“There was insufficient time for legend to arise. Ever since D. F. Strauss first propounded this theory that the gospel accounts of the resurrection are mere legends, the greatest difficulty for this theory has been that the time between the events and the writing of the gospels was too short to allow legend to substantially accrue. Julius Mueller’s critique of Strauss has never been answered: ‘Most decidedly must a considerable interval of time be required for such a complete transformation of a whole history by popular tradition, when the series of legends are formed in the same territory where the heroes actually lived and wrought. Here one cannot imagine how such a series of legends could arise…if eyewitnesses were still at hand, who could be questioned respecting the truth of the recorded marvels…’ ” —William Lane Craig, The Son Rises, pp. 100-101
How about the Christian legend of Charles Darwin’s deathbed conversion to Christianity which arose shortly after his death and while his children were still living? His entire family flatly rejected this claim but fundamentalist Christian preachers continued to proclaim this “miracle” far and wide for decades:
“The Darwins consistently denied the deathbed legend, and rightly so. Any claim about a deathbed scene, a recantation, or a religious conversion was indeed ‘a work of imagination’ (Francis Darwin), an ‘absurd fiction’ (Bernard Darwin), or a ‘myth’ (Nora Darwin).” (Pg. 143) The Darwin Legend by James Moore
Doesn’t sound to me as if the Darwin family was convinced that ol’ Charlie confessed his sins and prayed for Jesus to be his Lord and Savior during his last minutes of life!
“Mueller challenged scholars of his day to find even one historical example where in thirty years a great series of legends, the most prominent elements of which are fictitious, have accumulated around an important historical individual and become firmly fixed in general belief. His challenge has never been met.” —William Lane Craig, The Son Rises, pp. 101-102
Gary: I just did. So do I win? Is there a prize?
More recently, a rumor started on line that agnostic NT scholar Bart Ehrman would soon announce his conversion to Islam. When this reached Ehrman, it was surprising news to say the least. It persisted on the internet, even though Ehrman denied it.
Christians counter that first century “oral cultures” were much different than today or nineteenth century England and that first century Jews, in particular, were very careful to guard their oral stories against any errors.
This is simply conservative Christian wishful thinking!
Even the Gospels demonstrate that this is false. Some of the Pharisees spread the rumor that John the Baptist was the resurrected Elijah and the court of Herod spread the rumor that Jesus was the resurrected (beheaded) John the Baptist! If these stories are true, then even within the highest levels of Jewish society, rumors and innuendo could run rampant, so why should we expect that a small group of uneducated, Galilean peasants would do any better at keeping their tall tales straight?