have estimated that with the loss of his inherently authoritative British accent, Hawkins only has about 3% credibility remaining. Worried that he might succumb to complete argument failure, specialists have advised that Hawkins avoid debating Christian apologists by any means necessary. Some have suggested simply retiring quietly from public view. Others have taken a more pragmatic approach, prescribing a light schedule of lectures to friendly audiences. Still others have argued for more aggressive treatment, endorsing heavy doses of ad hominem and a strict regimen of debate dodging.
After the most recent debate, audience members could be overheard saying things such as “Why anyone took him seriously to begin with is a mystery,” and “Worst arguments in the history of arguments.” Friends and family members are emptying their accounts to send crates of Downton Abbey DVDs to Hawkins in an attempt to restore his epidermal intellectualism.
TULSA, OKLAHOMA—Having made a name for himself as a denier of the historical Jesus, Pritchard Barrier’s latest research project uncovered a startling truth – Barrier himself is a fictional character borrowed from various sources. Our Faux correspondent was able to get an exclusive interview, offering a unique glimpse into this groundbreaking discovery.
Faux correspondent (FC): Pritchard, thank you so much for sitting down with us. To begin, could you give us the short version of how you discovered that, like Jesus, you in fact do not exist?
Pritchard Barrier (PB): Well, first, I want to clarify that I’m not saying there absolutely never was a person by the name of “Pritchard Barrier” living in the 21st century. More precisely, “I” either never existed, or, if I did exist, nothing can be known about me with any confidence. Either way, I’m certainly not the god of historical studies I was made out to be.
FC: That’s fascinating. I had no idea you were considered a god of historical studies. Is that found in your published work?
PB: It’s certainly hinted at. My cocksure arrogance and dismissive attitude toward any and all criticism is certainly supporting evidence. But even more conclusive is the as-yet-unpublished private correspondence that spells out my supposed divinity more explicitly.
FC: Sounds like another book in the works!
PB: Probably not. As you know, my latest research shows that there’s not actually anyone to write that book.
FC: Ah, yes, so sorry. Please continue.
PB: So, I was doing a book signing in Grand Rapids when an intrepid reader asked me if I had ever investigated my own existence. At first, I was like, “Are you kidding? That’s ridiculous.” But after the event, the question kept plaguing me until finally I thought, “Ok. If I’m willing to investigate an important ancient character like Jesus, I should be willing to objectively investigate myself.” And that’s what got me started.
My first goal was to check out the circumstances of my birth, so I checked my birth certificate for the doctor that supposedly delivered me. Turns out, he had died a few years ago. No matter, I could just dig up his body to prove that he was real, right? Conveniently, his “family” said that he had been cremated, ashes spread across a golf course, so there was no way to confirm there was ever a physical body belonging to a person by his name. That’s pretty much when I knew I was onto something big.
FC: So, without a doctor, the birth certificate comes into question, right?
PB: Exactly. Now, it could have been that some of the information was simply falsified for whatever reason, so I needed more proof. That’s when I decided to do a literary analysis of my published work. The most obvious evidence of fiction was the surname “Barrier”, which is a common modern archetype that is nearly ubiquitous: traffic equipment, protection in video games, sexual prophylaxis, and even marine formations off the coast of Australia. I couldn’t turn my head without running into another connection.
FC: Mm, yes, I can certainly see how the Pritchard Barrier persona could have evolved out of those examples.
PB: Right? So, getting into the texts themselves, things really started getting crazy. In some of my later work, I attempt to use Bayesian calculations to show that characters like Jesus never existed. But the number of errors and faulty assumptions was so great that if I had actually existed and been as great as I claimed to have been, these mistakes wouldn’t have existed.
FC: So you’re saying a god of historical studies would not have committed such errors.
PB: That’s correct. And as you can see, the evidence really began stacking up. At a certain point, I just couldn’t deny it any more. I had to follow the evidence where it led and admit that the Pritchard Barrier most people think they see and interact with is just pure fantasy.
FC: Wow, time to chalk another one up to the growing list of mythological characters. Thank you so much for “not being” here with us today! Hahaha!
PB: “My” pleasure! One last thing. There’s a lot of people like me who have been hiding a secret about their personal beliefs and I just want to get it out in the open so they know they’re not alone. I am a poly-mythicist. For years, I had been committed to one myth and a lot of good things came out of that commitment. It paid for pretty much everything I have now. But I just wasn’t satisfied. Now that I’m an open poly-mythicist, I am seeking to live in that truth as authentically and honestly as possible and hope that others will do the same.
SAVANNAH, GEORGIA — A medium-sized conservative Baptist church was recently rocked by the discovery that an apologist had been on the payroll for several weeks. Margie Hinklebottom, the church secretary, found the sneaky villain’s employment paperwork in a strange manila file partially labeled “… with all your mind.” Upon hearing of the devilry, the leadership immediately launched a Church Internal Affairs (CIA) investigation into how exactly such a heretical heresy could have infected their righteous congregation.
The church pastor issued the following statement:
We are saddened by this recent information and are doing everything in our power to restore some order to the chaos that has beset our flock. To that end, we are immediately removing the apolo-… apolo-… (What’s he called again?… An apologist?… What the heck’s he apologizin’ for?…) Anywho, we’re taking care of it.
The apologist, with the Bible verse 1 Peter 3:15 disgustingly tattooed on his arm, was last seen walking to his car with a gleam in his eye that said he was down for some hardcore evidence talk. The nerve.