Realism? Am I joking?
Realism is not the word that comes to mind when you think of stories full of miracles. However, it is one of the factors which leads some people to think they are history. That is something I did not mention when I last wrote about the gospels as historical documents.
Where is the realism?
Lots of little things.
- In the story of the disciples going to Jesus’s tomb and finding it empty, the writer mentions more than once that John outran Peter. Does it matter? Who would include it unless it was John or Peter?
- When Jesus asks a question and a disciple gives a wrong answer before Jesus corrects him, why include it?
- When Jesus asks if James and John can ‘drink of this cup’, they answer confidently, without thinking what that might mean.
- When Jesus was in a boat ‘asleep on a cushion’.
Don’t writers always insert (apparent) realism?
Like most modern writers of fiction, I always insert details to make my stories seem real. I hope they work, whether you notice them or not. Why wouldn’t the gospel writers do the same, whether the stories were true or not? Because in ancient times NOBODY DID! Other writing, especially fiction, was unrealistic: tales of monsters, magic, superheroes. True historical accounts were far more prosaic. even if written in verse. Writers assumed readers were not interested in trivia.
Does realism prove the stories are true?
Not necessarily. However, C S Lewis pointed out that it would have been almost a miracle if the four gospel writers had invented realistic fiction many hundred years ahead of anyone else.
In Britain it seems as if Geoffrey Chaucer was the first to write realistic fiction. Someone abroad might have beaten him to it, but not by a thousand years. Perhaps you will notice realistic details in the gospels next time you read them Go on! Read them!